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Classic Mortal Kombat games from the 1990s

Mortal Kombat for Super Nintendo

Mortal Kombat was originally released as an arcade game in 1992 by Midway Games. At the time, it stood out from other arcades and fighting games for two main reasons: 1) The graphics. 2) The gore. The digitized graphics of Mortal Kombat made characters look much more life-like than people were accustomed to with games as the time. We’re talking about Mario and Sonic as major gaming characters back then, so to see the movement and human likeness of Mortal Kombat characters was a big talking point.

And of course the blood got people talking. It was violent, especially when performing the now-legendary fatalities, and again wasn’t something people were accustomed to seeing in arcade halls. Aside from the graphics and gore, the gameplay was impressive and there was a good mix of unique characters with special moves.

Much like the Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li and E-Hondas of the Street Fighter world, Johnny Cage, Kano, Raiden, Liu Kang, Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Sonya Blade would become iconic characters in their own right. When Mortal Kombat was released for the Super Nintendo by Acclaim Entertainment, it was noticeable that there was no blood. It had been replaced by sweat and certain fatalities from the arcade game had been removed.

Mortal Kombat 2 for Super Nintendo
Mortal Kombat 2 for Super Nintendo
Mortal Kombat 2 for Super Nintendo

Mortal Kombat II bumped up the number of characters to 12, “All yours to Kommand“, and included finishing moves beyond gruesome fatalities to Babalities and friendship. Yes, that’s right. You could fight it out and then finish with a cute little dance.

Mortal Kombat 3 for Super Nintendo
Mortal Kombat 3 for Super Nintendo

Mortal Kombat 3 (MK3) took the lead from its predecessor, upping the character selections, introducing new moves such as the run/dash and if the Babalities/friendship finishing moves weren’t enough, you could now perform the animality – a finishing move in which the winner turns into an animal and performs a gruesome fatality of their opponent.

But the reception to MK3 was mixed. By the mid 90s the novelty of Mortal Kombat had worn off. For MK3 to be exciting, it needed to deliver something different and innovative. For many people, it failed to deliver and was even more of a let down because it left out iconic the popular characters Scorpion and Kitana. According to John Tobias, one of the original MK team members, the reason for leaving them out was “to appease arcade operators” and not to push for another Mortal Kombat title; Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 was released in 1995 and reintroduced Scorpion and Kitana.

Mortal Kombat 4 for Nintendo 64

The next generation of video game home consoles were out by the time Mortal Kombat 4 (MK4) was developed. Released as an arcade game in 1997 (the last Mortal Kombat arcade), it was later ported to the PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Color and PC. Unlike its predecessors MK2 and MK3, which were rated as suitable for 15-17 and 18+ ages, MK4 was rated 18+.

There were 15 selectable characters along with some secret characters players could unlock. Much like MK3, the reception was mixed. As a standalone game it was very good. But by the late 90s, a growing Mortal Kombat franchise had built up greater expectations among MK fans and gamers; something the development team was finding hard to meet. While some publications gave it favourable reviews, there were a fair number that saw it as just another average MK game.

Since the 1990s, Mortal Kombat has continued to release new titles, making it the best selling fighting game franchise ever, having sold over 73 million copies by mid 2021. Starting from a small 4-person team in the early 90s, Mortal Kombat has come a long way.

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