History Of Mortal Kombat

The first  Mortal Kombat is, without exaggeration, one of the most important games of all time. When it burst, throbbing, from the chest of the video game industry in 1992, it cemented the fighting game genre as a behemoth of the medium, introduced a number of firsts and challenged long standing taboos on what was deemed acceptable in video games.

Created by John Tobias and Ed Boon (the latter has remained with the series throughout its 22-year life) of Midway Games, its realistic digitised actors, copious blood and gruesome Fatalities invoked controversy and the wrath of the US congress at the time; the moral panic was directly responsible for the formation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) in 1994.

Gamers, however, loved it. MK ’s gritty theme and tone, inspired by martial arts flicks, was a stark contrast to most games’ then cartoony facade.

MK II followed a year later to critical acclaim. Considered by many to be the best in the series’ lineage, MK II remains the quintessential example of the series’ appeal, incorporating fan feedback, interactive stages, plethoric content and numerous Easter eggs.

Midway, now riding a multimedia empire spanning numerous ports, comics, TV shows and a (surprisingly decent) movie, would close off MK’s golden era with MK III in 1995. While technically superior, its complex combo system and revised character roster (which lacked favourites like Scorpion) left many players dubious of its continued relevance.

Thereafter,  MK  struggled to redefine itself for a modern audience:  MK IV  moved to 3D in 1997 but seemed quaint compared to the likes of  Soul Calibur. Mythologies: Sub-Zero  leveraged off the universe with a more story-orientated platformer largely panned by critics; and  Special Forces , a 2000 3D action game starring Jax Briggs became immortalised as the franchise’s worst title.

Midway tried to return to the series’ roots with some success (with games like Deadly Alliance reinvigorating the series), but lacklustre performance finally resulted in Midway filing for bankruptcy in 2009 shortly after the release of their crossover Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.

MK may have faded into ignominy if not for the exceptional reboot by NetherRealm Studios in 2011. Simply titled Mortal Kombat, the game retconned the original trilogy while hearkening back to the franchises propensity for over-the-top violence and ridiculous plots. Combined with a tight fighting system, it ensured the franchise would get a Round 2 with a new generation of gamers.

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