Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat Logo.svg
The dragon logo of Mortal Kombat
Genres Fighting
Developers NetherRealm Studios (formerly Midway Games Chicago)
Publishers Midway Games (1992–2011)
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (2009-present)[1]
Creators Ed Boon and John Tobias
Composers Dan Forden
Platform of origin Arcade
First release Mortal Kombat
October 8, 1992
Latest release Mortal Kombat
April 19, 2011
Spin-offs Films, live-action and animated series, stage show, comics

Mortal Kombat, commonly abbreviated MK, is a science fantasy series of fighting games created by Ed Boon and John Tobias. The first four renditions and their updates were developed by Midway Games and initially released on arcade machines. The arcade titles were later picked up by Acclaim Entertainment for the home console conversions. Beginning with Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Midway Games exclusively created home versions of Mortal Kombat up until Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Following Midway's bankruptcy, the franchise was picked up by Warner Bros. in July 2009 and became a part of the Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Branch.[1]

The series began originally as a game based on the popular actor martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme. The idea fell through and Mortal Kombat was born instead. As a result of its success, Mortal Kombat has spawned many sequels and has been spun off into several adventure games, films (animated and live-action with its own sequel), and television series (animated and live-action). Other spin-offs include various comic book series, a card game and a live-action tour.

The original three games and their updates, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, and Mortal Kombat Trilogy, were styled in a 2-D fighting fashion with gameplay consisting of five buttons that were high punch, low punch, high kick, low kick, and block. Reviewers have stated that because of this the characters are only differentiated by their special moves. In fact, some reviewers have criticized that the "bewildering array" of special moves in comparison to other fighting games has resulted in too little focus on regular moves.[2]

The series is especially noted for its realistic digitized sprites (which differentiated it from its contemporaries' hand-drawn sprites), and its high levels of bloody graphic violence, including, most notably, its Fatalities—finishing moves, requiring a sequence of buttons to perform, which, in part, led to the creation of the ESRB.[3][4] The series name itself is also known for using the letter "K" in place of "C" for the hard C sound, thus intentionally misspelling the word "combat," as well as other words with the hard C sound within later games in the series. Early games in the series were infamous for the prominent use of palette swapping to create new character sprites.



The early Mortal Kombat characters played virtually identical to one another with the only major differences being special moves.[5] According to Ed Boon, "[...] since the beginning, one of the things that's separated us from other fighting games is the crazy moves we've put in it, like fireballs and all the magic moves, so to speak."[6] When asked if Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat would do a crossover, Street Fighter producer, Yoshinori Ono, called Mortal Kombat a very different game from Street Fighter.[7][8] Capcom's senior director of communications compared Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat by asking if the interviewer preferred the "precision and depth" of Street Fighter or the "gore and comedy" of Mortal Kombat; he also stated that the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat rivalry was considered similar to the Coke and Pepsi rivalry in the 1990s.[9] Senior producer of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Hans Lo, called Street Fighter a little more technical fighter in comparison to Mortal Kombat.[10]

Midway would keep their single styled fighting moves with four attack buttons which were a different array of punches and kicks and block until they changed this in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance by differentiating characters normal moves and even giving them multiple fighting styles. Beginning in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance and until Mortal Kombat: Deception, the characters would have three fighting styles per character: two unarmed styles, and one weapon style.[11] Few exceptions to this arose in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, such as monster-like boss characters like Moloch and Onaga who would have only one fighting style.[12] Most of the fighting styles featured are based on real martial arts, though a few of them are not.[13] Goro's fighting styles, for example, are designed to take advantage of the fact that he has four arms. For Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, fighting styles were reduced to a maximum of two per character (generally one hand-to-hand combat style and one weapon style) due to the sheer number of playable characters.[12]

Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe dropped the multiple fighting style trend altogether in favor of giving each character a much wider variety of special moves,[14] however some characters still had multiple fighting styles Baraka, utilizing the retractable blades in his arms (called the "Blade Stance"), and Deathstroke who also possessed the ability to use another fighting style in the form of a sword (called the "Sword Stance").[15]

Finishing moves

Mortal Kombat introduced 'Fatalities'-- finishing moves that allow players to end a match up by exterminating their opponent in a gruesome manner.[16] It was developed in order to give gamers a free hit at the end of the fight.[17] Finishing moves in later games included:

  • Friendship, in Mortal Kombat II, "[which] include[s] giving opponents a present or a bouquet of flowers, instead of killing them"[18]
  • Animality, in Mortal Kombat 3: turning into an animal to violently finish off the opponent[19]
  • Mercy, where the victor gives a little health to the opponent[19]
  • Brutality, in Mortal Kombat Trilogy: bashing an opponent into pieces with a long combination of hits (combo)
  • Babality, turning the opponent into a baby[18]
  • Deception added the Hara-Kiri (as described by GameSpot, "[...] the hara-kiri, or self-fatality. Basically, players who have lost a match have the ability to punch in a command to perform a self-fatality"), to allow the losers to engage in a suicide-based finishing move, creating a race between both players to see if the winning player can finish off the losing player before the losing player can kill himself.[17][20]

The Friendship moves were made as a comical response to the attention the series gathered due to its violent content.[17]


Screenshot of Mortal Kombat, showing the characters Johnny Cage and Raiden

The original Mortal Kombat was developed with digitized sprites based on actors, as opposed to animated cartoon graphics.[21] Mortal Kombat 4 brought the series into 3D, replacing the digitized fighters of previous games with polygon models.

More so than other fighting games at the time, Mortal Kombat was famous for re-coloring certain sprites to appear as different characters. This was most prominent with the series' various ninja/assassin characters. Many of the more popular characters were spawned from these palette swaps.[22] In the very first game, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and Reptile were essentially the same character. The colors of their attire, fighting stance, and special techniques indicated the difference. Sub-Zero wore blue attire, Scorpion wore yellow, and Reptile wore green.[22] Later games added other ninjas based on the same model, as well as several female ninja color swap characters initially also using just one base model (since Mortal Kombat II). All of them gradually became very different characters in the following installments of the series.


Mortal Kombat started development in 1991 with only four people: Ed Boon, John Tobias, John Vogel, and Dan Forden.[23] As Ed Boon stated in an interview with Major Nelson "The first Mortal Kombat game was 4 guys, literally, one programmer, myself (Boon), two graphics guys (Tobias and Vogel), and a sound guy (Forden) was the entire team, literally"[24] Originally, Boon and Tobias wanted to create a video game starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, with a digitized version of the action star fighting villains.[3] Ed Boon stated for six out of the eight months while they were in production of Mortal Kombat, "...nobody could come up with a name nobody didn't hate." Some of the names suggested were "Kumite", "Dragon Attack", "Death Blow", and even at one point, "Fatality". Someone had written down "combat" on the drawing board for the names in Ed Boon's office and someone wrote a K over the C, according to Ed Boon, "...just to be kind of weird..." Steve Ritchie, a pinball designer at that time, was sitting in Ed Boon's office and saw the word "Kombat" and said to Ed Boon, 'Why don't you name it Mortal Kombat?' and according to Ed Boon, that name "just stuck."[25] The series itself commonly uses the letter "K" in place of "C" for words containing the hard C sound, thus misspelling them. According to Ed Boon, during game development they usually spell the words correctly and change them later when the developers recognize an opportunity.[26]

The team switched from digitized actors to motion capture technology (the quote is incorrectly referring to Midway as Acclaim): "To make the characters in video games more realistic, actors are being recruited to serve as models. Acclaim, the video-game company that made Mortal Kombat, has created a special 'motion capture studio' for this purpose. A martial-arts expert with as many as 100 electronic sensors taped to his body sends precise readings to a camera as he goes through his moves—running, jumping, kicking, punching. The action is captured, digitized and synthesized into a 'naked' wire-frame model stored in a computer. Those models can then be 'dressed' with clothing, facial expressions and other characteristics by means of a computer technique called texture mapping."[27]

Easter eggs and secrets

Mortal Kombat included secret characters, secret games, and other Easter eggs. Mortal Kombat 3, for example, included a hidden game of Galaga[19] as well as a hidden game of Pong in Mortal Kombat II.[28] Many extras in the series have only been accessible through very challenging, demanding, and sometimes coincidental requirements. The Sega Mega Drive/Genesis versions had some unique eggs: in Mortal Kombat, a head shot of the President of Probe Software, Fergus McGovern, flew in front of the moon in the Pit stage, while in Mortal Kombat II, Raiden could perform a "Fergality" on the Armory stage. The Sega Mega CD version also contained an additional code (known as the "Dad's Code"), which changed the names of the fighters to that of characters from the classic BBC comedy series Dad's Army.[29] In the 1992 arcade original when fighting on The Pit stage, the player can qualify for a fight at the bottom of The Pit with the hidden character Reptile, who has the powers of Scorpion and Sub-Zero.[30]

Some Easter eggs originated from in-jokes between members of the development team. One example is "Toasty", which found its way into the game in the form of a small image of sound designer Dan Forden, who would appear in the corner of the screen during gameplay (after performing an uppercut) and yell the word "Toasty". This egg was also the key to unlocking the hidden character Smoke when it happened in the Portal stage.[28] Another note of interest is in Mortal Kombat 4, Forden would say "Toasty! 3D!" after Scorpion did his burn fatality, a reference to the fact that it is the first 3D game of the series.[31] "Toasty" is also found in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, appearing randomly after the character pulls off a chain of hits, though the picture of Forden was removed for that version.[32] Yet another private joke was the hidden character "Noob Saibot", who appeared in various versions of the game. The character's name derived from two of the series' creators' surnames, Ed Boon and John Tobias, spelled backward.[33] In addition, the character Ermac's name came from the first Mortal Kombat, which had "ERMAC5" (Error Macro 5) on its diagnostics screen; players presumed this dealt with some secret character. The development team decided to turn this rumor into an actual character, who was introduced in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3.[34][35] The character Mokap is based upon Carlos Pesina who leads the motion capture team for modern MK games (and previously played Raiden in the first and second games).[36]


Video games

Mortal Kombat title was released for Arcade during October 1992, having since been ported to over ten consoles.[37] The sequel, Mortal Kombat II was released for arcades in 1993, featuring an increased roster and improved graphics; it was rereleased in 2007 for the PlayStation 3.[38] Mortal Kombat 3 followed in 1995 in both arcade and console versions,[39] later getting two updates which expanded the number of characters and other features from the game: Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, published in the same year,[40] and Mortal Kombat Trilogy the next one.[41] The following game, Mortal Kombat 4, was released in 1997, and ported to the PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and PC, while an update named Mortal Kombat Gold was released exclusively for the Dreamcast in 1999.

While to this point, Mortal Kombat games were only titled with their installment number, starting with Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, the series' naming scheme changed to favor the use of sub-titles instead of the previously usual numbering.[42] It was also at this point that the series started being targeted at consoles only, with Mortal Kombat 4 being the last Mortal Kombat game to ever be released for the arcades and PC. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was thus released in 2002 for the Xbox, PlayStation 2 (PS2), and GameCube.[43][44][45] Two ports for the Game Boy Advance were also released under the name of Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition and another port called Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance during 2003.[46][47] The sequel from Deadly Alliance is Mortal Kombat: Deception developed in 2004 for the PS2, Xbox and GameCube.[48][49][50] A port for the PlayStation Portable, Mortal Kombat: Unchained, was released in 2006 by Just Games Interactive.[51] Mortal Kombat: Armageddon was published in the same year for the PS2, Xbox, and in 2007 on the Wii.[52][53][54] On September 29, 2008, Midway released the Mortal Kombat Kollection, an anthology of the 3 most recent titles to the main franchise: Mortal Kombat: Deception, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.[55] The eighth MK fighting game is Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, a crossover between the MK franchise and DC Universe released in 2008 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.[56][57]

A ninth main game in the series, a reboot known as simply Mortal Kombat was released on April 19, 2011 by Warner Bros. Games' Chicago studio, formerly Midway Games Chicago,[58] now known as NetherRealm Studios.[59]

Besides the fighting games, there are three action titles that work as spin-offs from the MK storyline. Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero was released in 1997 for the PlayStation and Nintendo 64.[60][61] The story is focused on the first incarnation character of Sub-Zero and is focused in the timeline of before the first Mortal Kombat game. The next action game is Mortal Kombat: Special Forces released in 2000 for the PlayStation. It is an action game starring Major Jackson Briggs in his mission to destroy the Black Dragon.[62] Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks was released in 2005 for the PS2 and the Xbox. The game stars Liu Kang and Kung Lao. It tells an alternate version of the events between the first and second Mortal Kombat tournaments.

Other media

Mortal Kombat: The Album, a techno album based on the first game was created by the Immortals in 1994. Its theme Techno Syndrome was adapted for the 1995 movie soundtrack, and incorporated the familiar Mortal Kombat yell first shown in the MK commercial for home systems.[63] Each movie to follow would also have their own soundtracks. In addition, samples from the video games have occurred in music, most notably music by KMFDM (also included in the movie soundtrack). The 2011 video game saw the release of Mortal Kombat: Songs Inspired By The Warriors, a new soundtrack album featuring electronic music inspired by a different warrior.

Several comic books were based on Mortal Kombat. There were official MK and MKII comic books, the latter of which was created by Tobias, advertised in the attract modes on early versions of the first two MK games. In 1994, Malibu Comics launched an official MK comic book series, spawning two six-issue series ("Blood and Thunder" and "Battlewave"), along with several miniseries, and one-shot character issues, until production ended in August 1995. Two more comics were also made for Mortal Kombat 4 and the DC Universe crossover game.

Mortal Kombat was adapted into two major motion pictures, Mortal Kombat (1995), and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997), both released by New Line Cinema (eventual corporate sibling, and later label, of Mortal Kombat rights holder Warner Bros.). Neither film was screened for critics prior to theatrical release. The first movie was released on August 18, 1995 and grossed $23 million dollars on its first weekend.[64] Mortal Kombat, despite mixed reviews from critics when it was first released, gained a huge cult following from fans of the series and became a financial success, eventually grossing $70 million in the U.S. (and over $122 million worldwide) while jump starting the Hollywood careers of Paul W. S. Anderson and Robin Shou, among others.[65] That momentum did not carry over into Annihilation, however, which suffered from a poor reception by critics and fans alike, grossing only $36 million in the U.S. and $51 million worldwide, compared to the first movie's worldwide intake of $122 million. Even though it did not do as well as the first, Annihilation was not a failure or flop, but had much smaller profits.[66]

Jeff Rovin penned a novelization of the first Mortal Kombat game, which was published in June 1995 in order to coincide with the release of the movie.[67] An animated prequel to the first movie, titled Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins, was released straight to home video in 1995.

The stage show Mortal Kombat: Live Tour was also launched at the end of 1995. The tour expanded to 1996, and featured Mortal Kombat characters in a theatrical display on stage.

Brady Games produced a collectible card game based on Mortal Kombat called Mortal Kombat Kard Game in 1996.[68] The 2005 CCG Epic Battles also used some of the Mortal Kombat characters.

The franchise sparked two television series, the 1996 animated series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm and the 1998-1999 live-action Mortal Kombat: Konquest. Neither series ran for more than one season (despite the popularity of Konquest) due to budget constraints.

In 2010, director Kevin Tancharoen released an eight-minute Mortal Kombat film, choreographed by Larnell Stovall called Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, showcasing Michael Jai White as Jax, Jeri Ryan as Sonya Blade, Matt Mullins as Johnny Cage, Ian Anthony Dale as Scorpion and Lateef Crowder as Baraka.[69] Ryan said later that the short was made as a proof of concept for Tancharoen's pitch of a reboot movie franchise to Warner Brothers.[70] Tancharoen later confirmed that while the short is entirely unofficial, it does feature the writing of Oren Uziel, who was rumored to be writing the screenplay for the third MK movie.[71] Warner Premiere then ordered a 10-episode web series based on the short titled Mortal Kombat: Legacy.[72] The first episode was released on YouTube in April 2011, promoted by[73] On September 29, 2011 New Line Cinema and Warner Bros announced that Kevin Tancharoen has signed on to direct a new big-screen adaptation of Mortal Kombat from a screenplay written by Oren Uziel.[74].


The series takes place in a fictional universe that consists of six surviving realms which, according to in-game backstories, were created by the Elder Gods. The Mortal Kombat: Deception manual described the six realms as: "Earthrealm, home to such legendary heroes as Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage, and Jax, and also under the protection of the Thunder God Raiden; Netherrealm, which fiery depths are inhospitable to but the most vile, a realm of demons and shadowy warriors; Outworld, a realm of constant strife and where Emperor Shao Kahn claims this realm as his own; Seido, The Realm of Order, whose inhabitants prize structure and order above all else; The Realm of Chaos, whose inhabitants do not abide by any rules whatsoever, where constant turmoil and change are worshipped here; and Edenia, which is known for its beauty, artistic expression, and longevity of its inhabitants."[75][76] The Elder Gods decreed that the denizens of one realm could only conquer another realm by defeating the defending realm's greatest warriors in ten consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments.

The first Mortal Kombat game takes place in Earthrealm where seven different warriors with their own reasons for entering participated in the tournament with the eventual prize being the continued freedom of Earthrealm. Among the established warriors were Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, and Sonya Blade With the help of the Thunder God Raiden, the Earthrealm warriors were victorious and Liu Kang becomes the new champion of Mortal Kombat.[77] In Mortal Kombat II, unable to deal with Shang Tsung's failure, Outworld Emperor Shao Kahn lures the Earthrealm warriors to the Outworld where the Earthrealm warriors eventually defeat Shao Kahn. By Mortal Kombat 3, Shao Kahn revives Edenia's (now a part of his Outworld domain) former queen Sindel in Earthrealm, combining it with Outworld as well. He then attempts to invade Earthrealm but is ultimately defeated by the Earthrealm warriors again. After Kahn's defeat, Edenia was freed from Kahn's grasp and returned to a peaceful realm, ruled by Princess Kitana. The following game, Mortal Kombat 4, features the former elder god Shinnok attempting to conquer the realms and attempting to kill the thundergod Raiden. However, he is also defeated by the Earthrealm warriors.

In Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, the sorcerers Quan Chi and Shang Tsung join forces to conquer the realms and subsequently become the antagonists. By Mortal Kombat: Deception, after several fights, the sorcerers emerge victorious having killed most of Earthrealms' warriors until Raiden steps forth to oppose them. The Dragon King Onaga, who had been freed by Reptile at the end of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance,[78] had deceived Shujinko, the protagonist of Mortal Kombat: Deception, into searching for six pieces of Kamidogu,[76] the source of Onaga's power. Onaga then confronted the alliance of Raiden, Shang Tsung, and Quan Chi and thus obtained Quan Chi's amulet,[79] the final piece of his power, becoming the antagonist. Only a few warriors remained to combat against the Dragon King and his forces. Shujinko eventually triumphed over the Dragon King and removed his threat to the Mortal Kombat universe.[80]

In Mortal Kombat: Armageddon the catastrophe known as Armageddon starts. Centuries before the first Mortal Kombat, Queen Delia foretold the realms would be destroyed in an event known as Armageddon. King Argus had his sons, Taven, the protagonist of the game, and Daegon, put into incubation who would one day be awakened to save the realms from Armageddon. In the end, however, because Blaze's design has been corrupted by Onaga's holy men, Taven's victory over Blaze does not destroy the combatants or strip them of their powers, instead increasing the powers of the fighters, potentially exacerbating the onset of Armageddon. As a result, Taven will make it his duty as a new god to delay Armageddon until a solution can be found.[81]

In Mortal Kombat (2011), it is revealed that the battle between the warriors of the six realms culminated into only two survivors: Shao Kahn and Raiden. Badly beaten, Raiden had only one last move he could make to prevent Shao Kahn from claiming the power of Blaze. He sends visions of the entire course of the Mortal Kombat timeline to himself in the past right before the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament (first game). This transfer of information to his former self causes a rift in time causing the Armageddon timeline to be erased and a new "reboot" timeline to be introduced, with a new outcome of Mortal Kombat history to be written. But this story leads to even worse unforseen events. It ends with many of the main game characters dying at the hands of Queen Sindel and eventually Raiden accidentally kills Liu Kang in a fit of rage. But eventually the Elder Gods aid Raiden in killing Shao Kahn and saving Earthrealm. But as the scene goes on it is later revealed that this was all a plan by Lord Shinnok and Quan Chi.


Aggregate review scores
As of April 27, 2011.
Game GameRankings Metacritic
Mortal Kombat (1992) (GEN) 84.17%[82]
(SNES) 83.33%[83]
(SCD) 60.00%[84]
(GB) 58.25%[85]
Mortal Kombat II (SNES) 85.87%[86]
(GEN) 85.62%[87]
(PS3) 68.40%[88]
(GB) 61.75%[89]
(SAT) 57.50%[90]
(PS3) 72[91]
Mortal Kombat 3 (SNES) 80.23%[92]
(GEN) 76.67%[93]
(PS1) 70.33%[94]
Mortal Kombat 4 (N64) 77.31%[95]
(PS1) 75.47%[96]
(PC) 71.54%[97]
(DC) 54.97%[98]
(GBC) 46.00%[99]
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (GBA) 84.63%[100]
(Xbox) 82.60%[101]
(PS2) 81.90%[102]
(GC) 81.82%[103]
(GBA) 81[104]
(Xbox) 81[105]
(GC) 81[106]
(PS2) 79[107]
Mortal Kombat: Deception (PS2) 82.05%[108]
(Xbox) 81.33%[109]
(GC) 77.43%[110]
(PSP) 70.88%[111]
(PS2) 81[112]
(Xbox) 81[113]
(GC) 77[114]
(PSP) 70[115]
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (Xbox) 77.39%[116]
(PS2) 75.33%[117]
(Wii) 72.49%[118]
(Xbox) 77[119]
(PS2) 75[120]
(Wii) 71[121]
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (PS3) 77.62%[122]
(X360) 75.28%[123]
(PS3) 76[124]
(X360) 72[125]
Mortal Kombat (2011) (PS3) 86.30%[126]
(X360) 86.18%[127]
(X360) 86[128]
(PS3) 84[129]

In 1995, the Daily News summed up the Mortal Kombat series like so, "The original Mortal Kombat video game debuted in 1992. Its combination of story line, character and mega-violence soon made it a hit worldwide. And the controversy engendered by its blood-gushing special effects only served to boost its popularity."[130] During 2007, Ed Boon reported that the Mortal Kombat series have sold 26 million copies.[23] During its release week, Mortal Kombat: Deception sold one million units, becoming the fastest-selling game in Midway's history.[131] In a 2007 listing of the 52 most important games of all time by GamePro, Mortal Kombat II ranked as number 38 because it was, "Arguably the best Western fighting game to date, and certainly the title that defined Mortal Kombat as a brand, this game launched a thousand imitators en route to becoming one of the most famous -- and infamous -- video games ever made. Its technical and artistic mastery is only matched by its gushing gore."[132] In article by, the Mortal Kombat series was ranked number 2, second only to God of War III, on the most beautiful deaths in gaming, stating, "You have to give the game that got the whole world interested in video games a mention. Besides featuring awesome death sequences, this was also the title that got the American government to take a stand against the gaming industry. Thanks to Mortal Kombat, we have the ESRB now to tell us if a game is safe for children, teens, or if only adults should play. Cheers to you, Mortal Kombat."[133] In a ranking by CraveOnline, Mortal Kombat was ranked one of the "Goriest, Bloodiest, Nastiest Video Games of all time" stating that it was responsible for three things,"1.Mainstream games would now follow MK’s lead and start including fountains of blood, gruesome executions and de-bonings like they were going out of style. 2.A rating scale would now be necessary for home console games going forward. 3.Nintendo would embarrass themselves with their... non-violent port and finally have to sack up and start making games for adults for once." However, it condescended on the series by stating, "Not too bad for a game in which the same two or three palette swapped ninjas do the same goddamn moves over and over to each other before one of them gets bored and rips the other one’s head off!"[134] In another ranking by CraveOnline, it was ranked #2 of the "Top ten 2-D Fighters of all time".[135]

In a poll, as of November 2009, 21% of voters rated Mortal Kombat as their favorite fighting game series, ranking third behind Street Fighter and Tekken.[136] GameTrailers ranked Mortal Kombat 9th in the Top Ten Fighting Games Franchises,[137] while Mortal Kombat II was 5th in Top 10 Arcade Games.[138] GameTrailers also ranked Mortal Kombat as the 7th bloodiest series of all time.[139] The fatalities finishing moves were featured in ScrewAttack's "Top 10 OMGWTF Moments" due to the competition it gave to other games including Street Fighter II and how it popularized the arcades.[140] Guinness World Records awarded the Mortal Kombat series with seven world records in the Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008. These records include "Most Successful Fighting Game Franchise",[141] "Biggest Fighting Game Series", and "Most Successful Video Game Spin-Off Soundtrack Album".

Mortal Kombat's commercials have also received some criticism. In the 1993 hearings on violent video games, Senator Joseph Lieberman criticized Sega for one of its TV commercials saying that the commercial promoted violence. The commercial, as described by Current Events, a Weekly Reader publication, "The TV commercial shows a boy gaining the respect of his friends after winning Mortal Kombat. At the end of the commercial, the boy angrily knocks over a tray of cookies given to him by friends now frightened by the boy's fighting ability. The boy roars, 'I said I wanted chocolate chip!'"[142] As well as an ad for Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks titled, "Blood on the Carpet" which was created by the London-based "Maverick Media" was, as quoted from The Register, "... slammed by the Advertising Standards Authority as condoning and glorifying violence." The commercial, as described by The Register, "It features a boardroom scene in which a Mr Linn, the mysterious trouble-shooter at a sales meeting, instructs two men to fight. Punches lead to a pen being stabbed into an arm; then a water jug is smashed over an executive's head – before his heart is ripped from his chest. Mr Linn concludes proceedings by decapitating another executive with his hat."[143] The result of the complaint was, as quoted from the ASA report, "We told Midway not to repeat the approach and told them to consult CAP Copy Advice before producing future ads."[144]

Court cases

On December 9, 1996, Daniel Pesina sued Midway Games, Williams Electronics Games, Inc, Acclaim, Nintendo, and Sega, alleging "that all defendants used his persona, name, and likeness without authorization in the home version of Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat II and the related products..." The conclusion of Daniel Pesina v. Midway Manufacturing Co. was that "alleged use of martial artist's name, likeness or persona in a martial arts video game did not violate his common-law right of publicity."[145]

On May 28, 1997, Philip Ahn (Shang Tsung), Elizabeth Malecki (Sonya), and Katalin Zamiar (Kitana, Mileena, Jade) jointly sued Midway Games, Williams Electronics Games, Acclaim, Nintendo, and Sega, for using their likenesses in an unauthorized way. "[They sought] a constructive trust on all monies defendants received and continued to receive from their alleged breach of their duties to [the] plaintiffs."[146] Ahn, Zamiar, and Melecki alleged "...that they were only modeling for the coin-operated video game, not the subsequent home video, home computer, and hand-held versions of the game." The conclusion of Philip Ahn v. Midway Manufacturing, et al. was "The plaintiffs lost on all counts because they had all consented to the videotaping and because the choreography and choice of movements used in the game were not jointly 'authored' by the individuals."[147]

On November 22, 1997, 13-year-old Noah Wilson died when his friend Yancy stabbed him in the chest with a kitchen knife. The mother of Noah, Andrea Wilson, alleges that her son was stabbed to death because of his obsession with the Midway game Mortal Kombat. She alleges that Yancy S. was so obsessed with the game, that the child thought he was actually the character Cyrax. This character, Cyrax, used a finishing move in which the character grabs the opponent in a headlock and stabs the character's opponent in the chest. Wilson alleges that this is the maneuver in which Yancy S., killed her son. However, despite the character's other varieties of finishing moves, the character Cyrax does not actually perform this move at all. The conclusion of Wilson v. Midway games, Inc. was, according to the court case report, "Wilson's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The product liability counts fail because Mortal Kombat is not a "product" within the purview-of the CPLA [...]"[148]

In 2006, attorney Jack Thompson ordered a cease and desist to Mortal Kombat: Armageddon stating, "It has today come to my attention that the newly recently Mortal Kombat: Armageddon contains an unauthorized commercial exploitation of my name, photograph, image, and likeness within the game."[149] In fact, what Thompson thought was an actual character put by the developer into the game, was actually created by a player, who used the game's "kreate-a-fighter" mode to construct a likeness of Thompson and demonstrated it in a film on YouTube. Thompson had the video successfully removed.[150]


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