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Will the Gore in Mortal Kombat 1 Hold it Back?

Femi Famutimi
8 min

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Will the Gore in Mortal Kombat 1 Hold it Back?
The topic continues to rage on, will the game lose it's soul, or is it time to evolve?

In 1992, a small band of creators headed by Jon Tobias and Ed Boon created a fighting game that was initially to be modeled after a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. It would go on to be one of the most successful game franchises in history. 

Mortal Kombat was revolutionary in what fighting games could do. It had a very clear story, the graphics were different from what we were used to, and the darker tone of the story was a means for people to be drawn into the game. 

However, there is one thing that has always set Mortal Kombat apart from all the other fighting games and a distinct identifier— the gore.

Now, Mortal Kombat was not single-handedly the cause of the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), but it was one of the leading contributors to the institution of ratings for games after a 1993 congressional hearing over violence in video games. 

Since then, Mortal Kombat and gore have been simultaneous and it is more or less  what anyone knows the game for. You play Mortal Kombat and you know that your character is going to die in a gruesome way— until you go pick them up on the select screen again with all their limbs intact. 

Despite this, Mortal Kombat is one of the best selling fighting games of all time, and is a regular audience  magnet thanks to an engaging story and likable characters. But, as time has gone on, there has been a growing number of people that question the excessive gore and have even asked the question if it could possibly be holding the game back from attaining the heights that it should. 

2023 has been a storming year for fighting games. Street Fighter 6 has been released to rave reviews, Mortal Kombat 1 has gotten people excited for the game  again, and Tekken 8 is on the horizon with some really promising features that make it look like a very successful game in the making. This has also led to something of a renaissance for fighting games in terms of support from the  publishers, competitive prize pools, and so much more. 

There have been tournaments for Street Fighter 6 that have drawn in almost a million viewers, and an unprecedented prize pool of $2 million for the Capcom Pro Tour. With all this money flying around and brands, sponsors and the like very willing to mix with Capcom’s latest fighting game, there is some worry that Mortal Kombat 1 could be left behind. The reason is simple— too much gore.

The Problem

Businesses are cottoning on more to the fact that they are brands and this makes them very careful of what they stand with. So, more often than not, companies  want to be seen as these squeaky clean  entities that are concerned with the well-being of society. This means that they are careful of the IPs they associate with. 

In a tweet by pro player, Rewind, he said, 

I don’t realistically see Mortal Kombat having the same opportunities as Street Fighter with all the gore man. They have to figure out a way to toggle the gore and blood on and off so esports can thrive.

This sparked a lot of controversy, but he wasn’t the only one with that opinion as others also said that it would be good if there was a way to turn off the gore,

Even legendary MK player, Ketchup, talked about how this used to be a feature in some Mortal Kombat games.

Now, it would be easy to simply go along and push for the gore to be taken out of Mortal Kombat, but the  argument of the other side is very valid, gore is a crucial component of Mortal Kombat. Think about it, does the story of Mortal Kombat make as much sense without the grittier parts of it? Perhaps it does logically, but the heft that comes with the deaths are a part and parcel of the game. Also, yes, some of it is definitely unrealistic, but in a sense this is how Mortal Kombat has fun.

If this is taken away, will it still be Mortal Kombat? And if the game did bow to pressure, will it be a case of selling out because of a certain crowd?

Should There be No Gore in Mortal Kombat 1?

My simple answer is no. Mortal Kombat is identified with its excessive blood that really does get a little ridiculous at times (have you seen Mileena’s fatality?). However, the argument isn’t to get rid of this, but to give players more options including the option to turn it off. 

The thing about video games is that they are generally about accessibility, and the aim of a video game is to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. This helps it make money (and allows for sequels to be made) and unites the fans across all possible divides. Understandably, there are some games that thrive in their focus on their niches (Soulsborne games for example), but Mortal Kombat has usually been about connecting divides. 

So why not reintroduce a means to turn off gore if it would enable the game to reach more people? It will also help content creators work with Mortal Kombat more and considering how much views MK content generates, imagine how much more if there was more of it and it could be consumed in different ways for different people.

Will Blood in Mortal Kombat 1 Hold the Game Back?

There are a few arguments to be made for creating an option for taking out the gore.

Firstly, there are several countries the game is banned and there is basically no Eastern Asian scene for Mortal Kombat as the major countries that typically dominate fighting games can’t get their hands on MK like China, Japan, and South Korea. WIth an option to take out the gore, perhaps inroads could be made into these countries that will help spread the game’s reach.

Secondly, it would be easier to attract sponsors for tournaments. For instance, if Warner Bros or Netherrealm studios want to support their game, they can easily do so, but it would be a lot harder for other companies to do so because of all the blood. An option to take it out will certainly make pitching the game a lot easier. 

Thirdly, as mentioned earlier, content creators LOVE this game, (you should check out our MK guides on YouTube), but one of the major roadblocks they face is constant demonitization due to the mature nature of MK’s content. Without this obstacle, a lot more may be done. 

In conclusion, Mortal Kombat 1 is a fantastic  game that everyone should get to play, it would be a shame if it could not reach its full potential because of something like gore. It is nice to know that Ed Boon is open to creating an option to have the gore as the player's choice, so there’s that. It should also be noted that there is no reason to worry that MK will lose its identity due to this as the game has to evolve considering how much the world around is also evolving. 

Nothing will ever take the soul of Mortal Kombat away, as the title’s tagline says: It’s in our blood.

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