End of Days

Unlike the last time they tried to complete a trilogy, Midway knew not to make any bold cuts to the roster. Instead, they decided to focus on character selection as the cornerstone of the third title of the third game in their new series. Mortal Kombat: Armageddon would be the culmination of nearly 15 years of history, bringing back nearly every character, for a roster of over 60 fighters, and closing a major chapter in the saga.

There was a great deal of rebalancing, bringing a greater aerial game and increased maneuverability, as well as a new parry system to help lend more of a back and forth to defensive strategies. The fatality system was seriously revamped for the first time, allowing players to string together different deadly moves to create their own finisher. Some complained that the massive selection of characters were a bit redundant, while others were sore that there were no character-specific cut-scenes to flesh out the story, but most were just happy to see all their old favorites return.

Konquest Mode was once again overhauled, thanks to the action game experience the studio gained with Shaolin Monks. Rather than the more adventure-like leanings of Deception's Konquest, Armageddon's was more of an honest beat 'em up with brisk combat that actually worked as an action game. The depth of this mode once again set the benchmark for fighting game quest modes.

Diversions returned, as well. While the number of mini-games had been reduced to one, it was a pretty substantial addition. Motor Kombat parodied the Mario Kart series by letting giant-headed versions of the game's most popular characters settle their scores in a go-kart race. The action included side swipe buttons and "fatality" wipe outs to humorous effect. The game's online play was even extended to support this goofy extra.

It would seem like any fan's dream, and it was a good way to close the generation, but even though the title still managed to move a million units by the end of the year, it didn't sell as well as the previous two. Maybe it was the fact that it was the third game to use the engine, or the exciting lure of new hardware taking away its sheen, but there were early signs of a possible decline.

Midway knew they needed to start fresh again. They surprised everyone when they announced that the first Mortal Kombat of the new generation would share the bill with the comic book heroes and villains of the DC universe. The crossover left many scratching their heads, but eventually the vision became clear. Mortal Kombat had always targeted the same audience as comic books and superhero movies, and the overlap of their fans was huge. Sure, the two universes couldn't be more different, but partnership could be the perfect fit.

It's that ability to change and surprise that has made the Mortal Kombat legacy so important. Even as a series spawned to capitalize on an emerging genre, it set more trends than it followed. When many had written it off as a fad past its prime, it reinvented itself and reclaimed its place as a multi-million seller, even as sales of other fighters sagged. By conventional wisdom, the series should have died long ago, but as long as young men still have dark dreams, and their fathers still have memories, Mortal Kombat will live on.