If you haven’t noticed, all of us here at G FUEL are huge Mortal Kombat fans. To be honest, we love fighting games in general. We argue a lot about what the best Mortal Kombat games are. So, I decided to rank all Mortal Kombat games in the main Mortal Kombat series to settle the matter once and for all.
With the new MK movie in theaters and on HBO MAX, it gave us the perfect excuse to look back through the decades of the Mortal Kombat franchise and its blood-soaked installments, which fall in the range of genre-defining mechanics to baffling 3D brawlers that we can now find at the bottom of a spike-pit.
I love fighter games, but after nearly 30 years of games in its series, MK will always have a special place in my heart. The game has given gamers decades of brutal action, gore, and laughs. Maybe that sounds sinister, but I have a lot of wholesome memories with friends and family because of MK.
Bear in mind: this list is still pretty subjective and is based on our own opinion and inter-office arguments. With that in mind, let’s get this party started!
We tried to keep in mind graphics, different combos, special attacks, Fatalities, Friendships, Brutalities, Babalities, additions like Krushing Blows, quicker movements, plot, online events, game modes, etc.
We wanted to give every game a fair shot while also considering its time period. Obviously, graphics from 2002 aren't going to be as good as graphics from 2019, so we also took that into consideration.
11. Mortal Kombat 4
It’s an unfortunate thing to be called the "worst" of your series. While Mortal Kombat 4 gets a lot of flak, it isn’t totally unwarranted either. First off, in defense of Midway Games, it was 1997 and video games tried to do their best with 3D. Many of us have fond memories of this time period, but let's be honest about something: it was clumsy and unnatractive. MK4 was no exception to this.
While MK4's roster had a mixed bag of decent newcomers by adding Quan Chi and Shinnok, they also had some pretty forgettable fighters such as Reiko and Jarek. The game is mostly remembered for some of the most laughably bad cutscene dialogue of any MK game.
MK4 wasn’t able to get past those polygonal visuals (although certainly not the worst of its era). Its poor voice acting inhibited the presentation, and the dark comedy that had been such a central part of MK’s identity just seemed to be missing.
The motion of the characters was also disappointing. The clunky combat didn't help as they added a new weapon system to the series. A lot of fans really took issue with the weapons system in the game, which didn’t provide many options for the characters and were boring to use. You can’t fault them for trying to update their formula a bit, but if we could, we would kick this one into a Death Trap.
10. Mortal Kombat: Armageddon
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Gamers Gallery
If Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the prime example of having a fighter game work with 80 characters (with two left to announce), then Mortal Kombat: Armageddon is its exact opposite. MKA had 62 characters altogether. The game was meant to close out the PS2/Xbox era of MK games, so in grand fashion, Midway Games decided they would pack in every character that had ever been a part of the series up until that point.
While that idea seemed great at the time, and they technically delivered on that promise, the entire package felt off. The task of making 62 characters interesting appears to have been too much. Many of the characters, even longtime favorites, lacked a distinctive personality.
Armageddon also added this weird "Kreate-a-Fatality" system that was meant to replace the game's iconic individual Fatalities. This kept things a bit random for a 62 character roster, and yet it felt boring and overused. The game’s graphics looked decent for the time, but overall, it fell flat with all of the blundering movements.
However, Mortal Kombat Armageddon does get credit for offering a decent single-player Konquest mode and a random-yet-kind-of-fun kart racing mini-game. Overall it's generally the most forgettable (but not the worst) of the PS2-era MK titles.
9. Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Mortal Kombat Wiki
This is another title that I feel gets a lot of heat from fans around the world. But let’s be honest: Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe crawled so that Injustice could run. This idea spawned in the wake of the success of Marvel vs. Capcom, so Warner Bros. Games decided to make their own crossover brawler where they threw Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and Raiden against the likes of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.
MK vs. DC Universe (which is technically MK8) had a few things going for it, including a cinematic story mode and cool-looking stage transitions. But its overall gameplay and style don't really make the grade. Even back then the mechanics could be a little clunky.
This game is weird in general. DC, heroes who we all know don't kill anyone, get launched into the MK Realm that's all about killing. They worked around that with the DC characters just “knocking out” the MK characters. But then it didn’t feel like MK. It’s even weirder that this odd crossover is considered the eighth mainline entry in the franchise.
One of the other reasons the game may have fallen short for fans was that MK vs. DC was the first MK game developed for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It did, however, show off great visuals. It was also a cool game concept. I mean, sure it's weird, but who doesn’t want to see Scorpion face-off against Batman? When it finally presented itself, though, it seemed to fall short of all the good ideas it seemed to have.
Because the DC characters had to hold back, the heroes had OK movesets that didn’t always gel with the established MK roster. The game was rated T for Teen, so the violence was significantly toned down. So much so, that ultimately felt like it restricted MK’s core identity. Still, it was a fun experiment from Midway Games that undoubtedly paved the way for NetherRealm’s Injustice franchise.
8. Mortal Kombat: Deception
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Game Art HQ
MK Deception is a good sequel. They built on everything that was great about MK Deadly Alliance. They enhanced the roster while expanding on the single-player mode and introduced online play to the series.
On top of a refined fighting system with 26 3D fighters, Deception had a few interesting modes. Newcomers such as Kobra and Hotaru joined, and fan favorites such as Ermac and Jade returned.
MK Deception, the sixth mainline entry in the series, introduced an important addition to the MK formula that would become a staple for years to come: interactive stages. From destructible objects to traps, Deception made every stage stand out.
The big reason we ranked Mortal Kombat Deception number eight is the single-player “Konquest” RPG mode. It gave us the history of Shujinko, but unfortunately, he was a subpar and bland character that has long been forgotten.
Meanwhile, mini-games such as Puzzle Kombat and Chess Kombat delivered strange yet hilariously fun diversions from the fighting. Chess Kombat was a chess mini-game that replaced chess pieces with MK fighters who would fight traditional battles to claim spots on the boards. Puzzle Kombat was a battle-infused, grid-based puzzler.
Deception may not be regarded as the best MK by any means, but it tried to experiment with the formula in ways that were surprising and fun. Though the 3D-era MK games aren’t usually regarded in a good light, Deception definitely came the closest to capturing MK’s magic inside 3D arenas and our hearts ... without having to rip them out of our chest.
7. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance
Warner Bros. Entertaiment Inc./Deviant Art
After MK4, MK Deadly Alliance righted the ship, delivering a much tighter 3D combat system that also introduced the ability to switch fighting styles mid-battle. It included memorable new faces such as the blind swordsman Kenshi, gaseous martial artist Bo' Rai Cho, and the vampiric Nitara.
MKDA also came loaded with content, including the debut of the single-player Konquest mode and a treasure trove of unlockable secrets known as the Krypt.
The gameplay was completely different from that of previous entries in the franchise and set the stage for many of the games to come. Every character could possess three individual styles (just like in MK11 now) that you can change with the push of a button. Up until now, all the characters in previous MK titles fought virtually identically, with only their special moves to differentiate them.
Although even with the new fight styles, the number of special moves per character (usable in any fighting style) had also been reduced to four at most, thus forcing the player to make use of the improved fighting system.
Unlike MK4, which used the Tekken-style sidestepping, Deadly Alliance let you only move into the background and foreground which made movement in the third dimension much easier.
One negative of MK Deadily Alliance was that every character only had one Fatality, while the previous titles included many ways to finish the opponent. Fatalities made MK what it was, so limiting every character to just one felt like a letdown.
Overall, this title felt both fresh and like a "return to form" when it released in 2002, and it laid the groundwork for future adaptations to come.
6. Mortal Kombat (1992)
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Moby Games
It’s only fair that the original MK, which be a little higher on the list. A lot went into making it. Midway used real people as the gaming stand-ins who were then digitized. It was shocking, gory, and the signature Fatalities were so controversial that they essentially birthed the ESRB game-ratings system that rated games by age group. It created a media frenzy.
Mortal Kombat (1992)is still playable today, decades after its initial launch. I'm pretty sure you can even find it as an arcade game. If you decide to try it, you’ll notice that it’s missing a lot of the key features that were added over time and now absolutely spoil us, most notably combos.
The original game was better played if you focused on your power moves and aggressive gameplay. Also, while the roster was excellent in quality, it lacked quantity. It was hard to make those real-life character sprites, so we totally understand why.
If you were playing alone, players could come up to bonus mini-games called "Test Your Might" for extra points. This most likely spawned from the "destroy car" mini-game in Street Fighter. The goal was to break blocks of various materials by filling a meter past a certain point through rapid button presses. The first material the player must break is wood, followed by stone, steel, ruby, and finally diamond. Because save the best for last, right? Each successive material required the meter to be filled up and thus awarded more points.
Here's the bottom line: MK was an incredibly influential game. It still holds up today, though it's not nearly as dynamic as most other entries in the series. It opened the door for many types of finishers to come.
5. Mortal Kombat 3/Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Video Games Blogger
Mortal Kombat 3 is not one of the best MK titles. So, why is it high on the list? Well, its updated successor (and the only one anyone really talks about when mentioning MK3), Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, most certainly is one of the top MK titles. Among other bad ideas, MK3 inexplicably dropped Kitana and Scorpion when it launched in 1995. So fans were pretty let down at first, although they did include eventual favorites like Sektor, Cyrax, and Kabal. Just six months later, Midway released Ultimate MK3 as a standalone "update." Which basically saved the third installment.
One thing going for MK3 was that it made a major leap forward for the franchise. It introduced the now-signature "Dial-a-Combo" system. It also added some game-mechanic comforts like upping the pace with a Run button, the ability to uppercut your opponent through a ceiling, and the ridiculous ending cinematics, "Animalities."
I will be totally honest, if Ultimate MK3 never made the scene, this game would never have placed this high. In addition to finally bringing back the aforementioned key characters and adding new stages, UMK3 introduced 2-on-2 and Tournament modes. It also added new move sets and fighting mechanics for much of the existing cast that gamers were excited about. This resulted in the most jam-packed and fun MK of its time.
It should be noted that following Ultimate MK3, Midway Games released yet another updated version of the game called MK Trilogy that included new characters and stages.
Ultimate MK3 always felt better in motion, though, so it won the war of the MK3s for us. It closed this trilogy in style and saved it from a Fatality.
4. Mortal Kombat (2011)
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./IMDb
Not to be confused with the original with the same title, Mortal Kombat (2011) changed its looks after a number of passible 3D fighters and went back to its origin. They took the models and gave them a 2D-interactable stage. Making it a 2.5D fighter.
The MK reboot (also known as Mortal Kombat 9) revitalized the franchise like no other previous game in the series had done. This was now the first MK game from NetherRealm Studios. They added the title's brilliant cinematic story that retold the first three MK games' stories in a way that was both nostalgia-inducing and fresh.
Mortal Kombat 9 was a true return to form. It birthed the modern competitive MK scene and set the template for every future NetherRealm game to come.
MK's return to a 2D fighter showed that the franchise probably should’ve never even tried 3D environments. And NeatherRealm showed signs of the juggernaut they’d become in the fighting game genre by creating the best MK story mode to date. MK ushered the franchise into a new era, reminding us why we fell in love with the violent, over-the-top series to begin with.
3. Mortal Kombat II
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./WallpaperAccess
Following the breakout hit of the original MK, the pressure was on for MKII. It had some big shoes to fill. And oh boy did it fill them. Midway Games exceeded expectations. They made critical improvements on the mechanics that made fights easier to pick up yet harder to master.
MKII brought back every beloved character from the original MK like Sub-Zero, Johnny Cage, and Raiden, and gave us a handful of new fighters who would become just as famous. The mutant Baraka, the brash Jax, Kung Lao, Kitana, and Mileena joined the fight in MKII. There were also whispers about hidden fighters such as Smoke and Noob Saibot that added to the deep intrigue of this series.
A lot of people still regard MKII as the best classic MK game. It continued to evolve the Fatality-fueled violence in big ways. Fighters gained a wider array of normal and special attacks. They now had multiple Fatalities at their disposal and hilarious new finishing moves like Babalities and Friendships.
MKII took the original MK's art style and made it crispier and grittier. It still looks sharp today, and the title remains a favorite among old-school kombatants.
2. Mortal Kombat X
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Polygon
This was a tough decision. Mortal Kombat X and MK11 are both the best in the long-running series. Ultimately, MKX will come in second to its successor.
One thing that MKX had going for it was that NetherRealms had full momentum from MK9 and Injustice. They were in the zone. MKX was bigger, darker, faster, and just a whole lot of fun.
MKX continued to deliver yet another marvelous story mode, this time introducing a new generation of heroes, including Cassie Cage (daughter of Johnny and Sonya), Jacqui Briggs (daughter of Jax), and Takeda (son of Kenshi, student of Scorpion).
NetherRealms introduced the new variation system that provided three unique playstyles per character. The game has some of the smoothest-playing combat. Walk speeds felt faster. "Pokes" felt useful. And the awesome new variation system gave each character three possible abilities to choose from at the beginning of a match. This made MKX feel like there was more to explore, discover, and exploit than ever before.
The game featured new creative and spine-chilling finishers. MKX further proved that NetherRealm Studios was more than up for the task of carrying on the legacy of the iconic franchise.
The only place where MKX starts to fall in my eyes is the Living Towers. They offered these hourly, daily, and weekly challenges to conquer, but there's not much incentive to bother with them besides taking some DLC fighters for a test drive.
Also in the Faction War, you join a global clan to contribute points to a weekly leaderboard. Unfortunately, it felt a bit too much like guild battles in a lot of multiplayer mobile games. Your individual contributions were like trying to fill Lake Michigan with a medicine dropper. And the microtransactions were the worst. Players could actually buy consumable tokens for easy Finishers, although these don't actually affect gameplay in any way, it just felt ... dirty.
1. Mortal Kombat 11
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC
There was a small portion of me that didn't want MK11, which was developed by NetherRealm Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, to be the top dog just because it was the newest title. But to be perfectly honest, MK11 is still hands-down the top game in the series. It a big step forward for the series and a celebration of the franchise's entire history.
NetherRealm crafts their finest cinematic story yet, with a crazy time-traveling adventure in which classic and modern versions of iconic characters come face-to-face. They managed to make it feel like the fate of the entire timeline rests in the balance. Seriously, watching Cage argue with his younger, cockier self makes for some hilarious antics.
Mortal Kombat 11's presentation comes complete with gorgeous arenas and character models, and some of the most hilariously gruesome MK fatalities we've seen yet. They also introduced the new tactical "Fatal Blows" that added a whole new level of morbid. Fatal Blows are special actions that you can only use during matches once you run low on health. They can help keep less-experienced players from losing a match before they have a chance to respond.
The title's mechanics have been revamped to reward more strategic play, and its custom variations let you craft your own combo systems for your favorite fighters. With plenty of solo and multiplayer modes and an expansive Krypt that lets you explore iconic MK locales, MK11 gives us replay value for years to come.
Spacing plays a huge role in MK11. While some characters rely heavily on combo attacks, there are many others who can juggle from a distance for the win. MK11 plays better when you make it about punishing mistakes and taking advantage of brief windows to deliver bursts of damage.
With its beauty in violence, character models, story, online play, and diverse roster (with great guest celebrity DLC characters so far), MK11 isn't just a sequel for series fans and NetherRealm devotees. It has a little something for everyone. It opens the gateway for anyone who has a passing interest in watching cold-blooded warriors beat each other senseless.
Well, there you have it, folks. A video game series that changed the fighting genre as we know it. MK is a compilation of fighting, spin-offs, puzzle games (mini-games), arcade games, and more. It caused controversy throughout its development. It's a series that isn't afraid to take risks and skip out on the violent details.
We hope we could get you pumped up and ready for the newest of MK films to hit the big screen. Or small screen if you're watching on HBO MAX from the comfort of your own home.
Now it's your turn:
What do you think of our rankings?
Would you keep MK11 at #1 status?
Tell us in a comment below!
What's the best Mortal Kombat?
There are always arguments about this. While MK11 happens to be my favorite, the answer is still subjective. MKX has a lot of fandom. However, MKII is definitely hands down the best classic MK game of the series.
What's better: Mortal Kombat XL or 11?
Personally, I’m a fan of MK11 over MKXL, however, that's subjective.
Who is the most powerful character in Mortal Kombat?
In terms of limitless power in the MK Universe, it would have to be Raiden. In terms of humans, it's canon that Liu Kang is the most powerful.
How many Mortal Kombat games are there in total?
In the main series, there are 11 total MK titles. There are also spin-off games throughout the series that weren’t good and a lot of people tend to ignore, including Mortal Kombat Mythologies Sub Zero, Special Forces, and Shaolin Monks. If you include the rereleases and reboot titles, there are 22 total MK titles.
What are the Mortal Kombat games in order?
1. Mortal Kombat
2. Mortal Kombat II
3. Mortal Kombat 3
4. Mortal Kombat Trilogy
5. Mortal Kombat Mythologies Sub Zero
6. Mortal Kombat IV
7. Mortal Kombat Special Forces
8. Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance
9. Mortal Kombat Tournament Edition
10. Mortal Kombat Deception
11. Mortal Kombat Shaolin Monks
12. Mortal Kombat Alliance
13. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
14. Mortal Kombat Unchained
15. Ultimate Mortal Kombat
16. Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe
17. Mortal Kombat (2011)
18. Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection
19. Mortal Kombat X
20. Mortal Kombat XL
21. Mortal Kombat 11
22. Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate
Will there be a Mortal Kombat 12?
Nothing official has been announced by the developers at NetherRealms or Ed Boon as of this writing. While a lot people have been speculating, there's no news to back it up. MK11 Ultimate just recently released, and there are rumors for more DLC before MK12 was even a thought. Only time will tell.
Who is the best Mortal Kombat character?
Find out at blog.gfuel.com/best-mortal-kombat-11-characters. If you watch the MK esports scene, players tend to say it's either Erron Black, Sonya Blade, or Jacqui Briggs.
Which Mortal Kombat should I play first?
If you're into classics, start with MKII. If you want to start with the more modern titles, start with Mortal Kombat (2011). Just stay away from the spin-off titles.
What is the hardest Mortal Kombat game?
As far as gaming AI, MKII is the hardest. It was as if the computer knew exactly what you were going to do. You jump, they hit you with a projectile. You go for a basic punch combination, they uppercut you. It was uncanny.
What is the easiest Mortal Kombat game?
Mortal Kombat (2011) is probably the easiest game to handle if you're a new player. Dashes are a lot simpler than running and stopping. You also have a lot more tools at your disposal compared to the limitations of older titles.
Is Mortal Kombat XL worth it?
If you haven’t played any MK titles, Mortal Kombat XL may be a great place to start. It includes all the DLC you would need and would be the gateway into MK11.
Is MK11 easier than MKX?
Yes and no. MKX tends to stay in the realm of combo fighting, while a lot of people enjoy that it doesn’t make the game easy. The Variations in MK11 make the game more exciting. And while they don’t focus on combos, the learning curve can be quite difficult.
Is Mortal Kombat worth it?
As far as the fighter game franchise is concerned, there are games that are equal to it in terms of fun and character variety. MK isn’t for everyone, but if you've recently been getting into fighting games or you're a long-time fan, MK is full of good action.
Which Mortal Kombat characters have been in all games?
This has a weird answer. Technically, none of them. However, Sub-Zero is the only person to be a playable character in every MK game. Well, except Mortal Kombat Special Forces (but no one really counts that). His major rival, Scorpion, also comes close. However, he wasn’t in MK3, but he was added to Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and appears in every other game.
Other characters have appeared in every MK game. Liu Kang appears in MK Deadly Alliance, but (SPOILERS) is killed at the beginning of the game and isn't playable. He's a playable character in every other fighting game.
Also, Sonya Blade appears in every MK fighting game, but only has cameo roles in Mortal Kombat II and MK Deception.
Raiden has a special cameo appearance in MK3 and the updated rerelease Ultimate MK3, but is not playable. He's a playable character in every other fighting game.
Told you it had a weird answer.
Related articles:15 Best MK11 Characters To Annihilate Your Enemies
Hero image via Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
This article was written by John D. AKA SomeBeardy2Love. John has been gaming for over 30 years, has a podcast, and watches nothing but anime and Bob’s Burgers. He has a sponsored beard and a modest book collection.