Arcade Game Strategy Guide by DWonn

Version: 1.2 | Updated: 12/20/00 | Printable Version

                                Donkey Kong 64:
                           DK Arcade Strategy Guide
                                  Version 1.2
                             written by David Wonn
                               December 20, 2000

Table of contents:

   I. About this guide
  II. General strategies
      A. Barrels
      B. Fireballs
      C. Ladders
      D. Pies
      E. Springboards
      F. The Hammer - to use or not to use, that is the question
      G. Bonus items
 III. Timer bonus
  IV. Stage 1
   V. Stage 2
  VI. Stage 3
 VII. Stage 4
VIII. Advanced tips and lesser known secrets
      A. Rebound jump
      B. Score two jumps over the same barrel at once
      C. Jump over and smash the same barrel
      D. Easy points from fireballs
      E. Trap a fireball in midair
      F. Bring a hammer to another floor!
      G. Stage 3 shortcut (difficulty levels 4 and lower)
  IX. Disclaimer and how to link to this guide


I. About this guide

This guide is designed to help players improve their DK arcade scores in Donkey
Kong 64. Although many of the tactics can also be applied for the actual arcade
version, this guide emphasizes on the Nintendo 64 version. FYI, my personal
highest score as of February 1, 2000 is 276,600 points. I lost my last life in
level 8, stage 3, and then I snapped a photo and sent it to Nintendo Power's
Arena contest. I plan to eventually break 300,000 points and see how far I can
go. In this guide, you will find a mixture of tactics ranging from the basics
to the more sophisticated and lesser known strategies. As with most classic
games, you won't become a pro overnight, but you will gradually get better
scores with these techniques. You might even impress some friends with a few
tricks in this guide. :-) Read on to learn how to do so and more....

II. General strategies

Before I get into the more sophisticated strategies and level breakdowns, let's
look at some strategies that apply to all difficulty levels:

    A. Barrels

The barrels are among the easiest of all the enemies in Donkey Kong, as they
have (somewhat) predictable behaviors. Donkey Kong throws two basic types. The
most common ones (more common in the earlier difficulties) are the ones that
travel down each floor one by one. It's often difficult to tell which ladders
and gaps that they will "choose" to go down. As a general rule, don't second
guess their patterns! Always assume that a barrel on a floor above you just
might attempt to fall down the ladder nearest you. It's better to be safe than
sorry. The other barrels are the ones that skip floors and head straight for
the bottom floor. These are even more difficult to negotiate, so it's best to
stay as far as possible from these menaces. Keep in mind that they will become
more common in the higher difficulties.

The scoring for barrels is fairly straight forward. Jumping over 1 barrel gives
100 points. Jumping over 2 in a single leap yields 300 points, and 3 will give
you 500 points. It's always nice to find barrels that group together extremely
close, but always be on the lookout for ones that are grouped further apart.
Smashing a barrel with a hammer is always 300 points.

    B. Fireballs

The fireballs are one of the most difficult enemies due to their very
unpredictable behavior. It is best just to avoid them altogether if at all
possible. You can jump over them but their point value is low, and they can
change directions on a dime. Consider using ladders to get around them rather
than jumping over them unless you are surrounded or if you are about to clear
the last rivet in stage 4. Jumping over 1 fireball is only 100 points, while
jumping over 2 or 3 is 300 or 500 points respectively. Smashing a fireball with
a hammer can yield 300, 500, or 800 points.

    C. Ladders

Ladders come in 3 varieties: regular (all stages), broken (stage 1), and
stretching (stage 2). With the regular ladders, you should always keep an eye
on any nearby barrels on floors that are one or two stories above you. Why two
floors, you ask? Well, it doesn't take long at all for a barrel to suddenly
go down a ladder, and before you know it, you have a danger directly above you.
Also keep an eye on fireballs both above and below you. Just remember, when in
doubt, don't climb it! Also, if you encounter a group of two or more barrels
that are too far apart to jump in a single bound and too close to jump in
multiples, get away from them as soon as possible! Don't be afraid to go down
one floor when playing stage 1 on higher difficulties. Sometimes the barrels
will take separate paths as they go downward, making them more negotiable. It
might cost you a little time, but it's worth it when no other path is safe.

The broken ladders are more of a nuisance since the barrels and fireballs can
use them completely while Mario cannot. Because of this, players often tend to
neglect the idea of ever climbing them. Oddly enough they can also be a life
saver in some situations. If you see a group of barrels coming your way, and
there doesn't seem to be any regular ladder nearby, try using a broken ladder!
You can climb up far enough to stay above any barrels that might otherwise
sweep Mario off his feet. Just don't get too comfortable since you are not
immune to attacks by other barrels from above. Only use them as a last resort.

The stretching ladders behave like a cross between regular and broken ladders.
Fireballs can always use them even when they are contracted, so keep that in
mind. Try not to leave Mario on a contracted ladder too long if fireballs are

    D. Pies

The pies in stage 2 have the most predictable paths, but offer no point value
if you jump over them. Only jump over a pie if you are running against the
direction of the conveyer belt. Just keep in mind that the belt reverses
direction every few seconds if you plan on jumping over one. Smashing one with
a hammer is always worth 300 points.

    E. Springboards

The springboards in stage 3 can be the most annoying and most frustrating
hazards in the game, especially on levels 5 and upward. If you take a close
look at the springboards, you may notice that each one varies from the previous
one just by a slight amount. By this, I mean that they do not land in the exact
same spots. It might seem random at first, but it actually follows a pattern.
Time your jumps across the lower platforms with extreme caution. On the top
floor, position Mario in between the spots where the springboard bounces. It
is best not to climb the top ladder until Mario is just barely to the right of
the ladder and right after a springboard bounces in front of him. In higher
difficulty levels, you will see a few springboards on the screen at any given
time, and they are likely to hit you as you are climbing the top ladder unless
you climb it immediately after one bounces over your head. Timing is tough to
master in the higher levels, so it will just take a lot practice.

    F. The Hammer - to use or not to use, that is the question

Many old school arcade players would debate on whether or not to use hammers,
so I'll give you the answer: IT DEPENDS! It all has to do with how many points
you think you can gain in 500 timer units. If you think you will get more than
500 points, then by all means, use it! Otherwise, don't waste your time. I'll
mention more on which ones to get and which ones to avoid in section IV.

    G. Bonus items

Bonus items can also be collected or avoided, and you should consider
collecting if they are worth the time spent. All bonuses in level 1 are 300
points. In level 2, they are 500 points each. In all the higher difficulty
levels they are worth 800 points.

III. Timer bonus

In difficulty level 1, you will have 5000 timer units at the beginning of each
stage. On level 2, you get 6000; on 3 you get 7000; on 4 you get 8000; and on
levels 5 and upwards, it is always 9000. Just don't let it go down to zero, or
else you will lose one life.

IV. Stage 1

ALWAYS collect both hammers here. Consider waiting near the first hammer until
a barrel is within reach. Even on difficulty level 1, I jump over the first
barrel for 100 points since it takes a while for the next barrel to come within
striking distance of the hammer. On level 2, you can actually run under the
first barrel if you so choose. By the time you reach level 4 and upwards,
Donkey Kong will throw the barrels that skip floors more and more often. They
also tend to move very erratic, so keep your distance from them if at all
possible. You can also score points for jumping over these barrels in the same
manner as the regular barrels.

A good player should be able to smash 6 barrels per hammer. Seven or more is
always a nice bonus. I've even had ten at one time. On the higher difficulty
levels, the barrels move faster and tend to use ladders more often. When they
are moving at high speeds, you may consider jumping over them in the same
direction as their movement. This is handy when there are several coming your
way. Don't forget to go down a floor or two if you see more barrels than you
can handle! There is almost always an escape route, but it's just a matter of
finding it.

V. Stage 2

Many players say that the pie factory is their favorite stage and the easiest
stage as well. It may seem easy until you get to level 7, then it becomes quite
a formidable challenge. You should collect the first bonus item in the first
6 difficulty levels, but it will be quite a gamble in levels 7 and higher since
the fireballs can reach you before you even get to the first hammer! On level
1, if you don't see any pies by the time you climb the first ladder, don't
bother getting the hammer. Otherwise, you will just waste time and not hit
anything. If even one pie comes out, it's generally a good idea to get the
first hammer, as you will make up for your time if you hit just two pies. Only
collect one of the other two bonus items, and don't even bother with the second

On difficulty level 2, you should consider getting the first bonus item and
first hammer. Collecting both of the other bonus items might be worth it but
oftentimes it isn't. Also skip the second hammer. On level 3 and beyond you
should always get the first hammer. Hopefully you should destroy at least one
of the fireballs as well. The number of fireballs that appear is equal to the
level of difficulty you are playing, but on levels 6 and beyond, it maxes out
at 5 fireballs. For levels 3 and higher, the bonus items are worth 800 points,
so it would be a good idea to collect them all if possible. If there are two
or more fireballs guarding a bonus item, then you might want to consider
skipping it, as it might take more than 800 timer units just to dodge them and
collect the item. Also consider collecting the second hammer if the fireballs
are threatening your chances of making it to the top.

VI. Stage 3

Stage 3 is possibly the toughest stage out of all four. This is mainly because
of the hazardous springboards and because of the second fireball. In the first
4 difficulty levels, you can actually breeze through the stage with a nifty
shortcut. See the "Advanced tips and lesser known secrets" section below for
details on how this is done. It's very easy to do in levels 1 and 2, but you
will need good timing to pull it off in levels 3 and 4. Don't even bother on
levels 5 and higher.

As for the first bonus item, you might want to skip it on stages 1 and 2 if the
first fireball goes downward at the very beginning of the stage. On stages 3
and higher, you will generally profit from collecting the bonus item, since you
will typically get past the first fireball in under 800 timer units. Don't even
bother collecting the last bonus item. It's not worth the time on level 1, and
it's a big risk to even mess with on the higher difficulty levels. You might
collect it on level 2 or 3, but just remember not to spend too much time.

Whenever you are forced to take the long trail, always keep an eye on the
springboards. If you watch closely, you'll notice a pattern in the way they
fall. Each one drops in a slightly different location than the previous one. On
levels 5 and higher, it is best to wait until you see one falling furthest to
the right before attempting to advance. This way, the next springboard will
fall more to the left, leaving you more margin of error for making it across
the first time. Then you will have to cross this perilous path once again.
Usually there will be a fireball blocking your chances of getting across. You
may just have to be patient and wait for it to get away from the ladder before
moving on. It will be especially annoying on levels 5 and higher. Once you have
crossed this path once again, you're on your way to the top. Make sure that you
are acquainted with the timing of each springboard. You will need to carefully
step in places where they just bounce safely over your head. Gradually work
your way to the final ladder, and don't climb until you see a springboard
bounce near the ladder. If you are just barely to the right of the springboard,
make a mad dash for the ladder! With good timing, you should make it up without
getting hit.

VII. Stage 4

Stage 4 is Mario's final test against Donkey Kong. On all difficulty levels,
it is best to collect all bonus items and both hammers in order to maximize
your scoring opportunities. I prefer to clear the rivets from top to bottom,
collecting all the items on my way. Once you make it to level 5, the fireballs
will move at the same speed as Mario!  As they get faster, you will have to do
a lot of improvising in your attempts to clear the stage. Just don't get too
greedy in attempting to score points on the higher difficulty levels, or else
you may end up being surrounded by more fireballs than you can handle!
Fortunately you'll never see more than 5 at any given time. While you are using
the hammers, you can more or less determine where the fireballs will re-spawn.
As a general rule, if you are on the left half of the screen, they will appear
on the right, and vice-versa. Use this knowledge to your advantage for gaining
points and maximizing your chances of clearing the stage.

VIII. Advanced tips and lesser known secrets

    A. Rebound jump

On any stage, try jumping off the side of the screen. As long as you aren't
on the top floor of stage 4, you'll end up rebounding off the side of the
screen and back to where you were! Doing this allows you to temporarily escape
danger, and sometimes it will be a lifesaver. Try this with the second hammer
on stage 1 and watch the results. With clever use of this jump, you can do
some more useful tricks as in the following below....

    B. Score two jumps over the same barrel at once

Do the rebound jump off of any ledge in stage 1 when a barrel is directly
behind you. With good timing, you'll score 100 points on your way to the edge
of the screen and another 100 points on your way back!

    C. Jump over and smash the same barrel

Here's a trick I like to use as often as possible in the first stage. Wait by
a hammer until a barrel gets relatively close, then jump over it. With good
timing, you can score 100 points for jumping over the barrel, and then as you
collect the hammer in midair, you can turn around and bash that same barrel
for another 300 points!

    D. Easy points from fireballs

On stage 3, whenever you are forced to take the long trail, you can actually
score some extra points if the second fireball blocks your path. Whenever that
fireball stays on the lowest platform, and Mario is on the platform to the
right of it, you can take advantage of this trick. Stand on the left edge of
the platform to the right of the fireball, but don't go too far. As the
fireball comes nearby, jump straight up. Even though you are on another
platform, the game thinks that you are legitimately jumping over that fireball!
With each jump you'll gain an easy 100 points. Take advantage of this if the
fireball prohibits you from advancing further.

    E. Trap a fireball in midair

In stage 4, try jumping over a fireball and a rivet at the same time. If you
time it well, you can trap that fireball in midair! Just beware that the
fireball might not stay there forever.

    F. Bring a hammer to another floor!

In stage 4, climb up to the floor just below Donkey Kong, and stand on top of
the leftmost ladder. Try doing a rebound jump off to the left. Mario will come
back, but this time you will be facing the right. Now do another rebound jump,
but make sure Mario still faces the right as he falls. If you do everything
correctly, Mario will grab the hammer from the floor below and bring it back
up with him!!

    G. Stage 3 shortcut (difficulty levels 4 and lower)

If you have ever wanted to clear stage 3 quickly and efficiently, this trick
is for you! Take the first elevator up and jump to the platform on your right,
making sure that the fireball isn't nearby. Now position Mario just above the
second ladder and slightly to the left. Wait for the second elevator to appear
just above Mario's head, and jump for it. Run across quickly and jump again
to your right. With good timing, you'll make it to that higher platform! It is
best to practice this on difficulty level 1 until you are comfortable with it.
Then try it on level 2. In order to make this work on levels 3 and 4, you will
need to make sure that Mario jumps UP to the elevator without having any
descent to his jump. If you are quick enough you should just barely make it to
the other platform. This shortcut not only saves you precious time, but it also
saves you the hassle of jumping across the lower platforms and dodging the
springboards and the fireball. If you can master this shortcut on level 4, you
will be on your way to getting higher scores!

IX. Disclaimer and how to link to this guide

Mario, Donkey Kong, and Nintendo are trademarks of Nintendo. This guide is
brought to you by David Wonn and is in no way affiliated with Nintendo. The
strategies within this guide may not be copied in any shape or form and are
intended for the purpose of gaining higher scores in Donkey Kong.

This guide is only permitted to be reproduced at the following sites:

- David Wonn's Unique Video Game Glitches -
- GameFAQs -

If you wish to link to this guide, please use the following HTML code:

<A HREF="" target="_top">
David Wonn's Donkey Kong arcade strategy guide</A>

If you are interested in glitches for Donkey Kong 64, or for any other video
game for that matter, feel free to visit
for some of the most unique and unusual video game glitches.

This guide is Copyright  2000 David Wonn.