Genre: Fighting
Year: 1993
Developed by: Midway
Published by: Midway
Platforms: 2 many to name here (SNES & Genesis mainly)
Feeling Like: 2 Kombat 2 Mortal

This will be the last Mortal Kombat game you’ll find on the 500.

It’s strange, I always thought of myself as more of a “Street Fighter” guy, but you’ll only find one of those versus four Mortal Kombats. Why?

It’s not that they’re technically superior; even back then I knew the fighting itself felt loose and the music didn’t come close to the unforgettable themes of Ken, Guile and Cammy. But the attitude and hoopla really sucked me in. I liked the idea that I was playing something taboo. The only television program my parents ever banned me from watching was Married…With Children.

Guess which show Dobbo and I stayed up until midnight to watch on low volume?

Same thing with Mortal Kombat. The violence was deplorable. The gore was unnecessary. And it was a hell of a time.

Maybe it was the constant, consistent releases? Mortal Kombat launched in 1992, the sequel just a year later. The third in 1995 and Mortal Kombat 4 in 1996. Four game in four years, at a time when I was seriously interested in fighting games. They populated the arcades like bar regulars, refusing to budge and loudly enticing you to try them out. They were the perfect rental for birthday parties; nothing gets a group of adolescent boys more excited than a newly discovered fatality or a code used or a secret character revealed. The entire series is rife with these kinds of discoveries.

I didn’t experiment much with which character to pick. I knew some of the characters from the original, but I also saw that Mileena used a sai. Raphael from the Ninja Turtles used a sai. Therefore, I would play Mileena.

It helped that her moves are as basic as they come. There aren’t any complicated inputs, no “up” arrow direction involved – slight tangent, it’s one of my biggest gaming pet peeves that “up” was jump in Mortal Kombats and ALSO an input used for various moves. Game design has come a long way.

Back to Mileena. I still remember the button: hold High Punch and release for Sai Throw. Forward, Forward Low Kick for her Teleporting Kick. Back, Back, Down, High kick for her Cannonball Roll. Her nom nom fatality was hold High Kick for five seconds and release. Poof, So easy, even a 10 year old can do it. And I did it a lot.

Nintendo had learned its lesson from Mortal Kombat – the blood was back, and the fatalities were as gruesome as ever. Maybe that’s why I leaned into the series; I was too much of a wimp to enjoy full on horror movies, but horror-adjacent games were perfectly acceptable (to me, I doubt my parents would have been thrilled had they known the visceral spectacle I was taking part in).

This is where I get off the Mortal Kombat bus, but the series has lasted far beyond what anybody could have expected, even at the height of its cultural relevance. There have been 23 iterations to date, including spin-offs, updates and mobile versions. Mortal Kombat 11 came out only a few years ago, to widespread critical acclaim. If parents thought the Fatalities in the original were offensive, the latest versions would give them heart attacks. I’m genuinely concerned for the developers who had to make these – watch at your own risk.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s what Mortal Kombat should be – a freak show, a spectacle, a party game to play with your friends created by artists willing to always, always cross the line in the name of a good time.

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