- Mortal Kombat (Introduction)
- Mortal Kombat (1992)
- Mortal Kombat II
- Mortal Kombat 3
- Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
- Mortal Kombat Trilogy
- Mortal Kombat 4
- Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero
- Mortal Kombat: Special Forces
- Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance
- Mortal Kombat Deception
- Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks
- Mortal Kombat Armageddon
- Mortal Kombat VS DC Universe
- Mortal Kombat (2011)
- Mortal Kombat X
- Mortal Kombat (Miscellaneous)
Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm (1995)
Oh, dear, oh dear. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, when any franchise did particularly well, it would often end up getting an animated series tie-in made soon after, which usually tended to tone down the more objectionable elements for the younglings. Sometimes this worked, like in Batman or The Real Ghostbusters, but sometimes not so well, like in Rambo and Street Fighter. Care to make a guess in which category this series that ran for 13 episodes on USA Network ended up? The good news is that Defenders of the Realm isn’t quite as stupid as the Street Fighter animated series that aired on the same network. That also means it’s much less infamous across the internet, since it lacks such ‘classic’ scenes as M. Bison’s rejoicing or Dee Jay inexplicably shrinking. That doesn’t, however, mean it’s any good.
The show is actually something more along the lines of Power Rangers or GI Joe than anything you’d expect to see from Mortal Kombat: A bunch of bad guys come from another dimension to attack the planet, a team of heroes beats them up, roll credits. The contuinity seems to be a mix of the games and the movies, since everybody wears their MK3 outfits. Stryker and Nightwolf also make up the main team of good guys. On the other hand, the show seems to take place shortly after the original movie, as it’s mentioned that Liu Kang ended up killing Shang Tsung and Sub-Zero’s older brother during the tournament. Since this is a kid’s show, however, Sub-Zero’s death was changed from him getting impaled on his own ice to being frozen solid.
Most of the episodes involve some kind of bad guy showing up with a bunch of mooks to take over Earthrealm. The show does a pretty good job of representing the different characters that had shown up in the series to that point, even more obscure bad guys like Rain and Baraka. Oh, sorry, that’s not Baraka, that’s ‘Kabrak’, who is an entirely different character that just happens to be a general of blade-armed mutants. Oh, and that green-clad ninja who turns out to be an acid-spitting lizard? That’s Komodai, not Reptile. Original character, do not steal. Almost all the fighting is done against non-humans like Tarkatans or cyborgs, which means it’s OK for the good guys to smack around people without soccer moms getting upset. The characters frequently use their special moves from the games, except for Stryker, who doesn’t get to use his gun because it’s a kid’s show..
When the heroes aren’t fighting off the villain of the week, they spend most of their time arguing among themselves. Seriously, if it weren’t for poor Raiden around to babysit them, the first epsiode would have probably ended with them all killing each other. And their own quirks don’t help, either. Sonya’s kombat strategy, for one thing, involves her running headlong into the enemy while screaming “Kombat Time!” at the top of her lungs. The entire team makes Nightwolf stay in their secret lair and be their computer geek while they go out and do all their fighting. When he believes some calculations he did went wrong, they immediately shift all blame on him and start talking about how badly he screws up all the time. Stryker is now a germophobe who at one point, tells another character the story of when his wife left him. It’s an incredibly bizarre thing to mention on a children’s cartoon, and at no point is it ever brought up again.
Raiden’s probably the only character who hasn’t had his character ruined, probably because his voice actor, Clancy Brown, makes him drip sarcasm with every line. He’s probably the best character on the show, especially since his voice actor, Clancy Brown, makes him drip sarcasm with every line. Given the rest of the cast, however, he comes off less like “wise thunder god” and more like “Put-upon babysitter trying to keep himself sane watching over all these whiners”. Even he’s not immune to his dumb moments, however, especially since he gets lines like “Then kick your jets and JAM!” Raiden also ends up getting one of the best scenes in the series when he takes on Shang Tsung without using any of his powers and still manages to win.
If you look up the show online, you more than likely find one of the ‘Defenders of Stupidity’ videos, originally done by TheSwitcher of Two Best Friends fame. These are much more entertaining than the actual show itself, mostly because they take all of the many, many stupid moments across the show and compile them into a couple of videos. How about the scene where Jax laments about how naked and alone he feels, at a point where the colorist has apparently forgotten to color his pants in? Or the scene where Jax admits to Sonya about how fat he was as a kid? We’re not talking a little pudgy, either, we’re talking the fattest kid in school. Or maybe you’d prefer the scene where “Komodai” repeatedly kicks Sonya in the side?
What’s actually pretty interesting is that this show is where Quan Chi made his first appearance, even before Mythologies saw release. He’s not immune to the rampant stupidity that affects everyone else in the show, either. For one thing, any time he appears in the episode, he has his own dark metal theme song that kicks in, every time. And during one of his fight scenes, he pulls out a snake staff, that spits out another snake, that spits a bunch of smaller snakes. Yo dawg.
The series only lasted 13 episodes, only half of even what the Street Fighter cartoon got. It’s got its moments, sure, but for the most part, the only real value it has is comedy. If you really feel the urge to watch this show, you might want to be on the look out for the ‘annotated’ version, where people use Youtube’s annotations to heckle the show, MST3K style. Mortal Kombat would never again see a cartoon after this, and honestly, that’s not really surprising. How this thing even made it on TV in the first place is a mystery all on its own, even on such a low-rent network of the time like USA.
Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins (1995)
A few months before the release of the MK movie, an animation outfit known as Threshold Entertainment released this, presumably to get people hyped for the feature film. With its lack of any redeeming qualities, however, it’s shocking that nobody who saw it ended up taking a baseball bat to the first Mortal Kombat cabinet they encountered. It’s that bad. Journey Begins actually seems to be based more on the original game than the movie, since everybody’s using their designs from the game. Before we really tear into this short, it needs to be said that the casting is actually very good. You’ve got Jennifer Hale in one of her first roles playing Sonya, along with Jeff Bennet playing Johnny Cage. Appropriately enough, he also does the voice of Johnny Bravo. Jim Cummings does a great job of making Shang Tsung sound like a slimy jerk, while probably wishing he was back doing SatAM the entire time.
Sadly, that’s the only thing about this movie that could possibly be considered good. The story takes forever to actually play out, mostly because half of it involves the heroes walking around and listening to Raiden spout out exposition. Even during the CGI flashbacks, Raiden just drones on and on, usually explaining things that are actually happening on screen. The movie mixes terrible hand-drawn animation with terrible CGI, the sort of pre-Pixar stuff that would have gotten laughed off of an episode of The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest. If you look closely, you can even see the characters occasionally clipping through themselves. The CGI scenes are used to show canon events from the games, like the fatal fight between Scorpion and Sub-Zero. If you wanted to see how it played out in CGI that’d look terrible on an Amiga, at least.
That’s not to say that the drawn animation is any better. In fact, it’s actually somehow worse. Nobody can even walk properly, with all of the characters having a ridiculously overexaggerated walk cycle. The crowning moment of awful would have to be the fight scene at the end, where the heroes face off against a few dozen Tarkatan warriors. The animators handle this by repeating about five scenes over and over and over again. See if you count the number of times you see the same Tarkatan running towards the camera, or Johnny Cage’s ridiculous crab-walk/shuffle. And no, animators, blurring the footage and making it play in slow motion won’t make it look new, either. That’s just lazy.
Overall, The Journey Begins is pure garbage, and you shouldn’t even consider watching it unless you’ve got a few friends to share the pain with. If you have to watch it alone, maybe you could close your eyes and pretend that the movie is about Commander Shepard, Johnny Bravo and Liu Kang, who are going out to fight Dr. Robotnik. Honestly, that’d be a much more entertaining movie than what is delivered here. Threshold Entertainment is still somehow alive today, with their most notable release these days being Food Fight, a movie where Charlie Sheen plays a dog detective who’s also a mascot of a breakfast cereal. It’s hard to say whether it’s worse for sure, but it’d be a really close contest.
The biggest part of the whole trainwreck, is that the VHS claims that it has a secret kombat kode for MK3 at the end of the video. Apparently, if you try to enter this code, it won’t actually do anything.
Mortal Kombat: The Movie (1995)
By 1995, Mortal Kombat mania was at a fever pitch. With three games that had set the arcades of the ’90s, it seemed Midway could do no wrong, even with stiff competition from Capcom and SNK. Merchandise was inevitable, including movie plans. Capcom already had their shot on the silver screen a year before with Street Fighter. Aside from a few good lines and a fantastic performance from the late Raul Julia, it generally wasn’t very well remembered. The first Mortal Kombat film, however, ended up being quite a lot better, and it’s still probably one of the best game to film adapations you’re likely to see. Wasn’t exactly the next Citizen Kane, of course, but for a martial arts movie and a video game adaption, it does pretty well.
The script is an adaption of the plot from the original game, with Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, and Liu Kang taking a boat to Shang Tsung’s island to compete in Mortal Kombat. Johnny and Sonya have more or less the same backstories they did in the games, with Johnny wanting to prove that his martial arts skills aren’t faked, and Sonya out to capture Kano. Liu’s backstory, on the other hand, gives him a brother named Chang who ended up being murdered by Shang Tsung. Not entirely accurate to the games, sure, but it gives him more of a motivation besides being ‘the chosen one.’ Raiden, played by Christopher Lambert of Highlander fame, takes up the mentor role once again. He doesn’t actually do much here besides sitting around and offering advice to the heroes, usually trolling them in his gravelly accent.
The movie gets a slow start until the second act when the setting changes to Shang’s island, where the tension starts to pick up. The fight scenes are choreographed pretty well, with one of the highlights probably being Johnny Cage’s long, drawn out fight with Scorpion in the Netherrealm. All the characters from the original game are given the time to show off their moves, and for the most part, they’re represented pretty closely to the games. There are some more subtle references in there, like Shang Tsung shouting out “Flawless Victory!” after Goro kills Johnny’s buddy, Art Lean. The only real low point of the fight scenes would probably have to be when Reptile shows up, since for half of the fight, he’s a terrible CGI lizard creature.
With how much of a success the original MK movie turned out to be, especially compared to the likes of Street Fighter and Super Mario Brothers, a sequel was soon underway. For whatever reason, however, everything that made the original film so enjoyable is gone. They couldn’t get Christopher Lambert back, or even practically anybody who appeared in the original film. Maybe they were busy with other projects, or maybe they realized just how awful this film was going to be. They also got an entirely different director, one who seems to have gotten the gist of the plot from an eight year old playing MK3 on his friend’s Super Nintendo. For one thing, the movie is absolutely determined to stuff in nearly every character who’s appeared in the series, even if they literally have no reason to be there. Rain? He talks to Shao Kahn for a bit, then gets punched into a fire pit. Sheeva does a front flip, roars, then a cage falls on her? Stryker and Kabal? Briefly mentioned by Rain that they’ve been killed, so they don’t even make a physical appearance.
But that’s far from the only issue. The plot doesn’t make any sense, certainly not from the scraps that you can even hear. For some reason, the audio editing is screwed up so badly you can barely hear anything over the techno music they play over every scene. The fight scenes are about as well put together, given that there are so many cuts that you’ll never have any sort of idea what’s going on. Not that they’re even that great for a martial arts movie. The special effects, when they show up, are the worst mid-’90s CGI you’ll ever see, with the ‘climactic’ scene between Liu Kang’s dragon form and Shao Kahn’s hydra form being something that Primal Rage would laugh at. And for some reason, nobody in the movie can walk from place to place. Instad, they always have to front flip. Everywhere.
Overall, Annihilation is a travesty of a film, made even worse by how good the original was. Don’t even attempt watching it, not with friends, not with booze, or any sort of mood-altering substances you might have on hand. If you want the experience of watching Annihilation, put the original film on, crank up some techno at full blast, and shake your head around really hard while you’re watching. You might have more fun that way, too.
Mortal Kombat: Conquest (1998)
At the tail end of the 1990s, when action/fantasy shows like Xena and Hercules were all the rage on TV, somebody had the bright idea of making one based in the Mortal Kombat universe. Well, it would have been a good idea, if this weren’t after Annihliation, which had basically destroyed MK‘s credibility on the silver screen entirely. Conquest ran for about 22 episodes on the TNT network from 1998 to 1999, with only a single season ending on a pretty huge cliffhanger that would never be resolved. You might think this is a hidden gem, like the Earthworm Jim cartoon, right? Sadly, you’d be very wrong.
The series takes place in the time of the original Kung Lao, so this means this is 500 or so years before most of the interesting people in the series were actually born. Sure, Shang Tsung, Raiden, Shao Kahn, and even Quan Chi end up making appearances. But for the most part, Kung Lao travels around with some white guy named Siro and a girl named Taja, who’s apparently an ex-thief. Scorpion’s here, too, but now he’s some guy who’s pissed off at Kung Lao, and who’s been stung by some magical hell scorpion. The problem is that the whole thing feels more like some kind of soap opera, with Kung Lao spending more time angsting about his girlfriend in the first couple of episodes than actually fighting.
At the end of the season, Shao Kahn manages to end up killing all the good guys. Apparently this was supposed to be a dream of his, but since there was never a second season, we’re left to assume it wasn’t. Given how lame the special effects are and how low the budget was (they couldn’t even afford bras for the female characters, supposedly), it’s really not that much of a loss. If you’re really all that curious to see how it ends, it’s pretty easy to find the episodes on Youtube. It is, in fairness, not as much of a travesty as Annihliation, but it makes up for that by just being way more boring than something based on Mortal Kombat should be.
Mortal Kombat: Rebirth (2010)
n 2010, the Mortal Kombat franchise was pretty much done and dusted. That’s when Kevin Tancharoen released an eight minute short film onto the internet, which was apparently made as a pitch to WB for a new MK movie. Unlike the last two movies, which basically took the supernatural weirdness of the games at face value, this proposed film would take the series in a grittier, more realistic direction. Not an awful idea, really, but probably much more difficult than you’d think, given the base plot of the games.
So the whole Earthrealm/Outworld thing has been dropped entirely, with everything being set in a slumhole called ‘Deacon City.’ Jax and Sonya are cops here, trying to take down serial killers like Reptile, who’s been made into a guy with a skin condition. Who still eats people’s heads. Huh. And in what may or may not be a nod to the cancelled fighting game Thrill Kill, Baraka is a plastic surgeon who went insane after killing a patient, sharpening his teeth into blades and grafting blades into his arms. Oh, yeah, and he kills Johnny Cage. At least some things never change.
At the end of the video, Jax explains to a convict named “Hanzo Hasashi” about a tournament of serial killers and assasins being put together by a guy named Shang Tsung. After Sonya explains how Sub-Zero (who’s been given the Mr. Freeze treatment for this film) will be there, Hanzo agrees to join the tournament. Before he steps out the door, he explains that Hanzo Hasashi is dead and his name… is Scorpion. Dun Dun Dun! Rebirth, despite the hokey way it tries to shoehorn reality into Mortal Kombat, is hardly the worst eight minutes you’ll ever spend. The fight scene between Baraka and Johnny Cage is pretty good, even if it’s the only one in the video. While Rebirth never went beyond the initial pitch, we did get something else out of it…
Mortal Kombat: Legacy (2011)
A year later, Kevin Tancharoen would go on to make a web series set in the MK universe. While this series is a tad more realistic than your average Mortal Kombat game, Legacy brings back the more fantastical elements of the games themselves. So Outworld is one again a thing, and Scorpion goes from being ‘some guy with a spear’ to being the yellow hell ninja we all know and love. On one hand, it’s a lot closer to the games, but on the other hand, it’s kind of a shame we didn’t see more of the realistic interpretations of the MK lore.
The special effects on some of the more fantastical characters aren’t great, the occasional spliced-in animation sequences don’t quite fit in style, and at this point the plot doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere. But it’s still pretty enjoyable for a free web series on Youtube, and boasts some relatively big name TV actors in supporting roles, like Jeri Ryan as Sonya Blade and Tahmoh Penikett from Battlestar Galactica as Stryker.
Mortal Kombat Comics
Back when Mortal Kombat 1 & 2 were still fresh in the arcades, they came with ads on the attract sequence where you could send in for comic books. Both of these take place directly before the start of the two tournaments, and thus, moments before the actual games themselves begin. They also clarify a lot of plot elements that the biographies in both games only briefly mentioned, like how Shang Tsung managed to take control of the Mortal Kombat tournament. We also find out that the younger Sub-Zero apparently wears a nice suit when he’s competing in death tournaments. There’s also a comic for Mortal Kombat 4 that you could get for the PC version. It explains exactly how Shinnok made his escape from the Netherrealm, which was left pretty vague in the actual game itself. These comics are decent reading, and even if neither the art or writing are exactly fantastic, they can be taken more or less as official canon.
Besides the official comics, there’s were also a line of comics in the mid ’90s published by Malibu Comics. Malibu were hardly the most prestigious of comic companies compared to Marvel or DC, and for the most part, we ended up getting stuff like Ex-Mutants and Dinosaurs for Hire from them. You think a big name license like MK would have ended up in better hands, and how it ended up with such a D-list comic company is a mystery. These comics tend to be a whole lot worse than the official comics, and they’re not even in the same DIMENSION of anywhere resembling canon. The first few issues follow the events of the original game pretty closely, to the point where they even reuse from dialogue from the official comic. Aside from Raiden constantly speaking about himself in the third person, for some reason.
Eventually, however, things start deviating from the game’s plot pretty hard, starting with Goro getting teleported into a city by a wizard. It turns out that this wizard wants to make a giant warrior made up of the abilities of all the other fighters. When the wizard finally unleashes “The Kombatant”, only Goro is able to stop him. And Goro does this by the wizard’s brother, the god of order, by giving Goro a gun. And by ‘a gun’, it’s the most ridiculous gun of such Liefieldian proportions that it even looks absolutely stupid when a guy with four arms is carrying it. The Malibu comics generally go on like that, and neither the art nor the writing ever get any better. They never even make it to the events of MK3, which is a shame, because it could have opened up a lot of interesting story ideas. They’re worth reading if you’re the sort of person who enjoys the worst of what the Dark Age of comics had to offer, but other than that, you’re best off with the official comics.
NBA Jam: Tournament Edition – Arcade, Genesis, 32X, Saturn, Game Gear, Jaguar, IBM PC, PlayStation (1993)
Midway had a thing for working Mortal Kombat references into their other games, and not even a title based off a real life sport was an exception. Early versions of the original arcade version will let you put Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Raiden, and Reptile on the court, each one wearing jersey colors that go with their original outfit. Sadly, however, the NBA hates fun, and so it objected to having ninjas that tear people’s spines out in their game. A later NBA Jam also had plans for a Mortal Kombat themed court, but the NBA stopped these plans before it could show up in any version of the game.
Theatre Of Magic – Pinball (1995)
While there’s only a very tenuous connection to the MK franchise, this pinball game has a way to reveal Kombat Kodes for MK3. The digital versions of this table, like the one found on Pinball Arcade, also keep this feature. A certain Kombat Kode in MK3 returns the favor by giving a tip for the pinball game, too.
NFL Blitz – Arcade, PlayStation, N64 (1997)
Much like NBA Jam, Blitz has hidden codes that will let you play as Raiden or Shinnok on the field. They sadly don’t play any differently than any of the other players, although there’s nothing stopping them from body slamming them. Later Blitz games, once Midway lost the license from the NFL, included particularly brutal tackles that would give an internal view of players’ bones and organs breaking and rupturing, not all that far from what we’d eventually get in MK9.
The Grid – Arcade (2001)
Midway’s final arcade game before the company focused entirely on the home console market can be described as a cross between Quake 3 and Smash TV. Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and Noob Saibot are also playable with codes. Somebody at Midway really liked watching Scorpion running around and shooting people, apparently.
MLB Slugfest 20-04 – Xbox, GameCube, PlayStation 2 (2003)
In this arcade-style baseball game, done in the same sort of style as the NBA Jam and NFL Blitz series, you can enter certain cheats on the versus screen before a game to make various wacky things happen. One of these will turn your entire team into Sub-Zero or Scorpion, in their Deadly Alliance outfits. Well, nice to see that they’re handling their issues in a way that doesn’t involve rampant dismemberment.
Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy – XBox, PlayStation 2, Windows (2004)
This third-person shooter is actually regarded as one of Midway’s better games, although it sadly never got a proper conclusion to its story. Scorpion is a skin for the main character, although you’d think Ermac would be a better fit, given how much telekinesis is used throughout the game.
Injustice: Gods Among Us – XBOX 360, PlayStation 3, WiiU (2013)
Scorpion makes his appearance here as the third DLC character for this fighter set in the DC Universe. It’s a bit of an odd choice, given how distinct Injustice actually is from the Mortal Kombat games in gameplay and style. Scorpion does get a cool new outfit for this game, though, courtesy of DC’s artist Jim Lee. Playing as him is basically like playing some kind of pseudo sequel to MK vs DCU, only it all actually, you know, works. His intro involves him about to pull off a fatality on Sub-Zero before he ends up getting transported to the DC Universe.
Most of Scorpion’s moves are borrowed from MK9, although he’s got a few new moves this time around. Since Injustice characters aren’t restricted to the same air punch or air kick, he gets a few new basic moves he can pull off in the air. He also gets a special trait which covers him in flames, doing damage to opponents who get too close to him. He also gets a new super attack to match up with the over the top things the DC characters pull off. Given that Injustice has a T-rating, they obviously couldn’t give him his old X-Ray attack, but his new super looks pretty brutal in its own way.
In 2017, Injustice 2 would also see the addition of Sub-Zero and Raiden as guest characters, both of which got a similar treatment as Scorpion.
Mortal Kombat: The Album
In 1993, the two members of the Belgian techno band Lords of Acid, Maurice Engelen and Olivier Adams, formed a side project called The Immortals, with the express purpose of composing music for Mortal Kombat. Their first piece, called “Techno Syndrome (Mortal Kombat)”, was featured in the game’s television commercials for the console ports. It features liberal use of the game’s digitized speech samples, a catchy dance beat, and some kid yelling “MORTAL KOMBAT!” over and over. It quickly became associated with the games, despite only actually appearing in the Sega CD port of the first game.
In 1994, The Immortals released a full CD called Mortal Kombat: The Album. In addition to the “Techno Syndrome” theme, it includes several other dance-influenced tracks, each themed after one of the main characters. Most of them have lyrics, and they’re almost all entirely ridiculous. Take Sub-Zero’s song:
Ooh, Chinese Ninja Warrior
With your heart so cold
Ooh, your life is a mystery
Warrior with a mask
The rap lyrics in Johnny Cage’s song are similarly fascinating:i
Fight Cage, Johnny Fight
Use your split punch and make ’em cry
Be tough, shoot your green fire
The shadow kick, we all admire, is strong
Fight for your life
Mortal Kombat at the speed of light
so beat the bad guys and make ’em sigh
Johnny Cage is not afraid to die
It’s incredibly cheesy, but it’s also massively fun, and an amusing relic from a time when Mortal Kombat was one of the hottest properties on the planet.
There were several other Mortal Kombat albums released, mostly in conjunction with the movies. However, most of these consist of licensed tracks from musicians like KMFDM and Juno Reactor, and most are simply “inspired by” tracks that have little to do with the games themselves. There was an original soundtrack released for Mortal Kombat II, which was advertised during the game’s attract screen and ordered via mail. The 2009 game did have a release with an assortment of tracks from the games.