Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D accessibility review

Josh Straub5 minute read

First off, let me apologize to my readers for my two week hiatus. I was away from my home office and didn’t have good internet. That said, I wanted to come back and review a game that was both incredibly well done and accessible enough for anyone to enjoy. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is not that game. While it is up to the high standards of Nintendo gamemaking, there are enough major barriers to accessibility that most disabled gamers should probably just avoid this title—which is unfortunate, because it really is well-made.

To begin with, the developers made some choices that are really quite puzzling and which negatively affect this game for those with sight disabilities. The biggest problem is the mechanic that launches Donkey Kong to a stage in the background of the level, requiring him to maneuver the platform to collect Kong letters and golden banana coins. The reason this is an issue is because the camera on the 3DS does not zoom in to give players a better perspective. As a result, even though I don’t have a visual disability, I found myself squinting through these sessions, trying to avoid being killed by the birds and the other enemies that populate these platforms—not to mention the fact that on a regular 3DS, normal items such as DK barrels and bananas that appear on standard levels are small enough to be easily missed by those with visual disabilities. However, this may be remedied by using the 3DS XL. And finally, there’s the fact that there are many hidden areas and items in DKCR3D that most players with visual disabilities can expect to miss in each level, even if they do make it through. As a result, even though the game features the signature Donkey Kong art style, which in theory makes things easier to perceive, because of the use of small indicators for hidden items, gamers with sight challenges will probably only be able to get an incomplete experience when playing this game.

Players with fine motor disabilities fare even worse. To be frank, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a platformer that doesn’t do enough to allow gamers with fine motor disabilities to enjoy it. It is true that there is a minimal amount of controller customization, but players only have two options: either they can use the joystick to move and the face buttons to stun enemies while the shoulder buttons make Donkey Kong cling to walls and ceilings, or they can use the directional pad to move and the face buttons to cling while the shoulder buttons stun enemies. There will be times when players need to stun enemies while climbing, with the result that players will have to use the face buttons and the shoulder buttons simultaneously, not matter which controller setup they pick. As a result, the overt barriers in this platformer (such as timing and rapid button presses) are simply aggravated by inadequate controller customization.

However, it is true that this game is more forgiving than classic Nintendo titles like the original Donkey Kong Country. It allows players to activate a super guide which will automatically play through a difficult level so that players can skip to the next level. And players will have the opportunity to purchase item such as extra health hearts and lives in order to make levels more forgiving. But the catch is that if you can’t play through the levels to collect the golden coins, you will have no currency to purchase the power ups. And the super guide doesn’t allow you to keep any of the bananas or coins he collects. As a result the only option for some disabled players may be to keep dying so that they can activate the super guide until they get to a level they can actually beat—and then milk that level for all it’s worth so that they can purchase as many power ups as possible.

Because I was only able to progress a little way through the game, I can’t be 100% sure about the game’s audio accessibility. I can tell you that all of the game’s important dialogue is communicated via text and that (so far) the cinematics don’t have anything in the way of important sounds. But without progressing further through the game, all that can be said for sure is that it seems thoroughly accessible to those with audio impairments.

On the whole, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a disappointment. It is a great game that excludes both players with visual and fine motor disabilities because of odd choices that were made in the game’s development.

Overall Rating: Partially Accessible
Visual Rating: Partially Accessible
Fine-Motor Rating: Partially Accessible
Auditory Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
GameInformer Score: 8.50

The Bottom Line for Disabled Gamers: Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D


-Distinctive art style makes some objects in the foreground easy to see.

– Many objects appear tiny and hard to see in the foreground and background, such as barrels and bananas.
ackground of a level, which can be hard to see even for those without visual disabilities.
– Many of the important collectibles in the game are positioned on these hard to see background platforms.
– There are hidden areas that require sharp vision to see.

Fine Motor

– The game has minimal controller customization.

– The game will take over and guide you through difficult levels.
– There are items you can purchase with in game currency that make each level more forgiving.

– The game requires two hands to play.

– The game requires precise timing.
– It’s hard to be accurate on most of the controls.
– There is not enough controller customization for many disabled gamers.
– Players will have to retrace their steps if they keep failing, due to a lack of checkpoints and the extremely unforgiving nature of the game.


– Nothing in the game relies on dialogue or sound.

– All important information is communicated via text.


This article has been transferred from DAGERSystem (now AbilityPoints). Scores, formatting, and writing style may differ from original CIPT content.

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