Mortal Kombat is one of the most legendary video games of all time. Of course, everyone knows the game for the incredible controversy that it caused in the early 90s, and it singlehandedly kickstarted the whole "violent video games" debate. There was simply nothing like it at the time, and it has been riding that wave ever since.
However, it was also a very good game in its own right, filled with complex fighting mechanics and some of the greatest characters in the fighting game genre. It's a classic, and it has a fantastic story behind it.
These are ten things you never knew about the first Mortal Kombat.
10 The Development Team Originally Consisted Of Four People
Mortal Kombat was a real grassroots video game. Midway Games, the developer and publisher of the game, approached Ed Boon and John Tobias and tasked them with creating a fighting game to compete with Street Fighter II.
The team was quickly assembled, although it was a very, very small one. Ed Boon served as the programmer, John Tobias and John Vogel tackled the art and visual design, and Dan Forden worked as the sound designer. With these four people, one of the most important games of all time was born.
9 Johnny Cage Parodied Jean-Claude Van Damme
One of the most famous characters to come from Mortal Kombat is Johnny Cage, the narcissistic, image-obsessed Hollywood action star. Legend has it that Johnny Cage was largely inspired and modeled after Jean-Claude Van Damme.
They look alike, they are both large-muscled action stars, they both share the same initials, and Johnny's signature split punch to the groin was taken directly from Van Damme's film Bloodsport.
8 It Was Never Intended To Be Violent
Obviously the most famous aspect of Mortal Kombat is its violence. Never before had a video game caused so much controversy due to its violence, as the fatalities were particularly gory and visceral. However, according to Ed Boon, the over the top violence was never the original intention, and that the idea gradually developed throughout the game's development.
Now can you imagine a bloodless, fatality-free Mortal Kombat? We don't even want to think of it!
7 Sonya Was A Late Addition
While games today can take years to develop, Mortal Kombat was completed with a time period of just ten months. Granted, Mortal Kombat is a lot less complex than the games made today! The demo version of the game featured six male characters - Johnny Cage, Kano, Sub Zero, Raiden, Liu Kang, and Scorpion.
This demo became very popular in the Midway offices, and the higher ups decided to give the team more time and money to polish the game. The result was Sonya Blade, a late game, but nevertheless very important, addition.
6 Daniel Pesina - Actor And Martial Arts Coordinator
One of the most important creators behind Mortal Kombat was Daniel Pesina. Pesina served as the game's martial arts coordinator, helping to nail the realistic movements of the characters.
His likeness was also used for the characters Johnny Cage, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, and Reptile. So there you have it - Scorpion is basically just Johnny Cage with a yellow mask! Unfortunately, Pesina later left Midway and sued them for unpaid royalties, as his likeness was used in the console ports.
5 No One Could Agree On A Name
Mortal Kombat is now one of the most recognizable names in gaming, but it could have easily been named something else. That's because no one who worked on the game could agree on a name.
Various names were thrown around - including "Dragon Attack," "Fatality," "Death Blow," and "Kumite" - but someone inevitably hated the name and argued against it. It wasn't until deep into the development cycle that the name Mortal Kombat came around, and it was an instant hit with the team.
4 No One Knows Where "Mortal Kombat" Came From
There are differing accounts regarding the genesis of the Mortal Kombat name. One story even involves pinball machine designer Steve Ritchie. Legend states that Ritchie was hanging out in Ed Boon's office when he saw the word "combat" written on the title ideas board. He then offered Mortal Kombat to Boon, who immediately loved it.
However, John Tobias recalls that everyone had agreed on Mortal Combat without Ritchie's help and that the K in Kombat came about due to trademark and legal reasons. That story is far less cool, but probably more realistic...
3 The Game Was Heavily Censored On The SNES
Mortal Kombat was immediately pegged with controversy due to its violence, and Nintendo saw the writing on the wall. The game was ported over to the Super Nintendo, but Nintendo, fearing the controversy and wishing for their brand to remain family friendly, ordered the game to be censored on their console.
Midway complied. Blood was replaced with flying sweat, and the fatalities were radically changed to feature no blood or gore. Put simply, it was not Mortal Kombat.
2 Ermac Was Created Thanks To An Urban Legend
Mortal Kombat was the subject of numerous urban legends in its day. One of the most popular legends was that a hidden character named Ermac appeared somewhere in the game, as players had discovered something titled ERMACS in the diagnostics screen.
This rumor was further perpetuated by "stories" of Scorpion glitching out and appearing red. While the ERMACS listing simply stood for "error macro," Ermac was later added to the series in tribute of the persistent urban legend.
1 It Was Responsible For Creating The ESRB
In the early 90s, uppity members of Congress were fearing video games and relating their violence to the total corruption of society. According to them, violent games like Night Trap, Doom, Lethal Enforcers, and especially Mortal Kombat, were corrupting "the youth" and making them bloodthirsty psychos.
This became such a big deal that the topic was taken to congress, instigating the infamous 1993 congressional hearings on video games. As a result of these hearings, the ESRB was created, and video games finally had its own dedicated ratings system.