The preventing video games craze could have been absolutely underway by 1992, nevertheless it’s secure to say no title spawned as many clones, knock-offs, rip-offs, low-cost imitators and costly failures as Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat 2 did.
In a five-year span, video avid gamers in arcades and their properties had been overrun by preventing video games that adopted the similar format: battles to the demise, typically organized by some supernatural being; a sinister asserting voice commanding gamers to execute a helpless opponent; gratuitously brutal finishers that appeared designed to impress outrage and controversy, and secret strikes with inside-joke meanings.
Here is a timeline of 9 unapologetic Mortal Kombat ripoffs. It’s noteworthy what number of of them had launches that had been scrubbed, and what number of are linked to a platform’s demise in the late 1990s.
Time Killers (1992)
Time Killers is noteworthy for 2 causes: One, it’s a preventing sport dropped at you by Incredible Technologies, the similar individuals who make Golden Tee. Two, it was a “weapons-based” preventing sport, and the combatants might struggle on even after having each arms severed, which makes me surprise if this seed of an thought might have discovered higher buy with a Monty Python license.
Time Killers’ roster of heroes ranged from Thugg (20,000 B.C.), who battled alien invaders in his time, to Mantazz (4002 A.D.), a magenta praying mantis with two blade-like appendages. The closest fighter to our time is Rancid, mainly Duke Nukem with a jail tattoo carved into his brow. He’s from 2024 A.D., so search for him in the subsequent presidential election.
Time Killers’ time as a Super Nintendo/Sega Genesis port didn’t go so properly. It was truly reviewed by Electronic Gaming Monthly six months earlier than it launched, and the poor marks brought on THQ to shitcan the truly completed undertaking. Nintendo bailed on a port round the similar time. Black Pearl Software ultimately revealed the sport in 1996, however by then it appeared critically dated, on high of being a gratuitously violent, un-fun trash heap.
Survival Arts (1993)
Survival Arts was the first of 4 preventing video games constructed by Scarab, three of which had been vital flops. The fourth, Fighting Vipers 2, was a middling port that launched on the Dreamcast two months earlier than the console was discontinued.
In Survival Arts, just about the whole lot ended with an over-the-top fatality, which of course waters down the attraction of a staple function in preventing video games. All you needed to do was drain your opponent’s well being bar to see them electrocuted, beheaded, set on hearth, or in any other case mutilated.
Scarab was ultimately purchased up by a holding firm and renamed Feelplus, the place it was liable for the Wii port No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise that launched in 2010, shortly earlier than Feelplus was closed.
Tattoo Assassins (unreleased)
Data East introduced in Bob Gale — who co-wrote Back to the Future with Robert Zemeckis — to go up this direct match of the whole lot that had made Midway tens of millions in 1992 and 1993.
Like Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat 2, Tattoo Assassins had (or was presupposed to have) unapologetically outlandish fatalities and snide humor. But in an effort to make good on a declare of “2,196 fatalities,” defeated opponents would flip into barely recognizable, digitized photos of Elvis Presley, a sea lion, a automotive, a knight in shining armor, and different random gadgets. That’s along with the “nudalities” (stripped-down opponents nonetheless lined up their privates) and flamethrowing fart-alities that burnt foes to a crisp.
Tattoo Assassins’ coherent options had been unoriginal, and its unique options had been incoherent. Little of worth was misplaced when Data East pulled the plug on Tattoo Assassins, following the suggestions of its personal builders and testers, and the (appropriate) feeling that it couldn’t stand out in a crowd that now included the much-better Killer Instinct and Primal Rage.
Primal Rage (1994)
Primal Rage is one of the most profitable video games, each commercially and critically, amongst Mortal Kombat’s imitators. Effectively a sort of fighting-games Rampage, the sport noticed a large launch on practically each 1990s platform, so-so evaluation scores (which is best than most of these), and a roster full of dinosaurs helped save Primal Rage from being remembered as simply one other MK rip-off.
Primal Rage offered an early check of the new ESRB scores, which launched a month after the sport hit cabinets. Among the sport’s fatalities, the Kong-like Chaos simply straight-up pees on his downed opponent (making a cloud of steam if it occurs on the volcano stage). In 1996, a mother in Arizona noticed the ape’s golden bathe when her 11-year-old son performed the sport on the Genesis, and went straight to the media together with her grievance.
The ESRB famous that the sport was rated T for Teen, so her child shouldn’t have it in the first place, after which later affirmed that an ape peeing on a dinosaur doesn’t rise to the degree of Adults-Only content material. Good to know!
Incredible Technologies obtained a second chew at the apple with 1994’s BloodStorm, one other self-proclaimed, self-hyped “Mortal Kombat killer.” It wasn’t. As if revisiting what made Time Killers so absurd, BloodStorm additionally had a transfer that might tear off a foe’s decrease physique, leaving them writhing on the flooring however nonetheless, technically, in the struggle.
Like predecessor Time Killers, BloodStorm’s proposed ports (for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn) had been likewise canceled.
Kasumi Ninja (1994)
Visually, it was in all probability the most blatant rip-off of the Mortal Kombat impostors that really launched, however Kasumi Ninja principally escaped detection by being an Atari Jaguar unique — the sport was introduced earlier than the Jaguar even launched. It bore all the hallmarks of 1990s MK: digitized sprites and backgrounds, parallax-scrolling results, a struggle narrator, and well being bars dripping blood.
Problem is, the motion is so sluggish, and the visuals so darkish and muddy, nobody can actually inform what’s going on with these super-grody fatalities. That type of obviates the in-game parental management system, making it one of the first console titles with an choice to restrict blood-and-gore results.
Kasumi Ninja was the first Mortal Kombat ripoff revealed for a console after the notorious Senate hearings on online game violence that closed out 1993. (Mortal Kombat 2 launched for SNES and Genesis in September 1994.)
Way of the Warrior (1994)
Naughty Dog, the studio behind status titles like The Last of Us and Uncharted collection, developed Way of the Warrior for 3DO, and it not directly led to Naughty Dog’s long-running affiliation with Sony. Way of the Warrior was revealed by Universal Interactive Studios, the place Mark Cerny was a vp in cost of growth in 1994. Sony purchased up Naughty Dog in 2001, and Cerny went on to develop the system structure for PlayStations four and 5.
Critical response to Way of the Warrior was undoubtedly not what one would count on for a Naughty Dog sport 20 years later. Gameplay, character design, and visible attraction all obtained thumbs-down, with most people seeing it as one more Mortal Kombat clone.
Way of the Warrior obtained Naughty Dog a contract with Universal to make three video games for PlayStation, and people titles turned out to be the first three Crash Bandicoot video games. That set in movement Sony’s eventual acquisition of Naughty Dog in 2001.
Ultra Vortek (1995)
Lacking any Mortal Kombat port for its console, Atari had no selection however to inflict one other clone on the Jaguar in 1995, lower than a yr earlier than the console was discontinued totally. Ultra Vortek earned a greater vital reception than Kasumi Ninja, however reviewers had been nonetheless unenthusiastic.
Ultra Vortek is noteworthy as the solely formally revealed and launched Atari Jaguar title to help the Atari Jaguar Voice Modem, an odd peripheral that might dial up a buddy with the sport and provoke a multiplayer match. The JVM was scrapped after about 100 items had been produced, although, making it quite a collector’s item.
A fast scan of that fatalities video above exhibits it, once more, appears like a straight elevate of Mortal Kombat, simply slower, much less aggressive, and fewer thrilling. Fatalities are known as “annihilations,” and there’s even a “poopality.” Perhaps it’s a nod to Primal Rage’s well-known urine fatality; maybe it’s a commentary on itself.
Thea Realm Fighters (unreleased)
Atari had one other Mortal Kombat doppelganger in the works for Jaguar as that console entered its demise throes in early 1996. Thea Realm Fighters, by High Voltage Software, was revealed at CES 1995, and scrubbed one yr later, a transfer just about everybody took as the obituary for the ill-fated console.
Thea Realm Fighters story wasn’t the solely factor taken straight from Mortal Kombat 2; two actors — Philip Ahn (Shang Tsung in MK 2) and Katalin Zamiar (Jade, Kitana, and Mileena) —who had portrayed characters in that sport additionally took roles amongst a roster of 25 fighters.
Developers would later say Thea Realm Fighters was virtually completed proper when it was canceled; a number of ROMs made their method into the wild in the a long time since, launched by collectors and preservationists who obtained their fingers on the code.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought through affiliate hyperlinks. For extra info, see our ethics coverage.