Developed by: Midway
Published by: Midway
Platforms: Arcade, Genesis, SNES
Feeling Like: Counter-cultured
I already mentioned how revolutionary Mortal Kombat was in my Mortal Kombat Trilogy review, so I won’t go over it in much detail here again. Needless to say, the Midway team responsible may not have created a new genre, but they certainly paved the way for many future classics. They revealed to the world a new way for youth to express themselves. Naturally, this made older generations more than a little uncomfortable. A counter culture had emerged, and kids everywhere wanted to toss aside “kiddy” games and graphics for ultra violent, gore-filled mayhem. When Mortal Kombat arrived, the establishment had no idea what to do.
I also had no idea what to do, or think. All I knew was that I was going to get into trouble if I told my parents what I played at Sean’s house.
It looks rudimentary now, but back then, digitized actors weren’t something we’d seen before. It added a level of realism to the already brutal fracas we were viewing on the screen. It wasn’t just that you could rip somebody’s head off, it was the shower of blood that accompanied the revolting act AND the dangling spinal cord to boot. This was gore for the sake of gore, and that was unacceptably shocking to many.
Of course, we had to try it on the Genesis. There wasn’t a code on the Super Nintendo that enabled blood, and we NEEDED TO SEE BLOOD, OK? Despite it having zero consequences on the gameplay itself, our young impressionable minds wanted to experience the taboo.
I knew right away that I preferred Street Fighter 2, but I didn’t want to admit that in front of my friends. This was the newest and coolest thing; I wanted to be a part of it. Most of the fatalities required button inputs that we weren’t privy to – we had to rely on heresay from friends about how to do it, or be lucky enough to have a gaming magazine handy. It didn’t help that I found the Genesis’ controller wholly inferior to the Super Nintendo. “Start” was block, I think? It also didn’t help that I never really found a character I loved; they were all cool, but none of the movesets matched my admittedly amateur play. I stuck with Sub Zero and Liu Kang, but wouldn’t find a favorite until later Mortal Kombats.
When the movie adaptation came out, it just became another excuse to whip out the cartridge and re-enact the signature fights; Johnny Cage vs. Scorpion, Sonya Blade vs. Kano and Liu Kang vs Sub-Zero. Sorry Raiden, Christopher Lambert was well beyond his Highlander years.
It’s no badge of shame that Mortal Kombat will be fondly remembered for the visceral visuals, or impact on the industry rather than gameplay that holds up. Classic movies are almost always better than their sequels and tend to stand the test of time; games don’t have that advantage, but their sequels are often far superior. This is true also for Mortal Kombat, as this was just the beginning. And if you ever want to feel how a parent felt in 1992, check out Mortal Kombat 11’s grizzly fatalities.