Mortal Kombat is an arcade fighting game developed and published by Midway. The game was created by Midway workers Ed Boone and John Tobias. Mortal Kombat was created to challenge Capcom's popular fighting game, Street Fighter 2. Boone and Tobias originally wanted to make a fighting game starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Van Damme said he had a contract with another game company to be in a fighting game but was never released. The game was also known for leading to the creation of the ESRB rating system
For the past 500 years Goro, prince of the Shokan has been the champion of Mortal Kombat. He and his master Shang Tsung have won nine Mortal Kombat tournaments against Earth Realm. If they win the tenth tournament they are able to invade and take over Earth Realm. The fighters of Earth must win the tournament or they and Earth will be doomed.
Mortal Kombat plays similarly to its rival, Street Fighter 2. Control setup was divided into four buttons and a joystick. With the buttons consisting of High Punch, Low Punch, High Kick and Low Lick, kombatants could attack one another in different regions of the body. By repeatedly tapping either Punch buttons, the fighter would continue to attack in a flurry of punches. Unlike Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat allowed for variations of physical attacks by holding down the joystick in a certain direction and pushing an attack button. Holding down joystick while pushing any of the punch buttons would unleash a powerful uppercut that knocks opponents in the air. By holding the joystick the direction opposite to face and pushing High Kick would allow for a high-reaching, quick roundhouse kick and pushing Low Lick would allow for a sweeping kick that knocks the opponent off their feet. There was also the introduction of the Block button, allowing players to defend at anytime instead of just holding the joystick in the opposite direction face to the opponent. The basic rules of fighting games apply to this as well: first to deplete their opponent's health bar wins. Each match is divided into best 2 out of 3.
Unlike Street Fighter, characters were not unique in their speed and size, but the reach of their attacks as well as special attacks, which could be performed through button commands. These attacks ranged from projectiles to rendering the target immobile. What visually set Mortal Kombat apart from other fighters and made it innovative was its use of blood and digitized actors instead of hand-drawn sprites. Being the first game to do so, this gave Mortal Kombat a far more realistic look. As kombatants attacked one another with powerful attacks, blood would spew forth, adding to the violent nature.
Mortal Kombat was also famous and innovative for its finishing moves called Fatalities. At the end of the last round, the winner would be prompted with the message FINISH HIM!!. By entering a specific command for a character, the winner would kill the loser in a gruesome manner. Each kombatant had their own Fatality to perform. This act of extreme violence single-handily sparked a major controversy in the video game industry.
The characters of the game later star in the other Mortal Kombat games. The sprites of the characters are digitized versions of actors to portray the characters instead of hand drawn to make them more realistic. Mortal Kombat is the first video game series to do this. Most of the characters in the game are inspired by various movie characters. In addition, the game is also the very first to feature a secret character, who can only be fought after certain conditions are met.
Liu Kang- The main protagonist. A Shaolin Monk chosen by the Temple of the Order of Light to participate in Mortal Kombat though he has come to avenge the death of the late Great Kung Lao. He is the first of many Bruce Lee pastiches to appear in fighting games. He is the most balanced character in the game. He can fire flame-elemental projectiles and has a Flying Kick that propels him forward.
Johnny Cage- A Hollywood movie star who enters the tournament to prove his abilities are real. His design and moves were modeled after the main protagonist of the movie, Bloodsport. Thus, he is most infamous for his Ballbreaker move where he splits his legs and jabs at the opponent's genitals, paralyzing them a good deal. He was originally to be the main protagonist and was based on actor Jean Claude Van Damme.
Raiden- The Earthrealm's God of Thunder. He descends upon Earth to guide the Earthrealm warriors in this last chance to save Earth. Though he is a playable character, Raiden is not actually allowed to participate in Mortal Kombat due to his godly status as Gods are forbidden to directly interfere in the affairs of mortals, thus he has taken on a mortal form. He is easily distinguishable by his straw hat and electricity constantly crawling about his body. He is inspired by a character in the movie Big Trouble in Little China whom went by the name of Thunder, who also wore a straw hat, albeit larger.
Sonya Blade- A U.S. Special Forces agent who enters the tournament to capture Kano. She is the game's only female character and participant.
Scorpion- Formerly known as Hanzo Hasashi, the fallen Shirai Ryu ninja returns to avenge the death of his family and clan, whom he believes were taken by the rival Lin Kuei warrior, Sub-Zero. Scorpion is easily distinguishable by his yellow-colored outfit and his famous Spear attack which he uses to grapple enemies from afar and reel them in for a free hit, which is accompanied by either GET OVER HERE or COME HERE
Sub-Zero- A member of the Chinese warrior clan, Sub-Zero has been sent to assassinate the evil sorcerer. Possessing control over the element of ice, Sub-Zero lives up to his namesake on a deadly level. He is easily distinguishable by his blue-colored outfit.
Kano- Leader of the notorious Japanese criminal organization, the Black Dragon, Kano has come to plunder Shang Tsung of his vast riches. Kano fights with a pair of energy knives and a bizarre move known as the Cannonball, where he curls up into a fetal position and propels himself at an enemy. He is modeled after a promotional poster of Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Reptile - The very first ever secret character to appear in a fighting game and has since inspired others to insert new challenges. Reptile appears as a green-clad ninja, identical to Sub-Zero and Scorpion. In terms of gameplay, he is literally a fusion of the two, possessing twice the speed as well as their special attacks and finishers. To fight him, one must be at The Pit, perform a Double Flawless without blocking and then perform a Fatality.
Goro - Prince of the proud Outworld race of Shokan. Boasting a set of four arms, towering strength, overwhelming power and an unwavering loyalty to Shang Tsung, he has held the champion title of Mortal Kombat for many ages.
Shang Tsung -Grandmaster of the Mortal Kombat tournament and the main antagonist of the game. Shang Tsung is a cunning and powerful sorcerer boasting powerful dark magic, which he uses in the form of damaging skull-shaped projectiles and the frightening ability to morph into and mimic the forms of other fighters. With the aid of Goro, he aims to win the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament and throw Earth back into an age of darkness once again.
In other fighting games, defeating an opponent would mean to knock him out unconscious to precede. In Mortal Kombat there are new special moves called Fatalities. At the end of the last round of a fight the screen will go dark and a voice says "FINISH HIM!", then using certain button commands a player can kill his opponent in a gruesome way.
Mortal Kombat upon its debut was met with critical acclaim for its daring approach and solid gameplay. Its success led it to become a full-blown series, marked by successful sequels. It was awarded by Electronic Gaming Monthly as the Most Controversial Game of 1993.
With its major success apparent, Mortal Kombat was later ported to home consoles. Due to its violent content, it was considerably toned down. It was also one of the factors in the Console War mythos.