I was 15 when Mortal Kombat first hit the arcades in 1992. It was a different era then—no social media, no modern Internet to speak of, and we didn’t have year-long teaser campaigns for new games. You would just walk into the arcade one day and there was a new cabinet sitting there, maybe back in a corner, like a secret, or maybe in the center of the floor, already gathering a crowd.
Being nostalgic for your teenage years is easy, and I don’t want to over-mythologize the arcade of my youth. But there was something special about getting those surprises, and we’ve lost that. It seems rare now to be hit with the unexpected—dodging spoilers is practically a contact sport. Here was this game like nothing else we’d seen before, and it just appeared.
We were already fighting-game players. Street Fighter II, Fatal Fury, World Heroes—we dropped our quarters into every game we could get our hands on. But Mortal Kombat was different.