Warning: The following article contains graphic video game violence and gore. Viewer discretion is advised.
Nearly thirty years ago the Fatality was introduced in the very first Mortal Kombat and fighting games (and society’s perception of them) have never been the same since.
Fatalities, which allow the victorious player to pull off an intensely violent, ostentatious (some might say egregious) coup de grace to their downed opponent, have since become synonymous with the Mortal Kombat series.
In the following article, I put together a list of my favorite Mortal Kombat fatalities — from the unnerving to the exceedingly gory to the iconic to the downright entertaining.
Sub-Zero, “Spine Rip” (Mortal Kombat)
Sub-Zero’s “Spine Rip” from the first Mortal Kombat is arguably the most well-known Fatality of all time.
Inspired by the extraterrestrial trophy hunter from Predator (who would later become a playable guest character in Mortal Kombat X), this klassic Mortal Kombat Fatality depicts Sub-Zero clutching an opponent’s head, tearing it from their body in a gout of blood, spinal column and all, and then turning to present it to the screen like a trophy.
According to series co-creator Ed Boon, it’s both his favorite Fatality from the original game as well as the one which caused the most controversy. (Sub-Zero and crew were a huge catalyst for the formation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board in 1994.)
Johnny Cage, “Autograph” (Mortal Kombat 2)
Love him or hate him, Johnny Cage is about as imperative a character to Mortal Kombat as it gets.
In a series filled with undead ninjas, demigods, necromancers and wasteland mutants, Cage is the essential levity: a wise-cracking, conceited, Hollywood movie star that might come off like a bit of a douche — but at the end of the day, is charismatic, well-intentioned and genuinely heroic.
His newer Fatalities might be more polished but Cage’s Friendship from Mortal Kombat 2 encapsulates his character to a tee: doling out a glossy, black and white, autographed photo of himself addressed to his “best fan.”
Liu Kang, “Enter the Dragon” (Mortal Kombat 2)
Though it may seem tame by today’s standards, if you were a kid who grew up with the Mortal Kombat series, this Fatality blew your fragile little mind the first time you witnessed it in all its shapeshifting, dragon-chomping glory.
Liu Kang’s “Dragon” Fatality was iconic for a number of reasons:
One, the surprise factor: Who the hell knew Liu Kang could metamorphose into a dragon?
Two, the mystery surrounding it: Why did Liu Kang have this unique ability? (This was before the developers decided to give everyone “Animalities” in Mortal Kombat 3).
Three: The unbelievability factor. “Holy s—, did you see that Fatality where Liu Kang turns into a dragon and bites you in half?”
“You’re making that up.”
“Nuh uh! You know how much Cletus loves Liu Kang. He memorized the Fatality, Down, Forward, Back, Back, High Kick.”
Word of Liu Kang’s dragon finisher spread fast, even in the days before the internet was pervasive. Notwithstanding, if you didn’t see “The Dragon” transpire with your own two eyes, the Fatality sounded so outlandish we wouldn’t have blamed you for deeming little Cletus a liar.
Reptile, “Tongue Lash” (Mortal Kombat 2)
You can’t bring up word-of-mouth Mortal Kombat moments and not mention Reptile, the first hidden character to appear in a Mortal Kombat game.
A green palette swap of Scorpion and Sub-Zero, Reptile has always been a favorite character of mine on account of his enigmatic nature (he was a hidden character you fought in MK1 on the actual ground floor of The Pit stage, among skewered bodies and metal spikes), his extreme rarity (MK co-creator has cited encountering Reptile as “a random call function… with a 1/100 chance of happening”) and cool backstory, which was fleshed out when he became a playable character in Mortal Kombat 2 (he’s Shang Tsung’s personal bodyguard and the member of a near-extinct reptilian race).
His moveset in MK2 was also a lot of fun, with Reptile able to turn invisible, pull off a ground slide like Sub-Zero and even spit acid.
Reptile’s Fatality, the “Tongue Lash,” revealed the most surprising aspect of the character: he was a lizard man with a penchant for human flesh. And with a prehensile tongue that could span half the length of the screen, he didn’t have much trouble making a meal out of his defeated opponents. Or their heads.
That belly rub, though. Like the chef’s kiss of Fatalities.
Smoke, “Armageddon” (Mortal Kombat 3)
As we mentioned with Johnny Cage’s entry above, even though Mortal Kombat is incredibly violent, you still have to approach a game with heads being ripped off, still-beating hearts being plucked from chests and testicle punches with a slight sense of humor.
Smoke’s “Armageddon” Fatality from Mortal Kombat 3 captures that spirit well.
Smoke, like Reptile, is another palette swap version of Scorpion and Sub-Zero; like his namesake implies, he perpetually emits puffs of smoke from his body who first appeared in Mortal Kombat 2.
In Mortal Kombat 3, Smoke has been turned into a cyborg with a number of cybernetic enhancements, one of which is the ability to discharge explosives from his stomach.
In the “Armageddon” Fatality, Smoke unleashes a bevy of bombs that land around the opponent’s feet with a series of metallic clinks. Excessive? Perhaps. But surely enough to make Smoke’s enemy blow up real nice-like.
Apparently, those Smoke Bombs pack far more punch than we thought. And Smoke’s miscalculation is far more costly as well.
Quan Chi, “Beatdown” (Mortal Kombat 9)
Quan Chi’s “Beatdown” isn’t the most creative of Fatalities — but it’s effective, bad-ass and so straight to the point it’s funny.
Although it first appeared in Mortal Kombat 4, the Fatality took on an extra level of gruesome in Mortal Kombat 9, where the Netherealm necromancer not only tears his enemy’s leg from the socket and beats him to death with it, but squashes their head in like a ripe melon in the process.
Sektor, “Robo Sek” (Mortal Kombat 9)
Sektor, like Smoke, is another Lin Kieu ninja transformed into a cyborg. Lined with red, plated armor, Sektor specializes in ranged combat, his chest cavity loaded with homing missiles and rockets.
Sektor flexes some missile precision in his “Robo Sek” Fatality, where a string of heat-seeking missiles makes a blood-spattered fireworks display out of an opponent’s various body parts.
Sonya Blade, “Scissor Split” (Mortal Kombat 9)
Another Mortal Kombat mainstay who made her first appearance in the original game, Sonya Blade is proof that thick thighs destroy lives; you should never skip leg day, Earthrealm, Outworld or beyond and [insert any other lower limb-based meme joke I can’t think of right now here].
Ermac, “Inner Workings” (Mortal Kombat X)
Initially a red and black palette swap of Scorpion (who was rumored to be in the original Mortal Kombat after players received an “ERror MACro”), Ermac has since differentiated himself as a magic entity comprised of the souls of fallen warriors who specializes in telekinetic attacks.
This telekinetic might is demonstrated in Ermac’s “Inner Workings,” the most gut-wrenching Fatality of all time.
Kung Lao, “Razor’s Edge” (Mortal Kombat 9)
If you’ve ever seen an old school cartoon or movie involving a lumber mill, a conveyor belt and a mustache-twirling villain, then you’ve seen the death trap where a damsel in distress and/or a protagonist are tied down and sent to their impending doom towards the path of a large rotary saw.
You’ve also seen the protagonist make a daring, improbable escape from harm’s way at the very last second.
Not the case with Kung Lao’s “Razor’s Edge,” however. This Fatality has Kung Lao’s opponents feeling like half the man or woman they used to be.
Goro, “Peek-A-Boo” (Mortal Kombat X)
Goro, who first appeared as a sub-boss in the original Mortal Kombat, is one of the most revered and powerful characters in the game’s mythos; the four-armed, Shokan warrior had won nine consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments and reigned as champion for five hundred years in the events leading up to the first game (he even defeated the Great Kung Lao in his debut tournament, a feat not even Shang Tsung could accomplish).
On account of all this, getting to play as Goro in Mortal Kombat X carried with it an extra sense of importance and power — something which Goro delivers and then some with his body-rearranging “Peek-A-Boo” Fatality.
Noob Saibot, “Make a Wish” (Mortal Kombat 9)
Damn. This one’s just tough to watch.
The initial tug Noob utilizes to pull his opponent’s legs apart into a full split and rupture their body up the middle is brutal enough; but watching them twitch in agony like an insect before finally being torn into two halves is heart-rending.
D’Vorah, “New Species” (Mortal Kombat 11)
Speaking of insects, if you have even a mild case of arachnophobia, feel free to skip the following entry from D’Vorah, a member of the insectoid Kytinn race — to call her “New Species” Fatality skin-crawling would be a vast understatement.
Mileena, “Tasty Treat” (Mortal Kombat X)
If Ermac’s “Inner Workings” is one of the most gut-wrenching Mortal Kombat fatalities of all time, then Mileena’s “Tasty Treat” has to be the most stomach-turning.
Or should that be stomach shoveling?
Baraka, “Food for Thought” (Mortal Kombat XI)
Mileena isn’t the only hungry fighter in Outworld. In “Food for Thought,” the mutant Kombatant Baraka displays why his forearm blades aren’t just for carving up his opponents; they’re also used for a meal preparation process that would make Clive Barker wince.
Which Mortal Kombat fatalities from this list were your favorite? Which one(s) did we forget to include in the list? Feel free to Brutalize us (constructively) in the comments.