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Top 10 Mortal Kombat Controversies

VO: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Jarett Burke
With Mortal Kombat 11 right around the corner, why not take a look back on the Top 10 Mortal Kombat Controversies? For this list, we’re looking at times when the “Mortal Kombat” series got itself into a bit of hot water in the public eye. There’s no shortage of incidents to choose from, but please keep in mind this video will contain some mature content. By the way, who's excited for Mortal Kombat 11 later this month? To have your ideas turned into a WatchMojo or MojoPlays video, head over to http://WatchMojo.comsuggest and get to it!

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Top 10 Mortal Kombat Controversies

When ripping someone’s spine out isn’t controversial enough! Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Mortal Kombat Controversies.

For this list, we’re looking at times when the “Mortal Kombat” series got itself into a bit of hot water in the public eye. There’s no shortage of incidents to choose from, but please keep in mind this video will contain some mature content.

#10: Johnny Cage Splits
“Mortal Kombat & Mortal Kombat II” series (1992-93)

To say that the first two “Mortal Kombat” games were a cultural phenomenon is putting it lightly… The series was so huge in the Early 90s that even the actors got a bit of fame too – none more so than Daniel Pesina who played Johnny Cage and all the palette swapped male ninjas. Seeing his image become a cultural icon, especially when the games hit home systems, Pesina thought he was entitled to more money, seeing as he was only paid for the arcade versions. He took Midway to court but ultimately lost. Though he later got a small taste of revenge when he appeared in a rival fighting game “Bloodstorm’s” advertisement as Johnny Cage! Talk about punching below the belt!

#9: “Blood on the Carpet” Commercial
“Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks” (2005)

As part of the marketing for the adventure spinoff “Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks” Midway was pumping a lot of money to get word out that MK was back, and they also added plenty of shock value to their promotional materials as well. Take, for instance, the TV commercial for “Shaolin Monks” entitled “Blood on the Carpet” where a dude rips out a guy’s heart and eats it. How they thought this would get passed television censors is beyond us, and the Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority were not impressed as they penalized Midway and made them consult with the company prior to releasing any more advertisements.

#8: Actors Sue Midway
“Mortal Kombat & Mortal Kombat II” series (1992-93)

A year after the Daniel Pesina lawsuit, the actors who played Shang Tsung, Sonya Blade, Mileena & Kitana also sued Midway for using their likeness in the home versions of the first two games when they only agreed to appear in the arcade versions. Like the Pesina case, though, this one also resulted in a loss for the plaintiffs as a judge ruled that they already consented to the videotaping of their persons for use in the games. Chalk this case up to the actors not expecting “Mortal Kombat” to blow up the way it did and wanting more money once it became popular but were restricted by their own contracts.

#7: No Scorpion
“Mortal Kombat 3” (1995)

It’s almost 25 years later and the decision not to include Scorpion in the original release of “Mortal Kombat 3” is still a head scratcher! Outside of Liu Kang, Scorpion was undoubtedly one of the most popular characters in the series. Daniel Pesina did play Scorpion & Sub-Zero in the first 2 games, but the fact that he wears a mask, and Sub-Zero still appeared would mean it wasn’t a likeness issue. Either way, fans were not happy and it became apparent that Midway made the wrong choice so they included Scorpion in a re-release of the game titled “Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3” the same year. Because, one thing’s for sure: You do not want to be on the bad side of die-hard “Mortal Kombat” fans.

#6: Worst Fatalities Ever
“Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” (2008)

Honestly there’s really only one reason why a “Mortal Kombat” & “DC” crossover happened: Their biggest competitors “Street Fighter” & “Marvel” respectively, had made a series of successful crossover games. However it became clear that the logistics of making their own crossover game was doomed from the start. Mostly because the superheroes of DC don’t kill, so in order to include the likes of Batman & Superman, the violence level was toned down to a great degree, which – if you followed the MK series – you’d know it’s the one thing fans wouldn’t accept. The DC heroes had “Heroic Brutalities” which we’re kinda lame. While actual “Fatalities” were heavily neutered to obtain a T for Teen rating. Thankfully the reboot followed.

#5: “It’s In All of Us” Poster
“Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance” (2002)

Just like the TV commercial for “Shaolin Monks,” this promotional poster for “Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance” was also singled out by the British Advertising Standards Authority and forced to censor. The image in the poster, which was taken from a TV commercial for the game showed a woman hugging a man, and her hands leaving bloodstains on his shirt with the tagline, “It’s In Us All.” The British ASA took this to suggest that we’re all capable of being killers and thus thought the ad condoned violence. It’s not all negative though, as the 2011 version of Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition awarded “Deadly Alliance” with the earliest video game poster to be censored. The creators of “Mortal Kombat” probably took it as a badge of honor…

#4: Nintendo Censors Blood & Fatalities
“Mortal Kombat” [SNES version] (1993)

Both Nintendo and Sega faced a hard dilemma when the first “Mortal Kombat” came to home consoles in 1993: to censor or not to censor. Ultimately, both companies censored the game on their platform but Sega made the clever decision to include a cheat code to allow blood on the Genesis version. Nintendo’s decision to not include such a code has been long believed to have hurt sales of the game on the SNES despite it being the better-playing game overall. Fans clearly wanted the blood and gore and voted with their wallets, making the Genesis version the clear winner. Nintendo learned their lesson a year later, however, when they released “Mortal Kombat 2” uncensored.

#3: Mortal Kombat Finally Banned
“Mortal Kombat” (2011)

It’s kind of hard to believe that it took until 2011 for a “Mortal Kombat” game to be banned outright in some countries; but, then again, with 2011 reboot upping the gore factor significantly over previous entries (what with brutal x-ray moves and deranged fatalities), it also makes a lot of sense. Countries that banned the game included Australia, Germany and South Korea; and, in Australia (for example) the game was refused classification by the country’s censorship board, which effectively barred the game from being imported into the country, leading to the ban. Though after the country changed it’s classification laws in 2013 to allow for 18+ games, Mortal Kombat 2011 and future titles was finally allowed to be sold there.

#2: Teen Stabs Friend
“Mortal Kombat 3” (1995)

On November 22 1997, in South Norwalk, Connecticut - 13 year old Noah Wilson was stabbed in the chest and killed by another teen. The mother of the deceased alleged that the killer was mimicking the moves of the “Mortal Kombat” character Cyrax, and sued Midway for it’s portrayals of violence in video games. She claimed that “Mortal Kombat” corrupted the young killer’s mind and he had become obsessed with the games to the point he believed he was Cyrax. The plaintiff stated that her son’s killer mimicked the move where Cyrax stabs his opponent in the chest after putting him in a headlock. In the end, however, there was no evidence to support this claim, as Cyrax does not have such a finishing move, so the US District Court dismissed the case against Midway.

#1: Birth of the ESRB
“Mortal Kombat” (1992)

There really couldn’t be any other entry for number one in this case… The fact that “Mortal Kombat” took the world by storm not only included video game fans but politicians and national interest groups as well. The game caused such a stir that it resulted in the 1993 US Congressional Hearing On Video Game Violence where senators Herb Kohl and Joe Lieberman pressed for the government regulation of video games based on examples from the first “Mortal Kombat” and 1992’s full-FMV game “Night Trap.” These hearings eventually led to the creation of the ESRB Ratings Board by the gaming industry itself to keep regulation of video games out of government hands.

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