Over the last 30 years, Mortal Kombat has given eager combatants the means to test themselves against fierce opponents. The spirit of competition remains the same, but the arena has changed a lot during those three decades. From Earthrealm to Outworld and everything in between, characters from Mortal Kombat has thrown hands on roads, cemeteries, prisons, temples, on boats, and more. The impressive feat here is that of the many levels spanning over ten titles, there are very few that offer really bad ones, which means it can be difficult to narrow down the standout stages. However, I had played too many of these games over the years and liked to pretend my arts degree was useful, so I took up the task. This is not a list based on one aspect, but all forms of level design and enjoyment, as we discuss which stages make an impact on the series.
Shang Tsung’s page
One of Mortal Kombat the biggest inspiration is the movie Enter the Dragon, and some of that influence is seen in the first game with Shang Tsung’s Courtyard. It was outside, in the daytime, with an audience of monks and a few intimidating guards, as Shang Tsung himself led the battle on a raised platform. The roof of the structure only protects it from the sun, as no one other than the individual sitting on the throne matters. The distant mountains and golden dragons provide a beautiful backdrop, which the blood strongly opposes.
We can see Shao Kahn sitting in Mortal Kombat: Trilogy stage version, as well as 3D updates for Mortal Kombat: Scam. Modern take on the Courtyard for Mortal Kombat (2011) awesome, but nothing beats seeing the aftermath in Mortal Kombat 11with Shang Tsung Island Ruins showing off the destroyed arena.
Kove is a modern stage, only appeared (so far) in Mortal Kombat X, but it left quite the impression. The landscape resembles a twisted rug — an oil painting in constant motion with a blunt palette that helps many characters stand out. The setting is the docks of Outworld, a port of call for travelers and places of business, but the dark waters hide a terrifying cargo of ships and even more blood. There are crates, hooks, wrecked ships, and sturdy ships, but it’s the skull-shaped rock formations and crashing waves that need the most attention. There are many items that can interact with it, but corpses thrown from the water are the best weapons, and players can use stage fatality to send their enemies to a watery grave with death by giant tentacle sea monsters.
Having a name like The Evil Tower is a strong indicator that this stage is exalted and dangerous, but the real direct clue—and the reason that most remembers this particular level—is the clouds moving swiftly out of the giant window. It also features a Shadow Monk hovering in front, which looks quite threatening. This arena was a small part of a massive structure in Outworld — supposedly the seat of Shao Kahn’s power — with carpets, floors, and pillars that made the building look far better than anything else in the realm, high enough for the blue sky to be seen. seen over the ruined landscape.
The version that players accept in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon very good, with elements that break easily on stage and deadly traps that can send opponents flying through open portals. Mortal Kombat (2011)’s version may be perfect, with very detailed revisions and an accelerated day and night cycle that can be a little annoying.
This one might seem a bit mundane in comparison, but nothing beats a street-level fight between two combatants. The foundation cracked, and the lights flickered and swayed as the train drove by, causing the surroundings to rumble. This is dangerous, and proof that the war with Outworld has invaded our home. The station names in the background boasting the names of the co-creators, added posters, and lots of details in later versions really help Subway stand out as a mainstay in Mortal Kombat. Death on stage was a winner too—there was nothing better than using the power of a locomotive to attack the opponent.
This level comes from Mortal Kombat 3 and has several updates, with Mortal Kombat: Armageddon expand the battlefield and modernize the death stage, but Mortal Kombat (2011) once again giving another classic scene a new load of scenery and making the finisher wilder.
The forest may be deep, dark, and gloomy, but this terrifying forest of Outworld makes an excellent place to fight. If other combatants don’t pose enough of a threat, the wilderness will. Not only were snakes, entangled tendrils, and hungry trees, but their branches and roots were also scattered with the bodies of the previous victims. This is a haunted area and is rumored to have been a run-down part of Edenia before, which makes it a tragic place too. Players have been enjoying this stage ever since they saw Jade and Smoke lurking in the background and thought they could knock an opponent into a mouth of scary leaves (which would come true).
Mortal Kombat 4 trying to give players a 3D version, which doesn’t look spectacular, but Mortal Kombat Gold rendition cleaned it. Mortal Kombat: Scam expanded the concept and even added a mud river, but then again, that Mortal Kombat (2011) which provides a truly awesome update to this jungle, with all the bells and whistles.
Some levels just scream evil. There was a gigantic demon head with gaping jaws, within it was a swirling soul storm, and in the background were the cloaked Shadow Priests guarding strength. Originally, the face was said to be the bark of a tree that Shao Kahn had under his balcony. Other times, it looked like a rock formation, and its subsequent appearance made it appear alive, with bright energy and moving tentacles. It couldn’t be ignored and something about that green soul storm screamed doom and death.
This place was first seen in Mortal Kombat 3, and it’s no surprise that it has appeared in many other entries of the franchise. For Mortal Kombat Gold it’s rendered in 3D, but Mortal Kombat: Armageddon take that idea and fill it in. Mortal Kombat (2011) gives off another solid shine, but that Mortal Kombat 11 which literally breathes new life into the Soul Chamber, making it look alive, pulsating, and majestic against a bright backdrop.
Shang Tsung’s Throne Room
Shang Tsung already has a courtyard to watch fights in, but it seems he needs a throne room to do this too—one with decorations that show just how extra the villain is. They are all decorated with crimson, marble, and gold. There are dragon statues, majestic pillars, large windows with MK symbols were carved into it, and a beautifully crafted chair for Tsung to sit comfortably while the others suffered from his amusement. The updated version makes the arena look bigger, has added banners, and now a storm is raging outside, setting the tone for what feels like an important battle.
Although the throne room of Shao Kahn from Mortal Kombat (2011) may initially appear more attractive with his choice of color, Shang Tsung leaves a stronger impression and is more likely to be voted on on the stage selection screen. Mortal Kombat 1 the original, of course, will always be a classic, but Mortal Kombat (2011)’s the versions mentioned above are the best for viewing and atmosphere.
Why anyone would want to fight in a place where a single misstep could mean an instant acid bath might be a mystery, but there’s no question why this particular torture chamber kept appearing in Mortal Kombat installments. In previous incarnations the stage looks rusty as the metal bars and hooks create an uncomfortable feeling and the thin platform causes great concern for everyone’s safety. Then, there would be corpses hanging in the background—people that Shao Kahn wanted to punish—and statues to intimidate those about to be killed. The Dead Pool gets its name and its stage deaths are a satisfying pleasure.
Fans first saw this stage on Mortal Kombat 2it set the groundwork, but Mortal Kombat: Scam change the slender bridge to a square platform. Later versions go back to basics, and though Mortal Kombat 11 adding more textures and amazing lighting to the stage, the best version is probably still around Mortal Kombat (2011)where everything comes together as exciting and threatening.
This unholy place of worship has gone by many different names over the years: Temple, Church, Cathedral, but whatever it is called, there is always an aura of death around it. Allegedly built by Shao Kahn during his invasion of Earthrealm, this structure features thick arches, pillars with fire above, beautiful stained glass windows, and blood-red candles in the faade. black Mortal Kombat symbols stood out as warriors went back and forth, and there were sometimes altars, coffins, or tombs for additional decoration.
In Mortal Kombat (2011) we got an excellent update to the levels, with light shining in from the windows, more detail in the background, and active NPCs performing what looked like sacrifices or autopsies on elevated platforms. It was a serious improvement from the lackluster offering at Mortal Kombat Goldbut nothing beats Mortal Kombat 3 original.
This is probably the most iconic stage in Mortal Kombat franchise, but there’s a tough argument here as to which version is the best. The concept of each is simple: the bridge lifts with peril at the bottom, and a loss most likely means falling into uncomfortable spiky doom. Even if the combatants somehow survived, the Reptiles were down there waiting to finish them off. Collectively, Pit 1, Pit II, Pit III, and Pit X (along with Pit Bottom) may have the highest number of stage appearances, but are not all winners, because Mortal Kombat 3 approach is usually seen as a disappointment. It just doesn’t feel right except out in the open with other weird characters fighting in the background.
Mortal Kombat X probably has the best overall presentation with a brilliant big moon and excellent take on death stage. Hole I of Mortal Kombat 1 will always be classic, but Mortal Kombat 2 Pit II stands out right above the rest. Even without the extra details, the arena feels fully awake and screaming Mortal Kombat.