This October marks 25 years of “Mortal Kombat,” and while recent entries have been technical classics, it was previously largely known for its over-the-top violence and Fatalities. A trademark from the very beginning, the gruesome Fatality system made the game an arcade staple, with players standing in lines wrapped around the building just for a chance to try and figure out one of these brutal finishers. Fatalities made “Mortal Kombat” a household name, and spurred on a number of clones and imitators to include their own systems. Of course, the Fatalities also drew their share of controversy. Parents were shocked and appalled by the content and came out in droves against the franchise as a whole. As a result, “Mortal Kombat” is regarded as a major catalyst for the creation of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB).
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For this list, we chose 15 Fatalities with a few ground rules. Only one Fatality per character, we chose only Fatalities (sorry, no Babalities, Friendships, Hara Kiris, Animalities or Stage Fatalities!), and we left out some of the more ridiculous ones (such as Jax’s “Boot Squash” or Smoke’s “Armageddon”). Bearing that in mind, here are 15 brutally noteworthy and unforgettable “Mortal Kombat” Fatalities.
15. TAKE A SPIN
Baraka truly set a standard for weird in “Mortal Kombat II.” While Goro may have been a monster, Baraka was truly beastly. A mouth full of gnarly, protruding fangs and his bizarre gremlin face were just the tip of the iceberg. It was the huge, protruding spikes that shot from his forearms that set him apart. This was still the early days of the franchise; no one had weapons yet, aside from a few hidden opponents.
Baraka uses his blades in every Fatality he’s ever had, but none has been so curious and weird as “Take A Spin” from “Mortal Kombat (2011).” Standing in front of his bested opponent, Baraka jams his claw in their gut and lifts them overhead. As they flail helplessly, he uses his free hand to violently push them and spin them in place on his claw. As they spin around like a top, Baraka viciously raises his other claw and chops off their legs, arms, and head. It’s an outrageously violent display, but one that suits the animalistic Baraka perfectly.
14. LEG BEATDOWN/BEAT DOWN
When Quan Chi debuted in 1997’s “Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero,” the use of live-action cutscenes left him looking like a bit of a joke. The cheesy direction and large ham nature of his personality would carry over into his appearances from “Mortal Kombat 4” onward where the scheming sorcerer was either trying to achieve ultimate power or escape his prison in the Netherrealm.
Perhaps nothing about Quan Chi is more ridiculous than his original Fatality, “Leg Beatdown.” Another case of a Fatality being exactly what it says it is, Quan Chi forcibly rips off the leg of his opponent and proceeds to beat them to death with the dismembered appendage. Despite how ridiculous it is, “Leg Beatdown” proved to be popular enough with the fans to bring it back for “Mortal Kombat (2011)” as “Beat Down”, which saw Quan Chi use the severed leg to first crush an opponent’s skull before beating their dead body endlessly (or at least until players hit continue).
13. ARM RIP
Originally set to debut under a different name in “Mortal Kombat,” Jax was one of the more anticipated new fighters in “Mortal Kombat II.” Built as a patriotic strongman, the raw power of Jax’s “Backbreaker” and his “Gotcha Grab” proved to be impressive moves amidst the absurd violence of “Mortal Kombat.” The outrageous power and sheer brutality continued on into his finisher “Arm Rip,” which does exactly what it says on the tin.
Standing next to his defeated opponent, Jax reached across and grabbed them by the wrists. With a strong tug, he ripped the arms clean out of the socket and emphatically threw them to the ground. As his opponent stood there, stumps bleeding, Jax brazenly flexed his muscles and smiled for the player. Brutal and yet still simple, “Arm Rip” would return for “Mortal Kombat 4,” and would return combined with his “Head Smash” fatality in “Mortal Kombat (2011),” but Jax’s Fatalities in other titles tend to skew towards outrageous or more brutal.
12. BUG EYES
Debuting in the original “Mortal Kombat,” Raiden has an impressive number of appearances and a robust story. But he’s kind of gotten the shaft for Fatalities. As the immortal God of Thunder and the designated protector of Earthrealm, Raiden uses his lightning to great effect. But there was only so much you could do with that on an old console, and as a result, Raiden’s first Fatality was a fairly tame electrocution.
For “Mortal Kombat X,” Raiden finally got his due. In “Bug Eyes,” Raiden grips his opponent by the neck and pours a stream of lightning into their head until their eyes pop out and dangle loosely. Continuing to press on, the lightning builds until his opponent’s head pops off and soars through the air. Before it can fall, the Thunder God fires bolts of lightning and causes it to explode before looking down at his opponent’s fallen corpse with a look of utter disdain.
11. TASTY MEAL/YUMMY!
When players first encountered Reptile, he was hidden in The Pit of “Mortal Kombat,” a nearly impossible to beat extra character with Scorpion and Sub-Zero’s move sets. When he made his full, proper debut in “Mortal Kombat II,” the green ninja earned his namesake. Much like Scorpion, Reptile would pull off his mask to reveal a grotesque, reptilian face. From across the screen, Reptile would unfurl his long, prehensile tongue and wrap it around his opponent’s face. With a quick tug, the head snapped off and was pulled into Reptile’s gaping maw, accompanied by a satisfied moan.
Reptile would go through some of the franchise’s most drastic changes, from a noble member of a Reptilian race to a devolved lizard monster and finally ending up as a cowardly and duplicitous trickster, but “Tasty Meal” remained a fan favorite. In 2011’s “Mortal Kombat” reboot, “Tasty Meal” was included as downloadable content, though it was renamed “Yummy!” for the new release.
10. FIRE KISS/KISS OF DEATH
Spanning the entirety of the franchise, Sonya Blade went from being a last minute addition for “Mortal Kombat” to series mainstay, appearing in all but one core entry, bowing out of 2004’s “Mortal Kombat: Deception.” With her hard-hitting, highly athletic style, Sonya was visually engaging and fun to play, as well as adding some much-needed diversity to the original cast. With “Fire Kiss,” Sonya would blow a flaming kiss at her opponent, burning them alive and reducing them to a skeleton.
“Fire Kiss” has been reworked multiple times throughout the franchise. In “Mortal Kombat 3” (as well as “Ultimate MK3” and “Mortal Kombat Trilogy”) her kiss would surround the opponent in a glowing energy ball which crushed them. In “Mortal Kombat 4” the kiss was yet again an energy ball, but this time it destroyed her opponent’s upper body. In “Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance” she used “Poison Kiss,” which caused an opponent to violently vomit before they spat up blood and died. In “Mortal Kombat X” the Fatality returned to its original form as part of the “Klassic Fatality” pack, though it was renamed “Kiss of Death.”
9. MAN EATER
Mileena’s history throughout the “Mortal Kombat” franchise is really interesting. Originally stated to be just an assassin, her “Mortal Kombat II” ending revealed her to be a deformed clone of the princess Kitana. In storyline, Mileena is then locked away in a prison by Kitana until she is freed before “Mortal Kombat: Deception” by Baraka.
Her most iconic finisher, “Man Eater” is where fans got their first glimpse of Mileena’s deformity. Pulling down her mask, she revealed a mouth full of sharp, protruding fangs. Mileena leans in, seemingly for a kiss. With a sharp inhale, she sucks in the body of her defeated opponent and spits out a seemingly endlessly pile of bones. Mileena’s later Fatalities would highlight her feral nature and deformed mandibles in slightly more realistic ways, usually eating an opponent’s face or repeatedly stabbing an opponent with her sai. “Man Eater” made a return in the “Klassic Fatality Pack” for “Mortal Kombat X,” this time with fewer bones and more gore.
8. HERE’S JOHNNY
Johnny Cage has an interesting history in “Mortal Kombat.” Originally intended to be Jean-Claude Van Damme, he was changed to an original character when JCVD dropped out of the project, paving the way for “Mortal Kombat” as we know it. Cage originally served as a sort of affectionate parody, an actor who had entered the tournament to prove he was a real martial artist. Johnny changed a lot throughout the games though, and in the recent timeline reboot became more of a showboat.
Highlighting this is his marquee “Mortal Kombat X” fatality, “Here’s Johnny.” Having successfully beaten his opponent, Johnny lands a devastating punch that spins his opponent around. Then, in a display of immeasurable strength, Johnny rips clean through his opponent’s chest bare handed. Splitting the chest open, Johnny pokes his head through and cheerfully shouts “Here’s Johnny!” The nod to his past as an actor is a fairly entertaining one, but it doesn’t change how unsettling it can be to see Johnny Cage rip open and crawl through his daughter’s chest.
7. THE GRINDER
Though he first appeared in “Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero,” Shinnok didn’t make his proper debut until 1997’s “Mortal Kombat 4.” Though the fallen Elder God made an impression, he wasn’t terribly well received at first and didn’t make a return until “Mortal Kombat Armageddon.” In “Mortal Kombat X,” he returned in the updated “Mortal Kombat 4” story.
Shinnok didn’t bring his “Mortal Kombat 4” fatalities with him to “Mortal Kombat X,” but “The Grinder” references them. Using his otherworldly sorcery, Shinnok calls forth two massive skeleton hands and grabs his defeated opponent. The hands wrap around the body of his opponent and begin twisting and grinding, making the most unsettling noise imaginable as they do. Shinnok commands the hands to tip the body in half and then destroys it by clapping the hands together, reminiscent of his “Two Hand Clap” fatality. The tone and sound effects work to great effect here, making this a truly grisly Fatality. As a final touch, the camera pulls out to show opponent’s head, rolling along the ground towards Shinnok.
6. DEADLY UPPERCUT
There are far more memorable Liu Kang fatalities, but “Deadly Uppercut” makes the list because of its noteworthy origins. Intended to be the lead “Mortal Kombat” protagonist, Kang was the de facto champion of each tournament he entered until his death in “Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance,” and was only champion twice in “Mortal Kombat (2011)”’s restructured timeline. Back when the series started though, Liu Kang was a Shaolin Monk who had entered the tournament in opposition of Shang Tsung.
In keeping up with this story, he’s unique in having a “non-fatal” Fatality. “Deadly Uppercut” featured Liu Kang flipping towards and kicking his opponents before landing a vicious uppercut. Though spurts of blood spew with the blow, the opponent is not visibly killed and the “Fatality” designation does not appear on screen (though the announcer will call it, and the player will be awarded points appropriately). This story was quickly dropped, though: in “Mortal Kombat II,” “Deadly Uppercut” now pops his opponent’s head off, and in “Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks” the Fatality is reworked to explode opponents when they hit the ground.
5. BUG ME
The grotesque bug queen D’Vorah may be the greatest new character in a long while. Introduced as an adviser to Kotal Khan in “Mortal Kombat X,” she quickly betrayed Khan in order to aid in the resurrection of the Elder God, Shinnok. Clearly meant to be a big deal in the new series, she also got perhaps one of the most unsettling Fatalities in the game, “Bug Me.”
D’Vorah commands her ever-present bug swarm on her stunned opponent, driving through their body and leaving a gaping hole in their torso. She then calls them back, and the bugs drive through the chest of her opponent, leaving a gaping hole where their heart once was. That would be enough to end it, but as her opponent appears to try to resist, the bug swarm surrounds their head and consumes their flesh, eyes, and tongue. As the opponent falls to their knees, the exposed, bloodied skull rolls across the stage and is crushed by D’Vorah’s waiting heel, clearly stating her dominance over other fighters in the franchise.
A continuation of the rebooted timeline, “Mortal Kombat X” took the franchise into the next generation with four children of previous Kombatants. One such addition, Cassie Cage, ultimately serves as the game’s primary protagonist. The daughter of Sony Blade and Johnny Cage, she’s portrayed as a blend of her mother’s no-nonsense, Special Forces training and her father’s larger-than-life, showboat tendencies. Both her Fatalities highlight this, but none more so than the gruesome, hard-hitting “Selfie.”
Drawing her baton, Cassie cracks it with devastating effect against her opponent’s skull, leaving their jaw dangling by a thread. Before they can collapse, however, Casse grabs them and snaps a quick selfie. The picture is shown uploaded to Friendships, the “Mortal Kombat” equivalent of Facebook. The Friendships page itself is loaded with Easter Eggs, from the scrolling comments that tease false game secrets (”Has anyone unlocked Fujin?” reads one example) to the poster for Johnny Cage’s “Ninja Mime” movie, but you’ll have to tear away from the gruesome depiction of the broken jaw and mutilated face to be able to appreciate these.
3. SPINE RIP
The plethora of ninjas in the beginning of “Mortal Kombat” was a programming trick. Similar sprite sheets with different colors were useful for getting around limitations so that more characters could be included. Against all odds, the two palate swapped ninjas became the most popular. Sub-Zero gained a mountain of infamy at the arcade with his first Fatality, “Spine Rip.” Through a bit of slight of hand, Sub-Zero would grip his opponent’s spine and yank it out, head and all.
Originally performed solely by the original Sub-Zero, Bi-Han would canonically be killed by Scorpion during the first tournament and was replaced by his younger brother Kuai Liang. Though it was absent from “Mortal Kombat II,” Sub-Zero II would eventually perform the “Spine Rip” in later “Mortal Kombat” titles. In the real world, this brutal Fatality was at the front of a hotbed of controversy over the violence in “Mortal Kombat” which would eventually lead to the formation of the ESRB rating system.
2. FACE GRIND
Kung Lao broke into the franchise in “Mortal Kombat II,” and his mysterious nature and bladed hat helped him become an instant fan favorite. In the rebooted timeline, however, he’s now somewhat whiny, constantly complaining about Liu Kang being picked as the chosen defender of Earthrealm. This would cost Kung Lao his life in “Mortal Kombat (2011)” when he failed to kill Shao Khan.
In “Mortal Kombat X,” Kung Lao returns as a remnant serving Quan Chi and gets his most brutal Fatality yet. The Fatality is an update of “Buzz Saw” from “Mortal Kombat (2011),” which saw Lao drag an opponent by their legs through his hat, stuck in the ground and spinning in place. The spinning hat would bifurcate his opponent, and he’d hold them up by their legs. For the updated “Face Grind,” Netherrealm managed to make it even more uncomfortable by having Kung Lao throw his spinning hat into the ground and force his opponents into it face first. Though it lacks the visual brutality of “Buzz Saw,” the look of terror in his opponent’s eyes and the gruesome imagery makes “Face Grind” devastatingly gruesome.
There is perhaps no Fatality more well-known than Scorpion’s “Toasty!” The resurrected member of the Shirai Ryu clan is perhaps the most popular member of the franchise’s storied roster, and with good reason: he’s just plain cool. Dressed in yellow ninja attire and with almost no backstory given in the original “Mortal Kombat,” Scorpion quickly became popular with players thanks to his teleport punch and his punishing spear. But what cemented him as an all-time favorite is his classic Fatality.
Ripping off his hood, Scorpion revealed that he had no face, but rather a terrifying skull visage. As his opponent leered helplessly, his jaw dropped and a stream of flame would burst forward, reducing them to little more than a skeleton. Over the years, “Toasty!” has always gone through light cosmetic changes or minor tweaks, but remains Scorpion’s most common and popular Fatality, appearing in both “Mortal Kombat (2011)” and “Mortal Kombat X” as downloadable content.
What’s your favorite “Mortal Kombat” Fatality? Stand jump distance from your opponent and let us know in the comments below.