The Mortal Kombat series is home to some of the best myths in the realm of video games, from hidden characters to unknown new content. Whether it’s down to the ultra-violent action making gamers wish that thresholds could be pushed even further, or the fact that the series’ roots are tied to contagious arcade word-of-mouth legends, it’s hard to see a franchise that has embraced its supposedly hidden content as openly as Mortal Kombat.
The myth factor is something that has been with the series from day one, from the promise of playing as mystery ninja Reptile to the alleged Heath Ledger-esque Joker reskin in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. It’s an element of the franchise that has even been used and perpetuated by the developers themselves. Series creators Ed Boon and John Tobias have toyed with fans for decades over content, sometimes creating characters based off the myths of the fan base.
On the eve of the launch of the highly anticipated Mortal Kombat X, now is the perfect time to look back at some of the most popular – and notorious – urban legends from the series. Here are our picks of the most important Mortal Kombat myths, including some that helped shape the franchise as a whole.
Play as Goro in MK1
Mortal Kombat had instant appeal when it was released in 1992, with its buckets of gore, outlandish special moves, and eye-catching animation style. There was one character that seemed to be cut from a different cloth, however. Amongst the digitized human actors, there was Goro – the giant, six-limbed, ponytailed behemoth that acted as the sub-boss before taking on Shang Tsung. Indeed, Goro proved to be a fearsome opponent, capable of ending many a playthrough before players could even reach the final boss.
Unsurprisingly, rumors started appearing about how to play as the four-armed fiend, by inputting elaborate codes and completing move-restrictive playthroughs. On some of the home console ports, however, Goro could actually be unlocked. The Game Boy version of Mortal Kombat allowed players to fight as the half human, half-dragon by successfully completing the game and submitting a cheat code, whilst intrepid SNES gamers have found a glitch that allows the second player in multiplayer mode to play as Goro. The six-armed sub-boss will return in Mortal Kombat X, as a pre-order bonus and DLC.
Mortal Kombat has been plagued with mythical hidden fighters, some due to honest glitches and others nothing more than hoaxes. Perhaps the most popular of these characters is Ermac, the red ninja. When fans found the phrase “ERMACS” underneath “Reptile Battles” on the audit menu of the arcade machine, they assumed that this was an another secret combatant – as opposed to the portmanteau of the term “error macros.” Ermac would eventually become part of the character roster proper in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, as a fighter created by Shao Khan out of the souls of dead combatants.
The red ninja is not alone in making the jump from myth to reality. Some players claimed to see a red version of Kitana in Mortal Kombat II and rumors started flying. According to NetherRealm developer Hans Lo, this was due to a graphical glitch, but that did not stop fans of the franchise from deciding that this palette swap was actually an entirely new character called Skarlet. Ed Boon would eventually decide to make Skarlet part of the Mortal Kombat canon, releasing her as a playable DLC character in Mortal Kombat 9.
Some characters may have been preferred if they were simply rumors, such as purple ninja Rain. The character, whose backstory is made up almost entirely of Prince puns, had a fairly notorious beginning in the Mortal Kombat series, created as a tongue-in-cheek character for Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. He briefly appeared in the game’s attract mode, and was added to the title as a way to keep players hunting for elusive characters. Nonetheless, Rain was made playable in SNES and Genesis ports of the game, and has gone on to have a cult following.
Mortal Kombat SNES Violence
When the original Mortal Kombat was released for home consoles, Super Nintendo owners may have been surprised to see a lot of the gore missing. Nintendo famously removed much of the violent content from the SNES version of the title, replacing blood with grey ‘sweat’ and removing most fatalities. Whilst Sega Genesis players could unlock arcade fatalities and gore with a special code, there was no such luck for Nintendo players. That didn’t stop Mortal Kombat fans from trying, though, and a number of fake routines appeared to help SNES players have the full MK experience.
The best of the bunch was implemented by Nintendo Magazine System, which gave a full two-page spread to a particularly long-winded set of directions in 1993. The code would apparently only work on cartridges with a certain serial number, and the instructions ended with players taping a penny coin to their cartridge to add additional weight. The article gave Mortal Kombat fans a helpline to call, for one hour on the first Friday of April, if they were having trouble unlocking the content. That Friday happened to fall on April 1, resulting in plenty of sheepish fans having been duped by one of the most elaborate video game April Fools’ hoaxes.
Mortal Kombat X has a wide roster of characters available, but some may be disappointed to see their favorite character missing. After all, not all of Mortal Kombat’s characters have been able to fit into every game in the series, and certain well-loved characters have been cut from the series’ many sequels. As is expected of the franchise, a wide number of rumors have appeared over the years, giving players hope that there is some way to play as their preferred pugilist.
It all started with Mortal Kombat II, which excluded both Kano and Sonya Blade from the roster. Fans were aggrieved, particularly when it became clear that both characters were visible NPCs in the game, chained to posts in the background of Shao Kahn’s stage. Players could supposedly unlock Kano and Sonya by defeating the final boss with a Double Flawless victory, then breaking the prisoners’ chains. The game’s developers fed the rumors through the addition of “Kano Transformations” to the arcade gameplay audits – an attempt to trick players into thinking Kano was unlockable.
Animalities and Other Fatalities
The biggest allure of the franchise for many players is the chance to pull off the series’ trademark fatalities: intricate finishing moves that reward players with the most brutal attacks in the game. Mortal Kombat II players claimed that the title had a series of ‘Animality’ fatalities, with characters turning into wild creatures to finish off their opponents. The Animality rumor clearly inspired the developers during the creation of Mortal Kombat 3, as they decided to include the fatality offshoot in the finished version of the game.
The same was true of some other, rather unique, fatalities. Although the likes of Babalities and Friendships were made part of the series in Mortal Kombat II, primarily as a tongue-in-cheek jab at censors who disliked the violent content of the original game, some players were instead entranced by a pair of instances where arena fatalities were said to exist. In the Living Forest stage, it was believed that a player could make one of the trees eat his or her enemy, whilst in the Dead Pool stage an uppercut was said to spear an opponent on one of the hooks. Both of these fatalities would eventually become parts of later games, in Mortal Kombat 9 and Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks respectively.
That concludes our look at some of the most well-remembered Mortal Kombat myths. Here’s hoping that Mortal Kombat X can continue the franchise’s fine tradition of hidden content, making fans of the series go through elaborate schemes to discover additional fighters. Who knows: maybe NetherRealm Studios has a particular cheat that requires a penny to be taped to the top of the console…
What do you make of our list? Are there any particularly memorable legends we didn’t cover? Or did any of the supposed myths come true for you? Let us know in the comments below.