Our final entry in this episode is one that I’ve been saving as my grand finale to this series. This is a series that I have been playing for over twenty years, and no matter how many times I go back to it, I’ve never been disappointed.
Simply put, Mortal Kombat is the measuring stick for fighting games, ever since the first game came out way back in 1993. The Gameboy version was one of my first video games, and I was hook instantly. Famous for its gore, fatalities, and adult content, Mortal Kombat was a landmark achievement in the gaming industry. I cannot tell you how excited I was whenever I got to play the SEGA Genesis version, and how disappointed I was I couldn’t play it longer.
The success of Mortal Kombat was nearly unprecedented, a sequel in development soon after the game’s launch. Mortal Kombat 2 took everything that MK1 had done, and made it even better. Many of the classic characters of the franchise were introduced in MK2, the Fatalities that had made the first game famous were expanded upon, and the story was made bigger and more important than ever, a rarity for fighting games at that time. MK2 was also the game that revolutionized the combo system the franchise became famous for, fans finding ways to pull off huge combinations that not even the developers could have dreamed up.
The success of the first two games was so huge that the franchise was quickly becoming a monster in the industry, leading to the release of the third installment, Mortal Kombat 3. MK3 (which would be re-released as Mortal Kombat 3 Ultimate and Mortal Kombat Trilogy), blew both its predecessors out of the water. With the biggest roster to date, the inclusion of new Fatalities (including numerous subtypes), new game modes, including team fighting and story modes, MK3 was an amazing effort by Netherealm Studios, easily becoming the greatest fighting game of its generation, and cementing the franchises place in pop culture.
The next installment, Mortal Kombat 4, is the game that I am most familiar with, and have spent more hours on that game than I’d care to admit. Introducing new villains, game modes, abilities (including weapons for the first time in the franchise), and bringing back some old favourites, MK4 was an outstanding achievement in gaming history. The story was also greatly expanded, bringing to a close to some of the game’s longest standing rivalries, while also creating new plot points to launch further games from. The game was so successful that an upgraded version, Mortal Kombat Gold, was introduced for the SEGA Dreamcast system. Many fans consider MK4 the peak of the series, which is a hard thing to say considering where the series went from there.
Next up was Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, and the first entry into the next generation of consoles. This installment introduced a new fighting system, giving each Kombatant three unique styles for the players to choose with. It also introduced new characters, many of which becoming instant favourites. A new story mode was brought in as well, for the first time allowing players to dive deep into the world of Mortal Kombat. Deadly Alliance also took numerous risks, such as killing off Liu Kang, and introducing new, dangerous factions into the fray such as the Red Dragon. For many other franchises, killing off such popular characters could be considered a huge mistake, but it paid off, Deadly Alliance becoming a huge success, and leading the direction of the series in a new, exciting direction.
Following up on MKDA, Netherealm continued its path of greatness with Mortal Kombat: Deception. Delving deeper into the universe of MK, Deception (and its PSP port Unchained), widened the realms, introduced new villains and heroes, as well as bringing back old favourites to add a more chaotic feel to the story. Favourite characters were even changed drastically, Raiden becoming more violent and brutal than before, while Liu Kang became a zombie, hell bent on avenging his death at the hands of Shang Tsung. The story mode was the most immersive yet, following the journey of Shujinko as he unwittingly unleashes the Dragon King from his prison, and creating a threat greater than any the realms had ever faced. The game was a massive hit, and set the stage for the grand finale of Netherrealm’s epic (or at least, that stage of it).
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon was the final entry for Mortal Kombat for that era, and like MK3, it featured a MASSIVE roster. Every Kombatant MK had ever had (plus two new characters) were thrown into the massive mix as the war to end all things had begun. Featuring a new story mode, the game took players on the final adventure of MK, as all the fighters past and present marched towards their final battle. As much as I liked many things about this entry, I did feel it fell a little short-changed by certain things. The Create-A-Fatality feature was a good idea, but it felt repetitive, and frankly, watching the many characters perform their own Fatalities was one of the biggest highlights of the franchise. The story mode was great, but it focused solely on one character, and felt like all the franchise mainstays were being pushed aside in order to tell that character’s story. I also found the fact that this huge final battle (depicted in one of the best intro videos in gaming history), was barely even touched upon. For something like this, I would have loved the story mode to feature this battle on masse, leading us to fight after fight as the Kombatants came together one last time to settle old scores and determine the fate of the Realms. It was still a great game though, and one that I had a lot of fun with, even if it didn’t tell us how the whole thing turned out...
In 2011, we would find out with Mortal Kombat. The ninth entry in the franchise (the 8th being Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, which I think many fans would like to forget) was for all intents and purposes a reboot for the franchise, though not in the truest sense. The game’s story depicts Shao Khan standing on the brink of victory at Armageddon, with Raiden at his mercy. Raiden sends a message back through time to his past self, his last effort to prevent Armageddon. From there, the story unfolds as it had before with new twists and turns as Raiden and the other Kombatants fighting against the forces of Outworld. The story also does a great job of expanding on the events of the first three games, while also changing their history, and creating a new story, much darker than the one that came before. The game play was amazing, the X-Ray moves a welcome addition to the already brutal fighting series, and the Fatalities were back with a vengeance. Mortal Kombat was a new masterpiece, not only one of the best games in the franchise, it has to be one of the greatest fighting games of its generation.
Earlier this year, Netherealm released the tenth entry in this incredibly series, the story picks up some thirty years down the line. With a host of new characters, many of whom are the children of the original Kombatants, the game has received rave reviews, and is being lauded as the best fighting game of the current gaming generation. The moment I get my Xbox One I am picking it up without hesitation.
Simply put, Mortal Kombat should be considered one of the greatest franchises in gaming history, and any gamer worth their controller sticks should check it out, no matter the entry.