For as long as video games have been around, the protagonists within them tend to find themselves at odds with some kind of obstacle, be it another human(-like) being or a gigantic monster. And for whatever reason, there’s one massive beast who has been grossly misrepresented in the world of gaming. He is a hairy, somewhat-misunderstood, and frighteningly huge character whose story goes all the way back to a crude stop-motion film from the 1930s. Of course, I’m referring to King Kong, the giant ape who deep down really just wanted to be loved.
Just as humans weren’t necessarily kind to the king of apes, the same goes for gaming developers and publishers. Well, sort of. You see, there was the pretty damn solid 2005 game that accompanied the film of the same name, Peter Jackson’s King Kong, which has an 80/100 from reviewers on Metacritic (on Xbox 360, at least). The Gameboy Advance version of that title, which is named Kong: The 8th Wonder of the World, is a far different, not-quite-so-beloved affair, receiving a meager 59/100 on the same site.
The thing is, as well received as the console version of the game was, we still haven’t heard much from King Kong since then. With that in mind, it’s actually interesting that more hasn’t been done to take advantage of the very video game-like aspects of the film in terms of gaming sequels. In doing some research on the movie—it’s been a few years since I’ve seen it—I came across a review on Picturebox’s movie blog. The way that the writer, Karen Krizanovich, describes King Kong, you’d think people were actually watching a video game in the form of a movie. In discussing the endeavour of bringing the big ape to the States, she wrote that it “took dinosaurs (at least four different kinds), giant bats, huge spiders, man-eating penis worms, insects and machineguns to complete.”
Other than those films based on the 2005 movie, though? Slim pickings for fans of the big guy unless of course we look to games that use his likeness—or come close to it.
For those unaware of the meaning of Kong, research indicates that it means “monkey” colloquially in Japan. Thinking of what (or who) I am? Donkey Kong, obviously! Yes the big ape has taken on a friendlier look over the years but back in the 1980s? Just look at him on the Free Kong site—he was just a smaller version of King Kong with a different name and, fortunately for him, a different guy coming for him. Instead of military planes and tanks, it was just a plumber named Mario who was trying to save his lady. As we all know, the later games focused solely on Mario and Luigi, and Princess Peach, featured Bowser as the enemy while DK went on to have his own success taking down villains of his own in the Donkey Kong Country series.
Other adaptations of King Kong’s likeness have featured a more snarling version of the hairy giant. Those same gamers who remember the original Donkey Kong probably played Rampage, a game that started in the arcades and made its way to consoles in several forms. The gameplay was basic but addictive: You take on the role of a King Kong or Godzilla-like character and rip apart every urban landscape that you can.
Similarly, though much later on and available for the PlayStation 2, there was War of the Monsters in 2003. Again, none of the original names are used, but you will see a ton of, well, monsters ready to duke it out with each other that resemble the beasts from the classic 1950s movies. The game was also basically the spiritual follow-up to King of the Monsters. It was a fighting game series that began on the Neo-Geo in 1991 and eventually moved to Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo.
So what’s next for King Kong? Another game based on the actual ape we all know and love or another rip-off? Whatever the case, here’s hoping it’s as good as the 2005 title.