Mortal Kombat is an American media franchise centered on a series of video games, originally developed by Midway Games' Chicago studio in 1992. The development of the first game was originally based on an idea that Ed Boon and John Tobias had of making a video game starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, but as that idea fell through, a fantasy-themed fighting game titled Mortal Kombat was created instead. Mortal Kombat was the first ever fighting game to introduce a secret fighter, reached if the player fulfilled a set of requirements. The original game has spawned many sequels and spin-offs consisting of several action-adventure games, as well as a comic book series and a card game. Film producer Lawrence Kasanoff licensed the rights to the game in the early 1990s and produced the first hit movie ever made from a video game. Lawrence also produced the second movie, animated TV series, live-action TV series films, the first one million platinum-selling album and a live-action tour. Mortal Kombat has become the most successful fighting franchise in the history of video games and one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time.
The series has a reputation for high levels of violent content, including, most notably, its Fatalities (finishing moves allowing the player to finish off their defeated opponent). Controversies surrounding Mortal Kombat, in part, led to the creation of the ESRB video game rating system. Early games in this series were also noted for their realistic digitized sprites and an extensive use of palette swapping to create new characters. Following Midway's bankruptcy, the Mortal Kombat development team was acquired by Warner Bros. and turned into NetherRealm Studios. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment currently owns the rights to the franchise, which it rebooted in 2011.
The original three games and their updates, Mortal Kombat (1992), Mortal Kombat II (1993), Mortal Kombat 3 (1995), Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (1995), and Mortal Kombat Trilogy (1996), were styled in a 2D fighting fashion. The first two of them were played in the arcades with a joystick and five buttons: high punch, low punch, high kick, low kick, and block. Mortal Kombat 3 and its updates added a sixth "run" button. Characters in the early Mortal Kombat games play virtually identically to one another, with the only major differences being their special moves. Through the 1990s, the developer and publisher Midway Games would keep their single styled fighting moves with four attack buttons for a different array of punches, kicks and blocks. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was the first Mortal Kombat game which the character could move 3D like. Mortal Kombat 4 also tried to introduce the 3D system but it wasn't worked properly due to old system mechanics. Also the combination of the moves changed from the old Mortal Kombat games and this was done by differentiating characters' normal moves and even giving them multiple fighting styles. Beginning in Deadly Alliance and until Mortal Kombat: Deception, the characters would have three fighting styles per character: two unarmed styles, and one weapon style. Few exceptions to this arose in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, such as monstrous boss characters like Moloch and Onaga who would have only one fighting style. While most of the styles used in the series are based on real martial arts, some are entirely fictitious. Goro's fighting styles, for example, are designed to take advantage of the fact that he has four arms. For Armageddon, fighting styles were reduced to a maximum of two per character (generally one hand-to-hand combat style and one weapon style) due to the sheer number of playable characters. Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe dropped the multiple fighting style trend altogether in favor of giving each character a much wider variety of special moves, but some characters still use multiple fighting styles. 2011's Mortal Kombat returned to a single 2D fighting plane although characters are rendered in 3D; unlike previous MK games, each of the controller's four attack buttons corresponds to one of the character's limbs, the buttons thus becoming front punch, back punch, front kick and back kick (front and back indicating the limb closer to and farther from the opponent, respectively).
Mortal Kombat: Deception and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon feature "Konquest", a free-roaming action-adventure mode that significantly expanded on the single-player experience. Both games also include distinct minigame modes such as "Chess Kombat", an action-strategy game similar to Archon. Two other bonus minigames, "Puzzle Kombat" inspired by Puzzle Fighter and "Motor Kombat" inspired by Mario Kart, feature super deformed versions of Mortal Kombat characters. The games also contain various unlockable content and hidden "cheats".
The defining and best-known feature of the Mortal Kombat series is its finishing move system called Fatality. An original idea behind it was to give gamers a free hit at the end of the fight. The basic Fatalities are finishing moves that allow the victorious characters to end a match in a special way by murdering their defeated, defenseless opponents in a gruesome manner, usually in the predefined ways exclusive for the given character. The only exception from this is Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, which instead features the Kreate-A-Fatality, allowing the players to perform their own Fatalities by conducting a series of violent moves chosen from a pool that is common for all characters.
Other finishing moves in the various Mortal Kombat games include Animalities (introduced in Mortal Kombat 3) turning a victor into an animal to violently finish off the opponent; Brutality (introduced in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3) which is bashing an opponent into pieces with a long combo of hits; and Stage Fatalities/Death Traps (introduced in the original Mortal Kombat Pit Stage where the victor can uppercut their opponent off of the platform into a bed of spikes below, and later made more difficult in Mortal Kombat II by requiring specific and different button sequences to be pressed) utilizing parts of certain stages to execute a lethal finishing move (such as a pool of acid). Mortal Kombat: Deception added the Hara-Kiri, a self-Fatality allowing the losers to engage in a suicidal finishing move (enabling a possible race between both players to see if the winning player can finish off the losing player before the losing character can kill himself or herself first).
There are also some non-violent finishing moves in the series. Friendship moves, introduced in Mortal Kombat II resulting in displays of friendship towards the enemy instead of slaughter, were made as a comical response to the attention the series gathered due to its violent content. Also introduced in MKII was the Babality, which turns the opponent into a baby and is humorous in the same vein. Mortal Kombat 3 marked the first appearance of the Mercy, where the victor restores a minimal amount of the opponent's health bar and the fight then resumes; the player must perform a Mercy to be able to perform an Animality.
Through its iterations, the series has featured scores of player characters, some of them becoming mainstays, such as Baraka, Cassie Cage, Cyrax, Ermac, Goro, Jade, Jax Briggs, Johnny Cage, Kabal, Kano, Kenshi, Kitana, Kung Lao, Liu Kang, Mileena, Motaro, Nightwolf, Noob Saibot, Quan Chi, Raiden, Rain, Reptile, Sektor, Shang Tsung, Shao Kahn, Sheeva, Shinnok, Sindel, Smoke, Sonya Blade, Scorpion, Skarlet, Stryker, and Sub-Zero. Among them are Earth's humans and cyborgs, good and evil deities, and denizens of Outworld and other realms.
Furthermore, starting with MK vs DCU, which featured several DC Universe heroes and villains, all subsequent games have included guest characters such as Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street, Kratos from God of War, Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th, the Xenomorph Alien from Alien, Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Predator from Predator, the T-800 Terminator model from Terminator, Spawn from Image Comics and the Joker from DC Comics.
The series takes place in a fictional universe consisting of eighteen surviving realms which, according to in-game backstories, were created by the Elder Gods. The Mortal Kombat: Deception manual described six of the realms as: "Earthrealm, home to such legendary heroes as Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage and Jax, and also under the protection of the Thunder God Raiden; Netherrealm, the fiery depths of which are inhospitable to all but the most vile, a realm of demons and shadowy warriors such as Quan Chi and Noob Saibot; Outworld, a realm of constant strife which Emperor Shao Kahn claims as his own; Seido, the Realm of Order, whose inhabitants prize structure and order above all else; the Realm of Chaos, whose inhabitants do not abide by any rules whatsoever, and where constant turmoil and change are worshipped; and Edenia, which is known for its beauty, artistic expression, and the longevity of its inhabitants." The Elder Gods decreed that the denizens of one realm could only conquer another realm by defeating the defending realm's greatest warriors in ten consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments.
The first Mortal Kombat game takes place in Earthrealm (Earth) where seven different warriors with their own reasons for entering participated in the tournament with the eventual prize being the continued freedom of their realm, threatened with a takeover by Outworld. Among the established warriors were Liu Kang, Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade. With the help of the thunder god Raiden, the Earthrealm warriors were victorious and Liu Kang became the new champion of Mortal Kombat. In Mortal Kombat II, unable to deal with his minion Shang Tsung's failure, Outworld Emperor Shao Kahn lures the Earthrealm warriors to the Outworld where the Earthrealm warriors eventually defeat Shao Kahn. By the time of Mortal Kombat 3, Shao Kahn revives Edenia's (now a part of his Outworld domain) former queen Sindel in Earthrealm, combining it with Outworld as well. He then attempts to invade Earthrealm but is ultimately defeated by the Earthrealm warriors again. After Kahn's defeat, Edenia was freed from Kahn's grasp and returned to a peaceful realm, ruled by Princess Kitana. The following game, Mortal Kombat 4, features the former elder god Shinnok attempting to conquer the realms and attempting to kill the thunder god Raiden. However, he is also defeated by the Earthrealm warriors.
In Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, the evil sorcerers Quan Chi and Shang Tsung join forces to conquer the realms. By Mortal Kombat: Deception, after several fights, the sorcerers emerge victorious having killed most of Earthrealms' warriors until Raiden steps forth to oppose them. The Dragon King Onaga, who had been freed by Reptile at the end of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, had deceived Shujinko into searching for six pieces of Kamidogu, the source of Onaga's power. Onaga then confronted the alliance of Raiden, Shang Tsung, and Quan Chi and thus obtained Quan Chi's amulet, the final piece of his power. Only a few warriors remained to combat against the Dragon King and his forces. Shujinko eventually triumphed over the Dragon King and removed his threat to the Mortal Kombat universe.
In Mortal Kombat: Armageddon the catastrophe known as Armageddon starts. Centuries before the first Mortal Kombat, Queen Delia foretold the realms would be destroyed because the power of all warriors from all the realms would rise to such greatness it would overwhelm and destabilize the realms, triggering an all-destructive chain of events. King Argus had his sons, Taven and Daegon, have been put into incubation and who would one day be awakened to save the realms from Armageddon by defeating a firespawn known as Blaze. In the end, however, Shao Kahn is the one who defeats Blaze, causing Armageddon.
The crossover Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe does not seem to share continuity with any of the other games. After the simultaneous defeats of both Shao Kahn and the alien warlord Darkseid in the DC Universe cause both villains to fuse into the entity "Dark Kahn", both the Mortal Kombat and DC Universes begin to merge. This causes the warriors and heroes to undergo bouts of uncontrollable rage and attack anyone on sight. The heroes and villains of both universes repeatedly conflict with each other, believing each other to be responsible for the catastrophe, until only Raiden and Superman remain. The two confront Dark Kahn and both realize that the other is not working for him, and team up to defeat their common foe. After Dark Kahn's defeat, the two realms unfuse, with Shao Kahn and Darkseid trapped in each other's different reality and facing eternal imprisonment.
In Mortal Kombat (2011), it is revealed that the battle between the warriors of the six realms in Armageddon culminated into only two survivors: Shao Kahn and Raiden. Badly beaten, Raiden had only one last move he could make to prevent Shao Kahn from claiming the power of Blaze. He sends last-ditch visions of the entire course of the Mortal Kombat timeline to himself in the past right before the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament (first game). This transfer of information to his former self causes a rift in time, causing a new "reboot" timeline to be introduced that splits off from the original Armageddon timeline, with a new outcome of Mortal Kombat history to be written. But this story leads to even worse unforeseen events. It ends with many of the main game characters dying at the hands of Queen Sindel and Raiden accidentally killing Liu Kang in self-defense. Eventually, the Elder Gods aid Raiden in killing Shao Kahn and saving Earthrealm. But as the scene goes on it is later revealed that this was all a plan by Shinnok and Quan Chi.
Mortal Kombat X sees Shinnok and Quan Chi enacting their plan, leading an army of undead revenants of those that were killed in Shao Kahn's invasion against the realms. A team of warriors led by Raiden, Johnny Cage, Kenshi Takahashi and Sonya Blade oppose Shinnok, and in the ensuing battle, Shinnok is imprisoned, Quan Chi escapes and various warriors are resurrected and freed from Shinnok's thrall. Twenty-five years later, Quan Chi resurfaces and allies himself with the insectoid D'Vorah in manipulating events that lead to Shinnok's release. Though Quan Chi is killed by a vengeful Scorpion in the process, Shinnok resumes his assault against the realms. After a grueling, protracted battle, Shinnok is defeated by Cassandra Cage representing the next generation of Earthrealm's warriors. With both Quan Chi and Shinnok gone, the undead revenants of Liu Kang and Kitana assume control of the Netherrealm and Lord Raiden now seeks to violently and preemptively protect Earthrealm from any perceived threat, throwing the severed head of Shinnok at the feet of Kitana and Liu Kang as a warning.
Mortal Kombat 11 sees the architect of time and Shinnok's Mother, Kronika to restart the timeline after her son's decapitation, where it turns out that said beheading tampered with the balance between Light and Darkness courtesy of the now-corrupted Raiden. After the death of Sonya Blade & the destruction of the Cathedral of Shinnok in the Netherrealm, Liu Kang and Kitana make a partnership with Kronika herself to commence to rewrite history with her hourglass in her Keep in the Netherrealm. Starting with a timequake that brought past versions of the likes of Shao Kahn, Liu Kang, Kitana, Kung Lao, Jade, Skarlet and Baraka to the present as well as erasing Dark Raiden from existence leaving his past self to exist alone in the present due to his Immortal status. After the past Raiden and Liu Kang fight with each other, Raiden came to realize that his battle with Liu Kang is part of Kronika's machinations to have them fight to the death which occurred in alternate timelines. Knowing their combined strength can put a stop to Kronika. With Kronika now defeated and far into the past without any chance of restoring the present, the now-Fire God Liu Kang took advice from a now-mortal Raiden as he starts a new timeline from the dawn of time with the help of Kitana, hoping that their work together can shape a better future and hopes of seeing Raiden the elder god again in the next timeline.
Mortal Kombat started development in 1991 with only four people: Ed Boon (programming), John Tobias (art and story), John Vogel (graphics), and Dan Forden (sound design). According to Mortal Kombat actors Richard Divizio and Daniel Pesina, the first game actually began as a ninja-themed project by John Tobias (a young new employee of Midway Games at the time) and them as well as Carlos Pesina, however their pitch to Tobias' boss Ed Boon was rejected by the entire management of Midway. Midway was then abortively approached to create a video game adaptation of the then-upcoming 1992 film Universal Soldier, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Tobias imagined a fighting game featuring a digitized version of Van Damme. Intending to make a game "a lot more hard edge, a little bit more serious, a little bit more like Enter the Dragon or Bloodsport" than contemporary cartoonish fighting games, Tobias and Boon decided to continue their project even after the deal to use the Bloodsport license fell through. The first of Mortal Kombat characters, Johnny Cage (Daniel Pesina), became "a spoof on the whole Van Damme situation." Divizio credits himself with convincing Tobias to go back to the original idea and trying again.
It was the success of Capcom's Street Fighter II: The World Warrior that finally convinced Midway Games to let the team produce their own arcade fighting game (the genre chosen by Tobias for his game as to let him use as large digitized sprites as possible), but there was not much influence by Street Fighter II on the actual project. According to Tobias, who cited 1984's Karate Champ as an actual inspiration, they even intentionally worked on making a game different than Capcom's title in every way. Besides the digitized characters that differentiated it from its contemporaries' hand-drawn ones, one stark difference was in the very high amount of blood and violence. Capcom's senior director of communications later compared Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat by asking if the interviewer preferred the "precision and depth" of Street Fighter or the "gore and comedy" of Mortal Kombat and also stated that the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat rivalry was considered similar to the Coke and Pepsi rivalry in the 1990s.
John Tobias said that his inspirations for the game's story and characters came from Chinese mythology and some of the stories and rumored events about the Shaolin monks. Regarding the film Big Trouble in Little China, Tobias wrote that although this movie "kind of Americanized my obsession for supernatural kung fu films from China, it was not my biggest influence. My biggest influences came from Tsui Hark films -- Zu Warriors & The Swordsman. We had to get them from bootleggers in Chicago's Chinatown." In 1995, he said about their general process of designing characters for the series: "First we figure out the type, like she or he and will she/he be big or small. Then we'll get the theme of the characters, like ninja or robot. Then we'll design the costume, and while doing that we create the storyline and how s/he fits into the universe. Then we'll find an actor that kinda resembles our character." Tobias' writing and artistic input on the series ended around 2000 following the release of Mortal Kombat 4. In 2012, he said: "I knew exactly what I was going to do with a future story. A few years ago I [wrote] a sort of sequel to the first MK film and an advancement to the game's mythological roots."
The title Mortal Kombat was the idea of pinball designer Steve Ritchie, a variation of the original name that had been simply Mortal Combat. Since then, the series often intentionally misspells the letter "K" in place of "C" for various words containing the hard C sound. According to Boon, during the MK games' development they usually spell the words correctly and only "korrect it" when one of the developers points out they should do it.
The characters of the original Mortal Kombat and its initial sequels were created using digitized sprites mostly based on filmed actors, as opposed to hand-drawn graphics. Early Mortal Kombat games were known for their extensive use of palette swapping, a practice of recoloring certain sprites to make them appear as different characters, which was used for the ninja characters. In fact, many of the most popular characters have originated as simple palette swaps. In the first game, the male ninja fighters were essentially the same character; only the colors of their attire, fighting stance, and special techniques mark a difference. Later games added further ninjas based on the same model, as well as several female ninja color swap characters initially also using just one base model. All of them gradually became very different characters in the following installments of the series. Eventually, Mortal Kombat 4 brought the series into 3D, replacing the digitized fighters of previous games with polygon models animated using motion capture technology.
Mortal Kombat included secret characters, secret games, and other Easter eggs. Popular characters Reptile and Jade were originally introduced as hidden enemies, becoming playable after returning in subsequent games. There is also a hidden game of Pong in Mortal Kombat II, and Mortal Kombat 3 includes a hidden game of Galaga. Many extras in the series have only been accessible through very challenging, demanding, and sometimes coincidental requirements. The Sega Mega Drive/Genesis versions contain a unique finisher, named "Fergality". The Sega CD version also contained an additional code (known as the "Dad's Code"), which changed the names of the fighters to that of characters from the classic BBC comedy series Dad's Army.
Some Easter eggs originated from in-jokes between members of the development team. One example is "Toasty", which found its way into the game in the form of a small image of sound designer Dan Forden, who would appear in the corner of the screen during gameplay (after performing an uppercut) and yell the phrase "Toasty!", originating from him saying "you're toast". This egg was also the key to unlocking the hidden character Smoke when it happened in the Portal stage in Mortal Kombat II. In Mortal Kombat 4, Forden would say "Toasty! 3D!" after Scorpion did his burn Fatality, a reference to the fact that it is the first 3D game of the series. "Toasty!" is also found in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, appearing randomly after the character pulls off a chain of hits, though the picture of Forden was removed for that title, but brought back for the 2011 Mortal Kombat game. Yet another private joke was the hidden character Noob Saibot, who has appeared in various versions of the game starting with Mortal Kombat II. The character's name derived from two of the series' creators' surnames, Ed Boon and John Tobias, spelled backwards. In addition, a counter for ERMACS on the game's audits screen (ERMACS being short for error macros), was interpreted by some players as a reference to a hidden character in the original Mortal Kombat. The development team decided to turn the rumor into reality, introducing Ermac in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 as an unlockable secret character. The character Mokap, introduced in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, is a tribute to Carlos Pesina, who played Raiden in MK and MKII and has served as a motion capture actor for subsequent titles in the series.
The original Mortal Kombat game was released by Midway and Williams for arcade during October 1992, having since been ported to several console and home computer systems by Probe Software and released by Acclaim Entertainment. The sequel, Mortal Kombat II, was released for arcades in 1993, featuring an increased roster and improved graphics and gameplay, then ported to the numerous home systems in 1993-1995 by Probe Entertainment and Sculptured Software, released again by Acclaim; it was re-released in 2007 for the PlayStation 3. Mortal Kombat 3 followed in 1995 in both arcade and home versions. MK3 got two updates which expanded the number of characters and other features from the game: Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, published that same year, and Mortal Kombat Trilogy the next year. The following game, Mortal Kombat 4, was released in 1997, and marked the jump of the series to 3D rendered graphics instead of the series' previously staple digitized 2D graphics. Mortal Kombat 4 was ported to the PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Microsoft Windows. Its update titled Mortal Kombat Gold was released exclusively for the Dreamcast in 1999.
While to this point Mortal Kombat games were only titled with their installment number, starting with Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance in 2002, the series' naming scheme changed to favor the use of sub-titles instead. It was also at this point that the series started being targeted at consoles only, with Mortal Kombat 4 being the last game in the series to ever be released for the arcades. Deadly Alliance was released initially for the Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube. Deadly Alliance was also the first Mortal Kombat game to feature fully 3D gameplay, where up to Mortal Kombat 4 the gameplay had stayed in a 2D plane; this trend would continue for the following two games. The next sequel was the 2004 Mortal Kombat: Deception, released for the PS2, Xbox and GameCube. Its port for the PlayStation Portable, Mortal Kombat: Unchained, was developed by Just Games Interactive in 2006. Mortal Kombat: Armageddon was published in the same year for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and in 2007 for the Wii. In 2008, Midway released the Mortal Kombat Kollection, an anthology of the three then-most recent titles to the main franchise: Mortal Kombat: Deception, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.
A ninth game in the series, a reboot titled simply Mortal Kombat, was developed by the former Midway Games Chicago, now owned by Warner Bros. Games and renamed as NetherRealm Studios. It was first released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2011, and was ported to the PlayStation Vita in 2012 and to the Microsoft Windows in 2013. Its first sequel, Mortal Kombat X, was released in 2015 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows. A follow-up, Mortal Kombat 11, was released in 2019 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Microsoft Windows.
Besides the fighting games, there are three action-adventure titles that work as spin-offs from the Mortal Kombat storyline. Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero was released in 1997 for the PlayStation and Nintendo 64; its story is focused on the first incarnation character of Sub-Zero and is focused in the timeline before the first Mortal Kombat game. The next action game was Mortal Kombat: Special Forces released in 2000 for the PlayStation, starring Major Jackson Briggs in his mission to destroy the Black Dragon. Both games were critically panned. Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks developed by Midway Studios Los Angeles was released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox, starring Liu Kang and Kung Lao and telling an alternate version of the events between the first and second Mortal Kombat games. A similar game entitled Mortal Kombat: Fire & Ice, which was to star Scorpion and again Sub-Zero, was canceled when the developers of Shaolin Monks "couldn't do it in time and under budget".
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, a crossover fighting game between the Mortal Kombat franchise and DC Universe, was released in 2008 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. In 2013, Boon named the hypothetical "MKvsSF" as his dream crossover game and in 2014 he said his team has remained in touch with Capcom, but no one could resolve the incompatibility problem of Mortal Kombat being much more brutal than Street Fighter. When asked if Street Fighter series would ever do a crossover game with Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter producer Yoshinori Ono also said it would be difficult as Mortal Kombat is a very different game from Street Fighter. Boon has also stated that he would like to do a Mortal Kombat / Killer Instinct crossover game for the Xbox One, wished he could do a Marvel one too but acknowledged it as unlikely since Disney owns Marvel.
Mortal Kombat was adapted into two major motion pictures, Mortal Kombat (1995), and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997), both developed by Threshold Entertainment, produced by Lawrence Kasanoff and released by New Line Cinema (eventual corporate sibling, and later label, of Mortal Kombat rights holder Warner Bros.). Neither film was screened for critics prior to theatrical release. The first movie was released on August 18, 1995, grossing $23 million on its first weekend. Mortal Kombat, despite mixed reviews from critics, became a financial success, eventually grossing $70 million in the U.S. (and over $122 million worldwide) and gaining a cult following from fans of the series while jump starting the Hollywood career of its director Paul W. S. Anderson. That momentum did not carry over into John R. Leonetti's Annihilation, however, which suffered from a poor reception by critics and fans alike, grossing only $36 million in the U.S. and $51 million worldwide, compared to the first movie's worldwide intake of $122 million.
In 2010, director Kevin Tancharoen released an eight-minute Mortal Kombat short film titled Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, made as a proof of concept for Tancharoen's pitch of a reboot movie franchise to Warner Brothers. Tancharoen later confirmed that while the short is entirely unofficial, it does feature the writing of Oren Uziel, who was rumored to be writing the screenplay for the third Mortal Kombat movie. In September 2011, New Line and Warner Bros. announced that Tancharoen has signed on to direct a new feature-length film from a screenplay written by Uziel, with the intention of aiming for an R rating. Shooting was expected to begin in March 2012 with a budget of well under $100 million (projected at between $40–50 million) and a release date of 2013, but was ultimately delayed due to budget constraints, and Tancharoen started working on the second season of Legacy until problems with the film had been sorted out. However, Tancharoen quit the production in October 2013.
In 2015, James Wan signed on to the project to produce a new film of Mortal Kombat, saying he would not rush it. Simon McQuoid was hired as director in November 2016, with Greg Russo to write the script. Lawrence Kasanoff is executive producing. In February 2019, Russo announced the script was complete. Three months later, the film had entered pre-production and would be shot in South Australia later in the year, partly funded via the South Australian Film Corporation. The planned release date is January 15, 2021. In July 2019, Joe Taslim was cast as Sub-Zero, and following month Ludi Lin, Mehcad Brooks, Tadanobu Asano, Sisi Stringer, Jessica McNamee and Josh Lawson were cast as Liu Kang, Jax, Raiden, Mileena, Sonya Blade and Kano, respectively. Later in the month, it was announced that Chin Han was cast as Shang Tsung, Hiroyuki Sanada was cast as Scorpion, and Lewis Tan was cast in an undisclosed role. Jackie Chan Stunt Team member Max Huang was announced to play Kung Lao in the film on September 15, 2019, when it was announced that shooting has begun on the film. Filming wrapped on December 13, 2019.
A number of Mortal Kombat comic books were based on the video game series, including the official Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat II comic books created by Tobias and advertised in the attract modes on early versions of the first two games. In 1994, Malibu Comics launched a licensed Mortal Kombat comic book series, spawning two six-issue series (Blood and Thunder and Battlewave), along with several miniseries and one-shot special issues dedicated to specific characters, until its publication ended in August 1995. Two more comics were also made as tie-ins for Mortal Kombat 4 and the DC Universe crossover game and a new miniseries titled Blood Ties was published prior to the release of Mortal Kombat X in 2015.
Jeff Rovin penned a novelization of the first Mortal Kombat game, which was published in 1995 in order to coincide with the release of the movie, though the novel did not follow the movie plot. Novelizations of both Mortal Kombat movies were written by Martin Delrio and Jerome Preisler.
Mortal Kombat: The Album, a techno album based on the first game was created for Virgin America by Lords of Acid members Praga Khan and Oliver Adams as The Immortals in 1994. Its iconic theme "Techno Syndrome", incorporating the "Mortal Kombat!" yell first shown in the Mortal Kombat commercial for home systems, was first released in 1993 as a single and was also used as a theme music for the Mortal Kombat film series. Each movie had their own soundtracks (including the hit and award-winning compilation album Mortal Kombat: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), as had the second video game (Mortal Kombat II: Music from the Arcade Game Soundtrack). The 2011 video game saw the release of Mortal Kombat: Songs Inspired by the Warriors, a new soundtrack album featuring electronic music by various artists.
The franchise sparked two television series by New Line Television: the 1996 cartoon Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm and the 1998 live-action series Mortal Kombat: Conquest (Konquest), both of them developed by Threshold Entertainment and produced by Lawrence Kasanoff. Neither series ran for more than one season. In 2010, Warner Premiere ordered a web series inspired by the Rebirth short, titled Mortal Kombat: Legacy and also directed by Kevin Tancharoen. The series' first season was released for free on YouTube starting in April 2011, promoted by Machinima.com, and the second season arrived in 2013. In 2014, Warner Bros and Blue Ribbon have been developing a live-action series titled Mortal Kombat that was to tie in with Mortal Kombat X for a planned 2016 release.
An animated prequel to the first movie, titled Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins, was released direct-to-video in 1995. The stage show Mortal Kombat: Live Tour was launched at the end of 1995, expanded to 1996, and featured Mortal Kombat characters in a theatrical display on stage. Brady Games produced the collectible card game Mortal Kombat Kard Game in 1996. Score Entertainment's 2005 collectible card game Epic Battles also used some of the Mortal Kombat characters.
Mortal Kombat has been one of the most successful fighting game franchises in video game history only trailing Bandai Namco's Tekken and Capcom's Street Fighter. It generated more than $4 billion by the late 1990s and $5 billion in total revenue by 2000. A particularly successful game was Mortal Kombat II, which had unprecedented opening week sales figures never seen before in the video game industry, for the first time beating the box office numbers of summer hit films. The Mortal Kombat games, however, have sold poorly in Japan (Tobias blaming their "very americanized" character design).
Mortal Kombat games have sold more than 6 million units by 1994 and 26 million by 2007, and the figure has exceeded 30 million by 2012. NetherRealm Studios' first two Mortal Kombat games have been their best selling games, with Mortal Kombat (2011) at six million units and Mortal Kombat X at 5 million units. As of 2015, following the release of Mortal Kombat X, the franchise had sold over 35 million units.
Ratings, reviews, and awards
The 2008 edition of Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition awarded the Mortal Kombat series with seven world records, including "most successful fighting game series". The franchise holds ten world records in the 2011 Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition, including the "largest promotional campaign for a fighting video game" (Mortal Kombat 3), "highest grossing film based on a beat ‘em up video game" (Mortal Kombat 1996), and "most successful video game spin-off soundtrack album" (Mortal Kombat: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack).
Numerous publications described it as one of the most important and also most violent series in the history of video games; in 2011, the staff of GameSpy wrote "its place in fighting game history is undeniable". In 2009, GameTrailers ranked Mortal Kombat as the ninth top fighting game franchise as well as the seventh bloodiest series of all time. In 2012, Complex ranked Mortal Kombat as 37th best video game franchise overall, commenting on its "legendary status in video game history". Mortal Kombat as a series was also ranked as the goriest video game ever by CraveOnline in 2009 and by G4tv.com in 2011; including it on their list of the goriest games, Cheat Code Central commented that "Mortal Kombat had enough gore to simultaneously offend a nation and change gaming forever."
Legacy and cultural impact
According to IGN, during the 1990s "waves of imitators began to flood the market, filling arcades with a sea of blood from games like Time Killers, Survival Arts, and Guardians of the Hood. Mortal Kombat had ushered in an era of exploitation games, both on consoles and in arcades, all engaging in a battle to see who can cram the most blood and guts onto a low-res screen." Notable Mortal Kombat clones, featuring violent finishing moves and/or digitized sprites, included Bio F.R.E.A.K.S., BloodStorm, Cardinal Syn, Catfight, Eternal Champions, Kasumi Ninja, Killer Instinct, Mace: The Dark Age, Primal Rage, Street Fighter: The Movie, Tattoo Assassins, Thrill Kill, Ultra Vortek, Way of the Warrior, and Midway's own War Gods. John Tobias commented: "Some of the copycat products back then kind of came and went because, on the surface level, the violence will attract some attention, but if there's not much to the product behind it, you're not going to last very long."
In a 2009 poll by GamePro, 21% of voters chose Mortal Kombat as their favorite fighting game series, ranking it third after Street Fighter and Tekken. In 2012, Capcom's Street Fighter producer Yoshinori Ono said he is getting a lot of requests for Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat and understands why people want it, "but it's easier said than done. Having Chun Li getting her spine ripped out, or Ryu's head bouncing off the floor...it doesn't necessarily match." In 2014, martial artist Frankie Edgar opined Mortal Kombat has been far superior to Street Fighter.
The series and its characters are also referenced in the various other works of popular culture, such as in the title of Powerglove's debut album Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man and the Workaholics episode "Model Kombat". According to Complex in 2012, "Years ago, MK became a phenomenon far outside gaming circles alone. Its name has become recognizable enough to be name dropped on sitcoms (Malcolm in the Middle and Married... with Children), found in movies (Christian Slater plays MK4 in Very Bad Things), and used as part of cultural studies (see Justine Cassell and Henry Jenkins' book From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games)." It was also featured in the film Doom Generation. The name "Mortal Kombat" was even given to a dangerous illegal recreational drug that was introduced and caused multiple fatalities in early 2014.
In 2012, Tobias said: "If you look at any other pop culture phenomenon—like if you look at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for instance—it became popular at the time right around when Mortal Kombat became popular, and it had its highs and lows, and here they are once again talking about a major motion picture. That's because of its place in pop culture. It's always there for someone to pick up, polish off, blow the dust off of it, and re-release it. And Mortal Kombat will always be that way. It'll be around 50 years from now."
Fighting games have been a popular genre among tournaments since the late 90s. Mortal Kombat has its place in some of the world's biggest fighting game tournaments including Evo and Combo Breaker, as well as many local and online tournaments around the world. Since the 2011 Mortal Kombat game was released, the game has been one of the most popular games at these events. Between 2014 and 2017, the game was mostly absent from the tournament scene, due to NetherRealm Studios being focused on their Injustice series as their top priority; Mortal Kombat games returned to Combo Breaker in 2018.
The series was subject of a major video game controversy and several court cases, largely related to its extremely violent content, especially in relation to the original game which paved a way for the introduction of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) game rating system in 1994 as well as the Australian Classification Board. Various games in the series, as well as advertisements for them, have been censored or banned in a number of countries. According to SuperData Research CEO Joost van Dreunen, "Because of the obvious rift between gamers on the one hand and adult society on the other, Mortal Kombat set the tone for what constituted gamer culture."
In Germany, every Mortal Kombat game was banned for ten years from its release until 2015. Mortal Kombat (2011) is also banned in Brazil and South Korea, and has been banned in Australia until February 2013. MK11 is banned in Indonesia, Japan, China and Ukraine.