Mario vs. Donkey Kong Remake – Everything You Need to Know

The remake of Nintendo's classic Game Boy Advance puzzle platformer is out on February 16th for Nintendo Switch. Here's what you should know.

Posted By | On 22nd, Jan. 2024

Mario vs. Donkey Kong Remake – Everything You Need to Know

Almost nine years since the last title in the series, Mario vs. Donkey Kong returns. Instead of a brand new game, Nintendo is releasing a remake of the first Mario vs. Donkey Kong, originally released for the Game Boy Advance. Of course, it offers some gorgeous new visuals, new features and much more for the series’ faithful.

With so many big titles launching in January and throughout February, Mario vs. Donkey Kong may be just the palette cleanser players need. Here’s everything you need to know about the remake when it launches on February 16th for the Nintendo Switch.

Origins

Donkey Kong is perhaps more important than Mario since his titular game introduced the world to the plumber. The original launched in 1981 for arcades but would receive a standalone title with the same name in 1994 for the Game Boy, featuring nearly 100 levels. Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a spiritual successor to that, launching in 2004 for the Game Boy Advance and spawning a series of games. The current title is a remake of the first Mario vs. Donkey Kong, finally bringing the classic to Nintendo Switch players.

Remade Visuals

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Obviously, the biggest change over the original is the visuals. The remake features gorgeous cutscenes while environments and characters are fully 3D, embracing a more contemporary art style. Even the enemies have been updated to appear more mechanical and toy-like to fit the overall theme.

Premise

The premise of Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a little more complicated than the 1994 Game Boy title. Instead of saving Pauline from DK Senior, Mario is the head of a toy company which sells super-popular Mini-Marios. Unbeknownst to him, Donkey Kong wants them and tries to steal them through any means necessary. Thus begins a gruelling battle to recover the Mini-Marios throughout many levels.

Gameplay Loop

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Unlike the regular Mario titles or the recently released Super Mario Bros. Wonder, Mario vs. Donkey Kong isn’t a traditional platformer. In each level, Mario must find a key for a door to the next part. The next part has a Mini-Mario to rescue and complete the level, thus moving on to the next. You eventually arrive at a Mini-Mario level, which involves guiding the toys discovered in previous stages to the end. Save as many as possible, because they’ll be important later.

Puzzle Platforming

Mario vs. Donkey Kong

The overall approach is more akin to a puzzle platformer, as each level has various hazards, enemies and obstacles to navigate. There’s also a timer, and Mario can only take a single hit, causing him to lose a life. You need to figure out the best approach to acquiring keys and Mini-Marios, observing the environment carefully and methodically. You also have different presents to collect while beating the top score nets Stars, which come into play with the Extra Stages.

Mario’s Moves

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Like the contemporary titles, Mario has various maneuvers, like handstands, front-flips, back-flips and more, along with regular jumps for traversal. Interestingly, the platforming in Mario vs. Donkey Kong isn’t all that different from Donkey Kong on the Game Boy, right down to picking up and throwing some objects and enemies.

New Worlds

While the original six worlds, each with eight levels (not counting the final world), are included, Nintendo has also added two new worlds with the remake. Merry Mini-Land is touted as an amusement park, while Slippery Summit is a winter-themed level with icy footing that makes it difficult to move around. New obstacles, enemies and challenges are promised for each, which is great for experienced players. Overall, there are over 130 levels – more details on how that works in a bit.

Donkey Kong Boss Fights

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To cap off each world, Mario goes one-on-one against Donkey Kong in a boss battle. These battles are somewhat reminiscent of the classic Donkey Kong, as he uses random objects/enemies to dispose of the player. Depending on the Mini-Marios collected in the previous level, Mario will have a number of hit points and must defeat Donkey Kong through various means.

Extra Challenges

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Nintendo has confirmed that Plus and Expert Levels will return in the remake, providing more challenges for those who beat the base levels. Plus Levels are more challenging versions of the levels, but with different objectives. Instead of finding a key and unlocking the latter part of a level to find a Mini-Mario, you must now locate a Mini-Mario with the key in question and lead them to the locked door. There’s no second part to the levels or a Mini-Mario level where Mario leads the Minis to the objective. Donkey Kong boss fights remain, and the Plus version of the final world offers a surprise.

Expert Levels are separate and become available after finishing all the Plus Levels (though you also need a certain amount of stars to play each one). There are no Mini-Marios – you must only find the key and unlock the door. While the base game offers 12 Expert Levels, the eShop lists 16 for the remake, which means four additional levels have been added for players to conquer.

Retails for $50

Unlike many Nintendo Switch releases, Mario vs. Donkey Kong costs $50 instead of the standard $60. Maybe it’s in response to those who complained or It may also be a different way of pricing its games. Either way, it’s a more enticing proposition.

Local Co-op Support

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Whether you want to suffer together or have something multiplayer-focused to play with friends, the remake added co-op support. Toad joins Mario on his adventures and can seemingly execute the same platforming maneuvers. Unfortunately, it’s local co-op only – you can’t play online, but it’s still a nice addition (and even offers some changes to levels).

Casual and Classic

The original Mario vs. Donkey Kong experience may not be to everyone’s liking, especially with the whole “one hit” fail mechanic. The remake thus introduces Casual Style, which allows for a more forgiving experience as Mario no longer loses a life on getting hit, thus receiving more tries in a level and checkpoints while also removing the timer. Classic Style is available for those who want the same grueling gameplay, so don’t worry.

Time Attack

A brand new mode, Time Attack, is available to unlock in the remake and involves playing through each level while trying to rack up the best time. A target time is in the upper right corner, but you could keep replaying and try to set a new personal best.

Revamped Music

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Though Nintendo hasn’t marketed it heavily, Mario vs. Donkey Kong’s music has been revamped. It retains that upbeat feel, though it remains to be seen if you can switch between the classic and modern music.

File Size

Small file sizes for Nintendo’s Switch titles aren’t a new thing. However, with so much content included, not to mention the revamped visuals and music, Time Attack, and more, it’s a little surprising that Mario vs. Donkey Kong is only 2 GB in file size, per the Nintendo eShop.


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