Fighting games are far from being beacons of realism. We all know that, aside from the obviously fatal finishers, the punches and crushes alone should be putting these characters out. But if the characters died when they were supposed to, we wouldn't have a game. Right? Not quite. In Mortal Kombat, death is little more than a plot mechanic and it's a bit perplexing.
Why Is Everyone In Mortal Kombat Immortal?
The easy answer is probably "money", but the more thoughtful reason behind the inherent invincibility of the characters is not as straightforward. There's plenty of validity behind the idea that keeping these characters alive is what makes Mortal Kombat such a sustainable series but there's a lot going on in the story that continues to give the question of mortality a lot of weight in debate.
What Does The Canon Have To Say?
Believe it or not, the Mortal Kombat series does have a canon. The general rule is that the gameplay itself isn't canon but the cutscenes and tower endings are. This makes sense since your mileage may vary when it comes to the fights. However, even this simple rule doesn't quite cover what sticks and what doesn't. Especially when it comes to character death.
The question isn't whether or not MK characters die. They do! In the canon, the characters of MK die—many times over, in fact. They just don't stay dead. According to the story, years of warring and realm claiming has left the Mortal Kombat universe full of tears in reality and there are plenty of characters that would rather leave it that way than restore peace.
The tears facilitate everything from resurrections to time travel, which does a pretty good job of nipping that death issue in the bud. But even this sufficiently airtight solution doesn't stop fans of the series from trying to get to the bottom of what may be #MortalKombat's greatest weakness.
What Do The Fans Think?
Time and time again, Mortal Kombat has proven (rather ironically) that death means nothing and this experience has become somewhat grating for dedicated players. You put hours of sweat, tears and finger cramps into grinding your way through the #VideoGames only to see your rival from the last game pop up again a few years down the line. Ten games in, it really starts to get to you.
Over time, it has become clear that there is an undeniable demand for more finality to the fatalities—a reward for time spent breaking bones and ripping out spines. If a true end isn't really an option (or even entirely preferable), there are players who are prepared to accept permanent scarring as a substitute. A fan in a forum suggests:
It would be nice if future resurrections more frequently resulted in the character being changed by the experience in a permanent way, a physical way that can't be forgotten over time the way psychological trauma can be glossed over or ignored by writers.
Moving forward and digging a bit deeper, another fan theory asserts that there is a sobering conclusion hidden in the story that we've already got.
Perhaps Physical Mortality Isn't What's At Stake
There could be more to it. Maybe there is something to be said about a balance of what the canon delivers and what the fans expect.
/u/DamoNikki on Reddit says:
Perhaps "Mortal Kombat" is not only the name of the tournament. Maybe it's a state of being which allows fighters to fight until the spirit is dead (lost the will to live) rather than the body. Which would explain why X-Rays like Kenshi's, Predator's, Cassie's or Kung Lao's don't immediately kill the opponent.
People can die in the realms but in a mortal kombat tournament, lives aren't being put on the line as much as the will of the fighters are. That could be why the reward of the tournament isn't only a notch on the path to takeover but an aging pause as well. You are fighting for immortality and control—not for your survival. There's plenty of time to do that outside of the arena!
I suppose you can just think of the Mortal Kombat cast as the modern Greek and Roman gods. They die to teach us a lesson and come back to keep us entertained. What are those lessons exactly? I'm not quite sure. But I have a feeling that most of them revolve around staying away from every single one of these murderous jerks at all costs.
Sick of seeing the dead respawn in the realms or should we all just stop worrying and embrace the madness?