September 13th, 1993 was a significant day in the world of video games; seasoned players might remember it better as 'Mortal Monday' – the day on which Acclaim released the home conversions of Midway's Mortal Kombat arcade game. Following hot on the heels of Capcom's Street Fighter II and famous for its brutal 'Fatalities', digitised visuals and bucketloads of gore, this one-on-one fighter went on to spawn a franchise which continues to this day. While the series was born in the arcades, it's hard to imagine it would have been as successful were it not for the domestic ports which introduced it to millions of players the world over – and at the centre of that initial release was a battle that would present yet another thrilling chapter in the titanic 16-bit struggle between Sega and Nintendo.
Mortal Kombat was ultimately converted to a wide range of systems, including the original monochrome Game Boy and the Commodore Amiga, but it would be the Genesis / Mega Drive and Super Nintendo versions which would garner the most attention, as those two systems were the world's best-selling games formats at the time. Publisher Acclaim was the company which secured the home console rights to the game, and it set about distributing conversion duties to the studios it trusted best. For the Sega version, that was UK-based Probe Software, which had previously worked with Acclaim on titles such as Alien 3 and Terminator 2: The Arcade Game, as well as numerous original games and home computer conversions of coin-ops for other publishers.
"Probe was very close with Acclaim at the time and I guess the successful completion of T2: The Arcade Game – as well as some other Acclaim Mega Drive projects they were handling at the time – meant that Probe was first in line," says Paul Carruthers, who was employed as a freelance contractor at the studio at the time. Carruthers had just worked on T2: The Arcade Game, and after that was completed, was offered the lead programmer role on the Sega version of Mortal Kombat. He took it on as just another job at the time. "Remember that Mortal Kombat was not necessarily thought of as a particularly hot property back then," he adds. "It had just gone big in the arcades, but home gamers were less likely to have heard of it."
For the SNES version, Acclaim selected Sculptured Software, a studio situated over four thousand miles away from Probe in Salt Lake City, Utah. Project Director Jeff Peters admits that like Carruthers, he perhaps wasn't fully aware of what he was dealing with when he first laid eyes on the game – although that stance changed rapidly. "When Acclaim picked up the license, they weren’t quite sure if Mortal Kombat was actually a good game or not," he explains. "It had just been released when we started discussing it and hadn’t yet established itself as a success with legs in the arcades. At the time, I was a highly competitive Street Fighter II player, so my initial frame of reference came from comparing Street Fighter II – and all of the mostly bad fighting game knockoffs at the time – to Mortal Kombat. It had a completely different look as well as a new fighting model that players were adopting as an alternative to Street Fighter II. Initially, I wasn’t a fan, but the more I played it in the arcades, I began to feel what was unique about the fighting mechanics and gradually began spending more time competing on Mortal Kombat than Street Fighter II."
Like Probe, Sculptured Software had a healthy relationship with Acclaim, and had already made quite a name for itself in the games industry. "We also had a great relationship with Nintendo on a first-party basis," Peters adds. "Sculptured had worked with them directly on NCAA Basketball, which showed how we really understood the SNES hardware and how to get the most out of it. Later on, we definitely became known as the masters of 'Mode 7' and games that utilized that features of the SNES." Even so, Sculptured Software had to pitch for the work. Thankfully, the studio secured the deal. "We made a passionate pitch of how we would develop the product," Peters continues. "After we made our pitch to Acclaim, they decided to send the Genesis version to Probe in the UK, who were considered the best Genesis developer at the time, and the SNES to Sculptured Software. Acclaim wasn’t quite sure of the strategy initially, but as it started to be clear that it was an arcade success that had legs, the strategy set in rather quick."
Indeed, as Mortal Kombat's popularity in amusement centres all over the globe became abundantly clear – helped in no small way by its bloody special moves which had sensitive parents covering their eyes in disgust – the project gained additional impetus. Acclaim was, at the time, famed for its arcade ports and licenced games, and relied on projects like Mortal Kombat to generate a healthy stream of revenue. Midway's gory fighter quickly evolved into one of the most requested games of 1993, and that added pressure on the two studios working thousands of miles apart.
In Utah, Peters and his team collaborated with the creators of Mortal Kombat to ensure it was as authentic as possible in terms of presentation and feel. "We worked very closely with the Arcade team at Midway – John Tobias and Ed Boon specifically," he says. "They also wanted the best version of the game for home sales, so we were aligned on that front. For the most part, the relationship was really great between the Sculptured and Midway teams, with the only real issues being development time and some unhappiness about the limitations of the SNES hardware specs, such as processor speed, palette limitations and audio buffers. But we worked through all that pretty well together. We had to cram a lot of stuff – art and code – into a very small, low-powered box."
Peters and his team were actually breaking new ground with this particular conversion. "Our first tactic was to do something no one else had done previously, which was to convert the actual arcade game assembly code to SNES, taking into account the things the console could and could not do. We ended up perfecting this process starting with Mortal Kombat II – which we later ported – but we had made great inroads converting part of the game for Mortal Kombat and then recreating the rest by hand, based on frame-by-frame analysis of the arcade game; we just ran out of time with launch looming. Even so, thanks to all of our other projects we had lots of tools focused on art, palettes and compression. These tools helped to give us a leg-up in the visual sense of being able to maximize the cart size and push the visual fidelity of the product at the same time."
In terms of audio, Sculptured Software also pushed the boundaries of what was possible on Nintendo's 16-bit system. "Speech was such a big part of the arcade game, we wanted to keep as much as possible and set a new bar for audio," Peters explains. "With the limited sound RAM, one of our engineers came up with a process of ‘blasting’ sounds directly from the cart – without pre-loading them in RAM first – so that we could store more voice samples and pull more of the voice samples in real-time into the experience. If you compare the audio on both SNES and Genesis, there’s no comparison which is better in that area."
The technical gulf between the Sega and Nintendo versions of Mortal Kombat may be clear in terms of graphics and sound, but the SNES version lacked the one thing that arguably made the coin-op original so compelling for players: gore. "Nintendo was adamant about the 'no violence' or 'Family friendly' part early on," explains Peters. "So we knew as part of the SNES version, we had to design the worst of the violence away. We would submit new storyboards of 'Fatalities' designs to the team at Midway – Ed Boon, John Tobias and Ken Fednesna – of those we thought still retained the intent of the Fatality as well as sequences we thought Nintendo would approve. We went back and forth on a lot of designs while at the same time negotiating with Nintendo which Fatalities could stay 'as is'. Going from memory, I think we really only had to change two of the Fatalities completely; the rest we toned down with Nintendo’s oversight. We also took out all the blood from punches and kicks and instead changed it to 'sweat', which was mostly a palette swap on our part."
Over in Croydon, Probe's experience was somewhat different. "From my perspective, Sega wasn't very involved, at least not until the latter stages," admits Carruthers. "To be honest, the development team was largely insulated from publishers and platform owners to keep our focus on the job." The Sega version didn't escape entirely unscathed, however; while it shipped with all of the gore and violent finishing moves intact, they were locked away behind a special code which players would have to input – a code which, upon release, was distributed by practically every specialist magazine on the planet. Carruthers explains that the decision to lock off this content came very late in development. "I put the gore on a switch so that it was easy to turn on or off as required," he says. "The version we did for the German market had gore switched off. The code that I originally put in was 'DULLARD'. I was quite proud of this, but the publishers thought it was too complicated to keep putting in – and probably too silly. Very near the end of the project, they asked us to come up with a code that used only the A, B and C buttons. My code was expecting seven letters – so there wasn’t an awful lot of choice." The eventual code was ABACABB, which is one letter off being the title of Genesis' (the progressive rock band, not the console) 1981 album.
Showers of blood and gore do not an accurate port make, however, and when it came to ensuring the Sega edition was faithful to the original, Carruthers used the best reference possible. "I was working from their original source code, so mostly it was self-explanatory," he explains. "There were a couple of questions I needed to ask Ed Boon and he was very helpful. I had a coin-op in my house to refer to, but I had a big problem trying to access the secret fight with Reptile, the green ninja. To be honest, I was never very good at the game! The team at Midway kindly made a cheat version of the coin-op ROM and sent it over to me so that I could see how the reptile fight worked." While Probe and Sculptured Software were separated by the Atlantic Ocean, they did help one another wherever possible. "We had a few calls with Probe during development; we had a good relationship with each other," Peters remembers. "We discussed each strategy in approach to porting the game, as well as any issues that came up and possible solutions. So although we were solving slightly different problems – gore vs. no gore, differences in SKUs – it was still valuable to share notes from time to time."
Following in the footsteps of Sega's famous 'Sonic 2s day' launch in November 1992, where Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was released globally on the exact same day, Acclaim decided to schedule its own marketing stunt with the aforementioned Mortal Monday. Millions of dollars were spent promoting this date, with TV commercials, magazine spreads and advertising billboards making sure that every console-owning kid on the planet was aware of the precise day they could get their hands on the highly-anticipated home port of Mortal Kombat – the problem was, the game absolutely had to be ready on time to pull off this promotional event, and that put intense pressure on both teams.
"Sleep became optional through most of development," says Peters. "As the production continued, the hype for the game increased and publishing dates were locked in, time became our worst enemy throughout the entire development. We pretty much lived at the office to take advantage of every available moment with the time remaining. Also, we had Acclaim representatives living with us as well – for better or worse – trying to protect their investment. Although they couldn’t do much to help production, producers and others would literally fly out to Salt Lake to 'live' with us – clearly reporting back to the mothership in NY status at every moment – in an effort to 'help' production. The reality was that their crew couldn’t keep up with our round-the-clock development and started sending out multiple people in shifts to hover and 'help'. We had a great relationship with Acclaim and their producers, but I think this helps to illustrate the immense pressure that was building for the release; there was no concept of missing a date once all the marketing stuff got locked in."
Such was the level of expectation surrounding this release that Carruthers found himself getting a rather odd phone call towards the end of the project. "When it was starting to become clear how big a deal it was going to be, I started receiving phone calls at Probe from mysterious American characters who wouldn’t say who they were but were very interested in how development was coming along. These people turned out to be Wall Street stockbrokers who were trying to work out how likely the game was to be late, as this would have a big effect on Acclaim’s share value. It was very scary to think that Acclaim’s very survival was in question if I didn’t pull my finger out and get on with it."
The need to hit this date was a good motivator, but it came with a cost; while you could argue that no game is ever truly 'finished', Peters feels that he and his team could have made the end product even better had the time been available. "All development had to align around that release strategy. The unfortunate part is that it didn’t give any of us the time we needed to develop the product the way we wanted." Even so, when September 13th finally arrived, the commercial reaction was immense. "For the first time, my friends and family actually understood what it was I did for a living," says Carruthers with a smile. "I remember going to see Jurassic Park at the cinema with a big group of friends. Before the film started, there was an advert for Mortal Kombat – possibly one of the first examples of a home video game being advertised like that. My friends just stared at me."
It was a game-changer for Peters, too. "Sculptured Software was already considered one of the top developers in the world, so this only cemented us. Mortal Monday was the most successful video game launch of all time up to that point, making over $50 million in its launch day alone. The anticipation was so high for the games that Acclaim literally bought the entire production of ROMs and other chips to make as many cartridges as they could at the time; for a few months they owned 100 percent of cart production in the world for this title, and that bet paid off very handsomely." However, while both the Sega and Nintendo versions of the game were massive sellers, the gaming press quickly picked up on the fact that the SNES edition was missing the vital ingredient that made the coin-op version tick.
"Once the games were released, the news about Nintendo censoring the game got out very quickly," says Peters. "Everyone then believed it actually hurt sales on the SNES, even though the SNES was the better playing and looking game of the two versions. If you wanted the gore, then you bought the Sega version. If you wanted the better playing and looking game, you bought the SNES. As a consumer, those were your main decision points. The SNES game played just like the arcade, except for the 'sweat' and Fatality changes; we had no say in Nintendo’s stance on gore, so we did the best we could to make the best game possible within the rules and constraints we were given."
Predictably, Carruthers has a slightly different perspective. "Obviously I’m going to be biased, but I can concede that the graphics may have translated better to SNES hardware. However, I don’t think that the SNES version faithfully represents the control and responses of the original and this is the central focus of this game. The Mega Drive version copies the original gameplay logic in most cases line-for-line from the original source code, and I think this results in a superior overall experience; this is what I’m most proud of."
Irrespective of their inherent strengths and weaknesses, both ports are fantastic interpretations of the original arcade machine, and they become even more impressive when you consider the incredible pressure the two teams were under to get them out of the door on time, as well as the relatively humble nature of the host hardware when compared to the coin-op technology of the period. However, you could argue that Mortal Kombat is better remembered for the fallout that occurred not long after its release. At the end of 1993, a U.S. Congressional hearing on video game violence took place and Mortal Kombat found itself at the centre of this storm, alongside titles such as the FMV-based Night Trap. The hearings would ultimately result in the creation of ESRB, a body devoted to applying and enforcing age ratings on video games, but at the time it's easy to see why the members of both Probe and Sculptured Software felt like they were at the centre of a witchhunt.
"Politicians will always jump on stuff like this for their own nefarious reasons," laments Carruthers. "Certainly at the time, I would have used the 'Tom & Jerry' argument that this sort of depiction of violence was too far removed from reality to have any effect. Of course, when I became a dad, my attitude softened and I was more aware of the effect of everything on children. Now my kids are older, and they have grown up with GTA – much to the disdain of other parents – and don’t appear to have been too badly affected by it, so I think I’m back in the 'Tom & Jerry' camp."
For Peters, the furore which gripped North America in 1993 was more keenly felt. "Sculptured Software was in Utah, which is one of the most conservative states in the country. There were bills introduced at the time trying to outlaw Mortal Kombat arcade games in the state – they failed but were still introduced. I was personally judged in my neighbourhood – and not in a good way – as the local kids told their parents what I was working on, and their parents didn’t talk or associate with us as a result. We knew their views as their kids would come by and while asking if they could play the game, they ask us if the views of their parents were really true. We quickly became the subject of judgment and speculation – drug dealers, satan worshipers, and so on."
Being mistaken for one of society's undesirables just because you worked on a video game isn't anyone's idea of a good time, but Peters says the whole process impacted some more than others. "It frankly didn’t affect me or the team much, but that backlash against the gore was indeed front-and-centre to us to here in Utah. We even had one programmer on the team that just asked us to not tell his family what he was working on; we were to say it was another project if they came in and asked. I personally didn’t care much about the violence as it looked pretty cheesy in the game, and that was the point; amplify violence to the point where it is not scary but actually funny. That was the game’s shtick essentially, and that helped it stand out in a crowded, Street Fighter II-dominated world. I still feel proud of the work we accomplished at that time, and took all that learning directly into Mortal Kombat II, in which we improved on all of our development processes, tools and designs." It's worth noting that the SNES version of the sequel retained all of the blood and Fatalities; the reaction to the original had clearly forced a rethink on Nintendo's part.
Since working on Mortal Kombat, Carruthers has held positions at Anthill Software and Climax, and now plies his trade at Sumo Digital. Peters moved to Kodiak Interactive in 1997 and has worked at GearWorks Games, Electronic Arts and TapStar Interactive, the latter being the studio he co-founded in 2014. Following the launch of Mortal Kombat in 1993, both Probe and Sculptured Software would continue to work with Acclaim, and the pair were eventually absorbed into the company in 1995 to become Acclaim Studios London and Acclaim Studios Salt Lake City respectively (although the latter was briefly named Iguana West). The London studio would be shuttered in 2000, while the Salt Lake operation lasted two more years. Acclaim itself filed for bankruptcy in 2004.
Mortal Kombat is remembered today for many different reasons; the joy of unlocking the blood with that famous code on the Sega edition; the closeness of the visuals in the SNES port; the sudden explosion of moral rage in December 1993 and – of course – the fact that it was a fantastic one-on-one fighter which offered home console players a genuine alternative to Street Fighter II. Looking back now, however, it's truly striking that two ports of the same game could be so drastically different despite being released at the same time – even more so when you consider that today, gamers debate over things like frame rates and resolution shortfalls when comparing PS4, Xbox One and Switch versions of the same game.
"Having two different versions of the same game on the market at the same time was odd, especially on the very visible concept that made them different," says Peters. "I don’t think we’ve seen a similar situation since." For Carruthers, that Mortal Kombat could be crammed into a home console was the truly striking thing. "I’m more amazed that two such basic consoles were able to reproduce something from a much more sophisticated hardware platform so well; many games of that era would stretch the console to the absolute maximum. This is rarer with the current generation of platforms."
The contest between the Mortal Kombat ports has to rank as one of the most high-profile – and divisive – the games industry has ever seen; a perfect storm of hype, marketing, amazing programming and – of course – controversy, with the latter being perhaps the best way to sell any product.
This article was originally published by nintendolife.com on Sat 8th September, 2018.
When I saw the MK logo I instantly got excited for MK on the Switch but then I read.
The last MK was on Wii, Nintendo lost so many game series, it's sad.
One of my favorite fighting games since the Super NES. I know that MK X is now an old game, but I'd love to have it on the Switch...
Love these "blast from the past" stories.
They should just make a anniversary collection of MK like Street Fighter
@Zuljaras They kinda did with the arcade collection about six years ago.
I was the exact perfect age to be swept up in all the hype. I can even remember when my friends older brother came in without saying a word, took the controller from us and put in the blood code. My little prepubescent mind was blown. Eventually we came across (in a game magazine of course) an even weirder cheat that let you access the debug menu and alter the clouds on the pit stage and other various tricks, like access the Reptile fight. As much of a Nintendo nerd as I was then (and clearly, still am) as soon as I found out that you couldn't get blood to show in the SNES version I was team Sega all the way.
I also remember being worried that we would never play MKII because of all the politics that were way over my head. Then one day, the same "friend's older brother" from the last story, came home with a copy and blew all our minds once more. But this time it felt like we're were braking the law. Kids who were clearly not in the appropriate age range playing a game that was SO VIOLENT only adults were allowed to play. The ESRB basically added a giant "Forbidden Fruit" stamp on the box, and it definitely shaped the way I approached the game.
I was a Genesis boy all the way back then. All the moves and codes are etched into my soul. Good times. Now... wheres my Switch copy of X? Injustice 2 as well.
Great read. Made me feel like a school kid again
@Zuljaras me too lol
I remember this well.
Genesis had the blood.
SNES had the sweat.
In some way yes. But the fighting game that confined me was killer instict. Best fighting game ever.
Shame the Nintendo consoles have been ignored by the Devs of this game.
On SNES, with a Pro Action Replay 2 from Datel, I believe it was possible to alter the values memory addresses relative to colour palettes, and put the "sweat" back in red, but that's what I was told, I never saw it in action. I think you had to put in "DEADCODE" as the first value in the list followed by the actual memory address modifications to unlock access to those memory addresses which the accessory would otherwise not let you alter. I know you could alter lots of stuff with deadcodes so it may well have been true.
I was never big into Mortal Kombat but I loved the old tv series and the new Funko figures look awesome
I'm honestly interested in this story and was hoping for a video. I didn't read it lol
Superb article, very well written, bravo Damien... more like this please
@YANDMAN Lol speaking of that collection, have you seen IGN's joke of a review for that collection?
$50 million in a single day! Wow--very impressive.
Oh the memories. I remember playing MK at the cinema arcade while waiting to go see Jurassic. Blew my little mind. Then to get it on my SNES was glorious until I found out that it was censored. I remember wishing Nintendo would've rereleased MK uncensored alongside MKII.
Let's hope that Mortal Kombat becomes relevant to Nintendo Switch.
Great article! More please!
Now this is an article! More of this please NL. Great feature, it really takes me back to me and my cousin arguing over who had the better version.
Ah, the fun times I had of being a kid and hearing about all of Mortal Kombat glory in school! I had the genesis, and never looked at the Super NES (loved the NES, but went with Sega for the Sonic titles and Toe Jam And Earl). Anyone in school that had the Super NES was made fun of...all the talk about nintendo turning to become a kiddie system was arriving then because of the lack of blood and gore in Mortal Kombat, and it never stopped, even with the release of Mortal Kombat 2 on the Super. However, my cousin owned a Super (I had the Genesis, since we met quite often, we figured that was the best way to handle the console war)...and I'll admit that the sound and graphics were better on the Super, but with the lack of the blood and gore, even I wouldn't get into it. Sweating to death was just plain funny though!!! Anyways, on one of my VHS tapes of Jurassic Park, the commercial is still in there! The hype was great for Mortal Kombat, and I even remembering paying $70 for Mortal KOmbat 2 when it came out! Even when the movie came out, there was so much buzz, and the theater was packed for it! Then came trading cards, POGS (yup, that old!), t-shirts and more! It's just funny how a franchise was a big hit when it first arrived, and still continues to be a hit (most things rub off quickly if they are big hits right away it seems). Now, if they would have added Freddy into Mortal Kombat X, to go along with Jason, I'd be in heaven!!!! Freddy Versus Jason would have been nice, instead of keeping Freddy in the PS3 360 title, and Jason only in X. Maybe we'll get the originals in a nice collection for Switch, or possibly, X will come out for Switch with all the DLC included!
@sleepinglion And the parents had the tears.
A, B, A, C, A, B, B.
Down, Up, Left, Left, A, Right, Down.
Some things cannot be forgotten.
Nice feature article. It's nice to have more context. The rushed development cycle and firm deadline were not good things. For all the things it does right, I was always disappointed in the Genesis/Mega Drive version. It was missing too much in terms of presentation and the color was poor in some places. Nice to know that some of it was due to the tight deadline. It felt unfinished. I thought Sculptured did a much better job with the system when they did MK3.
@AcridSkull like: iddqd and idkfa for doom
I love the 90’s
That's great, now bring them all to Switch!
I kind wished Acclaim/Midway made an uncensored edition of the first game to hype up the upcoming Mortal Kombat II.
I wonder if anyone would be interested in my story re this game.
The year was 1995 and I was involved in working with Nintendo with… nah its not that interesting. I do remember playing mortal kombat at an arcade in the USA. I was so impressed I contacted that Boon chap and he flew me over for a chat. That was fun. I was given a MK headband (though I don’t know where it is now) and contributed to an upcoming MK game.
Tbh I much much much preferred street fighter back then and these days I don’t even bother with MK. The only MK in my heart is Mario Kart.
I remember the ad and the hype. That dragon logo is so iconic. A friend already had the Amiga version of MKII but that didn't hook me. It was the SNES version of MK1 that I borrowed from a friend, where the graphics ran fluid and the controls were good. It ran on my brandnew SNES, my first Nintendo console, and all my friends liked to play it. I was a big fan back then, even getting Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for the SNES and then Mortal Kombat Trilogy for the N64.
But it was with fighting games like SoulEdge (1997, PS1) and then Super Smash Bros. (1999, N64) that I completely lost my interest in the MK franchise. It simply wasn't up to notch anymore and when I turned 18 years, M-rated 18+ games suddenly stopped being desirable.
If there was MK Ultimate for Switch with all characters, stages, and music, I might buy it to relive some nostalgia. I have a few friends with a Switch that are still total hype everytime MK is mentioned.
Sad thing was the SNES version was my introduction to Mortal Kombat. I remember being in high school and everyone was going on how much better Mortal Kombat was then Street Fighter how it was sooo violent and bloody with hearts being ripped out and stuff.
Well I didn't have an arcade close enough that had it so I had to wait till the SNES got a port to try it I remember playing it and thinking are people kidding this isn't anymore violent then SF. Where's the blood all I see is "sweat" flying around. That's how they rip a heart out of a chest? I was expecting Temple of Doom kinda heart ripping effects.
As a result I hated MK and couldn't see the the fuss people we're making over it and couldn't see how this was better then SF. I just past it off as a SF knock off. I wasn't a fan of the series till I played MK II on the SNES which my brother rented.
Interesting read, much appreciated.
I love articles and stories like this, from what I see as the heyday of gaming. More please!
@StephanDLW people that couldnt manage get both lol
Thanks for such a great article!! Brings me back to my arcade times. Now, Nintendo always made me happy and I’ve never had the urgency to play a game that was not avail in Nintendo’s platforms but this sentence was true back then and today (and provably tomorrow): “We had to cram a lot of stuff – art and code – into a very small, low-powered box."” This is Nintendo’s karma, and boy they did good. Imagine the possibilities when they go all in out powering the competition.
"process of ‘blasting’" ... "blast processing"? lol
Also the last few words in that last line "controversy, with the latter being perhaps the best way to sell any product." Reminds me of the book by Eric Bischoff that was called "Controversy Creates Cash".
And another thing. Although I'm a huge fan of the classic Sonic games, I don't remember Sonic 2's Day. I do remember Mortal Monday, though.
I had MK1 on Genesis and when MK2 came out me and a buddy had preordered 2 copies, he got the Genesis version and I got the SNES version, which I’m pretty sure was superior. I know the voices in the SNES version were much clearer and all the gore was there and ready. We played those games until our thumbs were sore.
Mortal Kombat is best played at the arcades actually. ^^
I remember this day fondly. Cut class in high school to head to the mall to pick this up. I think it was Babbage’s. Guys at the counter asked “Nintendo or Genesis?” I replied Game Boy. They laughed at me and I just shrugged and said That’s all I got. Went into the back to grab it cause they didn’t think they had any for Game Boy. Got back to school and showed my friends what I picked up. Played that game non stop. Controls were crap, but I was playing MK on a handheld.
Hey my birthday is sep 13th 1993.
@AcridSkull GET OVER HERE
The same old story that was cover so many times already.
Genesis version was crap. Looked worse. Sounded worse control only had 3 buttons. So what about the gore. The snes version was better. The truth.
Memories... I remember this MK 16-bit war to the letter. Arguments of "Super Nintendo got the better graphics!" vs "But Genesis is more real with blood and the blast processing speed!" all over the place lmao! Good times I can reflect upon
@Kobeskillz in ya dreams, pal.
@AcridSkull snes has better graphics and sound. The controller was vastly superior as well. The controller that shipped with all genesis was garbage for fighting games. 3 buttons? Lol. Block with start? Lol. No thank you.
So what if the snes has sweat. The game was better on snes.
A great read, and great memories as well. My cousin had the SNES version, a friend of mine had the Genesis version, and I didn't have any console yet back then, but I did have the Amiga version, and I thought it was brilliant fun. And it had blood as well...
@Damo Well, this article wasn't brilliant, but man, did it come close...
A courtesy bow and a tip of the hat to you, sir. If an article is that engaging, that it succeeds in taking you on a journey back to your youth, then it's darn well doing something very, VERY right.
Of late, there has been a lot of criticism on certain articles, and although some of it might arguably be justified, some people unnecessarily (in my opinion) take being vocal about that to the next level.
I'm glad to see that more people recognize the effort gone into this article here, though, because compliments are most definitely warranted.
@Zuljaras Well when I saw the old logo I thought it was Ed Boon making a crazy remark about the Switch.
@Kobeskillz Saying the Genesis version is the best is like saying the Switch version of WWE2K18 would be the best if only blood was added
I love these articles.
How did they buy all of the ROMs? Like every single ROM chip? So how did other developers even publish games at the time.
@DarthPablo how did it even work with just two buttons?
i still love those sega genesis typical sounds, brings back alot of great memories.
toe jam and earl, altered beast, golden axe, ea's nhl games, thunder force 3.
This pretty much sums it all up. But man, it was pretty cool playing this game in class. Can’t believe I put so many hours into it.
@Kobeskillz nope, still wrong.
SNES Mortal Kombat BGM was absolute ear destroying. The BGM for MKII was garbage, but the SNES version was clearly better all around.
Mortal Kombat NX for Nintendo Switch!
I was 14 when this game released on SNES. The no blood and toned down fatalities was a huge deal back then. Looking back it was the first example of Nintendo not understanding a changing audience in the West.
Next up can you do a Daytona vs Ridge racer article? Please ✌️
@AcridSkull well you make such a convincing argument. I’m convinced!
One of the only franchises I really miss on the Switch, would love to see a MK game get a release on there.
I’m one of the few gamers that grew up in the 90s but had no interest in MK. Too slow and I didn’t (still don’t really) understand the obsession with the ultra gore. Street fighter II (I played every iteration I could get) and samsho were my home fighters of choice.
Yep the console wars were sonic vs Mario and kind of vs bonk. Then escalated further with Mortal Kombat. While Sega may have had a victory by adding blood to their game, they were eventually crushed when MK2 came out. SNES had undeniably the better version.
Why isn't MK or Injustice on Switch? Seems like a no-brainer. Do they really think it wouldn't sell?
Well this is a really old school argument, but the Genesis ruled this debate. That said the games have aged really poorly.
@Ryu_Niiyama I never cared for the games either, and I also grew up in the 90's and had a 16-bit console as my first console. The draw to Mortal Kombat was always the gore and violence for it's era, back then it was pretty unusual for a game to be that violent and it stood out to kids for how edgy and cool it was. The games were never all that great looking back, but the type of kids who loved anything edgy hyped it up.
@Kobeskillz I think you already knew, but it's good that you can finally admit it to yourself.
@Pirlo_ze_sniper and idspispopd for doom2 these things never go away!
I loved the article, very insightful. But I have never enjoyed MK as a game. I can see the appeal, but it never stuck with me the way Street Fighter 2 did.
Probe software! Damn! Those guys were everywhere back then, deservedly so. I had an Amiga at the time as I used it to make music. Protracker and OctaMED, anyone? Probe (in my mind) was up there with The Bitmap Brothers and Psygnosis for quality and polish.
Mortal Kombat went downhill from four onwards. It just became a poor version of itself
@Ryu_Niiyama Me too. The gameplay of Street Fighter was much more fluid and followed some kind of logic with all characters. But in Mortal Kombat, doing a special move was like typing a cheat code, it made no sense. I find it crazy how Mortal Kombat crushed Street Fighter in sales through the different gen. Big budget won over good gameplay.
@iflywright because there's no way it would pick up good sales - firstly MK doesn't do numbers in Japan, if it isn't Tekken, Street Fighter or Soul Calibur, they are not interested.
Second reason why is MK itself hasn't really been good in a while (the actual games), MKX did decent enough sales but like all big named franchises in recent years, the overhype behind the game drove the sales much higher than would have been if it wasn't overhyped (the game wasn't that good and didn't merit those numbers).
This isn't a reason not to bring it, but it does mean that any new ports won't get the same hype and the sales numbers would reflect that. Most people would compare it to Smash when buying a fighting game and it would get decimated.
Personally i would much rather see a new Street Fighter and Soul Calibur game anyway.
As entertaining as this was at the time (and a signpost of the juvenile gaming obsession with gore to come) I always thought the games were absolute dross. A very interesting time in the industry though. Sega seemed unstoppable at the time, when in fact they were at their very peak.
@AcridSkull @AcridSkull yeah. And 50hrz is also better than 60 right? Lol.
Meh, I was playing Street Fighter II:SCE (which did play and sound better than the SNES versions with proper arcade style music and smooth controls) on my Genesis with a couple of 6 button pads instead.
I did borrow my brother's copy of the game for a few weeks and enjoyed it though. I ended up buying Mortal Kombat 3 for my Sega Saturn in late 1996.
@Kobeskillz you're rambling now.
@AcridSkull 2, 1, 2, Down, Up for Master System too
Great article! I absolutely love reading 16 bit behind the scenes articles. I read an article once that quoted someone who worked back in the 90's and he said that the reason why ports were different back then wasn't always a hardware issue. There were backroom deals between Sega, Nintendo and third party publishers and they would negotiate exclusives like an extra character in a fighting game. But no one spoke or reported on that in the AOL days of the internet. When GamePro and EGM ruled the shelves. Nope. Reviewers chalked it up to hardware limitations or cartridge size when it was a little more than that. Secret coke and stripper parties, followed by briefcases of money. Sometimes. Other times it was something as simple as reducing cost fees on cartridges. Good times.
@AcridSkull not really.
Absolutely fantastic retrospective! I was 8 years old in 1993 and Mortal Kombat was THE reason I asked my parents for a Sega Genesis instead of a Super Nintendo for Christmas that year. They gave into my pleas and got me the Genesis with Mortal Kombat, along with the still amazingly good Sonic 2 as the system's pack-in game, and I've always been grateful to them for that. As an adult I can now appreciate the SNES as well, but as a kid there was nothing cooler to me than Mortal Kombat and Sonic. =)
Well researched and written, enjoyed reading it. I was never a massive fan of mk, but rent it on snes a few times, and played my brother's gameboy version (which wasn't bad considering).
@Jawessome I have the MS version too, but I wasn't 100% sure what the code is.
It's a long time since I've played that one, if I remember correctly Kano wasn't in it.
@sleepinglion And the people who invested in a Philips CD-i had the tears?
@Kobeskillz ya, really.
@Solid_Stannis I didn't follow that device at the time and knew no one who owned one.
@AcridSkull yep. Kano was saly omitted due to memory restraints but it remained a fun little title compared to it's bigger brother. I'm really pleased with how the Master System was treated with ports. They were made with respect and weren't simple cash ins.
@Jawessome yeah I played a lot of the MS version, as I didn't have a Mega Drive at that time. I remember there was only 2 stages, no pit fatality, and no high punch, but otherwise it was a decent version of the game.
Yeah, I never cared much for Mortal Kombat back in the 90s either. Was always a Street Fighter Kid.
Dude, Mortal Kombat never crushed Street Fighter in sales. SF has more total franchise sales than MK. Plus back in their 16-bit heyday, Street Fighter 2 outsold all the Mortal Kombat games (and that's not even including the Turbo/Super versions). In more recent times SF4 has sold more than any recent MK game. Though MKX did outsell SF5 I believe.
Pretty fun article to read, but what brought this on exactly? Is there an MK game coming to Switch that I don't know about?
@ThanosReXXX Been digging through my emails and only just spotted this comment.
Thanks for the kind words; I have to admit it does get me down a little when people attack the site for whatever reason, claim we're lazy, that we only post clickbait, that they're going elsewhere for their 'Nintendo fix'... yet we seem to be the ONLY Nintendo site out there that is producing original content like this; content that takes weeks to arrange and hours (sometimes days) to write.
I can tell you right now, a LOT of these long-form pieces - which take up plenty of resource to put together - don't do even a 1/10th of what a 10-minute news piece on the shape of Trump's manhood would do, but we write them anyway because when you take away any 'news' that isn't sourced by your own site, then what you're left with should be loads of cool exclusive content. I'd like to think that's what we've got here.
(And we actually avoided posting a news piece about Trump, which must have shocked some of NL's harsher critics, I'm sure).
@Onion I don't need a reason to look back at the past for cool stories.
@Damo Haha, talk about a delayed response...
Well, first off: you're welcome, but like I said in that comment, there is arguably some ground for criticism in certain articles, which, intended or not, seem to be there just to generate clicks/hits.
Don't get me wrong: I understand that as a website, this is literally what makes it tick and sustain itself, but still...
But regardless, I don't like the over the top criticism, and quick and easy negativity that is so rampant all over the web nowadays, but perhaps that's also just an age thing, and me being a glass half-full kinda guy...
Either way, I hope you and your colleagues keep finding the time to put up articles like these on a regular basis, because they are, in no small part, responsible for the reason that I've been hanging around here for as long as I have...
@ThanosReXXX Therein lies the crux of the problem; if articles written to generate clicks do just that, yet features which cost $$$ to produce in terms of man-hours fall flat on their faces, what are we expected to do?
Seriously speaking, I think we strike a pretty good balance here and I'm painfully aware that you can't please 100 percent of people 100 percent of the time; we're a relatively large site now and therefore represent an equally large target for negative comments. It's the way of the web!
@Damo Yeah, unfortunately so. Oh, well... still a much better place to hang around and read the comments, than under the average YouTube video...
Oh, and seeing as articles like these are, in general, much appreciated,
I don't think they'll fall on their face anytime soon.
Just keep up the good work: persistence ultimately reaps its rewards.
(said professional sales & marketing guy me... )
Not letting the developers put in the blood for the original Mortal Kombat was definitely a big blunder for Nintendo back in the day. And I feel it still affects the perception of the company to a degree even to this day, and certainly among people who were gaming back then and part of the whole console wars. Thankfully, Nintendo has now moved passed that kind of silly censoring . . . for the most part.
Never really cared for Mortal Kombat. I was the right age when all this was going down and did play somewhat at the arcades (remember those?) but preferred Street Fighter II (that I had on the SNES and my parents paid £64.99).
My only interesting MK story is that while playing at the arcade some, shall I say, twit decided to use my extra credit to start a 2 player game without asking. He was Johnny Cage, I was Raiden. I made his head explode (B, B, B, F, F block???? EDIT - nope, that wasn't right.).
Sega does what Nintedont. Expect now Sega can't and Nintendo can.
I remember kicking the sweat out of my opponent on the snes version. megadrive had the blood but didnt feel as good to play..
This is a geat article, a fascinating read and great to hear about the experiences of the Devs themselves.
It had a long lasting impact. Some people turned on Nintendo for years. Some still think Nintendo censors any game and some think Nintendo is still oppressive to 3rd party devs.
"MORTAL KOMBAT !"
Cue, the techno bass thumping music..
That's what I remember.
I remember the arguments between fighting fans over which was better Street Fighter 2 or Mortal Kombat (yes, we all know it's SF). It's funny how folk turned their nose up at no blood as though it improved the game lol. In fact, taking the gore out of the game showed it up for the shallow brawler it was.
@GrailUK Agreed, take out the gory visuals and there's just not much to it. Loved the later DC vs Moral Kombat title, though, that was a hoot
Mortal Kombat is an example of how the 16-bit generation went wrong. The gore and complicated combos turned off a lot of people. The NES was played by people of all ages, but in the 16-bit era, gaming became less accessible and started to appeal only to teenage and college boys. The Wii was so great because it was a successful attempt to correct this and make gaming popular again with people of all ages.
@iflywright. Mortal Kombat XI is coming to the Switch next year.
As for MK X and Injustice 2, both games came out before the Switch and WB Games was unsure if it would crash and burn like the Wii U did.
WB Games supported the Wii U pretty well during its first couple of years, but they likely lost money due to the Wii U's poor sales.
We're seeing a lot of third parties scrambling to support the Switch now that it is a massive success.
Why is Nintendo Life recycling articles? This was already posted.
@Zuljaras but Mk11 is on Switch
@BlueBlur101 My comment is from Sat 8th Sep 2018.
NintendoLife just necroed their own article. I guess they do not want to write a new one.
So what are they doing just bumping up old articles around here now?
I thought this was a new article until I found my old comment and was like, "I was here before?"
"Mortal Kombat is an example of how the 16-bit generation went wrong. The gore and complicated combos turned off a lot of people. The NES was played by people of all ages, but in the 16-bit era, gaming became less accessible and started to appeal only to teenage and college boys. The Wii was so great because it was a successful attempt to correct this and make gaming popular again with people of all ages."
I have to disagree on the fundamentals of the situation. The NES did enjoy a wider demographic but it was a combination of bringing the right product to market at the right time. The interest in video gaming was already there and as normally happens in the revitalization of a product category customers were waiting with disposable income to try the next "big thing".
The 16-bit era was a natural progression of the market and as the newness of the original NES wore off casual gamers stayed with the 8 bit system. The fervent customers meanwhile bought into the newer is better strategy. This is the same market tendencies the computer industry sees. The casual customer buys what they need not the newest or best.
As larger and more graphically appealing games came to the 16 bit console market the causal gamer was left to deal with dwindling support and a shrinking 8 bit game availability. If you consider the timing of the NES and the introduction of the 16 bit consoles then the majority of the 16 bit customers are going to be underage gamers and the introduction of animated violence and blood most likely shocked the adults who controlled the spending habits of these gamers. These 16 bit gamers were mostly welcoming the advancing realism that allowed them to play actual arcade games at home.
In the early to mid 1980s the expectations and moralities expressed were much different then today. Taking this into consideration it is understandable why the introduction of Mortal Kombat was a landmark shift in gaming and the controversy surrounding it to be expected. Nintendo, by this time, understood the threat of the Sega assault but they were also following their internal mantra of game play first. They knew they had to compete in the 16 bit category but also manage their reputation as well.
The 16 bit gamer then became the 32, the 64 bit gamer and so forth. Nintendo decided early on they would not compete to attract this demographic so they continued to plot their own course. To this hardcore gamer who demanded and fueled the console race Nintendo had already lost due to their insistence on less violence and no blood.
Gaming did not become less accessible during this time but it did become fragmented as casual gamers were left with less options and hardcore gamers were led by the nose towards planned obsolescence to continuously spend on the newest console.
I agree that the Wii brought the casual gamer back into the industry but I argue that they were always there waiting on for something more aligned with their needs. The market simply changed and now it has changed back for the most part. The shine is gone from the more powerful is always better doctrine. The console race is being battered by streaming which benefits the publishers and takes the ownership form the customer.
Nintendo did not win the console war but they were able to reestablish their niche and reclaim these lost gamers.
@Zidentia Did someone not read the opening paragraph before posting?
THEY PULLED A SNEAKY
@Desrever yeah, the rated M thing never really stopped kids from getting their hands on the games.
As far as fighters, SNES had the best of the two IMO....Killer Instinct was a fabulous port of the arcade version and was exclusive to the system
So I'll take SNES with SF, MK, and KI(best fighting game of all time IMO) every day of the week and twice on Sunday. SNES had the best catalog, was my system of choice. Blood didn't matter to me as much as gameplay back then, and considering MK was pretty sparse in some aspects compared to SF and KI....I'd always choose the SNES.
@JDORS I'm going to have to disagree....in fact I'd say that it really had not much to do with the consoles at all as much as it did the transfer from the Arcade, as far as how skill development and competing against other opponents were concerned. Fighters like smash don't appeal to me as much since I cut my teeth on the games listed above, but even smash has skill sets...the skill just transferred to one challenge to another(making the moves through joystick + button combos vs....whatever I guess lol)....a skilled smash player will still destroy someone new to the game because they took the time to develop their skills...ain't nothin' for free....you just have to take an arsewhoopin' until you get good, no way around it...it's the nature of a FIGHTING game. Practice honing your moves, strategy, reflexes and ect. is still a thing....most newbs just button mash anyway lol.
IMO, those golden years for fighters will always be what set the bar and carved the path that fighters take to this very day.
Ninty, you were foolish to let Killer Instinct out of your grip....that would be another current feather in your cap of exclusives that IMO to this day still hasn't been surpassed in the genre. You should have held on to Rare. Don't make the same mistake again(Bayonetta.....ahem)....looking at other companies profit so much of the Genre you created with Metroid, you look like you're slipping there too.....better step it up with MP4
To begin with the comment you refer to is not in the opening paragraph. It is a sentence under the first photo. If you intended this to be a retrospective on the year then you should create an appropriate headline that reflects what you tried to do instead of what you went with.
I bought the Genesis version the day it came out, and my friend got the SNES version for the graphics. He was so peeved when he realized that the controls for the SNES were crap, and the Genesis controls were much tighter.
He took it back and switched it out for the Genesis version (Back then EB Games, now Gamestop, would let you switch a game out if you didn't like it)
I still remember dumping rolls of quarters into MK and MKII
I got very good at MKII and got second place in a city tournament at our local arcade in the mall out of 75 people.....Good Times
I’m coming to the conclusion that the worst thing about this site is the content police who endlessly complain about the site. If I disliked a website, I wouldn’t visit it. Get over yourselves.
@Zidentia Dude, that IS the opening paragraph - which you clearly didn't read before commenting. Not sure how that is my fault?
@Damo - I enjoy these end of year 'repeats', it's interesting to read back over them.
And I dunno, maybe I have special eyes or something but the opening paragraph was quite clear to me.
Perhaps it is the editors fault because the article layout is wrong. A run on grammatically flawed sentence could be considered a paragraph in some cases. In any event it has the appearance of click bait since the title should have reflected the purpose of the rerunning of the article.
@Zidentia That's a definition of clickbait I wasn't previously aware of...
I still can't see what the problem is with these articles.
If you don't remember the title and lead image (I confess here I visit the site several times daily) then you've only wasted a second or two of your life, once you read the very obvious italic first paragraph. And if your memory is that bad you get to enjoy the article as new anyway.
Blowing grammatical errors out of proportion is rather sad too, it's the Internet equivalent of grasping at straws because you know your original argument is weak.
As for 'clickbait' - maybe look at why you gullibly fell again for something you don't like, rather than moan at a free site that simply wishes to be read.
So @Damo and the rest of the NL team - cheers. We may not be the loudest voices, but your work is appreciated by some.
I'm curious has anyone attempted to modify the SNES version to be more like the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive with gore and fatalities?
snes version was also badly coded to the point of being basically unplayable.
mk2 rectified this all but that first game was a mess imo. i got the sega cart because of it but we also had the snes cart. sega definitely had worse visuals/sound but had gore and played much better.
once mk2 came out it was snes all the way.
The SNES version looked and sounded much better and even the fatalities weren't too bad...Scorpion, Sonya Blade and Liu Kang's were intact, Kano's was the same minus the beating red heart in his hand afterwards, Rayden's actually looked quite cool as he completely disintergrated the other fighter rather than just decapitate them and Sub Zero's was also more appropriate with him freezing the other fighter solid and then shattering them. The only one that actually looked crap compared to other versions was Johnny Cage's. People really exaggerate how toned down it was on SNES. But unfortunately it was a stigma that stuck with Nintendo for the next couple of decades with people believing them to be overly heavy handed with censorship and the 'kiddy' company compared to competitors...despite that every other Mortal Kombat game was uncensored afterwards.
The comparison between Genesis and SNES is pretty easy to sum up. SNES has the better audio and graphics by far, while the Genesis was better play-wise since it wasn't censored. I mean, they had a code so you could turn the blood on or off; I honestly don't understand why Nintendo wasn't satisfied with doing the same for their port of the original game. Now that we're in the digital age, fans have tried hacking the original SNES port to include the blood, but I think the actual programming code didn't allow for much alteration. There's also been attempts at HD versions with the blood intact, based on the SNES port. Some of those have been interesting.
@LaytonPuzzle27 - There have been some attempts made, to mess with the SNES ROMs code and restore the blood. But its very limited, due to the computer capabilities of the time.
I know this is a rerun of a story from last year but I'd just like to chime in with another 'more like this please' I know these feature articles take a lot of background work and time but they bulk out the quick topical stuff and give the site its gravitas. Great read and great work @Damo
@BarFooToo Thanks for the kind words, it means a lot, honestly. I love doing content like this and will continue to do so in the future; the only sad part about this is that these features - which take ages to put together - don't do anywhere near as much traffic as some of the news stories we run, which take minutes. Still, we like to think people visit the site for a mixture of content, so we'll keep doing what we do
I remember after playing this in the Arcade, once it came to home consoles it felt so incredible. My friends and I were all blown away that MORTAL KOMBAT was playable at home, and it was great. Weekend after weekend renting this on both the SNES and Genesis.
Growing up with the original MK, seeing it transition from arcade to console, and the rampant fanboy-ism between Sega and Nintendo fans, was truly a magical moment in gaming.
Sadly, I had to bow out of the MK scene because the ultra-realistic graphics are just a bit much for me, but the old, goofy looking trilogy will always hold a special place in my heart.
I remember playing MK on the Genesis until the wee hours of the morning.
I find that if I am going to play some MK, I will go back and play these versions. I agree, the newer ones are just too hyper realistic for my tastes.
I first discovered MK in the arcade (my friends and I got thrown out of the tiny back room arcade in a local video rental shop for getting too excited playing the game; totally innocent we were just being a bit loud!). I never had the SNES/Mega Drive port but got it on PC (on floppy disc) a few years later, which I’m guessing was a much closer version to the arcade than either console. I did finally get the Mega Drive cart a couple of years ago. Love the theme tune.
All together now: GET OVER HERE!!!
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