I remember when this game first came out. The stores couldn’t keep it on the shelves and even the rental shops couldn’t keep their copies in for longer than it took to get them back. In 1992 Mortal Kombat made the go-ahead move to become THE game that every kid wanted and for more than just the simple reason that it was fighting game. This was a game that was modeled after the movements of REAL people. Using motion capture for each character it was possible to get the real movements of the people that were providing the acting ability to create the game. I believe it was one guy for most of the characters and obviously another for Sonya Blade, but the manner in which this game was created was simply too awesome for words.
No other game had done this type of thing before so far as people knew, and the idea that the fighters on the screen were modeled after real people was something that kids were salivating over since it gave a very authentic look to the game and didn’t force kids to deal with blocky, unmanageable characters in games that had come before. Plus, this game featured blood. Sure it was cheesy and flew in gouts that disappeared quickly but it was the novelty of the thing that was so great. Plus, unless you knew the ‘blood code’ you weren’t bound to get that extra-gory experience.
I can also remember a lot of parents throwing an absolute hissy fit because the game was so violent, and yet most of the toys from the 80’s and 90’s were all about violence and no one ever said a single word about them. Mortal Kombat was brutal, and one reason was that you could actually kill the opponent in this game. I think I still recall most of the fatalities such as Kano’s ability to rip someone’s heart out, Sub-Zero’s famous spine pull, Sonya’s kiss of death, and even Scorpion’s hellish blaze of fire. The others I don’t know as I ever saw, but the ones listed were the most notable and popular back in the day.
The game started out simply with Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Raiden, Liu Kang, Kano, Sonya, and Johnny Cage. Shang Tsung and Goro were there but they weren’t playable characters in the original version. Plus, Goro was a pushover if you figured out the trick. Eventually Mortal Kombat would grow to include a huge list of characters, but from the beginning it’s been one of the most sought after games in the gaming industry. As of late it’s kind of taken a downward turn since the story hasn’t really changed much in all this time and the inclusion of more and more characters is starting to water the whole franchised down.
The first two movies that it spawned didn’t help much, and neither did the reboot that came after. So far Mortal Kombat’s greatest success has been that it did something that no other game did back in the day when it incorporated the movements of real people into its design. That alone was groundbreaking, and that’s what kept it above the others for so long.