With Mortal Kombat X's release date inching ever closer, we're paying homage to the MK games of yesteryear, by putting together a top 10 list specially for old school Mortal Kombat fans — the ones that pumped quarter after quarter into coin-ops and spent every waking hour trying to unlock secret characters or discover how to perform new fatalities.
Note: This republished content originally ran prior to the release of Mortal Kombat in 2011.
This Black Dragon mercenary with a fondness of knives had half his face punched off by Major Jackson Briggs (Jax). This worked out in Kano’s favor – he got a chrome dub face with a laser-beam shooting eye. Don’t dare stare or else he’ll rip your still beating heart from your chest.
Test Your Might Fast Fact – Kano is the one character from the original roster that’s been playable in the least amount of games.
9.) Johnny Cage
B-movie “star” turned nard-punching gymnast in tights — this cocky S.O.B. would normally be on my shit list, but his special moves and fatalities are all sorts of badass. With his green shadow kicks, or if he’s pissed, red ones, Johnny Cage is no pushover. He’ll even uppercut not one, but three heads straight off your shoulders. Who were you calling a B-movie star again?
Test Your Might Fast Fact – Johnny Cage was originally modeled after Jean Claude Van Damme’s character, Frank Dux, in the movie Bloodsport.
If right now you’re thinking “what? another palette swap ninja? seriously?” I’ve got two words for you:
Fuck you Error Macro. Long-time Mortal Kombat fans know that Ermac’s origins alone make him a legend. A count of error macros or ‘ERMACS’ were listed directly under a count of "Reptile Battles" — an encounter with the original Mortal Kombat’s hidden character — which led secret hungry fans to believe that a sighting of an Ermac was yet another hidden adversary.
His mythos didn’t end there. In Mortal Kombat II the team prodded fans with the cryptic message “CEAMR ODSE NTO EXITS” (Ermac does not exist) or with the female green ninja Jade, popping in asking “Ermac who?”. It wasn’t until the Ultimate version of Mortal Kombat 3 (UMK3) that Ermac was made playable by entering a 10-digit Ultimate Kombat Kode.
Test Your Might Fast Fact – To unlock Ermac in UMK3, enter the Kombat Kode 1-2-3-4-4-4-4-3-2-1
After realizing that Kano got a metallic makeover as a result of punching half his face off, Jax metaled himself up with bionic arms — effectively making me as a kid extremely jealous and hoping someday doctors could too retrofit my arms with bionic replacements (doesn’t sound like such a good idea anymore). But before Jax got robo-extremities, his ground-pounds and gotcha punches made sure his coolness level was picked up on Richter scales.
Test Your Might Fast Fact – Jax was originally to be named Kurtis Stryker, which ended up being used as the name of a MK3 character.
The god of thunder himself was never awesome for the reasons you would expect. The dude could teleport in a flash and shoot lighting from his fingertips — but his real claim to fame was the strange, obscene-sounding words he would yell while performing his flying torpedo move. A simple google search for “what does Raiden say” doesn’t provide a real answer, with people most coming up with their own comical take on what he said. The truth is, what he was saying had no meaning at all. The MK team revealed that it was nothing more than gibberish. Who knew gibberish could sound so frightening and angry? It usually sounds a lot more like Adam Sandler.
Not only could Raiden shoot lighting from his fingertips, but his Friendship proved that he could shoot children out of them too (or was that not his fingertip?). In the Sega Genesis version of MKII, he performed the most dreaded of the “alities” — a Fergality — where Raiden turns his opponent into this guy. No seriously!
Test Your Might Fast Fact – Raiden was also a playable character in NBA Jam, NFL Blitz and Unreal Championship 2.
In Mortal Kombat, Reptile was such a bad dude, you could only fight him if silhouettes were flying by a full moon, and you beat the CPU with a double-flawless victory and a fatality. He wanted you to find him just so he could kick your ass. The green palette-swap ninja would jump into the center of a stage, taunting you with hints on how to find him — like “look to la luna” and “Tip eht fo mottob”. When you finally caught up with him, shit got scary — you fought him among a bed of spikes strewn with the corpses and limbs of less fortunate pit-goers. Later when Reptile became playable in Mortal Kombat II, he could spit acid, turn invisible, and eat your face off. In Mortal Kombat 4, Reptile started hanging around with the Parthenogenesis crowd and started dressing a little bit more like the the cowboy from the village people.
Test Your Might Fast Fact – In Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat II, Reptile had red blood like a human. In later games, Reptile had green, reptilian blood.
You’ve got to be a pretty tough chick to hang with the other kombatants, but what was really deadly about Kitana was hear beauty. If you happened to earn a smooch from the princess of Edenia, you’d swell up, pulsate and explode into a mess of bones and flesh.
Kitana became a fan-favorite thanks to her having the most devastating combo in the history of the franchise: fan lift, jump-kick, fan throw, square wave punch. Kitana was so hot, Shang Tsung tried to clone her, but he got her face all wrong. He must have wanted a woman with a smile like his mother’s.
Test Your Might Fast Fact – Kitana is 10,000 years old. That means you’ve fantasized about nailing a very old lady.
3.) Shang Tsung
Shang Tsung as himself wasn’t so cool. You had your choice of 3 not so formidable special moves: one fireball, two fireballs, or… get this… three fireballs — at once! Well, not really at once — but in succession! What really made Shang Tsung the man, and a common choice for seasoned MK vets, was because this wizard could morph into any other character in the game, perfectly mimicking their entire move set, including fatalities.
One of his own fatalities had you holding the low punch button for 30 seconds or more and unable to perform any special moves or morphs. The reward? Tsung will the morph into MKII sub-boss Kintaro, punching his opponents torso right off his lower half and across the screen.
Test Your Might Fast Fact – Though he’s a non-playable boss in the first game, Shang Tsung has been playable in the same number of MK games as Kano: 5 games.
1.) Sub-Zero/Scorpion (Tie)
I consider this less of a tie and more of a double K.O. Nobody would have guessed that a simple palette swap aimed at squeezing two characters out of one design would create two video game icons. Sub-Zero and Scorpion were the original Team Jacob Vs. Team Edward, splitting the fan-base down the middle as to who their favorite was.
Sub-Zero, living up to his chilly name, can freeze you on the spot, throws snowballs and can make things really slippery. Scorpion is needy, demanding you to “Get over here” and pulls you closer with his spear. There’s no getting away from him, every time you turn around, he teleports and pops out the other side of the screen. In contrast to Sub-Zero’s freezing facade, Scorpion can make things nice and toasty. These two kombatants are even keeled through and through, and picking a winner could only come down to personal preference. Which leaves only this question: who is your favorite Mortal Kombat character?
Test Your Might Fast Fact – In Mortal Kombat Trilogy, there was a total of 7 palette swapped ninjas — Classic Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Reptile, Ermac, Rain, Human Smoke, Noob Saibot — in addition to Chameleon, a male-ninja whose color and abilities would change during a fight, randomly mimicking all of the other male-ninjas in the game.
Hidden Character.) Nimbus Terrafaux
What's a list of Mortal Kombat characters without a hidden character? As you learned from our list, Mortal Kombat has always had a veil of mystery surrounding it — you never quite feel like you've discovered everything. That was definitely the case with the original Mortal Kombat. Along with Reptile and fans frantically trying to discover what exactly an Ermac was, there was another secret that to this day was never found. That's because this character never existed…
That character was Nimbus Terrafaux. Ed Boon had talked of the kickboxer in an interview with EGM magazine, but the story of Nimbus ended there. Until the April 1994 issue of the magazine when the team posted the first "evidence" of Nimbus' existence — which later turned out to be an April Fool's prank, something that the publication was notorious for.
I can't even begin to tell you how many hours I spent trying to unlock Nimbus thanks to those evil bastards at EGM. You should have seen how red my face was when the next issue arrived. I should have known better considering they got me only two years prior with the notorious Sheng Long hoax. Now I'm skeptical of any news story I read within a month or so of April 1st. Thanks EGM!