Mortal Kombat X, the 10th main installment in the iconic fighting franchise hits consoles April 14. Developer NetherRealm Studios has been hyping the game up on its social media and Twitch accounts for months now, and plenty of long time MK fans appear to be taking note.
Will MK X and its roster of 29 characters be able to take advantage of the power of the latest consoles to create the best Mortal Kombat ever? We’ll find out soon enough, but in the meantime, this feels like the right moment to review how the franchise got to this point.
Looking back at the last 23 years of Mortal Kombat, two words come to mind: controversial and influential. Here’s a look back at the previous nine games in the main series, and how they rank against each other today. Is your favorite Mortal Kombat at the top of our list? Read on to find out and then sound off in the comments.
9. Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
While there have been plenty of Mortal Kombat spin-offs over the years, there is one that is both a spin-off of sorts and yet is included by most fans as being one of the games in the main series. Mortal Kombat vs. D.C. Universe was released in 2008 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as a collaboration between Midway Games and Warner Bros.
Players were able to fight as both classic MK characters along with major characters from the DC comics universe, like Superman. On its own merits, the game isn’t half bad, and it did pull in some positive reviews. But this is a ranking of the best Mortal Kombat games, and while MK vs. DC makes good use of the Warner Bros. license, it simply waters down the classic MK formula too much in the process. The game had an utter lack of unlockable features, a MK staple, and a lot of the finishing moves and violence in general seemed toned down, no doubt to preserve the image of some of the characters in the DC stable.
8. Mortal Kombat 4
First released in arcades in 1997 before being ported to PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and eventually the Dreamcast as Mortal Kombat Gold, this was the first title in the series to make the switch to 3D. While the graphics looked cool, the game simply didn’t make the transition well. Developers from Midway Games admitted that the development was a struggle, as they didn’t have a lot of previous experience making a 3D fighting game.
The story, which told of an attack from the Elder God Shinnok, was also not widely loved. Creator Ed Boon admitted years later that making Shinnok the final boss of the game was a mistake, as traditionally the franchise had always featured big, bad final bosses and Shinnok didn’t quite fit the bill. Some of the character endings were also criticized as being laughably bad. Still, MK4 is loved today by some for pushing the graphical limits of the time and featuring a more gruesome, darker overall tone than the previous three games.
7. Mortal Kombat: Armageddon
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon was the 7th main MK title when it released on PlayStation 2 and Xbox in 2006. The game is chronologically the final game in the original Mortal Kombat timeline. As such, the game featured almost every major character featured in the previous games. The game was knocked down a few pegs by some because it re-used many of the same gameplay features from Deadly Alliance and Deception. This was the third major MK game released during that generation of consoles, and some fans thought the series had grown stale.
Armageddon did feature a couple of unique features like giving players the ability to create their own Fatality and the ability to create a “Kustom” fighter to take into battle. There was also a Mario Kart mini-game rip off called Motor Kombat. Yeah, that happened.
6. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was a bit of a reboot for the franchise as the 5th main installment, and the first since Mortal Kombat 4. Unlike the previous titles, this was the first game in the franchise to release directly to home consoles without going to arcades first.
The game featured an interesting story telling of the “deadly alliance” between sorcerers Quan Chi and Shang Tsung. The game was influential in that it allowed the characters to use different fighting styles, which is a feature that has been reused in later titles in the series. Characters were able to quickly switch back and forth between styles as the match moved on, which helped keep players engaged and on their toes.
Deadly Alliance was also influential for introducing “Konquest” mode, which was an expansion of the typical MK storyline and the first time the game’s writers really attempted to delve deeper into the background of many of the franchise’s characters. Mortal Kombat X‘s story mode will reportedly be the most robust the franchise has ever seen, but it was Deadly Alliance that got the ball rolling.