It’s always good to look back on where you started, especially when your video game sparked a revolution. On the evening of Sunday, October the 8th, the sounds of punches, bone crunches, and cheers of victory could be heard blocks away from the legendary BARCADE: Bar and arcade, located at West 24th Street on the island of Manhattan in New York City. The event was a birthday party, not celebrating a person, but an arcade video game that paved the way for modern gaming as we know it. We know the characters. We know the moves, and we shout its name: Mortal Kombat.
As of this year, the legendary title is celebrating its 25th Anniversary. At Barcade, Warner Bros Interactive, members of Netherealm Studio, and Mortal Kombat founder Ed Boon himself joined in a spectacle of libations and digital debauchery, grabbing food, drinking cold ones, and playing lots of video games. The Barcade was packed to the woodwork with classic arcade games, fitting for the team as they celebrate their anniversary in part of the industry that served as the birthplace of their revolution. Surrounding the team were classic arcade booths, such as Strider, Discs of Tron, The Star Wars Trilogy, The X-Men Arcade, and even Fix It Felix Jr. Of course, Mortal Kombat II was nestled in the sea of machines as well.
Throughout the night, partygoers faced off with each other in all sorts of games, from Pac-Man to Street Fighter. The Netherealm team even brought PlayStation 3’s and PlayStation 4’s along with them to settle out scores in Mortal Kombat IX and Mortal Kombat X as well. The Middle Earth: Shadow of War team, in particular, was greatly enjoying slugging out rounds on the Mortal Kombat II arcade booth alongside HOT 91.7’s HipHopGamer. Exclusive for the event were a variety of Mortal Kombat-themed mixed drinks. One, in particular, called The Skorpion, added Tobasco sauce to the concoction. Having helped myself it was quite the drinking experience. The team fought the night away, relishing in great memories and celebrating the honor of good, classic competition.
It’s been an incredible 25 years for Mortal Kombat, spanning multiple decades, dozens of consoles, and many different titles. The tale of this game is a tale of breaking the mold, wisdom, and paving new roads. On October 8th, 1992, the first Mortal Kombat game was released to arcades across the county, arresting the attention of the small, but rapidly expanding video game world. The game was met with a mixture of sheer euphoria and paralyzing shock.
Mortal Kombat was praised for its fighting mechanics and stellar presentation, but never had a game delivered on such violent brutality. Like an overnight rock star sensation, players were shouting the name to the top of their lungs, including phrases like ” FINISH HIM” and ” FATALITY!” This wild sensation eventually caught the attention of the United States Government.
Concerned with violence in video games, the government and many of the big names in the gaming industry came together and formed a group dedicated to ensuring safer consumer purchases. It would be called the ESRB, the Electronic Safety Ratings Board. This was one of the many achievements that this title would garner over the decades.
From the tight fighting mechanics to the back-breaking combos to the sheer, unapologetic violence, Mortal Kombat became a trailblazer for video game development and content. Many other games would witness the style and presentation of Mortal Kombat, attempting to emulate it for their own. Games like Killer Instinct, Primal Carnage, Tekken, and Soul Caliber would bring their own flavor to the video game world and the fighting scene. At the turn of the PS2, Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance ushered in the new age of fighting combat, merging classic martial arts and weapons fighting into one fluid system, coupled with a stellar presentation. Mortal Kombat Deception and Mortal Kombat Armageddon would continue the series, and the team even experimented with its first cross-over, Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe. Suddenly, everything stopped.
With the economic recession of 2008, Midway Games, the home to classic titles such as Rampage, Spyhunter, and Mortal Kombat, filed for Bankruptcy in 2009. Unable to pay its debts, Midway collapsed, selling off many of its IP’s to other developers, such as Electronic Arts. Seeing an opportunity, Warner Bros acquired Mortal Kombat and Netherealm Studios. With sheer determination, Mortal Kombat (2011) was launched, rebooted and reloaded for a new generation. Through the ashes a studios downfall, Netherealm persisted to become the undisputed kings of the fighting genres.
Today, the success continues with the release of Mortal Kombat XL and the experiment-turned-phenomenon, INJUSTICE: Gods Among Us. Taking lessons learned from Mortal Kombat vs DC, the Netherealm team worked closely with DC Comics and comic book creators to create a highly accessible, yet incredibly deep fighting experience, celebrating a pantheon of the most celebrated characters in comic book history. This success has continued with the release of Injustice 2, which just launched this past Summer.
The future is looking remarkably bright for Netherealm, but also remarkably fast. Sometimes, its good to take an hour, have a cold drink and go one-on-one in the lair of Shao-Kan.