All Mainline Mortal Kombat Games, Ranked From Worst To Best
Mortal Kombat is one of the most famous video game franchises in the United States, mostly thanks to its very violent gameplay and graphics. What other games from the early 90s features a blue ninja ripping out a person’s spine?
The series has endured to this day, and to celebrate the release of Mortal Kombat 11, here’s our official ranking of all the mainline Mortal Kombat games.
Ranking the Mortal Kombat Games
When I say mainline Mortal Kombat games, I am not including spin-off games like Mythologies: Sub-Zero or Shaolin Monks. I’m going to focus just on the fighting games in the Mortal Kombat series.
11. Mortal Kombat (1992)
It may seem odd to place the original Mortal Kombat game at dead last on this list, especially below more despised games like Mortal Kombat 4 or Armageddon. However the first Mortal Kombat game may have kick-started the entire franchise, but it hasn’t aged well at all. While it isn’t as unplayable as the first Street Fighter game, it is still ruff to play through now. Good luck trying to get any good combos against your opponents in this game.
Still, the original Mortal Kombat game introduces such iconic characters like Scorpion, Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, Raiden, and Sub Zero. It also had it’s now trademark Fatalities, which was a nationwide controversy. Overall, the first Mortal Kombat is an important yet dated game that is vital to appreciate the history of controversial video games.
10. Mortal Kombat 4
The original Mortal Kombat trilogy used live-action footage with real actors. The developers will then convert the footage into sprites for the game. Real life actors performed all the iconic characters of Mortal Kombat.
When the series decided to convert to full 3D graphics, they struggled for a while. Mortal Kombat 4, their first foray to 3D, is a prime example of the series losing its footing. The gameplay for 4 felt a little awkward at the time it was released, and it has only gotten worse over the years.
The game had hilariously terrible voice acting, and maybe the single greatest lines of dialogue spoken in all of the video games.
The graphics were also very mediocre, even for the time, and the new playable characters were extremely forgettable. Who remembers Jarek or Reiko? But then again MK 4 did introduce Quan Chi, and he’s awesome. Maybe Mortal Kombat 4 has something good going for it after all.
9. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance
In my head I know Mortal Kombat: Armageddon should be on this spot rather than Deadly Alliance. However, I enjoy Armageddon too much to put it so low on this list. So instead of going with my head, I went with my heart and placed Deadly Alliance at number 9.
Don’t let this low-ranking fool you, Deadly Alliance is a solid entry in the Mortal Kombat series. After struggling in Mortal Kombat 4, Deadly Alliance looks and plays better than its predecessor. It even introduces the character Kenshi to the canon of the game, and Kenshi is one of the best characters in the franchise. With that said, the other new characters that Deadly Alliance introduces are kind of lame ducks. Hsu Hao and Drahmin are possibly the worst characters ever in the series.
The gameplay is slow compared to most games that are being released now. It also can be very hard at times. Despite that, Deadly Alliance is still a worthwhile trek for any fan of the series.
8. Mortal Kombat: Armageddon
Sorry to be biased for putting Armageddon higher than Deadly Alliance. Nonetheless, I love Armageddon too much for me to sentence it towards the very bottom of the list. Armageddon features every character that has appeared in the games at that point and made them playable. That sounds cool; however, all the characters essentially play the same.
Not only that, Fatalities where switch out for create-a-Fatality. Create-a-Fatality allows players to make their own Fatalities by pressing buttons and ripping out different limbs from opponents. It wasn’t really that much fun of a new addition.
The single player Konquest mode is great. The main character of Konquest mode, Taven, maybe super bland, nevertheless the story is always fun and exciting to play through. You explore the different realms of Mortal Kombat, fighting against classic Mortal Kombat characters.
Armageddon also has a create-a-character option, giving players multiple options to play to create their own dream fighter. There’s a lot to love in Armageddon if you give the game a chance, which is what I recommend most gamers try to do.
7. Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
A crossover game series that was highly criticized for the censored Fatalities, many people often forget that Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is a pretty solid fighting game deep down.
Certain parts of the game do not hold up, as some of the gameplay feels slow now compared to more modern games. The graphics also really don't hold up either. The tamed Fatalities are also really lame. I understand you can’t portray characters like Superman or Batman killing, but then what’s the point of having the DC universe cross over with Mortal Kombat then?
Despite that, the story mode in the game was the franchise’s first step into having some of the best stories in all of the fighting games. The story consists of several chapters; each chapter centers on one of the playable characters. Each chapter you fight four opponents as one of the playable characters.
Admittedly the story chapters aren’t the most original idea ever, and the story is fairly basic (a great evil threatens both worlds, blah blah blah). However, it was modest and still fairly entertaining. This was the first game that the characters from the Mortal Kombat universe began to become fully fleshed out. They were no longer just tools for you to control; they were now their own beings with their own motivations.
The story mode in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe will lead to the truly fantastic stories found in every proceeding Mortal Kombat games afterward.
6. Mortal Kombat: Deception
Back in the day, Mortal Kombat games would have every playable character have their own ending that can be viewed after beating each character’s arcade mode. Usually, only a few of these endings will be canon within the main story mode, and most often or not the canon ending would be Liu Kang saving the day.
Shockingly Mortal Kombat: Deception was a continuation from one of the bad endings from Deadly Alliance. Rather than having the heroes prevail over the deadly alliance of Shang Tsung and Quan Chi, most of the main characters perished and the Dragon King Onaga was resurrected.
It was a strong narrative hook for a game, and for the first time, it appeared that everything was hopeless. The gameplay in Deception is more polish than it was in Deadly Alliance. Deception also benefited greatly from a more thorough story mode.
The story mode in Deception is called Konquest mode. In Konquest, you take control of a man name Shujinko and follow his journey from when he was a young boy to when he becomes a senior man. Shujinko is often labeled as one of the worst characters in Mortal Kombat, mostly due to how gullible and bland he is.
It is true that Shujinko does suck, but Konquest mode is still a blast to play through. Traveling through the different realms from the Mortal Kombat franchise and talking to the different characters from the series is a lot of fun. The mode is also pretty slow and can be really unfair at times (I don’t remember how many times I’ve lost to Scorpion in the final match).
However, it is still a fascinating and tragic look in the history of Mortal Kombat. Mortal Kombat: Deception is probably the most depressing entry in the series, yet possibly one of the best as well.
5. Mortal Kombat II
Often cited as the best of the classic Mortal Kombats on the arcades, Mortal Kombat II suffers from a similar issue that placed the original Mortal Kombat on the bottom of this list; it is old and outdated. The gameplay is slow, and the combos are hard to pull off at times.
However, everything that made the franchise special can be found in this entry. Whereas the first game in the series focused on normal-looking humans, Mortal Kombat decided to introduce more supernatural elements and creatures. Baraka, the fighter with blades in his arms, would become one of the biggest icons in the entire franchise.
Also rather than taking place on a secluded island, the game instead centers on characters traveling to an alternate realm. Instead of fighting an old man as the final boss, you face against Shao Kahn, the biggest and best baddie in all of Mortal Kombat. He is almost unstoppable, and will continuously taunt you with phrases like “You Suck!” Truly the franchise has never come up with a villain as despicable as Shao Kahn.
The game may be hard to play through now, especially those with more modern tastes. Nonetheless, it is a vital part of Mortal Kombat history. It deserves to be played at least once.
4. Mortal Kombat X
After the 2011 version of Mortal Kombat returns the series to its roots, Mortal Kombat X followed that trend. After every Earthrealm warrior except Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage perished in the previous game, X decided to fast forward to the future and focus on the next generation of Mortal Kombat heroes.
Though classic characters like Johnny Cage, Liu Kang, Raiden, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero were still very much active in the game, the game no longer centers on them. Instead, the game was about Sonya’s and Johnny’s daughter Cassie, and her partners.
Not since Kenshi’s introduction in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance has there been new characters that fans have embraced with open arms; X breaks this curse and introduces several new fan favorites like Cassie and Kotal Kahn.
The story mode is almost as great as the 2011 version of Mortal Kombat. The game also took characters to new directions. Johnny Cage was now middle age with a grown-up daughter, while Liu Kang became an evil revenant. It is refreshing to see classic characters in new situations.
This isn’t even touching on the amazing gameplay in Mortal Kombat X and the three different variations that each playable character has. The DLC characters for this game were also insane, having the likes of Jason Voorhees, the Xenomorph, Leatherface, and the Predator.
Mortal Kombat X did not lose the upward momentum that was started with 2011’s Mortal Kombat and only continue to raise the franchise’s prestige.
3. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
Though many consider Mortal Kombat II to be the pinnacle of the series on the arcades, for my money Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is the better game. It has more characters, and the stakes of the story felt more serious.
Outworld has decided to invade Earthrealm rather than winning it fairly through the Mortal Kombat tournament. Rather than fight on a mystical island or another realm, you fight monsters from another realm in the streets of Earth. There’s also cyborg ninjas hunting down Sub-Zero.
The original Mortal Kombat 3 dared to not include mainstay characters like Scorpion. The developers quickly recognize this mistake and incorporated him and other characters in the game’s roster with the updated Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3.
To me, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is the definitive version of the Mortal Kombat series on the arcades. It holds up better than its previous two games in the series, and the roster is great. The stages are filled with locals from the real world, making the game feel different from the first two. The story also feels more epic as Earth is visually shown to be in danger for the first time.
Not only that, Shao Kahn is still the final boss, and he still tells you how much you suck. Why fix something that isn’t broken?
2. Mortal Kombat 11
Mortal Kombat 11 essentially uses the same formula as Mortal Kombat X and 2011’s Mortal Kombat, but in many ways perfects it. The gameplay feels a tad slower than the previous two entries in the series. However, combos are easier to do.
Whereas X focused more on new characters, 11 focuses more on returning fan favorites. While characters like Cassie Cage and Kotal Kahn are still important to the game’s story, classic characters like Baraka and Kitana are made prominent again. The original Mortal Kombat champion Liu Kang returns to the spotlight as the franchise’s main hero again, leading to one of the most crowd-pleasing moments in the story mode.
Mortal Kombat also looks great graphically. Past 3D Mortal Kombat games usually just look okay, but ever since the 2011 version of Mortal Kombat the games have consistently look great. 11 is without a doubt the pinnacle of the Mortal Kombat games in terms of looks. From the gorgeous backgrounds to the characters facial animation, this is one good looking game.
There’s also a lot to do in the game and a lot to collect. Unfortunately, that is also the game’s biggest downside. There’s an ungodly amount of things to collect in the game that it is pretty much impossible to collect it all. It also doesn’t help there’s a lot of randomnesses when it comes to getting everything. You would have to do a lot of grinding for this game; fortunately, you can have an AI do most of the grinding for you.
Mortal Kombat 11 continues the franchise’s hot streak that was first started in the 2011 version of Mortal Kombat. It may be the best Mortal Kombat game on a technical level.
1. Mortal Kombat (2011)
The 3D Mortal Kombat games that were released on the PS2 were good, but often or not had mix responses from fans. After the lukewarm response for Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, the newly founded NetherRealm Studios decided to “semi” reboot the series with a new Mortal Kombat game simply called Mortal Kombat. This version of Mortal Kombat was released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2011 and is often labeled as Mortal Kombat 2011.
I say “semi” reboot because the events up to Armageddon still happen. Shao Kahn gains ultimate power from Blaze. To prevent Armageddon, Raiden decides to give visions of the future to a past version of himself. The past version of Raiden gains these visions just in time to participate in the very first Mortal Kombat tournament in the series.
Events then play out as they did in the first three games in the franchise, with several major differences. One of these major differences is the death of most of the main characters. In one of the most horrifying scenes in the franchise, Sindel can slay almost all of Earth’s heroes in the game’s story mode. It was shocking and made everything seem so hopeless.
The story of the 2011 version of Mortal Kombat is my personal favorite in the entire franchise. It took risks and further develops the characters. You get a better understanding of what went on during the events of the original Mortal Kombat trilogy and adds much-needed depth to the narrative. We get a better understanding of Scorpion’s rage, and why all the characters participate in the tournament in the first place.
The game also plays and looks great. While the faces and bodies of some of the female characters seem off, the stages and lighting look amazing for the time it was released.
The 2011 version of Mortal Kombat is where the franchise found its footing again and rebounded after hitting its lowest point. It took the series to new directions, leading into the almost equally amazing Mortal Kombat X and 11.