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Produced by Midway, and co-created by Ed Boon and John Tobias, Mortal Kombat first hit arcades in 1992, as a no-nonsense competitor to the runaway success of Street Fighter II, using a technique known as digitization, in which real actors perform the fight movements and these frames are manipulated for use in the game. In terms of story, MK is a tournament held every generation to decide the fate of various realms (in this case, Earthrealm) and features many supernatural and super-humanly powerful characters, as well as sorcerers and even Gods. The games went away from the tournament idea pretty quick though, eventually moving onto planetary invasion and later a universal threat.
The game was among the first games to introduce the concept of juggling, but really, its finer mechanics were nothing to write home about. Mortal Kombat was about about being a ninja and spearing other ninjas through the face, which was FREAKING AWESOME! With copious gore and over-the-top characters, MK attracted a huge fanbase at the time, and due to its violent Fatalities, finishing moves involving dismemberment and decapitation, it earned the ire of parents everywhere, eventually leading to a court case and was one of the games that lead to the creation of the rating system. At the height of its popularity, MK spawned two movies (one an entertaining popcorn movie, the other an entertaining abomination of cinema), and even a short lived (and supremely lame and watered down) cartoon series.
There were also two comic book series and the comics have some powerful feats, like Raiden being able to break through dimensional barriers with his fists. The first series was released by Midway as a tie-in to to the games, and comics for MK1, 2,and 4 were produced. This series is an expansion of the storyline of the games. The second series, by Malibu Comics, is more of a what-if scenario, and adapted the original storyline to the games, but took many liberties with it, completely changing character motivations in some cases and creating entirely new scenarios. The canonicity of Midway's comic series is perhaps debatable due to later retcons/portrayals (since they were based off Tobias stories) as well as some contradictions at the time to the game plots, but rest assured that Malibu's offerings are completely non-canon to the games.
It's generally agreed amongst competitive players that Mortal Kombat reached it's peak gameplay-wise in the MK3/UMK3 era, and perhaps in popularity terms also. After the poorly marketed and received MK4, two poor sidegames, and the resignation of John Tobias, MK layed low for a while, until returning with a new continuation of the series where MK4 left off in the 2000s. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance brought a lot of new things to the series and was well received, gaining scores above 8 in most media. However, many fans complained about it's broken gameplay and bugs and even casual players found it stiff to play. Not much of this was rectified for the sequels following Deadly Alliance, and in many cases things got worse, with Mortal Kombat Deception actually having more infinite combo bugs than characters. However, it was still received just as well as Deadly Alliance and has a lot of great designs and errr.... FATALITIES. It was in this period that many more characters were introduced, and the plot took a convoluted and apocalyptic route. One of the characters, Blaze, was the most powerful character yet seen in the series.
Following Deception, the rushed and broken - yet we all bought it anyway - Mortal Kombat Armageddon came out, which took an even more apocalyptic route in an even MORE convoluted plot, re-fashioning the previously seen character Blaze into a gigantic fire monster (who lazily reused many of Onaga's animations). However, credit must be due, for an entertaining side quest and character creation mode (Kreate-A-Fatality blew meat chunks though). The real problem has been Midway's poor financial situation, forcing them to pressure the MK Team into cranking out a new MK every year with more and more content and more and more bugs and reused material. The best thing ever to come out of MK is probably MK Shaolin Monks, which was a God of War - inspired beat-em-up adventure and an alternate canon retelling of MK2 (Fans consider it non-canon, but that's non-fanon really).
Midway's most recent MK has seen them.... join forces with DC Comics to pit DC heroes and villains against MK heroes to stop a merging of the realms. This game is a completely non-canon what-if story, and from the our point of view, this does not mean that Scorpion could beat up Superman as portrayed in actual canon (in the game, he was weakened by magic and also, Scorpion's chi/Fa Jong acted as magic).
The 9th title of the series is simply named Mortal Kombat. The story retells the events of the first three games, in a new timeline where Raiden receives a message from himself in the prime future after the Battle of Armageddon has ended and Shao Kahn almost beat Raiden. Shao Kahn has also absorbed the powers of Blaze and became much stronger. Realizing the battle is lost, Raiden gathers up the pieces of the medallion and sends a cryptic message to his past self, including the words "He Must Win", moments before Shao Kahn destroys him. Then the story begins.
A realm where chaos is like a religion meaning that this realm is the only known realm to have no form of government and are free to do whatever the hell they want (personally, my favorite realm if only because of that :maybe). This obviously makes it the polar opposite of the Orderrealm which wants to control this realm and its vast reserves of water. The geography also seems to take on the "religion" of chaos as well since it defies the laws of physics by having numerous floating rock formations. The citizens of this realm tend to come across as dangerous and primitive; and there manor of speech seems to be backwards in comparison to some of the other realms. The only known native of this world is Havik.
The name that is used most frequently what humanity would normally refer to as Earth. Commonly seen as the jewel of the cosmos, Earthrealm is often the target of conquest; and for that reason, the Elder Gods appointed a deity to protect the realm from harm. The most well known deity is Raiden, but others such as Fujin have also been tasked with protecting this realm. Also the Shaolin Temple of the Light was formed to train warriors so that they would be able to protect their home realm, while there are also other factions such the Special Forces and Lin Kuei are designated with similar tasks. Unlike most of the other realms, Earthrealm doesn't have a single absolute ruler. Instead, you have multiple nations with varying systems of government such as monarchy, democracy, communism, etc. The only known inhabitants of Earthrealm are humans and the Saurians.
As you can probably tell, Edenia is based off the Garden of Eden with its lush, fertile landscape and slowly aging inhabitants. This is the realm Kitana is from and at one point it was ruled by Sindel and her husband Jarrod. Like Earthrealm, Edenia is regarded as a jewel of the universe and was protected by the deity, Argus, who was the most powerful of the Edenian Gods; along with his wife Delia. For some time, the realm had lost ten Mortal Kombat tournaments in a row, which permitted Shao Kahn to invade the realm without any interference from the Elder Gods. In time, Outworld bested Edenia in the war and annexed it. For 10,000 years, Edenia remained bound to Outworld until Liu Kang defeated Shao Kahn and freed by Kitana's hands.
Also referred to as the Heavens, this the realm where the gods reside as well as the souls of those who have died as morally righteous beings. Not much else is known about this realm besides the fact that is can be accessed via soulnado, and the realm is one of the only two in existence to be infinite in space.
A realm that is the polar opposite of Heaven and resembles a volcanic continent of sorts containing many volcanoes and lava pits (duh). It's similar to Outworld in the sense that it's composed of thousands of different and could possibly be similar to Heaven considering that as Heaven accepts the souls of those who lived a morally righteous life, the Neatherrealm accepts the souls of those who have committed major crimes against their kind. It's considered the darkest region of reality since this where all of the demons and most of the other ugly mofos come from. In addition to that, magic users are progressively weakened in this realm (especially in the 5th plane as Quan Chi can attest to). Like the Chaosrealm, the manor of speech among the natives tends to be backwards in comparison to some of the other realms.
Also called Seido, this realm might as well be the suburbs of the Mortal Kombat-verse considering that law and order prevail above all else in here, making it the exact opposite of the Chaosrealm. It seems to be a realm that is highly advanced and urbanized in nature. The geographical structure appears to be one of solely highlands interconnected by narrow bride-like roads. Many buildings rest on these walkways and the natives of Seido are well adapted to life here since none have shown any signs of basophobia. The natives of the realm, Seidans, are humanoid in form but have a greater affinity of magic and a longer life span than most in the multiverse. The government obviously prohibits freedom for fear that freedom would eventually develop into anarchy, which would lead to suffering. Seido tends to enforce very strict laws, for example, you could be facing years of imprisonment for simply breaking curfew.
The realm which has a history that goes back millions of years starting with its first known ruler, Onaga the Dragon King; who would eventually be poisoned and supplanted by Shao Kahn. Outworld tends to actually be an empire stretched out over many realms that have been mystically annexed. Under Shao Kahn's rule, Outworld tends to be under constant turmoil and made up of barren wastelands, deserts, acid pools, and sentient forests; and like Edenia, is rich in magic. Besides the Temple of the Dragon King and the city of Lei Chan, there appears to be no other metropolis in this realm.
Power of this verse
The characters in the MK games have been consistently portrayed as superhuman in strength (enough to tear a man apart with their bare hands and likely several tons in terms of lift and much more massive strength in the case of Shao Kahn or Goro) and have abilities such as the gathering of chi (or Fa Jong in MK) to project energy attacks. Most of their feats are in the form of the canonical character endings (some go into ridiculous tangents and portray certain characters as gaining massive power and then this didn't happen come next game, and all of Armageddon's endings were just what-ifs), and the beginning movies to the games. Apart from high-top tiers, the verse doesn't have much in the way of speed beyond human parameters in fighting with the exception of characters such as Kabal and some others with dash specials. Some characters actually use guns, but the other characters are simply durable enough to take it like men of the sea. MK characters are also VERY big fans of teleporting, soul attacks, and cross-dimensional travel.
MK verse also contains gods, such as Raiden and Fujin, the former of whom was engaged in a battle with Fallen Elder God Shinnok that wiped the previous civilization that existed on Earth and nearly destroyed the planet itself and there's enough reason to believe that both were holding back a significant portion of their power during said battle since Shinnok went on to reconstruct the entire Netherrealm upon his imprisonment and one of Raiden's endings depict him fighting Shao Kahn in a battle which isn't implied to have lasted anywhere near as long as his fight with Shinnok, but still messed with the planet to the extant where it's shaken to its core as collateral.
Above them you have the bystanding tools in Elder Gods who managed to defeat the One Being who was the MK universe in its entirety and have done stuff like turn a mofo into a medallion and fling him back in time (Quan Chi's Armageddon ending), construct an interdimensional gateway like the Nexus which exists in the void between realms, and generally having complete control over the realms as the aforementioned Shinnok can attest to.
MK has a very powerful roster with people like Raiden and Shao Kahn, and the Elder Gods allow them to hit even higher above their pay grade, the One Being in particular, with Armageddon culminating in the warriors being depicted as a universe threatening force if the final battle was to ever get out of hand.
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