Nintendo releases Donkey Kong. It would become one of the most popular video arcade games of all time.
Nintendo desperately wanted to break into the North American arcade game market in late 1980. Nintendo's president asked a young Shigeru Miyamoto if he knew how to get Nintendo into the United States, and his response was Donkey Kong. It was one of the earliest arcade games to feature multiple levels, it had cut scenes and used the "damsel in distress" format that would become common for video games of the future.
Graphical limitations of the on-screen sprites led to Mario's appearance. He needed to be animated to jump; this made colored overalls the only option. Drawing a mouth on his face would be difficult, so a mustache was used. Giving Mario hair was impracticable, so he got a cap. Thus Mario was born. He would later appear with his brother Luigi in Mario Bros. from 1983 (an enhanced version of this arcade game appeared in 1988's NES Super Mario Bros. 3). In 1985, Mario and his brother starred in Super Mario Bros. for the NES, a game which IGN calls "the greatest game of all time."
Donkey Kong earned Nintendo millions of dollars and solidified them in the U.S. arcade game market. Even after the video game market crash of 1983, Nintendo persisted. Donkey Kong became a household name, appearing on cereal boxes, board games and even his own CBS cartoon that lasted two seasons.
Universal Studios attempted to sue Nintendo over Donkey Kong due to the character's similarity to King Kong. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled against Universal.
The phrase "it's on like Donkey Kong" is regularly heard in American vernacular.