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10 years ago Mortal Kombat's reboot resurrected the series, revolutionized fighting game story modes and paved the way for new heights to be reached

Happy Birthday MK9

Posted by Dakota 'DarkHorse' Hills • April 19, 2021 at 6:23 p.m. PDT • Comments: 19

Just over a decade ago, the future of Mortal Kombat felt bleak after the release of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and the subsequent closure of Midway Games, but NetherRealm Studios managed to rise from the ashes and deliver one of the most important fighting games of our time.

Mortal Kombat's 2011 reboot is celebrating its 10th birthday today, which is the perfect opportunity to take a nostalgic trip back to what made the fighting game so special and what players have to say about it now.

Much of what made MK9 the success it quickly became was the quite literal return to the series' roots following the collective shrug that was MKvsDCU by not only rebooting the story but also returning the gameplay to more of what players remembered from the first games.

Gone were the days of the PlayStation 2-era titles and their weapon load outs, custom Fatalities, and 3D kombat, as Mortal Kombat drew heavy inspiration from the original trilogy with their fast, 2D action that just had two people beating the crap out of each other as fast as they could until one of their spines got ripped out.

The lack of brutal action, Fatalities and mature rating started to make Mortal Kombat lose its identity a bit, which they fully managed to recapture in 2011.

"The main thing they've asked for is going back to M-rated presentation — the blood and the violence," said MK co-creator Ed Boon in an interview with Chicago Now in 2010 after the game had been revealed at E3. "Those things are synonymous with MK. And then a deeper fighting engine and also fatalities. So we took those features as sort of like our marching orders. This is what people want in MK and this is what we're gonna give them."

Pretty much every klassic character was back with a fresh coat of paint as well as an important role within the story mode that would change fighting games forever.

While a cinematic story mode was a seed that had been planted in the previous entries, MK9 took the world by storm with its cohesive and action-filled narrative, which no one wanted to put down until they were done.

Seeing the iconic events of the MK trilogy felt like a fever dream for longtime fans with new twists and turns thrown in like Cyber Sub-Zero and Sindel's demolition of most of the cast kept everyone on their toes until the credits rolled. No one was safe.

This style of story was turned into tradition with NRS's future Mortal Kombat and Injustice games, but other developers quickly took notice of MK9's story impact and tried to follow suit.

Games like Street Fighter 5, Tekken 7, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite and Guilty Gear Xrd attempted to take a crack at the formula of cinematic fighting game stories, but no one really managed to crack the secret formula the same way — though Arc System Works was probably the closest among them.

The release of MK9 was also probably the most important moment in the history of Mortal Kombat's competitive scene, as while the hungry players always existed, they were finally given a spotlight next to the Street Fighters and Tekkens of the world.

Evo 2011 would serve as the first time a Mortal Kombat title would included among the mainstage titles where Perfect Legend was crowned as the champion with his top-level Kung Lao play.

This wider acceptance within the competitive FGC would only continue to grow until we've reached the point now where NRS title tournaments are some of the biggest in the genre with world-spanning pro circuits in place now for Mortal Kombat 11.

Personally, as more of a Tekken / Soul Calibur kid growing up, I never had much interaction with Mortal Kombat outside of playing a few of the PS2 titles at a friend's house, but MK9 changed that quickly.

My friend and I became enamored in the story and lore of Shao Kahn trying to conquer all realms, and it became one of our primary games for months thanks in part to its tag mode that I wish would make a comeback too.

Mortal Kombat's reboot would go on to sell over 3 million copies, and the positive reception and word of mouth would help make its sequel, Mortal Kombat X, push almost four times that amount and become one of the best-selling fighting games of all time.

We got X-Ray attacks, crossover characters and so much more that would become staples of the series' identity moving forward while packing in oodles of fan service for those who'd been around since the beginning.

Now the future is wide open to where NetherRealm will take things next.

Cheers to 10 years of roasting skulls.

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