After ''VideoGame/MortalKombat3'' and ''VideoGame/MortalKombatMythologiesSubZero'', Midway decided it would venture into 3D -- which gave rise to '''''Mortal Kombat 4''''', released in 1997 for the Arcade, GameBoyColor, PC, PlayStation, and Nintendo 64.

[[ALongTimeAgoInAGalaxyFarFarAway Thousands of years ago]], Raiden waged war against former Elder God [[FallenHero Shinnok]]; this war ended an entire civilization, and Shinnok was later condemned to the Netherrealm. [[VideoGame/MortalKombatMythologiesSubZero The original Sub-Zero was deceived to free him]], and years later, Shinnok allies himself with the villainous Quan Chi. With the help of Edenian traitor Tanya, the evil duo [[RageAgainstTheHeavens ascended to the Heavens and killed most of the Elder Gods]]. Raiden and the Wind God Fujin escaped, then gathered Raiden's most trustworthy allies in order to defeat Shinnok and his allies.

The playable characters for this game are [[BigBad Shinnok]], [[TheDragon Quan Chi]], [[BigGood Raiden]], [[BlowYouAway Fujin]], [[AnIcePerson Sub-Zero]], [[TheBaroness Tanya]], [[BackFromTheDead Johnny Cage]], [[ColonelBadass Jax]], [[TheHero Liu Kang]], Reptile (with a new design), [[LikeABadassOutOfHell Scorpion]], Sonya Blade, [[SecretCharacter Noob Saibot]], and [[MultiArmedAndDangerous Goro]] (as [[TheDragon sub-boss]]). The game also introduced [[AxCrazy Jarek]], [[MartialPacifist Kai]], [[TheStarscream Reiko]], and [[SecretCharacter Meat]].

In order to test its "virgin" 3D engine, Midway released a "test game", ''VideoGame/WarGods'', which was panned by critics and allowed Midway to learn from its mistakes before finalizing ''[=MK4=]''. Midway changed the engine to allow only two slow movements on the z-axis (the side steps, which only worked to dodge beam-attacks), which made ''[=MK4=]'' similar to previous games (and thus helped it to avoid hitting the PolygonCeiling). ''[=MK4=]'' also introduced the weapon fighting system to the franchise.

''[=MK4=]'' was updated with the release of ''[[UpdatedRerelease Mortal Kombat Gold]]'' for the SegaDreamcast in 1999, which brought back six older characters: [[BladeBelowTheShoulder Baraka]], [[RebelliousPrincess Kitana]], [[FanDisservice Mileena]], [[NiceHat Kung Lao]], [[IJustWantToBeNormal Cyrax]], and [[AIIsACrapshoot Sektor]].

The game performed well in arcades and was deemed a success, although it reached nowhere near the levels of success of its predecessors and it was clear that the glory days of ''Mortal Kombat'' were over: people were starting to lose interest in the series due to overexposure and the series' "cool-factor" having worn off. In hindsight it tends to be seen as the weakest entry in the series, and has gotten a (not quite deserved) reputation as the series' FranchiseKiller.

Followed by '''VideoGame/MortalKombatDeadlyAlliance'''.
!The game has the following trope examples:
* AmbidextrousSprite: Surprisingly for a 3D game with models, they would do this at changing sides.
* BigNever: Two of the endings (actually four, but Jarek's is used in three different endings which start in the same situation[[note]]Sonya's, his and Jax's[[/note]]).
* {{Cap}}: Introduced to prevent players from being locked in endless combos. It could be turned off in the home versions though.
* ChuckCunninghamSyndrome: Kitana, Jade, and Sindel don't appear in this game, even though it's set in their homeworld of Edenia (''Gold'' somewhat rectified this by including Kitana and Mileena). Also, Noob Saibot is only a secret character, despite his presence in ''3'' foreshadowing Shinnok's return in this game.
* DevelopmentGag: Liu Kang can turn into a dragon which resembles the logo of the series.
* DummiedOut: Quite a few things.
** In the original game old characters were last-minute changed for new ones. Kitana (returning in ''Gold'') in favor of Tanya, Noob Saibot (although he's still playable via a code) in favor of Reiko and Kano in favor of Jarek. This explains why these new characters have moves/fatalities similar to the older ones, particularly noticeable in the case of Jarek, whose second fatalities is shooting an eye-beam when he doesn't have a robotic eye like Kano does (and he shoots it from ''both eyes'').
*** Kitana is playable in the Nintendo 64 version via Game Shark code; even then, she's clearly a recolor of Tanya with a different face model.
** There was also a stage called Skull.
** ''Gold'' had an unreleased character called [[http://mortalkombat.wikia.com/wiki/Belokk Belokk.]]
* GameBreakingBug: The initial version, which wasn't technically supposed to get out to the public (it had missing Fatalities, no Combo Limiter, missing characters, no endings...) had a bug where one character could lift his opponent to the top of the screen by using a special move properly. The "lift" wouldn't wear off until the target was hit by something else, and nothing could get up that high, so the game was effectively stuck, especially if the game timer was disabled.
** Revision 3.0 had a bug where performing Reptile's Acid Spit fatality on Scorpion would crash the game.
* ItsAWonderfulFailure: Have fun with the Game Over sequence.
* NostalgiaLevel: The Living Forest (from ''2'' and ''Trilogy'') and Goro's Lair (from all three previous games) return, complete with rearrangements of the old BGM.
* PreMortemOneLiner: Delivered to Jarek in Jax's ending, as Jax is holding Jarek by the neck over a cliff.
--> ''Jarek'': "You have to uphold the law! You have to arrest me! Wait! Wait! This is brutality! You can't do it!"
--> ''Jax'': [[LeaningOnTheFourthWall "Wrong Jarek, this is not a Brutality, this is a Fatality."]] (The "Finish Him" music plays as Jax drops him.)
* SelfPlagiarism: ''War Gods'', another bloody fighting game by Midway which was pretty much a beta-test for ''Mortal Kombat 4''.
* UpdatedRerelease: ''MK Gold''.