Video Game: Mortal Kombat 1
"Test Your Might."
— The announcer
"GET OVER HERE!"Mortal Kombat
is a Fighting Game
released in arcades in 1992; it was later ported to the Genesis and Super NES, amongst other gaming platforms.
The basic storyline of the game was similar to other fighting games at the time: Mortal Kombat is a Shaolin martial arts tournament which has been corrupted by its grandmaster. The competitors in this tournament — Liu Kang
, a Shaolin monk; Johnny Cage
, a Hollywood action film star; Sonya Blade
, a United States Special Forces agent; Kano
, a mercenary/killer-for-hire; Raiden
, the God of Thunder; Scorpion
, the reborn specter of a murdered ninja; and Sub-Zero
, an assassin for the Lin Kuei ninja clan — will fight each other for the right to face the grandmaster, Evil Sorcerer Shang Tsung
, and his champion Goro
for the title of Mortal Kombat's champion
The full story wasn't finalized until after the film adaptation was made
— which turned the game's basic plot into something more complex. The Mortal Kombat tournament is a balancing device put in place by the Elder Gods; it acts as an "arbitrator" of sorts, giving realms with interests in another realm a chance to compete for the right to invade. Under the rules set forth by the Elder Gods, one realm must win ten consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments in order to have the opportunity to invade another. Shang Tsung competed in — and won — the Mortal Kombat tournament generations prior, but was later dethroned by the Great Kung Lao, a high-ranking Shaolin monk. At the following tournament, Shang Tsung had a plan: he entered a four-armed monster from Outworld named Goro
into the tournament. Goro proceeded to kill the Great Kung Lao, which allowed Shang Tsung to take control of the tournament. All of this was done at the command of Outworld's emperor, Shao Kahn
, who has plans for conquering Earthrealm. At the time of the events of the game, Shang Tsung has been overseeing the tournament for five hundred years, and Goro has won eight more consecutive tournaments (bringing the total to nine). The Mortal Kombat tournament depicted in this game is the tenth tournament Outworld must win before Shao Kahn gains passage to Earthrealm, which makes it the deciding battle: Earthrealm must defeat Goro and Shang Tsung or face destruction via Outworld's invasion.Mortal Kombat
is known for being one of the most famous
games to use digitized actors (the first
). The game also stood out at the time of its release due to the (semi-)realistic depictions of blood and violence — especially with its infamous Fatalities
. This is the only game in the series to use a score system. It also featured an Easter Egg in the form of a "bonus" battle: by meeting certain requirements, a player could face Reptile
, a Palette Swap
of Scorpion and Sub-Zero who has a mix of both ninjas' powers.
Followed by Mortal Kombat II
This game provides examples of:
- Adjustable Censorship: The Genesis version has a button code that undoes the censorship.
- Bloodier and Gorier: Compared to the more family-friendly games that then dominated the market.
- Bowdlerise: In the SNES port of the first game, Nintendo edited out all the blood, replacing it with an unidentifiable opalescent fluid (
sawdust sweat); the Fatalities were also toned down considerably to fit Nintendo's censorship policies. The Genesis port was similarly Bowdlerized, but one could unlock the violence with a special code. Sales of the SNES version tanked and the Genesis version was a success, so when the second game was ported, the blood and carnage was left intact.
- One funny thing is that one of the cleaned-up Fatalites, which involved Sub-Zero breaking his opponent's body into pieces after freezing him, was pretty brutal anyway. It was turned into one of his Fatalities in the second game.
- Even funnier was that Sub-Zero's Spine Rip Fatality would not be seen again till Mortal Kombat 4.
- The Action Replay Mark II game enhancer, which among other things allowed gamers to bypass Nintendo's security measures and play import games, got fans very very excited because with a complex code it allowed blood back in the game. All it did was turn the sweat red, rather than the more unrealistic buckets of blood the original had.
- Composite Character: Reptile, who combines Sub-Zero's and Scorpion's moveset into one character. His color scheme (green) was even based on the combination of blue and yellow. He would gain his own moveset and an actual backstory in Mortal Kombat II.
- Creator Cameo: The heads of the main people behind the game were impaled on the bottem of the Pit.
- Probe Software, the porting team behind the Genesis MK, included their president, Fergus McGovern, in the game. As a floating head that counts as a moon-obscuring shadow for fighting Reptile, of all things. He also appeared in the sequel as a "Fergality" performable by Raiden.
- Darker and Edgier: Compared to other fighting games at the time.
- Death by Cameo: The creators appear as decapitated heads in the Pit Arena.
- Dynamic Difficulty: The AI more or less adapted to player style. If you didn't use special moves, the computer used them sparingly until later stages. This meant that theoretically, new players were not as hampered by a lack of understanding. Later games scrapped this and went on to innovate the Perfect-Play A.I. style.
- Follow the Leader: Any fighting game with either a focus on gore or digitized graphics that came out in the wake of Mortal Kombat was generally considered a knockoff.
- The Foreign Subtitle: The Japanese versions of the console ports featured the subtitle Shinken Kourin Densetsu (The Legendary Descent of the Divine Fist).
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The Pit contains the first example of a stage fatality.
- Mini-Game: "Test Your Might," where you try breaking wood, stone, or steel. If you play long enough in two-players, you can aim to break Ruby or Diamond.
- Mirror Match: Trope Namer. Shang Tsung makes an evil clone of your character after you defeat the other fighters in one-on-one combat.
- Retcon: Once the story was fleshed out more in the movie, Raiden was made much more noble. In the game he joined the tournament for fun and his ending depicts him dominating it, growing bored and inviting other gods to join in. This results in the complete destruction of the Earth. Have a nice day.
- The entire tournament's purpose was also retconned (due to the movie's Ret Canon influence). Originally the tournament was being helmed by a corrupt grandmaster (Shang Tsung) and Liu Kang was competing in order to restore the tournament's honor. However after the movie the tournament's purpose became a tool of the Elder Gods to maintain order between the realms, turning the specific Mortal Kombat tournament of this game into a battle between Earthrealm and Outworld. Because of this change, this game's roster is missing any Outworld participants (with the possible exceptions of Reptile and Goro, neither of which were of Outworld until Outworld was established as an element in II) and only has Earthrealm warriors competing against each other, which doesn't fit with the setting. This is rectified in Mortal Kombat 9, where Earthrealm directly competes with Outworld's warriors during the tournament.
- Spoiler Opening: The opening video for the Sega CD version shows the characters fighting Shang Tsung and his death animation.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The AI sometimes uses a standing block to resist a sweep kick. Human players can't do this.
- Title Scream: That theme song from the movie? Sega CD owners got an early taste of it.
- Tournament Arc: This is the only time the actual "Mortal Kombat" tournament is relevant to the plot (as the second one in the sequel is merely a ruse), though it is revisited in the ninth installment.
- Whole Plot Reference: The story features a shaolin monk competing alongside a colorful cast of other fighters in a martial arts tournament held by the Big Bad, who is responsible for the death of the monk's sibling. Point for point, the basic story is modeled after Enter the Dragon.
- Wuxia: Compared to the more Fantasy Kitchen Sink elements of later games, this one most aesthetically resembles a Chinese martial arts movie. Enter the Dragon, to be exact. The Movie runs with this, and is damn near a remake of said movie, albeit with magic and ninja included.