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27 years later, 'Mortal Kombat' transcends gaming as an icon of gore and parental outrage

27 years later, 'Mortal Kombat' transcends gaming as an icon of gore and parental outrage


LOS ANGELES (CIRCA) — If you asked what the most violent video game of all time is, the response would undoubtedly be "Mortal Kombat."

Since it hit arcades in 1992, "Mortal Kombat" has been a figure of controversy for its over-the-top violence and signature fatalities, but the game remains a fan favorite to this day.

Mortal Kombat 11 Sub-Zero screen grab
A glimpse at Sub-Zero in "Mortal Kombat 11." (NetherRealm Studios)

The game was even presented in a 1993 congressional hearing on violence in video games that led to the creation of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) which gives games their ratings today.

Check out the video below to hear then-Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., describe fatalities in gory detail—it does not disappoint.

1993 Senate committee hearing on violence in video games

But despite opposition, and even being banned in some countries, "Mortal Kombat" has become a cultural phenomenon.

The franchise has spawned more than 20 game releases as well as TV shows such as "Mortal Kombat: Conquest" (1998-1999) and "Mortal Kombat: Legacy" (2011-2013), as well as 1995's feature film "Mortal Kombat" and its sequel "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation" in 1997.

The trailer for 1995's feature film, "Mortal Kombat"

In 2019, "MK" is still going strong with the upcoming release of "Mortal Kombat 11" slated for April.

Game publisher WB Games and developer NetherRealm Studios celebrated the game's completion and kicked off its grand press tour with a massive reveal event in Los Angeles, featuring early gameplay, photo experiences, tattoo stations, a rage room, custom clothing and much more.

"Back in the arcade days, it was just, oh my God, I was in Chicago and I happened to see the new 'Mortal Kombat,'" said longtime "Mortal Kombat" art director Steve Beran, who joined the team back in 1995. "This was before the internet even, so the word wouldn't really spread. It wasn't even structured as it is today where you know when a game is coming out ... it was completely different from how we release games now."

Professional fighter Ronda Rousey voices the classic character Sonya Blade in "Mortal Kombat 11." (NetherRealm Studios)

"MK's" fanbase has attracted not only gaming fans, but also real-life fighters like Ronda Rousey, who joins "Mortal Kombat 11" as the voice of Sonya Blade. "It was an honor to work with Ronda Rousey," said Baran. "She's such a dedicated 'MK' fan. She is Sonya Blade to me."

The live-streamed event drew in well over 100,000 concurrent viewers to NetherRealm's Twitch channel, where a multitude of new mechanics were revealed, as well as unprecedented character customization and the return of legacy fighters like Baraka.

"They can do something no one else can do, and that's the blood and the gore, and the violence," said YouTuber and gamer Steven Williams, known by his online alias Boogie2988. "The brand is a good fighting game, but with more gore and violence than you can ever, and no one else will ever be able to copy."

"Mortal Kombat 11" comes to console and PC on April 23, 2019.


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