?We all know Mortal Kombat is one of the most controversial videogame series of all time. Its main claim to fame is its glorious amounts of graphic blood and gore and its “Fatality” finishing moves, in which the victor dispatches the opponent with typically gruesome results, which gave it worldwide attention and led in part to the creation of the ESRB. Although its popularity boomed in the ’90s, it’s seeing a bit of a resurgence, and the next entry into the series – entitled simply Mortal Kombat – is only days away from release.
Gore aside, the other distinguishing feature for the series is that, unlike most pother fighting games, MK features a bizarre ensemble of ninjas, wizards, cyborgs, movie stars, shape-shifters, and guys with bladed hats. Set in the mystical realm of the Outworld, absolutely anything goes, including winged vampire temptresses, cyborgs infested with human souls, and even enormous four-armed tiger-men that resemble some kind of bizarre furry-crossover; also, babies. Although story is to fighting games what bacon is to cheesecake (unnecessary but delicious!) Mortal Kombat features a bizarrely thorough and ridiculous amount of explanation for the entirety of its strange and diverse characters (one can spend a bewildering afternoon working through the Mortal Kombat Wiki to discover that their favorite character was actually Goro’s primary school teacher, or some such nonsense). Here are eight of the silliest across the series (ignoring the one-appearance nobodies that no one remembers or cares about).
One of the long running tropes of the series is to include a hidden opponent in the background of a game, often having them yell bizarre twaddle or giving clues to finding them, and then making them playable in the sequel. Smoke is one such character, playing peekaboo in the Living Forest stage of Mortal Kombat II and then rising to the occasion as a fully fledged fighter in Mortal Kombat 3. Why is he weird? Aside from being a ninja assassin’s soul captured as a trophy and forced into a cyborg body in an Outworld fortress (I hate it when that happens) his character model is always surrounded by smoke — not mist, which would be kind of cool, but exhaust smoke — as to suggest that he was made in America in the early ’00s (i.e., poorly). But the real reason he makes this list is his batshit insane fatality, as seen above, in which he doesn’t just kill his opponent – he blows up the entire planet. Smoking kills, people!
Although the four-armed monstrosity Goro was instantly acceptable in the oddball MK franchise, his freakish, muscled, mostly-bald sideboob-revealing four-armed female analogue was a major shock to the system. Written as Queen Sindel’s protector, Sheeva is able to tear the skin off victims, shoot up into the air to crush her opponents (she doesn’t even move her legs!) and look incredibly disconcerting to hot-blooded males everywhere. The amount of breast those flimsy red outfits show make her overall appearance all the more disturbing. In MK lore, she was briefly the goddess of destruction for reasons I can’t possibly understand. Oh, did I mention her blood is green? What the fuck?
Buxom, stab-happy Mileena is quite the looker, clad in violet that barely covers any of her delectably curvy body. In fact, she’s a clone of Princess Kitara made by Shao Kahn, perfect in every way… except her mouth, which is like a miniature version of the Sarlacc pit. Mileena has died a couple of times, been resurrected a few times, and is the scret lover of the similarly dentally challenged Baraka, all pretty par for the course for Mortal Kombat. But Mileena makes this list for being a pretty succinct commentary on the deplorable image of women in videogames, which implies that women should be quiet, excessively, and have gigantically enormous breasts. Oh, and her infamous fatality, in which she sucks her opponent into her mouth and spits out only bleached bones. But here’s the weird thing about her — when she spits out an opponent’s bones, there seems to be the appropriate number… except they’re all femurs. Does Mileena normally store several dozen femurs in her stomach? What happens to the other bones? Are they transformers into femurs for some reason? And how does she eat so much meat but stay so thin?!
In a series where basically every character is humanoid, Motaro is a centaur. With ram horns. And a rat tail. Let that sink in for a second. One-upping the four-armed sub-bosses of the first two games, Midway decided to top themselves by making the sub-boss of Mortal Kombat 3 four-legged and enormous. While his story is a mess of proper names (apparently the Centaurians hate the Shokans or something, and this takes up a shockingly large portion of MK lore) but his silliness is mostly to do with how ridiculously overpowered he is in the game. Taking up over a third of the screen and taking about a quarter of your health off with each punch, Motaro is not only huge but by far the hardest fight in the game and a hard kick to the nuts of those who breezed through the regular two-legged fighters. It’s as if the second-last boss of Street Fighter 4 was that gigantic hippo from the African background but really pissed off and on speed. Also someone cut off his horse part so he was a minotaur for a while but then he got better or something? Whatever.
Another palette swap from the original Mortal Kombat, hidden character Reptile became a playable fighter from Mortal Kombat II onwards and remains one of the most popular characters in the franchise. Reptile appears to be a green ninja in the Sub-Zero/Scorpion mold, but is actually giant lizard who eats heads. He also spits acid and can become invisible — you know, like lizards can. He holds the special distinction of being the first ever hidden character in a versus fighting game, and features a preposterous back-story about how he’s the last of his race, thousands of years old, and one of the biggest losers in the franchise, always close to completing his plans of finding his species or having them resurrected or something and then being thrown into prison for genocide or being killed by god. Like Scorpion he used to look like a human ninja until he took his face off revealing the freaky lizard underneath, although in the interests of being completely bizarre he now looks more like a crocodile wearing clothes, or a regular guy with a velociraptor head. Oh, and his Animality? He turns into a monkey who chases the opponent away — OF COURSE.
Queen Sindel first appeared in Mortal Kombat 3, an important character not just for her role in the story – as the undead matriarch of a realm taken over by head villain Shao Kahn – but because she’s weird as hell. She floats around several feet in the air for no reason (a move that does little but make you vulnerable) with eyes that are completely freakishly white, and her screams tear flesh from a person’s body. Her back story is one of tragedy and incoherence, in which she is brainwashed by the big bad Kahn into evil after he resurrected her following her suicide at witnessing him murder her husband and enslaving her people. Fortunately her daughter Kitana convinces her to turn on Kahn and, with his defeat, she regains the throne in her kingdom of Edenia — until one of her own people allows the Army of Darkness (not the Campbell/Raimi movie) to invade, getting her imprisoned in her own dungeon, then later killed and resurrected by a dragon. You can’t make this shit up.
Although most of the new characters from the series’ sloppy third sequel Mortal Kombat 4 are too stupid to be notable or memorable, Meat stands out as this disgusting skeletal thing with a bit of bloody muscle tissue hanging off his person. A gory riff on Soul Calibur‘s Charade, Meat could initially mimic another fighter’s moves, until his reappearance in Armageddon where he was given a more muscular body in exchange for a dislodged eyeball and a move set that involved self-mutilation. Thankfully he’s immune to pain, and can keep fighting even without a head. Digging deeper into his fiction reveals a truly flimsy excuse for his existence — Shakespearian tale of romance and drama in which he was a horrific experiment created by Shang Tsung but escaped before he was completed, or something, and now he just bleeds all over the place. That’s it. Some of these characters have novel-length bios, but not Meat, making him even weirder. I look forward to a future game detailing his passionate decade-long relationship with Sonya and/or Kano, and his role in the extinction of unicorns.
In the Mortal Kombat universe of ninjas, wizards, cyborgs, monsters and shapeshifters, Kurtis Stryker is… a regular cop, who fights with guns. Nothing magical or paranormal about him, just your average Red Stater who somehow managed to get firearms into an alternative universe fighting tournament and dishes out grenades where others shoot fireballs. One of NYPD’s finest, even his Fatalities aren’t out of this world, using tasers and explosives to dispatch enemies. I don’t know about you, but I can’t throw fireballs or become invisible – though I can certainly get my hands on some pistols and a nightstick, which is apparently enough to enter the MK tournament. Stryker is utterly bizarre because he’s totally normal – and completely out of place… except that he can occasionally turn into a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Hey, it happens to me sometimes.