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Welcome to our third annual Halloweek! For five fearsome days we’ll be celebrating the goriest, creepiest and all around ickiest aspects of video games, beginning today with a look at seven fighting games that perhaps laid it on a bit too thick.
Popularized by Mortal Kombat in 1992, fatalities and in-game blood became nearly ubiquitous over the next couple of years. Not to be outdone, each developer felt it could “out gore” the other guys, leading to a comically gratuitous escalation of violence.
The first MK and its sequels aren’t all that bloody. You get a few blots of red here and there for uppercuts and strong attacks, and then “Finish Him” with a humiliating move that’s now universally called a “fatality.” Compared to everything else on this list, MK’s a bit tame. The reason we have to include it is because it’s the only one that actually shocked us – such graphic violence wasn’t common in 1992, and seeing your fighter’s heart torn out was a moment you’d never forget.
Above: Classics that are restrained by today’s standards, but ultimately more effective because of their comparatively down to earth execution
Other games in this list pile on the guts in an effort to appear edgier and “cooler” than the first MK – as if blood were the only thing ‘90s-era arcade rats wanted in a solid fighting game. Some of the games on this list miss the point and go so far outside the realm of believability that the violence becomes comedy, a fate even Mortal Kombat would succumb to in future editions. But the first one, and MKII as well, struck just the right balance of blood, shock and excess.
Most effed up fatality: Easily Sub-Zero’s iconic head rip. Kano’s heart tear was pretty rough too, but seeing that dangling spine come out of your fighter’s head was irrefutable evidence that you died a most horrible death.
As we mentioned, countless ‘90s fighters used bloody finishing moves as a selling point. You’d beat your opponent senseless, then enter in a pre-set button combination to trigger the cinematic fatality. Once you knew how to pull them off, fatalities became an easy, almost expected end to any battle. Weaponlord, on the other hand, forced you to execute elaborate “death combos” that you had to string together and eventually weave into a gory final attack.
Above: They’re tough to execute, but the payoff is buckets of blood
It was a rather impressive game, but demanding – people were accustomed to button mashing in Street Fighter II, and even Mortal Kombat made fatalities relatively simple to perform. Weaponlord, in comparison, required loads of practice to see its vaunted death combos. But in a sea of me-too bloodbaths, the “work for it” nature of the gore made it special and therefore slightly more impactful. Plus the thunderous “BOOOM!” of an exploding head turned a few heads.
Most effed up fatality: The above video contains several death combos of varying intensity, but the weirdest is right up front – juggling a severed head with a sword. It goes on for so long it crosses beyond gruesome and becomes plain ol’ silly. Keep watching for a better example of what Weaponlord has to offer.
Technically the coolest idea in the world, Primal Rage was a one-on-one fighter starring bloodthirsty dinosaurs instead of shirtless digitized men. While its claymation dinos may seem like a gimmick, they existed just to get you in the door – once you dropped a pair of quarters on this, you found a pretty damn decent scrapper with a clever take on the well-tread Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat scene.
Above: Why the dinosaurs went extinct… in 1994
It’s only slightly nastier than Weaponlord because the blood sprays and puddles up much more freely – those building-sized monsters have a lot of goo to bleed, right? And then there’s the heart/vein life meter that pops open when you lose:
Above: BLORF! Sorry Vertigo, you lose!
Most effed up fatality: None of them are particularly gross, but everything big-ape Chaos does pushes the bounds of decency. The embedded YouTube vid up there captures the dumbest at 1:35 – he barfs a huge green glob of puke, then walks across the screen and sucks it up before it hits the ground. How that kills the other player is a mystery.