Remember the first time you ripped the spine out of your opponent? Or maybe chopped their head off with your razor-sharp hat? If you grew up in the 90s, you probably do. Mortal Kombat was the controversial fighting game that let you do just that. For a generation of kids, Mortal Kombat was the forbidden fruit that you just had to try. The over-the-top violence and gore were unlike anything in the arcade at the time. When the game hit consoles, parents and politicians were outraged. But that just made us want it more.
Mortal Kombat spawned a franchise that shaped fighting games. It pushed boundaries, tested limits and captured the imagination of millions of players. Love it or hate it, you have to respect its impact. From underground sensation to mainstream phenomenon, the Mortal Kombat franchise has had a wild and crazy ride. Strap in, because we're going behind the scenes of how Mortal Kombat conquered the world. Round 1, fight!
The Origin Story: How Mortal Kombat Came to BeMortal Kombat first entered the scene in 1992 and completely changed the fighting game genre. Where did this controversial but influential franchise come from?
Ed Boon and John Tobias, two developers at Midway Games, came up with the initial idea. They wanted to create a violent fighting game unlike anything else at the time.
- Midway allowed them to run with the concept, and Mortal Kombat was born.
- The game featured digitized graphics of real actors, gory finishing moves, and a menacing atmosphere.
The series really took off with Mortal Kombat II. It built upon the original formula by:
- Improving the graphics,
- Adding more characters like Kitana, Mileena, and Shao Kahn,
- Introducing new levels, and
- Creating even gorier fatalities.
Love it or hate it, Mortal Kombat has had an unmistakable impact on popular culture. After nearly 30 years, it remains a familiar name with dedicated fans of all ages around the globe. The original games may look dated today, but they'll always be remembered for revolutionizing the fighting game genre and pushing the envelope of video game violence.
Meet the Kombatants: Iconic Characters of the Franchise
When you think Mortal Kombat, your mind instantly goes to the iconic characters that make the franchise so memorable. Over 10+ games, we've been introduced to a ton of kombatants, but a few stand out as absolute legends.
- Liu Kang: The champion of Mortal Kombat. This shaolin monk is the protagonist of the early games and uses martial arts and fireballs to defeat opponents.
- Scorpion: The undead ninja out for vengeance. Scorpion utilizes a kunai spear and hellfire to unleash destruction on anyone who crosses him. His rivalry with Sub-Zero is the stuff of MK legend.
- Sub-Zero: The ice-cold assassin. Sub-Zero can instantly freeze opponents in their tracks and shatter them to pieces. While the original Sub-Zero was killed by Scorpion, his younger brother took up the mantle and joined the forces of good.
- Raiden: The thunder god. As the protector of Earthrealm, Raiden guides the Mortal Kombat warriors and uses lightning and teleportation in battle. Though not originally a playable fighter, Raiden joined the kombat in MK2.
Fatalities Galore: The Evolution of MK's Signature Moves
Fatalities, Mortal Kombat's gory finishing moves, have become more elaborate and over-the-top with each new game. What started as simple decapitations and organ removals evolved into fantastical displays of violence that push the boundaries of taste and censorship.
Early Days of 2DIn the early Mortal Kombat games (MK1-MK3), fatalities were confined to 2D animations due to graphical limitations. Characters could uppercut heads off, rip out spines, and burn opponents to a crisp. While crude, these fatalities established the franchise's notoriety for hyper-violence.
As graphics improved, fatalities became more sophisticated. In MK4, Quan Chi infamously beat his opponents into a bloody pulp. In Deadly Alliance, Kenshi could slice his foes in half with his sword.
Transition to 3DThe leap to 3D environments in MK: Deception and MK: Armageddon enabled fatalities with greater depth and range of motion. Characters now had more space to eviscerate their enemies in new ways. In Deception, Mileena could tear off her mask to devour her opponent whole. In Armageddon, Taven could hurl his enemy into a bed of spikes. While still over-the-top, these fatalities were more dynamic and utilized the 3D space well.
Current GenerationIn the latest Mortal Kombat games (MK9, MKX, MK11), fatalities are highly cinematic, demonstrating just how far graphics have come. In MK9, Sindel let out a scream that caused her opponent to explode in a shower of gore. In MKX, Jason Voorhees smashed his enemy's head against a tree in a gruesome callback to a famous scene from Friday the 13th. And in MK11, Geras manipulates time to rapidly age his enemy into dust. These fatalities are highly imaginative, utilizing each character's unique abilities to craft memorable finishers.
Whether you find them shocking or entertaining, fatalities have been instrumental to Mortal Kombat's success. They demonstrate how a single gameplay feature can evolve over decades of technical progress to become more elaborate, visceral and cinematically stunning. And judging by the series' continued popularity, gamers just can't get enough of the carnage.
From Arcade to Console: The Journey of Mortal Kombat
The Arcade EraIn 1992, Mortal Kombat launched in arcades and revolutionized the fighting game genre. Its realistic digitized graphics and over-the-top violence captivated players and fueled its popularity. The game featured seven playable characters, each with unique special moves and fatalities. You likely spent hours at the arcade perfecting Sub-Zero's freeze and uppercut or Sonya's leg grab.
Mortal Kombat was a cultural phenomenon and one of the highest-grossing arcade games of the era. This led to several sequels over the next few years with Mortal Kombat II in 1993 and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 in 1995. Each sequel added more fighters, levels, and gruesome fatalities to keep players coming back for more.
Transition to ConsolesAround this time, Mortal Kombat also made the leap to home consoles. Mortal Kombat released for Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis in 1993, bringing the arcade experience to living rooms. However, the console versions were heavily censored to meet content rating standards. This actually fueled sales as players sought out the uncensored arcade experience.
Mortal Kombat II launched for consoles in 1994 without censorship and included additional content not found in arcades. The console ports helped extend the life and fandom of the series. Mortal Kombat 3 and its "ultimate" update released for PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and PC over the next couple of years.
Going 3DThe franchise took a bold step into 3D with Mortal Kombat 4 in 1997. The 3D environments and revamped combat system modernized the series, though some fans felt it lost sight of its roots. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance in 2002 continued the 3D style and introduced new characters and gameplay mechanics.
While the 3D era was hit or miss, the 2011 reboot Mortal Kombat helped the franchise reclaim its former glory. Returning to a 2D plane and featuring classic characters and over-the-top gore, the reboot was a nostalgic callback for longtime fans and introduced a new generation to the franchise. Mortal Kombat X in 2015 and Mortal Kombat 11 in 2019 have kept the series going strong.
From humble beginnings in arcades to modern consoles, Mortal Kombat has had an unforgettable journey. Few gaming franchises have endured or influenced popular culture as much as Mortal Kombat. Here's to many more years of kombat to come!
The Live Action Movies: A Flawless Victory or Fatality?
The Mortal Kombat movies were a mixed bag, attempting to bring the ultra-gory fighting game franchise to mainstream audiences. Some elements were flawless victories, others were total fatalities.
CastingThe casting of Robin Shou as Liu Kang and Linden Ashby as Johnny Cage were perfect choices. They resembled the in-game characters and delivered cheesy lines with just the right amount of charm. On the other hand, Christopher Lambert as Raiden was miscast. While Lambert is a cult action star, he lacked the gravitas to portray the thunder god.
Special EffectsThe special effects were groundbreaking for the time, bringing characters like Reptile, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero to life with innovative costuming and animatronics. The gory Fatalities were recreated in all their spine-ripping, organ-spewing glory. This helped the movies stay true to the tone and spirit of the games. However, some effects haven't aged well and look silly by today's standards.
PlotThe plot was basic but moved at a brisk pace with plenty of fight scenes and over-the-top moments to keep audiences entertained. However, it lacked depth or character development. The villains' motivations were cartoonish, like Shang Tsung simply wanting to steal souls to stay young. The sequels' stories grew increasingly absurd and convoluted.
SequelsWhile the first Mortal Kombat film was a surprising success, the sequels were subpar. They failed to capture the novelty and nostalgia of the original, rehashing the formula with diminishing returns. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation in particular was panned by critics and fans alike for its nonsensical plot and shoddy production values.
The Mortal Kombat movies are relics of 90s pop culture, imperfect but still endearing adaptations of a legendary fighting game franchise. For fans of the games, they offer a fun dose of nostalgia and over-the-top camp. For the general audience, they remain a guilty pleasure. Flawed but fatal, the movies live on in B-movie infamy.
The Soundtracks: Techno Syndrome and BeyondThe Mortal Kombat games are known for their over-the-top violence and gore, but something else that has become synonymous with the franchise is the music. The iconic techno-inspired soundtracks have been pumping up players since the '90s.
Techno SyndromeThe original Mortal Kombat theme, "Techno Syndrome," is instantly recognizable. Composed by The Immortals (aka TKK), the energetic electronic track played on a loop at arcades and got gamers hyped to rip out some spines. The repeating chant of "Mortal Kombat!" is permanently etched into the memories of '90s kids. This earworm of a theme has appeared in some form in nearly every MK game since.
Expanding the SoundAs the series progressed into the 21st century, the music evolved to match. The scores incorporated more orchestral and atmospheric elements to build tension during fights and mesh with the games' darker tone. Artists like Deewekamp and Toksin started producing tracks that blended techno beats with cinematic orchestration. The result was a hybrid electronic-orchestral sound that fueled the action of later MK titles like Deadly Alliance and Deception.
The Music Lives OnThe latest MK games feature soundtracks every bit as pulse-pounding as the gameplay. Artists like Wilbert Roget II, Winifred Phillips and Dynamedion have crafted scores that pay homage to the techno roots of MK but with a modern twist. Dubstep, industrial and heavy metal influences abound, thrumming with a violent energy befitting Mortal Kombat 11's brutal fights. No matter how far the visuals have come, the music of Mortal Kombat will always take us back to those arcade days of the '90s when that first "Techno Syndrome" theme dropped.
Most Brutal Fatalities of All TimeWhen it comes to brutal fatalities, the Mortal Kombat franchise has always aimed to push the envelope. Some of the most gruesome finishing moves that will live on in infamy include:
Quan Chi's Leg Rip
Quan Chi grabs his opponent's leg and rips it clean off, beating them senseless with their own severed limb before ending them. This move is utterly savage and really showcases Quan Chi's ruthlessness.
Ermac's Inner Workings
Ermac uses his telekinetic powers to lift his opponent high into the air, then violently rips them in half at the waist. Their top half falls lifeless to the ground, while their intestines and internal organs spill out for all to see. This fatality is not for the faint of heart.
Kano's Heart Rip
No list of brutal MK fatalities is complete without Kano's signature heart rip. Kano plunges his hand deep into his opponent's chest and rips out their still-beating heart, then crushes it before their dying eyes. The heart rip fatality has been a staple of the series and epitomizes its over-the-top gore and violence.
- Reptile's Acid Yak: Reptile vomits a stream of acid onto his opponent, melting the flesh from their bones.
- Noob Saibot's Make a Wish: Noob Saibot rips his opponent's arms and legs off before decapitating them, leaving just a torso and head.
- Kung Lao's Razor's Edge: Kung Lao throws his razor-sharp hat, slicing his opponent into several pieces.
Guest Kombatants: The Surprise Roster AdditionsMortal Kombat is known for its over-the-top violent fatalities and memorable characters. However, some of the most surprising additions to the roster over the years have been guest characters from other franchises. These kombatants from different universes spiced up the lineup and brought some unexpected matchups.
Freddy KruegerIn 2011, the man of your nightmares joined the fight. Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street clawed his way onto the Mortal Kombat scene. His gruesome fatalities like "Tell 'Em Freddy Sent Ya!" and "Welcome to My Nightmare" fit right in. Going toe-to-toe with horror icons like Jason Voorhees and Leatherface, Freddy was a natural and terrifying fit.
PredatorIf an intergalactic trophy hunter seems out of place in a tournament of mystical martial artists, you'd be wrong. In Mortal Kombat X, the Predator from the sci-fi action franchise joined the melee. With plasma cannons, cloaking devices, and razor-sharp blades, the Predator was a formidable and otherworldly kombatant. His brutal fatalities like "Certain Death" and "Future Trophy" were uniquely alien and gory.
SpawnIn Mortal Kombat 11, the ruler of Hell and comic antihero Spawn faced off against Earthrealm's champions. With necroplasmic powers and a devilish moveset, the vengeful Spawn fit right into the Netherrealm. Longtime fans were excited to see Spawn's cape, chains and hellish magic unleashed on the MK fighters. His super-powered special attacks and fatal blow, "A Violent End," were a perfect match for the over-the-top style of Mortal Kombat.
These surprise guests brought variety and a dash of the unexpected to the familiar roster of ninjas, sorcerers and cyborgs. By embracing the absurdity of these fantasy matchups across dimensions, Mortal Kombat delivered some of the most entertaining and outrageous kombatants in fighting game history. The inclusion of horror icons, sci-fi predators and comic book antiheroes demonstrated that in Mortal Kombat, anyone and anything goes.
Mortal Kombat Retrospective FAQs: Questions From Fans AnsweredYou've got questions, and we've got answers. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the iconic Mortal Kombat series.
What are the games in order of release?The main games in release order are:
- Mortal Kombat (1992)
- Mortal Kombat II (1993)
- Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)
- Mortal Kombat 4 (1997)
- Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002)
- Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004)
- Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (2006)
- Mortal Kombat (2011 reboot)
- Mortal Kombat X (2015)
- Mortal Kombat 11 (2019)
Who are the most popular characters?Some of the fan favorites over the years have been:
- Liu Kang, the shaolin monk champion
- Scorpion, the hellspawn ninja seeking vengeance
- Sub-Zero, the ice-wielding assassin
- Raiden, the thunder god
- Johnny Cage, the cocky Hollywood star
- Kitana, the princess of Edenia armed with razor-sharp fans
What are the different fighting styles?The many characters utilize a variety of combat techniques, including:
- Karate - Quick punches and kicks (Liu Kang)
- Ninjutsu - Agile, weapon-based (Scorpion, Sub-Zero)
- Kung Fu - Fluid, acrobatic movements (Kung Lao)
- Boxing - Fast jabs and hooks (Johnny Cage)
- Kickboxing - Powerful kicks and knee strikes (Sonya Blade)
- Muay Thai - Elbows, knee strikes and clinch fighting (Kano)
What are some of the most memorable catchphrases?"Get over here!" - Scorpion
"Toasty!" - Dan Forden
"Finish him!" - Shao Kahn
"You will never win!" - Shao Kahn
Whether you're a longtime fan or just discovering this iconic fighting game franchise, there's a lot of history and lore to dive into. Let us know if you have any other questions!
This iconic fighting franchise has been controversial, campy, and over the top for nearly 30 years now, yet it still finds ways to pull you in with its style and panache. MK may not be the most sophisticated or nuanced gaming experience, but it sure knows how to show you a good time. When you need to tap into your inner 13-year-old and just rip someone's spine out for a laugh, Mortal Kombat has always had your back. Here's to 30 more years of wild fatalities, awesome characters, and taking the battle for Earthrealm to the forces of Outworld. Finish them!