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Video Game / Mortal Kombat

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A 2000 year old half human, half dragon, Goro has remained undefeated for the last 500 years. He won the title of Grand Champion by defeating Kung Lao, a Shaolin fighting monk. It was during this period that the tournament fell into Shang Tsung's hands and was corrupted.
— The game's Attract Mode story screen.

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. It is the first instalment in the Mortal Kombat franchise.

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 kompetitors in this tournament—Liu Kang, a Shaolin monk; Johnny Cage, a Hollywood action film star; Sonya Blade, an United States Special Forces agent; Kano, a mercenary/killer-for-hire; Raiden, the God of Thunder; Scorpion, the reborn spectre 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, 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 form of "arbitration" by giving realms with interests in another realm the 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 against another realm to have a chance at invading the losing realm. Shang Tsung competed in—and won—a Mortal Kombat tournament against Earthrealm generations prior, but was later dethroned by the Great Kung Lao, a high-ranking Shaolin monk. At the next Mortal Kombat, Shang Tsung entered a four-armed monster from Outworld named Goro into the tournament. Goro killed Kung Lao, won the tournament, and allowed Shang Tsung to take control of it—all at the behest of Outworld's emperor, Shao Kahn, who wants to conquer Earthrealm. At the time of this game's events, Shang Tsung has overseen the tournament for five hundred years, Goro has won nine consecutive tournaments, and the Mortal Kombat tournament in this game is the last tournament Outworld must win to begin its invasion. Earthrealm's champions must defeat Goro and Shang Tsung to avoid annihilation.


Mortal Kombat is known for being one of the most famous games to use digitized actors (the first was Pit-Fighter). 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 uses a mix of both their powers.

Followed by Mortal Kombat II.

See also:

Mortal Kombat kontains the following tropes:

  • Adjustable Censorship: The Genesis version has a button code that undoes the censorship.
  • All There in the Manual: Most of the greater backstory of this game was either in strategy guides, the manuals or the comic book tie-in. To its credit, the PC version added an extra screen to its Attract Mode that hinted at the tournament's greater purpose.
  • Big "NO!": If a male character gets grabbed by Goro during his pound move, he'll say "OH NO!!"
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Compared to the more family-friendly games that then dominated the market. It's also the game that caused the ESRB to exist.
  • Bowdlerise:
    • In the SNES port of the first game, Nintendo edited out all the blood, replacing it with an unidentifiable opalescent fluid (that the manual called "sweat"); most of the Fatalities were also toned down to various degrees to fit Nintendo's censorship policies.note  The Genesis port was similarly Bowdlerizednote , but one could unlock the violence (and original Fatalities) with a special code. As a result, the SNES version was widely disliked by fans of the arcade version (despite being otherwise truer to the arcade original) and the Genesis version was a success, so when the second game was ported, the blood and carnage was left intact. Mortal Kombat II was released on consoles just two weeks before the industry-wide ESRB rating system was rolled out. Nintendo did not have its own rating system as Sega did at the time, so the front of the SNES box had a generic box warning parents that the game was unsuitable for players under 17 years of age.
    • One funny thing is that one of the cleaned-up SNES 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.
    • Also funny what Nintendo considered "non-violent", since Sonya and Scorpion's Fatalities were untouched, and Raiden and Sub-Zero's were still clearly fatal. Apparently, burning someone down to a skeleton, shattering them, or disintegrating them to dust is just fine.
  • Classic Cheat Code: The Sega Genesis version famously had the "Blood code" ABACABB (referencing the album Abacab by... Genesis), and also a cheat\Debug Mode menu that mostly used the directionals, DULLARD.
  • Composite Character: Reptile, who combines Sub-Zero's and Scorpion's move set 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.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The AI sometimes uses a standing block to resist a sweep kick. Human players can't do this.
  • Creator Cameo: The heads of the main people behind the game were impaled on the bottom 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.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • This was the only game in the series to have a score system.
    • "Fatality" wasn't written in the franchise-standard blood red letters but mere flashing green text.
    • The roundhouse didn't send opponents flying across the stage.
    • The Pit stage fatality wasn't actually counted as a Fatality (unless you pulled it off using Liu Kang's fatality.) And for that matter, the stage fatality of this game not requiring a character-specific button combo to perform, you just need to end the fight with a regular uppercut.
    • Far from the sagely mentor who would give it his all to protect Earthrealm, Raiden was a callous and arrogant punk of a god who was invited to the tournament by Shang Tsung and, in his ending, destroys Earthrealm by inviting other gods to participate since he's bored of mortal competition.
    • The biography screens having animated images for all of the playable fighters.
    • The "Test Your Might" minigame was part of the single player arcade game between matches, which would only happen again in Deadly Alliance. Other games had it as a separate minigame. They would also happen every 6 matches in multiplayer, something no MK game other than Deadly Alliance has done since.
    • Mirror Matches being mandatory parts of the arcade ladder, taking place after you beat every other opponent.
    • Endurance Rounds being mandatory as well, there being three of them and the third match would always take place at Goro's Lair.
    • Speaking of which, in the first game only, winning the third and final Endurance round would result in Goro dropping down from above, the game thus immediately transitioning into the Goro boss fight. This was hinted at during the Endurance round by the area shaking with massive footfalls and roars sounding from afar. Other games that had bosses instead went to the ladder screen to show you about to face the boss before loading the fight itself and had no such impending in-game warning that the sub-boss was approaching.
    • For that matter even the arcade game itself had a case of this in its first versions. The first official release of the game lacked Reptile and two-player mirror matches.
    • The game not describing its plot in as much detail as later games would. At most, it had the "Goro Lives" screen which described his victory over the Great Kung Lao. The PC version at least added an extra story screen taking the form of a tournament invitation which hinted that the tournament was for the fate of the Earth.
    • In a Mirror Match, both characters have the same palette, only one looks slightly darker than the other. The only character who had a true palette swap was Sonya.
    • The locales of each stage are fairly mundane compared to the more fantastical environments in the sequels.
  • The Foreign Subtitle: The Japanese versions of the console ports featured the subtitle Shinken Kourin Densetsu (The Legendary Descent of the Divine Fist).
  • Game Mod: One exists for the Genesis/Megadrive port that brings it much more in line with the arcade original, adding back in numerous sound effects, giving Sub-Zero back his own fighting stance (rather than sharing one with Scorpion), restoring more animations and visual effects throughout, and —perhaps the coolest new feature— it finally makes Reptile a playable character, complete with his ability to use both Sub-Zero and Scorpion's powers.
  • Groin Attack: One of Johnny Cage's attacks, the Split Punch, involves him dropping into the splits and landing a painful punch to the opponent's nethers - it tends to leave you open to a counterattack though if it connects, and is more for humiliation. It can't be performed on Sonya and, despite what the movie might imply, Goro is also immune (Johnny doesn't even punch in these situations - he just does the splits).
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The Pit contains the first example of a stage fatality.note 
  • 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 kombat.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The Gameboy and Game Gear versions of the game had to adapt the game for the use of two action buttons and the Start key for all of the characters' moves; also, one character was left out of each of the handheld versions (Johnny Cage and Kano respectively); Reptile was left out of both.
  • 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.
  • Scoring Points: The one and only game in the series to do so. While the point system itself died here, it's notable that many of the largest point bonuses are for details that would become series trademarks, such as performing a Fatality.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: For those familiar with the arcade and SNES versions, the Sega CD version qualifies, since it plays certain tracks on different levels than they were originally intended. The Genesis version also has a couple exclusive stage melodies that aren't found in the arcade and SNES versions, which could be jarring to some players.
  • Spoiler Opening: The opening video for the Sega CD version shows the characters fighting Shang Tsung and his death animation.
  • Stop Motion: Goro's digitized character is a stop motion model, explicitly spelt out in the credits.
  • 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.
  • The Unintelligible: Whatever Raiden is saying when he does his "Superman" (torpedo) move is anyone's guess. Word of God on the subject is that it's just gibberish.
  • 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 that idea and damn near remakes Dragon, albeit with Mortal Kombat aesthetics.)

Alternative Title(s): Mortal Kombat I