If there’s one genre that lives or dies based on character rosters, it’s arguably the fighting game. For every character slapped on the front of a box that doesn’t resonate with a player, there’s another dozen (and often more) that likely will.
It's often weirder characters fans gravitate towards. For every player that plays Street Fighter for Ryu, there’s another that loves Dhalsim. When those same principles of inclusion are applied to other genres we get things like Overwatch - a diverse roster inspires players to try new things and gravitate towards their favourites.
Mortal Kombat is one of gaming’s most historic franchises, for better or worse, but since the excellent Mortal Kombat 9 the franchise has been on an impressive upwards trajectory - culminating in Mortal Kombat 11 which launched earlier this year.
Aside from some initial imbalance in the game’s loot and unlock economy, Mortal Kombat 11 reviewed well and sold impressively, too - bolstered by the promise of guest characters. Unlike something like Super Smash Bros, Mortal Kombat’s guest fighters are legendary for their lack of video game roots. MK9 added Freddy Krueger, before MKX leant into those horror connections by adding Leatherface, Jason Voorhees, and both Alien and Predator.
Mortal Kombat 11 released earlier this year (Picture: NetherRealm)
Alongside MKX’s additions were Tanya, a returning character from MK4, MK: Deception’s Bo’ Rai Cho, and Goro - the first game’s boss character. Add to that Tremor, a previously unused character, and Triborg (an amalgamation of Sektor, Cyrax, Smoke and Cyber-Sub Zero), and there are plenty of characters for longtime fans to enjoy - particularly in a franchise so historic, where each has their own fanbase.
MK11, however, ratchets up the impressive numbers of the base roster with six post-launch additions - but there are some huge omissions.
New additions include Spawn and The Terminator, and both have been paid impressive reverence. For one, Arnie’s exoskeleton becomes exposed as battle wears on - a property unique to that character. There’s also a strange seemingly cosplay-inspired version of Joker that appears, but the less said about that the better.
Returning to the franchise (and highly conspicuous by their earlier absence) are Shang Tsung, Sindel, and Nightwolf. The former was part of the first Mortal Kombat title, whereas the latter were both in the third game in the series.
The issue is that a whole host of characters are currently missing from MK11 and many are iconic. We’re not expecting Alien or Predator to return, but some are huge misses.
Goro was arguably not particularly well balanced in the past (perhaps owing to his roots as a non-playable character in the first game), but he and the combination of Ferra & Tor (a two-for-one fighter introduced in MKX) would go some way to making up for the lack of larger fighters in the game.
In a game where death is inconsequential from one fight to the next, why can’t Quan Chi return? He’s dead in terms of narrative, but the sorcerer was a key part of MKX - and his partnership with Shang Tsung gave Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance its title.
On a similar note, Shinnok was decapitated in MK11’s opening scene but the character was in MKX, so it seems a shame to leave him behind. There’s also the absence of Mileena who was killed in Mortal Kombat X by D’Vorah, although creator Ed Boon has teased her return could be in the pipeline.
It’s become almost memetic at this point that many Mortal Kombat characters are palette-swaps (at least in terms of appearance) of cover stars Scorpion and Sub-Zero - but the lack of ninjas on MK11’s roster is really disappointing.
Reptile is one bizarre omission - but will he become DLC? (Picture: NetherRealm)
Reptile, Ermac, Cyrax, Sektor, and Smoke are all missing. While we’d accept the last three as another Triborg, the first two feel egregious. Reptile’s vicious acid attacks have mad him a fan-favourite since his appearance in the first game as a hidden opponent.
Ermac (allegedly created by a glitch in the first title) is a telekinetic powerhouse with some of the most brutal Fatality moves in the franchise. In fact, the way that both of these characters were sought after by a fervent fanbase suggests the fans would love to see both return.
Of course, all is not lost. MK11 was announced at last year’s Game Awards, and with the next show fast-approaching in just a few short weeks, we’re hoping a second DLC announcement will be on the cards.
Unfortunately, with so many classic (or should that be Klassic?) characters missing, we’ll be returning to Mortal Kombat X and hoping more of our favourites make the jump soon.