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History of Mortal Kombat

We explore the robust history of Mortal Kombat, one of the greatest fighting game franchises of all time.


The arcade industry had been in a bit of a slump in the late 1980s – the rise of home systems like the NES had made quarter-munchers less alluring to kids who could simply play games at home. Arcade manufacturers responded by pumping up the tech of their machines to deliver better graphics and faster gameplay, but that was merely a stopgap measure. Something needed to be done to make the coinop relevant again, and in 1991 Japanese company Capcom did so with the release of Street Fighter II. The insanely popular one-on-one brawler turned the arcade into a social place for gaming, where players could duel against each other in a mano a mano clash for supremacy. Its success inspired dozens of other fighters, but the most notable is 1992's Midway release, Mortal Kombat. Learn about the franchise from the days of yore to the latest model in this feature.

Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat

Eschewing the hand-drawn anime style of Japanese games, MK used digitized photography of the nine main characters, putting them in a no holds barred tournament for supremacy. Mortal Kombat was notable for its darker, grittier style as well – taking inspiration from previous digitized brawler Pit Fighter, the realistic-looking characters hit so hard that they drew blood and could perform "fatalities," grisly over-the-top finishing moves that ended a match in high style with spines ripped out, heads severed, and fountains of gore. The game also introduced the concept of "juggling" to the fighting world, allowing kombatants to hit their foes multiple times in mid-air. It also used an unusual button layout, including a dedicated "block" button that allowed players to negate most of the damage from any attack. Add in Reptile, the first secret character in any fighting game ever, and you've got a Originally, the series creators Ed Boon and John Tobias wanted to make a licensed game with Jean-Claude Van Damme, based on his movie Bloodsport, but when the Muscles from Brussels pulled out they crafted an original story of a demonic tournament that would become an unprecedented success.

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