Retro Game of the Week: Mortal Kombat

NOTE: This is a copy of a post I made in a closed group on Facebook. I have modified the post slightly to remove personal information regarding myself or others. RGotW is meant to be a snapshot of a game, not an in-depth review.

[L]et’s start with Mortal Kombat.

Simply put, Mortal Kombat is the reason we have ESRB ratings in the United States. In 1992, Liu Kang’s journey to save the earth from Shang Tsung hit home consoles (thanks, Midway!) as one of the most violent games of the time. The game’s 5-button control scheme made a wide range of finishing moves (Fatality!) possible. We’re all familiar with characters like Scorpion and Goro, but what’s really interested decades later is the controversy and how it impacted the gaming industry.

The violent nature of some/all of these fatalities actually caused the Senate, headed up by Liberman, to hold hearings concerning the violence of video games like Mortal Kombat (as well as Night Trap and Lethal Enforcers specifically).

The Sega Genesis version in particular came under fire due to the level of gore Sega was willing to allow on the console. “Sega does what Nintendon’t,” ya know. Nintendo actually used this point as leverage during the hearing to attack Sega, and Sega wound up cancelling the release in Spain as a result. The game was also considered harmful to German youth, where all but the Game Boy version were confiscated by the German government. Even the Japanese release saw some censorship, and we all know Japan is downright weird.

I’m not even going to go into any of the major court cases or feminist/racial critiques of the game.

Long story short, the controversy only boosted the game’s popularity, and Mortal Kombat left a lasting legacy as a result. The popularity generated a media franchise which still sees new installments today, and a lot of 20- and 30-somethings can still press Away/Away/A with lightning speed while screaming “GET OVER HERE!”

No, seriously. I still scream that at people from time to time…


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