I've played Donkey Kong Country many times over the years and it's also one of my first games ever. There's a lot to love about it like the splashy visuals, awesome music, and amount of hidden goodies so let me discuss my top 10 memories of this timeless classic.
Jungle Hijinxs is level 1-1 and it contains a number of memorable things. You can immediately go left and visit Donkey Kong's banana hoard which has been stolen and you can then climb the steps to Donkey Kong's house and bounce around for fun and even get a free 1-up. Starting the level for real, you'll walk past a barrel and there's an interesting glitch that you can do with it but I can't remember how so I keep walking while being careful to dodge the vulture's nuts; they can certainly get you if you're not careful! You soon find your friend Rambi the Rhino and while riding him, you can go through the level as normal or find a secret area by riding into a wall.
The music in Donkey Kong Country by David Wise and Eveline Fischer is just perfect. I particularly enjoy the title theme and its remix in Donkey Kong Country Returns, the mine cart theme, and the underwater level theme called Aquatic Ambience.
Donkey Kong Country contains many beautiful levels with amazing textures, backdrops, and weather effects. I enjoyed how in the second level (Ropey Rampage), the weather is rainy but then it clears up at the very end. To think that many games nowadays don't have weather when Donkey Kong Country got it just right way back in 1994.
Cranky Kong's helpful tips
Yes, Cranky Kong, thank you for telling me that you could beat the entire game with just one life. Why is he so confident? All Cranky Kong did in his games was throw barrels at Mario. He should admire DK because Cranky had it easy while DK faces a real challenge.
Blasting through Barrel Cannon Canyon
Barrel blasting is a gameplay mechanic that's repeated many times throughout Donkey Kong Country but you do it for the first time in this level that's near the end of the first world. And it's a real blast... literally.
Mastering Mine Cart Carnage
Mine Cart Carnage is a mine cart level where you have to hop over various hazards if you want to survive. Let me tell you, the music is awesome and it fits the stage's precarious nature perfectly. In my most recent playthrough, I failed over 10 times because you get so little time to react to those Kritters riding their own mine carts. Nonetheless, it's still one of my favorite levels in Donkey Kong Country. Jumping over a pit onto another mine cart is simply a ton of fun.
Traversing Tree Top Town
Tree Top Town is another precarious stage and it features a mix of regular platforming and barrel blasting. It also has great music and a stunning environment so it's definitely my favorite level in world 3. The only thing that annoys me is that halfway through, I jump into a certain barrel without thinking then it promptly blasts me to my death...
Surviving Snow Barrel Blast
Snow Barrel Blast also contains a mix of platforming and barrel blasting but this time, the barrels rotate 360° which makes timing a lot more difficult and if you miss a shot then that means certain doom! The snowstorm becomes more intense mid-stage when you have to jump between several narrow platforms. Needless to say, you don't know fear if you haven't played Snow Barrel Blast.
Return of the mine carts
Mine Cart Madness in world 5 is the only other mine cart stage in Donkey Kong Country after Mine Cart Carnage in world 2. I'm a sucker for these mine cart stages so here it is as #2 on this list. Believe it or not, Madness is a lot easier than Carnage because you don't have to dodge those darn Kritters and you generally have more time to react to hazards.
Touring Tanked Up Trouble
Mechanically, Tanked Up Trouble is my favourite level in Donkey Kong Country's entire campaign. You follow a perpetually-moving platform through the stage that follows a track but along the way, you have to pick up fuel so your ride doesn't fall into the abyss. Being in the last world, it's definitely difficult but I feel that it has just the right level of challenge.