I have the originals but used emulators (my PC with X-Box controller) to binge.
**MK1:** Pure arcade game, no extra modes or in-game help, actually forgot the kodes and secrets, required a FAQ. Lightest roster, but all the characters are iconic. Character bios and endings had juicy nuggets. Controls and game speed not has responsive or fast compared to Street Fighter. Love the digitized actors. Spent an afternoon on this.
**MK2:** Refined the formula. New, long-lasting iconic characters. Better graphics, sound, speed, colors, etc. More secrets and tricks. More fun. Still an arcade port, so no extra modes. Kintaro and Shao Kahn were much harder bosses than Goro and Shang Tsung. Spent an afternoon on this.
**MK Trilogy:** The storyline kinda is muddled as it appears MK2 had no tournament winner, and it’s hard to conceptualize how much time has passed between each game just by reading the text/bios. Doesn’t even feel like a tournament anymore (it isn’t and never will be until the reboot). Difficulty is tense. Tone and theme definitely changed with the cyber ninjas and city streets. That said, MK Trilogy (or Ultimate 3) is the go-to game from this era because of the roster size, moves, etc. Creatively, from the storyline POV, the story arc had reached its conclusion. Spent a couple of afternoons on this and sometimes play Ultimate in Armageddon. Was already beginning to be left behind compared to 3D or even pseudo-3D.
**Mortal Kombat Gold:** MK4 has some generic new characters and re-designs of original ones. Not having digitized characters was jarring. The weapon system is not as good as Soul Calibur, and the 3D is an illusion. Storyline-wise, we have a new villain and his henchman. Quan Chi outshines his boss Shinnok in design, moveset, and personality. With the game completely overhauled, it feels much different than MK1-3, and rushed/incomplete. Dialogue is cringe. However, the gameplay is much faster than the original trilogy. Characters are easy to play. The added tournament mode is cool, but still not that advanced. MK Gold is very playable and easy to pick up and go. Just pales in comparison to Tekken and its peers. Special moves menu in Practice. Spent around 3 days on it unlocking the movie endings.
**Deadly Alliance:** Now we enter the PS2 era. Probably should have been an official reboot. Not only do we have real 3D, but we actually have real martial art styles and weapons. Impalements were awesome. Truly made for console, Konquest, Krypt, and the insane detailed fighting styles and character models blow every previous game out of the water from the technical end, not to mention unlocking stuff. Storyline truly progressed with Shang Tsung and Quan Chi taking out Shao Kahn and Liu Kang. The new characters are hit and miss (Red Dragon clan hard to appreciate), but much better than MK4. Surprised Li Mei wasn’t a star moving forward. Can spend months on this. Only flaw is that there’s actually *too* much to unlock in the Krypt, and some Konquest combos are tough to pull off for me (not sure if it’s the controller, emulator, or just my lack of finger speed). Special moves menu thankfully is in Arcade.
**Deception:** Direct continuation. The good guys lost from last time. New characters take some getting used to. The mini-games are nice bonuses. Trading cards are cool. Game is stacked with ancient lore. Easily could have been a prequel type of game. Theme is about gods and demons. Konquest mode is a grind this time. Seems like it would take a while to unlock everything. In the Krypt, 400 coffins better than 676. Interactive stages. Good sequel, plays very well.
**Armageddon:** Doesn’t feel like 14+ years ago, but whatever. The storyline is funny, it’s just an excuse to have every character ever fight in a battle royal, and I don’t mind at all. Makes sense that this timeline would blow up and end because it’s basically a kid taking all of his action figures and fighting to the death. It’s basically the new MK Trilogy on steroids. Konquest mode is much better because it is more like Shaolin Monks. Messing with the Fatalities structure is a miss. Kreate a Fighter is a great idea. Krypt is transparent. Was OK with subtracting one fighting style. Stages more interactive. Motor Kombat is fun. Tons and tons of hours on this.
**Conclusions:** All seven games are awesome, and I highly recommend any of these games. The characters seems alive, each game treats the player with respect and curiosity to unlock stuff. Each game required more programmers/designers to produce the games: more memory, more options, etc. The PS2 trilogy has the most replay value due to Konquest and minigames, and mastering the various fighting/weapon styles. They also play fast. I could play all three the rest of the year and probably not finish.
MK’s storyline and character arcs are kinda hard to memorize and keep straight. I feel I need a Master’s Degree if I had to write down the entire story and character subplots. Sometimes characters were just brought back to life (or retconned to have never been killed) with no explanation because players wanted them. I feel Ed Boon wanted to phase out Raiden early as a selectable character in the series and replace him with Fujin or if Ashrah was good, but he was too popular. Anyway, it makes sense why everything had to be rebooted in the 2010s. There was nowhere logical to progress the story.
MK is more than just violence and gimmicks. I can see that being the attraction for the original trilogy, but after that it tries to become a respectable fighting game. It *had* to be 3D on the PS2. And gosh, the characters and story are much more deep than any other fighting game. And IMHO the characters are more iconic, and I say that as a an OG fan of other fighting games.