Mortal Kombat is the game that placed blood, gore, death and violence before the eyes of children around the world. Gaming consoles were known for cute characters saving a damsel in distress, connecting coloured bricks or shooting junk in space, but then came a game that made parents tilt their heads in confusion. Fatalities demonstrated the new limits of video game killing, both stunning and capturing the attention of millions. The catch-phrases of characters soon entered our vocabulary and before long, most people had an opinion on who was the coolest character and who wielded the most badass move. Despite enhanced graphics and storylines, many of the most iconic moves are the ones that were first implemented in the earliest games of the series. They may look cooler now, but their origins started it all.
So what is the criteria for a place on this prestigious list? Firstly, they must have power, meaning that your opponent must dread the action as much as you enjoy utilising it. Second, they must be visually rewarding in some capacity. Third, they must elevate the character to a different level due to having the attack in their arsenal. And fourth, they must have a history that adds to their legacy. If there’s a new move in Mortal Kombat X that seems worthy, I’ve yet to really appreciate it. As always, if you agree or disagree with anything in this article, comment below. With a game as significant as Mortal Kombat, there will be dividing opinions. But I’ve performed my research, and the results are in.
10. Shadow Kick (Johnny Cage)
A move that has stayed very true to the original game, Johnny Cage’s Shadow Kick sees one of the main characters of the series emit a green shadow as he forcefully kicks his opponent in the chest. The speed and accuracy of the move help make it the signature feature of Cage, even if some would argue that Cage is not one of the most popular characters.
As he slides across the surface with one foot in the air, it is clearly an intimidating move that has earned it’s place in Mortal Kombat folklore. There are reports that Cage’s shadow moves influenced the well-known attacks of Captain Falcon, a Nintendo favourite that became a key character through ‘Falcon Punch’ and ‘Falcon Kick’. As can be seen in the image, graphics have been kind to the move. It looks great in 3D and it’s enough to push your opponent backwards, that is if you aren’t kicking a hole through their chest.
9. Acid Spit (Reptile)
The spit may not do the most damage in the game, but the sound of an opponent screaming in agony as the acid hits their body is one of strange delight. Combined with the fact that you are ripping off your mask and showing your true self, and you have Reptile’s reason for existence on the roster right there. That sound…it has evolved with the systems, as it rips skin away from the body and emits a wafting smoke that stuns even the strongest opponent. Projectiles are deadly weapons in Mortal Kombat and if you can keep your distance and spit to your life’s content, there’s a strong chance of victory. Reptile may seem disgusting, but that’s all part of his ‘charm’. There’s no glory, there’s no poetry. He just gets the job done in any way possible. If not for that stinging green liquid, would there be any other reason to pick this clothed beast?
8. Hat Toss (Kung Lao)
How sweet it is to see that wearable blade tear at a body. It is even more satisfying during a fatality, as the hat wedges into a skull and continues spinning. As previously mentioned, projectiles are a man’s (or woman’s) best friend in a fighting game, and Kung Lao is lucky to have one of the best of them. He pulls off the hat, tosses it like a frisbee and watches in delight as it tears at the torso of his opponent. It’s quite powerful too, narrowly edging out Reptile’s filthy spitting for this exact reason. Kung Lao burst onto the scene in MKII, so he is one of the most recognizable faces of the franchise. Despite this, there is still a mystery that surrounds his past, but no matter what his past is, you aren’t going to mess with a man who has that as a hat. As we extend into amazing graphics, that shredding skin off the torso continues to increase in violence. Why do you think the Mature rating exists?
7. Ground Pound (Jax)
Like Donkey Kong before him, Jax makes the ground his own by beating the living shit out of it. Look at those arms…they look like machines built to break whatever comes close. But it isn’t direct contact with an opponent that is their best use. The ground crumbles, causing others to lose their footing and be stunned which gives Jax the opportunity to grab you by the throat and start pommeling. But it isn’t just the ground that shakes. The whole screen shakes, heck, the controller vibrates. It’s an act of raw power that can only be achieved because of the metallic armour that encases his biceps. Donkey Kong slaps the dirt, Jax just pounds concrete in full knowledge that his opponent must jump to avoid it. But you can’t stay up there forever. Gravity dictates you’re on your way down, and once you hit that surface the effect is more deadly than before.
6. Bicycle Kick (Liu Kang)
Everyone knows that sound of a well-timed bicycle kick, it’s part hilarious, part awesome. You’re probably wondering how this didn’t crack the top 5 and trust me, it comes close, but no cigar. From Mortal Kombat I, we’ve seen this warrior defy gravity and repeatedly kick his opponent in the face, all while screaming some chant we’ve all attempted (even if you may not readily admit it). He shoots flames, he fly-kicks, but the bicycle is Liu Kang’s signature move. It is a driving force and a powerful way to bring the fight back into your favour. As we progress through the different versions of the game, the sound of boot on body just continues to delight. In the early days, it was much harder to pull off, requiring skill and concentration, but gaming continues to evolve. With the addition of giant weapons, deadly environments and god-like creatures with limitless power, we still smile at the bicycle kick.
5. Lightning/Electricity (Raiden)
Zapping bastards has never been as fun as it has been with our old mate Raiden. Sure, you’ve got Pikachu holding the crown for the thunder manipulation, but Raiden is a god and his power is relentless. He can teleport, and almost fly, but it’s his ability with the electricity that helps him stand out on his own. That bright spark just surrounds him at all times, telling opponents that at any moment he can zap the shit out of you…BANG! From a zippy looking white light to rays that now leap off the screen, you have a character synonymous with Mortal Kombat. It may not be the most powerful projectile, but the importance of the zap can’t be denied. It exists as a symbolism of good against evil, and in a game filled with such anger, it is a necessary aspect.
4. Ice Blast (Sub-Zero)
“Number 4” you say! Well, then the top 3 must be pretty damn good. Sub-Zero and his Ice Blast is a visual even non-gamers know. He cups his hands, crouches low and sends a blue projectile at his opponent, freezing them on impact and leaving them vulnerable for a few follow-up blows. In fatality form, Sub-Zero freezes and then breaks the ice…only in this instance the body crumbles apart and there is no way to regain composure. It’s as frustrating as it is powerful. Being constantly frozen during battle renders your best moves useless, and dodging the blast is all you have to hope on. This move will never be removed from Mortal Kombat, for it is Mortal Kombat. The rivalry between the two ninjas, one fiery and yellow, the other blue and cold, is what the franchise uses to push into the next era of gaming. It is also a key reason for the franchises’ success in the first place. And you thought a brainfreeze was annoying!
3. Chop Chop Blades (Baraka)
Don’t be too surprised at the spot of this move, as the chop chop is what makes Baraka so revered. He’s a bad guy that would be lost in the sea of villains, but what sets him apart are those blades on his arms that tear through skin like Wolverine’s claws. The chop chop rips apart the midriff of an opponent as they are suspended in mid-air, and you can imagine that puts an end to the battle pretty quickly.
Without the chop chop, Baraka is one of those characters that feature on the roster and look awesome, but that’s not enough to demand your attention. Add a move that swings battle into your favour, and there’s reason to pick the ugly bastard. He’s a predator seeking a meal, and when you’re stuck in the chop chop it’s like a fly being stuck in a web who is just waiting to be devoured. There’s nothing nice about Baraka, but the chop chop makes him elite.
2. Morphing (Shang Tsung)
In a game such as Mortal Kombat, having the ability to transform into any character of your choice holds some merit. Some would argue that it may be the best way to fight. Old friend Shang can do such a move, transforming into any character available on the roster and also utilizing their every move. Feeling icy? Boom, Sub-Zero. Feeling handy? Boom, Goro. Be who you wanna be, do what you wanna do. A green tinge and away you go. He’s not a favourite, but with this single move, he becomes a prospect worth using. From boss 1 to an old man fighting for survival in the franchise, it may come down to this very reason as to why he keeps rearing his ugly head. It must take a special move to knock this off top spot…
1. Spear (Scorpion)
There is no move more iconic of the series than Scorpion and his spear.
He hurls it with such velocity that it sticks into the opponent and then drags them over to Scorpion, while more damage is sure to be inflicted. Not to mention that his war-cry ‘GET OVER HERE’ is arguably the coolest phrase in the series.
As the games graphics continue to improve, the move continues to get more impressive. That feeling of shooting it out, seeing the chain tighten around your target and bringing the dazed opponent over to your side of the arena is just glorious, no matter how many times you do it.
Beneath that mask is a flaming skull just waiting to burn you to a crisp, as if the spear wasn’t enough. For a while, Scorpion lived in Sub-Zero’s shadow…but as the spear grew in stature, Scorpion soon reigned as the iconic part of Mortal Kombat. Seen the movie? That spear is like a bird seeking prey. Wow.