Mortal Kombat Week: Every Mortal Kombat game ranked

Chris Salazar
8 min readApr 19, 2021

From 1992 original to its most recent game from 2019, I rank every game from worst to best

Scorpion vs. Sub-Zero on “Mortal Kombat (2011)”

With (as of writing this) the 2021 Mortal Kombat reboot coming out, I decided to kick off Mortal Kombat week with a ranking of every Mortal Kombat game from worst to best, followed by a short reason as to why. I will not include spin-off games. As awful as the Special Forces spin-off was from 2000 or how awesome 2005’s Shaolin Monks was, I’m only sticking to the core games.

Worst: Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe (2008)

Scorpion, Raiden, & Subzero squaring up against Batman, Wonder Woman, & Superman in “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe”

It was a hot summer in the year 2008, and I was only 13 years old. I remember sitting in my aunt’s apartment in Queens when I first saw the announcement teaser for “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe”. I was incredibly hyped.

Unfortunately, “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” did not live up to the hype at all. first and foremost, this game serves as an A reason why anything Mortal Kombat should never be rated T or PG-13. The franchise’s iconic fatalities and (for DC heroes) “heroic brutalities” were absolutely lame and juvenile. Aside from that elephant in the room, the game's boss, Dark Kahn, was generic and uninspired. In a matter of fact, the entire story mode was generic and uninspired.

The game isn’t without a few of its merits: The multi-tier stages were fun. I did enjoy ramming Superman through a metropolis building as Sub-Zero and fighting my way down the fortress of solitude in a free fall. I also give midway props for trying to utilize the stages and character endings with its crossover concept and trying to make it work. However, “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” is only the worst Mortal Kombat game to have ever come out, it’s a barely above-average game in general.

Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (2006)

Everybody and their mother in “Mortal Kombat: Armageddon”

Before “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe”, we had Armageddon. I was anticipating this game like no tomorrow and it’s not hard to see why: the roster had to literally everyone and their mother, and adventurous Konquest mode, and the first Mortal Kombat game where you get to create your own character. This game should have been everything and while it wasn’t awful or necessarily bad, it’s still was a bit of a letdown.

As much as I enjoyed Kreate-A-Fighter, it led to the awful Kreate-A-Fatality feature which was not annoying to time the inputs but, stripped the entire roster of their personality. The character endings also did that as well. As for the game’s Konquest mode, that managed to be an even bigger letdown than the Fatality system. With an ever-expanding roster of characters, the main protagonist isn’t a flagship character such as Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Raiden, or even MK: Deception’s Shujinko. The main protagonist is now an Edenian named Taven. The main plot puts everybody’s favorite characters are delegated to the backseat in favor of a cliché and bromidic sibling rivalry narrative. Taven and his brother, Deagon, make for stodgy leads in this massive letdown.

Mortal Kombat 4/Gold (1997/1999)

Shinnok & Quan Chi in “Mortal Kombat 4”

Kicking off the 3-D era, “Mortal Kombat 4" is best remembered for its introduction to the sorcerer Quan-Chi and for being the last Mortal Kombat game to be played in Arcades. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it for “Mortal Kombat 4".

Now, I won’t fault the game for its graphics: after all, it was 1997. Still, even back then there were a few issues I had: mainly in Jarek’s laser eye fatality. Also, despite having to deal with Goro as the sub-boss yet again, the game’s main villain, Shinnok, makes for an insultingly easy boss fight. “Mortal Kombat 4" also became the first and last Mortal Kombat game to use video clips as their endings and looking back, it’s not hard to see why: the voice acting was atrocious.

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002)

Cyrax & Nitara in “Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance”

Succeeding “Mortal Kombat 4”, is the far superior “Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance”. This game was the first to include the krypt feature (which would continue throughout the franchise) where you use in-game currency to grab stuff such as concept art, funny things (i.e. cooking with scorpion video), & unlockable characters and stages. This was also the first game to include Konquest mode which was more so just a glorified tutorial mode here, as opposed to an actual story mode in both Deception and Armageddon.

Deadly Alliance also introduced a few fan-favorite characters like Bo Rai Cho, Nitara, & Kenshi. The game also introduced two of the franchise’s most hated characters: Hsu Hao & Mokap. Still, despite its few flaws, I absolutely loved “Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance”. It was one of the games that became a staple of my childhood back in grade school.. much to my parent's dismay.

Mortal Kombat (2011)

Johnny Cage, Raiden, & Sonya Blade in “Mortal Kombat (2011)”

After Midway went bankrupt following the disaster that was “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe”, the franchise found new life at Warner Brothers in 2011. This 2011 reboot both picked up from where Armageddon left off and started over on its own. I was glad to see all of my favorite characters back in one game: Liu Kang, Sonya, Jax, Kabal, Jade, and many others. I also loved the tag-team feature: my favorite team-ups usually consisted of either Sub-Zero & Kitana or Nightwolf & Cyrax. Test Your Luck mode was a blast as well, where modifications could be added to your fights to make them either challenging or downright hilarious.

My main issue with the 2011 reboot is the story mode. While it starts strong, I felt that some of the narrative decisions that were made were incredibly poor. Some characters were reduced to cannon fodder & one moment involving Sindel was infuriatingly idiotic. Still, save for its flawed story mode, I enjoyed “Mortal Kombat (2011)”.

Mortal Kombat 11 (2019)

Liu Kang & Kung Lao in “Mortal Kombat 11”

The second best game in the reboot era, “Mortal Kombat 11" continues to deliver on all fronts. The character designs are strong, the fatalities are extremely brutal, and gear customization makes for some fun design choices.

Hell, it’s “Avengers: Endgame”-esque story mode is mostly great. Netherrealm Studios did pretty well utilizing some of its characters (especially fan-favorite Johnny Cage) but, there were still some issues with the characters and storyline. The main reason why I placed this lower (despite my love for the game) is because of the infamous Sindel retcon. I understand what the people at Netherrealm tried to do: They wanted to make her backstory seem less problematic. However, they went about it in an incredibly wrong way. They took her character from the 3D-era’s redemption arc and made her a gold digger. This actually does more harm than good and I have yet to see anyone defend this.

Mortal Kombat X (2015)

Kung Jin, Cassie Cage, Takeda, & Jacqui Briggs in Mortal Kombat X

Following the 2011 reboot, “Mortal Kombat X” comes out as the best of the reboot era thus far. Sporting the best new characters such as Cassie Cage, Jacqui Briggs, Kung Jin, and many others, MKX also includes the best story mode out of the 3: it truly felt like a film as opposed to a video game and had moments of both fun and heart. Corrupted Shinnok made for a far more intimidating boss than MK4’s Shinnok and the stage fatalities in the game’s expansion, “Mortal Kombat XL”, we’re among the most inventive.

I do, however, wish that the character designs were a little more interesting: Sonya, Jacqui Briggs, and Takeda do not necessarily stand out very well and are relegated to designs that look like they belong in some gritty mid-2000’s film adaptation of your favorite Saturday morning cartoon: dark, drab, and depressing. still, “Mortal Kombat X” comes out on top.

Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004)

Sub-Zero warding off Tarkatans in his “Mortal Kombat: Deception” Ending

The best of the 3-D era, “Mortal Kombat: Deception” remains to be a heavy hitter for the franchise. While having a new character be the main protagonist of the story is a big risk for the franchise, Shujinko was a compelling character with a fleshed-out narrative that both made him interesting and utilized the other characters very well. The introduction of death traps (which were basically stage fatalities without the complicated inputs) and multi-tier stages were absolutely welcome. My favorite stages being both The Slaughterhouse and The Golden Desert. Having some of the best character designs (especially Sub-Zero’s), Puzzle Kombat, Chess Kombat, & the best Konquest mode, “Mortal Kombat: Deception” showcases the franchise at one of its peaks.

Mortal Kombat (1992)

The one that started it all, “Mortal Kombat (1992)” may not hold up as well as its many successors. But, Its impact on gaming and pop culture is undeniable. This game was the reason that the ESRB rating system was invented. In the ’90s, Mortal Kombat was the subject of controversy. So much so, that politicians had to get involved. Looking back, it’s safe to say that this franchise has come a very long way.

Mortal Kombat II (1993)

Kitana being a fangirl for Jax in “Mortal Kombat II”

The first game to introduce female ninjas, stage fatalities, & Friendships, “Mortal Kombat II” delivers how many would expect a sequel to do: bigger and better. While Goro and Shang Tsung were a pain in the ass in the first game, Shao Khan and Kingstown give to make those two seem like child’s play. Mortal Kombat II also introduces Liu Kang’s iconic Dragon fatality, which will next be seen in the upcoming 2021 film.

Best: Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)

The best one of them all, “Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3” takes the cake for simply introducing fan-favorite characters. Characters like Kabal, Cyrax, Jade, and Nightwolf, Ultimate Mortal Kombat three will forever be the best of the franchise. Just like in “Mortal Kombat II”, Shao Kahn still manages to be a nightmarish boss fight.



Chris Salazar

28 | Fiction Writer | usually writes about anything but, mostly about film