Mortal Kombat (commonly abbreviated MK) is a popular series of fighting games created by Midway, which in turn spawned a number of related media. It is especially noted for its digitized sprites (which differentiated it from its contemporaries' hand-drawn sprites), and its mix of bloody and brutal action; its graphic Fatality killing moves contributed to the founding of the ESRB.
The original Mortal Kombat was developed as a reaction to the popular Capcom fighting game Street Fighter II, with simpler controls and digitized graphics. The original idea of Mortal Kombat was thought up in 1989 along with storyline and game content, but not put to arcades until 1992 (and game systems). Some say the game's graphic violence was gratuitous, and was only included in order to generate a public outcry and controversy that would garner publicity for the game. Although highly controversial, the mix of realism and violence propelled Mortal Kombat to widespread and historic renown.
Throughout the series, the game was noted for its simplicity of controls and the exotic special moves it featured, as well as a tendency to replace the letter 'c' in a word with the letter 'k', thus deliberately misspelling the word "combat" in the title, as well as any other words that begin with the letter 'c'.
Midway created five sequels for the arcade and home systems, each one bloodier, gorier, more brutal, and stranger than the last. Mortal Kombat 4 brought the series into 3D, replacing the digitized fighters of the previous games with polygon models, while Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was the first in the series to skip arcades altogether and go directly to consoles, a symptom of U.S. arcade market's dramatic decline. The sixth installment in the series, Mortal Kombat: Deception, was released for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 platforms in October 2004 (with a Nintendo GameCube version released in February 2005). Following a gameplay style very similar to the one found on Deadly Alliance, Deception also features several new gaming modes, such as a Puzzle Fighter-like puzzle game, an Archon-like chess game, and an RPG-style quest mode, as well as a suicidal finishing move for each character, usually performed to prevent the opponent from doing a Fatality. A Sony PSP version of Deception (named Mortal Kombat: Unchained) was released, and a final sixth-generation console title, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, continued the current story continuity and featured almost all the characters that had appeared in the series. Then, Mortal Kombat moved to the next-gen consoles, Xbox 360 and PS3, with the non-canon, crossover game, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, which featured several characters from both the MK and DC universe. It also introduced new gameplay features such as Freefall Kombat, Klose Kombat, and a combat-related Test Your Might minigame.
Then, on April 19th, 2011, the newly created NetherRealm Studios released the ninth main game in the series, simply titled Mortal Kombat. It retells the stories of MK, MKII, and MK3 with a few unexpected twists and changes. The game's purpose was to bring the series back to its roots, placing the action back on a 2D plane once more, rather than on the 3D planes that were introduced in MK4 and used since then.
On April 2015, the MK franchise continued with Mortal Kombat X on the eighth-generation consoles, for the first time, adding three different gameplay variations for each character.
Finishing moves in later games included the Animality (turning into an animal to violently finish off the opponent), the Brutality (beating an opponent into pieces with a long combination of hits or combo), the Friendship (offering one's opponent a token of friendship), and the Babality (transforming the opponent into a baby). The Babality and Friendship moves were created as a jokey non-violent finishing move, a swipe at the US Congressional Investigation for Violence in Videogames who came down harshly on the Mortal Kombat games. Purists, fonder of the earlier style, were upset by the introduction of such finishing moves, yet Mortal Kombat's "purely violent" and dark gameplay was once again implemented after the release of Mortal Kombat 4.
More so than other fighting games at the time, Mortal Kombat was notorious for recoloring certain sprites to appear as different characters. This was most prominent with the series' various ninja/assassin characters. Although many of the more popular characters were spawned from these pallette swaps, the sheer over-saturation of the roster with them (to date, eight male ninjas, four female assassins, and three cyber ninjas, making a total of 15 repaints; almost one-fourth of the series' total roster), as well as the fighting game genre's gradual demand for unique looks for all their characters, lead to many fans growing sick of the recolors, and joking about their overuse in the series. Hence, 'ninja syndrome' is a typical complaint among fans to describe any fighting game that has similar-looking or palette swapped characters.
Arcade Championship History
Four official Mortal Kombat arcade tournaments have taken place during the game series' history: two in England and two in the United States. The compiled list of tournament winners are as follows. The next tournament will be held in 2013 in America for the new Mortal Kombat.
Mortal Kombat 1 (American) winner: Sam Heyman
Mortal Kombat 1 (England) winner: Warren Ogilvy
Mortal Kombat 2 (American) winner: Aaron Steven Haddad
Mortal Kombat 2 (England) winner: Alex Fisher
Games in Series
- Mortal Kombat
- Mortal Kombat II
- Mortal Kombat 3
- Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
- Ultimate Mortal Kombat
- Mortal Kombat Advance
- Mortal Kombat Trilogy
- Mortal Kombat 4
- Mortal Kombat Gold
- Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance
- Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition
- Mortal Kombat: Deception
- Mortal Kombat: Unchained
- Mortal Kombat: Armageddon
- Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
- Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection
- Mortal Kombat (2011)
- Mortal Kombat X
- Mortal Kombat (mobile game)
- Mortal Kombat 11
- Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero: The first in a planned series of MK solo outings for popular characters from the fighting games. MKM:SZ, a platform/action game, focused on the original Sub-Zero and his missions just prior to the first Mortal Kombat.
- Mortal Kombat: Special Forces: An action game also set prior to the first Mortal Kombat, featuring Jax in pursuit of Kano and the Black Dragon.
- Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks: A spin-off action game (with a versus-fighting mode as well), starring Liu Kang and Kung Lao, telling an alternate version of the events between the first and second Mortal Kombat. The storyline of Shaolin Monks is now known to be non-canon. Players could also control Scorpion and Sub-Zero as bonus content.
Every single game in the Mortal Kombat series features a different ending for every character. Because many endings in a single game will contradict each other, only one or a few per game are considered canon, and the true endings are never known until the next game is released. The result is that when a new Mortal Kombat game is released, fans speculate about which ending (or endings) are real.
Nearly every game's canon ending involves the heroes emerging triumphant over evil, except for the release of Mortal Kombat: Deception, which revealed that Earthrealm's warriors in Deadly Alliance had failed to prevent Shang Tsung and Quan Chi from resurrecting the Dragon King's army; and the 2011 version of Mortal Kombat, where it was revealed that Shao Kahn emerged victorious at the end of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.
Easter Eggs and Secrets
Mortal Kombat was among the first titles in the fighting game genre to include secret characters, secret games, and other Easter Eggs. Mortal Kombat 3, for example, included a hidden game of Galaxian. Many extras in the series have only been accessible through very challenging, demanding, and sometimes coincidental requirements. In the 1992 original, the player could fight Reptile, a merge between the Sub-Zero and Scorpion characters provided that the player obtained a double flawless, performed a fatality, and never hit block during the fight (due to Sonya's fatality combination including the block button, she was allowed to face Reptile on the home ports). In Mortal Kombat II, Reptile would be developed into a full character with his own special moves and would be available from the outset. The Sega Genesis games had some unique eggs: in one, a headshot of President of Probe Software Fergus McGovern flew in front of the moon in Mortal Kombat's Pit stage, while in the second, Raiden could perform a "Fergality" by pressing Back, Back, Back, Block during a Fatality on the Armory stage. It was pioneering ideas like these that has made Mortal Kombat one of the most memorable of the genre.
Another Easter egg actually came about from a rumored glitch. In the original arcade version of the first Mortal Kombat, a rumor stated that the game would sometimes present problems due to a bug and mix two characters together. This would usually be two of the ninja characters, resulting in a ninja in a semi-red suit. The computer would display his name as "ERMAC", short for "error macro." As word spread, people thought they had found a secret character. In the game audits, ERMACS will appear on one of the pages, possibly being a stat to either show how many times a player encountered a secret character or a glitch. That wasn't the case, yet in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, it was decided to make an actual Ermac character. Also, glitch characters occurred should the player accomplish the very difficult feat of reaching Reptile in Endurance mode. Once Reptile was defeated, the second character would jump down. As Reptile used a special green colour palette, the following fighter (a normal fighter) would be a jumble of the character's original colors plus Reptile's green colors.
However, one of the most fascinating elements of Mortal Kombat was completely unplanned and out of the programmers' hands. Following the release of Mortal Kombat II, a myth culture was created around the game. The most famous one is the Goro myth. In the first game, Goro was a four-armed monster that acted as a miniboss to the game's main boss, Shang Tsung. Many fans were convinced that Goro was hidden somewhere in Mortal Kombat II and many were obsessed with finding him. Alas, these rumors were later confirmed as untrue.
Some Easter eggs originated from private jokes between members of the Mortal Kombat development team. The best-known example is "Toasty!", which began in Mortal Kombat II. Developers fell into the habit of yelling the victory cry "Toasted!" (and later, "Toasty!") during the testing phase of development. This joke found its way into the game in the form of a small image of sound designer Dan Forden, who would appear in the corner of the screen during gameplay and sing the word "toasty." Later games included other jokes that originated in similar fashion; Mortal Kombat 4 had characters uttering strange battle cries such as "That's nacho cheese!" or "I'm gonna throw you over there". "Toasty" is also found in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks after pulling off a chain of hits and will appear randomly, but the picture of Dan Forden will not appear. Pressing the start button during the "Toasty" will also result in the player receiving a 1000 experience points bonus.
Bosses and Sub-Bosses
Mortal Kombat featured two bosses. One was a sub-boss (whom you'd have to face before challenging the main boss of the game). The sub-boss of the game was a four armed Shokan warrior named Goro. Upon Goro's defeat, the player faced the game's main boss, Shang Tsung.
Future Mortal Kombat sequels would continue to use sub-bosses. While most sub-bosses were unplayable monsters like another Shokan, a Centaurian or an Oni, Mortal Kombat: Deception broke this trend by placing the tag team of Noob Saibot and Smoke as a sub-boss, and the traditional "non-playable monster" was Onaga, the game's boss character.
Here is the list of bosses and sub-bosses for the Mortal Kombat series:
- Shang Tsung - MK, MK:DA, MK:TE
- Shao Kahn - MKII, MK3, UMK3, MKT, MK:SM, MK (2011)
- Shinnok - MKM:SZ, MK4, MKG, MKX
- Quan Chi - MK:DA, MK:TE
- Onaga - MK:D, MK:U
- Blaze - MK:A
- Dark Kahn - MKvsDCU
- Kronika - MK11
- Goro - MK, MKT, MK4, MKG, MK:A, MK (2011), MKX
- Kintaro - MKII, MKT, MK:SM, MK:A, MK (2011)
- Shang Tsung - MKII, MK:SM, MK (2011)
- Motaro - MK3, UMK3, MKT, MK:A
- Quan Chi - MKM:SZ, MK4, MKG
- Moloch - MK:DA, MK:A
- Noob-Smoke - MK:D, MK:U
- Shao Kahn - MK:A, MKvsDCU
- Sheeva - MK:A
- Onaga - MK:A
- Daegon - MK:A (Konquest Mode only)
- Scorpion - MK:A (Wii version only)
- Darkseid - MKvsDCU
- Cetrion - MK11 (Story Mode only)
In Mortal Kombat (2011), Kratos from the God of War series of games was added as a playable character exclusive to the PlayStation 3 and later PS Vita versions of the game. A DLC character, Freddy Krueger, from A Nightmare On Elm Street was released on Fall 2011. As a result of these characters' inclusions in the game, it was discovered that they would draw a lot of attention from other types of gamers and non-gamers alike to MK.
In Mortal Kombat X, for the first Kombat Pack, Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th and Predator from the Predator film series were released in 2015. The two DLC characters were so popular that NetherRealm Studios released the Xenomorph from Alien and Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the 2016 Kombat Pack 2.
In Mortal Kombat 11, the first Kombat Pack featured the Terminator from the Terminator franchise, the Joker from DC Comics, making his second appearance in the series after originally appearing in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe as a main roster character, and finally Spawn from Image Comics. With the release of Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath, RoboCop from the RoboCop franchise was added as the only guest from the expansion. Kombat Pack 2 again featured only one additional guest, this time being John Rambo from the Rambo film series.
All the guest characters are non-canon to the main Mortal Kombat storyline, regardless of their interactions with characters in their respective game's Arcade and their character endings in the Arcade.
Note: An error occurs in Mortal Kombat 11, allowing Kronika to call upon any fighter on the roster to support her in both the original Story Mode and Aftermath, allowing her to summon the guest characters as well. This, however, is not considered canon when summoning a guest this way, and should not be considered the guests being canon to the Story Mode.
Mortal Kombat was adapted into two major motion pictures, Mortal Kombat, and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. The first film was well recieved by fans of the series and was met with with major financial success eventually grossing over $125,000,000 worldwide while starting the Hollywood careers of Paul W. S. Anderson and Robin Shou among others. It even garnered a "thumbs up" rating from Gene Siskel. The latter film, however, has been almost universally panned as a flop. A third movie, Mortal Kombat: Devastation, was said to be in pre-production, but no more news have been heard about the film ever since its announcement, and it has been presumed to have been canceled. Another film, intended as a reboot of the franchise, premiered simultaneously in theaters and on the streaming service HBO Max on April 23rd, 2021. The film received mixed reviews, but was ultimately better received critically than the original Mortal Kombat film, praised for its graphic violence that is true to the franchise's origins, as well as some beautifully cinematic storytelling. While the film topped the U.S. box office in its opening weekend, numbers were depressed by the ongoing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The franchise also sparked two TV series, the 1996 animated series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm and the 1998-1999 live-action Mortal Kombat: Conquest. Neither series ran for more than one season despite the popularity of Conquest. In 1995, an animated prequel to the first movie, titled Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins, was released on home video.
There have been several graphic novels based on Mortal Kombat. There were official MK and MKII comic books, the latter of which was written by Tobias. Both were advertised on early MK and MKII (respectively) arcade cabinets. Malibu Comics also produced several non-canon MK runs, primarily their "Battlewave" series.
Brady Games also produced a trading card game based on Mortal Kombat called Mortal Kombat Kard Game.
Jeff Rovin penned a non-canon Mortal Kombat novel in 1995 to coincide with the release of the movie.
Contributing Cultural Material
The Mortal Kombat mythology borrows heavily from multiple sources, primarily (but not limited to) Asian cultures, religions and martial arts. Examples include the following:
- Raiden, who is the God of Thunder in Mortal Kombat, takes his name from the Japanese Raiden (meaning "thunder and lightning"), which is the name of a demon-god in Japanese mythology. The Japanese Raiden is usually depicted as a man-beast with sharp teeth, long hair and a large drum for making thunder. The Mortal Kombat Raiden's trademark glowing eyes and straw hat, however, appear to have been inspired by the Three Storms in the film Big Trouble in Little China. In the early console releases and associated media, he was also named Rayden.
- Fujin (Mortal Kombat 4) is named after the Japanese wind god Fuujin.
- Other characters have no direct counterparts in mythology, though their names are derived from Asiatic languages:
- Shujinko (Mortal Kombat: Deception) is from the Japanese shujinkou (meaning "protagonist").
- Damashi (Mortal Kombat: Deception) is from the Japanese damashi (meaning "deception").
- Hotaru (Mortal Kombat: Deception) is from the Japanese hotaru (meaning "firefly").
- Kenshi (Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance and Mortal Kombat: Deception) is from the Japanese kenshi (meaning "swordsman").
- The White Lotus Society to which Liu Kang belonged may or may not have been named after to the secret White Lotus Society which existed in China during the Yuan Dynasty and Ming Dynasty. A white lotus is traditionally symbolic of death.
- The Lin Kuei ninja clan that Sub-Zero hails from is an allusion to the real-life myths of a Lin Kuei assassin guild in the mountains of China, who may or may not have been taught the ways of mysticism by mountain and forest spirits and demons such as the Tengu. Rumor has it that representatives of the historical Lin Kuei traveled to Japan to teach the locals the art of what would eventually be known as ninjutsu, a tale that is mimicked by Takeda's departure from the Mortal Kombat Lin Kuei to set up his own ninja clan in Japan, the Shirai Ryu.
- Kano's Black Dragon clan may be based loosely on the historical Black Dragon Society.
- Moloch shares his name with the ancient Middle Eastern deity Moloch
- Shang Tsung as a name is an actual expression for "temple elder". Deriving this from the fact that Chinese mysticism often entwined spirituality and magic, this may be a reference to Shang Tsung's actual call as a sorcerer.
- Sheeva's name can be recognized, as based on the Hindu god, Shiva, both of which have four arms. It should be noted that in Sheeva's ending for Armageddon she is dubbed goddess of destruction, Shiva's same role. An oddness, however, is that in the Hindu mythology, Shiva is actually male.
- Scorpion's flaming skull design may have been based on the Marvel Comics hero Ghost Rider.
- Kotal Kahn's race, the Osh-Tekk, are heavily inspired by the Central American cultures of the Mayans and the Aztecs. Also, the inspiration for Ko'atal Kahn name possibly comes from the Mayan Serpent God, Kukulkan., and his Aztec counterpart, Quetzalcoatl.
- Kronika and Geras have some potential influence from Ancient Greece. Kronika, being the keeper of time and a titaness, may be inspired by Chronos, the personification of time. Geras' name derives from the ancient greek word for "old age". In Hesiod's Theogony, Geras is one of the suns of Nyx: the personification of Night.
Mortal Kombat Crossovers
Characters from the Mortal Kombat series have sometimes appeared in other video games as secret characters, particularly other Midway games. Examples of this include:
- Raiden had a cameo appearance in a pinball machine, Bally's 1994 World Cup Championship, in a bonus round.
- Raiden, Reptile, Scorpion and Sub-Zero appeared as playable characters in early versions of NBA Jam TE and the Sega Saturn conversion. 
- Raiden appeared as an unlockable character in Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict (which coincidentally also included a Fatality system similar to MK's). Shao Kahn's voice is also an alternate to the default announcer.
- Sub-Zero and Scorpion both appear as secret characters in MLB Slugfest 20-04.
- Scorpion appeared as a selectable skin for the game Psi-Ops: The MindGate Conspiracy.
Mortal Kombat has also been the focus of several extremely popular game modifications, including hacks to the original Mortal Kombat PC games (MK2: Kintaro's Vulgar Version), and the integration of console artwork and audio into other game engines, including but not limited to the original Quake and Unreal engines (Mortal Kombat Quake TC).
A fanmade version of Pong based on the Mortal Kombat series called Pong Kombat was released in 1994.
The Mortal Kombat characters are also featured in the trading card game Epic Battles which pits them against the Street Fighter characters (as well as upcoming characters from other fighting games).
Scorpion appears as a downloadable playable character in NetherRealm Studios' Injustice: Gods Among Us. Sub-Zero and Raiden also appeared in the game's sequel, Injustice 2, as downloadable characters.
In the game Plants vs Zombies, there is a minigame called "Portal Combat," which is a reference to Mortal Kombat.
In the mobile game WWE Immortals, Johnny Cage appears as a playable guest character.
- Rise 2: Resurrection: Each robot has its own original moves, Mortal Kombat-inspired death moves which is called E-X-E-C-U-T-E-D, the ability to steal and use a defeated robot projectile, and a devastating super move that can be used when the power bar is full, similar to other fighting games of the time. The game also features a combo counter system, named Chaos.
- Primal Rage: featured a battle system similar to that found in Mortal Kombat, including Fatality-like finishing moves and blood depiction. The major difference was that this game's characters were digitized, stop-motion animated dinosaurs and prehistoric apes puppets instead of digitized humans.
- Killer Instinct, produced by Rare, arguably the second most popular game that adopted a similar gameplay mechanism.
- Kasumi Ninja: by HandMade Software, exclusive for Atari Jaguar. The slow controls and the impressive similarities with Mortal Kombat (Story, moves, ninjas, gore, etc) did receive negative reviews, and was considered a clone of Mortal Kombat. It ranked #8 of ScrewAttack's Top 10 Worst Fighting Games Ever; The principal character, Habaki, is considered as a 'Scorpion Rip-Off'.
- OpenMortal: is a parody of Mortal Kombat, released for Windows and Linux under the GNU General Public License (GPL). It has 18 playable characters, with the possibility of adding designed characters, and can be played in team mode and network.
- Time Killers: was an arcade fighting game created during the success of Mortal Kombat by the game company known as Strata, featuring warriors from different time periods armed with a particular weapon. Unlike MK, however, it introduced 'Instant Kills' which could be done at any time the player desired and would immediately end a match if they hit successfully. Arms could also be hacked off with more damage.
- Eternal Champions: was an arcade-style fighting game released by Sega for the Sega Genesis, and re-released on the Sega CD. Though not necessarily a direct rip-off of Mortal Kombat, it was one of the first 2-D fighting games to include combos and incredibly gory Fatalities, some of which totally out-do Mortal Kombat in the gore department (one such Fatality is the stage finisher in Dawson McShane's level, where a large wooden spike impales the losing character, resulting in gallons of blood and various intestines exploding from the fighter's torso.)
- BloodStorm: was another game created by the same team who developed Time Killers and featured the same gameplay and features, but with the addition of even managing to hack off an opponent's lower body and completely incapacitating them, as well as over-the-top violence, among other things. Ultimately fans considered it little more than a ripoff, and it ultimately flopped in the arcades.
- Acclaim produced 2 Mortal Kombat-styled games based on the World Wrestling Federation: WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game & WWF In Your House. Both featured Mortal Kombat-like sprites, moves, and finishers.
- Way Of The Warrior: Way of the Warrior was the title of an ultra-violent fighting that featured digitized graphics of real fighters released for the 3DO CD-ROM system by Boston-based Naughty Dog.
- Tattoo Assassins: Tattoo Assassins was a fighting game developed by Data East using the same digitized graphics style as Mortal Kombat. Most notable is that the game featured over 200 Fatalities, including Nudalities (only a rumor in Mortal Kombat) and Animalities (before they were featured in Mortal Kombat 3).
- Street Fighter: The Movie (video game): The game used realistic, digitized graphics, trying to capitalize on the success of Mortal Kombat. Street Fighter: The Movie was co-developed by Capcom and Incredible Technologies and published by Capcom (in Japan) and Acclaim (in the US). It was poorly received by gamers and critics.
- Blood Warrior: A Japanese fighting game featuring digitized graphics released in 1994 by Kaneko.
- Survival Arts: Yet another violent fighting game with digitized graphics and death finishing moves, this time created by Sammy. This video game was released in 1993 in order to cash in on the success of the Mortal Kombat series. 
- Mushroom Kombat: Mushroom Kombat is a satirical take on Mortal Kombat featuring the eight-man metal band Mushroomhead as fighters.
- Bonestorm: A fictional game used on The Simpsons. Not to be confused with BloodStorm.
- Mortal Kombat Conquest
- GameSpot's History of Mortal Kombat
- Mortal Kombat Online - Huge MK fansite
- Mortal Kombat Guide Wiki
- Warrior Shrine (Spanish)
- Mortal Kombat.org (Spanish)
- Mortal Kombat Unleashed Forums
- Portable Mortal Kombat - Contains extensive info on the handheld ports.
- Mortal Kombat Warehouse - Contains complete sprite sets and moveset info for every installment.
- 20th Anniversary - Celebrating 20 years of Mortal Kombat.