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Video game kids of the 1990s are reviving their memories of late-night gore such as spine ripping, spontaneous combustion, and giant overhead bats decapitating their unassuming victim.

No, this isn’t a reference to the latest ridiculous installment in the SAW horror flick franchise. It’s the latest ridiculous installment in the MORTAL KOMBAT fighting game franchise.

Just to set the record straight, I was one of those happy button-mashing kids who bonded with her siblings (albeit the occasional post-battle clash) over Mortal Kombat circa 1993. The morbidity of those pixelated almost-human-but-not-quite representations overlaid with animated blood and bizarre superhuman gore was fascinating for a ten-year-old who diametrically split her free-time between SEGA Genesis and Barbie dolls. And those unsettling arenas rife with warrior statues that were about to come alive and pits of horror where human remains were left impaled on spikes? They haunted my thoughts in the good-disturbing kind of way.

Mortal Kombat Lego
Image: skinnycoder

What made the original Mortal Kombat so memorable was that it ushered in a new age of creative video game violence, and we were all still innocent enough to be entertained and taken aback simultaneously. There was a shock value in the graphic battles. The original Mortal Kombat was ground-breakingly violent enough that it launched some of the largest early discussions about ethics in video games. It spurred the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the organization that assigns age-appropriate ratings to video games, as well as being the focus of several court cases.

Fatalities, a series of over-the-top finishing moves that are unique to each combat character, have always been the center of the Mortal Kombat controversies. They featured disfiguration, violent animal attacks, or even some unexpected finishing moves such as transforming the opponent into a baby version of the character without a disturbing conclusion. (The “Babality” was actually a product of developers poking fun at those who criticized the violent nature of the game.)

Scorpion versus Raiden in Mortal Kombat X

So of course much of the recent buzz around Mortal Kombat X focuses on the crown jewel of the MK franchise. The developers at Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment did their best to bring a whole new round of Fatalities to a more, shall we say, “experienced” set of gamers–and that means increasing the shock value multiplied by the detail of today’s graphics. I’m… I’m not even going to describe them here to spare you. But if you’re morbidly curious, you can watch all Mortal Kombat X fatalities in a fifteen-minute reel of blood and guts here.

Bracing myself, I read comments from fans after review articles and Mortal Kombat X playthrough videos. My trepidation was finding evidence that we might have lost a piece of our humanity by not acknowledging the gore.

Mortal Kombat 9 Shao Kahn Babality
The tongue-in-cheek Mortal Kombat Fatality called Babality.

Carlos Rodela said it well on a recent episode of his Video Game Break podcast: “Something feels so wrong with our humanity when we’re okay with this [extreme violence]. If it’s supposed to be shocking for shock value–done. You’ve succeeded. But when [the extreme violence] doesn’t even register? That’s when we have to wake up.”

I was relieved to find mixed reactions from Mortal Kombat fans that ranged from disgusted to entertained to disappointed. I found solace in many recognizing the extremeness and some even walking away from it. We haven’t lost our humanity after all.

So let’s not hash out the best Mortal Kombat X Fatalities. Instead, let’s celebrate some of the most creative (and satisfying) finishing moves throughout video gaming.

Street Fighter IV C. Viper Burning Dance

The Burning Dance, in which Crimson Viper pretty much uses her opponent like a surfboard, rides them along a wave of fire, picks them up into the air in an apocalyptic burst of flame, and electro-shocks them. Not only is this visually amazing, but SHE’S NOT LIMITED TO JUST ONE ELEMENT!

Mario Kart Lightning Bolt

The lightning bolt in Mario Kart is pretty much the finishing move in the game if you’re behind the pack. It might not be as flashy (pun intended) as other finishing moves but its ability to deflate an ego is second to none. Choruses of curses could be heard across the house when my husband is playing WiiU from time to time, and I know exactly which game he’s playing.

Here’s a history of every lightning bolt from every Mario Kart game. Or skip the video if it feels a little too traumatic to relive the memories.

Nothing deals pain quite like the Mario Kart Lightning Bolt.

Bayonetta’s Infernal Demon Summons

This black-magic woman knows how to rock a summons that might as well be a finishing move. Her suit–which, by the way, is made from the fibers of her hair–turns into a portal to hell, or into several gigantic fists, or monstrous creatures that are a little difficult to decipher in their sheer size and abilities.

And all with a wink and a smile.

Calling Down the Moon in Hyrule Warriors

Remember that creepy apocalyptic moon that was bent on destroying Termina in Majora’s Mask? Check out 13 seconds into this video.

OK, so the size is not to scale, but there’s something satisfying in crushing the literal face of the moon into your opponents.

Summoned Beasts in Just About Every Final Fantasy Game

My first experience with Final Fantasy Summons was in the great classic, Final Fantasy VII. Calling this monstrous beast from a netherworld to destroy your enemy (especially when you’re on the brink of death) and getting to watch an epic mini-movie cut scene of their demolition is pretty much the most memorable “finishing moves” in gaming.

I could pick just one from the franchise. Enjoy this one-hour-and-23-minute compilation of every summons cutscene from Final Fantasy III to Final Fantasy XIII.

There are plenty of other “finishing moves” out there in the halls of video gamedom. Which is your favorite?

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