Mortal Kombat: DashGamer’s Definitive Ranking

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The Mortal Kombat franchise stands as a groundbreaking series that has left its influence on the gaming industry like no other fighting franchise out there. From its inception in 1992, MK pushed boundaries and broke new ground with its unique blend of brutal combat, digitised graphics, and controversial content. The series quickly gained notoriety for its over-the-top violence and graphic fatalities, sparking intense debates surrounding video game censorship – a once sensitive topic in Australia, that forced the government to introduce the R18+ rating to gaming titles.

What set Mortal Kombat apart was its innovative use of real life actors, giving characters a lifelike appearance. This, coupled with the game’s unique yet basic combat abilities and signature fatalities, created a visceral and immersive experience that captivated gamers around the world. The franchise’s success not only popularised the fighting game genre, but also paved the way for other games to embrace mature and edgy content.

Despite its controversies, Mortal Kombat’s impact cannot be overstated. A catalyst that pushed boundaries of what was deemed acceptable in gaming and sparked conversation about the role of violence and censorship in the industry. The franchise’s success also led to the development of sequels, spin-offs, feature length movies, and a dedicated fanbase that continues to support the series to this day. Mortal Kombat’s revolutionary gameplay, memorable characters, and violent content have cemented its place in gaming history, that pushed the medium forward.

In 2023, we celebrate Mortal Kombat’s 30th Anniversary, and its upcoming reboot to the franchise in the recently revealed Mortal Kombat 1, launching on PlayStation 5, XBOX, Nintendo Switch and PC on September 19. Ahead of its release, we take a look back at all mainline Mortal Kombat entries, while ranking them from least to most favourite.

#11 - Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe

Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe brought together two iconic universes in an unexpected crossover that left fans both intrigued and skeptical. The game merged the MK universe with the characters from DC Comics, pitting the bloody fighters against iconic superheroes and villains. Despite the unconventional pairing and the restrictions imposed by Warner Bros., Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe managed to carve its place in the series’ canon.

The game’s storyline revolved around a convergence of the two worlds, resulting in a clash between Mortal Kombat’s warriors and DC’s legendary characters. While the game lacked trademark fatalities and excessive bloodshed that defined Mortal Kombat, it compensated with intense battles and a focus on the unique superpowers of the DC characters. The gameplay mechanics successfully incorporated both franchises’ elements, allowing players to execute devastating combos and signature moves.

It demonstrated the versatility of Mortal Kombat and its ability to adapt to unique collaborations while remaining true to its core mechanics.

#10 - Mortal Kombat 4

Mortal Kombat 4 marked a significant milestone in the franchise’s history as it ventured into the realm of 3D fighting games. Released in 1997, the game aimed to modernize the Mortal Kombat experience and introduce a new level of depth and immersion. While the transition to 3D came with its challenges, Mortal Kombat 4 successfully retained the essence of the series and introduced new gameplay mechanics that elevated the fighting genre.

With its monumental shift, MK 4 brought a fresh visual appeal to the ongoing series. The characters and environments were rendered to match its fighters, allowing for more dynamic movement. This leap in technology also facilitated the introduction of new physics and moves, such as sidestepping and weapon-based combat, adding layers of strategy and variety to fights.

Despite some initial hiccups, It laid the foundation for future instalments to further refine the 3D gameplay and solidify the franchise’s position in the genre. Mortal Kombat 4 stands as a pivotal entry that showcased the series’ willingness to embrace new technologies and push the boundaries of what Mortal Kombat could achieve, ultimately setting the stage for the next generation of Mortal Kombat games.

#9 - Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat, released in 1992, holds a significant place in gaming history as both a groundbreaking title and a subject of controversy. Developed by Midway Games, Mortal Kombat initiated a new level of violence and graphic content into the genre like never before. The digitised graphics showcased realism that had people questioning if this content itself was suitable for children. The departure from the more cartoonish style of other games at the time, such as Street Fighter II, immediately garnered attention.

What truly fueled the controversy surrounding Mortal Kombat was its introduction of “Fatalities.” These signature finishers allowed players to execute gruesome and explicit acts of violence on their defeated opponents, resulting in decapitations, impalements, and other sadistic displays. The nature of said fatalities, combined with the game’s popularity among younger audiences, led to widespread concern about its potential impact and violence it might promote.

Mortal Kombat became a lightning rod – no pun intended – for debates on video game content and prompted the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) to provide age-based ratings for games. It resulted in the introduction of age restrictions and content warnings for video games, with MK serving as a prime example of the need to regulate the gaming industry. An emphatic statement was made with MK’s content that proceeded to push the appeal toward all markets within gaming, rather than the platform solely commercialised for children.

#8 - Mortal Kombat: Armageddon

Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, marked the end of an era for the series. Serving as the culmination of the original storyline that had been unfolding since the first game, Armageddon brought together an extensive roster of characters and concluded their narratives in a grand and cataclysmic fashion. It was a game that aimed to provide fans with the ultimate Mortal Kombat experience, bidding farewell to the classic era. The defining feature of Armageddon was its staggering roster. It included every character from previous Mortal Kombat games, making it the largest roster in the series’ history.

Moreover, Armageddon incorporated a new gameplay mode called “Konquest,” which offered a unique adventure-style experience that delved into the backstories of characters and expanded the Mortal Kombat lore. The game also introduced the “Kreate-A-Fighter” feature, enabling players to create their own custom characters with personalised fighting styles and appearance. Its massive character roster, engaging gameplay modes, and epic conclusion made it a fitting farewell.

#7 - Mortal Kombat: Deception

Mortal Kombat: Deception, brought new innovations and additions to the franchise but faced a lukewarm reception, particularly concerning its campaign. While the game introduced several noteworthy features, including the highly praised “Chess Kombat” and “Puzzle Kombat” mini-games, the story mode failed to fully captivate players and live up to the expectations set by its predecessors.

One of the primary criticisms of Deception was its disjointed and convoluted plot. The narrative lacked the cohesiveness and depth that fans had come to expect from the Mortal Kombat series. The inclusion of multiple characters and subplots made it difficult for players to fully engage with the overarching story, resulting in a less immersive experience.

However, Deception did offer a range of other features that were well received. The introduction of interactive environments and return of stage-specific fatalities added a layer of excitement and strategy to each combat. The game expanded its roster with brand new characters and returning favorites such as Kenshi, Nightwolf, and Liu-Kang further diversifying its options. Mini-games and enhanced gameplay mechanics provided a fresh take on the MK formula.

#6 - Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, revolutionised the series by introducing fresh gameplay mechanics that forever altered the way Mortal Kombat was played. One of the most notable changes was the abandonment of the traditional 2D gameplay that had still been utilised in MK4, in favour of a fully 3D fighting environment.

The introduction of respective fighting styles and weapon combat also brought a fresh dynamic to Deadly Alliance. Each character now had their own moveset to choose from alongside the the ability to use weapons during battles, adding a layer of complexity and visual flair. Bringing new life into the series, allowing players to experiment with different characters and playstyles, enhancing replay value and overall enjoyment, Deadly Alliance proved to be MK’s next big step into dissecting the fighter genre, and renewing its impact and outlook on the category overall.

It was a new Mortal Kombat that laid a foundation for the series’ transition to be more strategic. Its impact was felt in its sequels, shaping MK as a whole.

#5 - Mortal Kombat X

Mortal Kombat X, continued the Mortal Kombat series’ renewed timeline established in its predecessor, Mortal Kombat (2011). Capitalising upon the success of the franchise’s reboot, MKX further explored the consequences of the altered timeline.

One of the standout features of Mortal Kombat X was its immersive and cinematic story mode. The narrative picks up a few years after the events of Mortal Kombat 9, showcasing a new wave of fighters and their struggles in the aftermath of war against Shinnok. With engaging plot twists, and stunning visuals, the story mode provided a rich and compelling experience that kept players invested in MK’s new lore.

In addition to its narrative, Mortal Kombat X new gameplay elements, including a character variations system. This feature allowed players to choose from different fighting styles for each character akin to Deadly Alliance. The diverse roster of fighters, both familiar and fresh, further enhanced the game’s appeal, offering a wide range of options for players to explore.

It was a testament to the ongoing evolution of the series, capturing the hearts of both long-time fans and newcomers alike.

#4 - Mortal Kombat 3

Mortal Kombat 3 introduced major improvements that set it apart from its predecessors. Building upon the success of Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat II, MK3 brought a fresh level of depth solidifying it as a staple in the gaming industry.

The game introduced several iconic fighters such as Cyrax, Sektor, and Sheeva, each with new movesets and fatalities. This increased the roster, allowing for more diverse appeal in gameplay, with a wider range of styles to choose from. Another significant improvement was the introduction of the “Run” mechanic, adding speed and aggression to fights. Combined with the game’s responsive controls and refined combat mechanics, Mortal Kombat 3 delivered crisp visuals that had been seen in its prequel, but not as pertinent as MK3.

It marked a notable step forward, showcasing the developers’ commitment to evolving and enhancing the series. MK3 solidified the Mortal Kombat franchise as a force to be reckoned with in the fighting genre. It set a new standard and laid out core fundamentals for future iterations with its unique blend of brutal combat and notable cast.

#3 - Mortal Kombat II

Mortal Kombat II, took the foundation established by its predecessor and elevated it to new heights, solidifying its status as the ultimate arcade fighting game. The sequel introduced a roster of new characters that developed a respect from fans that played both the original and its follow-up. From the nimble and acrobatic Kitana to the hulking and brutal Baraka, Mortal Kombat II expanded the universe with unforgettable combatants.

One of the most significant improvements in MK II was a refinement within mechanics. The controls were excellently tuned, allowing for smoother and precise inputs. Offensive manoeuvres and special moves flowed seamlessly, empowering players to execute devastating attacks and impressive chain combos. Graphics showcased stunning character designs and intricate details, immersing players in a visually striking world. The addition of new stages, such as the iconic Pit II with its looming spikes, further encompassed MK’s encouragement for bloodlust.

Mortal Kombat II’s fundamentals propelled the franchise to new heights of popularity. An expanded character roster, improved gameplay, and a visually captivating presentation, the sequel was a smash hit to casual and competitive players alike. MK II remains a leading example of a sequel that builds upon the strengths of its predecessor, delivering a thrilling and memorable fighting game experience that has left an indelible mark on the industry.

#2 - Mortal Kombat 11

Mortal Kombat 11, stands as a revolutionary installment in the iconic fighting game series. As a dedicated Mortal Kombat enthusiast, I was blown away by the game’s groundbreaking features and its impact on the franchise. One of the most striking aspects of Mortal Kombat 11 is its stunning visuals. The graphics are nothing short of breathtaking, with intricately detailed character models, fluid animations, and vibrant environments. Each bone-crushing attack and fatal blow is rendered with such realism that it immerses players into the brutal world of Mortal Kombat like never before.

Beyond its visual prowess, Mortal Kombat 11 introduced an innovative gameplay mechanic known as the “Custom Variation System.” This system allows players to personalise their favorite characters by selecting unique abilities, special moves, and even cosmetic items. This level of customization grants an unprecedented level of creativity and strategic depth, ensuring that no two battles are the same. Additionally, the game’s engrossing story mode, featuring a time-bending narrative, showcases the franchise’s evolution in storytelling, captivating players with its cinematic presentation and emotional character arcs.

Mortal Kombat 11 has undoubtedly revolutionized the series, pushing the boundaries of what a fighting game can offer. With its breathtaking visuals, deep customization options, and immersive storytelling, it has set a new standard for the franchise and the genre as a whole. Mortal Kombat 11 will be remembered as a pivotal entry that not only honors the series’ legacy but also propels it into the future, solidifying its place as one of the most influential and beloved fighting game franchises of all time.

#1 - Mortal Kombat (2011)

Mortal Kombat otherwise known as Mortal Kombat 9, released in 2011, breathed new life into the iconic figher after a series of lackluster titles left fans yearning for a return to form. As an avid Mortal Kombat enthusiast, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of excitement and relief when this reboot emerged. Mortal Kombat 9 successfully revitalised the series by embracing its roots while injecting fresh energy and innovation.

One of the game’s standout features was its engrossing story mode, which served as a comprehensive retelling of the events of the original Mortal Kombat trilogy. Rebooting the entire timeline, Mortal Kombat 9 allowed both longtime fans and newcomers to experience the classic story with modern visuals and gamplay. The cinematic cutscenes and character interactions brought new levels of immersion that was previously unseen in the franchise.

In addition to its story mode, Mortal Kombat 9 delivered exhilarating gameplay that struck the perfect balance between nostalgia and progression. Classic characters and their iconic moves, combined with the introduction of new combat mechanics, resulted in relatable and intense battles. Refined controls, impressive graphics, and brutal fatalities showcased the series’ trademark gore and over-the-top violence in a way that was fresh, bold and exciting.

Mortal Kombat 9 reinvigorating its fanbase and re-establishing MK within the fighting game market, taking it from casual arcade title to eSports sensation. Its ability to capture the essence of the original games while introducing modernised features made it a standout title that not only restored faith in the series but also paved the way for future iterations to thrive. Mortal Kombat 9 will forever be remembered as the game that pulled the franchise out of a slump and set it on a path of renewed success.

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