We’ve been talking a lot about Mortal Kombat lately, and what better way to finish up the legacy of MK arcade releases than by talking about the game that paved the way for Mortal Kombat 4: War Gods!
Released in 1996, prior to the release for MK4, Midway’s War Gods was essentially a beta test for what a 3D Mortal Kombat game might look like. The similarities were apparent, even for my then-10 year old mind. The most obvious connection being the inclusion of fatalities. They weren’t even called “Finishers” or “Kill Moves” or anything to make them sound different… just straight up fatalities. The structure of opponents was the same too: Battle everyone else, then fight your own character, then some super-hard sub-boss, then the slightly easier boss.
War Gods is a 1-on-1 fighter. Kombat… sorry, Combat is done mainly on a 2D plane, but the big draw to this game was the inclusion of a “3D Button”. Pressing this button allowed your fighter to move a bit more freely in the 3D battlefield, and could also be used to execute some specific combos or special moves. It was clunky, but it did give the game some personality compared to other fighters at the time.
One major aspect of the game I remember are the fighters. I always found myself trying to find a character that played familiar to someone I knew how to play in a previous fighter (Which really means someone like MK’s own Scorpion, or Street Fighter’s Ryu). So that meant I played as Voodoo, a witch doctor that had a spear-like grappling special move. Fighters are representations of different warriors throughout time, like a samurai and a military jarhead, but they don’t really stand out as all that memorable.
I do explicitly remember the game’s announcer saying each character’s name as you picked them (kind of like I did with Mace: The Dark Age!). “Maximus” and “Kabuki-Jo” are standouts to me personally.
Overall I feel like this game just failed on multiple levels: It wasn’t as memorable a fighter as previous Mortal Kombat games, and the subsequent MK4 was a much better iteration of what this game was trying to be.
The arcade cabinet itself is something of an rarity too. I don’t think I’ve every seen a physical cabinet until spying one at Galloping Ghost. The design of the cabinet is great, though, so I bet if you had one at your local arcade you could spot it in an instant!
*Played at Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfiled, IL, 2019