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Mortal Kombat is known as much for its longevity and ingenuity as it is for it’s cartoonish, mind-boggling violence. Though its initial iterations garnered much controversy – as well as being singlehandedly responsible for the MPAA rating system – that has dropped off in the last decade or so. Mortal Kombat was never really about glorifying violence for the sake of violence but more about committing to an extreme B-movie style and sensibility.
Further Reading: A Quarter Century of Video Game Violence | Mortal Kombat II at 25.
Co-creator and longtime director Ed Boon has always said that Mortal Kombat’s fatalities – those infamous spine snapping, gut-ripping finishing moves – were always designed in a way that no one could ever hope to recreate in real life. As the series moved from 2D to 3D models and environments characters took on an almost gelatinous, water balloon consistency when it came time to “Finish Him!” So whether it’s Johnny Cage punching off a dude’s head, Liu Kang transforming into a dragon or Sub-Zero ripping a spine and skull from a still living body Mortal Kombat has a fatality for everyone. In anticipation of Mortal Kombat 11’s release here are 11 of the series’ best (and goriest) fatalities.
Your Spine! – Sub-Zero, Multiple Games
It’s not a Mortal Kombat game without Sub-Zero and it’s not a Sub-Zero fatality without some hand on spine action. The classic move first appeared on arcade consoles with the original Mortal Kombat and it had parents and politicians hollering for a strict rating system for games. They got their wish but Mortal Kombat and thus Sub-Zero showed some backbone and doubled down on its spectacular violence. Since Mortal Kombat the spine rip has appeared in nearly every mainstream Mortal Kombat game and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sub-Zero of the Lin Kuei adding a few spinal columns to his trophy cabinet.
Heads Up! – Johnny Cage, MK 11.
Mortal Kombat’s greatest showman and uncanny valley Van Damme has long been a fan favourite. His agility, arrogant movie star persona and green energy superpowers endeared him to fans but it was his showy fatalities that stuck in the mind the most. Considering Cage once stuck an Emmy into someone’s chest as a finisher the temporally bent MK 11 will have to up the ante. A quick look at the clip above from the older Cage having a stuntman to his jaw-shattering, 19 take fatality and it’s clear that the Cage we know and love has just gotten better with age.
Flawless Flowerpot – Kung Lao, MK X.
A fatality doesn’t have to be drawn out to have an impact. Kung Lao’s flower arranging-inspired dismemberment only takes a couple of seconds. It’s results are beautifully grotesque and reveal a delicately brutal side to the Shaolin Monk. The delicate hat slices, the way the head lands artfully askew into the quarter cut trunk of his opponent. Masterful, exquisite, a perfect 10 from all the judges.
Enter the Dragon – Liu Kang, Multiple Games.
The bicycle kicking champion of several Mortal Kombat tournaments Liu Kang’s victories over the likes of Shang Tsung, Quan Chi and Shao Kahn are legendary in Earth Realm. More legendary however is the fact that the Lee family never sued Midway, Nether Realm Studios or Warner Brothers for ripping off Bruce Lee so much. Ah well if Van Damme can let Johnny Cage slide the Lees can let Liu Kang go. Halfway between his legendary victories and legendary almost-copyright claims are Liu Kang’s legendary fatalities not least his dragon transformation. Remember how Ed Boon said he never intended for fatalities to be realistically possible well try this one out for size serial killers!
Kreate Your Own! – Every Character, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.
Like picking sandwich ingredients at the deli choosing what to put into your custom fatality in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon was an art form. A slice of decapitation? A drizzle of disembowelment? Some choice cuts on all four limbs perhaps? Maybe even a tasteful dash of castration? Mortal Kombat: Armageddon was widely recognised as the most overstuffed Mortal Kombat and allowing players to create their own fatalities was perhaps a step too far but at least we could see how far the series could go.
Toasty! – Scorpion, Multiple games
Another klassic from Mortal Kombat’s long and storied history. Scorpion is the nu-metal bad boy of Mortal Kombat universe. He probably has a sleeve tattoo, he still swears by Slipknot’s Iowa (who doesn’t), he definitely vapes and he breathes fire. It’s amazing he hasn’t appeared in a fan made video for Limp Bizkit. So it checks out that his fatality would be spitting some sick bars in the form of a torrent of flame. Nothing reduces someone to ashes like Fred Durst singing Rollin’.
A Light Snack – Reptile, Mortal Kombat 4
Mortal Kombat making the jump to 3D was a big thing both for its graphics, gameplay and gore. People sometimes say sucking face instead of kissing but no one ever says gnawing face because, well, it sounds horrible. Still that was what Reptile did with gusto in Mortal Kombat 4. Nothing says “I love you” better than stripping the skin and meat off of someone’s skull.
Rib Eye – Dairou, Mortal Kombat: Deception.
Everybody loves ribs in the right situation. Our ribs keep our organs safe and give our torso structure. Without them we’d be very gelatinous. Even better though are animal ribs because they taste good. But what’s the one situation in which we hate ribs? When they’re torn from our chests and stuck in our eyes of course! Dairou – who hasn’t appeared in a Mortal Kombat game since – made everyone wince when he plucked those oh so important bones from his opponent’s chest and plunged them deep into their eyes. Even with Deception’s dated graphics it’s still an eyeful (sorry).
All Boned Out – Kano, Mortal Kombat III.
Continuing in our bone theme Kano did one better on Dairou years before that character appeared. Although the graphics at the time didn’t allow for this particular fatality’s full glory it was still impressive. Seeing an Australian mercenary reach deep into someone’s mouth and pull out not an egg or an endless ribbon but their own damn skeleton is a sight to behold. Kano might be a total asshole but this one’s a real ripper.
Groin Strain – Noob Saibot, MK 9.
The series’ intentions have always been good but Jesus do they sometimes test the limits. No one wants to watch a man – even if he is an evil warlord – get ripped in half groin first. It’s a real ball buster, a total kick in the dick, a true cock crippler, a nasty nut ripper. Whatever, the fatality speaks for itself.
Face Grind – Kabal, MK 11.
Somehow the guys and girls at Nether Realm studios continue to one-up themselves. Case in point: Kabal’s nasty as shit fatality. The face dragging, eye-popping, bisecting finisher stands tall enough that it’s pretty equal with Cage’s 19 take punch. It’s visceral, it’s bloody, it’s the essence of Mortal Kombat.