Most people assume that fighting games are all about one-on-one brawls under the thinnest of pretexts and, for the most part, they usually are. However, NetherRealm Studios' games are a standout exception to this. For both Injustice and Mortal Kombat, the studio places a heavy focus on spinning a yarn. For the former, it took DC's iconic superheroes and villains and placed them in a world where the lines between good and evil are blurred to the most extreme degrees. For the latter, however, NetherRealm has leaned into the series' own history to tell a story that explores the past, present, and future of Mortal Kombat and its characters.
The narrative device it uses to do this in Mortal Kombat is time travel. At the best of times, time travel stories can be confusing, but in a franchise with such an expansive cast, it risks becoming downright overwhelming and even nonsensical. And yet, the last few Mortal Kombat games have collectively created one of the most compelling time travel stories in recent memory, evoking nostalgia from longtime fans, telling heartfelt stories for new ones, and being thoroughly entertaining throughout.
Despite the risks and challenges involved in telling a time travel story, NetherRealm has committed to the idea and, over time, upped the stakes on it all significantly. Mortal Kombat 11 and its recent DLC, Aftermath, left the fate of the entire universe in the hands of a group of warriors--one of which is a villain and known trickster--hopping around time to ensure the future of existence.
On this episode of Audio Logs, we talked to Dominic Cianciolo, NetherRealm Studios' story and voiceover director, about why the team decided time travel was the right way to tell the story of modern era Mortal Kombat. Cianciolo also breaks down how the team used the opportunity to personally look back on the past of the series, as well as have the characters do the same, and how it created meaningful and memorable character arcs in doing so.
Cianciolo also talks about some of the inspirations NetherRealm looked to when tackling time travel and, naturally, Back to the Future Part II, was a big touchstone for the studio. However, more modern genre entries such as Rian Johnson's Looper also had an impact. You can find out how in the episode.
You can check out more episodes of Audio Logs on YouTube, where you'll find the entirety of Season 1 of the show, as well as numerous episodes from Season 2. We've got episodes for Death Stranding, Control, Gears 5, Cuphead, and more--they're all well worth watching.