Fatality (Mortal Kombat)
Fatality is the name given to a gameplay feature in the Mortal Kombat series of fighting video games, in which the victor of the final round in a match inflicts a brutal and gruesome finishing move onto their defeated opponent. Prompted by the announcer saying "Finish Him/Her", players have a short time window to execute a Fatality by entering a specific button and joystick combination, while positioned at a specific distance from the opponent. The Fatality and its derivations are arguably the most notable features of the Mortal Kombat series and have caused a large cultural impact and controversies.
The origins of the fatality concept has been traced back to several violent Asian martial arts media. In The Street Fighter (1974), a Japanese martial arts grindhouse film, Sonny Chiba performs x-ray fatality finishing moves, which at the time was seen as a gimmick to distinguish it from other martial arts films. In the Japanese shōnen manga and anime series Fist of the North Star (1983 debut), the protagonist Kenshiro performs gory fatalities in the form of finishing moves which consist of attacking pressure points that cause heads and bodies to explode, anticipating the fatalities of Mortal Kombat. The Japanese seinen manga and anime series Riki-Oh (1988 debut), along with its Hong Kong martial arts film adaptation Story of Ricky (1991), featured gory fatalities in the form of finishing moves similar to those that later appeared in Mortal Kombat. The 1987 fighting game Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior had also featured blood and beheadings.
While creating Mortal Kombat, Ed Boon and John Tobias started with the idea of Street Fighter II style 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). 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." Tobias recalled it differently: "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?'"
The first Fatality they did was of Johnny Cage (the only character that was created for the game at the time) punching off an opponent's head, which was created by Daniel Pesina and implemented by Boon. Tobias and former Midway Games programmer Mark Turmell stated that initially no one at Midway expected players to find the Fatalities in the game. Tobias said: "When we watched players react to the Fatalities, we knew we had no choice but to give them more."
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, the three distances being: close (means that the finishing move would not work unless the player is right next to the opponent), 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), and far (means at least one jump's length away from the opponent).
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 famous of the Fatalities), whereas Scorpion's storyline of a hellspawn ninja spectre involves the use of setting someone ablaze or using his famous 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.
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, as well as in machinima.com's list of top ten gaming memes. The 2012 film Wreck-It Ralph shows a cyborg resembling Mortal Kombat's Kano performing his signature heart-ripping Fatality move on a zombie.
By 1996, "Fatality" had become a generic gaming term for a lethal finishing move, including the official termed Fatals in the Killer Instinct series. In the game ClayFighter 63⅓ the Fatalities were 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. 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]."
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.
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.
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 Super NES and Genesis versions 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. 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 did not 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. Brutalities make a return appearance in the 2015 title Mortal Kombat X, featured as enhanced versions of certain moves used as the finishing blow in the decisive round of a fight.
Introduced in Mortal Kombat X, the fighter chosen performs a unique fatality pertaining to what faction the player is part of in the game. Each faction has five faction kills, however the player has to play continuously for one single faction to reveal every faction kill available to that particular faction.
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. In MKII, Shao Kahn would announce "Friendship... Friendship?", while in MK3 and MK:T he would say "Friendship... Friendship, Again?" While largely left out since MK3, and only alluded to in some characters' fatalities, it returned upon the release of Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath as part of a free update to the main game.
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 reminiscent 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 Brutalities appear in the Midway/DC Comics crossover game Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe as exclusive finishing moves for the DC heroes. 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 comical 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' fandom or the DC series' fandom community, as even the DC comics themselves are often far more brutal.
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 time bar 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. 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 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. It was possible for some Death Traps to kill both fighters simultaneously, in which case the round went to the player who had taken the least damage, or Player 1 if both players had full life bars.
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 Mortal Kombat II 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.
- Multality: Mortal Kombat: 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" and "Weirdalities", among others.
- Quitality: In Mortal Kombat X and Mortal Kombat 11, if a player rage quits an online multiplayer match, their character will instantly die, with the other player being awarded a win. In Mortal Kombat X, the loser’s head explodes. In Mortal Kombat 11, the loser is either blown up or impaled on a rock spike from behind.  It is the only finishing move that can only occur online.
- In December 1994, GamePro polled readers for their favorite Fatalities and published the results in their March 1995 issue. All were from MKII: Jax's "Arm Rip", Sub-Zero's "Ice Grenade", and Shang Tsung's "Soul Stealer".
- GamePro counted down their "12 Lamest Fatalities" from various fighting games in 2008. Those from Mortal Kombat were: Liu Kang's "Death by Arcade Machine" (MK3, #12); The Flash's "Tornado Slam" (MKvsDC, #11); Raiden's "Mini-Raiden" Friendship (MKII, #10); Jax's "Amazing Growing Man" (MK3, #9); Scorpion's "Penguin Egg Grenade" and Rain's "Baby Elephant Blast" Animalities (UMK3/MKT, tied at #8); Sindel's "Killer Hair" (MK3, #7), Kano's "Stomach Pounce" (MKvsDC, #5); Babalities (#3); and Kano's "Ripping Out an Invisible Heart" in the censored Super NES version of the first game (#1).
- UGO.com, in 2008, counted down their top eleven Fatalities: 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; Kabal's "Death by Face" (MK3); 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).
- In 2010, Game Informer published a list of the series' best, worst, "and downright confusing" Fatalities.
- Best: Liu Kang's "Dragon" (MKII); Sub-Zero's "Spine Rip" (MK); Reptile's "Head Snack" (MKII); Jade's "Head Gymnastics" (MK:D); Sektor's "Compactor" (MK3); Jax's "Arm Pull" (MKII); Dairou's "Ribs to the Eyes" (MK:D); and Sindel's "Scream" (MK3).
- Worst: Liu Kang's "Cartwheel" (MK); Kano's "Knee Stomp" (MKvsDC); Kitana's "Kiss of Death" (MKII); Kabal's "Inflating Head" and "Scary Face" (MK3); Rain's "Upside-Down Uppercut" (MKT); and Bo' Rai Cho's "Fart of Doom" (MK:D).
- Most confusing: Liu Kang's "Arcade Machine" (MK3); Jax's "Giant Stomp" (MK3); Johnny Cage's "Three Head Punch" (MKII); Cyrax's "Self-Destruct" (MK3); Darrius' "Rearranger" (MK:D); and Smoke's "Earth Detonation" (MK3).
- In 2010, ScrewAttack counted down their list of the top ten series Fatalities: Reptile's "Facial Surgery" (MK4); Quan Chi's "Leg Beating" (MK4); Dairou's "Ribs in the Eyes" (MK:D); Cyrax's "Trash Compactor" (MK:DA); Kano's "Skeleton Remover" (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).
- They later published a list of their top ten worst 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 "Makes You a Giraffe" (MK:DA); Raiden's "Accident" (MK:D); Reptile's Animality (UMK3); Motaro's "Head Yoink" (MKT): Liu Kang's "Cartwheel" (MK); and every finisher in MKvsDC.
- That same year, IGN also posted their "unofficial" Top 10 Fatalities: "Giant Jax" (MK3); "Strykersaurus-Rex" Animality (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).
- Prima Games, in 2014, counted down their selection of the top fifty Fatalities from the entire Mortal Kombat series, with the top ten being Baraka's "Lifting Stab" (MKII); Noob Saibot's "Make a Wish" (MK2011); Kitana's "Kiss of Death" (MKII); Johnny Cage's "Nut Buster" (MK:SM); Ermac's "Mind Over Splatter" (MK2011); the "Pit" Fatality (MK); Dairou's "Eye Stab" (MK:D); Kung Lao's "Blade Drag" (MK2011); Kano's "Heart Rip" (MK); and Sub-Zero's "Beheading, Complete with Spine" (MK).
- Midway (October 11, 2006). Mortal Kombat: Armageddon Premium Edition. Midway. Level/area: "The History of Fatalities" commentary.
- "John Tobias, Mortal Kombat co-creator | Interview | The Gameological Society". Archived from the original on 2008-05-05. Retrieved 2018-12-24.
- Stone, Sam (14 April 2020). "Mortal Kombat Legends' Jeremy Adams Explains How Scorpion's Revenge Adapts the Game". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
- King, Geoff; Krzywinska, Tanya (2002). Screenplay: Cinema/videogames/interfaces. Wallflower Press. p. 199. ISBN 978-1-903364-23-9.
- Trev (May 14, 2011). "MORTAL RIKI-OH!!!". Gameblog (in French). Retrieved 10 May 2020.
- "Bad Movie Night Toronto presents RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY". BlogTO. Annex Business Media. June 28, 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
- East, Tom (2008-01-07). "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon". Official Nintendo Magazine. Archived from the original on 2012-05-31. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
- "Mortal's Master: Programmer Ed Boon". GamePro. IDG (86): 38–40. November 1995.
- "Ten years ago, "Mortal Monday" brought us controversy, game ratings, and Mortal Kombat". 1UP.com. September 13, 2003. Archived from the original on 2011-09-10. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
- "An Oral History of 'Mortal Kombat'". MEL Magazine. 2018-11-26. Retrieved 2018-12-25.
- ARGpodcast (2018-06-26). "ARGcast Mini #14: Making Mortal Kombat with John Tobias". RetroZap. Retrieved 2018-12-24.
- Leone, Matt (January 9, 2013). "The story behind Total Carnage's confusing ending". Polygon. Vox Media. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe: Ed Boon interview". CraveOnline. 2008-10-08. Archived from the original on September 4, 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-13.
- Reynolds, Pat (March–April 2009). "Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe Strategy Guide by Pat Reynolds". Tips & Tricks. Larry Flynt Publications: 5.
- "ScrewAttack Top 10 OMGWTF Moments". ScrewAttack's Top 10. GameTrailers. July 11, 2008. Retrieved September 19, 2009.
- "Top 10 Gaming Memes". Youtube.com. 2011-01-08. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
- "The Next Generation 1996 Lexicon A to Z: Fatality". Next Generation. No. 15. Imagine Media. March 1996. p. 33.
- Best Fatalities in Video Games Archived 2013-01-16 at Archive.today, 1UP.com, May 13, 2010
- Greeson, Jeff; 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.
- "History of Mortal Kombat Mortal Kombat 3". UGO. 2008-10-28. Archived from the original on 2010-06-14. Retrieved 2010-04-21.
- "Babality!". Bbh.marpirc.net. Archived from the original on 2011-07-23. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
- Joey Cuellar and Bryan Dawson, Mortal Kombat: Deception Official Strategy Guide (Indianapolis: Pearson Education, 2005)
- Futter, Mike. "Mortal Kombat X Will Feature Over 100 Brutalstrikes". GameInformer. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
- The One Amiga 75 (Dec 1994)
- Brad Shoemaker (2006-05-28). "The First Fighting Game That Let You Just Be Friends". GameSpot. CNET Networks. Archived from the original on 2013-01-24. Retrieved 2007-12-02.
- Dan Clarke. "Mortal Kombat: Deception - XBOX" (Review). GameRankings. CNET Networks. Retrieved 2007-12-02.
- NetherRealm Studios (May 18, 2020). "Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath - Official Friendships Trailer". YouTube. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
- "The Top Ten Most Ridiculous Things to Come Out of Mortal Kombat". 4thletter!. June 22, 2010.
- Severino, Anthony (February 3, 2011). "Top 10 Old School Mortal Kombat Characters". Game Revolution. Retrieved December 23, 2013.
- "Mortal Kombat III". GamePro. No. 77. IDG. February 1995. p. 148.
- "The 16-Bit Gamer's Survival Guide". GamePro. No. 93. IDG. June 1996. p. 70.
A year ago that's what we were told: Nudalities would be in [Mortal Kombat 3]. However, Williams Entertainment changed its plans and released the game without Nudalities.
- Mortal Kombat II (GEN) FAQ/Move List by ineluki, GameFAQs, November 1st, 1994
- Moser, Cassidee. "Mortal Kombat X Will Punish You For Rage Quitting". IGN.com. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
- GamePro 68 (March 1995)
- Shaw, Patrick (2010-05-31). "The 12 LAMEST Fatalities, Feature Story from GamePro". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on October 30, 2011. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
- "UGO.com Games - Top 11 Mortal Kombat Fatalities". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on October 28, 2008. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
- Mortal Kombat's Best And Worst Fatalities, Game Informer, May 03, 2010
- Top 10 Mortal Kombat Fatalities, ScrewAttack's Top 10, ScrewAttack, August 1, 2010
- Top 10 Worst Mortal Kombat Fatalities, ScrewAttack's Top 10, ScrewAttack, August 29, 2010
- "IGN's Unofficial Top 10 List of the Best Mortal Kombat Fatalities - PS3 Feature at IGN". Uk.ps3.ign.com. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
- Workman, Robert (April 2014). "The Top 50 Mortal Kombat Fatalities of All Time: 10-1". Prima Games. Retrieved May 30, 2014.