Mario vs Donkey Kong review wallpaper
February 19, 2024

An age-old rivalry returns as the plumber and ape duke it out once again in our Mario vs. Donkey Kong review!

The longstanding rivalry between Mario and Donkey Kong has been a pillar of gaming history, dating way back to the arcade era. From the original Donkey Kong arcade game to their numerous entries on consoles and handhelds, the dynamic between the moustachioed plumber and the mischievous ape has captivated us for decades.

Mario vs Donkey Kong GBA gameplay

The original Mario vs. Donkey Kong on GBA, complete with crunchy visuals.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong, originally released for the Game Boy Advance in 2004, was a reboot of this iconic rivalry. Blending elements of puzzle-solving and platforming, the game brought the two foes together once again, head-to-head in the palm of your hands. Eventually, this spin-off became a series in itself, boasting six separate standalone games!

Mario vs Donkey Kong Wii U gameplay

There was also an entry on Wii U that nobody played (poor Wii U).

Now, with its remake for the Nintendo Switch, players can once again immerse themselves in the original iteration of this puzzle platforming showdown. With updated visuals, enhanced gameplay mechanics, and additional content, does the remake offer a fresh take on a GBA classic? Or has it withered like an overripe banana? Find out in our Mario vs. Donkey Kong review!

Mario vs. Donkey Kong Review – Story

As with most Mario games, the story is simple yet engaging for players of all ages. Rather than bananas, this time Donkey Kong is obsessed with a new line of Mini-Mario toys. After lazily lounging on the TV and being drawn in by old-fashioned advertising, Donkey Kong becomes enamoured with them and decides he must have them all!

Mario vs Donkey Kong review Nintendo Switch DK watching TV cutscene

“Two hundred channels and nothing but bananas…”

But when poor DK discovers that the last toy has been sold, he becomes enraged and steals every single toy directly from the factory itself. Take that, capitalism! Mario must now embark on a quest to recover the stolen Mini-Marios.

Mario vs Donkey Kong review Nintendo Switch DK looking at Mini Mario

Get yourself a man who looks at you the way DK looks at a Mini Mario.

There’s not a single line of dialogue in the game, as the story is played out through short new CGI cutscenes that play out between levels. This approach allows the gameplay to take centre stage while still providing enough context as a charming backdrop to drive the narrative forward.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong Review – Gameplay

Haven’t played the original on GBA or any of the other entries? No problem – you’ll be able to pick up the game within mere minutes, as each level is fairly self-explanatory. Players control Mario as he navigates through a series of puzzle-filled levels, each with its own challenges and obstacles.

Taking out the trash… with the trash.

The puzzles in Mario vs. Donkey Kong start off relatively simple but gradually increase in complexity as players progress through the game. New mechanics and obstacles are introduced regularly, keeping the gameplay fresh and challenging. From avoiding enemies to navigating through maze-like levels, there’s always something new to discover and master.

Mario vs. Kong review Nintendo Switch lava level

WARNING: Varia Suit required – unstable temperature detected.

Each level also includes three presents for Mario to collect, before grabbing a key that’s required to open the door at the end of the level. Collecting these presents is completely optional, but doing so will reward the player with a star. Collecting enough stars will eventually unlock a variety of more challenging bonus levels.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong review Nintendo Switch difficult level

I breezed through the game, but this level broke my brain temporarily.

Additional levels involve the use of Mini-Marios, small wind-up toys that players must guide to the end of each level. These Mini-Marios can be controlled indirectly by manipulating the environment, such as moving platforms and activating switches. I can’t help but feel awful when I accidentally lead one of these little guys to their doom…

Felt like an absolute boss beating this boss.

Lastly, the boss levels in Mario vs. Donkey Kong offer a welcome change of pace, providing players with a faster pace. These levels require players to use more precise timing to defeat Donkey Kong himself, who serves as the final obstacle in each world. The boss battles are a highlight of the remake, beating DK by throwing back his very own barrels and bombs.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong Review – Visuals

As one would expect after 20 years, the Mario vs. Donkey Kong remake is a significant improvement over the original Game Boy Advance graphics. The game features vibrant and colourful visuals that pop on the Switch’s screen, bringing the toy-themed worlds to life in stunning detail.

Mario vs Donkey Kong review nintendo switch graphics

Colours so bright it makes real life seem dull.

Each world in Mario vs. Donkey Kong Remake is distinct and visually appealing, with its own unique aesthetic. From the bright and cheery Super Mini-Mario World theme park to the lush and tropical Donkey Kong-themed worlds, each world looks brilliant both docked and handheld. The levels are well-designed, with clear visual cues that help guide players through the game.

Mario vs Donkey kong review Nintendo Switch CGI cutscene

DK ready to beat up the animator that didn’t give him bigger pecs.

One of the standout features of the remake over the original is the use of crisp 3D visuals, replacing the pixelated sprites of the GBA. This gives the game a more modern and polished look, making it a perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch and players who haven’t played the earlier titles. The new CGI cutscenes also look wonderful, adding to the overall charm of the game.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong – Soundtrack

Arguably the biggest improvement of the Nintendo Switch remake over the original GBA game is its soundtrack. Composed by Lawrence Schwedler, known for his work on Metroid Prime Hunters (a personal favourite of mine), the music draws upon elements of jazz and big band, creating a lively and upbeat atmosphere that perfectly complements the game’s setting.

The Mario and DK themes playing simultaneously actually work surprisingly well.

The soundtrack features catchy brass melodies that are sure to get players’ toes tapping as they navigate through the game’s various levels. Each world has its own unique musical theme, with performances by live musicians adding depth and richness to the sound rather than the crunchy and compressed audio of the GBA.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong review Nintendo Switch ghost house

You can tell this level sounds sp00ky just by looking at it.

It’s a soundtrack with the ability to evoke a sense of nostalgia while still feeling fresh and modern. The music pays homage to the classic Donkey Kong arcade game, while also standing on its own with plenty of memorable and enjoyable melodies.

What’s new in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong remake?

The main updates in the Nintendo Switch remake include:

  • Two brand-new worlds (Merry Mini-land and Slippery Summit) with new mechanics and enemies
  • A “casual mode” that removes the timer and provides extra checkpoints for new players
  • Two-player local co-op where you take on the roles of Mario and Toad, and need to complete an additional objective only available in multiplayer.

And don’t be too disappointed once you roll credits (as this only takes about 4 – 5 hours), as there’s plenty more gameplay after the main story finishes. After completing the main game, players are given access to new bonus worlds that significantly increase the difficulty, providing a proper test of skills. In total, that’s over 130 levels!

Mario vs. Donkey Kong DK sad cutscene

Don’t be sad because it’s over, smile because it happened. ❤️

In addition to the bonus worlds, players can also unlock extra challenge levels by collecting stars scattered throughout the main levels. And if that wasn’t enough, the Mario vs. Donkey Kong remake also includes a brand new time attack mode. Completing each level as quickly as possible adds a competitive element to the game. Maybe we’ll see it at Games Done Quick?


Despite its release 20 years ago, the Mario vs. Donkey Kong Remake holds up as a solid choice for fans of puzzle platformers. Its simple yet challenging gameplay, vibrant visuals, and catchy soundtrack make it a joy to play. While the gameplay can become repetitive and tiresome after a while, the addition of bonus levels and post-game content keeps things interesting. If you’ve not played the original GBA title, you’ll definitely find this remake quite a-peel-ing!

So, why should you play Mario vs. Donkey Kong?

  • Never played the original? Enjoy this fresh new remake
  • You’re a fan of the puzzle platformer genre
  • Enjoy games that can be played in short bursts

But why shouldn’t you play Mario vs. Donkey Kong?

  • Prefer more difficult puzzle games
  • You generally don’t enjoy puzzle platformers
  • Some repetitive levels do begin to get tiresome

A review code was kindly provided by Nintendo Australia for the purpose of our Mario vs. Donkey Kong review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out a brand new Mario game in our Super Mario Bros. Wonder review and jump onto the Qualbert Discord to chat with itsa-me about all things Mario.

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