Mortal Kombat single player is one of the most loved franchises in the world of Fighting Games. The series first adorned the halls of arcades in the early ’90s, soon moving to home consoles, and now enjoyed worldwide. Throughout that history, the game’s focus slowly moved from multiplayer to single-player and back again. Constant cycling of ideas on what and how to develop the branding and ideas of the Mortal Kombat franchise.
Something that reminds true across all the decades of Mortal Kombat is their love of the ‘90s Hollywood cliches, things like unrestrained violence, one-liners, and ultimately, characters whose entire idea is based around what type of music they would listen to in the gym.
Table of Contents
1992- 2001 Mortal Kombat, The Arcade Game
Since its release, Mortal Kombat has fully captured the ideas of what makes for great arcade games. It’s hard to play but easy enough to pick up to loop in people and get them to play just one more match.
This era of MK mainly focused on delivering a challenge for players engaging with the game on their own. Thus the idea of the Tower of Might and similar mechanics. It is a ramping challenge for players to slowly develop a skill set that they could later use to challenge other players in local multiplayer matches.
The franchise’s early days were dominated by this idea that the games had to be fun to play solo and hook players in enough to bring their friends over. Sometimes this concept manifested itself as character models with exaggerated figures, overt violence & gore, or a rocking soundtrack, all of which generated their fair share of controversies.
Nevertheless, as the franchise began to cement itself as a regular fixture in arcades and home consoles were starting to pick up steam, series creators began to experiment with adding more details to the world of Mortal Kombat to satisfy all players.
The biggest of these attempts would be with the Mortal Kombat movie in 1995, now considered an absolute cult classic of the game adaptations at that time. Initially regarded as horrible by its contemporaries, over the years, it has garnered a considerable following of people that just love the characters and how wicked and rad they looked for the time. Though perhaps the biggest reason for its cultural resurgence is likely how much of what was little details at the time has now become established game lore, after a good amount of polish and elbow grease to make it make sense.
By the tail end of the millennia, MK had come to a bit of a crossroads regarding what it wanted to be. Arcades were no longer the main selling point of the title, consoles taking that piece of the pie. So the series began to experiment, and boy did they do a lot of that.
The branches had split between mainline titles, Mortal Kombat 1,2,3 and 4, while these new experiments would dive deeper into a singular character or faction in the world. Like the one of Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, or Mortal Kombat: Special Forces.
2002- 2010 Mortal Kombat, Identity Crisis
Starting in 2002, one could say midway lost its way regarding how they wanted to handle the franchise, especially its single-player component.
They wanted to expand on the characters’ stories, which at this point were very much household names from their arcade eras, but the execution just wasn’t there. There were some diamonds in the rough, like Deception and later Armageddon. Still, it is shocking to look back at just how much experimentation the final years of Midway were when it came time to develop one of the most beloved franchises.
Quick reminder here, the first uncharted game came out a year before MK vs DC. By the time Mortal Kombat vs DC rolled in, the single-player mode had been developed and tested, and it was still far from other industry games. It very much had a long way to go, and Single-player was no longer the favorite.
2011- Today Mortal Kombat, A Little story, as a Treat
NetherRealm Studios’ first stab at adding single-player content to the franchise was rather bland. They Primarily focused on resetting the timeline of events that the previous chaotic period of titles had set out and unifying the identity of the characters to the point that they could at least have consistency from game to game.
As games continued, by the time Mortal Kombat 11 was released, a new breed of single-player content was emerging, and NetherRealm, along with publisher Warner Bros, was ready to jump into the action. Live Service Games, or also known as Games as a Service. One of the core things that came with it was the complex set of MK11 amulets players had to hunt for to explore further in the Krypt.
So from Arcades, to console, to everywhere. Mortal Kombat has had a single-player component, be it just AI opponents, story-driven campaigns, and even GaaS elements/ It is hard to say where the next installment in the franchise will freshen up their formula. But it will most certainly reflect the trends of its decade, like all other titles before it.