Fatality (Mortal Kombat)

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Sub-Zero performing the infamous "Spine Rip" Fatality on Scorpion in Mortal Kombat (Ed Boon's favorite Fatality[1])

A Fatality is a gameplay feature in the Mortal Kombat series of fighting games. It is a finishing move that can be used against one's defeated opponent at the end of the final round of a match, after the announcer says "Finish Him/Her." The Fatalities are usually lethal, featuring a brutal and morbid execution of the defenseless enemy character. This feature has caused a large cultural impact and controversies.


While creating Mortal Kombat, Ed Boon and John Tobias started with the idea of Street Fighter II-like system and retained many of its conventions but tweaked others. The most notable additions were graphic blood effects, more brutal fighting techniques, and especially the fatal finishing moves (this was a novelty as the traditional fighting games ended with the loser simply knocked unconscious and the victor posing for the players).[2] According to Boon, it started with an idea to enable the player to hit a dizzied opponent at the end of the match with a "free hit", and that idea "quickly evolved into something nasty".[3] According to Tobias: "Our first idea was to use them as a finishing move for final boss Shang Tsung, who was going to pull out his sword and behead his opponent. Then we thought, 'What if the player could do that to his opponent?' When we watched players react to the Fatalities, we knew we had no choice but to give them more."[4] Former Midway Games programmer Mark Turmell stated that initially no one at Midway expected players to find the Fatalities in the game.[5]


Unlike special moves, a Fatality may require certain distances and quick button sequences in order to achieve the desired result. Usually, every character has their own special Fatality that must be performed at a certain distance from the opponent,[6] the three distances being: close (means that the finishing move won't work unless the player is right next to the opponent),[7] sweep (means that the player should stand a step or two away from the opponent, but still within the distance that a sweeping low kick should hit)[7] and far (means at least one jump's length away from the opponent).[7]

Each character has signature Fatalities. Traditionally for the main and important characters of the games their Fatalities are usually a reflection of either their storyline or their special abilities: e.g., Sub-Zero's Fatalities have traditionally involved the use of his powers of ice (though his spine rip was found to be the most infamous of the Fatalities), whereas Scorpion's storyline of a hellspawn ninja spectre involves the use of setting someone ablaze or using his infamous spear. The number of individual Fatalities varies depending upon the game; while characters in Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance had only one, Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3 and its updates (Mortal Kombat Trilogy and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3) featured as many as four.

Cultural impact[edit]

The Fatalities were featured in ScrewAttack's "Top 10 OMGWTF Moments" due to the competition it gave to other games including Street Fighter II and how it popularized the arcades,[8] as well as in machinima.com's list of top ten gaming memes.[9] The 2012 film Wreck-It Ralph shows Mortal Kombat's Kano performing his signature heart-ripping Fatality move on a zombie.

"Fatality" eventually became also a generic gaming term for a lethal finishing move,[10] including the official term Fatals in the Killer Instinct series. In the game ClayFighter 63⅓ the Fatalities were even parodied in the form of Claytality. "Fatalities" also expanded into the shooter genre, most notably in the Gears of War series as "Executions".


In many games in the franchises there are also different types of Fatalities and Finishers:


This finisher allows the player to morph into an animal and maul their opponent. This style of Fatality debuted in Mortal Kombat 3.[11] According to Boon, his team "listened to what the players said about MKII and the Animalities that they thought were in there but really weren't. To answer all these rumors, we put Animalities in MKIII [sic]."[3]

In order to perform an Animality, the player must first grant his opponent Mercy, the act which revives the opponent in lieu of delivering a final blow or performing a Fatality by restoring a small amount of health: should the opponent be defeated again, an Animality may be performed.[11][12]


Introduced in Mortal Kombat II, the Babality turns an opponent into an infant version of the character. Sometimes the opponent will wear a miniature version of the clothes he or she wore when fully-grown, complete with smaller versions of accessories such as Raiden's hat or Johnny Cage's shades. In MK3 and its updates, the generic green "Babality!!" text and the sound of a baby crying used in MKII is replaced with pastel colored alphabet blocks and a short lullaby with the end portion of Rock-a-bye-baby. Their initial appearance in Mortal Kombat II Revision 2.1 came with some glitches including one that allowed players to perform attacks after the Babality was performed.[13]

Babalities were introduced as a deliberately absurd counter-argument to the controversy that the original received for its violent content, and a tamer counterpart to the typical Fatality. Some fans found them humorous and enjoyable, while others felt they were an unwelcome, out-of-character intrusion in what is otherwise a "serious" game. The moves were later dropped in an effort to abate this criticism. The Babalities, however, made a return in the relaunch game, featuring special animations for each character (for example, baby Reptile comes out of an egg and baby Raiden plays with lightning).


Introduced in Mortal Kombat Trilogy and the SNES and Sega Genesis ports of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, this finisher allowed players to perform a combo which would cause the opponent to explode. Brutalities were not very popular, as they were extremely difficult to accomplish, requiring the player to memorize and perform a special 11-hit combo.[12] Many felt the pay-off was lacking with the only result being a fiery explosion where the victim disappears and an unrealistic amount of bone and flesh (including several rib cages and skulls) are sent flying and covering most of the screen (in some versions, the bone and flesh flies completely offscreen).

This finisher didn't appear in another game until Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, in which it wasn't explicitly used as a finisher, but rather as a power-up. A move similar to the Brutality also appeared in Mortal Kombat: Deception, in the form of a Fatality of Li Mei: her Fatality was to rapidly strike the opponent repeatedly, then to step back and pose as her opponent twitches for a moment, before exploding in a pile of gore.[14]

Brutalities will make a return appearance in the upcoming title Mortal Kombat X.[15]


The fighter performs an act of kindness, leaving the opponent unharmed at the end of the fight. These actions include Sub-Zero making a snowman, Noob Saibot throwing a bowling ball and hitting a few pins, Stryker holding out a stop sign as if to stop traffic and allowing all the other fighters to run past, or Jax taking out a jump rope and using it. Developers described the inclusion of Friendships as "a counter to all the blood and gore", saying they wanted a different aspect to the game.[16] In MKII, Shao Kahn would announce "Friendship... Friendship?", while in MK3 and MK:T he would say "Friendship... Friendship? Again?"[17][18]


The Hara-Kiri (which is Japanese for a certain type of ritual suicide, and literally means belly cut; even though Kenshi is the only character who uses the Hara-Kiri in this form) is a move in which the losing player kills him/herself upon defeat at the end of the last match, rather than be finished off by his/her opponent. Examples of Hara-Kiris are Sindel performing a back flip and landing head first, Liu Kang internally combusting, Kabal stabbing himself between his eyes, and Darrius crushing his own head. It is the first time in the series in which the defeated player is allowed to perform a finishing move. The maneuver debuted in Deception but has not been included in any subsequent series installments.

Although it was called just a Fatality in-game, the first example of a suicidal finishing move in the series was actually Cyrax's "self-destruct" move from MK3 and Mortal Kombat Gold: Cyrax, a cyborg, enters a code on to his arm panel and moments later explodes along with his opponent in a manner reminiscient of the ending of the first Predator movie. Smoke went farther with his Fatality, since he destroys the whole planet (and every living being on it) with giant bombs. In MK Gold, Cyrax adopted this Fatality together with his own, while Smoke adopted Cyrax's self-destruct as his Hara-Kiri in Deception.

Heroic Brutality[edit]

Heroic Brutalities appear in the Midway/DC Comics crossover game Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe as exclusive finishing moves for the DC heroes.[7] While they are similar to Fatalities, a Heroic Brutality doesn't kill an opponent, since normally the DC heroes don't kill people. These can range from somewhat gruesome like Green Lantern's, in which he crushes his enemy in a bubble of green energy breaking all of their bones, to rather humourous such as the Flash's, where he lifts the enemy into the air with a tornado and simply punches them down. Heroic Brutalities are not to be confused with the Brutalities of MK3, as they require hit combos similar to the normal Fatality hit combo. Given the fact that they are the least violent non-parody finishing moves in Mortal Kombat history, Heroic Brutalities were not well received among either the MK series' fans or the comic book fan community, as even the DC comics themselves are often far more brutal.[19]


For Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, the Fatality concept was completely revised. In all previous games, finishing moves were in the form of a button combo, activating a scripted animation sequence. For MK:A, the old system was replaced with a new Kreate-A-Fatality, or "Kustom-Chain-Fatality" system. After defeating an opponent in two rounds (with default settings), players are given a limited amount of time to perform one of several violent moves (such as ripping an organ out) attributed to a button and direction combination. The time then resets and the player can perform a second move, but the timebar decreases more rapidly after each move. It is also possible to "fail" the Fatality by running out of time before performing a final finishing move (such as ripping the opponent's head off). Once the player reaches 10 chains, he/she must use a finisher or else the Fatality sequence will stop and the player will not receive a rank or reward. If time runs out before the player can end the chain with a final fatal move, no rank or reward is given and the Fatality is not counted, regardless of how many moves were completed.

This concept has been met with a mixed reaction, with some fans and critics preferring the more interactive nature and freedom of the Kreate-a-Fatality system, and others missing the previous games' character-specific ending moves and alternatives to killing the opponent.[2] Originally, there were individual character-specific Kreate-a-Fatality moves for each character, but this feature was dropped, reportedly due to such a feat's infeasibility (especially in regards to the Kreate-A-Character option, which individual moves would not translate to). This kind of fatality has only been in this game.

Stage Fatality[edit]

Stage Fatalities brought environment interaction within the series, occurring when a player uses a part of the stage or map to execute a finishing move that is not a standard character Fatality. Some examples of Stage Fatalities are having the victim fall into a pool of acid or a pit of spikes, or to be run over by a subway train; the stage then does not darken. Stage Fatalities are present in the series from the first Mortal Kombat, though are absent from MK: Deadly Alliance.

MK: Deception features more Stage Fatalities, renamed Death Traps, than any previous Mortal Kombat game. A special button combination is no longer required as the opponent only needs to be either standing or hit in a particular spot on the stage. Unlike previous Stage Fatalities, Death Traps can be initiated anytime during a round and only require the opponent be hit into them, meaning an instant victory. However, if they are not executed in the decisive round, the fight does not end, going on to the next round. This action acts as a ring out.

Traditional Stage Fatalities, seen since the original MK game through MK4, made a return in the new Mortal Kombat. Button combinations are once again used to perform Stage Fatalities.


  • Fergality: The Mega Drive/Genesis version of MKII featured an exclusive finishing move that allowed Raiden to transform his opponent into Probe Ltd. employee Fergus McGovern, who worked on that port of the game. This finisher could only be performed on the Armory stage.[20]
  • Multality: MK:Shaolin Monks features Multalities, which are Fatalities performed on multiple common enemies at one time.
  • Animalities and Brutalities were both rumored to be featured in MKII, but were only later added in MK3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy, respectively. The rumored types of Fatalities that did not actually exist in any of the games included "Nudalities"[21] and "Weirdalities," among others.[22]

Notable Fatalities[edit]

  • In December 1994, GamePro asked readers for their favorite Fatalities and published the tally in March 1995 (all were from MKII): Jax's "Arm Rip," Sub-Zero's "Ice Grenade," and Shang Tsung's "Soul Stealer."[23]
  • In 2008, GamePro published a list of "The 12 LAMEST Fatalities." These from the Mortal Kombat series were Liu Kang's "Death by Arcade Machine" (#12), The Flash's "Tornado Slam" in MK vs. DC (#11), Raiden's "Mini-Raiden" Friendship (#10), Jax's "Amazing Growing Man" (#9), Scorpion's "Penguin Egg Grenade" and Rain's "Baby Elephant Blast" (#8), Sindel's "Killer Hair" (#7), Kano's "Stomach Pounce" in MK vs. DC (#5), Babalities in general (#3), and Kano's "Ripping Out an Invisible Heart" in the censored Super Nintendo Entertainment System version of the first game (#1).[24]
  • UGO.com counted down their top 11 favorite Fatalities: Kurtis Stryker's "Stun Gun" "(MK3), Sub Zero's "Fun with Ice" (MKII), "Pit Stain" (MK Stage Fatality), Kitana's Kiss of Exploding Death" (MKII), Friendships in general, Kabal's "Death by Face", Jax's "Big Finish" (MK3), Liu Kang's "Way of the Dragon" (MKII), Scorpion multiplying himself (UMK3/MKT), Kano's "Heartbreak" (MK) and Smoke blowing up the Earth (MK3).[25]
  • In 2010, Game Informer published a list of the series' best, worst "and downright confusing" Fatalities so far.[26] According to this,
    • the best were: Liu Kang's "Dragon" in MKII, Sub-Zero's "Spine Rip" in MK ("perhaps the most gruesome finisher from the first game in the series"), Reptile's "Head Snack" in MKII, Jade's "Head Gymnastics" in Deception, Sektor's Compactor in MK3, Jax's "Arm Pull" in MKII ("probably one of the only Fatalities that wouldn't immediately kill you"), Dairou's "Ribs to the Eyes" in Deception, and Sindel's "Scream" in MK3;
    • the worst were: Liu Kang's "Cartwheel" in MK, Kano's "Knee Stomp" in MK vs DC, Kitana's "Kiss of Death" in MKII, Kabal's "Inflating Head" and "Scary Face"in MK3, Rain's "Upside-Down Uppercut" in Trilogy, Bo' Rai Cho's "Fart of Doom" in Deception;
    • and the most absurd were: Liu Kang's "Arcade Machine" in MK3, Jax's "Giant Stomp" in MK3, Johnny Cage's "Three Head Punch" in MKII, Cyrax's "Self-Destruct" in MK3, Darrius' "Re-arranger" in Deception, Smoke's "Earth Detonation" in MK3.
  • In 2010, ScrewAttack published their list of the top MK Fatalities (from #10 to #1): Reptile's Facial Surgery in MK4, Quan Chi's "Leg Beating" (MK4), Dairou's "Ribs in the Eyes" (MK:D), Cyrax's "Trash Compactor" (MK:DA), Kano's "Skeletal Removal" (MK3), Baraka's "Blades-in-the-Chest" (MKII), Scorpion's "Party Popper" (MK:DA), Johnny Cage's "Punching Bag" (MK:SM), Liu Kang's "Dragon Transformation" (MKII) and Sub-Zero's "ESRB-Maker" (MK).[27]
    • They later published a list of their top worst MK Fatalities: Tanya's "Neck Breaker" (MK4), Kabal's "Scary Face" (MK3), Sindel's "Hara-Kiri" (MK:D), Kenshi's "Eyeball-Popper" (MK:DA), Quan Chi's "Neck-Stretcher" (MK:DA), Raiden's "Accident" (MK:D), Reptile's "Animality" (MK3), Motaro's "Head Yoink" (MK:T), Liu Kang's "Somersault Kick" (MK), and every Fatality/Heroic Brutality from MK Vs. DC.[28]
  • That same year, IGN also posted their "unofficial" Top 10 Fatalities list: "Giant Jax" (MK3), "Strykersaurus-Rex" (MK3), "Kitana's Kiss of Death" (MKII), "Sub-Zero Crushed Ice" (MKII), "Reptile Gives You Some Tongue" (MKII), "Kung Lao's Hat Trick" (MK:SM), "Sektor Squash" (MK3), "All Babalities", "Sheeva's Manly Forearms" (MK3), "Scorpion is Hot" (MK) and "Smoke Asplodes the Earf" (MK3).[29]
  • In 2013, WatchMojo.com listed their picks for the Top 10 Mortal Kombat Fatalities: Scorpion's "Toasty!" (MK), the Joker's "Bang Bang" (MK vs DC), Kung Lao's Rabbit (MK:SM), Shang Tsung's "Soul Stealing" (MKII), Kitana's "Kiss of Death" (MKII), Kung Lao's "Hat Slice" (MKII), Liu Kang's "Dragon" (MKII), Quan Chi's "Leg Beatdown" (MK4), Noob Saibot's "Make a Wish" (MK 2011), and Sub-Zero's "Spine Rip" (MK). They also made honorable mentions to Freddy Krueger's "Welcome to My Nightmare" (MK 2011), Cyrax's "Human Trash Compactor" (MK:DA), Jade's "Spear Decapitation" (MK:D), Sektor's "Scarecrow" (MK 2011), Reptile's "Face Chew" (MK4), and Johnny Cage's "And the Winner Is..." (MK 2011).[30]


  1. ^ Midway (October 11, 2006). "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon Premium Edition". Midway. Level/area: "The History of Fatalities" commentary. 
  2. ^ a b East, Tom (2008-01-07). "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon". Official Nintendo Magazine. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  3. ^ a b GamePro 76 (November 1995)
  4. ^ Ten years ago, "Mortal Monday" brought us controversy, game ratings, and Mortal Kombat, 1UP.com, September 13, 2003
  5. ^ Leone, Matt (January 9, 2013). "The story behind Total Carnage's confusing ending". Polygon. Vox Media. Retrieved March 29, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe: Ed Boon interview". CraveOnline. 2008-10-08. Retrieved 2010-03-13.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)[dead link]
  7. ^ a b c d Reynolds, Pat (March–April 2009). "Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe Strategy Guide by Pat Reynolds". Tips & Tricks (Larry Flynt Publications): 5. 
  8. ^ "ScrewAttack Top 10 OMGWTF Moments". GameTrailers. July 11, 2008. Retrieved September 19, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Top 10 Gaming Memes". Youtube.com. 2011-01-08. Retrieved 2013-11-15. 
  10. ^ Best Fatalities in Video Games, 1UP.com, May 13, 2010
  11. ^ a b Greeson, Jeff and O'Neill, Cliff. "The History of Mortal Kombat - Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)". GameSpot. Archived from the original on 2007-10-05. Retrieved 2010-04-06. 
  12. ^ a b "History of Mortal Kombat Mortal Kombat 3". UGO. 2008-10-28. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  13. ^ "Babality!". Bbh.marpirc.net. Retrieved 2013-11-15. 
  14. ^ Joey Cuellar and Bryan Dawson, Mortal Kombat: Deception Official Strategy Guide (Indianapolis: Pearson Education, 2005)
  15. ^ Futter, Mike. "Mortal Kombat X Will Feature Over 100 Brutalities". GameInformer. Retrieved 27 February 2015. 
  16. ^ The One Amiga 75 (Dec 1994)
  17. ^ Brad Shoemaker (2006-05-28). "The First Fighting Game That Let You Just Be Friends". Game Spot. CNET Networks. Retrieved 2007-12-02. 
  18. ^ Dan Clarke. "Mortal Kombat: Deception - XBOX" (Review). Game Rankings. CNET Networks. Retrieved 2007-12-02. 
  19. ^ "The Top Ten Most Ridiculous Things to Come Out of Mortal Kombat". 4thletter!. June 22, 2010. 
  20. ^ Severino, Anthony (February 3, 2011). "Top 10 Old School Mortal Kombat Characters". Game Revolution. Retrieved December 23, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Mortal Kombat III". GamePro (67) (IDG). February 1995. p. 148. 
  22. ^ Mortal Kombat II (GEN) FAQ/Move List by ineluki, GameFAQs, November 1st, 1994
  23. ^ GamePro 68 (March 1995)
  24. ^ Shaw, Patrick (2010-05-31). "The 12 LAMEST Fatalities, Feature Story from GamePro". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 2013-11-15. 
  25. ^ "UGO.com Games - Top 11 Mortal Kombat Fatalities". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 2013-11-15. 
  26. ^ Mortal Kombat's Best And Worst Fatalities, Game Informer, May 03, 2010
  27. ^ Top 10 Mortal Kombat Fatalities, ScrewAttack, August 1, 2010
  28. ^ Top 10 Worst Mortal Kombat Fatalities, ScrewAttack, August 29, 2010
  29. ^ "IGN's Unofficial Top 10 List of the Best Mortal Kombat Fatalities - PS3 Feature at IGN". Uk.ps3.ign.com. Retrieved 2013-11-15. 
  30. ^ "Top 10 Mortal Kombat Fatalities". WatchMojo.com. Retrieved 2014-01-31. 

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