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?
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.
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.
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.
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.