Mortal Kombat is a fighting video game released onto several systems including the SNES. In contrast to Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat is ninja based and features more graphic deaths. These deaths have caused controversy, and led to the implementation of a feature which disabled such deaths and the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).


Mortal Kombat is a fighting game in which players battle opponents in one-on-one matches. The fighter that completely drains the opponent's health bar first wins the round, and the first to win two rounds wins the match. Each round is timed; if both fighters have health remaining when time runs out, the one with more health wins the round.

Whereas other fighting games had characters with considerable differences in speed, height, attacks, strength, and such, the fighters in Mortal Kombat are virtually identical to one another with only minimal differences in their moves' range and speed. All player characters have a shared set of attacks performed by holding the d-pad in various directions, such as leg sweep and an uppercut; the latter attack knocks the enemy high into the air and causes a large amount of damage. Attacks can vary depending on the player's distance from the opponent.

Mortal Kombat also featured unique ways in which special moves were performed. It was the first game to introduce special moves performed exclusively using the directional input. Most special moves were performed by tapping directional inputs, sometimes ending with a button press. Unlike previous one-on-one fighting games, few moves required circular directional input. Another of the game's innovations was the Fatality, a finishing move executed against a defeated opponent to kill them in a gruesome fashion.

The game's blocking system also distinguished itself from other fighting games. Unlike Street Fighter, characters take a small amount of damage from regular moves while blocking. However, the dedicated block button allows users to defend against attacks without retreating and blocking characters lose very little ground when struck, thus making counterattacks much easier after blocking. Mortal Kombat also introduced the concept of "juggling", knocking an opponent into the air and following up with a combination of attacks while the enemy is still airborne and defenseless. The idea became so popular that it has spread to many other games.


In the single-player game, the player faces each of the seven playable characters in a series of one-on-one matches against computer-controlled opponents, ending in a "Mirror Match" against a duplicate of the player's chosen character. The player must then fight in three endurance matches, each of which involves two opponents. As soon as the player defeats the first opponent, the second one enters the arena and the timer resets; however, the player's health meter does not regenerate. After the third endurance match, the player fights the sub-boss Goro, followed by a final match against Shang Tsung.

Between certain levels, players can compete in a minigame called "Test Your Might" for bonus points, breaking blocks of various materials by filling a meter past a certain point through rapid button presses. The first material the player must break is wood, followed by stone, steel, ruby, and finally diamond, with each successive material requiring more of the meter to be filled up and thus awarding more points. Two players can compete in the minigame at once and the last two materials are only accessible through two-player mode. The minigame would return in various forms in later entries including Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.




  • Shang Tsung
  • Reptile


The game takes place on a fictional island in Earthrealm, where a tournament is being held at Shang Tsung's Island, on which seven of its locations serve as stages in the game. The introduction to Mortal Kombat II explains that Shang Tsung was banished to Earthrealm 500 years ago and, with the help of the monstrous Goro, was able to seize control of the Mortal Kombat tournament in an attempt to doom the realm. For 500 years straight, Goro has been undefeated in the tournament, and now a new generation of warriors must challenge him. The player receives information about the characters in biographies displayed during the attract mode. Additional information about the characters and their motivations for entering the tournament is received upon completion of the game with each character.


Creators Ed Boon and John Tobias have stated that Midway tasked them with the project of creating a "combat game for release within a year", which the two believed was intended to compete with the popular Street Fighter II. Mortal Kombat was reportedly developed in 10 months from 1991 to 1992, with a test version seeing limited release halfway through the development cycle.[1] Boon said the development team initially consisted of four people—himself as programmer, artists John Tobias and John Vogel, and Dan Forden as sound designer.[2] The final arcade game used eight megabytes of graphics data, with each character having 64 colors and around 300 frames of animation.[3]

Originally, Boon and Tobias planned to create an action game featuring a digitized version of martial arts film star Jean-Claude Van Damme,[4] but he was already in negotiations with another company for a video game that ultimately was never released. In the end, Van Damme was parodied in the game in the form of Johnny Cage, a narcissistic and arrogant Hollywood movie star who performs a split punch to the groin in a nod to a scene from Bloodsport.[5]

The concept of fatalities evolved from the "dizzied" mechanic in earlier fighting games. Boon said that he hated the "dizzied" mechanic, but that it was fun to have one's opponent get dizzied and get in a free hit. Boon and Tobias decided they could eliminate the aggravation of getting dizzied by having it occur at the end of the fight, after the outcome had already been decided.


Electronic Gaming Monthly awarded Mortal Kombat the title of "Most Controversial Game of 1993". In 1995, the Daily News wrote, "the original Mortal Kombat video game debuted in 1992. Its combination of story line, character and mega-violence soon made it a hit worldwide. And the controversy engendered by its blood-gushing special effects only served to boost its popularity." In 2004, readers of Retro Gamer voted Mortal Kombat as the 55th top retro game, with the staff commenting that "future versions would address the limitations of the first game, but this is where it all began."[6] CraveOnline ranked it second of the top ten 2D fighters of all time,[7] and Forbes called Mortal Kombat one of the "most loved arcade games" that was "king of the arcade" in its day, writing that the arcade machines of the original title sell for any price between a few hundred dollars to $2,500.[8] In 2011, Complex ranked the first Mortal Kombat as the 12th best fighting game of all time,[9]. In 2012, Time named it one of the 100 greatest video games of all time. In 2013, the first Mortal Kombat was ranked as the best arcade game of the 1990s by Complex (the sequel, which "took everything we loved about the original and magnified it by about a million," was given sixth place on the list).[10]

The SNES port of Mortal Kombat was widely criticized by gaming media for censorship issues. In 2006, IGN named it as the eighth worst arcade-to-console conversion.[11] Nintendo's decision to make the game more family friendly was also included on GameSpy's list of the dumbest moments in gaming. The game won "Best Villain" (Goro) and "Best SNES Game" in the 1993 Nintendo Power Awards.


  1. Craddock, David (2005-09-29). "The Rogues Gallery: Controversial Video Games". Shacknews. Retrieved on 2009-09-08. 
  2. "Mortal Kombat: Ed Boon Interview". Official Nintendo Magazine. Archived from the original on 2007-10-23. Retrieved on 2009-08-02. 
  3. Interview with Gary Liddon, Mega, issue 10, page 36, Future Publishing, July 1993
  4. "Video Games, Game Reviews & News". 2004-02-09. Retrieved on 2012-06-11. 
  5. "Bloodsport Fight #2 at 6:50". Archived from the original on May 19, 2014. Retrieved on 20 July 2009. 
  6. Retro Gamer 8, page 69.
  7. [1]
  8. "Mortal Kombat 1992". 2008-02-13. Retrieved on 2010-03-13. 
  9. Peter Rubin, The 50 Best Fighting Games of All Time,, March 15, 2011
  10. Rich Knight, Hanuman Welch, The 30 Best Arcade Video Games of the 1990s,, August 28, 2013.
  11. Harris, Craig (2006-06-27). "Top 10 Tuesday: Worst Coin-op Conversions". Retrieved on 2009-09-01. 

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