ByMark Newton, writer at
Movie Pilot Associate Editor. Email: [email protected]
Mark Newton

Although beat-em up games have had their time in the limelight and then faded into relative obscurity, the Mortal Kombat series still reigns supreme. So, what's the difference between Mortal Kombat and, say, Tekken or Street Fighter? Well, I think we all know the answer to that.

Mortal Kombat has what would probably be clinically described as an unhealthy obsession with blood, guts and improbably female dimensions. This has endeared the blood spurting, bone cracking and face crushing fighting game with legions of die hard fans.

With this in mind, let's go behind the scenes of the bloodshed to look at some insane Mortal Kombat facts.

1. The First Mortal Kombat Was Made by 4 People In Only 10 Months

In 1991, Midway Games asked programmer Ed Boon and comic book artist John Tobias to develop an arcade fighting game in only 10 months. They hired artist John Vogel and sound designer Dan Forden and managed to finish the game in time.

2. They Only Decided On The Name 6 Months Into Development

It took the four developers 6 months to decided on the name Mortal Kombat. Every previous suggestion was apparently hated by one member of the team, each of which held a veto. Rejected titled included Kumite, Dragon Attack, Death Blow and Fatality. The title Mortal Kombat actually came from someone outside of the development team. Steve Richie, a pinball game designer and friend of Boon's, suggested the title after he saw a misspelling of 'Kombat' on the team's drawing board.

3. You Could Play Pong In Mortal Kombat 2

On the arcade version of Mortal Kombat 2 there was an easter egg which allowed you play a game of pong if you had played 250 consecutive matches. Upon finishing the 250th match, a message would appear stating ‘You have reached the outer limits of the tournament. Now you must both face a challenge from your past’. Cue the arrival of Pong.

4. Mortal Kombat Was Originally A Jean-Claude Van Damme Game

Originally, Mortal Kombat was to a be a tie in game for Jean-Claude Van Damme's Universal Soldier. However, Midway Games suggested that a game which licensed Van Damme and was more akin to his Bloodsport movie would be better. Eventually, Van Damme left the project, although the concept of a fighting tournament remained.

5. Although Van Damme Left, His Spirit Remained

Van Damme might have left the game, but that doesn't mean his original connection to the project was forgotten. The popular playable character of Johnny Cage was based on Van Damme, and even appeared in similar clothes to Van Damme's Bloodsport character. Johnny Cage is also known for being a narcissistic actor, while he shares initials with Van Damme. Coincidence? I thnik not.

6. Prince Inspired Everyone's Least Favorite Character

The purple-clad ninja Rain is also based on a famous and iconic celebrity - Prince (AKA The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince). Prince appeared in, and released an album for, the 1984 movie, Purple Rain. The naming of Rain and his choice of color of garb is therefore a not so subtle reference to the musician. Furthermore, Rain is the prince of his home realm of Edenia.

7. Famed Anti-Video Game Attorney Once Tried To Sue Mortal Kombat

Jack Thompson is a former-attorney who takes issue with any video game that's more violent that Hello Kitty. With this mind, it's not surprising he set his legal crosshairs on Mortal Kombat. However, his main issue was that the game appeared to have used his likeness. He sued, claiming "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon contains an unauthorized commercial exploitation of my name, photograph, image and likeness within the game". In reality, Thompson had actually seen an image of a character designed by a satirical-minded young gamer in Armageddon's Kreate-a-Fighter mode.

8. Ermac Was Born From A Glitch

Mortal Kombat employs several ninja character which are essentially the same except for different color fabric on their suits. In reality, the image for the characters are merely 'palette swaps' of one another, allowing one actor to portray them all.

However, after prolonged playing sessions, a glitch would occur in which the character would revert to the original red, and his name would change to Er Mac. Some players thought they had discovered a new hidden character (à la Reptile in the first Mortal Kombat) with their own move set. This was further propagated by some versions of the game featuring the category 'Ermacs' on its Game Audit page. In reality, it was simply a visual change with Er Mac actually meaning 'Error Macro'. To celebrate the origins of his glitch, the game developers created a fully fledged Mortal Kombat character named Ermac in the 1995 game.

9. The Mortal Kombat Sequel Featured Some Semi-Recognizable Faces

Mortal Kombat originally stood out because it used real digitized actors to portray the various characters. In the original game, friends and co-workers of the four developers filled in as the fighters, but the sequels demanded something a bit better. Various actors were hired for the parts, some of which you might recognize. Kerry Hoskins, a popular Playboy model at the time, played Sonya, while John Turk appeared as Sub-Zero. Since Mortal Kombat he has appeared in television drama Prison Break and a thug who tries to take on Batman in The Dark Knight. You can see his scene below:

10. Mortal Kombat Led To The Creation of the ESRB

Nowadays, the potentially graphic content of video games is rated by the ESRB - the Electronic Software Rating Board. However, did you know this entity was established primarily due to the amount of violence and gore in Mortal Kombat. Up until 1994, mainstream video gaming was still seen as a children's pastime, that was until Mortal Kombat came along and pulled the heart out of that concept. The ESRB was established in its wake to ensure parents knew the content of the games they purchased.


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