Few gaming series have infiltrated the mainstream and become pop culture mainstays like Mortal Kombat. Throughout the years the series has had some struggles (and a few pretty terrible spin-offs), but the quality has always remained surprisingly high. However, there were low points and times when the series seemingly forgot what made the series so special in the first place. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best Mortal Kombat games and the worst Mortal Kombat games throughout its 20 or so year run:
Worst Mortal Kombat Games | Mortal Kombat 4
A popular saying is that if it isn’t broke then don’t fix it. Mortal Kombat has had a bad habit of making huge changes when it didn’t need to over the years. In the case of Mortal Kombat 4, the series’ first 3D entry, this isn’t a problem of people disliking change. Instead, it was hampered by 3D gameplay that didn’t feel nearly as polished as its 2D counterpart and a limited weapon system that felt out of place.
Worst Mortal Kombat Games | Mortal Kombat: Armageddon
You’d expect iterative titles to build off one another, but Mortal Kombat suffered from diminishing returns on PlayStation 2. Despite Armageddon having over 60 warriors on its roster, its story mode focused on a generic new character named Taven. On the bright side, it did feature a hilarious parody of another “MK” gaming series in Mario Kart. Called Motor Kombat, the arcade racer even had online play and plenty of items to use.
Worst Mortal Kombat Games | Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance
The first PlayStation 2-era title was Deadly Alliance. Each character was given three different fighting styles, which made planning for fights even more difficult than usual. This was a refreshing change, and the 3D fighting feels a lot better than it did in MK4. While not terrible by any means, its sequel (and MKX and MK11) would improve upon it in most areas, so it winds up being in the back half of this list.
Worst Mortal Kombat Games | Mortal Kombat: Deception
There were a lot of good ideas in Mortal Kombat: Deception but unfortunately the second PlayStation 2-era MK title lacked the execution to pull them off well. There’s an entire action role-playing game called Konquest to check out, but it’s a slog to get through. Not only is the story uninteresting, but the entire world is boring to experience, which is the opposite of what Mortal Kombat should be. On the bright side, the chess mini-game was pretty fun and the combat was solid if not extremely memorable. Plus, there is a rip-off of Puzzle Fighter that isn’t quite as good, but is still decent enough.
Best Mortal Kombat Games | Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
While Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe lacked the blood and gore that had become so synonymous with the series, it was also a return to form in many ways. Mortal Kombat was back to being a fighter on a 2D plane, which it definitely belongs, and this meant that the gameplay from the originals carried over. It’s also the first game to feature a cinematic story mode, which has become a staple of NetherRealm Studios’ fighting games since then. It also spawned the Injustice series, so there are a ton of positives that came from this unlikely crossover.
Best Mortal Kombat Games | Mortal Kombat
It’s hard not to have a lot of love for the original that started it all. The fighter stood out from the crowd thanks to its gore, hidden secrets, and balanced cast. It’s still an incredibly fun game to play to this day, even if it doesn’t rank as one of the best fighting games anymore. The fact that many would rather play some rounds of vanilla MK over its many sequels says a lot.
Best Mortal Kombat Games | Mortal Kombat 3
The final game of the original trilogy featured controversial changes. The run button quickened the experience, while chain combos gave it more depth and levels became interactive for the first time. For the most part, these were positive moves and there are plenty of great characters introduced here like Sindel, Sektor, Stryker, and Kabal. It was followed by several re-releases (Ultimate and Trilogy) that added in even more characters. So, while it’s not the peak of the 2D titles, it’s still a bunch of fun to play.
Best Mortal Kombat Games | Mortal Kombat (2011)
The 2011 reboot was fantastically done. It updated the formula while also staying true to its roots in every way. From the gore to the devastating uppercuts, this was what everyone wanted from a new MK title. Plus, it featured the best story mode in the series as the game retold the original trilogy in a thrilling cinematic manner. The new towers also made sure that players had plenty to do.
Best Mortal Kombat Games | Mortal Kombat 2
Mortal Kombat best represents the series at its core. It fleshed out the core gameplay, as crouch punches were added and combos were made easier to pull off. Throw in some great fatality additions, the debuts of Baraka, Jax, Kitana, Kung Lao, and Mileena, and you’ve got a fantastic roster where every character is fun to use. It’s still the Mortal Kombat that people go back to the most.
Best Mortal Kombat Games | Mortal Kombat X
Despite being 20 or so years into its run, Mortal Kombat is still getting better with age. The latest game was an excellent entry that tops the series. The interactive backgrounds were an excellent addition, it’s filled with content, and the story mode introduced a bunch of fun new characters into the mix even if it began to get overly complicated. The future looks bright and Mortal Kombat X demonstrated that perfectly, and it looks like Mortal Kombat 11 (Amazon Link) is set to follow on its foosteps.
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