Mortal Kombat’s Guest Character Problem

In 2009 the developers of the beloved Mortal Kombat franchise filed for Bankruptcy after several quarterly losses. Warner Brothers purchased the IP from Midway and the studio was reborn under Netherrealms Studios and their first game was a soft reboot of the franchise. 2011’s Mortal Kombat was a breath of fresh air for the nearly vacant fighting game scene that year and stands as one of the best fighting games of the decade and one of the strongest entries in the series overall. 

…The horrible story not withstanding of course(be honest now). 

Naturally there was a follow-up after they experimented with the engine a bit for Injustice:Gods Among Us. Mortal Kombat X, or MKX for short, was…well…okay if we’re going to be totally honest MKX is a major step down from MK9 and is by far the worst entry in the new timeline. 

From relegating major characters like Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, and Kenshi to the backseat and making their kids the focus of the story there’s your first major problem. The Kombat Kids are some of the most fanfictiony stuff ever put into a video game and I, to this day, do not understand their appeal. Which brings us to Mortal Kombat 11 the, quote-unquote, most controversial entry in the series since they completely removed any sex appeal of the female cast of characters, made SUBTLE jabs at Donald Trump, turned Noob Saibot into a Misogynist for some reason, and decided that this new timeline just wasn’t working out so they hit reset again by the end of the story.  So we’ve had two timeline resets between three games…friendly reminder that the original timeline, for all its flaws, went on from 1992 to 2006(I don’t count MK vs DC Universe). 

Mortal Kombat has a major identity problem going on at the moment but that’s a topic for a different day. I bring up the new Trilogy because in MK9 we got a taste of something that was honestly fairly interesting at the time. Guest characters. 
Mortal Kombat has had DLC characters for the three previous titles. MK9 only had 4 guest characters but I feel that they handled it the best out of all three titles so far. We had two returning classics with Rain and Kenshi, a proper introduction to the long awaited Skarlet who has been rumored since Mortal Kombat 2, and finally Freddy Krueger. A surprising entrant but neat nonetheless. 

50% highly anticipated returns, 25% new character, and 25% guest character. Solid balance, no problems here. 

Let’s take a look at MKX. We have Goro, a preorder bonus, Tanya who is IN the story mode, Tremor a character who hasn’t been seen since the abysmal Special Forces, Bo’ Rai Cho another character who is in the story mode, Triborg a poor attempt at getting Smoke, Cyrax, and Sektor all in the game without giving them all variations, and four, count em, four guest characters with Jason Vorhees, Predator, Leatherface, and Alien. 

Oh boy…This is just insulting. Not counting Goro as a preorder bonus who eventually went up for sale, the only returning classic characters are two of the most unpopular characters with Bo, Rai Cho and the underdeveloped Tanya. Both of which are integral to the plot of MKX and already had in game sprites and Tanya had a moveset. Netherrealms literally sold us on disc DLC characters who should have just been playable from the get go. 
At least Triborg is fun to use on his Smoke Variation and it’s not a totally horrendous idea, just cheap execution. 

Then we have the guest characters. Since Freddy was a guest character in MK9 you can kinda get away with Jason Vorhees. But since we have banter before fights why would you want to include a character who never talks? The same goes for Alien and Predator. I mean Predator is the most fitting out of all the guest characters in MKX and it is kinda cool to see him kicking ass. 

But then we have Leatherface and I will maintain that he is without a doubt the worst guest character in Mortal Kombat history. Jason Vorhees is an undead serial killer with superhuman strength and endurance, Freddy Krueger is a demonic master of dreams, Alien is a highly advanced bio weapon that bleeds acid, the Predator is an Alien with high tech weaponry who hunts and kills the strongest warriors for sport and Leatherface is…just some crazy hillbilly with a chainsaw. He just doesn’t fit in Mortal Kombat and his dialog consists of screaming incoherently. So that’s four characters who don’t work with the new banter system since none of them talk. 

There were 8 dlc characters for MKX, 50% guest, 25% debuting, and the remainder are characters who already had movesets either from the previous game or built into the story mode. It’s ridiculously lopsided in favor of crossover appeal and if I wanted Crossover appeal I would play King of Fighters. Which brings me to Mortal Kombat 11…look. I enjoy Mk11 way more than MKX, I’ve put countless hours into mastering Subzero to a point where I even play competitively for the first time in years, so take what I say with a grain of salt but…I think it’s a baby step in the right direction. 

The current confirmed characters are Shang Tsung, Nightwolf, Sindel, Terminator, The Joker, and Spawn…maybe Ash Williams as well but that rumor appears to be squashed at the time of writing this though it won’t surprise me if they make a deal later. 

Three Returning iconic characters who are beloved by fans, a super cyborg, the most fitting guest character in Mortal Kombat history with Spawn and…the Joker. Well…he fits better than Leatherface does and he is culturally relevant since The Joker movie is a box office juggernaut and something something Terminator Dark Fate. 
There’s a rumor that more DLC characters are coming down the pipeline and it appears that we’re going to see more classic characters returning and they’re taking a step back from guest characters for the time being. 

But Netherrealms has a good track record of disappointing me to no end. They still have this guest character problem even if they appear to have corrected the course.  When one of the key developers of Mortal Kombat 11 talks about how it doesn’t matter what the fans think about returning characters then there’s a major problem at NRS. From a practical standpoint I get it. Your audience should not dictate the direction of your product but rather you should only do what you feel is necessary to make it a good product and hope that the audience will be there to support it. The issue isn’t with that, the issue is with this major disconnect that NRS has with their fanbase. 

Consider the Following for MK11. Cyrax and Sektor are both plot central but neither one is playable despite having movesets. Chances are they’ll be playable as DLC in the future but that’s ANOTHER example of on disc DLC that we’ll have to buy and if they don’t include those two popular characters later on then it will just disappoint the fans even more. It’s lose/lose when they just should have made them playable from the get go. Also consider how many characters are referenced in MKX and MK11 or even fully seen in the story mode like Li Mei, Sareena,  Fujin, Sheeva, the previously mentioned Cyrax and Sektor, Smoke, Stryker, and even the severed head of Hsu Hao makes an appearance in one of Erron Black’s intros. 

What is the point of having so many iconic characters bopping around the story mode but not be playable? Now I’m not arguing that they pull a Mortal Kombat Armageddon and make every single solitary character playable in one game(as nice as that would be) I’m merely asking them one simple request.

If you go out of your way to make brand new character models, hire voice actors and actresses, and make them plot central in some form or another, then please just make them playable instead of worthless characters like Leatherface. 

Is it so wrong to ask for a Mortal Kombat game to have Mortal Kombat characters and maybe a guest or two? I’m not trying to be a downer here because I do honestly think MK11 righted some of the wrongs in MKX but it still made some of the same mistakes and even added a couple of them that weren’t present before. 

For all it’s faults and foibles I love this franchise. I’ve been in love with this franchise since I was 5 years old and thought that Mortal Kombat was the greatest movie of all time and that Mortal Kombat Annihilation was just as good. Hell, I even watched and enjoyed Defenders of the Realm growing up.

I’m not asking Mortal Kombat to love me back or for Ed Boon to bottle up some sweet gamer boy eyebrow sweat. But I’d love it if Mortal Kombat gave us some more classic characters and Netherrealms stopped jerking us around with guest character slots that could have went to fan favorites who haven’t been playable since 2006. 
13 years since Mavado, Reiko, Havik, Li Mei, Nitara, Ashrah, Onaga, and hell I’d even welcome back Kira and Kobra. They could actually develop them a little better this time around. 

…You can keep Mokap, though.