Of every single fighting game, Mortal Kombat is definitely the most important in the history, to the point where the franchise has become so culturally influential that characters like Scorpion or Sub-Zero are as famous as Indiana Jones, while a word as Fatality is as popular as Quidditch.
During its almost three decades of existence, Mortal Kombat has managed to release some of the greatest games we've ever played, characterized by the incomparable scenarios and a great dose of martial arts. Naturally, these elements turned the series into one of the most played multiplayer games ever, both in the offline and online era.
However, while many of the games mentioned on the list are the clearest representation of Mortal Kombat's brilliance, there are others that also show how a legendary franchise can easily harm its reputation by putting out embarrassing releases. Believe it or not, this outstanding fighting franchise has also launched some of the worst we ever played, experiencing different ups and down where a major renewal was needed in order to survive in an ever-evolving marketplace and in the hearts of a colossal fan base that stayed loyal since day one.
This way, the next article displays not only how the franchise managed to shock the world, but also how it tried to adapt Mortal Kombat to the most important gaming trends of some periods, getting away from the nature that fans loved since the beginning.
If you loved some of the games mentioned, or had a really bad time with some others on the list, don't forget to share it with your friends. This being said, let the countdown begin.
15 Best: Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)
As every gamer knows, the first Mortal Kombat and its sequel were so incredible for their time that it set a turning point in video games history. Given this situation, the greatness of Mortal Kombat 3 was in the fact that it represented the first revolution in the franchise, thanks to several improvements that ended up enhancing players experience.
These improvements included new features like the ability to chain combos together, which gave the players a new way of achieving victory in an instant. Also, a run button was added in order to allow offensive players to close the distance with its rivals, opening a new era in which gamers had to play the game differently.
Although it had an excellent speed, new interesting characters, and even had more detailed environments, the biggest issue with Mortal Kombat 3 is that legendary characters like Kitana or Scorpion aren't in this game, which received a lot of criticism from many fans. Despite this problem, this piece remains a classic.
14 Worst: Mortal Kombat 4 (1997)
The reason why Mortal Kombat 4 is one of the worst in this successful saga is quite simple: it didn’t meet the high standards that everyone was expecting.
This was one of the most anticipated games back in 1997, given the fact that it was going to be the franchise's first step into 3D gaming. Unfortunately, this technology leap was actually quite messy.
Believe it or not, the development team did such an ugly job that the game literally end up being a 2D fighting style on a 3D plane, which was one of the worst design choices in the history. Although Mortal Kombat 4 can be credited for the incorporation of weapons and the introduction of new characters like Shinnock and Quan Chi, it will always be remembered for its failure to enter into the 3D era as it was expected to.
13 Best: Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002)
If Mortal Kombat 4 failed miserably in making a successful transition from 2D to 3D, this one managed to make it happen in the best way possible, giving the fans what they were expecting. Furthermore, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance became one of the best games in the saga's history, since it brought the franchise forward in many substantial and unpredictable ways.
The first one was the death of a main character, being the premise that opened the Konquest mode, which ended up becoming refreshing inclusion for the fighting game. Also, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was the first game in the series to introduce the famous Krypt mode, allowing players to unlock collectibles.
Other great advancements were the three different fighting styles that each character had, as well as the improvement of the weapon combat. Naturally, these advancements allowed the game to reach a whole new level, making it one of the best of all time.
12 Worst: Mortal Kombat Trilogy (1996)
This game was one of the most anticipated in Mortal Kombat history, given the fact that it was going to offer new features to impress everyone who loved the previous entries. Mortal Kombat Trilogy introduced more fighters and the possibility of getting special characters like Smoke, Rain, or the incredible Noob Saibot.
In addition to the 26 available characters, you could also get four hidden ones, the game offered for the first time the famous “Aggressor” bar, and allowed gamers to perform Brutality finishing moves. However, many fans felt quite disappointed with these improvements, since it wasn’t enough to actually enhance their experience.
Another interesting detail about this game was that it allowed players to choose from two-on-two and three-on-three tag team options, including the Eight-Player Tournament mode. Although the Nintendo 64 version was not exactly great, its performance on PlayStation was good enough to reach a decent amount of sales.
11 Best: Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004)
Considering the huge success of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, a lot of gamers thought that the franchise would have to make an incredible effort to improve on the game. Fortunately, this is exactly what happened with Mortal Kombat: Deception, a direct sequel that not only ends up beating its predecessor, but that also managed to become one of the greatest games in the series.
This game improved almost every single detail about Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, to the point where it fleshed it out with new stage finishers, better characters and more Fatalities. In fact, Mortal Kombat: Deception even introduced the Hara-Kiri moves, giving players about to lose the possibility of end matches by trolling their opponents.
Also, the Konquest mode was so much bigger and better than the previous game that fans had the opportunity to enjoy the first open world in any Mortal Kombat game. Also, it offered mini-games, such as chess and puzzle combat.
10 Worst: Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (2006)
This is definitely one of the weirdest cases in the franchise history, given the fact that even though this game had a lot of great features, it ended up being a huge disappointment for the fans.
These features were the numbers of characters available and the possibility of customizing their clothes and even Fatalities. Believe it or not, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon had every single character from the previous games, 62 in total, which is definitely the largest roster of any in the series.
Unfortunately, these ideas weren't executed in the best way and the possibility of choosing a huge amount of characters was ruined because almost each one of them had the same fighting style, which is an unforgivable crime in these kinds of games. Also, the customization of Fatalities was so disastrous that gamers immediately missed the old ones,and the possibility of customizing the clothes was extremely boring.
9 Best: Mortal Kombat (1992)
Although there are other games in the franchise that clearly beat this one, the thing about the first and original Mortal Kombat was the way in which it set a turning point in video games history, becoming one of the most popular fighting games of all time.
This was basically the first game that combined blood-soaked violent content with a well-crafted martial arts aesthetic. Naturally, at the time it was released, this combination was so incredible that its popularity skyrocketed, while gaining negative press attention and a media backlash that would only boost sales.
Of course, its playing system was also a whole new experience at the time, making it a massive hit. On top of that, you could perform Fatalities in this game, which was something so incredibly mind-blowing at that time that Mortal Kombat became an unbeatable force in the fighting game genre.
8 Worst: Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe (2008)
Although it was quite surprising at its time, one of the craziest and most embarrassing moments in TV history was when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles suddenly appeared in an episode of the Power Rangers. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened with Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe and the result was even worse.
Despite the fact that is extremely bizarre to watch Shao Khan fighting The Flash, the main reason why this game failed was censorship. As you might think, the violent content had to be limited in order to accommodate the DC Universe, which ended up being one of the worst mistakes ever made by the franchise, considering that its fans didn’t feel they were playing Mortal Kombat.
Watering down the violent content represented a huge setback for Fatalities, which turned into something lame and depressing for the first time. Although this game had a great story, these ugly elements made its failure the chronicle of a death foretold.
7 Best: Mortal Kombat X (2015)
Although Mortal Kombat is definitely one of the greatest games of all time, storytelling is one of its weakest points, given the fact that its stories are not exactly deep and profound. However, this is probably the strongest virtue of Mortal Kombat X, to the point where its script has such interesting twist and turns that going through the story mode represents an unforgettable experience.
In addition to this outstanding feature, Mortal Kombat X had great details that gamers loved, such as the introduction of new characters and the return of different fighting variations for every single fighter. Also, developer NetherRealm Studios managed to introduce fun, distinct variations to the old characters, which was a really risky move that ended up receiving positive returns.
Nevertheless, the only issue from Mortal Kombat X is that it didn’t include classic characters like Smoke or Kabal, who only made an appearance during cinematics in the story mode. In any case, this game will always be remembered as one of the greatest of the entire series.
6 Worst: Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero (1997)
This was definitely one of the most anticipated games in franchise history, given the fact that imagining an action adventure while controlling the legendary Sub-Zero seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately, the game didn’t meet the expectations and became a good example of how not to make a Mortal Kombat game.
In fact, the game also fails as a platform jumper, considering that stages were too simple. However, the biggest fail was that the fighting experience was extremely shameful, since it didn’t match the intensity that fans were used to in the previous games.
Basically, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero was essentially a side-scrolling version of the three first games in the series, with Sub-Zero running around the stages, freezing enemies, beating them up, and dodging some easy traps.
Sadly, the reception was so overwhelmingly negative that Midway canceled its original intention of turning Mythologies into a series within the franchise.
5 Best: Mortal Kombat 2 (1993)
The reason why this became one of the greatest games in Mortal Kombat history was because it managed to exceed gamers expectations, which were basically impossible to get near at that time.
As you can imagine, when a company manages to launch a really successful game, the real challenge comes with the sequel, considering that it needs to put forth a colossal effort to match the quality of its predecessor. However, this is exactly what happened with Mortal Kombat 2, which ended up beating the previous one in every single aspect.
Mortal Kombat 2 was much better looking than its predecessor, had a deeper story, more characters available, and much more violent content that included an increased Fatality count. Of course, the fighting system also underwent a major improvement, since the developers added more special moves to every single character, making the game faster and more intense than its predecessor.
4 Worst: Mortal Kombat Advance (2001)
Remember the days when a lot of people believed that Game Boy Advance would never release great games as the major platforms? Well, Mortal Kombat Advance was definitely the best argument for those who made that assumption, given the fact that this was probably the most embarrassing game in the entire series.
The worst detail about this disastrous game is that is just a terrible remake of the Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, destroying all the great features that made that game quite extraordinary. The fighting mode is horrendous, every single character only has one Fatality, and Stage Fatalities don't even exist.
Believe it or not, the most shameful detail is that Mortal Kombat Advance didn't even offer the final sequence where Shao Kahn's castle is destroyed, being one of the few games that don’t offer an ending before the credits.
3 Best: Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)
As previously mentioned, Mortal Kombat 3 was a really good game that couldn't reach unanimity in positive reviews because of the fact that it didn’t include legendary characters, such as Kitana or Scorpion. Given this situation, Midway decided to launch another version called Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, which eventually became one of the greatest games of the entire series.
The reason was not only the reinsertion of both characters in the roster, but also the addition of new moves and combos to some fighters, new backgrounds for the matches, the improvement of the opponent AI, and two new gameplay modes: an eight-player tournament mode and the 2-on-2 mode, which was quite similar to an Endurance match.
Also, in order to satisfy the most experienced players, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 introduced an extra Master difficulty setting, which definitely improved the experience and made a lot of people sweat in every single fight.
2 Worst: Mortal Kombat: Special Forces (2000)
This game definitely wins the dubious honor of being the worst Mortal Kombat game in their history, thanks to a lot of details that turned this game into a horror show.
The first detail is that it continues the embarrassing path that the franchise made with the Sub-Zero adventure, with Jax being the one who is forced to be humiliated as the main character this time. Furthermore, the adventure didn’t have any decent puzzles and the enemies were dumb and easy. Somehow, the real challenge is going through the whole game without falling asleep.
The fighting experience is the worst that you could ever experience in any Mortal Kombat game, since the franchise wanted to experiment with a new mode where you could actually used guns (including a sniper rifle) and shoot the enemies.
Mortal Kombat: Special Forces looked like a cheap version of Urban Chaos, or an upgraded version of Tomorrow Never Dies, since in addition to shooting the enemies, you could also beat them up with some boring and depressing combos.
1 Best: Mortal Kombat (2011)
This is definitely the best game of the entire Mortal Kombat series, given the fact that it is an amazing reboot of the original 1992 version. Believe it or not, the greatness of this game is not only the way in which it managed to remain faithful to the first Mortal Kombat, but also how it ended up moving the franchise forward, setting a turning point where fans entered into a new era.
The most outstanding detail about this rebooted version of the original Mortal Kombat was that this game was the first one to perfectly merge the old-schooled 2D fighting-style with the modern game design, allowing gamers to play like the first games of the series in the best way possible. In fact, this Mortal Kombat added new features like the bone-crunching X-Ray moves and an extensive online multiplayer.
In short, this Mortal Kombat achieved the impossible combination of making a perfect tribute to its roots, while forging a path for the years to come.