One year later: Mortal Kombat is still the best modern fighter

It's been about a year since the launch of the ninth main entry in the Mortal Kombat franchise. Last April, Mortal Kombat launched to mass critical acclaim, and it delivered one of the most accessible 2D fighting experiences in years. The game managed to outsell both Street Fighter IV and Marvel vs. Capcom 3, two fighters that had both been out for a good while before the launch of Mortal Kombat. Now we've got another fighter on our hands in Street Fighter X Tekken, and while the crossover concept is brilliant, it doesn't take away from the fact that last year's Mortal Kombat is the best fighter currently on the market.

The first thing the game has going for it is its accessible design. The game can be pretty deep, and there are countless combinations to really make any of the characters true powerhouses in the right players' hands. But unlike Capcom's brand of fighters, these combinations are easier to get a handle on. Yes, they're still pretty complex, but not to the point where newcomers should feel alienated. I don't play many fighting games, and I felt comfortable playing Mortal Kombat after just a few sessions, learning the ropes almost immediately.

Another thing that might not seem apparent right from the get-go is just how complete Mortal Kombat actually is. When you take into consideration all of the iterations of both Street Fighter IV and Marvel vs. Capcom 3, it's really refreshing to see Warner Bros. Interactive and NeatherRealm turning out a quality product that doesn't need to be remade numerous times. Aside from the usual fighting game modes, Mortal Kombat also includes extra mini-games that are actually fun, as well as the imposing Challenge Tower, which provides one of the biggest and most rewarding hurdles in the game. And yes, Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition may have just launched, but all it really featured was a collection of DLC characters, not tweaked mechanics or a bunch of content that should have been in the game in the first place.

Fighting games aren't usually known for featuring strong single-player modes. Mortal Kombat grabbed that stigma by the throat, headbutted it to death, threw it out a window, and then defecated all over its corpse. By delivering the strongest story mode in a fighting game ever (not one of the strongest, but the undisputed strongest ever), Mortal Kombat proved that you can take a fighting game's lore and create a compelling narrative around it. And no, the story mode in Mortal Kombat wasn't just good for a fighting game — it was a damn fine story mode, period. It told an excellent tale that made you truly care (or in some instances hate) the huge cast of characters.

One legitimate gripe gamers had with Mortal Kombat regarded the game's online play. Plenty of individuals experienced some bad lag when they took the game online. Considering the fast nature of the game, this was definitely an unacceptable issue. Thankfully, it was sorted out, and if you engage in some online fights these days, things are mostly pretty smooth. (Let's hope it stays that way in the upcoming Vita version of the game.) Hey, at least it's not as bad as the weird online multiplayer in Street Fighter X Tekken with its lack of sound.

Some tournament purists may argue that the intuitive nature of Mortal Kombat makes it a less than stellar fighter. That said, there's no denying just how much fun the game actually is. And for gamers who just want a great, no-nonsense arcade experience, Mortal Kombat is a perfect choice. It may have a more western style to it as opposed to Capcom's fighters, but it's so accessible and so deep once you get the hang of it that it's hard not to sink a ton of time just playing bout after bout, especially if you've got some local friends who want to get in on the gore.

Speaking of blood, there's something to be appreciated about the amount of violence in Mortal Kombat. Sure, you could make the argument that fighters don't exactly need blood, especially since they may be enticing to the younger crowd, but at the same time, if I'm pounding a character's face in and tossing him around the screen, I expect to see some blood. Thanks to the X-ray moves in Mortal Kombat, we not only get that, but we also get to see punctured organs and broken bones. Now tell me, who in their right mind would complain about that?

Ultimately, the statement that Mortal Kombat is today's greatest modern fighter revolves entirely around its core build-up. The game is easy to get into, fun to master, and deep enough to keep you engaged. It's also a hefty package, not relying on gimmicky remakes to keep it relevant. Then there's the impressive story mode, which pretty much negates any argument about how "fighters don't need good single-player components to succeed." This mode alone is reason enough to pick up a copy of Mortal Kombat on consoles or the Vita. Sprinkle in a bit of blood and gore and you've got one of the most compelling fighters to come along in years. And in case you're wondering, yes, even with the launch of Street Fighter X Tekken, Mortal Kombat is still the best fighter currently out.