In the world of Mortal Kombat you need to understand three things: The world is at war between the NetherRealm and the EarthRealm, a fighting tournament decides which world can take over, and horrific death is imminent when you lose the competition.
Fighting games are not known for having stories that you need to follow in order to enjoy the gameplay, but the Mortal Kombat series prides itself in having complex lore with a network of different storylines. After eleven games featuring the most brutal moves and fatalities, Mortal Kombat 1 reboots these storylines to create a new origin for the NetherRealm tournament.
Growing up in the 90s, my mom forbade Mortal Kombat in the home. I had a lot of violent fighting games in my Super Nintendo collection, but none of them were as gory or offensive as Mortal Kombat.
I fought my mom to have Mortal Kombat II in the home, stating that she was old-fashioned and that I could handle it. When she finally let me own the game, I was ready to enjoy the forbidden fruits of fatalities and violence. I found a website with all of the fatality moves and printed it at my school. By the end of the week I was proficient in Raiden’s electric body explosion, Scorpion’s scorching skull move, Jax’s arm rip, and Baraka’s head slice. I was an artist with my SNES controller, and Mortal Kombat was my canvas.
As the years passed, the thrill of playing Mortal Kombat wore off on me. The games were too hard, and I didn’t have an interest in fatalities. Then Mortal Kombat 1 came out, promising a whole new story and a fresh look at the returning roster.
Mortal Kombat 1 is the story of Liu Kang, the newly appointed god of creation and time. Liu recreates all the realms, removing the corruption and injustice that plagued the old timeline. In the new chronology, there are no more rivalries between ninja clans or evil wizards. Things start off so well. Liu Kang doesn’t anticipate, however, that evil will resurface. Shang Tsung, the old tyrant of the Outworld, is a lowly snake oil merchant in the newly created world, but a devilish sorceress returns his powers. As a typical evil wizard, he immediately invades the EarthRealm.
Chaos ensues. Liu Kang rallies the forces of good to stop the invading army. Old favorites like Johnny Cage, Kung Lao, and Kenshi travel to the EarthRealm, building up alliances with other fighters who will help stop the invasion. Things become more complicated when they discover that the EarthRealm is still full of rivalries, diseases, and troubles that threaten to further ruin Liu Kang’s perfect order. Scorpion still wants to kill Sub-Zero. Baraka still has a disease that makes him a hideous outcast. Power hungry tyrants still want to bully the weak.
I was surprised to find that Mortal Kombat 1 deals with some of the same themes found in the Bible’s creation story—namely, that evil always shows up.
The inevitability of evil in Liu Kang’s universe shows us the struggle of living in a created world that is filled with imperfect creations. It would be wonderful to have peace, friendship, and civility with everyone, but that ideal is ruined by human selfishness. When people obtain power, they often also experience greed, contempt, or jealousy. Death and destruction come with that: wars break out, homes get torn down, and lives are displaced.
God lives in the tension between His perfectly created world and our corruptive habits. He mourns that His creation rebels against order, justice, and fairness. Yet despite humanity’s constant disobedience, God has woven a path to redemption into history.
The brute force method of saving the world may work in Mortal Kombat 1, but God desires to redeem things in a new way. God’s ultimate plan is more inviting and restorative. Jesus is the perfect representation of how God wanted to fix a world that was so lawless. Jesus performed miracles that reversed impossible diseases, taught lessons that fixed societal problems, and taught His followers to do the same. He did not have to throw a single punch to stop evil.
When Jesus was sentenced to death by the people he wanted to save, His followers wished they could become powerful combatants that would destroy evil through violence, but Jesus did not live by those standards. Death was a vital part of the plan to remove evil from creation. When Jesus came back from the dead it became a “flawless victory” that inspired a generation of followers. Now we follow the example Jesus showed, carrying on His work through lives of sacrificial love.
Liu Kang and God have one thing in common. They both rallied up followers to help solve the problem of a corrupt world. Their methods to get the job done differ sharply. Liu Kang wanted his followers to kill in order to win the world’s freedom. Jesus enlists His followers to restore and rebuild humanity by serving others and sharing hope. Liu Kang’s world can fail if no one is able to best Shang Tsung in combat. God’s world is an inevitable victory that has Jesus reclaiming the world.
Mortal Kombat 1 deserves a lot of credit for being deep. I don’t think I could wade through the heavy M rating to play it all the way through, but I am glad that an echo of God’s creation story exists in the game. I am also thankful that Jesus provides a better option.