Sega’s beloved monkey AiAi and his series of Super Monkey Ball games celebrate their 20th anniversary this month. In fact, it was just last week. We look back on the history of the popular franchise.
You may not know this, but the first game was simply known as Monkey Ball. It appeared in arcades on June 23, 2001 complete with a banana joystick. It wowed fans with its elegant design, delightfully simple gameplay, and wacky fun, and it became an icon of its time.
Though the arcade game inspired many wonderful adventures for AiAi and his monkey friends, the inventive console games – Super Monkey Ball, Super Monkey Ball 2, and Super Monkey Ball Deluxe – remain the series’ gold standard.
Monkey Ball is the first entry in the Super Monkey Ball series. It was released as an upright arcade cabinet in Japan. Sega published it and Amusement Vision created it. It only has the Main Game, which has the same levels as Super Monkey Ball, with the exception that this game has only one Master floor, which is known as Bridge Master in Super Monkey Ball Deluxe.
Good old Monkey Ball was not as popular in arcades, competing for quarters against classics like Pac-Man, Street Fighter, and Bubble Bobble as well as the company’s own arcade titles like House of the Dead 2. Later on, Sega saw an opportunity to bring the franchise to GameCube due to the popularity of home consoles. Sega did so in the same year that they dropped support for their own home console (and last home console), the Dreamcast.
Monkey Ball served as the foundation for its home console release, Super Monkey Ball on GameCube, as well as all subsequent games in the series. It was released in Japan as a NAOMI arcade cabinet several months before the GameCube launched in September 2001 in that country. Sega also released it as a launch title in North America when the GameCube was released on November 18, 2001 in the United States.
Striking gold on GameCube
The second game in the series is simply known as Super Monkey Ball. It was a GameCube launch title that featured the debut of the character GonGon. It was created by Sega in collaboration with Amusement Vision and directed by Toshihiro Nagoshi.
This was the first game in the series with a story, and it introduced the lovely characters AiAi, MeeMee, and Baby, who lived peacefully on Jungle Island. The series quickly made its own way into the hearts of Sega fans with its simple yet addictive gameplay, fun colors, lovable characters, and multiplayer mini-games.
Both the first and second game made their way to PS2 and Xbox as Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, which also added original levels. The series still has a strong following among the Nintendo faithful due to the original game.
Several handheld and mobile games were released in the 2000s including one for iOS. There was also a Game Boy Advance version called Super Monkey Ball Jr. that brought basic 3D graphics to Nintendo’s handheld. Meanwhile, the Nintendo DS saw the release of Super Monkey Ball Touch & Roll. It was even released on the ill-fated Nokia N-Gage gaming smartphone.
Most recent games
The series received a major facelift with its most recent console game, a remaster called Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD. This game was a remaster of the original, which was released in 2006 for the Nintendo Wii. Banana Blitz HD improved on its predecessor in terms of graphics and gameplay, as well as the addition of Sonic as a playable character.
The series now has a new entry on the horizon. Sega will release Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania on October 5, 2021 to commemorate the game’s 20th anniversary year. It is an enhanced remake of the original trilogy. These three games, which will be included in the remake, are not only the most popular and remembered by gamers, but they also vindicated the game series.
It will include levels from Super Monkey Ball, Super Monkey Ball 2, and Super Monkey Ball Deluxe remade in the Banana Blitz HD engine. The monkeys will appear in their modern redesigns. Banana Blitz HD heavily influences the art style as well as the UI and menu designs. In addition, six classic character skins are available.
Although AiAi and Monkey Ball are relatively new to the industry compared to other characters and franchises with longer histories – such as Nintendo’s Mario and Sega’s Sonic – Super Monkey Ball has made a big mark on the industry. With titles on all platforms, including mobile, we are sure to see more of AiAi and his friends in the future as he has become a classic Sega character and has won the hearts of both longtime Sega fans and gamers of all ages.