In the chronicles of video game history, few franchises have captured the imagination and reflexes of gamers like Mortal Kombat. Initially released in 1992, the series redefined what a fighting game could be with its unique characters, intricate storylines, and, of course, those infamous fatalities. It wasn’t just a game; it was a cultural phenomenon, sparking debates on video game violence and even making its way into congressional hearings.
While it was considered amusing by many gamers, we can’t overstate the impact it has had on the perception of video games and their long-lasting effect on society as a medium of entertainment.
But that was just the beginning. Over the years, the Mortal Kombat franchise has expanded, capturing the hearts of loyal fans and newcomers alike. From the shock and awe of the original to the more cinematic, story-driven iterations we have today, the Mortal Kombat series has proven that it can adapt, innovate, and continue to be relevant which sadly can not be said about countless other gaming franchises.
Best Of The Best
While the Mortal Kombat franchise has a massive number of titles to its name, let’s focus on the five games that have made a substantial impact on the perception and success of the franchise in the last few years:
- Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (MK vs. DC)
- Mortal Kombat (often referred to as Mortal Kombat 9 or MK9)
- Mortal Kombat X (MKX)
- Mortal Kombat 11 (MK11)
- Mortal Kombat 1
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
Released in 2008 with the most devastating financial crisis as the backdrop, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe was met with a hefty amount of criticism. This was due to the changes made to the core identity of the game. Such as the removal of the more gritty and dark undertones for ones that many thought to be family-friendly. Combat had also seen an overhaul so that the new mechanics of characters could work better with the existing ones. Even if it meant removing fan-favorite ones to make way.
Aside from gameplay which the fans did not like, the story was actually a step up from previous entries as it forgoes the endless revenge quests that had made the franchise famous. Rather it decides to lean into the DC IP and create a tale so engaging and enthraling which to this day is considered to be the peak of storytelling in the franchise.
They also managed to merge the characters seamlessly with each other and in the process even managed to create a team-up that is beloved by the DC and Mortal Kombat fanbase alike. Alas due to the changes to the combat, the game could not secure a footing in the gaming landscape and was not financially profitable enough to get its own sequel. But it did open the gates for cameo fighters from one game to appear in the others. Such as Sub Zero in the Injustice series of games.
Mortal Kombat (MK9)
After a long break in 2011, Mortal Kombat returned with a bang with its 9th official mainline entry. An entry that retold the events of the original trilogy of games and blew fans away with the level of dedication and attention to detail the development team had for the game. The game took the best parts of the previous games and merged them all into one complete and polished package. The story was better, the gameplay had seen a massive boost to not only mechanical depth but also cinematics, and fights were no longer boring bouts till the end.
Now the entire fight was a spectacle as you could use special moves and combos to break the bones of your opponents which were shown with X-ray visuals to enhance the fight that much more. Truly in regards to a sequel the game was what fans wanted, but sadly this would also be the game to introduce the concept of paid fighters after the release of the game, and while they were not as egregious as say 10 dollar horse armour, it still showed an anti-consumer practice which would later become an industry standard.
Mortal Kombat X (MKX)
Mortal Kombat X is probably the most known and most played Mortal Kombat in existence and with good reason as it is probably the best game in the entire franchise and that is an objective statement. This is because the developers took the base created by the previous game and built on top of it. This means the awesome combat of the previous entry was not only kept but also iterated upon with the now-famous variation system.
This system allowed old characters to get whole new move sets and play styles which synergised better with the modern combat system. While also allowing new characters to have a varied arsenal by which they could take on the original cast of characters. New characters also included some descendants of fan-favourite characters from the early series of games. All in all, the game not only proved Mortal Kombat’s dominance over the fighting game genre but also showed that the game could adapt and evolve with the changing tides.
Mortal Kombat 11 (MK11)
Released three years later, Mortal Kombat 11 introduced a Kustom Variation feature, which was an upgrade on the Variation system from Mortal Kombat X.
MK11 had much slower-paced combat than the previous instalment, which some praised, but the game’s drawn-out progression system was criticised by most, and branded as yet another gimmick that so many games fall to.
While MK11 was not poorly received, a lot of fans felt as if Mortal Kombat X was still the superior title.
Mortal Kombat 1
Released on September 14th 2023, the developers have decided to reset the clock and start over again with the timeline.
It takes the core mechanics of the first Mortal Kombat game such as the story and characters and brings them to the next generation while using Mortal Kombat X as the template. It also introduced a new system with the cameo fighters, which adds more mechanical complexity to the game and looks even cooler than that. But despite that, the game is not a great place for new players to start as the game expects you to know certain key stories and game mechanics which might be a turn-off for new players.
The game also sees the introduction of the Kameo system, which is new to the franchise, and could go either way with popularity.
Verdict: Best Mortal Kombat game of the last few years?
After carefully considering gameplay mechanics, storytelling, character rosters, and innovation, the title for the best Mortal Kombat game on Xbox and PS4 goes to Mortal Kombat X.
- Gameplay Mechanics: MKX builds upon the solid foundation laid by MK9, offering
responsive controls and a deep fighting system that rewards both casual players and
pros, which basically means it’s easy to learn but hard to master.
- Character Roster: With a mix of classic and new characters, MKX provides a rich
roster that appeals to fans of all ages. It also introduces the new main cast of the
franchise which is a thematic descendent of the old one.
- Storytelling: The game takes narrative seriously, offering a cinematic story mode that
is both engaging and allows for player choice. It also merges well with the combat
offering some of the best fights in gaming period.
- Variation System: This feature adds a layer of depth and strategy, making every fight
a unique experience. It also adds another layer of depth in pro play as you never know
which playset the opponent with take.
- Graphical Prowess: MKX offers stunning visuals that make every punch, kick, and,
yes, fatality, a feast for the eyes.
Each Mortal Kombat game brings its own flavour to the table no doubt about it. But if we’re talking about the cream of the crop, Mortal Kombat X is the one. Mortal Kombat 1 will have to do a lot to knock Mortal Kombat X off the top spot as the best Mortal Kombat game.