mortal kombat arcade machine

Mortal Kombat arcade machine. This game first coined the phrase “Bad publicity is good publicity”. It was seen to be in the same league as Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”. Unlike gaming’s previous bad boy predecessors Pac-Man and Space Invaders- This game pretty much warranted the criticism.

Space Invaders and Pac Man were innovators of an emerging genre of video game. The addictive properties of these superbly playable titles scared parents accordingly. However Mortal Kombat was unashamedly violent. A western take on the defining Street Fighter 2- this game captured the hearts and minds of teenage gamers. The fatalities were awesome and i remember seeing them was a real treat for me. 

On a personal note Ben and I (fellow co-founder of this here company) used to play Mortal Kombat II on a friend’s 486 DX2 PC 66 mhz of raw power) on a Microsoft Sidewinder game pad. I seem to remember it being arcade perfect… Good times…

  • Mortal Kombat Evo Jamma Cabinet from the left

    mortal kombat evo cabaret jamma commercial arcade cabinet

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  • Mortal Komabat 2 Evo Jamma Cabinet from the left

    mortal kombat 2 evo jamma commercial arcade cabinet

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The advent of the ESRB rating system

This game actually prompted the employment of the ESRB system. In other words- as movies had appropriate ratings so should games. On balance- it’s easy to see why.

The brazen bloodletting was bound to kick up a storm and it did just that, particularly in terms of sales which soared. Back in 1992 this game was well- a game changer. In brief, companies are now catering for a more mature audience and so it continued.

metroplex grinding gears 768x540 by Bespoke Arcades

Bespoke Arcades and Mortal Kombat

Here at Bespoke Arcades, we have a love especially for all things Mortal Kombat. Not only is the game engrained in Ben’s and my youth. But also we’ve had the privilege of supplying Warner Bros with Mortal Kombat arcade machines for not only promotion but also for tournament play. This is in short, a testament to the rugged controls and faith that was bestowed upon us. Our control systems are singularly designed to handle the world’s best one on one gamers. 

Back in the days of Mortal Kombat 9 the only true way to have lag and hassle free gaming was to modify original controllers. I still shudder at the minute points i had to solder onto. Now it’s a far more refined and stable affair. If you want Xbox One and Playstation 4 compatibility we take the time to bi-wire every button so you can’t tell the difference. In 2020 there’s a lot going on under the hood of a hopped up Bespoke Arcades control panel. We should also finally mention that now next-gen compatibility means you can play Mortal Kombat 11 on either Xbox one or PS4- both consoles are catered for now at the same time ;). Above all- you can play Mortal Kombat on and Arcade machine- as it was meant to be played…

Mortal Kombat Arcade Machine

Our Nu-Gen steps up to the plate

So Warner Bros first of all  approached us way back in 2009 for the reboot of the franchise in Mortal Kombat 9 and they wanted a few Mortal Kombat arcade machines. Of course we obliged and in turn a relationship was formed. This continued onto Mortal Kombat X and the use of our Nu-Gen machines which were also used for Injustice: God’s Among Us. These cabinets were hauled around Europe at various expos and tournaments. As the machines never miss a heartbeat we were therefore also used for Mortal Kombat 11 and Injustice 2. In conclusion every single one of the 10 came back battered, abused but fully functional…

mk11 nugen from right by Bespoke Arcades

metroplex mid game transformers war for cybertron by Bespoke Arcades

metroplex mid game transformers war for cybertron 768x508 by Bespoke Arcades

Bespoke Arcades Premium Machines

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    The best-regarded, award winning classic compact 20” square-screen 2 player upright arcade machine. Fits anywhere.

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  • Evo Arcade Cabinets

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  • Nu-Gen Arcade Cabinets

    Nu-Gen Arcade Cabinets

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Nu Gen Twin Screen Black 171 150x150 by Bespoke Arcades

The inception of the Mortal Kombat Arcade Machine

So let’s roll back to the days of 1991. Universal Soldier was coming out and Jean-Claude Van Damme was at the height of kicking really high. Let’s face it- on balance Kickboxer and Bloodsport are timeless classics. They might not win an Oscar but it was as close to live-action Street Fighter 2 as possible (in my opinion closer than the junk actual movie starring JVCD, Kylie and the late, great Raul Julia). Another obvious influence in particular was John Carpenter’s cult hit “Big Trouble in Little China” thanks to (perhaps my favourite character) Raiden.

Apparently (one half of the easter egg ninja Noob Saibot) John Tobias approached his then boss Ed Boon (the other half and both pictured here) about creating a more mature, one on one fighting game based on a Bloodsport licence.

bose logo gif by Bespoke Arcades

With Street Fighter 2 doing the rounds and operators raking in the coinage, a green light was given. This is evident with Johnny Cage’s character who is obviously meant to be “The Muscles from Brussels”. Obviously the Bloodsport licence never materialised, however after all things considered- development continued.

We all know and love the name Mortal Kombat yet did you have any idea of previous names? Well one was “Fatality” Which is pretty apt considering. However other names were “Dragon Attack” and “Death Blow” apparently. I think we all prefer the final name for the series. So who was the originator of the legendary name “Mortal Kombat”?

None other than legendary pinball designer Steve Ritchie. He noticed the misspelling and suggested it’s inclusion in the title.

Button layout / Gameplay mechanics

The original Mortal Kombat Arcade machine came with a rather unique control panel. The button layout comprises of 2 punch, 2 kick and 1 block button. Obviously much of the gameplay mechanics was gleaned from Street Fighter 2. Considering this was the game which kick-started the genre we all know and love today- it’s no surprise. However Mortal Kombat did include a significant gameplay first (amongst others) Juggling. “Juggling” refers to continually being able to batter your opponent whilst he’s helpless mid- air.

And the most well-known first were the media headline grabbing Fatalities. These allow the player to perform an overly gruesome execution on your energy depleted enemy.

Like Grand Theft Auto- Mortal Kombat scooped up all negative the hype and channeled it into teenagers and gamers of the day wanting, no- needing the game. The skilled marketeers at Midway knew the gratuitous violence would get tongues wagging and added the fatalities for extra measure.

  • mk11 nugen from left2 by Bespoke Arcades


    Allow the player to morph into an animal.

  • mk11 nugen from right 600x814 by Bespoke Arcades


    Performs a combo of “Killer Instinct” style blows.

  • mk11 nugen from right 768x1042 by Bespoke Arcades

    Hara Kiri

    Why kill your opponent- take your own life instead…

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  • mk11 nugen from right 221x300 by Bespoke Arcades


    Change your enemy into a baby.

  • mk11 nugen from right 755x1024 by Bespoke Arcades


    Make love, not war and give a present instead.

  • mk9 by Bespoke Arcades


    Donate a little health so the fight can play on.

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Overarching story

Well its a complicated one featuring realms, gods and deep, deep mythology. For the first Mortal Kombat arcade machine Raiden is the good God in charge of Earth’s legendary heroes- Johnny Cage, Liu Kang, Sonya Blade amongst others. The bad guy is Shang Tsung (no relation to Sheng Long :). Shang’s right hand man (he has 4) is Goro. Incidentally, Goro is the only character who isn’t captured video footage from actors.

As the franchise matures so does the storyline which to be honest is a tad confusing. But rest assured it allows swathes of new characters to join the ranks of Kano, Sub Zero and the rest of the gang. Mortal Kombat has always been a firm fan favourite of cosplayers due to the great design and digitisation of actual actors which means participants can be very literal and get as close to the real actors as possible.

And so as Mortal Kombat 2 ensues, the storyline evolves as well as the character roster. One thing is apparent- its really complicated. There are other realms and to be honest there are more important things to focus on researching in this article. To be perfectly frank- it confused me, i need some kind of map / chart to decipher the mythology…

mortal kombat 11 logo 01 ps4 us 10dec18 768x182 by Bespoke Arcades

The movie franchise

Suffice to say- this movie was awesome. Christopher Lambert has the star power to pull off Raiden. Incidentally- he was great in “Fortress” a classic prison breakout movie set in dystopian future (kinda like now, almost…) If you’re reading this- you have no doubt seen Mortal Kombat – The Movie and i think we’re all in agreement that it’s leagues better than Street Fighter – The Movie. The game also sucked the big one too, slow, clunky and uninspired like it’s subject matter.

However Mortal Kombat’s offering was awesome, even the theme tune by Utah Saints was a memorable one. Not to mention Orbital’s Halcyon whose anthem holds special memories seeing them live in various festivals back in the day… The movie’s storyline was really close to the game’s so I was confused a lot of the time…

  • Johnny Cage

    Your archetypal cocky movie star. Considered the comic relief of the bunch and as said before- based on John Claude Van Damme. Moreover when you play the story mode in Mortal Kombat X you can see he’s a more serious, less cocky version of his former self. Johnny and Sonya have a daughter called Cassie who is introduced in the same game. He is incidentally- the only original character to not have any other beef with any other characters in the game.

  • Kano

    For one thing the red eye signifies he’s not the most savoury of characters. Apparently he is the arch enemy of Sonya and Johnny Cage. He is the leader of the Black Dragon cartel and has been deported from both the United States and Japan alike. Consequently he is also wanted in 35 countries. Kano entered the original Mortal Kombat tournament to loot Shang Tsung’s riches. He was however followed by the Cynthia Rothrock lookalike- Sonya Blade. We later find out in the story that Jax is responsible for Kano’s eye and subsequent faceplate (obviously inspired by the Terminator). 

  • Liu Kang

    Generally speaking, he is the main defender of the Earth realm. He was chiefly designed to be the most accessible character to play with. Moreover, the special moves are easy to perform and he remains perhaps the most popular character in the franchise. This could in part be due to his primary role in the movies. He is meant to come from Shaolin origins, hence his fatality isn’t as gory as his fellow compatriots. The live actor who played Liu Kang perhaps is the most well known out of them all- Ho Sung Pak and has been in quite a few films and videogames.

  • Raiden

    He’s the good God- to put it differently Boswell to Charlie’s Angels, or Devon to Michel Knight, or Nick Fury to The Avengers. Like a nerd I can go on… But you get the picture. Raiden (sometimes spelt Rayden) is responsible for personally choosing the warriors to defend Earth. As said before he is admirably played by Christopher Lambert in the movie. He is based on the Japanese Thunder God Raijin and obviously bears a resemblance to that bad lightning wielding dude in Big Trouble in Little China.

  • Scorpion

    Scorpion is the one character who all in all has featured in all iterations of the Mortal Kombat series except Mortal Kombat 3. He is basically a “Hellspawn”- an undead spectre hell bent on revenge after being killed by a member of Sub Zero’s clan- the Lin Kuei. They also killed his family so Scorpion is miffed and has been waiting in the Nether realm to kick some icy butt… He hires his services to anyone who will assist him in his quest to avenge his wife Harumi and son Satoshi’s demise.

  • Sonya Blade

    A hugely popular character who has appeared in nearly all the games. She is a Special Forces Commander hot on the tails of Kano. In addition, she hails from Austin, Texas and her father was also in the military. Sonya Blade’s character plays a significant role in the movies and various other Mortal Kombat related series. Johnny Cage is her Ex husband by Mortal Kombat 11 and their daughter played a part in finally catching the elusive Kano.

  • Sub Zero

    Now he is apparently 2 different guys wearing the same suit. It’s either Kuai Liang or later on-  his brother Hi-Ban depending on the timeline. They are both members of the Lin Kuei Clan. Moreover they have the ability to do funky stuff with ice aside from party tricks… Whereas Kuai Liang was somewhat of a scoundrel, Hi-Ban is shown to be the more heroic and honourable of the two defending Earth realm against it’s enemies in later titles.

  • Goro

    So Goro is half man, half dragon and is a member of the Shokan race. He is the only character to not originate from digitisations of  live action actors. Instead he was made with clay and using stop motion technology was brought to life. You would think Goro is all evil being the right hand man of Shang Tsung, however in later versions of the game he is on the side of good. But by the time of the Gamecube release- he is back on the side of evil where he belongs.

  • Shang Tsung

    The archetypal arch villain. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa played him awesomely in the movie, he is a shapeshifting evil warlock and arch enemy of Liu Kang. He takes souls in order to stay young, he also absorbs their knowledge and power. It’s a pretty good skill but wont make you many friends. This character is highly regarded and ranked 17th in “Evil masterminds of all time” in a 2009 poll which shows his popularity amongst gamers.

Mortal Kombat showers the players with Easter eggs

A favourite staple of all Mortal Kombat fans are the Easter eggs injected into all the games. Undoubtedly my personal favourite is the “Dad’s Code” cheat found in the lesser known Sega Mega CD version. This cheat changes all the characters’ names into those of the classic iconically British TV series “Dad’s Army”. I’m sure you will find this hard to believe so here are some photos for you to gasp at 😉

ben apex 150x150 by Bespoke Arcades

Tomohiro nishikado by Bespoke Arcades

ben apex 100x100 by Bespoke Arcades

ben 150x150 by Bespoke Arcades

beat frenzy by Bespoke Arcades