Why Can't We Be Friends? Looking Back at Mortal Kombat's Friendships

Fatalities have come a long way, as indicated by the recent Mortal Kombat X. But sometimes, one longs for the old days of Mortal Kombat II and 3's Friendships. Today, Shacknews takes a look back at a time when MK wasn't quite so violent.

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Mortal Kombat X has been out for a couple of weeks and players have been finding new and disgusting ways to maim their opponents. It's a testament to NetherRealm's ongoing creativity, with the newest installment of the series showing just how far Fatalities have progressed. In fact, Mortal Kombat's finisher game has never been stronger. Fatalities take advantage of the next generation of hardware, allowing for more visceral tactics and evocative imagery. Meanwhile, secondary Brutalities add a slightly different twist to finishing off opponents, bypassing the "Finish Him!" phase entirely by simply completing the proper conditions at the end of the deciding round.

The new generation of players are mainly familiar with the most violent of Mortal Kombat finishers. But once upon a time, there was a different way to finish off opponents. It was much more non-violent, it was much more light-hearted, and it was... friendlier. Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3 players will remember... the Friendship.

The Seeds of Friendship

How in Outworld did Friendships get started? The story goes back to the origins of Mortal Kombat itself, a game that was lauded for its innovations by the gaming audience, but absolutely loathed by parents. Gaming was still widely considered a kids activity, so the idea of over-the-top violence was largely foreign in the early 90s. Mortal Kombat was met with protests, outcry, and would lead to the creation of the ESRB rating system. Greg Burke actually does a good job of explaining this in a recent Shack's Arcade Corner for the original Mortal Kombat.

Naturally, that didn't deter any of the Mortal Kombat developers, as they came back in Mortal Kombat II with even gorier finishers. But partly as a tongue-in-cheek response to the parental outcry (and also partly for laughs), the former Midway Games had some new finishers in mind. Babalities would turn the opponent into a harmless baby, while Friendships would introduce completely non-lethal finishers that would serve as an alternative to the bloody Fatalities.

Friends Forever

With over 20 years of retrospect in mind, Mortal Kombat II's Friendships were an amazingly absurd addition to one of the most violent games of the early 90s. As one might imagine, many of the Friendships were on the silly side and had little, if anything, to do with the actual characters. Liu Kang would dance to a disco ball, Kitana would hold up the birthday cake, the game's many ninjas would hock dolls of themselves, and all of it would be done to whimsically wacky music. While Midway arguably meant for this to be in jest, it actually provided a nice break from the heaviness of the game's violence. Some of the Friendships were even on par with Fatalities, with Raiden's 'Kidd Thunder' Friendship standing as one of the game's cooler finishers.

With the Mortal Kombat 3 generation, Midway went even farther in on the craziness. The music got even wackier and the humor level was amplified with even more nonsensical Friendships. Cyrax danced the Charleston, Jax jumped rope, the ninjas had terrifying Jack-in-the-boxes, Nightwolf turned into Raiden... for some reason, and Shang Tsung turned into a... bouncing... metal thingy. The Friendships got downright bizarre and they were all the richer for it. Again, they provided an escape from the wanton violence that filled the game and helped keep players from getting overly saturated with gore.

The other thing to remember about Friendships was that there were certain conditions that had to be completed before players could perform them. Rounds had to be completed with kicks or without blocking, meaning opponents had to lose especially hard to be at the receiving of Friendships or Babalities. Performing these non-violent finishers brought along their own unique badge of honor, even without tearing the opponent into a dozen pieces.

Valuing Old Friendships

If there's a minor criticism I could lob at Mortal Kombat X, it's that the action sometimes takes itself too seriously. It's not just in the serious tone of the Story Mode, but it's in the action, as a whole. Kombatants tend to take themselves and the matches extremely seriously, which isn't a negative in itself. But it's easy to get lost in nostalgia and miss the days of Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3 when Midway would sprinkle in just as many silly gags into its games, from Babalities to something as simple as Dan Forden shouting "Toasty!" after an uppercut. But nothing indicated a lighter side to Mortal Kombat quite like Friendship.

But is there room in today's Mortal Kombat games for something like Friendships? The 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot was able to toss in new Babalities to great effect, adding in new bits of humor to what was once a straightforward (and frankly, somewhat dull) finisher. Given the advances that next-generation hardware has allowed Mortal Kombat to make in the Fatality department, there's still hope that Friendships may one day receive the same treatment. Imagine something over-the-top ridiculous like Kung Jin shooting an apple off an opponent's head, Ferra/Torr offering a high five, or Kenshi carving a wooden heart with his sword -- something that wouldn't have been possible decades ago, but now able to happen with the aid of next-gen hardware.

Sometimes, it's still nice to to mix up the wanton, over-the-top gore with some wholesome fun. Maybe Friendships will make a return someday. In the meantime, it's still nice to look back at the old-school Mortal Kombat games and remember the times when an autographed photo was just as effective a finisher as a decapitating uppercut.

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 29, 2015 11:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Why Can't We Be Friends? Looking Back at Mortal Kombat's Friendships

    • reply
      April 29, 2015 11:56 AM

      MKX version would be shoving one of those giant-over-sized stuffed pandas down someones throat, then the panda explodes. Close up of exposed hip bones and spine with half a stuffed panda face.

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        April 29, 2015 12:38 PM

        I think it would be just extremely over the top friendliness.

        Scorpion could mug at Sub-Zero and brush his hair and talk in a baby-voice until it became really uncomfortable.

        Johnny Cage could accidentally sleep with Goro and then they could feel really awkward about it in the morning, but try to pretend nothing happened.

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          April 29, 2015 12:46 PM

          INTERIOR, LOCATION UNKNOWN
          Light filters through a window to reveal JOHNNY CAGE, lying in bed. Someone lays next to him, by the sheets.

          JOHNNY CAGE: Oh man, I feel like I had sex with a bear!
          FEMALE VOICE: OH MY GOD! DAD?!

          With a shocked look on her face, CASSANDRA CAGE sits up.

          CASSIE CAGE: I think I'm gonna be sick.




          INTERIOR, LOCATION UNKNOWN
          Light filters through a window to reveal JOHNNY CAGE, lying in bed. Someone lays next to him, by the sheets.

          JOHNNY CAGE: Oh man, I feel like I had sex with a bear!
          DEEP, SEXY VOICE: Your will was mine to command!

          The figure shifts and sits up slowly, revealing QUAN CHI, whose grin can only be described as "shit-eating".

          JOHNNY CAGE: At least I didn't sleep with Goro.


          INTERIOR, LOCATION UNKNOWN
          Light filters through a window to reveal JOHNNY CAGE, lying in bed. Someone lays next to him, by the sheets.

          JOHNNY CAGE: Oh man, I feel like I had sex with a bear!
          BOOMING VOICE: GORO!

          The sheets fall to revealGORO, who is smoking a cigar, drinking a beer, and lacing his hands behind his head, all at the same time.

          JOHNNY CAGE: Those were $500 condoms, asshole.

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            April 29, 2015 12:48 PM

            You guys have better ideas for Friendships than I do.

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            April 29, 2015 12:52 PM

            INTERIOR, LOCATION UNKNOWN
            Light filters through a window to reveal JOHNNY CAGE, lying in bed. Someone lays next to him, beneath the sheets.

            JOHNNY CAGE: Oh man, I feel like I had sex with a bear!
            FAMILIAR MALE VOICE: Get over here!

            The camera pans slightly to reveal SCORPION, who is becoking seductively.

            JOHNNY CAGE: Fuck it, why not?



            INTERIOR, LOCATION UNKNOWN
            Light filters through a window to reveal JOHNNY CAGE, lying in bed. Someone lays next to him, beneath the sheets.

            JOHNNY CAGE: Oh man, I feel like I had sex with a bear!
            FEMALE VOICE: And you...taste like one!

            The camera pans slightly to reveal MILEENA, who is wearing her outfit from MK9's story mode.

            JOHNNY CAGE: Dammit, I said no blowjobs!

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            April 29, 2015 2:02 PM

            In all of those, NOOB SAIBOT is watching the whole thing from the corner of the room while invisible.

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              April 29, 2015 2:48 PM

              No, but Johnny Cage is wearing his Ninja Mime costume.

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      April 29, 2015 12:22 PM

      MK11 should bring back Friendships. And if you do one on someone not on your friends list, it sends them an invite.

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        April 29, 2015 1:24 PM

        I'm waiting for it to be MKX DLC. No, really.

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          April 29, 2015 1:28 PM

          I'm going to get shit for this (as would they, if they tried it), but......I don't entirely mind that idea.

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            April 29, 2015 1:38 PM

            It's at least less distasteful than paying for cheat codes. It's actual new content. So there's that.

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            April 29, 2015 1:44 PM

            Honestly, if it's post-release content to generate some revenue, I've got no qualms about it either.

            At least it would be some actual work you're paying for.

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            April 29, 2015 5:38 PM

            I agree

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            April 30, 2015 6:32 AM

            seems like the perfect optional feature for DLC really. Not worth the time to get in the main game, but hey yeah if some of you want to buy a friendship pack for a few bucks, here you go!

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      April 29, 2015 12:48 PM

      I LOVE MKX, it's been so fun so far.

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      April 29, 2015 1:40 PM

      Friendships were my favorite fatalities! Lol!

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      April 29, 2015 1:43 PM

      Great. Now I've got that song stuck in my head

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        April 29, 2015 1:49 PM

        I'm not going to say that was the idea, but...I'm not sure how to finish that sentence.

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      April 29, 2015 2:01 PM

      I sat through a twenty minute fatality and x-ray move video, even though I've never been a big fighting game fan.

      I think it would be awesome to see modern versions of Friendships in the game.