Game Overkill – Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat is the greatest fighting game ever made. I mean, the blood, gore, and violence was so awesome it totally made up for the rest of the game being utterly unremarkable and mediocre at best. Right?

Game Overkill - Mortal Kombat

Now, let me get this out of the way: I don’t like fighting games. I never have and I likely never will. There just something about them, or really, everything about them that doesn’t do it for me. I don’t think they’re terrible…I just feel that they’re terrible. Take a platformer and remove the platforming and you’ve got something like a beat ’em up. Remove the story and side scrolling, and now you’ve got a fighting game. Fans of the genre will want to call me misguided (and much worse, I’m sure), but that’s just how I see it.

Anyway, Mortal Kombat might be the first fighting game I ever played. It was probably the closest to launch I’ve ever played a game, too. I feel like a friend bought it or rented it and he and a few other people came to my house to play it within the first week of its release. I don’t know how people reacted to the game’s release in the arcades in 1992, since I never liked arcades, but when it came out on console a year later, it was amazing. The graphics were incredible when you consider that we were used to human characters looking more like cartoons than human at the time. The seven playable characters were six more than any game I can remember playing outside of TMNT games (keep in mind that I didn’t have an SNES and that I’ve always hated Street Fighter). With each character having a different set of moves, this meant you could spend hours upon hours playing the game and mastering each characters move-sets, playing by yourself, or playing with your friends and having tournaments.

Scorpion - Get Over Here

Then, there was the gore and the finishing moves. Let’s be honest, this was the game’s main selling point. If I’d played another game with blood in it before, I certainly don’t remember it. Even if I did play a game with blood before, it certainly didn’t have it flying all over the place the way it did in Mortal Kombat. Combine the liberal spraying of blood with the gruesome finishing moves, and you had yourself a hit in 1993. Ripping out someone’s heart, removing their head and spine from your opponent’s body, and, my personal fave, removing Scorpion’s mask to reveal his fiery skull-headed glory to then burn your opponent to a crisp were wonderful ways to spend your time. That and having him yell “GET OVER HERE!” made for quite the enjoyable experience.

Mortal Kombat - Fatality

But that was 1993 and I’m not 12 anymore. With console wars and in-your-face 90s attitude, Mortal Kombat’s gore and over-the-top violence fit right in. If we’re honest, it’s the reason most of us loved it at the time. Looking back, the blood in MK just seems like a cheap veneer added to hide the fact that your were playing a mediocre fighting game. It was the argument you used in the schoolyard to claim your fighting game was superior to the ones your friends were playing. I’m repeating myself here, but I don’t like fighting games, so I’ve never liked the Street Fighter series, but to claim, to still claim all these years later, that the original Mortal Kombat is better than Street Fighter II is just silly.

Mortal Kombat - Game Over

That being said, it’s not all bad for Mortal Kombat. We can’t deny it had a considerable impact on gaming and culture in general (and the impact it had on the creation of the ESRB is only one example). It has spawned toys and movies and a series of games whose latest release has far outsold and gotten better reviews  than the latest Street Fighter game. All of this is more than enough for me to justify having it placed in the 94th spot in the Game Overkill rankings. But what do you think about it, the game, or the series? Who was your favourite character? I dressed as Scorpion for Halloween on at least one occasion.


Update: Mortal Kombat is now in 97th place.

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About Atsinganoi

Atsinganoi started gaming in the early 80s on an Atari 2600 and still thinks they're kinda neat. You can find him on Twitter if you want, just don't call him a frog.

12 Comments

  1. I’ve never played Mortal Kombat, so I can’t really give much of an opinion here, but I agree with your overall assessment. I don’t dislike fighting games (though I greatly prefer Super Smash Bros to standard 2D fighters), but it always seemed to me that Mortal Kombat was just an ordinary fighting game masked by lots of gore and fancy graphics (for the time that is). I personally prefer Clayfighter to either Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat as it almost seems to be parodying those in it’s goofy characters and movesets.

    • Yeah, games like Clayfighter could entertain me for a bit with their quirkiness. I’ve actually never played any of the Smash games.

  2. I remember growing up that this game had one of those “legendary” statuses among my friends and siblings. Likely because we all knew we probably shouldn’t be playing such a violent game, but also because my brother was the only one at the time who could do the finishing moves, and we all liked to see him knock his opponents off onto the spikes in that one stage. But I am with you, fighting games are not really my forte, and I’ll agree that this one probably doesn’t stand up to Street Fighter II at all despite never having played it myself. Still, this one is good even if just for the memories. 🙂

    • Even though I say the game is kinda bad and not as good as Street Fighter II, I still play Mortal Kombat once in a while, especially with a friend, and still won’t play any Street Fighter game basically for the reason you said: memories, mostly just for Scorpion and Sub-Zero, the music, and the fatalities.

  3. I liked how Mortal Kombat had essentially the same basic move set for each character, aside from special moves, which allowed you to swap between them with less difficulty than Street Fighter II. I also actually liked the story behind the game, even if it wasn’t fully fleshed out in the first game. The music was killer, too. I’ve still got my soundtrack CD from the arcade mail-away around somewhere…

    • That was something I happened to like about it, how it was fairly easy to switch characters, but I’m sure some more hardcore fighting game fans would see it as a knock against it. I did enjoy the music a lot as well. As for the story, I still think they may have gotten the best video game movie out of it, too. It isn’t an amazing story, but it’s decent. It does its job.

  4. I remember when I first heard about this from one of my friends, how’d played it on a trip to Birmingham. He said something alone the lines of:

    “…and we played as a NINJA and then we beat the guy we RIPPED HIS HEAD OFF”

    Needless to say, as 99% of what kids say in the playground was complete crap, I wasn’t sure whether to believe him or not. I was genuinely surprised when it turned out to be completely real.

    MK 1 definitely isn’t in Streetfighter 2’s league. Damn sight better than the original Street Fighter though! Personally, I reckon both Street Fighter 2 & Mortal Kombat 2 are the best in their respective series’ – every after gets a bit silly.

    • I played MK 2 and 3 and felt that the first one was enough for me. They are better, but didn’t really offer much of anything new to keep me interested, though, like I said, I don’t enjoy fighting games, so they were never for me in the first place.

      I like your story though. I was one of the kids talking to those who hadn’t played it about ripping heads off and whatnot. I never considered how ridiculous and full of crap I must’ve sounded to others. The game was a little like GTA III in that sense. It allowed you to do things gamers up til then had only imagined or wished possible, so it seemed unbelievable when it became a reality.

  5. I tend to like MK2 and MK3 over 1, even THOUGH the AI in MK3 especially is a merciless asshole. MK1 is a great classic, it’s just obviously a little rough around the edges, a little wonky in certain areas. They hadn’t perfected the formula yet. I actually originally hated MK1, not because I thought it was a bad game, but because it was the new fad, and I was a SFII kid. So hearing all these other kids praise MK about how much “better” it was than SFII, really set me off. lol

    But I later came around to appreciate it, and MKII was actually the game to convert me into being a fan, because of the more mystical setting, etc.

    • I own MK 2 & 3, but I’ve barely played them. The novelty wore off with the first game and I don’t enjoy fighting games, but despite that, I agree that they’re better than the original.

  6. I dare you, I *dare* you to play the Game Boy version.

    • I get the feeling it’s the kind of experience for which one can never be fully prepared. I think I may pass.

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