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Mario vs Donkey Kong (2004) is a Spiritual Successor to the Donkey Kong arcade games. First, it was planned to be an Updated Rerelease of Donkey Kong 94 (itself having an improved remake of the original game as its first four levels) with the ability for players to make custom levels. This mechanic was scrapped though and the game was completely reworked and released on the Game Boy Advance. In short, Mario has had Mini-Mario toys made in his image, but Donkey Kong, unable to buy them in stores due to them being sold out, has stolen them from the factory.
In the Nintendo DS sequel, March of the Minis (2006), Mario is opening a "Super Mini-Mario World" amusement park, and Pauline (from the original arcade game) is a guest of honor at the opening ceremonies. DK is instantly smitten with her, but when she shuns his Mini-DK gift in favor of a Mini-Mario, he doesn't take it well and abducts her. This game has the level builder that was left out of the original, and begins the trend of removing Mario himself from gameplay, with the players directing the Mini-Marios (and other mini-characters in custom levels) instead.
Minis March Again (2009) was the next sequel, exclusively for DSiWare download. DK's in line for the amusement park again, but when tickets sell out he gets pissed and grabs Pauline again. Its main feature was once again the level builder.
The series then returned to full retail releases with Mini-Land Mayhem (2010). Mario has made Mini-Pauline toys and is giving them away to the first hundred visitors - but DK is number 101, which... do we really need to explain it?
Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors have access to the original game as one of ten free Game Boy Advance games; incidentally, this means they can play every game in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series on one system.
The series is notable for being designed by Americans, with its developer being Nintendo Software Technology Corporation (AKA NST), which is based in Redmond, Washington, like Nintendo's main American division.
Tropes found in Mario Vs Donkey Kong include:
- Bonus Stage: The GBA original has two.
- Boss Only Level: Played with in the first game. While clearing the Mini-Mario Levels always leads players to facing Donkey Kong, after the first battle in any given world the Boss Battle itself is freely accessible afterwards, although not going through the MM levels first "punishes" the player with four Hit Points instead of the "usual" six, as it would be the case if all six Mini Marios are rescued.
- Played straighter in the sequels.
- The Bus Came Back: Pauline.
- Convection, Schmonvection It's a Mario game.
- Cranium Ride: Can be done in the first three games.
- Drop the Hammer: Again, this can be done in every game released so far. Duh.
- Dual-Wielding: You know the hammers we just mentioned? Unlike the real Mario, the Mini-Marios use two at once.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The original game actually starred Mario himself over the Mini-Marios, and neither Pauline nor the level editor were present. It was also far more action-based (not unlike Donkey Kong 94) than the Lemmings-type puzzles of the rest of the games, which also use the stylus instead of the buttons.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: This series has Mario facing his old enemy from his debut into the gaming world, but this time Mario's name actually appears in the title.
- Game Breaking Bug: (First game bug) In the end of some levels, like the second boss fight, the game might not consider your final score a new high score, but still records it. If the player can't get a better score, then it's time to delete the file and start over.
- Giant Space Flea Out of Nowhere: Donkey Kong's Humongous Mecha in the first game, which attacks very identical to the Final Boss of Game Boy Donkey Kong. Where did he get it from?
- Here We Go Again: In the first game, Mario quotes the trope word-for-word. For good reason.
- And right before the real final boss:
Mario: Here we go again...again.
- Hero Antagonist: DK.
- Just Friends: Mario and Pauline.
- Level Editor: Pretty much the main attraction of every game but the first.
- Mini Game: The first had a shell game, the second had a Whack-A-Mole type game, and Mini-Land Mayhem had a sorting game.
- Mission Pack Sequel: Minis March Again. Mini-Land Mayhem is a subversion, as while the appearance is similar, the way the game is controlled is quite different from the previous two games.
- Mythology Gag: When a Mini-Peach grabs a Fire Flower, her dress turns white and her hair turns red — just like Peach's color palette in the original Super Mario Bros.
- New Game+: Subverted by the original; Although the worlds are the same, the individual levels are completely different and have different mechanics. The final battle of Plus Mode is also different. Mini-Land Mayhem plays this straight, for the most part; the only differences are that the order you get Minis to the goal is important, and bosses and minigames are harder.
- One-Hit-Point Wonder: If it hurts Mario, it kills him. The exceptions are the bosses at the end of the 12 worlds.
- Rant-Inducing Slight: DK gets set off by one in every game.
- Regional Bonus: Although there were no major gameplay enhancements, the European localization, as well as the Japanese translation of the first game added a few graphical tweaks. Unfortunately, Mario's dialogue during the credits were removed from these localizations.
- Robot Me: The Mini-Marios are basically Exactly What It Says on the Tin wind-up toys. Also, the True Final Boss of the first game is a Humongous Mecha shaped like and piloted by DK.
- Spiritual Successor: The first is this to Donkey Kong 94, while the later titles are this to Mario And Wario.
- Graphics-wise, it looks similar to Donkey Kong Country, ironically.
- Suddenly Voiced: Pauline in Mini-Land Mayhem.
- Versus Title
- Wind Up Key: On the Mini-Marios and the other toy characters.