The world of fighting games has seen many competitors come and go, but a few champions have stood the test of time.
One of the most important has been Mortal Kombat, a game that not only helped to push the envelope in terms of what fighting game fans could expect from games but that pushed the boundaries of the level of violence that could be shown in video games.
Though the series was first launched in 1992, it has never really slowed down.
Instead, new entries have been released at a regular pace, with each one adding something to the mythology of the series.
If you want to understand Mortal Kombat, you have to start by looking at the main fighting games that were released over the last twenty years.
In this article we are describing all the Mortal Kombat fighting editions (up to now) in order of chronological release so that you will have an idea of which ones to start playing if you are interested in this genre.
Mortal Kombat (1992)
The first Mortal Kombat is, in many ways, an example of how to start off a video game series correctly.
Not only are the majority of the characters who would go on to define the series already present in the first iteration of the game, but the relatively small roster allowed for enough variation for players to instantly connect with the various fighters.
The original game is perhaps best known as an arcade hit, it was also released simultaneously on not only the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis consoles, but also on the handheld Gameboy and Game Gear platforms.
The game would also be released two years later in MS-DOS and Amiga formats, as well as in a higher-fidelity Sega CD format.
Mortal Kombat II (1993)
If Mortal Kombat laid the groundwork for one of the most beloved fighting game series of all time, it’s Mortal Kombat II that absolutely codified what the series would be moving forward.
Like many sequels, this game consisted of more – more fighters, more finishers, more blood, and more options.
With that said, the developers also took the time to go back and fine-tune the game itself, adding a host of moves that are now a standard part of the fighting game landscape and tweaking some of the issues that were present in the original game.
Mortal Kombat II would originally follow the same release pattern as its predecessor, with the game initially releasing in arcades and then following up on the two major video game consoles (SNES and Genesis) and handhelds (Game Gear and Gameboy) before making its way to PC.
Unlike Mortal Kombat, though, the game would also hop across generations, showing up on both the Sega Saturn and the Sony Playstation.
Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)
The original release of Mortal Kombat 3 in 1995 is definitely one of the more divisive releases in Mortal Kombat history.
On one hand, the game was a commercial success that absolutely helped to move the game forward, both in terms of its story and in terms of gameplay elements.
On the other hand, Mortal Kombat 3 also left out some fan-favorite characters, making it feel a little less familiar to many players.
With that said, the addition of combos and dashing make this one of the more important games in the evolution of the series, though bits like the Animalities definitely showed that the series was starting to get weighed down under its own excesses.
Mortal Kombat 3 was released first into arcades, followed quickly by releases on the SNES, Genesis, Game Gear, and Gameboy.
The game would also be released on PC and on the Sony Playstation a bit later on.
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, perhaps even more so than the rest of the titles in the series, really does feel like a relic of its time.
Though it certainly adds a fair bit of new and enhanced combat, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 would likely be released as downloadable content or even as a series of patches today.
Rather than taking place during a new tournament or following a new plotline, this game is largely a series of alterations to the original game.
Though there is absolutely a bit of tweaking to the move sets of existing characters, there’s also a fair bit of content added to the main game.
This edition brings back fan-favorite characters that were left out of the original release, adds in a few new stage backgrounds, and has a host of new modes.
Perhaps most importantly, though, the game introduces Shao Khan’s Lost Treasures, a mode that is a forebear to features like Krypt in modern versions of the game.
Like the original version of Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate was first released in arcades. After that, the game would end up on the Super NES and the Sega Genesis as well as on Sega’s Saturn console and both the Gameboy and Game Gear.
The game would also notably be released much later on more modern platforms, with an iOS release and a release on Xbox Live Arcade.
Mortal Kombat Trilogy (1996)
The Mortal Kombat Trilogy is a particularly interesting entry in the world of Mortal Kombat. On one hand, the release was clearly meant to capitalize on the release of a new generation of consoles which led to it becoming the first Mortal Kombat game not to see its initial release in arcades.
On the other, though, this game represents the first time that Mortal Kombat fans could actually play something close to a compilation of the older games.
The Mortal Kombat Trilogy was mostly built around an upgraded version of Mortal Kombat 3.
It followed the same story and featured almost all of the same mechanics, save for the new Aggressor bar that discouraged opponents from locking down into a blocking position and the Brutality feature that added a new 11-input finisher for the fighters.
What really set the game apart, though, was bringing back not only the rest of the characters from the first two Mortal Kombat games but also a number of stages from those same games.
This gave players a unique chance to see some of the older content in the series without having to go back to older game systems.
The Mortal Kombat Trilogy was initially released on The Playstation, Nintendo 64, and Sega Saturn. A year later, the game would also be released on PC.
Mortal Kombat 4 (1997)
By Scanned from the Nintendo 64 version’s packaging, Link
Mortal Kombat 4 was at once an attempt to move the Mortal Kombat series in to the modern era as well as an attempt to recapture what had made the series so special in the first place.
Though the game was the first in the Mortal Kombat series to use 3D graphics and to allow players to use both weapons and objects, it also removed finishers like the Babalities and Animalities in favor of more violent Fatalities and Stage Fatalities.
Notable for including a number of popular characters from side-games like Quan Chi and Fujin, Mortal Kombat 4 also removed the ability of players to do an infinite amount of damage with a single combo and leveled the playing field a bit at the same time.
This game also returned to the practice of being first released into arcades, followed by releases on the Nintendo 64, Sony Playstation, and Windows PCs.
Mortal Kombat Gold (1999)
By Scanned from the packaging, Link
Mortal Kombat Gold was a console exclusive, released on only Sega’s Dreamcast system. Essentially meant to be a sixth-generation upgrade to Mortal Kombat 4, this game stayed fairly close to the original release but included six new characters, a new way to select weapons, and a few new stages.
Despite being a graphical upgrade from the previous console generation, most fans were dissatisfied by the fact that the game still didn’t look quite as good as it did in the arcade.
Mortal Kombat Gold stands alone as the only Mortal Kombat game to release on the Dreamcast and the only one to be exclusive to a Sega system.
Mortal Kombat Advance (2001)
Mortal Kombat Advance may be the Mortal Kombat title with the overall worst reputation. Described by reviewers as ‘broken’, this Gameboy Advance title not only toned down the violence for which the series was known but it also radically changed the way that combos were done thanks to the control scheme of the Gameboy Advance.
While Mortal Kombat Advance was largely based on the SNES version of Mortal Kombat 3, it did feature a few unlocakble characters that were unique to this game and a slightly simplified style that was meant for younger players.
Even with that said, Mortal Kombat Advance failed to find the kind of audience for which the developers were hoping.
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002)
Deadly Alliance was another major sea change for the Mortal Kombat series. Not only was it the first game in the series not to debut in arcades, but it featured at entirely new set of fighting styles.
Though the game itself was still very combo-heavy, players could now switch between three different fighting styles for each character.
This push for variety in move sets accompanied a push to make the game a bit more realistic, which reduced the number of Fatalities each character could use while also greatly improving the graphics of the game.
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was released on the Playstation 2, Xbox, Nintendo Gamecube and Gameboy Advance. Unlike every other major title in the series, it did not see an official arcade release.
Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition (2003)
Just as Mortal Kombat 3 had a special Gameboy Advanced edition, so too did Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.
Though the game did initially have a standard Gameboy Advance port, the next year would see an upgraded version that added in a few characters that had been left out of the initial game.
Significantly better received than Mortal Kombat Advanced, Tournament Edition seemed to be an acceptable port of a game that had largely been considered a necessary refresh of the franchise.
Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004)
By May be found at the following website: http://www.cdcovers.cc/view/192869/front/mortal-kombat-deception-dvd-ntsc, Link
If Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was a rebirth of the franchise, Deception was the franchise absolutely finding its footing again.
An incredibly well-received game that not only brought back a huge cast but that also brought back more Fatalities and ways to kill opponents, Deception was felt to be not just one of the better entries in the Mortal Kombat series but one of the best fighting games to be released that year.
With its unique ARPG ‘Konquest’ mode and an all-important first appearance of online fighting, this game helped to bring Mortal Kombat back into the public consciousness.
Like Deadly Alliance, Mortal Kombat: Deception never received an official arcade release. Instead, it was released simultaneously on the Playstation 2 and the Xbox. A Gamecube release would follow the next year.
Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks (2005)
Shaolin Monks is a fighting game between the legendary Mortal Kombat one and two where you’re trapped on Shang Tsung’s Island.
Liu Kang and Kung Lao must traverse the different realms to defeat Shang Tsung. There is an additional co-op versus mode where players can unlock additional characters featured in the story.
The most notable gameplay mechanic is the Multi-Direction Fighting Engine which allows you to take out many surrounding enemies with satisfying destruction.
The combo attacks are fluid and efficient with beloved fatalities that make you feel powerful. Survival mode is also a notable gameplay feature that gives you nine challenges ranging from enemies to challenging bosses.
Mortal Kombat Shaolin Monks starts with a recap of the first Mortal Kombat tournament, where a few fights happen. Shang Tsung gets attacked by Liu Kang despite his efforts to conjure powerful sorcery.
Unfortunately, Shang Tsung escapes through a portal to the outworld, which gives him the upper hand in dominating the Earth without winning a tournament.
Of course, this is cheating, and Liu Kang and Kung Lao pursue him relentlessly. This is a significant challenge because the outworld is full of Shang Tsung’s minions.
You are joined by Raiden and Johnny Cage, who help you take control of the challenging situation. Additionally, you are assisted by a princess named Kitana to defeat not only Shang Tsung but also the emperor of the Outworld, who seeks to dominate the Earth.
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (2006)
Despite being only the seventh game in the much longer series, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon is technically the end of the original Mortal Kombat story.
Taking its design and control cues from Deadly Alliance and Deception, Armageddon not only brought back the Konquest mode for one final entry but also brought back almost every fighter that had been in the previous games.
Though it ran on the same engine, Armageddon did have a few unique features. The first was the Kreate-A-Fighter feature, which allowed players to create their own customer fighter.
The other major new feature was Motor Kombat, a very Mortal Kombat take on mascot racers like Mario Kart.
The game itself was was released first on the Playstation 2 and Xbox, with a Nintendo Wii release following the next year.
Mortal Kombat: Unchained (2006)
Another portable exclusive, Mortal Kombat: Unchained was the Playstation Portable version of Mortal Kombat: Deception.
Though the character movesets were reduced and the graphics weren’t quite as sharp as in the console version of the game, this iteration did include a few extra fighters and allowed players to jump right into play with several fighters who were difficult to obtain in the original version.
With a fairly robust multiplayer mode, Unchained seemed to be one of the more successful portable versions of Mortal Kombat.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (2008)
Though it might have been a break from the main saga of Mortal Kombat, it’s hard to deny the huge effect that Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe had on the series.
Not only did it introduce a host of new mechanics that would end up making their way to the series proper, but it also revitalized interest in the Mortal Kombat franchise.
Though this game was less gory and violent than most of the Mortal Kombat games that preceded it, Vs. managed to stand out through the addition of DC comics characters.
The new entrants into the universe were so popular, in fact, that versions of the same characters would find their way into the Injustice series.
A relatively limited release compared to past games, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe was only available on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.
Mortal Kombat (2011)
Though it shares a name with the original game, Mortal Kombat is actually the ninth entry in the series. The 2011 version of the game is both a reboot and an alternate universe tale, with Raiden attempting to change the ending of Armageddon by rewriting the events of the earlier Mortal Kombat games.
Many consider the 2011 edition of the game as a return to form, with a gory new X-ray mode, a 300 level Challenge Tower, and an excellent online mode.
Players also enjoyed getting their hands on new versions of some classic fighters, with updated graphics that still kept the feel of the original game.
Mortal Kombat had a slightly wider release than its predecessor. It was originally released on the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360, with Windows and a Playstation Vita version following soon after.
Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection (2011)
After nearly 20 years, Mortal Kombat fans finally received a proper compilation edition of the original arcade fighters in 2011.
The Arcade Kollection brought players Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 in one package, with only a few minor changes made to the original games.
This Kollection was released first on Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360, with a Steam edition following soon after.
Mortal Kombat X (2015)
If you want to pinpoint the moment when Mortal Kombat really hit its stride again, it has to be the release of Mortal Kombat X.
Taking place in the same continuity as Mortal Kombat (2011), this game brought not only higher-fidelity graphics and some improved fighting mechanics, but one of the best stories that the series had to date.
With a deep roster and impressive DLC support after release, it was one of the first Mortal Kombat games in years to spawn a legitimate professional scene.
Released on Windows, Playstation 4, and Xbox One at the same time, this new game not only had an impressive story mode but it also had some excellent secondary modes.
With multiple Towers and a host of unlockables, it’s no surprise that this game had a long post-release life.
Mortal Kombat 11 (2019)
Following in the footsteps of Mortal Kombat 10, Mortal Kombat 11 pushed the 2011 timeline even further into the future, but brought back the excessive finishers and the over-the-top gore of the past at the same time.
Like Mortal Kombat X, this game would also receive substantial DLC support as time went on and it would continue to grow the fanbase of the original series.
Mortal Kombat 11 was first released for Windows, Playstation 4, and the Xbox One, with a Nintendo Switch version following later.
The game is also able to make use of the increased processing power of both the Playstation 5 and the Xbox Series X.
Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath and Ultimate (2020)
Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath was something unique to the series – an expansion pack. Taking place directly after the end of Mortal Kombat 11, players are given another chance to put right what once went wrong.
This expansion brought the total roster of the game up to 37 playable characters with the second Kombat Pack.
This expansion was followed by the release of Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate, which combined the base game with the expansion and all of the downloadable content that had been released up to that point.
Mortal Kombat: Onslaught (2023)
Mortal Kombat: Onslaught (2023) is something of an oddity in the larger franchise. When people think of Mortal Kombat they tend to think of, well, combat.
The franchise is known for rapid button mashing and lightning-fast execution of fatalities or combos. After all, the original game was one of the very first tournament fighters to hit either the arcade or home consoles.
It was many people’s first introduction to the genre and played a huge part in creating it in the first place. As such, the idea of a Mortal Kombat game in a different genre seems counter-intuitive to a lot of people.
And it’s little wonder that people were caught off guard by the announcement of Mortal Kombat: Onslaught as a mobile game with collection-based RPG elements.
A genre typified by slow and careful consideration of stats seems somewhat counter to a Mortal Kombat game. Or at least it can seem that way initially.
But long-time Mortal Kombat fans will know that this is far from the first time that the franchise has seen spinoff titles with very different gameplay than the mainline entries.
Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, Mortal Kombat: Special Forces, and Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks haven’t really stood the test of time. But each of them hinted at the full potential of Mortal Kombat’s rich lore and multi-dimensional expanses.
And that’s exactly what the hope is for Mortal Kombat: Onslaught. Players will assemble a team from the huge collection of characters introduced within the franchise’s long history.
The action-based elements are huge real-time battles. And the story itself is presented in a full cinematic style which pits the player against a huge threat.
Mortal Kombat 1 (2023)
Mortal Kombat 1 is the rather confusingly named 12th mainline game in the long-running franchise. When the name of this game was announced people assumed it’d be either a remake or a reboot. And there is some truth to the idea.
Mortal Kombat 1 is a soft reboot of the franchise (will be released in September 2o23). The aftermath of Mortal Kombat 11 has left Liu Kang with an unprecedented level of power. And he’s using it to effectively reset the universe.
This has resulted in an eerily familiar, yet intriguingly different, version of Mortal Kombat. One of the game’s biggest draws in terms of lore stems from the way that traditional roles have been shifted around.
You’ll find familiar faces like Scorpion and Sub Zero. But they might not be exactly what you expect. For example, Sub Zero and Scorpion are now brothers.
But while the lore has changed, the sense of action hasn’t. In fact, things have ramped up with the introduction of a new “Kameo” mechanic.
Players leap into a fight with their chosen character and a secondary choice for backup. The ability to juggle the strength of the full cast in your fights adds a whole new level of complexity to the fast-paced strategy. You can even integrate the Kameo mechanic into fatalities and throws.