The games of Mortal Kombat

01 Apr 11

Midway’s Mortal Kombat proved to be one of the most controversial video games in history. It was a brutally violent 2D fighter using digitised graphics captured from real actors. Blood splattered from combatants, and players could even finish off their opponents in brutal fashion with the franchise’s trademark "Fatality” finishing moves. This game was instrumental in the eventual implementation of a classification system for video games.
Rather than toning things down, the successor to Mortal Kombat upped the ante in every area – particularly when it came to the game’s gruesome fatalities. An expanded character roster, tweaked game mechanics, new moves, Babalities, Friendships and two Fatalities per character helped cement Mortal Kombat II’s place as a cultural phenomenon. When it hit consoles, the game’s first-week sales of over US$50 million eclipsed those of blockbuster movies from the same period.
With the most photo-realistic graphics in the series to date, Mortal Kombat 3 introduced the Run button and a chain-combo system. In response to rumours circulated about Mortal Kombat II, Midway also introduced "Animalities”, in which the player could transform into character-specific creatures to finish off their opponents. A revised version (Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3) released later that year, which added several new characters and reinstated some of the missing favourites.
This was the first three-dimensional entry into the series, and also the first to forego the use of digitised graphics. Mortal Kombat 4 introduced weapons; the player could brandish a melee weapon after inputting a button combination, which then changed that character’s move set. Midway also attempted to remove the more slapstick elements that had surfaced in some of its predecessors (such as Babalities and Friendships) to maintain a darker atmosphere.
Deadly Alliance, the first Mortal Kombat title to skip arcades altogether and go straight to consoles, is widely attributed with reviving the franchise. Releasing five years after its predecessor, it brought perhaps the deepest play mechanic yet to the series, with each character able to switch between three fighting styles (usually two different martial arts and one weapons-based discipline). It also introduced the challenge-style Konquest mode.
The sixth installment of Mortal Kombat played similarly to Alliance, with few refinements to the core game. But Deception did expand on the arcade-heavy stylings of its predecessors with the inclusion of Mortal Kombat-themed mini games: Chess Kombat (seriously) and Puzzle Kombat, an adversarial gem-puzzle game in the vein of Super Puzzle Fighter II. Konquest mode was also revised, now playing out more like a lengthy, RPG-style experience, which proved popular.
With a whopping 63 fighters Armageddon boasts the largest roster of Mortal Kombat characters in one game to date (only two of which are new). A Kreate a Fighter mode was included for the first time in the franchise, which allowed the comprehensive customisation (komprehensive kustomisation?) of player-created characters. In keeping with the absurd mini games of Deception, Armageddon included Motor Kombat: a Mario Kart-style mini game.
The first crossover title in the franchise presented an opportunity for Mortal Kombat staples such as Sub-Zero and Scorpion to duke it out with DC superheroes like Batman and Superman. While the inclusion of the DC license was intriguing, it resulted in a PG game. The series' trademark violence levels were toned down, with some Fatalities even censored in the US version. The game was fairly well received, although hardcore fans longed for something more traditional.
Coming full circle and adopting the same title as the original, Mortal Kombat (commonly referred to as Mortal Kombat 9) is an attempt to recapture the dark mood and the gore of the franchise’s earliest iterations. It turns out, however, that this year’s reboot may have gone above and beyond its predecessors on that front, with Mortal Kombat failing to receive a classification rating from the Australian Classification Board; the first Mortal Kombat title to do so.

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