Most Violent of Fighters
In honor of the new game coming ou
t, Mortal Kombat 9, we here at Bright Hub are taking a stroll down memory lane and following the series from it’s humble beginnings all the way to it’s current status as one of the big players in the genre of fighters. Follow the history of Mortal Kombat games from the first to the last!
The first game, Mortal Kombat, came out in 1992. Created by four men with a very short development, it nevertheless has changed the face of gaming. It was simple, somewhat repetitive, and not very open to vast combos or a wide range of attacks Those that have played it can agree; a couple of punches and a couple of kicks were practically all you got. None of the flashy moves of Street Fighter and only a few fireball flings and high jumping kicks.
What made Mortal Kombat different from other games on the market was it’s approach to violence. Where Street Fighter would show a character beaten and bruised, Mortal Kombat games debuted the Fatality, allowing you to tear out spines, transform into dragons, and kick people to pieces. Couple that with the more ‘realistic’ look of the game, with cartoonized actors instead of cel-shaded half-humans, and Mortal Kombat was something new.
Mortal Kombat II and the ESRB
The fans loved the gory explosions and brutality of combat
in Mortal Kombat, so the sequel was quickly produced. It kept the same formula and widened move sets, adding even more characters to the mix. Parental criticism added jokes to the game, variations on fatalities where the characters pulled out flowers or candy to present to the opponent; the Friendship. Other button combinations allowed the player to turn the defeated opponent into a toddler, by performing a Babality.
Mortal Kombat II and the violence of the series spawned a lot of controversy, and changed the face of gaming and legislation. Even today the fallout can be felt, between senators arguing about the violence in videogames, to the ratings on games and age limits for mature rated titles. One thing that came out of it? The Video Game Rating Council, which evolved over time and has become what we know of today as the Entertainment Software Rating Board, or the ESRB. Those black and white ratings boxes are the fault of Mortal Kombat games.
Third Time’s the Charm
Mortal Kombat 3 added even more charact
ers to the mix, including hidden characters from previous games that appeared only in the background, as well as several robotic ninja palette swaps, much like the Scorpion-Sub-Zero and Friends characters. Those robots replaced the famous ninjas, however, and fans raised an outcry. The iconic blue and yellow ninjas were virtually mascots for the series, and had become fan favorites.
Two variant versions of Mortal Kombat 3 were made, each with some differences. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 brought back Jade, Scorpion, and Sub Zero, among others. Later, Mortal Kombat Trilogy was released, including even more characters, as well as stages from the first two games brought back.
In 1995 two movies were released: Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins. Mortal Kombat was a live-action movie following the plot of the games, and despite it’s rating of PG-13, it’s campy flaws, and it’s ridiculous scenarios, the movie was a hit. Today it remains one of the best live-action video game movies made.
Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins is the opposite. It’s animated, it’s convoluted, and it’s bad.
Following on the heels of the Mortal Kombat movie, even more media was produced. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was made as a live-action sequel, and while it introduced and cameoed even more of the MK plotlines and characters, it fell on it’s face as a bad sequel. Meanwhile MK: Defenders of the Realm is released as a saturday morning cartoon and is cancelled after four months.
Good Games and Bad Games
Mortal Kombat Mythologies: S
ub-Zero was released in 1997, and tried to turn the fighting game into an adventure game following the storyline of Sub-Zero, the famous ice ninja. It wasn’t a fighting game and as an adventure game it was clunky and not very good, prompting the majority of MK fans to forget it ever existed.
Making the jump to horrible old 3D polygons, Mortal Kombat 4 worked in an almost-3D plane for fighting, offering several rotations of a circular battlefield. It also gave each character a weapon they could pull out and fight with. This was less exciting than it sounds, as many weapons weren’t very useful, and even though they were unique to the character, that character could drop them and another player could pick up and use them. Arena shifting was mostly there to stop opponents from retrieving dropped weapons.
In 1998 the television series Mortal Kombat: Konquest debuted, running for a total of 22 episodes in one season before being cancelled. It seems Mortal Kombat is not destined to perform beyond the fighting genre.
Mortal Kombat Gold, a poor port of Mortal Kombat 4, is release for the dreamcast in 1999. John Tobias, one of the original four creators of the game, leaves the company due to the series of flops.
Mortal Kombat: Y2K
At an all time low, Mortal Kombat Special Forces is released in the year 2000. The ga
me is a prequel to the early games, and follows… Jax. That’s right, a boring fighter no one cared about to begin with stars in this not-fighting game. Special Forces is another action game in the lineup, and like it’s predecessor, it fails to perform. It was certainly special, at least.
2001’s entry to the Mortal Kombat franchise is limited; only another port, this time of Mortal Kombat 3, this time to the gameboy advance. It does about as well as could be expected.
In 2002, Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance is released. Some call it Mortal Kombat 5: Others call it a reboot of the series. Either way, it gets back to it’s roots as a fighting game, with all the gore, fighters, and fatalities you’ve grown to expect from the series. It also adds an ‘adventure’ mode that doesn’t suck! The Konquest mode places you as an unnamed monk and has you journey around a world map to complete various fighting tasks to serve as a tutorial for each character. The tasks range from pulling off certain moves to defeating difficult AI opponents, and all reward you with Koins, which are used to open Koffins, which contain concept art, comic pages, jokes, Koins, and occasionally nothing.
2003 had another game boy advance port, part of Deadly Alliance, missing Sub Zero. It was forgotten.
The Console Generation
Deadly Alliance was the first game to be released solely fo
r consoles, with no sign of a cabinent for arcades ever produced. Arcades were dying out, and home consoles became the wave of the future.
Riding the success of Deadly Alliance, Mortal Kombat: Deception followed the same formula. One new contribution of the game to the series was the addition of a suicide fatality; if you’re losing but don’t want to be defeated, you can pull off this move to commit hara-kiri and forfeit the match. Konquest mode returned, but this time with hidden keys, fewer Koffins, and included unlockables such as hidden characters.
Midway then tried another foray into the world of adventure games with Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, starring Kung Lao and Liu Kang. Surprisingly, it’s not terrible, and remains one of the only worthwhile adventure-themed sections of the Mortal Kombat timeline.
Mortal Kombat 7, called Mortal Kombat Armageddon, was released in 2006. Considered the ‘end’ of the chronology for the games, it includes an amazing 63 playable characters. At the time, it was the highest number of playable characters in a fighting game, and remains one of the highest rosters in any fighting game.
2006 and 2007 had handheld releases of the games; the PSP got Mortal Kombat Unchained, a port of Deception. Meanwhile the Nintendo DS got another port of Mortal Kombat 3.
Crossovers and Reboots
2008 had the
release of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, trying to covet the fame of the Marvel vs. Capcom series of fighters. The DC universe prompted many questions, such as Superman having a fatality, or bring invulnerable to any form of harm, or Batman having any methods to kill people with his history of non-fatality. This was answered by the DC characters having “heroic brutalities,” or powerful combos designed to leave the opponent unconscious but alive. The game is, obviously, not canon to the Mortal Kombat series.
That then brings us to today, in 2011, with the release of Mortal Kombat. A second reboot to the series, and the 9th basic Fighting Game, renders everything lovingly in 3D and sticks the combat to the tried-and-true 2D plane. The combat itself is changed to something more akin to Tekken than Mortal Kombat, sets the chronology to AFTER Mortal Kombat Armageddon, and in general refreshes the series for both casual and hardcore fans. Being released for current-gen consoles, MK9 is available for updates online and downloadable content, a first for the series.
So there you have it! A history of the Mortal Kombat series from day one to present day. Did we miss anything? Is there a game favorite you want to mention? Let us know in the comments!
User’s Own Experience
Mortal Kombat Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortal_Kombat
History of Mortal Kombat Infographic at Gamefront: https://www.gamefront.com/the-convoluted-blood-spattered-history-of-mortal-kombat-infographic/
History of Mortal Kombat at Cheat Code Central: https://www.cheatcc.com/extra/historyofmortalkombat.html
Images from various Midway screenshots and promo material.
This post is part of the series: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe Fatalities Guide
How to do the fatalities in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and do them right.