Anyone who knows me knows if there’s one game I will always go back to, it’s Mortal Kombat. From the characters to the stages, from the story to the towers and bonus modes, I have been a sucker for the franchise as long as I can remember. The only series to have as good of a track record is Metal Gear Solid, in my eyes at least. For the most part there are good MK games and there are amazing MK games. For context, let me run you through my history with the monumental fighting game.
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The Early Years
I believe the first time I played Mortal Kombat was at the young age of 4 years old. My aunt and dad gave me a PSOne, the small version, and introduced me to the world of video games. Mortal Kombat Trilogy was the very first of those games. From the sound design to the color choices, like Reptile’s mesmerizing bright green, my little brain was hooked. Sure, I had to play on very easy and later was gifted the method to use easy fatalities, but the experience was there. I fell in love on the spot and never looked back. It was the start of a lifelong relationship I hadn’t yet understood.
I continued to play the games through elementary school, never missing a mainline entry (thank you, Mom and Dad). All through the 3D era and into the reboot, It was a magical time whenever a new game would be released. It is the biggest reason I’ve ever desired the newest console. To this day, it’s the only time I suffer from serious FOMO (fear of missing out).
A Comfort Zone
Looking back, I’ve often turned to MK when the chips are down. Some may argue the validity of that coping mechanism, and I can understand why. There’s not much soothing about beating down a superpowered opponent and ripping their spine out, on paper at least, but I digress. It gave me a sense of strength in stressful times and a sense of control in some way. It let me envision my troubles and shove them into the dirt. Corny, maybe, but it worked. After MKX, we kind of parted ways for a little while. I would play the eleventh entry and enjoyed it, but life kept me from sitting down and really taking it in. This hiatus would end, however, in August of this year.
Fast Forward, Present Day
In the last week of August, I began feeling really ill, like I had the flu or COVID. Stuffy head, headache, all the nasty feelings. Then September came, and my neck got stiff, I was stuck in bed, unable to move without immense back pain and a bunch of other uncomfortableness. I was admitted to the hospital and given every test imaginable. After three long days and a lumbar puncture, we had our answer: HHV6 meningitis. A rare form of the disease not really seen in a 20-something adult with a healthy immune system. I was told it would be days before I could be discharged, requiring more tests. I felt locked in.
Hope is Delivered
My parents brought my PS4 to the hospital, and from there, the light began to show. Itching for a simpler time and an escape from the chaos around me, I returned to MK11 after all these years. Though I was easing into it in the months prior, I was trying to hold myself over until MK1, when I fully dove in.
I could barely sleep due to the machines and everything going on, so I just fell into the game. All of the warmth, the comfort, and the nostalgia came flooding back. It wasn’t that bad anymore. I remember thinking, “Y,know, no matter how long this lasts, I could fight this“. I was interested in frame data, delayed wake-ups, training methods, and anything else that could improve my experience. I poured probably 60-70 hours into it by the time I left the hospital over a week later and was itching to get my hands on MK1. Three or four days later, I got myself a PS5 and a copy of the new release, a day after launch, no less (keeping the tradition alive, folks).
A Reignited Fighting Game Affair
That feeling of an uplifting passion and a love for fighting games was back in full force. It felt like I was playing all of my favorite Mortal Kombat games in one, with all the knowledge I needed. The game launched with some less-than-desirable traits for most, but I was in love again. I was labbing (learning via practice mode), learning combos, and just sitting in awe of the newest entry. Even on my toughest days in recovery, I turn to the one franchise that’s been around my whole life, and it helps me deal. Something about beating a guy with blades in his arms as a Hollywood superstar eases it all. Plus, I’ve improved and grown since I first encountered Scorpion and my other main choices, and it feels good.
Everyone who’s into gaming has at least one franchise that they always run back to. Like a good friend that you may go months without speaking to, it’s always there if you need comfort. For some, like my fiance, it’s Animal Crossing; for many, it’s a good ole RPG. For me, it’s Mortal Kombat. There’s no one-size-fits-all for healthy escapism, so no matter what your comfort game or activity is, be proud of it. It’s probably gotten you through the times you never thought you’d crawl away from, and there’s beauty in that.