John McCurdy Reclaims His Donkey Kong Crown

Jason Bennett,

January 15, 2021 8:40 PM

This July will mark 40 years since Nintendo released an arcade game featuring a carpenter named Jumpman, and McCurdy is kicking things off with style.

Vince Lombardi once famously observed that football is a game of inches, often serving as the smallest of margins between winning and losing. If Lombardi ever played a game of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong, he might have noted that the difference between a world record and second place can boil down to an extra barrel jump or fireball smash. In the case of John McCurdy, those jumps and smashes added up to an extra 1600 points, allowing him to surpass the score of incumbent record holder Robbie Lakeman to reclaim the King of Kong crown.

John’s first submission to the Donkey Kong Forum was August 2015 when he threw his hat into the ring for the first “Race to 1 million” tournament. As someone completely new to the DKF community, he quickly earned respect with a inaugural score of 963,800 played on Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME). 

Around mid-2017, John decided that he wanted to pursue the top score on arcade hardware, so he acquired an original 1980 Donkey Kong cabinet for his world record quest. Not long after setting the cabinet up in his Pennsylvania apartment, however, John’s arcade journey almost came to an end when his apartment flooded, but ultimately Mario lived to jump another day.

For the next two years, John grinded out game after game, pushing his personal best higher and higher until he finally crossed the 1.2 million threshold and then clinched the world record title in March 2019.

Last year John’s reign at the world record summit ended in June when Robbie Lakeman eked out a new high score that passed John's then world record of 1,259,000 by just 1700 points. Robbie then pushed his record even higher, putting up a game of 1,271,100 three months later. Then in November, John closed the gap with a score of 1,269,600, a difference of 1500 points.

Mario's game comes to an end, but ushers in a new world record [Image source: John McCurdy/Twitch]1

Finally, on January 11, everything came together. In a master class tutorial on extreme point pressing and sheer perseverance, John put up a new world record of 1,272,700 points. As the congratulations poured in during his Twitch stream, he concluded his game with a sigh and simple “let’s go!” as he entered his initials MRX into the high score table.  

The rivalry between John and Robbie has been one of the most intense and prolific in redefining the benchmark of world class performance. While Robbie allowed himself earlier in John’s Twitch stream to declare, “I'm [in] second forever now,” few would give such a prediction any serious consideration given the back and forth nature of the contest where the difference between first and second place has been razor close every step of the way.

After all, if anyone can attest to the difference an extra jump or smash can make, just ask John.

To check out the world record for yourself, head over to McCurdy’s Twitch channel, and special thanks to xelnia for background on this story



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