The video games industry was going through a slump as the 1980s turned to the 1990s, but the entire industry revived abruptly when Midway introduced “Mortal Kombat” in 1992.
The game achieved notoriety inside and outside the gamer community when it became known that secret codes had been programmed into the game: when activated, the codes changed “Mortal Kombat” from a run-of-the-mill kick-and-punch match between mutants into a bloody battle to the death at whose conclusion the victor would rip the still-beating heart from his vanquished opponent’s chest, or tear his hapless opponent’s spine out and hold it triumphantly aloft, or blast his prostrate opponent to ashes.
The game unleashed a debate over the effect of violent video games on children, which continued throughout the 1990s. But the immense popularity of “Mortal Kombat” guaranteed that other games would compete to outdo it in both violence and realism. The game established Midway as a major force in the video game field and provided the company with the financial resources to develop new games and eventually expand beyond the arcade market.