A Cultural Guide to Mortal Kombat

Today sees the release of Mortal Kombat X, the latest installment in the popular fighting game series.  I could go on about how the game boasts dozens of characters, scores of martial arts styles, and a number of gameplay upgrades from its predecessor, but no one here gives a tuppenny fuck about any of that (myself included).  Instead, I bring you a series of fun facts you can bring to your next elegant dinner part if this subject comes up.

  The Bloodsport Game That Wasn’t

Back in 1992, Mortal Kombat was originally envisioned as a game based on the Jean-Claude Van Damme film, but the license fell through.  Its creators crafted their own story of seven kombatants battling it out in a mysterious martial arts tournament.  In an homage to their original inspiration, the character of Johnny Cage was based off of the film’s star.

The Student Has Become The Master

Mortal Kombat’s popularity soared to astronomical heights, and Hollywood took notice.   Three years after the game’s release, Mortal Kombat had its own movie hit theaters across America.  The movie wasn’t exactly a critical darling, but audiences appriciated it as a cult classic, and it remains one of the best video game film adaptations ever*.  Another fun fact: Johnny Cage was originally supposed to be played by Brandon Lee (son of Bruce) once he finished shooting The Crow.  Unfortunately, he met an untimely demise on the set of that movie, and role was then given to Linden Ashby, pictured below.

*This means nothing.

Too Goddamn Lazy To Come Up With New Characters

Mortal Kombat has given us some memorable fighters, like Scorpion and Sub Zero.  But after 10+ games, it can be tough to keep things fresh when adding new warriors to the mix.  Developers thought that the best course of action is to add more ninjas.  Take Scorpion’s  design, swap out the yellow for gray, and you have Smoke.  Plug in a shade of red to get Ermac, the telekinetic ninja.  Shadow ninja Noob Saibot came from turning the ninja character model completely black, then combining the surnames of creators Ed Boon and John Tobias and flipping the spellings.  Last but not least is Rain, who dons a purple ninja outfit, and is the prince of the kingdom of Edenia.  That’s just good character development.

I See What You Did There

When Mortal Kombat was first released on home consoles, family friendly Nintendo wanted nothing to do with that filth, so the uncut, gory version only came out on Sega systems.  Getting the bloody version required players to input a code in the main menu.  That code was “ABACABB”, which is mispelling of Abacab, the 11th studio album of mega music group Genesis.  Sega’s console at the time was the Genesis.  Funny how these things work out.


Of course, Mortal Kombat is known for Fatalities, the gruesome killing moves at the end of a match.  As the game’s popularity grew, it caught the attention of concerned parents and politicians.  There was a public outcry to regulate these violent video games, and the industry decided to nip the controversy in the bud and create the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, or ESRB.  They’re responsible for adding that little icon at the bottom corner of a game’s case, telling consumers what kind of objectionable content is featured in the title.

As for the modern crop of fatalities, they are incredibly disgusting, and I won’t subject you to any of them, especially since Youtube exists and you can find them yourself.  Well, I’ll make an exception for just one.  You probably know why I appreciate it.  (Warning: It’s pretty violent, duh).

Welcome to the 21st century, Mortal Kombat.



About FRQ

Once ate an entire blueberry cobbler by accident
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12 Responses to A Cultural Guide to Mortal Kombat

  1. artdorkgirl says:

    Despite the fact that I live with a gamer, and have vicariously played every installment of Grand Theft Auto, we’ve never been a Mortal Kombat house. However, thanks for the talking points! I’ll be sure to use them at my next:

  2. Fun story time! I was at an arcade with my boyfriend at the time playing Mortal Kombat. I was using my usual technique of just hitting all the buttons at once and doing pretty well. Well some guy standing by us decide that he needs to “win” for me and asks if he can play next round. He proceeded to lose three times. In conclusion, don’t underestimate the girl who is just hitting all the buttons at once.

    Also, this was a wonderful article and I read every word.

    • I had a very similar experience in high school, although we were playing Tekken 3. What’s up with rando guys wanting to beat the girls who look like they don’t know what they are doing.

      I also beat my rando guy, but I think the secret was that I picked the cool Jimmy Hendrix kinda looking guy and hit the kick buttons over and over. Random guy and my bf both picked anatomically impossible female characters.

    • The “just hit every button” strategy is how I beat all my guy friends at Mortal Kombat in high school! They were NOT happy. It was delightful.

    • FRQ says:

      As someone who used to play these kind of games semi competitively, I can say that playing people like you can be a handful sometimes. Employing strategies on someone who gives no fucks can backfire.

      • I dated a guy who was a semi-professional Street Fighter player and he explained all the logistics and analytics that go into actually playing a good game, like understand how many tenths of a second a move takes and all that. Then I zoned out. Then we stopped dating.

  3. Sota says:

    The only Purple Rain Ninja I know is this one…

  4. flanny says:

    I’ve never played Mortal Kombat but I have had dance parties in my living room to the theme song, so I’m a fan.

  5. old man fatima says:

    This is the only video game I have ever really played! When my half sister moved out, she lived near a donut shop that had MK2 and we would get donuts and play the game. Similar to everyone else in this thread, I just mashed buttons. It was fun though!

  6. welcometocostcoiloveyou says:

    My favorite trivia from this is the Genesis album title being the code. That is just fantastic!

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