Mortal Kombat is arguably the second-most famous fighting game franchise after Capcom's Street Fighter.
This page is about the MK franchise. For the first game, see Mortal Kombat I.
Mortal Kombat (often shortened to "MK") was created by Ed Boon and John Tobias while playing Street Fighter II. When one of them, playing as Blanka, knocked the other dizzy, he stated, "I should just be able to kill you, here." This was the genesis of what would become Mortal Kombat.
Ed Boon once explained, "Mortal Kombat started out with four people in 1991; I was the only programmer, John Tobias and John Vogel were the only two artists, and Dan Forden was the only sound designer. That was it. We developed the first Mortal Kombat in ten months from beginning to end." The game served so popular in 1992 that many arcade had to purchase multiple MK arcade cabinets, as the crowds around the machines would become too rowdy.
Boon and Tobias wanted MK1 to star Jean-Claude Van Damme as the main hero, and fight a series of villains. Because the actor was in negotiations to develop another game at the time, Johnny Cage was created in his place (utilizing JCVD's first two initials); a movie-star martial artist with Van Damme's split-punch seen in the film Bloodsport. Ironically, a few years later, Jean-Claude Van Damme would star as Guile in Capcom's Street Fighter: the Movie, SF being MK's biggest rival for arcade dominance at the time.
In the original MK gamePlayers selected one of seven characters (Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage, Rayden, Kano, or Liu Kang), and fought their way through the MK tournament until reaching Goro, the half-man/half-dragon Mortal Kombat champion of the last 500 years (later revealed to be a member of the Shokan race). If a player was lucky enough to defeat Kano, they then had to face Shang Tsung, and ancient warrior who had mastered the power of shape-shifting, and could temporarily become any of the seven playable characters. Lucky players may face the hidden Reptile, a green Scorpion/Sub-Zero palette swap who had all of Scorpion and Sub-Zero's moves at his disposal.
MK featured a standard 8-directional arcade joystick and five attack buttons; High Punch, Low Punch, High Kick, Low Kick, and Block. The Block button was an deviation from standard fighting game mechanics at the time, as generally holding the joystick away from the opponent would block attacks. Blocking in MK was not as effective as in other fighting games, either; typically, blocking in a game would deal no damage, unless the attack was a special move. In MK, all attacks dealt at least one pixel of damage to the opponent's life bar, when blocked.
The most notable features that Mortal Kombat had over Street Fighter II were its digitized actors and over-the-top violence. MK1 introduced the Fatality, where after winning a best 2-out-of-3 battle, the winner had a few seconds to input a special command and murder their opponent. Each character had a horrific Fatality attack, from Johnny Cage's decapitation uppercut to Sub-Zero's spine removal to Kano's heart removal. In the stage entitled The Pit, characters could knock their opponent off the bridge by executing an uppercut; after falling, the opponent would be impaled on a bed of spikes.
At the time, video gaming was still seen as being mostly for children, and many parents were in an uproar at the level of violence their children were being exposed to. When the game was ported to home consoles in 1993, it was heavily-censored. The spurts of blood that would be knocked out of an opponent when they get hit were recolored grey (to represent "sweat"), and many of the Fatalities were less fatal, though the gameplay itself remained unchanged. Only the Genesis version had a code that could be entered to unlock the uncensored version of the game. As a result, the Genesis version of the game outsold the SNES version by a significant margin.
In 1994, Mortal Kombat II was released. Increasing the number of playable characters from 7 to 12, the game was a significant improvement over its predecessor. Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, and Rayden returned from MKI in new, updated outfits. Reptile and Shang Tsung were now playable characters, though severely toned down from their previous incarnations. Added to the cast were Kung Lao, Kitana, Mileena, Jax, and Baraka.
The game ran nearly twice as quickly, had nearly twice as many characters, had twice as many fatalities per character, and introduced two new finishing moves: The Friendship, where you could offer your opponent a gift or perform a trick; and the Babality, where your opponent would be turned into a baby. In the stages The Pit II and The Kombat Tomb, rather than execute a simple uppercut to knock their opponent into spikes, each character now a specific Stage Fatality command. However, in The Dead Pool, all players could hold LP, BLK, and LK when executing an uppercut to knock their opponent into the acid pool.
After defeating the entire cast, players had to face Kintaro, a relative of Goro's, and finally, Shao Khan, Shang Tsung's master. Hidden characters in this game included two new MK Ninjas, Smoke, and Noob Saibot, as well as the Mileena/Kitana palette-swap, Jade.
The home ports of MKII were not censored, as by this time the ESRB was in existence with their video games ratings system firmly established.
In 1995, Mortal Kombat 3 came to the arcades. This game is often cited as the beginning of the end of MK's popularity, as many of the most popular characters in the franchise were removed, and the remaining ones had been redesigned to only slightly resemble their former appearances. Sub-Zero returned, unmasked. Smoke was now an unlockable playable character, but was now a robot. Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Sonya Blade, Kano, Shang Tsung, and Jax also returned, this time joined by Sindel, Sektor, Cyrax, Kurtis Stryker, Kabal, Sheeva, and Nightwolf. The typical Shokan miniboss was replaced with the Centaur-like Motaro. Shao Khan returned as the game's endboss.
For what MK3 lacked in characters, it made up for in overhauling the game's engine: It featured a sixth "run" button, allowing players short spurts of forward momentum to increase gameplay speed. It also introduced the Kombo system (heavily influenced by the one found in Killer Instinct, where players could input a sequence of pre-programmed commands to make their characters do powerful combination attacks; Unlike the combo attacks found in Street Fighter, MK's (and KI's) Kombo system relied less on precise timing, and more on memorization.
MK3 also introduced Kombat Kodes to the Vs screens. By hitting Low Punch, Block, and Low Kick a certain number of times, players could affect the match rules, such as disabling blocking or running, giving players less health, blacking out the entire screen, etc.
Two fatalities per character returned, as did the Friendships and Babalities. Added to MK3 was the Animality, where players would turn into an animal and kill their opponent. If a fight ended in round 3, a player could perform a Mercy and give their opponent one last chance by refilling 1 pixel of life on their health meter.
In general, the reception to MK3 was disappointing to Midway. Players felt that there were too many new features, and Fan-favorite characters Scorpion, Reptile, Johnny Cage, Rayden, Mileena, Kitana, and Baraka were all gone without a trace. In response, a year later, Midway released what would be the "ultimate" version of Mortal Kombat to date.
Mortal Kombat: The MovieEdit
Mortal Kombat was released in 1995, following suit of a number of video game-based movies released to theatres in the early 1990s (i.e., Super Mario Bros. (film), Double Dragon (film), and Street Fighter: The Movie. The film followed the plot of MK1, with Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, and Johnny Cage as the central characters, facing off against Shang Tsung and his minions.
The film was considered a success and remains a cult classic to this day.
MK: The Journey BeginsEdit
Home video. Need to watch. Poorly received.
Released in 1996, UMK3 retained every single feature innovated in MK3, and returned to the playable cast Scorpion, Reptile, Kitana, and Jade. Unlockable were Mileena, Classic Sub-Zero, and new the new MK Ninja palette swap, Ermac. Smoke was now a playable character immediately, and by entering a code at the Vs screen, you could play as the original, human version of Smoke, who had nearly all of Scorpion's moves, but was grey.
UMK3 also introduced the Brutality, a new finishing move where your character would literally beat their opponent until they exploded.
The Sega Saturn version of UMK3 was nearly arcade-perfect. The home ports of UMK3 on SNES and Genesis had all characters playable from the outset (with Sheeva removed from the cast), as well as the additions of Noob Saibot and Rain, for a whopping 23 playable characters. Motaro and Shao Khan were still unplayable boss characters.
Many have speculated that if UMK3 had been released instead of the initial MK3, the popularity of Mortal Kombat (and, by extention fighting games in general) may not have waned so quickly. Unfortunately, we will never know for sure.
MK: Defenders of the RealmEdit
As part of the USA Network's Action XTreme Team, Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm debuted in September, 1996. The show served as a pseudo-sequel to the first film, and followed MK3's storyline. The Dark Forces of Outworld have begun invading the Earthrealm. These attacks have allowed warriors from all realms to enter Earthrealm. Rayden assembled "the most extraordinary warriors" to meet this challenger: Liu Kang, Princess Kitana, Jax, Sonya Blade, Nightwolf (and his wolf, Kiva), Kurtis Stryker, and Sub-Zero.
The show lasted for 13 episodes, focusing on the heroes' attempt to overthrow Shao Khan's reign in Outworld, and introduced Quan-Chi into the MK Mythology. Most MK characters featured in UMK3 made at least one appearance in the show.
Episode 9, titled Resurrection featured the Warrior King.
Mortal Kombat TrilogyEdit
Released on the Playstation and Nintendo 64 in 1997, MKT included every single character (and nearly every single background) from Mortal Kombat's history. The Playstation version even had, as playable characters, the four previously-unplayable bosses: Goro, Kintaro, Motoro, and Shao Khan. The Saturn received MKT nearly a year after the PSOne and N64.
Mortal Kombat: AnnihilationEdit
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was released to theatres in late 1997, and, despite being the #1 move on its opening weekend, was a financial disaster. The film served as a sequel to the first MK movie (and ignored Defenders of the Realm completely). Johnny Cage was killed in the first few minutes of the film by Shao Khan, while Rayden led Liu Kang, Sonya and Jax through Outworld. In an attempt to cater to MK fans over casual moviegoers, almost every UMK3 character was utilized, causing a confusing mess of a film.
MK Mythologies: Sub-ZeroEdit
Trying to expand upon the MK world, Midway released Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero on the Nintendo 64 and Playstation in 1998. This was a side-scrolling platform/beat-'em-up game where Sub-Zero was the only selectable character. The game served as a prequel to Mortal Kombat I, and introduced several new characters to the MK games, including the wizard Quan-Chi and Rayden's ally, Fujin, the God of wind.
Mortal Kombat 4Edit
In 1998, Mortal Kombat entered the world of 3D graphics with Mortal Kombat 4. Gone were the digitized actors, replaced with polygonal models. Each character was given a second fighting style that could be swapped in mid-match, allowing for weapon kombat. Certain items on the ground (rocks, skulls, etc.) could be picked up and thrown at your opponent.
In an attempt to make the game feel more serious, all finishing move variations except for standard Fatalities and Stage Fatalities were removed.
MK4 introduced several expanding layers of depth to the MK mythology, by introducing the evil wizard Quan Chi, and the God of Wind, Fujin. Several other new characters were introduced: Shinnok, Jarek, Kai, and Reiko. Liu Kang, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Rayden, Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage, and Jax also all made their returns. The reduced number of characters was understandable, considering the entire game had to be rebuilt from scratch with new 3D graphics.
Goro returns as a boss character, with Shinnok as the final boss. Noob Saibot and newcomer Meat (MK), in addition to Goro, were unlockable characters.
MK4 was the final MK arcade game released. It was also ported to the Nintendo 64 and Sony Playstation.
Mortal Kombat ConquestEdit
1998. Live-action TV show.
1999. Dreamcast-Exclusive upgrade to MK4
MK: Special ForcesEdit
2000. Sonya & Jax in an MK Mythologies-type adventure
MK: Deadly AllianceEdit
2002. MK5. Shang Tsung and Quan-Chi kill Liu Kang
2004. MK6. Evil Raiden. Zombie Liu Kang.
2006. MK7. Includes every MK character, ever.
MK vs. DC UniverseEdit
2008. Batman vs Sub-Zero. No, seriously.
Mortal Kombat 9=Edit
Announced April 2010. That's all we've got.
1994: Hasbro: GI Joe-style figures. 1995: Movie edition repaints 1996: MKT edition repaints