A lot of classic arcade games have straight-forward, logical plots that drive them: Turtle dragon stole your woman, stomp mushrooms until he gives her back. That's cool; we're on board with that. But some of these other classic, seemingly self-evident games actually hid madness and dementia behind their fun, childish veneers.
What we thought was going on:
We all know the story of Donkey Kong, right? It's just the plot of King Kong, Japanified: Giant ape escapes, kidnaps a woman, runs to the top of someplace high, is put in its ape-place by a plumber who isn't entirely clear on his job description.
"Well, there's your problem."
The WTF Backstory:
Except that Mario is the villain in Donkey Kong.
According to the game's manual, Donkey Kong was actually Mario's pet ape. Without even venturing into the shaky moral and legal issues of primate ownership, it gets way worse from there: The reason Donkey Kong escaped in the first place was only because Mario was abusing him. That's not our accusation; the manual spells that out, plain as day: "[Donkey Kong] is actually [Mario's] pet who was mistreated." The manual doesn't get really specific as to exactly how DK was being abused -- presumably because even jaded 1980s game designers figured that was some heavy shit to lay on a kid -- but it's not hard to fill in the blanks: Here's a screengrab of Mario sticking Donkey Kong in a cage, chaining him up, and what's that in his hand? A whip?
Isn't this basically how the Planet of the Apes got started?
The poor beast suffered years of physical abuse and neglect, can you blame him for reacting poorly when he finally got his shot at freedom? We don't blame the abused dog if it bites the mailman, can we blame DK for grabbing Mario's girlfriend, Pauline (safe to assume also an animal abuser, if only by proxy) and simply running away? He didn't even hurt anybody, he just ran. And we all know what happens next: Mario, possessed by the invincibility of rage, hurdles every obstacle in the pursuit of his frightened pet -- barrels will not stop him, fireballs will not stop him, ramshackle construction sites will not stop him, nothing will stop him, not even death (he's got extra lives) -- until he slowly but surely chases down the cornered, abused, terrified monkey, and drops him from the top of a skyscraper.
Teaching children around the world a valuable lesson about pet care.
We should probably tell you that the Donkey Kong of today -- the one seen happy and healthy in all the current Nintendo games? Rare made a very specific point of mentioning that he's not the original DK; that's his son. Now, they're not outright saying what happened to the original Donkey Kong, but it's best not to look too closely between the lines.
Because you'll probably find Mario there, covered in ape-blood, screaming in unearthly fury.
"When they talk to you, you just fell down the stairs, right?"