The name “Mortal Kombat” definitely sounds like it came from the 90s, the decade of goofy names and curiously altered letters. But before you judge the fighting game franchise’s moniker too harshly, you may want to hear some of the potential names the team at Midway rejected.
In an recent interview with Game Informer, Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon talked about the series’ roots as a fighter, the original concept for the game, and some of the names the team thought up for it.
Taking cues from Street Fighter, which had taken over arcades during the early ’90s, Boon and his team wanted to take the fighting game concept and go a little edgier. “We said, ‘let’s make the bad-boy version of this game,” Boon told us. “Let’s do something with blood. Kind of like the MTV version of Street Fighter.”
Originally, the team at Midway hoped to catch people’s attention by using one of the biggest names in action movies at the time. “We wanted to call it Van Damme,” Boon said. “We just wanted to see huge letters, ‘Van Damme’ when you walked by. You couldn’t pass that up.”
The deal didn’t go through, so the team had to think up of a few other names. “Kumite was high on the list. Dragon Attack, which was a song by Queen . . . Death Blow, Final Fist or something… all these crazy, almost cliché martial art movie titles or something.”
At some point, the team wrote “Combat” on the grease board they were using for all their ideas, eventually changing it to “Kombat.” Why the K? “Just to be different. Just to make it seem unique or something like that.”
The game’s final name was sealed when Boon and veteran pinball designer Steve Ritchie were speaking in Boon’s office and Ritchie noticed the name on the board. “He’s like, ‘what’s that?’ And I said, ‘Yeah we’re trying to come up with a name. It’s Kombat.’ And he goes ‘Why don’t you call it Mortal Kombat?’ And I was like ‘Oh my god, that’s it!'”
You can read more about the development of the entire Mortal Kombat series in our massive interview with Ed Boon, which hits later today.
And to think: We could have seen the release of a game called “Van Damme X” on current-gen consoles. How’s that for a cheesy name?