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The absolute best fatalities in every Mortal Kombat game

There's an old foodie saying that cake is little more than a delivery device for frosting. In this same regard, the particulars of Mortal Kombat have long been so much pretense to what a lot of players are really here to see: the booming voice that bellows "FINISH HIM," the dramatic darkening of the screen, and the sudden burst of horrifying yet ever-so-satisfying violence that ends your opponent for good. In the end, we're all here for the Fatalities.

And so, we dedicate this piece to the very best in incredible over-the-top vengeance delivered by the main games in the Mortal Kombat series. Some are fun, some are funny, most are gross, but all of them are proof positive that when you absolutely need to see your enemies annihilated beyond all semblance of restraint, honor, or respect for the laws of human anatomy, nobody does it better than Mortal Kombat.

Mortal Kombat (1992): Sub-Zero - Spine Rip

It's funny how time and progress works. The fact that the original seven Fatalities were once considered shocking enough to warrant a Congressional hearing is laughable in an age where this is the new gold standard.

Still, in the age of elaborate finishers there's something to be said for getting right down to business, and of the original seven, Sub-Zero just casually ripping out his opponent's spine like a champagne cork hits just the right balance of ruthlessly efficient and immensely gross that a Fatality should.

Runner-up: Kano – Heart Rip

Kano's fatality follows in the same vein, with the added bonus of giving us all warm fuzzy nostalgia from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, complete with still-beating heart. The cherry on top is that look on Kano's face, the one that almost says, "Wow, I actually did it; for a second there, not gonna lie, I actually didn't know that was gonna work or not."

Mortal Kombat 2: Kung Lao - The Hat Trick

Aside from the jump from the original, forgotten (and honestly not great) Street Fighter to Street Fighter 2, it's rare to see a sequel that so thoroughly amps everything up from the first game, but Mortal Kombat 2 most definitely does that, by a matter of exponents. Naturally, the Fatalities are a huge part of that, but even in such imaginative company as Liu Kang turning into a dragon or Jax ripping off arms, the gory particulars of Kung Lao slicing his opponent in half, and having the two halves fall apart in explicit (for 1992, anyway) detail definitely takes the cake in terms of Ed Boon and John Tobias advancing ideas for the sequel.

Runner-Up: Shang Tsung – Kintaro Morph

Though we expect disgust, catharsis, sometimes even fear from a good Fatality, oddly enough, you don't see much in terms of the element of surprise. And even across the span of all these games, surprises don't get much eye-popping than tiny, annoying Shang Tsung morphing into a four-armed tiger-gorilla-beast-man, and before you can even process that information, having said tiger-gorilla-beast-man punch his opponent's torso all the way across a stage.

Mortal Kombat 3/Ultimate MK3: Sindel - Fatal Scream

Mortal Kombat 3 is around the time the series started devolving from its original, vicious fantasy into the ridiculousness out of a Looney Tunes short. And so, you have a slew of Fatalities which are just either eye-rollingly bad or more hilarious than anything else.

Still, a few gems still stand out from the mix, and Sindel taking her scream ability to its extreme is certainly one of them, especially given how it leaves a rather nauseating, sonically flesh-stripped corpse in its wake. It's quick and dirty, but it certainly hits the spot in ways the rest of the finishers in Mortal Kombat 3 do not.

Runner-Up: Reptile – Acid Bath

On a similar note, Reptile's Fatality is one of the few that actually achieves deliberate horror, leaving not just a stripped corpse, but a sickening puddle that looks like what happens when you expose a Gremlin to sunlight.

Mortal Kombat 4: Quan Chi - Shake A Leg

Mortal Kombat 4 is the one that takes the series into 3D, and like a lot of franchises, most of its mechanics feel more like weird little experiments rather than pre-conceived visions. That's all to say, a lot of the Fatalities have more fun making heads and body parts fly at the player in 3D than being brutal.

Quan Chi's Fatality isn't much different. It's one of the more comedic Fatalities, but the rare one that absolutely works through sheer repetitive absurdity. Specifically, the repeated groans every time Quan Chi beats his enemy on the ground with their own dismembered leg is so good, it's just criminal there isn't a ten-hour video of it on YouTube yet.

Runner-Up: Tanya – Neck Break

Tanya's Fatalities border on the absurd in MK4, especially with this one essentially defying the laws of anatomy. But there's always been something disturbing about the aftermath as the opponent's neck unwinds, with nothing but a sickening sound of flesh grinding against bone to show for their efforts before they drop dead.

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance: Scorpion - Spearhead

Right around this time was when we started to see a new and delightful class of Fatality: the logistical error Fatality. With the power of the 128-bit systems — and also, likely, not having to consider arcade sensibilities — Fatalities become lavish productions instead of quick and dirty maimings. A lot of the Deadly Alliance finishers use the extra choreography for pure dramatic effect. Scorpion's, on the other hand, uses it for pure embarrassing overkill.

Old Flamehead's Fatality would've been perfectly cringey had it just been a spear to the head. But no. The spear gets stuck, and trying to be smooth and get it out with style just makes things just so. Much. Worse.

Runner-Up: Johnny Cage – Brain Damage

Johnny Cage's Fatality pretty much speaks for itself, and is just brutal. The fun part is wondering if this is really what Johnny was after all those years of punching folks' heads off.

Mortal Kombat: Deception: Sub-Zero - Here's the Pitch

Really, logistically, there's nothing particularly special about Sub-Zero's Fatality here; it's another instance of him figuring out new and improved ways to shatter a frozen corpse. There's just this special, hostile level of stank on his Mortal Kombat: Deception Fatality that takes it from just a simple kill to a straight up post-mortem insult. Seriously, you can almost imagine the sneering "Go f*** yourself" coming from under Sub-Zero's mask right there. And if you can't imagine it, well, thanks to Seth Rogen, you technically don't have to.

Runner-Up: Darrius – Rearranged

As mentioned, every once in a while, the comedy Fatalities get it right. There's nothing logical whatsoever about what's happening in Darrius' Fatality. The absurdity factor alone is good, but the little questioning "But is it art?" noises he makes before giving his creation the sweet chin music (well, this case, sweet foot clavicle music?) is just delightful.

Mortal Kombat: Armageddon: Wastelands Catapult Death Trap

Aside from some crucial lore stuff going on leading directly into MK9, nobody talks about Armageddon as a game, and for one very big, baffling reason: Armageddon eschews the normal character specific Fatalities for a weird Build-A-Bear Fatality workshop that lets you smack your opponents around before going in for a mediocre kill. None of those are worth mentioning, and that's absolutely a shame.

However, some salvation does lie in the Death Trap Fatalities this time around. Particularly, this hilarious one in the wastelands, which is basically a hyperviolent Wile E. Coyote catapult maneuver gone wrong. Things get serious as hell from here on, so, hey, why not end the original timeline on a joke.

Runner-Up: Subway Death Trap

Sure, it's just a rehash of one of MK3's minor stage finishers, but ten years and a whole lot more gory detail goes a long way. The original felt like a fast gag (also, no subway's train tracks are that clean, real talk, folks), while Armageddon's Subway is just … oof.

Mortal Kombat (2011): Scorpion - Nether Gate

Mortal Kombat took five years off between Armageddon and MK9, and whatever Ed Boon and his team did in that meantime, they went back to work with a mean streak a mile wide. MK9 came back with some of the most distressingly horrific Fatalities imaginable, and somehow, in the Common Era 2019, the well of violent depravity is bottomless.

Despite the, er, juicier Fatalities in the game, though, Scorpion's keeps things comparatively classy and Clive Barker-esque, tossing a speared opponent through a portal who comes out the other side mutilated and hung, which is the kind of Grand Guignol madness fans were hoping to see when Scorpion drags an enemy to Hell instead of whatever this was supposed to be.

Runner-Up: Noob Saibot – Make A Wish

In the realm of the more horrific, though, it doesn't get much more brutal than Noob Saibot splitting an opponent in half, but instead of the elegant Kung Lao way, they just pull a leg each and hope for the best. That's just … not a way for a person to go out.

Mortal Kombat X: Ermac - Inner Workings

There's really no introduction that can really do this one justice other than to say that after 20 years, Mortal Kombat finally goes full on into the realm of unfathomable horror. Ermac's Mortal Kombat X Finisher is pure, grade-A nightmare fuel, the kind of Fatality you couldn't even consider prior to the current gen, because how could it not look a bit silly.

Here though, every inch of digestive tract, every drop of blood, every displaced sinew is lovingly rendered, and it happens with the kind of excruciating cadence you only see in banned Italian horror flicks. It. Is. SICK.

But, in its twisted way, it's brilliantly executed.

Runner-Up: Cassie Cage – Selfie

There's a bit of the disgusting in Cassie Cage's Fatality too, because the initial *thwack!* with her baton is horrifying by itself, but the hanging, gory maw where a mouth used to be? More so.

But posting a selfie with her unfortunate victim to whatever passes for Facebook in the world of Mortal Kombat? Absolutely priceless.

Honorable mention: Mortal Kombat vs DC/Mortal Kombat (2011) - The Killing Joke

So, hey, remember that time Mortal Kombat crossed over with the DC universe? Don't worry, you didn't miss a whole lot. At all. While the weird experiment did serve as the basis for what would eventually become the far more respectable Injustice series, the two universes were just plain wrong for each other in ways that Marvel and Capcom weren't. But, hey, hindsight's 20/20 and all.

Still, there was one awesome thing that happened during the course of the game, and that was the Joker's Fatality. The Clown Prince of Crime pulls a gun, fires, and a "BANG!" flag pops out. He cackles, the dazed opponent rolls their eyes, which is when the Joker pulls the real deal. It's a pitch-perfect, darkly hilarious finisher, completely on brand for the character. So of course, it's the one thing that had to be edited out of the North American version of the game in order for it to keep a T-rating from the ESRB. The censored result is … disappointing.

NetherRealm would eventually get a small measure of retribution, however, when MK9 rolled out and, free from any ESRB-related shackles, they were able to give Shang Tsung a familiar — but much, much more gruesome — song-and-dance to perform.