It’s official folks, Mortal Kombat is getting a new release— one that is reported to take the franchise back to its original roots. There have been 11 main installments released in the last three decades, and this twelfth one serves as a sequel to 2019’s Mortal Kombat 11. Instead of a direct follow-up, however, Mortal Kombat 1 will be a soft reboot (we totally saw this coming).
Seeing as this is the second time the franchise is getting a reboot (the first was 2011’s Mortal Kombat), let’s take a look at what it all could mean. We also sat down with gamer and Mortal Kombat enthusiast Kevwe Joe to see what he expects from the reboot. And remember Mortal Kombat 1 will be released on September 19, 2023
Here’s what we know. MK 1 will feature a brand new story, and players get to experience the entire franchise’s lore with their favorite Mortal Kombat characters— who will also be getting revamped. There’s bound to be massive justice done to this, as we saw in the first release, as well as the first 2011 reboot. Mortal Kombat has always had the distinct ability to stand out from other games in the fighting genre; and as Kevwe puts it:
I started playing Mortal Kombat during the midway era, I remember starting out with Mortal Kombat: Deception and becoming effectively obsessed with how differently it played, compared to the other fighting games [like Tekken or Street Fighter] I had. The violence was the selling point for me even as a child and their ability to always improve on it.
It’s no surprise then that Mortal Kombat has always had a larger reception with the fighting game market. And the game’s ability to evolve without fear may just be its greatest strength.
Is it really evolution if we're getting a “return to roots”?
The official tagline reads “Discover a reborn Mortal Kombat Universe created by the Fire God Liu Kang. Mortal Kombat 1 ushers in a new era of the iconic franchise with a new fighting system, game modes, and fatalities!”
From the debut trailer, we can see that the universe established since NetherRealm Studios took over the franchise’s development had undergone some reimagining. Mortal Kombat has never been afraid of taking a risk and adding newer, crazier elements, and with this, it’s clear they are making another bold statement.
A soft reboot offers two possibilities for the universe: 1. A chance to shake up the status quo and 2. A continuation of the plot from Mortal Kombat 11. But this evolution comes with a sort of caveat. Since Ed Boon and NetherRealm have promised a return to the franchise’s past– an obvious turn would be the game trimming the number of playable characters.
Mortal Kombat’s extensive and expanding roster is one of the reasons why it’s extremely popular, with the most recent series of games including pop culture icons like Terminator, DC Superheroes, and RoboCop. But it wasn’t always this way, especially when the franchise was developed by Midway Games. And sometimes, an extensive character roster may affect the ability of the game to tell better stories; either for the overall timeline or the characters themselves. It could even limit the creativity for move sets– a problem the first games didn’t really have.
The promise to return to base format could mean Mortal Kombat 1 may keep the list of characters small. Or just keep the characters involved in this new universe’s main storyline small. But we’re not so pressed, because if there’s one thing the game does well, it’s to evolve. Kevwe agrees, but hopes for a larger roster:
I’d say the evolution of the game has just made each entry better and better. I moved on from Deception to Armageddon and Midway/NetherRealm switched it up when they brought out Shaolin monks using a new formula that has you explore the realms with its protagonists. I really hope the reboot offers something different like that, and possibly a large roster like Armageddon’s.
A limited roster vs one big family
Whether we get a small or big roster; what is most important perhaps, is Mortal Kombat 1 fully exploring how Fire God Liu Kang’s reshaping of the universe has affected the characters. This would give the opportunity to fully tell a new story with the character histories and motivations. In this manner, we get a much firmer grasp on the ramifications of the reboot.
It would also go a long way in establishing this new universe, as we expect more installments to be released in years to come. But we could also be in for a combination of both the storytelling element and a great roster– as the game promises to have Kameo Fighters.
The Kameo system allows fighters who don’t make the launch roster to appear as support characters who offer assistance in the middle of a match. The only confirmed characters, for now, are Scorpion, Raiden, Sub-Zero, Kung Lao, Mileena, Kitana, Johnny Cage, Shang Tsung, and of course, Liu Kang. So, we could get any of the other iconic characters popping up as Kameo Fighters.
That’s good news for players like Kevwe, who has many favorite characters he’d love to see in the upcoming reboot:
My favorite characters have to be Onaga, Kung Lao, SubZero, Shao Khan, and Kotal Khan.
The reasons? So obvious– Onaga is a freaking draconian emperor that has an army of undead; Kung Lao with a HAT FOR A WEAPON (it’s definitely the first time I’ve seen such a thing, and it’ll always remain cool to me); I’m a sucker for ice-based powers so Sub-Zero is an instant fave; Shao khan was a badass Konqueror who does whatever he wants (really appealed to my villain side!); and Kotal is pretty much the embodiment of a realistic leader in my opinion.
I also love D’vorah, because she has 2 of my absolute favorite fatalities that freak me out every time. I would also love to see Terminator come back; he’s one character with fatalities that are just so cool.
What we’re sure of…
There’s a lot of speculation out there as to who, or what, Mortal Kombat 1 will show up with. It’s a lot of chatter, but there are some things that are a staple of the franchise and will definitely feature. Such as the graphic violence. It’s not Mortal Kombat if it isn’t violent– it is a formula that brings long-time fans coming in time and time again
I absolutely love the extreme violence in the game because it pushes the limits one can really do with aggression in a virtual world.
It’s an important part of the experience and is an accurate depiction from the perspective of the MK universe characters. Kombat is their way of life and it makes sense they’re a bit extra when murdering their enemies.
We’re also pretty confident that there will be an intricately woven story. How? Well–
When you experience the franchise for yourself, you immediately realize it also comes with an intricately detailed story. Sure, it may have been altered here and there, and doesn’t always meet the execution, but it remains interesting nonetheless.
The universe of Mortal Kombat was well designed and put together with love so I’m fully interested in the storytelling.
Mortal Kombat 1 also promises new modes– so we’re looking at more exciting ways to play the game. Kevwe, like many other fans, will be hoping the reboot’s promise of a new fighting system and game modes come with a call back to older game features:
Well I personally believe they should branch into other genres like MOBAs.
The franchise has characters that are interesting enough characters and a good team to pull that off. I remember their experiments in Armageddon with the chess and racing mini-games, as well as a Konquest mode. I think delving into other genres would be amazing.
Having mini-games back and other ways to enjoy the world of MK would be a very fresh development and I really hope NetherRealm considers it.