Thanks to the popularity of 1991’s Street Fighter II, fighting games had become a hot property. It was only a matter of time before a savvy game designer would identify what made SFII such a hit, expand on it, and release it as a new best-selling game. Hence, October 1992 saw the release of Midway’s Mortal Kombat in arcades across NorthAmerica.

From the very moment it hit arcades, Mortal Kombat immediately drew the ire of concerned parents and news media outlets alike. In contrast to Street Fighter II’s ‘cartoony’ aesthetic, Mortal Kombat used digitized photos of actors to make the game look realistic. This, combined with excessive in-game gore and bloodshed, helped fuel the case that video games were desensitizing youth to violence and should be monitored. This really was a sign of the times, as the early nineties were best known for its witch hunts to identify and condemn everything and anything that may be corrupting the youth of America (for example, Beavis and Butthead, rap music, Dungeons & Dragons, heavy metal music, etc).

Had Mortal Kombat stayed in the arcades, this probably would’ve blown over, but when it was revealed that versions of the game would be released for the home console market, moral outrage hit a fever pitch. Mortal Kombat was released on both the SNES and SEGA Genesis on Sept 13 1993, and both companies took their own steps to address concerns about the game’s violence. Nintendo’s solution was to remove all the gratuitous brutality from the game (ex: removing heads mounted on pikes in backgrounds, omitting some of the more graphic fatalities, and recoloring the blood from red to grey. SEGA also made the same changes, but “accidentally” leaked a cheat code that could revert the game back to its original gory glory.

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