Why Mortal Kombat Keeps Adding 80s Action Movie Stars



Rambo was announced as one of the next DLC characters for Mortal Kombat 11, but why does NetherRealm keep adding classic action stars to their game?

Three new fighters are making their way to the Mortal Kombat 11 roster. It was recently announced that the characters Rain and Mileena will be making their return to the hit fighting game, while ’80s action star, John Rambo, will be the surprise third DLC character. With his addition to the roster, Rambo joins characters likes RoboCop and the Terminator as classic blockbuster action stars to join the ranks of Mortal Kombat 11. This ’80s nostalgia might seems a little random to some fans, but it’s actually deeply rooted in the history of Mortal Kombat.

The Mortal Kombat series, like so many others, has seen meteoric highs and subterranean lows. In the early ’90s, when Mortal Kombat first debuted, the fighting series was cutting-edge, with realistic graphics and gory fatality finishing moves. Anybody who was anybody was playing Mortal Kombat. But as the years went on, attempts to keep the series fresh just made each game worse. By the early 2000’s, Mortal Kombat had become a shell of its former self and the laughing stock of the fighting game community. It wasn’t until Warner Brothers bought out Midway Games that the series finally saw some life once again. After the purchase, WB rebranded Midway’s Mortal Kombat team as NetherRealm Studios. Two years later, the series would see a reboot with 2011’s Mortal Kombat, which has helped usher in a new era of Mortal Kombat fandom.

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The most recent games in the Mortal Kombat series have helped introduce the franchise to an entire generation of new, younger gamers, but the people who originally grew up playing the classic fighting game are still the core fanbase. Most of these fans who grew up playing the original Mortal Kombat lived through the ’80s and have a strong sense of nostalgia for the decade. This nostalgia is something NetherRealm has taken advantage of through Mortal Kombat’s DLC characters. The newer entries in the Mortal Kombat series play a lot like the classic games, but they lack that certain nostalgia people get from playing the originals. To fix that problem, NetherRealm has taken advantage of Warner Brother’s extensive collection of intellectual properties to remind players of when Mortal Kombat was young.

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Mortal Kombat 11

Excluding any returning Mortal Kombat characters, MK11‘s DLC has added five characters through Warner Brothers licensing: John Rambo, RoboCop, the Terminator, Spawn, and the Joker. The Joker is a timeless character, but the other four feel a bit timestamped. The original movies starring Rambo, RoboCop, and the Terminator released between 1982-1987, well before most people playing MK11 were born. While Spawn’s film came out in 1997, a decade later than the previous three mentioned, the character just feels like a relic of the ’90s, as there hasn’t really been anything Spawn-related pop up in the cultural zeitgeist in 20 years, outside of a few video game and comic appearances here and there. Even rumored Mortal Kombat DLC characters fall into the same ’80s bucket, as it’s been said Ash from The Evil Dead was once suppose to be added to the game, but was then cancelled.

Even MK10 was guilty of this clear nostalgia trip. Characters like Jason Voorhees, the Xenomorph from Alien, the Predator, and Leatherface all have a nice horror, slasher theme, but they’re also fairly dated characters. Attempts at rebooting each character’s respective franchise have been mixed, with none of the characters seeing the heights of their popularity reach what they once were in the ’80s. Between the WB-owned characters added in MK10 & 11, it’s clear NetherRealm is trying to make older fans of the game happy rather than excite newer players.

For as clear of an ’80s trip as this is, it also shows some of the limitations of Warner Brother’s licensing. For as much as these characters are ’80s pop culture icons, they’re some of the best characters available to add to the game outside of DC characters. It would be great to see NetherRealm add a newer WB IP to the game, but their choices are limited. It’s hard to imagine someone like Harry Potter joining Mortal KombatAs much as this is NetherRealm satisfying older fans, they’re also taking the best of what WB has to offer Mortal Kombat 11.

Next: Why Tommy Vercetti Should Be MK11’s Next DLC Fighter

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