Spoilers Off for MK1, MK2, MK3 and MKM:SZ. You Have Been Warned.
After Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, Midway decided it would venture into 3D — which gave rise to Mortal Kombat 4, released in 1997 for the Arcade, Game Boy Color, PC, PlayStation, and Nintendo 64.
Thousands of years ago, Raiden waged war against former Elder God Shinnok; this war ended an entire civilization, and Shinnok was later condemned to the Netherrealm. Bi-Han, 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 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.
In order to test its "virgin" 3D engine, Midway released a "test game", War Gods, 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 Polygon Ceiling). MK4 also introduced the weapon fighting system to the franchise.
Followed by Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.
- Returning from Mortal Kombat:
- 4: Raiden, Johnny Cage, Liu Kang, Reptile, Scorpion, Sonya Blade and Goro.
- Returning from Mortal Kombat II:
- 4: Sub-Zero (Kuai Liang), Jax and Noob Saibot.
- Gold: Baraka, Kitana, Mileena and Kung Lao.
- Returning from Mortal Kombat 3:
- Gold: Cyrax and Sektor.
- Debuting from Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero:
- 4: Shinnok, Quan Chi and Fujin.
- 4: Tanya, Jarek, Kai, Reiko and Meat.
- the franchise's Developers' Foresight page
- the franchise's Shout Out page
- the franchise's Stage Fatality page
The game has the following trope examples:
- Acid Attack: Reptile retains his signature acid spit from previous game, but now the acid is affected by gravity; this isn't a problem, because the range of the spit is still wide.
- Ambidextrous Sprite: Surprisingly for a 3D game with models, they do this at changing sides.
- Anti-Frustration Features: The game introduces a Maximum Damage cap regarding combos. In previous games, some characters (like with Kitana and Scorpion in Mortal Kombat II or with Sub-Zero and Noob Saibot in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3) were capable of 100% combos, which would effectively guarantee a victory if pulled off, and some of them (especially Noob Saibot's) were rather easy to perform with practice. Mortal Kombat 4 instead forcibly makes both players backflip away from each other if 20% of an opponent's health is drained in a single combo.
- Battle Boomerang: Tanya uses one as her weapon during fights. It only returns to her when thrown if it connects to the opponent.
- Big Head Mode: This is one of the Kombat Kodes. For some reason, it also affects the skeleton hands that Shinnok summons in his fatalities. In one of them, they get too big to fit through the portal.
- Big "NEVER!": Four of the endings (actually six, but Jarek's is used in three different endings which start in the same situationnote , also Kitana's in Gold).
- Camera Abuse: Several fatalities hurled the remains of the defeated player at the camera, bouncing off it and splattering the screen in blood.
- Cap: Introduced to prevent players from being locked in endless combos. It could be turned off in the home versions though.
- Captain Obvious: Baraka's ending is rife with it.Quan Chi: The Elder Gods are dead, Raiden is dead, and thanks to you, Shinnok is dead.Baraka: Everyone is dead!Quan Chi: Yes, everyone in this forsaken realm... is DEAD!!!Baraka: How do you rule a realm with no one in it!?
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: 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 UMK3 foreshadowing Shinnok's return in this game.
- Ditto Fighter: Shinnok is a Tsungxpert variety, except he doesn't transform like ol' Shang.
- Drop the Hammer: Although Raiden usually uses a staff for a weapon, in this game he uses a hammer, then leaves it on top of a tall tower, where anyone who wants to can use it.
- Game-Breaking Bug: The arcade version suffered from two deadly bugs:
- In the very first arcade release, it is possible to bring a match to an abrupt standstill if one fighter used a special ability to lift an opponent to the top of the screen, as this would put him or her too high out of reach for either to attack each other. The only way a match affected by this bug would end is via a time-over, so this bug basically softlocks the game if no time limit was imposed.
- Performing Reptile's Acid Spit fatality against Scorpion would crash the game on Revision 3.0.
- Guilt-Based Gaming: The continue screen has your character falling down a pit. In the arcade version, if you don't insert quarters to continue, they get impaled by spikes at the bottom of the pit; five seconds of this music are more than enough to make you pop in another quarter. In the home console versions, the countdown will be based on how many continues you have left (usually three at most, but a secret menu can raise the number to up to nine), motivating you to press Start ASAP to save your character if you have too few continues (or even just one) left.
- Have a Nice Death: Have fun with the Game Over sequence.
- Home Stage: In addition to bringing back Goro's Lair, the game also introduces Reptile's Lair.
- Ignored Epiphany: Scorpion discovers that the elder Sub-Zero (whom he killed in the first game) was never involved in his family's deaths, that he had been framed, and that Scorpion's thurst for vengeance were uncalled for. That would mean Scorpion would not make any more poor decisions based on revenge, right? No, as Scorpion instead transfers his hate towards the actual culprit: Quan Chi. Scorpion's vengance would make him spend most of the following game torturing Quan Chi until he escaped from the Netherrealm and formed the deadly alliance with Shang Tsung, basically kickstarting the events of that game.
- Kukris Are Kool: Kai uses the "Gurkha Knife" or kukri as his weapon of choice.
- Laser Blade: In Gold, Cyrax has the "Sabre of Light". Later on it's given the name of "Pulse Blade" in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.
- Love Ruins the Realm: This is the reason why Liu Kang refuses to become Edenia's king, alongside Kitana, in his ending.
- Mini-Boss: Goro serves this role in the home console versions of the game, right before Shinnok who's the Final Boss. In the arcade version, it was Quan Chi. It made sense from a storyline perspective, but he was a selectable character from the very start already.
- Moveset Clone: This is actually the first game in the series to defy this trope, due to fan backlash regarding clones in the previous games. The only straight example is Noob Saibot, who still borrows some moves and Fatalities from various characters (most notably from Reiko).
- Nostalgia Level: The Living Forest and Goro's Lair return, complete with rearrangements of the old BGM. Also returning are the Shaolin Temple and Wind World. The Gold release adds the Church, Soul Chamber, and a combination of Scorpion's Lair and Kahn's Kave.
- Obvious Beta: The initial arcade release wasn't technically supposed to get out to the public because it lacked, among other things, endings, the Kombo Limiter system, and certain characters and Fatalities.
- Polygon Ceiling: A weird case. Even though it's fully 3D, the gameplay is not greatly altered from the previous games (with only one limited way to move on the z-axis), making it very faithful to the original 2D games. Midway limited the 3D-based mobility after the poor reception from their previous game, War Gods.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: 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: "Wrong Jarek, this is not a Brutality, this is a Fatality." (The "Finish Him" music plays as Jax drops him.)
- Produce Pelting: A booing crowd throws fruit, bottles, and cans at Johnny Cage during his ending.
- Revisiting the Roots: MK4 brought back most of the cast from the first two games (until some were reskinned near the end as "new" characters), the mythological Asian look after MK3 focused on Earthrealm locations and Western-oriented characters, two Nostalgia Level selections, and a bulk of the fatalities were 3D updates of classic fatalities from the first two games.
- Secret Character: The original arcade version has a rare player-exclusive version in Meat, who uses the skinned corpse model utilized in a couple of Fatalities but uses other characters' moves instead and can be unlocked. The console versions add Goro and Noob Saibot, both of whom are playable by selecting Shinnok or Reiko respectively while using the Hidden option. As a throwback to his role as one in the first game, Reptile became this in the Game Boy Color version. MK Gold added Sektor to the mix by doing the same with Cyrax.
- Self-Plagiarism: War Gods, another bloody fighting game by Midway to experiment with 3D before making Mortal Kombat 4.
- Set Swords to "Stun": Characters have weapons now, mostly daggers and swords. Swords are inflicting much less damage than one would expect: for non-human characters, this is somewhat justified, but Sonya for example is a regular human, so a full contact swing of a sword should do much heavier damage to her body than it does in the game - if not outright incapacitate/kill her. Also, the bone breaker moves have no effect on the characters apart from doing some damage, as the fighters can use their (supposedly) broken limbs normally. The most extreme example is Liu Kang's, as his bonebreaker has him breaking the opponent's spine... of course the other fighter jumps back into the action after a few recovery frames.
- Simple Staff: Kai's ending has him receiving Raiden's staff as a gift. If you beat the game with Kai, he can use the staff as his Weapon of Choice during gameplay.
- Sinister Scythe: Noob Saibot uses a scythe as his Weapon of Choice.
- Skull for a Head: Noob Saibot has an alternate costume that gives him a skull helmet. Along with his shadow powers and Sinister Scythe, it makes him look a lot like The Grim Reaper.
- Un Evil Laugh: Jarek has an odd, muffled laugh in his and Jax's endings.
- Updated Re-release: MK Gold for the Sega Dreamcast, which added several characters that weren't present in the original version.
- Use Their Own Weapon Against Them: If a character drops a weapon during a match, their opponent can pick it up and use it against them.
- What Does She See in Him?: In Tanya's ending. When Liu Kang follows her into a trap where Shinnok and Quan Chi are waiting for him, she wonders what Kitana saw in him.
- Wind Is Green: Fujin the god of wind has a green theme, with green pants, grey hair with a green tint, green energy attacks and green bolts shot from his crossbow (his Weapon of Choice in this game).
- You Will Be Spared: In Quan Chi's ending, this is his "reward" for helping Shinnok. He does not take it well and challenges the fallen elder god. He actually WINS.Shinnok: As payment for your loyal services, Quan Chi, I grant you the gift of your existence.
Quan Chi: My existence?!
Shinnok: Understand, sorcerer, I consume all energies, including the life forces of all that live. But I shall spare you.