Why 'Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat' is the crossover we talk about, but don't actually want

Why do we prefer seeing our favorite fighting game characters duke it out with superheros instead of each other?

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • March 11, 2019 at 7:17 p.m. PDT

Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter arguably hold status as the tallest and longest standing pillars in the fighting game community. The fantasy fight between Ryu and Sub-Zero (Scorpion, Ken, Chun-Li, and Liu-Kang are all interchangeable names here) has surely been brought up millions of times between vocal discussions, forum postings, illustrations, and Death Battle!-esque videos, so how in the world have we not seen a crossover yet?

Instead of conflating with each other, both SF and MK have done so with superheroes. Superheros have made the jump from comics to computer screens both effortlessly and efficiently, and we regularly find ourselves welcoming them in as guest stars in our favorite arenas.

NetherRealm head honcho, Ed Boon, recently polled his Twitter followers with a question pertaining to what type of fantasy crossover fighter they'd like to see NRS make. The three available choices were for either a horror film fighter mashup, Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat, or DC vs. Marvel.

In the end they opted for leaving the fighting game characters out of the mix entirely as DC vs. Marvel took 45% of the vote, horror movie icons took 29% and SF vs. MK limped across the finish line with only 26%.

This would make total and immediate sense to me if we were talking about the general public, who live these days with Superman, Thor, and the bat signal constantly over their heads and in front of their faces, but one would imagine the 117k people that voted in said poll were more than likely represented by an FGC majority.

As similar as Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter appear to be on the surface, (they're both iconic fighting game franchises that erupted around the same time) that's about where the consistencies end.

Yes both of these entities see characters duke it out under a pair of health bars and a timer, but upon closer inspection it becomes apparent that the worlds of SF and MK are so drastically different that a crossover probably wouldn't manifest with having the best traits of both worlds.

Street Fighter has almost always been defined first and foremost as a platform for social competition. Don't get me wrong, people absolutely love the characters for their identities and follow the bits of lore that actually line up to form coherent story lines, but the central appeal for Street Fighter has almost always been about crowning a champion behind the sticks, whether that be at home, at the arcade, or at a major competition like EVO.

Mortal Kombat has absolutely served as a platform for social competition countless times over, but the franchise's core identity has always seemed to be built around the concept of producing experiences that are more visual in nature. By this I mean MK titles have been something to watch, and have had more significant stories to tell.

Those that can recall the arcade days of the 1990's may recollect lines of people to play at Street Fighter 2 cabinets juxtaposed with crowds of people watching at Mortal Kombat 2 cabinets.

This concept seems to manifest itself on a bit more tangible level when we start talking about the first item of business that always comes up during the "what if there were an MK/SF crossover?" fantasy discussions: how would you reconcile Street Fighter characters and Fatalities?

It's not that we can't imagine Ryu blasting a super Hadoken through an opponent's chest or Ken using a flaming Shoryuken to separate a foe's head from their body, (and can you imagine the possibilities if Akuma were capable of on-screen murder?) it's just that the spectacular and cinematic kill is not part of Street Fighter's identity.

As much as many of us would love to see Cammy's spine ripped from her body as payment for the seemingly infinite blood-boiling frustrations she's injected into our veins, I don't think we really want to see the SF cast kill or be killed.

Similarly, Mortal Kombat would feel unequivocally incomplete if its characters weren't able to rip, burn, bludgeon, and otherwise maim each other to death. All the "alities" from over the years have almost zero effect on game play, yet their integral to the MK experience and to omit them is to fail to meet expectations (just ask fans that played Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe).

I can't stress enough that Mortal Kombat is absolutely a validly competitive franchise of which the game play people enjoy analyzing. This is especially true in recent years as NRS has made clear moves to move their titles toward the competitively balanced end of the spectrum, the upcoming MK11 likely to be the most apparent example of this.

I also can't stress enough that the Street Fighter series is appreciated for more than just the moments CYG|Daigo performed unbelievable feats in tournament. There are plenty of places where these franchises line up just fine, it's simply that, at their cores, one seems square where the other feels circular.

That's not a bad thing, and is probably a big reason as to why Mortal Kombat was able to get its head above water and thrive during a time where a sea of Street Fighter copycats bogged the emerging gaming genre down.

As time goes on, it's entirely possible that both entities could change their fundamental identities in such a way that allows for a crossover to feel right, but thus far both seem to be faring better by welcoming in guest superheroes instead of each other.

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