A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mortal Kombat 11 is a fighting game for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. Players control a variety of characters who beat each other to death with a mix of fists, magic, and weapons including guns, swords, acid, and dynamite. The most violent moves are presented in slow motion, showing X-ray images of bones being crushed, spines and organs being gorily ripped from bodies, faces being ripped off, and brains getting cleaved in two. Some characters are presented as "good" and some as "bad," but all of them clearly enjoy the extreme violence with which they dispatch their opponents. One character drinks whisky, another smokes, and several use profanity. Unlike some modern fighting games, female characters are not overtly sexualized and are just as strong and capable as their male counterparts. Parents should also be aware that this game supports microtransactions that allow players to spend real world money on virtual currency.
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What's it about?
MORTAL KOMBAT 11, the latest entry in the decades-old fighting series, once again pits the forces of light and darkness against each other in a series of extraordinarily violent and often stupendously gruesome one-on-one battles that will determine the fate of the universe. The story mode leads players through a series of length CGI scenes pocked with intermittent combat, weaving a time traveling tale that sees older versions of iconic characters like Liu Kang and Johnny Cage meeting their younger selves, who are often surprised by what they have done and become. Outside the story, players have a broad range of play options, including working their way up towers of computer-controlled enemies, fighting human opponents both locally and online, training to learn and practice new moves -- including powerful and spectacular "fatal blows," which come available late in each round to give staggered players a chance to get back in the match -- and exploring an area known as the Krypt filled with loot chests containing cosmetic upgrades, single-use items, new moves, and various currencies. Players can use what they collect to customize their favorite characters, and even send them into AI battles against other players' custom characters.
Is it any good?
Fighting game fans are getting a lot for their money with this one. The range of modes, collectibles, and customization options on offer in Mortal Kombat 11 is simply staggering. The story mode tells an admittedly thin tale, but it delivers a couple hours' worth of mesmerizing, nearly film-quality CGI scenes that set the tone by providing context for each arena and explaining the motivations of the main characters. It also gives players a brief introduction to each character's moves -- of which there are many -- before jumping into the tougher, more competitive realms of tower climbing, tournaments, local, and online play. With the ability to earn money and unlock all sorts of collectible, cosmetic, and usable gear in the Krypt -- much of which can be used to create personalized versions of your preferred fighters -- there's no shortage of stuff to do and objectives to achieve.
Of course, this massive array of content would be useless if the fighting weren't fun. Thankfully, it's a blast, and surprisingly accessible to boot. Fighters are instantly responsive to player inputs, and transition smoothly and satisfying between moves. A "Very Easy" difficulty level and simplified controls for some of the more spectacular moves ensures anyone can start having fun right away, even if they don't know any specific combos. But the intuitive training module and forgiving interface makes it easy for rookies to begin learning and mastering more advanced moves and strategies. That said, the violence may turn off some. It's meant to be so over-the-top as to makes players laugh at its creativity – and it largely succeeds. Seeing a face get ripped off, then the outer flesh and bone get sheared away, then the brain skewered, removed, and finally eaten is the sort of outlandish-to-the-point-of-being-comic gore that has helped make the franchise so popular. But it also occasionally veers into cringe-y territory. Take, for example, Kano's first fatality. He guzzles whisky, smashes the bottle on his opponent, plunges it into their chest, and then waltzes around with the corpse. He uses this move on both men and women, but it can't help but conjure an image of drunken domestic violence when performed on a female character. Mortal Kombat 11 is a polished and laudably accessible fighter, but it's suitable only for older players with a strong stomach who know what they're getting into -- and when and when not to laugh.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of violence in the media. Is the impact of the violence in Mortal Kombat 11 affected by the fact that the violence is over the top with its blood and gore? Why do you think some of us enjoy over-the-top violence? Is it healthy entertainment?
What games have you played in which women are fairly and authentically portrayed as strong and intelligent people?
- Platforms: Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
- Release date: April 23, 2019
- Genre: Fighting
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Sports and Martial Arts
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language
- Last updated: April 13, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.