Join Screen Critics as Shaun takes on the entire Mortal Kombat series – searching for the number one outing.
When gamers argue about which fighting series is the best, it doesn’t take long for Mortal Kombat to make its presence felt. The series can be credited with really helping to establish the popularity of the fighting genre; bringing fans in with hilariously over the top gore and some fun fighting action to boot. But not all the games have been great. I recently got back to playing Mortal Kombat 3, and thus decided to go ahead and rank all the series outings. To be clear, none of the games are outright terrible – but some didn’t help proceedings. Do you agree with the list?
10. Mortal Kombat Armageddon (2006) – The series collapses under the weight of its moving parts in a game that almost brought the entire franchise to its knees. The game boasts an incredibly varied roster of 62 fighters, more than any other in the series. The scramble to get all these characters in the game leads to a good number of them feeling way too similar. The developers also made the fatal mistake of replacing character specific fatalities with those of more generic all-round fitting ones. Yes you could create your own but these were horribly bland and basically robbed the game of a huge amount of personality. Put nicely, this wasn’t a fun game and there’s a reason that it’s remembered so negatively among the series more die-hard fans. Wouldn’t recommend going back to experience it unless you really don’t want to remember the best of Mortal Kombat.
9. Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (2008) – If you’re wondering how on earth these two universe combined – they didn’t make it seamless. Because of the kid-friendly nature of the DC Universe, the game had to water down a number of its more traditional violent aspects. Fatalities were neutered while blood is completely absent. It’s a shame because the core game play is fairly strong and with such a rich and varied cast of characters; this should have been unmissable. Sadly its hard to recommend the game to anyone with a passing interest in either franchise as it serves neither well. The big note from this game was the introduction of the engaging story mode – something that the team would revisit in it’s later offerings.
8 Mortal Kombat 4 (1997) – After becoming a cultural icon with the first three games, the followup game needed to maintain the sense of movement for the series. Sadly Mortal Kombat 4 was a huge stumble, with the series fumbling the move to 3D with all the grace of a dying swan. Instead of committing to one or the other, we get a weird blend of 2D and 3D that never sits well with the series, The core mechanics remain solid but thanks to the awkward nature of the package at large, it’s very much the black sheep of the Mortal Kombat family.
7. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002) – The series finally made the 3D aspect of fighting games work within the Mortal Kombat franchise. Deadly Alliance was wildly ambitious, throwing in a huge number of new modes and ideas that were hit and miss across the board. The introduction of Konquest Mode as well as the Krypt gave gamers a reason to return over and over to try and unlock more collectibles. This was also the game that saw each fighter come packing three different fighting styles. It was a hugely ambitious change for the series and helped to add a sense of variety to proceedings; even if some of the styles felt too similar to each other. The game also bizarrely cut down the number of Fatalities to one per character – a baffling choice that really hurt the appeal of the iconic moves in this game. Yet despite this, Deadly Alliance was an important game for the series; getting it back on track at a time when things weren’t going smoothly for the Mortal Kombat series.
6. Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004) – A direct sequel to Deadly Alliance, Deception added more of the same and expanded on the ideas established there. The introduction of Death Traps into the arenas was a nice touch, while the expanded Konquest Mode finally allows that mode to shine as it was originally intended. The worst thing Deception does is introduce some of the more dull characters into the Mortal Kombat mythos, and without the shocking story line twists that punctuated Deadly Alliance; it’s fairly easy to glance over this title when looking back at the series.
5. Mortal Kombat (1992) – An iconic game that set the bar and had a huge influence on the way video games were made and distributed (You can thank Mortal Kombat for the introduction of rating systems in video games). The game play is fast and furious, bloody and gory as all hell. The game isn’t afraid to shy away from its core appeals; relishing in the absurdity of proceedings and enjoying the deadly combat. The game is still fun to play in short bursts – though sadly lacking in a number of features that would have seen it higher up this list. If you want to experience a true slice of gaming history; Let’s be honest though, you’re only here to see the Fatalities which to this day are gloriously fun to execute. I recommend taking a good look back at the original Mortal Kombat if you’re keen to see where it all began.
4. Mortal Kombat X (2015) – Mortal Kombat X is a hugely fun title and directly carries the momentum of its predecessor on. It’s got the same fun story mode while also adding numerous decent characters and ideas to the Mortal Kombat mythos. The core game play is solid and the return of fan favorite modes like Krypt were well received. Add in the fact it looks gorgeous, and there’s very little you can take away from the game. The only reason this isn’t higher up the list is that the game came packing a fair few issues out the gate, notably on the PC version, which stopped fans from truly enjoying it. The confusing introduction of Faction Wars was a silly addition that doesn’t really add anything to the game. Meanwhile the game went slightly overboard with the introduction of micro transactions; a worrying sign we want to see less of as the series continues its march forward. It might seem nitpicky – but these things rob from the experience and really don’t help matters.
3. Mortal Kombat II (1993) – The sequel everyone wanted arrived in style during 1993. Mortal Kombat II is a tour-de-force that ups the stakes and never slows down. The fighting mechanics are tightened, more fun and flow better. More characters are available, more fatalities, more gore and even more variation on the iconic scenery that made the original so well-loved. Special moves are dropped into proceedings; giving gamers more choice in how they want to take the fight to their opponents. Some additions like Babalities and Friendships might be headscratchers, but this was a series that was at the apex of its popularity and knew exactly what it was doing. The fact that it’s still so fun today is testament to how well the game was ultimately designed.
2. Mortal Kombat III (1995) – Depending on who you talk too, MK3 is either the best or worst of the original trilogy. Naturally I couldn’t get enough as a kid and so I’m bias towards its insanely over the top nature. The addition of running and chained combos really shook up the gameplay; allowing for the potential of victories right out the gate. Mortal Kombat 3 is much faster than its predecessors and alongside some more detailed backgrounds and a hugely expanded roster, fans had a lot to love. The omission of Scorpion and Kitana however was seen as too much by fans back in the day, who demanded their inclusion. This came in the later released Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Some of the games other features left something to be desired too. Animalities were…. interesting to say the least. For my money this is the best of the classic MK games; but I appreciate where that fan hate comes from.
1. Mortal Kombat (2011) – It’s safe to say that Mortal Kombat (2011) was the single most important Mortal Kombat game. Yes the originals caught fire in the wider public sense, but the remainder of the series really didn’t. The downward trajectory really put Mortal Kombat in a weird place during the PlayStation 2 era – the games were fine but outside of hardcore fans it didn’t really go well. Mortal Kombat changed this, soft rebooting the series and giving fans the cinematic game they craved. Not only this but the game play is majestic, arguably the best in the series. It flows so well and thanks to the beautiful graphics; it’s hard to not be pulled into the experience. The huge selection of modes, including a great online bank of options, only adds to the experience and dragged the series into the modern era of gaming with a real blast. Mortal Kombat was back and it wasn’t about to be forgotten again.