Mortal kombat logo

Mortal Kombat is a best-selling series of fighting games created by Ed Boon and John Tobias in 1992. Mortal Kombat began as a series of arcade games, which were picked up by Acclaim Entertainment for the home console versions. Then Midway Games exclusively created home versions of Mortal Kombat. The series was then sold to Warner Bros. in July 2009.[1]

It is especially noted for its digitized sprites (which differentiated it from its contemporaries' hand-drawn sprites), and its high levels of blood and gore, including, most notably, its graphic fatalities—finishing moves, requiring a sequence of buttons to perform, which, in part, led to the creation of the ESRB. The series itself is also known for using the letter "K" in place of "C" for the hard C sound, thus misspelling the word "combat," as well as other words with the hard C sound within later games in the series.


The Mortal Kombat characters played virtually identically to one another (with the exception of unplayable bosses and hidden characters). Whereas other fighting games had characters with considerable differences in speed, range, height, normal moves, strength of normal moves, walking speeds, jumping heights and distances, and so on; characters in Mortal Kombat differed mostly in their special moves and finishing moves.[citation needed] In an interview with Computer and Video Games video game magazine, Ed Boon stated, "[...] 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." [2]

Midway changed this in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance by differentiating characters normal moves and even giving them multiple fighting styles. Most characters would have two unarmed fighting styles, and one weapons style. There are a few exceptions to this, such as monster-like characters like Onaga, who would have only one fighting style. Most of the fighting styles featured are based on real martial arts styles, though a few of them are not. 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.

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 (with the exception of Baraka, who uses two fighting styles, one utilizing the retractable blades in his arms, and Deathstroke who also possesses the ability to use another fighting style in the form of a sword).

Mortal Kombat introduced the fatalities which are finishing moves that allow players to end a fight by killing their opponent in a gruesome manner.[3] Finishing moves in later games included the Animality (turning into an animal to violently finish off the opponent), the Mercy (where the victor gives a little health to the opponent), the Brutality (bashing an opponent into pieces with a long combination of hits or combo), the Hara-Kiri (as described by Gamespot, "[...] the hara-kiri, or self-fatality. Basically, players who've lost a match have the ability to punch in a command to perform a self-fatality." )[4], the Friendship, "[which] include[s] giving opponents a present or a bouquet of flowers, instead of killing them"[5], and the Babality "[where] your opponent turns into a baby."[5]. The Babality and Friendship moves were created as a satirical non-violent finishing move, a sarcastic swipe at the U.S. congressional Investigation for Violence in Videogames who came down harshly on the Mortal Kombat games. Purists, fonder of the earlier style, were upset by the introduction of such finishing moves, and Mortal Kombat's "purely explicit" and dark gameplay was once again implemented upon the release of Mortal Kombat 4.


[1][2]Screenshot of Mortal Kombat.The original Mortal Kombat was developed with digitized sprites based on actors, as opposed to animated cartoon graphics.[6] Mortal Kombat 4 brought the series into 3D, replacing the digitized fighters of previous games with polygon models, while Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance dropped the fighting style of previous games, in favor of giving each character a number of different fighting styles. This was the first MK game to include a "Konquest" mode, which would be developed for later titles into a story-based adventure minigame.

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.[7]

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.[7] Later games added other ninjas based on the same model: Noob Saibot (fully black), Smoke (gray with an attire that emitted clouds of smoke), Ermac (red), and Rain (purple). Chameleon was later introduced as a ninja whose attire changed to match the other ninjas. When this happened, he adopted their special moves; for example, when facing Sub-Zero, Chameleon turned blue and adopted Sub-Zero's special moves.

Easter eggs and secretsEdit

Mortal Kombat included secret characters, secret games, and other Easter eggs. Mortal Kombat 3, for example, included a hidden game of Galaxian.[8] Many extras in the series have only been accessible through very challenging, demanding, and sometimes coincidental requirements.

In the 1992 arcade original when fighting on The Pit stage (the bridge), the player could qualify to fight the hidden character Reptile.[9] The requirements to face Reptile would be met on home ports if the fighter achieved a double flawless victory without blocking, and performed the standard finishing move, rather than the finishing uppercut to the pit. In some versions, a silhouette must float across the moon in the background during the fight, as described below. Reptile's character was a merger between the Sub-Zero and Scorpion characters. In Mortal Kombat II, Reptile would be developed into a full character with his own special moves and would be available from the outset. The Sega Mega Drive/Genesis versions had some unique eggs: in Mortal Kombat, a headshot of President of Probe Software Fergus McGovern flew in front of the moon the Pit stage, while in Mortal Kombat II, Raiden could perform a "Fergality" by pressing Back, Back, Back, Block during a fatality on the Armory stage.

Some Easter eggs originated from private jokes between members of the Mortal Kombat development team. The best-known 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 sing the word "Toasty" (players could face the hidden character Smoke when this happened in the "Portal" stage). Later games included other jokes that originated in similar fashion; Mortal Kombat 4 had characters quickly uttering unintelligible battle cries such as saying "ooh I'm gonna throw you over there" when a player performed a throw (many are, in fact, screams of silly words in Spanish like "play the piano.") Another note of interest in Mortal Kombat 4, Forden would also appear at the bottom of the screen and sing "Toasty 3D!" referring to the fact the Mortal Kombat 4 was the first 3D game in the series. "Toasty" is also found in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks after pulling off a chain of hits and will appear randomly, but the picture of Forden will not appear. Pressing the start button during the "Toasty" will also result in the player receiving a 1000 experience bonus points.[10][11] 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 backwards. In addition, Ermac's name is short for "error macro" referring to the glitch in previous games, when a ninja character would turn red, and Mokap's name is short for "Motion capture" and is based upon Carlos Pesina who leads the motion capture team for modern MK games.


Video gamesEdit

Fighting gamesEdit

The first Mortal Kombat title was released for Arcade during August 1992, having since been ported to over ten consoles. The sequel, Mortal Kombat II was released for arcades in 1993, featuring an increased roster and improved graphics. Mortal Kombat 3 followed in 1995 in both arcade and console versions, 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, and Mortal Kombat Trilogy the next one. The following game, Mortal Kombat 4, was released in 1997, and ported to the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, 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 (also depicted by its logo as Mortal Kombat V[12]), the series' naming scheme changed to favor the use of sub-titles instead of the previously usual numbering.[13] Also, it was 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. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was thus released in 2002 for the Xbox, PlayStation 2 (PS2), and GameCube. Two ports for the Game Boy Advance were also released under the name of Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition and Mortal Kombat: Deadly Revenge during 2003. The sequel from Deadly Alliance is Mortal Kombat: Deception developed in 2004 for the PS2, Xbox and GameCube.[14][15][16] A port for the PlayStation Portable, Mortal Kombat: Unchained, was released in 2006 by Just Games Interactive.[17] Mortal Kombat: Armageddon was published in the same year for the PS2, Xbox, and the Wii. 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. The latest 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, with a ninth game in the series, initially known as Mortal Kombat 9 in development by Warner Bros. Games' Chicago studio, formerly Midway Games Chicago.[18][19]

Adventure gamesEdit

Besides the fighting games, there are three adventure titles which work as spin-offs from the MK storyline. Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero was released in 1997 for the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. The story is focused in the first incarnation character of Sub-Zero prior to the start of the first game. The next adventure game is Mortal Kombat: Special Forces released in 2000 only for the PlayStation. It is an action game starring Major Jackson Briggs in his missions to capture criminals. Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks was released in 2005 for the PS2 and the Xbox. The game stars Liu Kang and Kung Lao, and tells an alternate version of the events between the first and second Mortal Kombat tournaments.

Other gamesEdit

Raiden, Reptile, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero appeared as playable characters in early versions of the arcade game NBA Jam TE and its Sega Saturn conversion.[20] Raiden and Shinnok appeared as unlockable characters in the original NFL Blitz game as well as in NFL Blitz '99.[21][22] Scorpion, Noob Saibot, and Sub-Zero can be unlocked in the third-person arcade shooter The Grid.[23] Scorpion can be unlocked as a skin for the main character of the Midway game Psi Ops.[24] Raiden appeared as an unlockable character in Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict[25](which coincidentally also included a fatality system similar to MK's). Shao Kahn's voice is also an alternate to the default announcer. Sub-Zero and Scorpion both appear as secret characters in MLB Slugfest Loaded.[26] In NBA Ballers: Phenom, in the Training Academy stage, characters such as Sub-Zero, Raiden, and Liu Kang in the background watch streetball with the crowd.[27]The Mortal Kombat characters are also featured in the trading card game Epic Battles which pits them against characters from other fighting game series.

Other mediaEdit

Movies and televisionEdit

Mortal Kombat was adapted into two major motion pictures, Mortal Kombat (1995), and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997). Neither film was screened for critics prior to theatrical release. The first movie was well received by fans of the series and became a financial success, eventually grossing $70 million in the U.S. (and over $125 million worldwide) while jump starting the Hollywood careers of Paul W. S. Anderson and Robin Shou, among others. That momentum did not carry over into Annihilation, however, which suffered from a poor reception with critics and fans alike, and took in only $30 million in the U.S. A third film is currently in the development stage with a tentative release date of 2010, having read the script, Ed Boon has stated the next movie will actually be more of a reboot, as opposed to a third sequel as previously believed. The title "Mortal Kombat Devastation" appears to have been scrapped, as the current working title is simply "Mortal Kombat".

The franchise also sparked two TV series, the 1996 animated series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm and the 1998-1999 live-action Mortal Kombat: Conquest. Neither series ran for more than one season (despite the popularity of Conquest). In 1995, an animated prequel to the first movie, titled Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins, was released straight to home video. Coinciding with the popularity of TV media, the Mortal Kombat: Live Tour was launched at the end of 1995. The tour expanded to 1996 featuring MK characters in a theatrical display on stage.

Other merchandiseEdit

See also: Mortal Kombat comic booksThere have been several graphic novels based on Mortal Kombat. There were official MK and MKII comic books, the latter of which was written by Tobias. Both were advertised in the attract modes on early versions of the first two MK games. Meanwhile, 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.

Brady Games also produced a collectible card game based on Mortal Kombat called Mortal Kombat Kard Game in 1996.

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.

Mortal Kombat: The Album, a techno album based on the first game was created by the Immortals in 1994. It featured two themes for the game, Techno Syndrome and Hypnotic House. Techno Syndrome was adapted for the 1995 movie soundtrack, and incorporated the familiar Mortal Kombat yell first shown in the MK1 commercial for home systems.[1] 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) and as source recordings in the Comparative Anatomy song 'Elephantality.'[citation needed]


Mortal Kombat started development in 1991 with only four people; Ed Boon, John Tobias, John Vogel, and Dan Forden.[28] 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"[29] 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.[30] In a podcast interview with the Official Xbox Magazine, Ed Boon stated for six out of the 8 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."[31]

The series itself commonly uses the letter "K" in place of "C" for the hard C sound, thus misspelling the word "combat," as well as other words with the hard C sound within later games in the series. According to an interview with CraveOnline, Ed Boon stated that during game development they initially spell out the word grammatically correct as it should be but, "...someone on the team will always say, 'Shouldn't that be spelled with a K?' 'Oh, you're right, you're right.' Then we correct it like that. We don't try to do it but somebody will point it out at some point in the game."[32]

As outlined in an article by TIME in 2001, the team switched from digitized actors to motion capture technology stating, "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."[33]


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: Earthrealm, home to such legendary heroes as Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, Liu Kang, 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.[34][35] 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, Sonya Blade, and Johnny Cage. With the help of the Thunder God Raiden, the Earthrealm warriors are victorious and Liu Kang becomes the new champion of Mortal Kombat.[36] In Mortal Kombat II, unable to deal with Shang Tsung's failure, Outworld Emperor Shao Kahn forces Earthrealm warriors to go to Outworld by kidnapping Sonya. They eventually thwart Shao Kahn's sinister plan and rescue Sonya. The Earthrealm warriors defeat Shao Kahn, ending his threat. With Kahn defeated, Edenia was freed from Outworld, and was returned to a whole realm. By Mortal Kombat 3, Shao Kahn revives Sindel, the Edenian queen in Earthrealm who committed suicide, combining it with Outworld. As such he attempts to invade Earthrealm but is defeated by the Earthrealm's warriors. The following game, Mortal Kombat 4, features the former elder god Shinnok attempting to conquer the realms and attempting to kill his enemy Raiden. However, he too is 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. Onaga, who had been freed by Reptile at the end of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance,[37] had deceived Shujinko, the protagonist of Mortal Kombat: Deception, into searching for six pieces of Kamidogu,[35] the source of Onaga's power. Onaga then confronted the alliance of Raiden, Shang Tsung, and Quan Chi and thusly obtained Quan Chi's amulet,[38] 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. [39]

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.[40]

Contributing cultural materialEdit

The Mortal Kombat mythology borrows heavily from multiple sources, primarily Asian cultures, particularly Chinese and Japanese religions, languages, and martial arts, while also bearing close resemblance to Norse myths.


  • The White Lotus Society to which Liu Kang belonged may have been named after the secret White Lotus Society which existed in China during the Yuan Dynasty and Ming Dynasty. A white lotus is traditionally symbolic of death as well as purity. This is also seen as a Buddhist society. Members include Liu Kang, Kung Lao, and Kai.
  • The Lin Kuei assassins' clan that Sub-Zero hails from is based on the Lin Kuei, a secretive Chinese/Japanese cult that was known for its espionage, thievery, and living in the island between Japan and China. They were called "Lin Kuei" or "forest demons" because they lived in the forests and were known to terrorize nearby villages in order to steal goods and items for the benefits of their clan. It was said that they were one of the causes that helped develop the art of Ninjutsu in Japan.
    In the fictional storyline, the clan hails from the northern part of Asia. The group has existed in the Mortal Kombat universe for centuries and work as assassins and thieves for pay. According to this storyline, its warriors are chosen from birth to be raised apart from the day to day civilizations.[41] According to the fictional storyline, Takeda, a rogue Japanese-born Lin Kuei left the Lin Kuei and developed the art of ninjitsu. He then developed the first ninja clan in Japan called the Shirai Ryu.[42] Members include Tremor (former member currently aligned with the Black Dragon), both Sub-Zeros, Frost, Smoke, Cyrax, Sektor, and (possibly at one time according to his UMK3 Bio) Rain.
  • The Wu Shi Academy follows Theravada Buddhism.
  • The Black Dragon clan may be based loosely on the historical Black Dragon Society. Members include Kano, Kabal, Jarek, Kira, Tremor, No Face, Tasia, and Kobra.
  • The Red Dragon clan is very well known rivals with the Black Dragon. Members include Mavado, Hsu Hao, and Daegon.
  • The Brotherhood of Shadow is a clan of assassins based on the Lin Kuei. Led by Noob Saibot, the clan consists of previously deceased assassins. They appear as enemies in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks in a section of the Living Forest,[43] which is the only place they appear in MK:SM and also in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon's Konquest mode.[44] However, Noob Saibot and Smoke are the only two members to be included on the Kombatant roster in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.


  • The Elder Gods are taken from the concept of Buddhist Elder Gods headed by the Jade Emperor who watch over the Universe. Even the places attributed to the Elder Gods looks like those in Chinese Mythology.
  • The Netherealm, which Shinnok (loosely based on Yan Wang) rules resembles Di Yu or the Chinese picture of Hell. The prison cells almost resemble Di Yu's level where the prisoners are shredded to pieces as the Chamber of Grinding. Such a stage can also be seen in The Slaughterhouse in Mortal Kombat: Deception. Shinnok's Spire is somewhat like the chambers of Hell.
  • The Orderrealm and Chaosrealm resemble the Yin and Yang of Taoism. The Orderrealm is similar to the Heavenly Courts in Chinese Mythology, responsible for enforcing order.
  • The concept of the One Being comes from Pangu, one who the Elder Gods led by the Jade Emperor to form all of reality and form the seven artifacts of Buddhism.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.