Legends of heroes and villains, tales of bloodshed and conflict, and a never-ending tendency to spark shock and awe, the Mortal Kombat series seems to have it all and then some. For nearly three decades, we’ve seen the transformations and differentiating installments of the pixelated fighting franchise.
Throughout the various systems the titles have appeared in, there’s always been an opening scene of sorts to set the stage for each virtual adventure. While some may be more elementary than others, there’s obviously a certain impact that each introduction has provided.
For this list, we’ll be ranking all of the main opening scenes to the Mortal Kombat video games from least interesting to the most, while considering the time of release, the intro’s effectiveness, and the overall effort put forth into the outsets of the games.
11.) Mortal Kombat 4 (1997)
Starting off the list is the fourth entry in the popular fighting series where the opening revolves around a short dialogue being spoken by Raiden. Its exposition-filled monologue tells the tale of Shinnok and the impending war that’s being brought upon the mortals of Earthrealm.
Originally released for the arcade back in 1997 and then ported onto home systems, the intro to Mortal Kombat 4 comes off a bit short and lacking in deliverance. Compared to its predecessors in the arcade world, this one doesn’t necessarily capture the bloody and adrenaline atmosphere that the gameplay reflects. Not that its necessary, just that it’s sticking out from the rest of cutscenes produced by Midway.
The lightning and rain effects, on the other hand, offer a pretty cool sight as the camera tracks Raiden’s stance as his thunderous words echo through the dimensions. While it may not show off any fighting for this particular scene, it’s nonetheless invigorating to see Raiden stand tall and mighty.
10.) Mortal Kombat III (1995)
While it may be one of the more duller entries on this list, the opening to Mortal Kombat III served up a nice plate of the dealings with its characters and their current situations. The villainous Shao Kahn has resurrected his love and triggers an invasion on the mortals, forcing Earthrealms’s champions to strike back.
It’s merely told through text that’s accompanied by a slideshow of the events that transpire for the game’s narrative. The music does help if you end up re-watching it over and over again upon booting up the game, but it’s most likely a skippable aspect compared to the rest of the game.
Still, it’s not a bad inception to the 1995 arcade classic that brought new features and faces to an already growing video game franchise.
9.) Mortal Kombat 11 (2019)
The more recent entry on the list, we see the red-eyed Raiden settle business with his foe Shinnok, leaving him frightened and beheaded before the story takes off on its rollercoaster. It really serves as the kicking point for this next-gen installment, where all the real action takes place within the story and the action that transpires – with the opening part acting as a regular cutscene instead of a more noticeable origination.
Mortal Kombat 11 felt like a contemporary upgrade to the retro formula of the series as a whole. The developers didn’t go too crazy with the mechanics, universe, and ridiculousness: sincerely, it felt more grounded for this round, and the opening cinematic does just that with its simplicity and bloody deliverance, all while giving the player a basic idea of what to expect.
8.) Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (2008)
The 2008 crossover with the fictional world of DC comics was Midway Games’ last project before succumbing to bankruptcy. Before they transformed into NetherRealm Studios for later Mortal Kombat installments, we saw the fighters of Earthrealm and beyond go head-to-head with the likes of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and several others in a split-narrative tale told through two perspectives: one from the DC world, and the other being Mortal Kombat.
The game utilized the popular Unreal Engine 3 that truly fleshed out the characters that matched up with the cinematics and gameplay of the experience. It felt flawless and clean, much like the opening scene for the Mortal Kombat perspective. Significantly a big step for the franchise, but the next chapter would bring things back to basics with the 2011 reboot, while the 2008 entry would give players a taste of what was to come, despite this installment being less received than its companions.
7.) Mortal Kombat (1992)
The one that started it all. Originally released back in the arcade scene of 1992, Mortal Kombat was introduced to the world with polarizing responses. It was too violent, the fighting is too gory, and so many other criticisms were aimed at the popular title, but it didn’t stop it from becoming a household name in the video game industry.
Spawning numerous sequels, the simple intro to Mortal Kombat previews the conflict that revolves around our characters. Famously backed up by its iconic music, we’re treated to the title of the game before the cutscene plays. Not much info is provided to the player. Only then when inserting credits into the arcade machine can we dive into the fresh and bloody world developed by Midway.
6.) Mortal Kombat X (2015)
The opening cinematic to Mortal Kombat X drives players up to speed on what’s been happening since the 2011 reboot. Telling the re-emergence of Shinnok after the destruction of Shao Kahn, we’re shown a tale told through stone formations representing the events leading up to the revelations of Shinnok and his manipulate manners.
Almost narrated as if it’s a legend, this was a solid opener for the tenth installment in the Mortal Kombat series. It’s brief, informative, and played out differently that feels both fresh and familiar, without giving away a huge amount of context before the battle ensues. Plus it’s a pleasant breather before the gory madness takes over for the remainder of the game.
5.) Mortal Kombat (2011)
Essentially the reset button for the franchise, Mortal Kombat served as the first new project from NetherRealm Studios, who took over for WB Games Chicago.
The 2011 entry shows the events of Armageddon and the disastrous results that came from the various characters battling each other. On a land of severed bodies and lost souls, Shao Kahn comes close to killing Raiden on top of the pyramid. Every well-known and notorious individual is seen on the battlefield, defeated and bloodied up. It’s a bizarre and mad scene, and it leads to the critical action of Raiden sending a message back in time to alter the events of the series.
It’s an imperative retcon that saw the series going back to its roots of a grounded fighting experience. Definitely told through a Mortal Kombat-esque fashion with all the characters dead, this intro deserves a lot of recognition for being understanding in its craft, narrative, and expectations. It was a chance to win fans back and get them once again invested in the series, and this unfolding was just the perfect inaugural scene to re-open the Mortal Kombat mythology.
4.) Deadly Alliance (2002)
The team-up of Quan Chi and Shang Tsung proved to be a noteworthy challenge for the fighters of Earthrealm. In this opening to Deadly Alliance, we witness the deaths of legendary warriors Liu Kang and Shao Kahn, all told through a warning by Raiden to the other champions of Earthrealm to prepare them for the conflict.
Despite the game being slightly less received than some of the others on the list, the opening scene to Deadly Alliance showed off a sweet cinematic that introduced a dangerous chapter to the Mortal Kombat storyline. Companioned by well-mixed audio, devilish scenes, and a decent vocal performance by the actor who voices the thunder god, setting up a stage for the first game in the franchise to make it onto home consoles initially in lieu of the de facto arcade releasing.
And it’s a highly welcoming one at it, as well. It doesn’t shy away from its material, and it delivers a greatly sufficient onset for the fifth chapter in the main storyline.
3.) Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004)
Immediately following the events of Deadly Alliance, Raiden goes up against the dangerous duo of Quan Chi and Shang Tsung in a final effort to defeat them and prevent their plans for conquer. Within a few minutes of cinematic action, we’re presented with a quick change of events as the duo beats down Raiden, then proceed to turn on each other before Quan Chi rises as the victor. That is until the dragon king, Onaga, stomps into the arena – the undead army bowing to his grace.
What transpires next is a moment of pure intensity as Quan Chi attempts to slay the dragon king alone. Realizing that the real threat is approaching, the three fighters join forces to try and take him down.
This introduction might one of the more personal and twisty entries on this list due to the growing conflict between Raiden and the duo, the return of Onaga, and having all three look at each other upon learning that they must work together against this one furious foe. It’s well-polished, fun to watch, and it generates a fairly decent tale of newcomer Shujinko and his quest to slay the dragon king.
2.) Mortal Kombat II (1993)
The epitome of a perfect opening to a fighting game, Mortal Kombat II might be the more memorable inclusion on this list. It’s a beautiful mixture of story context, fighting mechanics, and music to perfectly encapsulate the sequel to the 1992 original.
During the arcade era of bringing forth new titles and gaming experiences, Mortal Kombat was at the forefront of being approached by almost anyone who entered a coin-operated gaming ambiance. And to see the follow-up with improved controls and more characters was more than enough to excite the challengers when they’re on their way to face Shao Kahn.
It’s probably of the better-known arcade intros from the former generation of gaming cabinets. Released the game year as NBA Jam, Daytona USA, Samurai Shodown, and Doom for home entertainment, Mortal Kombat II was a commercial success and proved to be a big step for Midway as they continued their bloody reign as a face of video gaming superiority.
Most Honorable Mention
Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks (2005)
Taking place between the events of Mortal Kombat I and II, Shaolin Monks follows Liu Kang and Kung Lao in an adventure spin-off action title that ultimately deviates away from the normal fighting game fashion of the series. The insane opening cutscene shows the heroes of Earthrealm going up against their darkened foes in Mortal Kombat, being overlooked by Shang Tsung. Character interactions, fisticuffs, and fatalities are all presented to the player before the game officially starts with the titular warriors.
If Shaolin Monks was a main installment in the series, it would easily be placed in the top five rating area. Everything about the introduction is just so enticing and awesome that skipping it almost feels like a sin. Sincerely an underrated game, the beginning to Shaolin Monks is merely a sweet taste into possibly one of the greater known spin-offs within the PlayStation 2/Xbox era.
1.) Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (2006)
“The critical point…has finally been reached. It was foreseen that combatants would one day grow too powerful, and too numerous. If left unchecked, their intensifying combat would weaken and shatter the realms, and bring about the apocalypse.”
Oh, how they fight and still meet their fates. Mighty as they seem, the champions, defenders, attackers, truth-seekers, savages, and many alike in-between have finally reached an endgame where they face off against each other to the death.
The game itself features basically every fighter from the universe up until that point in time for the development of Mortal Kombat as a whole. In the opening cinematic, we literally see the forces of good, bad, and ugly charge at each other amid intense music and a deserted land, only to be filled by bloodlust and body parts. Notorious feuds are displayed, greedy attacks are delivered, and a few surprises are shared as we witness everyone going to war with one another.
While Armageddon isn’t as amazing as one might think of it to be, the beginning for it is without a doubt one of the coolest scenes to be put in a video game. Epic might be a cliché word to use in cases like this, but it truly fits the description once you lay eyes on the final chronological episode to the original Mortal Kombat storyline.