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Top 10 Best Stages in Mortal Kombat 1

Elizbar Ramazashvili
12 min

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Top 10 Best Stages in Mortal Kombat 1
This new entry in the MK franchise features some of the best stages

Mortal Kombat stages are like the secret sauce that adds that extra flavor to the bone-crushing battles in the game. These stages are iconic and memorable for many reasons. First off, they're like characters themselves, each with their own unique personality. Whether it's the Pit in the original Mortal Kombat, where you could uppercut your opponent into a bed of spikes, or the Living Forest, where the trees had a taste for blood, these stages have always been more than just a backdrop.

What makes them even more special is how they've evolved over the years. In the early games, stages were relatively simple, serving as a basic arena for the fight. But as the franchise grew, so did the complexity of the stages. The developers started incorporating interactive elements, like throwing your opponent into the background or utilizing stage fatalities that added an extra layer of strategy to the game. These changes not only made the stages more memorable but also made them a crucial part of the gameplay experience.

In time, the attention to detail in the stages became mind-blowing. From the stunning Shaolin Monastery in Mortal Kombat X to the bustling streets of Outworld in Mortal Kombat 11, they've become a visual feast for the players. These stages are not just places to fight; they're a glimpse into the lore and world-building of the Mortal Kombat universe. So, whether you're kicking butt in the classic stages or exploring the latest additions, one thing's for sure: Mortal Kombat stages have come a long way and continue to be an integral part of what makes this franchise so popular.

Mortal Kombat 1, the latest addition to the iconic series, takes the legacy of its stages to a whole new level. It's like a love letter to the fans who've been following the series since the beginning. While it embraces the nostalgia of the classic stages from the original Mortal Kombat game, it also infuses fresh life into them. It's like going back in time while simultaneously experiencing the future of the series.

In MK1, the stages are a perfect blend of old and new. You'll find yourself in familiar locations, like the Living Forest, where trees still have a taste for blood, or the Flesh Pits, where you can still see mangled corpses of unfortunate victims. But these stages are not just carbon copies; they're reimagined with stunning visuals and modern mechanics. It's a testament to how the Mortal Kombat team respects its roots while pushing the boundaries of what a fighting game can offer. So, whether you're a long-time fan or a newcomer, MK1's stages are a treat that pays homage to the past while paving the way for the future of Mortal Kombat.

But some of these stages are simply better than the others. We took an extensive look at every MK1 stage and picked our ten favorites. Without any further ado, here they are:

10. The Gateway

The Gateway looks and feels like a classic Mortal Kombat stage. It’s a passageway high in the snowy mountains that has some semi-ruined buildings with some kind of runes inscribed on them. The background features some kind of scaffolding with heavy objects being hauled on top. But the most notable features of this stage are the haunting green flames that are lit throughout and a huge portal in the dead center of the passage. It features visions of different realms, and it’s a definite and conscious callback to the classic MK arenas like Portal and Blue Portal. Nothing too fancy, but the calmly haunting nature of this stage and a pleasant homage to the classic put this stage in our top 10.

9. Temple of Katara Vala

Have you seen the classic Indiana Jones movies? No? Well, you should! Or, at the very least, you should battle it out at the Temple of Katara Vala stage in Mortal Kombat 1, as it’s a direct homage to the storied franchise in the form of the decorations for Johnny Cage’s in-universe movie of the same name. It features everything you could expect from an arena like this: old altars with mysterious inscriptions, eerie, colorful fires, and fountains of some viscous, gooey substance (or that could simply be how this game renders water). We enjoy fiction within our fiction.

8. Wu Shi Academy

We’ve all seen these martial arts movies set high in the mountains where Shaolin Monks practice their kung fu and other martial arts. Where spirits are honed, and bodies are forged. Wu Shi Academy is MK1’s take on the same formula. But what a take that is. The entire academy looks gorgeous, with snowy mountains in the background being a perfect contrast to the colorful and flowery premises of the ground level. On the far sides of the arena, various students are practicing in hand-to-hand combat and perfecting their stances. But a huge part of the screen is dominated by the sparring ring on a floating platform in the middle of the pond. It’s being suspended and held in place by the huge statues of distinguished warriors, who look as noble as they look fearsome. Having an arena like this in a fighting game just makes a lot of sense.

7. The Great Hall

Throughout the entire Mortal Kombat history, we’ve had lots of stages set in the abodes of villains, royalties, or the combination of the above. The Great Hall is another variation of the given formula, being set in the hall of Empress Sindel’s palace. What you see inside is breathtaking: reaches and opulence on display in every corner, golden columns, silken fabrics, and various colored candles. The hall is patrolled by the warrior-priestesses from Umgadi, who look at the fight with obvious disapproval. Who’s more interested in the fight is Empress Sindel herself, sitting on her throne at the far left side of the stage. With her, a little less interested in the happenings, is Mileena, who looks quite bored. From this day onward, we pledge to try to unboring our fights at this arena!

6. Ying Fortress

The Ying Fortress is a curious place. Located high in the mountains, its snowy terrain and frozen vistas contrast greatly with the red castle and temples built upon the stone. Though it lies half-destroyed after a battle, with the signs of carnage yet to be buried by snow and scattered by the elements, it still retains its majesty, makes you believe in its impenetrability, even though the signs that point to the contrary are ample. Yet, at this point in time, it’s as majestic as it’s dead, frozen in time. This stage tells a story, and not only captivates you with its various sights. That’s why it’s so high on our top.

5. Sun Do

When you look at Sun Do, you can easily pinpoint what most likely was the developers’ biggest inspiration – the temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The architecture of the buildings in the background over the water has the very same bas-reliefs Angkor Wat is known for, and the grouped layout of the structures adds to the same impression. On the forefront, however, we have the bustling pier with fishermen, traders, and just general onlookers. There’s a lot of detail, like those small patches of flowers, scattered fruit, baskets, amphoras, and even some armor. And the night version? It’s another marvel in itself. It’s the stages like this that show you truly how much dedication went into the creation of the entire game. We can’t but reward it by placing Sun Do in the middle of our top.

4. The Flesh Pits

Now, this is THE proper Mortal Kombat stage. It’s another play on the formula of the series-spanning “Pit” stages, and boy does it work. In the past, stages like Pit or Goro’s Lair had to resort to tricks to instill the sense of just how dangerous and horrible they were. A hanging skeleton here, a bottomless bit there, and the imagination will do the rest. This time around, however, you can see it all in all the gory detail. Unfortunate victims of sick experiments trapped in cages and some cruel torture devices, blood and gore of dismembered bodies all over the place, huge tanks of unknown but most likely deadly liquid, and a perfectly reasonable desk with what looks like a globe. Because yeah, why not? This is the true legacy of Mortal Kombat.

3. The Tea House

There are some fighting game stages that you know will be iconic just from one look. The Tea House stage in MK1 is just like that. While most other stages above and below it on our top have some concrete defining characteristics, the one for Madame Bo’s restaurant is that it’s FUN! Just look at the hustle and bustle that’s happening around you while you’re fighting a deadly battle against your opponent. People are just having a good time! Some are discussing something that’s going on in their lives, while others drown their sorrows in what’s most likely a bottle of good old beer. Some guys even take their time to film the ridiculous event that is your fight on their phones. People visit the Tea House to have a good time, and you, my dear, are a part of the spectacle.

2. Hanging Gardens

There are some arenas in the fighting games that can’t help but captivate you, even make you gasp at their beauty. Moonlit Wilderness from Tekken 5 is such an example. Hanging Gardens from MK1 is the answer. This stage is simply perfect. A tranquil, lush garden of Empress Sindel, located in the heart of the Outworld. It’s meticulously maintained to perfection, no element is wrong or misplaced. Terraces in the background have a waterfall, and this provides a sense of scale. Small gazebos and pavilions on the sides provide a welcoming aura, but the true star of the stage is the resplendent willow right in the middle. We can’t help but wonder, just how pleasant would be the evening strolls at such a serene place.

1. The Hourglass

As we all vividly remember, the story of the previous MK game was all about the time. Even the name of the big baddie, Kronika, was tied to it. The entirety of it led us to this new timeline, and some things are different now. For instance, Geras is no longer a servant of Kronika; he’s a keeper of Time alongside Liu Kang and is even able to control The Hourglass. It’s all reflected in the stage itself, too. The sense of wonder, change, and the grandiose, unfathomable power of time. The stage is ever-flowing – its elements evolve and realign themselves as the hourglass turns, and fates change. The background of it conveys this even better: floating islands, statues, and even celestial bodies are suspended within the literal flow of time. Hardly any fighting game stage had made us think about our insignificance within the grand scheme of things. And we don’t know whether to love it or hate it for it. But we sure are in awe.

It’s fair to say that MK1 doesn’t have truly bad stages (probably aside from the Treasure Chamber – come on, this is just an overused cliche at this point), so we could justify the inclusion of half a dozen different ones, like the new take on the classic that is the Living Forest or its alter-ego, the Corrupted Forest. But we felt like we were fair in our assessment. What are your favorite MK1 stages? Make sure to let us know in the comments!

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