Finish Him! A Mortal Kombat Fatality retrospective (part 1)

Mortal Kombat X arrives tomorrow with an all-new set of gruesome and gory Fatalities. Today, Shacknews is taking a look back at NetherRealm's over-the-top finishers from over the years.


Part 2 of our Mortal Kombat Fatality retrospective is now available.

Tomorrow is the day that NetherRealm has been building to for over a year. Mortal Kombat X is about to hit the next-generation of consoles and PC for the first time, bringing along with it some of the most gruesome Fatalities the series has seen. As one might imagine, Ed Boon and crew have set a high bar for fighting game violence over the past couple of decades, with Fatalities gradually growing more and more violent and, by extension, more memorable.

Today, Shacknews is taking a look at the history of Mortal Kombat's Fatality finishers, from the original game that started it all to the newest installment of the series set to release on Tuesday.

Mortal Kombat (1992)

The first Mortal Kombat was something very special from the get-go, providing a genuine alternative to the well-established Street Fighter series. Offering an alternative, yet intuitive, control scheme was a good start, but Ed Boon, John Tobias, and the Mortal Kombat team (then a part of Midway Games), set its new fighter apart with over-the-top and violent finishing moves called Fatalities.

At the time, there was immense parental outrage. Video games were still considered to be child's fare, so the idea of high levels of violence were concerning enough to pave the way for the ESRB rating system. Given the trajectory video games have gone down since then, it's remarkable to look back at these old-school Fatalities and observe just how tame 16-bit body parts look. Of course, the violence level would only escalate from there.

Memorable Fatality: Scorpion is one of the most popular fighters to hit the MK series, with his spear and his relentless drive to bring his opponents to the very depths of the NetherRealm itself. Nothing made quite an impression on players as much as Scorpion's original Fatality, which set his opponents ablaze.

Mortal Kombat II (1993)

The second Mortal Kombat introduced an expanded roster, as well as additional secret fighters and more Stage Fatalities. The Midway crew even introduced whole new finishers, like Babalities (which turn opponents into toddlers) and Friendships (completely non-violent finishers that often focused on humor). But the Fatalities were still the star of the show, with the blood count raised significantly.

MKII raised the violence debate in the media even further, but this is another case where time and perspective have rendered these finishers kind of tame. But at the time, Mortal Kombat had set the standard for violence in video games. Of course, now Midway had quite a tough act to follow.

Memorable Fatality: Reptile crafted a legend for himself in the first Mortal Kombat game by being one of the first secret fighters ever to grace the genre. MKII introduced the green ninja as a proper member of the roster, not only giving him a memorable moveset of his own, but also one of the game's coolest fatalities. Watch as Reptile consumes his opponent below.

Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)

This was the first Mortal Kombat to see Outworld invade our dimension. To Midway, the story was captivating enough to stretch across multiple iterations. After Mortal Kombat 3 came Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 with additional characters. Then the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation got the ultimate compilation called Mortal Kombat Trilogy, which brought aboard all of the series' characters to date.

As for finishers, Fatalities started to move towards the silly side, with many of them focusing more on fighters exploding in showers of bones and limbs. In fact, many times, fighters would leave behind about three torsos, eight legs, and four skulls. The whole thing was very exaggerated, which made it a little easier to take the violence level less seriously. Also, while Babalities and Friendships returned, Animalities (finishers that saw fighters transform into an animal and deliver a gory finisher) were added to the mix. MK Trilogy for the N64 would later add the first incarnation of Brutalities, finishers that would see fighters literally pummel opponents until they exploded. It was an underwhelming addition, but one that is being fully refined for this year's Mortal Kombat X.

Memorable Fatality: He was only introduced as a secret character in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and made a full-time roster member in Mortal Kombat Trilogy, but the soul-tastic brawler Ermac made an immediate impression with his unconventional moves that relied on levitation and telekinesis. His Fatality, likewise, involved using his special powers to polish off opponents, leading to this memorable finisher.

Mortal Kombat 4 (1997)

This was Mortal Kombat's first foray into 3D and, boy howdy, does it show. Like its original 2D effort, the first Mortal Kombat to use 3D models hasn't aged very well, using primitive character models and silly-looking blood effects. And yet, the violence was still very much there. Fatalities would see just as many body parts explode, with some utilizing the series' new dimension by having those parts fly right into the screen.

Memorable Fatality: Many of MK4's Fatalities looked and felt somewhat uninspired, further saturating the violence quotient. There were a couple of exceptions and one of those came from the debuting sorcerer, Quan Chi. Quan Chi's finisher is just plain brutal, as he'd not only rip his opponent's leg off, but he'd proceed to beat his opponent with it, as the stump gushes blood all over the ground. The Fatality is made even better by Quan Chi continuing to savage his opponent all the way until the next load screen. That's a grade-A beatdown!

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002)

The Mortal Kombat series was at something of a crossroads in the early 21st century. Deadly Alliance was a first in a lot of ways. It was the first of the Mortal Kombat games to completely skip arcades, as the arcade game industry had taken a nosedive, thanks to the rise of LAN parties and online gaming. It was also the first of the series to hit PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox, incorporating multiple fighting styles.

Meanwhile, finishers went back to basics. All extra finishers (including Stage Fatalities) were thrown out the window and all characters were only given one Fatality, as it appeared that even Ed Boon and company started to recognize the need to scale back Mortal Kombat's signature finishing moves. Unfortunately, this change wasn't necessarily for the better. Not only did these Fatalities feel more by-the-numbers than ever, but Deadly Alliance also featured some of worst Fatalities in series history.

Memorable Fatality: Again, Deadly Alliance was one of the low points for Fatalities in the MK series. One of the few interesting ones came from cybernetic warrior Cyrax, who used his compactor component to slam his opponent on the ground before grinding them up from within his robotic body.

Of course, there are still more corpses floating out there in the Mortal Kombat space. Come back later today to catch the latter half of the Fatality retrospective, going all the way to the newest fighter on the block: Mortal Kombat X.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    April 13, 2015 8:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Finish Him! A Mortal Kombat Fatality retrospective (part 1)

    • reply
      April 13, 2015 8:34 AM

      Video game history? Shoulda called David Craddock!

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      April 13, 2015 9:30 AM

      Way to cut into my productivity, Ozzie! I'm sitting here debating whether Scorpion's toasty fatality or Sub-Zero's spine rip is the more iconic fatality from MK1. >:{

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        April 13, 2015 9:37 AM

        I have to say, I've always leaned towards Scorpion.

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          April 13, 2015 9:44 AM

          Sub-Zero for me. Also, Kung Lao's splitter in MKII.

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          April 13, 2015 9:48 AM

          I lean toward Sub-Zero, but I can't disagree with you, either. Scorpion's fatality is okay; for me, the real hook to that move was the reveal. Watching Scorpion pull off his head to expose a skeletal face was a shocker. I realized I was playing with some sort of demonic creature. I remember standing around arcade cabinets and soaking in the gasps of onlookers who watched a victorious Scorpion player perform the fatality, not knowing what the character really was.

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        April 13, 2015 9:49 AM

        I've always felt it was Sub-Zero's spine-ripper.

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          April 13, 2015 10:43 AM

          Yeah, for sheer over the top grotesque-ness, I thought the spine-rip was the one that put it over the top for everyone at the time, including the parents and political watch dogs.

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        April 13, 2015 12:43 PM


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        April 13, 2015 1:00 PM


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      April 13, 2015 9:50 AM

      I vacillate on this kind of thing a lot. On the one hand, I get depressed that video game still mire themselves in the most absurd shit designed to appeal to 14-year-old boys, and that it overall reflects poorly on the industry. But other times I feel like it shouldn't matter how ridiculous these things are, we're all adults and goofy, gory shit can be fun, and that the industry is just reflecting those tastes.

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        April 13, 2015 10:46 AM

        I understand how you feel. As far as Mortal Kombat is concerned, I lean toward your latter feelings: fatalities are over-the-top fun. People have always made too big a fuss over them, namely parents and politicians. Most players see them two or three times and then never do them again, either because they prolong getting to the next match or because they've become old hat.

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        April 13, 2015 1:45 PM

        I feel like every medium has its subset of guilty pleasure gory and/or sex content. I don't see why it should reflect poorly on the medium as a whole more than it does in other mediums.

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          April 13, 2015 1:49 PM

          It probably shouldn't. Video games are just still barely coming out of their nascent stage in some ways, and are the one place where violence/sexuality are questioned a lot more than in most other forms of media/entertainment. But really in a world where we can have stuff like Journey and Monument Valley live alongside GTA and Mortal Kombat, I guess I should be glad about that.

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      April 13, 2015 12:37 PM

      Cool article Ozzie thanks man \m/ love MK I am so ready for tomorrow & MKX!

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