Mortal Kombat was originally planned as a game based on Jean-Claude Van Damme, but after the deal fell through, creators Ed Boon and John Tobias decided to make a game based loosely on Enter the Dragon. This idea morphed into a fighting game that starred digitally captured martial artists in its first three installments. The series also delivered an unprecedented level of violence, and introduced finishing moves called fatalities that let the winner of a match kill his opponent in a graphic and often comical fashion.
Main article: Mortal Kombat
The story begins during the Mortal Kombat tournament 500 years before present day, in which the best fighters of two worlds, Outworld and the Earth Realm, fight to become champion. The wizard Shang Tsung plans to tip the balance of power to Outworld by introducing a new fighter, the four-armed Shokan warrior Goro, who becomes the champion until the start of the game. Outworld is on the brink of a victory that will spell doom for Earth, so new fighters such as Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, and Sonya enter the tournament to tip the scales. The game's combat was unique at the time for its introduction of a block button, as well as the introduction of the fatality moves. While previous games usually revolved around the Street Fighter method of circular joystick motions, Mortal Kombat used directional commands, like tap back, tap back, then hit forward
Mortal Kombat II
Main article: Mortal Kombat II
The next game in the series was Mortal Kombat II, which follows Shang Tsung's defeat by Liu Kang in the first game. Tsung begs his master Shao Kahn, the ruler of Outworld, to spare his life and tells him that if a Mortal Kombat tournament is held in Outworld, the Earth fighters will be forced to participate, and Tsung will be able to beat them in his own realm. Kahn agrees, restores Tsung's youth, and the new tournament begins. The gameplay for MK2 was tweaked, adding new moves and strengthening others. Each character received multiple fatalities, and other kinds of finishers like friendships and babalities were added.
Mortal Kombat 3
Main articles: Mortal Kombat 3 and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
Mortal Kombat 3 began with Shao Kahn's new plan to claim the Earth Realm by resurrecting his long-dead queen, Sindel. She would be resurrected on Earth, allowing Shao Kahn to reach between the worlds and claim her. This act causes the death of millions--except for those protected by the thunder god Raiden--and parts of Earth are converted into Outworld. Raiden then picks new fighters to enter Outworld and stop Shao Kahn. MK3 included a run button to address concerns that defending players had too much of an advantage. The game also added preset attack combos unique to each character. New finishers such as fatalities, babalities, friendships, and animalities were also added. Level interactivity was also introduced, meaning that certain attacks would transition you to a new level. For instance, an uppercut would make the player break through the roof and the fight would continue on the street above.
Mortal Kombat 4
Main article: Mortal Kombat 4
Mortal Kombat 4 is the first MK game to feature 3D fighters and backgrounds, and introduced the use of weapons, limited 3D combat, such as side-stepping, and a combo breaker ability. The plot of MK4 features Shinnok, a corrupt elder god that has been outcast to another realm. The sorcerer Quan Chi allied himself with Shinnok to free him from imprisonment and kill the other elder gods.
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance
Main article: Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance
In Deadly Alliance, Quan Chi finds the mummified army of the dragon king, but he needs souls to resurrect them, so he forms an alliance with Shang Tsung to gain these souls. Before they can resurrect the army they decide to kill their two greatest threats, Liu Kang and Shao Kahn. Now Earth's warriors have to stop them before they can resurrect the army. This game featured various martial arts style that the player could switch to during the fight, and a store called the Krypt, where the player can purchase extras.
Mortal Kombat: Deception
Main article: Mortal Kombat: Deception
The story of Mortal Kombat: Deception picks up after Deadly Alliance, in which the Earth Realm warriors were defeated by Quan Chi and Shang Tsung. Once the sorcerors' enemies are defeated, they turn on each other, and Quan Chi proves victorious. As he enters the tomb ready to resurrect the armies of the dragon king, the dragon king himself, Onaga, returns and defeats Raiden, Quan Chi, and Shang Tsung. Now Onaga must find six artifacts to join all the realms, and destroy everything within. Deception added the minigames: Chess Kombat and Puzzle Kombat to the core fighting game. The fighting was also improved with multiple levels, level-specific weapons, instant death traps, and breakable boundaries. The combo breaker system returned, but it only worked three times per match. This is the first MK game that features online fighting support.
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon
Main article: Mortal Kombat: Armageddon
In Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, the premise is that the fighters in both realms have grown too powerful and are threatening to destroy the worlds with their very presence. A mysterious pyramid with a flame above it rises up from the ground and the fighters are drawn to it. There they find Blaze, a creation of the elder gods sent to kill as many fighters as possible to save Outworld and the Earth Realm. The game was mostly well received, with its comprehensive roster of 62 characters being a major draw, though some critics believed too many were similar to each other.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
Main article: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is a a crossover game between the Mortal Kombat characters and DC Comics. This is the only game in the MK series that hasn't been M-rated, though it features fatalities. As a result, it gained controversy because of this.
Mortal Kombat (2011)
Main article: Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat (9) was developed by NetherRealm Studios, the newly renamed and former Midway studio, and published by WB Games for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on April 19, 2011. Considered a rebirth of the Mortal Kombat franchise, Mortal Kombat drops the 3D fighting game mechanic from previous games and reinvents the 2D fighting mechanic of the first three Mortal Kombat installments, adding new features such as tag-team battles (supporting up to four human players at a time), an extensive battle damage system (which shows player characters getting heavily injured during the fight), and a three-tiered Power Meter (used for enhanced special moves, combo breakers, and powerful moves known as X-RayAttacks). The game also features an in-depth story mode that retells the story of the first three games, but with several changes of varying importance. It is also the first game to have guest fighters for DLC.
Mortal Kombat X
Main Article: Mortal Kombat X
Mortal Kombat X, once again developed by NetherRealm Studios, brings the franchise to the next generation of consoles with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Mortal Kombat 11
Main Article: Mortal Kombat 11
Mortal Kombat 11 made by NetherRealm Studios is set to debut on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. It introduces Kronika, the first female boss in the entire franchise.
The Mortal Kombat franchise has occasionally branched out into other action-oriented genres with games like Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, Mortal Kombat Special Forces, and Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks.