The history of Mortal Kombat

Prepare yourself! We examine the original arcade hit that corrupted minds and led to the creation of the ESRB

Raiden

A thunder god in the body of a human, Raiden is personally invited by Shang Tsung to participate in the Mortal Kombat tournament as the protector of Earthrealm. He’s also by far the loudest and most visually exciting character in the game; electric currents course around his body, he screams nonsense when doing his Superman move, he teleports around the screen and then, to top it all off, summons lightning for his victory pose.

So yeah, Raiden was a favorite. His lightning attack is a typical fireball motion (quarter circle forward), but he also has a useful teleport done by hitting down then up.


Above: Insert your own gibberish here

Signature move: Even with several memorable moves, Raiden’s best is undoubtedly his Superman flying attack. He shoots across the screen in a full horizontal dive while yelling… something. Arcade smalltalk suggested he was saying “Your momma’s in LA,” among other things.

Fatality: Using his electro-powers to detonate the other guy’s head.


Above: He’s tall – that’s cuz he flies! The superman with eternal life!


Liu Kang

A member of the White Lotus Society, Kang doesn’t like the direction the Mortal Kombat tournament has taken and decides to make it honorable again. He dons his trusty black pajamas and arrives as Mortal Kombat’s do-good protagonist.

Though he’s the “hero” of this story, compared to the other characters Kang is undeniably the most boring (and a blatant Bruce Lee clone). He’s a normal human monk, standing next to a thunder god, a movie star and a fire-breathing ninja zombie. Boo.


Above: One of his two moves

Signature move: Tapping Forward-Forward-High Kick sends Kang flying at the opponent, leg outstretched in a superhuman feat of martial artistry.

Fatality: Uh… yeah Liu Kang doesn’t really have a “fatality” per se. He flip-kicks his way over to the dizzied opponent, then uppercuts them one last time. Noble, but boring.


Above: Did you know Liu Kang is the youngest, and also the fastest warrior in China?


Sub-Zero

The first of two palette-swapped ninjas who would become synonymous with the Mortal Kombat franchise, Sub-Zero is an assassin sent by the Lin Kuei to kill Shang Tsung. As his name implies, he has the mysterious ability to generate and project extreme cold.

Sub-Zero was one of the most popular characters even in the early days. His easy-to-use ice ball (done just like a Street Fighter fireball) made play easy for MK defectors, and his fatality is one of the most iconic moves in all of gaming.


Above: Ice to meet you / Have an ice day, take your (ice) pick

Signature move: Obviously his ice ball, which would freeze opponents in place for a few seconds and leave them vulnerable to attack. This often led to the game’s signature combo: ice ball, uppercut, slide.

Fatality: Arguably THE most notable fatality. This move alone corrupted minds and gobbled quarters like none before it, prompting near-hysteria from the mainstream media. Today… who cares? We see new bloody spines almost every week.


Above: Your life is a mystery, warrior with a mask


Scorpion

Yin to Sub-Zero’s yang, Scorpion truly lives on the other end of the spectrum. Instead of freezing enemies with ice and approaching, he pulls them closer with a lethal spear yank. Instead of a pale blue, Scorpion wears bright yellow. And finally, instead of being alive… Scorpion’s dead.

Turns out Sub-Zero killed not just Scorpion, but Scorpion’s whole clan. He’s now back as a fire-breathing demon bent on revenge. But apparently he came back from the dead with a sense of humor – he openly mocks Sub-Zero’s outfit by wearing a similar costume, but with a cowardly yellow color.


Above: GET OVER HERE!

Signature move: The spear. It’s vicious, effective and elicits the iconic “GET OVER HERE / COME ‘ERE” yell that’s nearly as famous as the game itself. Like Sub-Zero’s ice, it leaves the enemy dazed for a moment, allowing for combos or a simple uppercut. It’s been a part of Scorp’s arsenal ever since.

Fatality: It’s been used again and again since, but the fire breath is still a classic. The initial reveal of Scorpion’s inhuman status came as quite a shock, too. Once you see his skeletal face, you realize this isn’t just a fight between mortals, and that larger, weirder things could be in play.


Above: Lost soul, bent on revenge. WHOAAAAAAAA HOAAAAA!


Sonya Blade

A mulleted special forces badass in pursuit of Kano. Unlike her murderous target, who was left to do whatever the hell he wanted, Sonya was captured and given an ultimatum: participate in the tournament or die. Luckily she happened to know how to shoot pink rings out of her hands, giving her a fighting chance.

Sonya has perhaps the most versatile set of moves in the game. Her rings can cover the ground, her “square wave flight” or whatever it’s called can shut enemies down in the air, and her scissor leg grab deals big damage when close.


Above: Scissor me, Sonya!

Signature move: Everyone has a projectile. Anyone can jump in the air and punch. But only Sonya has a command throw, one that has decent range and a big payoff. It does look awfully crude though – watching one digitized sprite person literally overlap the other was amusing in 1992, and today it’s plan ‘ol awful.

Notable fatality: With a teasing nod to her otherwise downplayed femininity, Sonya blows a kiss at her opponent. It just so happens to ignite their body and leave nothing but bones. Kiss of death, indeed.


Above: She’s 26 and on her way

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