The game's only background music is a derivative of the classic McDonald's theme song as heard through Japanese televisions of the 1980s.
Unlike M.C. Kids, this game is simply a platformer without any puzzle elements to it. For example, players had to search outside Ronald's clubhouse for four of the puzzle cards to allow them access to the next level while the Donald Land video game simply consists of defeating enemies while avoiding damage.
The game stars Ronald McDonald (known in Japan as Donald McDonald), the mascot of the McDonald's fast food chain. The objective is to bring peace to his magical land by controlling the famous fast food clown. Most of Ronald's companions have been kidnapped, and the animals have turned feral. His brainwashed companions will occasionally attack. Ronald can defend himself using apple bombs, thrown in a carefully calculated parabola. Being hit by the enemy causes damage, which decreases Ronald's "Life" meter. During various parts of a stage, players have the opportunity to collect up to 100 hamburger icons throughout the game. This will result in gaining a bonus life along with the hamburger counter resetting itself to zero. It is also possible to play a mini-game challenge, to earn commodities that the player orders from McDonald's.
Ronald can replenish his life bar by finding heart icons that are scattered throughout the level; the maximum number of hits that he can withstand before dying is five. From the second stage onward, the levels become more demanding with emphasis on making jumps from platform to platform while avoid bottomless pits. Items also become more difficult to reach and falling into a pit results in instantly losing a life. An enemy appears in the second level that resembles Little Red Riding Hood; although she causes damage like a normal enemy and cannot be destroyed by the player's apple bombs. A few of the bosses look like something out of a horror film instead of a kid-friendly 2D platform action game. The third boss looks like a giant mechanical dragon while the boss of level 5 is a bone dragon and players encounter a mentally ill disembodied head at the end of the eleventh level.
- Ronald (Donald) McDonald: The protagonist, who uses apple bombs as weapons. On the demo screen, Ronald is seen throwing soap bubbles at the enemies.
- Mayor McCheese: A character resembling a cheeseburger. As the mayor of Donald Land, McCheese manages to escape from his captors.
- Birdie the Early Bird: A character resembling a breakfast meal (the "Morning Mac"). She is kidnapped by the boss in the third level.
- Fry Guys: Characters resembling a box of French fries.
- Captain Crook: Becomes an ally on the ninth level, after being defeated as the boss on the eighth level.
- Officer Big Mac: Resembling a Big Mac in a police officer's uniform, he is the chief of police in the game. Officer Big Mac helps Ronald on the tenth level.
- Hamburglar: A burglar who loves to steal hamburgers. The Hamburglar appears on the final level as one of the bosses (as a homage to his days as a McDonaldland villain).
- Professor: The Professor mysteriously appears in the ending after the players beats the game.
- Uncle: The uncle of Donald's friend Grimace, his full name is Uncle O'Grimacey.
- Gumon: He is the final boss of the game; resembling a violent clown with scary shadows for his background. Gumon is an original character to the game and does not appear in any other McDonald's merchandise.
- "Developer information". Stage Select. Retrieved 2008-10-15.
- "Release information, FAQ/Walkthrough". GameFAQs. Retrieved 2008-10-12.
- "Simple gameplay overview". MobyGames. Retrieved 2011-02-07.
- "Japanese title". Superfamicom.org. Retrieved 2012-10-07.
- "Background music information". FC no Game Seiha Shimasho (Japanese). Retrieved 2013-01-06.
- "Simple overview". IGN. Retrieved 2008-10-15.
- "Gamer's memories of Donald Land". Nifty.com (Japanese). Retrieved 2013-06-10.
- "Advanced gameplay information". Bath Games (Japanese). Retrieved 2012-06-30.
- "General level summary". Now clear the way to NES (Japanese). Retrieved 2012-06-30.
- "Advanced game overview". GeoCities.jp (Japanese). Retrieved 2013-06-10.
- Donald Land guide at StrategyWiki
- Donald Land Instruction manual at Giant Bomb
- Donald Land at NES Cart Database