Through over 20 years of Mortal Kombat, each game has tried to present new and exciting features to engage loyal fans and attract new ones. Not all of these features have stuck around, but some of them reappear throughout the franchise. I’ve put together a list of what I consider the ten best features added to an MK game, as well as five features we wish they never would have added in the first place.
15 Best Features
Honorable Mention: Shaolin Monks
Okay, so I know this isn’t exactly a feature; it was its own game. Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is one of my top 5 games of all-time. The 3D side-scrolling fighter was an amazing addition to the franchise, and almost made up for the horrible Special Forces game that came before it. Not only did it get really deep with the story line, but offered a ton of Easter Eggs and, most importantly, CO-OP mode! It’s hard enough to find a good 2-player game, but one with MK characters??
15.) Tutorials and Practice Mode
When you were a kid, all you had for practice was your younger siblings, and that usually ended with them running away crying because you weren’t being fair. MK9‘s Practice Mode not only helped you see all the moves you were trying to pull off in-game, but let’s you practice how to do Fatalities, as well. This mode has been upgraded in Mortal Kombat X, now allowing two user-controlled players to practice, meaning you can beat the snot out of your sibling with no hurt feelings involved.
14.) Friendships & Babalities
Mortal Kombat doesn’t have to be ALL murder and annihilation, am I right? Sometimes, you can show your respect for your fallen foe in the most ridiculous fashion. After the outcry caused by pixelized decapitations and the like in MK1, MK2 introduced Friendships and Babalities, proving that although it was a quality fighter with great characters, it was certainly not too serious to make fun of itself. We haven’t seen Friendships since MK:Trilogy, and I don’t think the Babalities of MK9 will make another appearance, which makes me sad.
13.) Motor Kombat
I don’t really care that it was a shameless ripoff of Mario Kart; Motor Kombat was hilarious, functional, and a diverse way to take a break from the monotony of fighting. It was especially helpful in MK: Armageddon, a game that was so chock full of characters that the mechanics of the game suffered. Each of the ten playable Motor Kombat characters got their own unique car and unique special move. It was adorable. People have been pining for the mode to come back for years, but Ed Boon
12.) Kombat Kodes
Match modifiers have come along way since their introduction in MK3. Before each Versus mode fight, players were allotted a few seconds to enter in a code using a series of symbols. These combinations corresponded to different fight modifications like no blocking, or one of my favorites, one where the kombatants randomly morph into other characters. Kodes were not re-introduced until MK9, and added a bunch of new options, notably Rainbow Kombat (all the blood turns to colors of the rainbow) and Zombie Kombat (self-explanatory). Mortal Kombat X spins Kodes in a new way, by having them all be unlockables in the Krypt, and you are able to choose multiple at a time for the Kustom Kombat Mode.
11.) Stage Death Traps
Introduced in MK: Deception, death traps were a way for opponents to even the odds a bit. Nearly every single arena in the game contained some type of trap that opponents could be launched into a death trap unique to that level. It added a whole new level of play to the fights. It could get annoying, since you could be pummeling an opponent and they could beat you with one luckily placed hit; it worked the other way around, too.
10.) Konquest Mode
What started as a psuedo-tutorial mode in MK: Deadly Alliance became a fully-enriched adventure game in MK: Armageddon. At its best, Konquest was a fun distraction from the game, full of Easter Eggs and various unlockables. It tried to get a little too wrapped in the game, by introducing two characters we could really not care less about (Taven and Daegon), but I feel that if they did it the right way, exploring the different worlds of Mortal Kombat could be a hell of a lot of fun.
9.) Kreate a Fighter
This is the game mode that everybody wanted, and even though it was part of one of the franchises worst games, people still are krazy about this game mode. You could give characters all your favorite specials, dress them up as cool as PS2 graphics would allow, and take them online to battle your friends. If implemented now, it would be the coolest feature in any video game, but I’m not sure it that will be coming back anytime soon.
8.) Story Mode
In 2008’s MK vs. DC, Neatherrealm had the genius idea of adding a Story Mode. Sure, it was a good way to explain how the hell Batman and Co. ended up in Outworld, but moreover, it was a great way to engage players in a decent story, while making them practice at least a few rounds with each of the main characters. This was expanded upon in MK9 to include a story that’s actually canon material for all the games to come.
The X-Ray feature is one of the most hard-hitting features MK has ever introduced. It began as a new feature in MK9 as a possible response Street Fighter‘s Ultras. With each character possessing a personalized X-Ray move, it is the perfect way to not only show your dominance, but it is great when your life is low and you need a final push towards defeating your opponent. X-Rays demonstrate slow motion, bone-breaking combinations which are just shy of the savageness of Fatalities and Brutalities. Another notion which makes X-Rays excellent, it the ease at which you can dish them out. With a simple two button combination, make your opponent look like a weak ass mofo.
6.) The Krpyt/Unlockables
Unlockables are completely necessary in terms of replayability. The more useless crap I have to kollect, the more hours of my life I will spend finding it. The Krypt was a place players could go to redeem the koins they earned from performance-based fighting, unlocking anything from in-game costumes and fatalities to concept art and stage music. The Krypt has evolved since it’s introduction in Deadly Alliance each game, and added an exploration element to it. The more goodies, the better.
5.) Chess Kombat
Another fun feature that MK: Deception gave us was Chess Kombat. You got to pick characters for positions on the board, each with their own special abilities. The match carried out like a chess game, with the end goal being to literally kill the king. There was some strategy to it, but you were never screwed if you didn’t play the game with a lot of strategy. This is one of my favorite modes because it was still Mortal Kombat but it gave you something to aim for each round other than moving up the fight ladder.
There wasn’t a more satisfying way to lose than to prevent your opponent from completing a Fatality on you. Mortal Kombat Deception, the only game thus far to feature Hara-Kiris, brings a pretty cool feature to the mix. Even if you can’t beat your best friend, you can get the last laugh by determining your own fate. It hasn’t been used since MK:D, and I’m not sure why it still hasn’t been implemented. Maybe it conflicts with Warner Bros’ wholesome family values.
3.) Test Your Luck
Evan, Adrian and I would spent hours in this mode. Test Your Luck was a twisted kind of slot machine that only gives you horrible modifiers. Usually, it comes in the form of falling missiles, random freeze balls or no-throw/no-block modifiers, but there are also interesting ones out there. All of that competition and rage goes away when Armless Kombat is drawn.
Fatalities (which didn’t make the list because they were too obvious) are so dramatic. Your opponent sways drunkenly while you dance to make your character do his or her move. Well in Ultimate MK3, Midway introduced Brutalities. They were finishing moves that could be integrated into the gameplay with an intricate button sequence, ending with an explosion of bones and gore. It was extremely over-the-top fun that was more impressive than insulting. Brutalities are making a comeback to MKX in a big way, with even more detail and stipulations to pull off.
1.) Puzzle Kombat
Just like the old Super Puzzle Fighter II, Puzzle Kombat is a Tetris-like competition game. Unlike SPF, though, each player had a distinct special attack that would either help them offensively stack more lines, or would inhibit their opponent from stacking. All the while, tiny deformed caricatures of your players would have a simulated battle below which would go the direction of whoever is willing the puzzle battle. They even came with cute little Fatalities! It was great to play something not kombat-related, but still be branded as an MK minigame.
5 Worst Features
5.) Weapon Styles
Deadly Alliance was a huge evolution in the quality of play for the series. Each player was equipped with two different fighting styles and one distinct weapon to use. While the variation in fighting styles (and the ability to link combos from one style to the next) was revolutionary, certain characters’ weapon styles were unfairly skewed to inflict maximum damage with little risk of being punished. I’m all for heavy damage, but only if it comes with heavy risk. Weapons have since been linked to combinations, and are more fluid to combat.
4.) Throwaway Characters
Mortal Kombat has a kollection of nearly 75 characters in its 23 year history. Of that total (73 in all), less than half of them have appeared in only half the games. And around 20 of those characters have been in two or less games. Mostly, I’m talking about the horrible additions to the post-MK4 games. Including so many characters in Armageddon also did away with the unique fighting styles of Deception, lending them to the other characters with less development. With the series rebooted, we probably won’t see the good ones again for a while, but I am loving the new characters in MKX, so maybe Neatherrealm learned from their mistakes.
3.) Kombo Breakers
MK: Deception introduced the Breaker system, which was a terrific idea, but poorly executed. In its first iteration, players could abuse the system to a fault. Interrupting combos time after time (three per match) could greatly throw off players’ momentum, giving button-mashers a huge advantage. The moves have since been regulated better after the introduction to a meter system that only allows players to build enough energy for a Breaker sparingly throughout the match. Even still, they burn a lot of energy at the cost of prevented damage.
2.) Aerial Kombat
Fighting belongs on the ground – that’s the best take I can offer on MK: Armageddon‘s Aerial Kombat. Adding several combination hits while the opponent is floating helplessly in the air isn’t just ludicrously defying the laws of physics, but it just wasn’t that fun, either. MK has always been colorful in terms of humor, but the type of Moon gravity attacks here just made the game silly. It was so dumb. I was happy to see it left out of the most recent two games, and hope to never see it again.
1.) Kreate a Fatality
MK: Armageddon is looking pretty crappy right about now. In order to fit all 63 characters into this PS2/Wii/X-Box game, they had to cut a very integral part of the game: Fatalities – or at least as we knew them. Instead of giving each on the roster their own move, opted to allow players to quickly input a series of commands to allow for a string of moves to kill their opponent. It was unimaginative and took away the spirit of what makes Fatalities fun. I understand that it had to be done to accommodate the massive roster, but they could have saved Motor Kombat for another time. It’s by far the worst feature of the franchise, making for the worst game in the franchise.