Blood, guts and glory – Happy 25th birthday, Mortal Kombat

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It’s 1992, and the arcade scene is bouncing back. The room is filled with dozens of game stands and the fighting game genre has found its audience. For the last year, Street Fighter II has been dominating your pocket, Shoryukenning a few coins out of you and consuming them with gusto. But there’s a new kid on the block.

A new challenger, who didn’t just look better with its fresh new style, but also stirred up a bloodlust in you. Carnage, plenty of it and then some when the arcade pros found out that fights could be finished in a manner that was equal parts gory and glory. That game was Mortal Kombat. You look back at 1992 and last year’s Mortal Kombat X, and it’s amazing to see how far the franchise has come.

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What began at Midway, almost died an inglorious death thanks to bankruptcy and survived to help reignite a genre, is a testament to the game that the original Mortal Kombat crew created. With more hands on deck as the sequels piled up, Mortal Kombat refined its formula and created an iconic fighting game that wasn’t afraid to shed a few drops of blood.

Focusing only on fatalities and animalities would do it a disservice though. Beneath the blood and guts, there beats the heart of a game that was a technical showcase in ay era that it was produced in. The original trilogy balanced a standard arsenal of high kicks and uppercuts with unique special attacks and characters.

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The Mortal Kombat Timeline

  • Mortal Kombat – 1992 – Arcade
  • Mortal Kombat II – 1993 – Arcade
  • Mortal Kombat 3 – 1995 – Arcade
  • Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 – 1995 – Arcade
  • Mortal Kombat Trilogy – 1996 – PS1, N64, Saturn, PC
  • Mortal Kombat 4  – 1997 – Arcade, PC, PS1, N64
  • Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero – 1997 – PS1, N64
  • Mortal Kombat Gold – 1999 – Dreamcast
  • Mortal Kombat: Special Forces – 2000 – PS1
  • Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance  – 2002 – PS2, GCN, Xbox, GBA
  • Mortal Kombat: Tourrnament Edition – 2003 – GBA
  • Mortal Kombat Deception – 2004 – PS2, GCN, Xbox
  • Mortal Kombat Shaolin Monks – 2005 – PS2, Xbox
  • Mortal Kombat Armageddon – 2006 – PS2, Xbox
  • Mortal Kombat Unchained – 2006 – PSP
  • Ultimate Mortal Kombat – 2007 – NDS
  • Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe – 2008 – PS3, Xbox 360
  • Mortal Kombat – 2011 – PS3, Xbox 360, PS Vita
  • Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection 2011 – PSN, XBLA, PC
  • Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition 2012 – PS3, Xbox 360, PC
  • Mortal Kombat X 2015 – PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android
  • Mortal Kombat XL 2016 – PS4, Xbox One, PC

Mortal Kombat 4 experimented with a three-dimensional translation of this action, while the sublime Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance reinvigorated itself by giving each kombatant a signature fighting style that had its own pros and cons. Midway would eventually go for broke with 2006’s Armageddon that threw every single kharacter in the history of the series up to that point at fans.

There’d be a crossover game with DC Comics in 2008, but it was a tame and somewhat toothless fighting game even back then. It wasn’t until 2011 when Mortal Kombat truly returned. Rewriting its history under co-creator Ed Boon’s new NetherRealm studio, this was the Mortal Kombat of old. Blood, guts and glory in a fighting game that was constantly evolving.

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Last year’s Mortal Kombat X felt like the series had reached a new plateau, as it further enhanced what made each fighter different and built on ideas that had last been seen in the likes of Deadly Alliance and Deception while retaining a more traditional dimensional playing field for purists. Twenty-five years of some of the finest video games to ever throw a chain-spear at your face and demand that you GET OVER HERE.

Two and a half decades that also resulted in a fantastic film, a sequel whose name shall not be spoken, a cheesy TV series that broke my heart with its final episode, an underrated cartoon series and an underrated cartoon series. You look back at the impact that Mortal Kombat has had over the years, and there’s so much to write about. The technical breakthroughs, pissing off overzealous parents and being the benchmark for reboots. More than that though, I’ll always remember Mortal Kombat for something else:

It was the one game that helped the fighting genre find its spine. And then ripped it out.

Last Updated: October 9, 2017

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