The third installment of the Mortal Kombat series, Mortal Kombat 3 revamps the character roster of its predecessor while changing the setting to a more contemporary urban city on Earthrealm. It also updates the control scheme (by adding a sixth "Run" button) while adding selectable difficulty ladders, pre-programmed combos, mid-fight stage transitions, the "Mercy" system, a new type of Fatality (the Animality) and special multiplayer pre-match codes known as "Kombat Kodes".
Taking place sometime after Mortal Kombat II, the plot of Mortal Kombat 3 revolves around the Outworld Emperor Shao Kahn's invasion of Earthrealm through the resurrection of his wife, Sindel. Other sub-plots include the creation of the ninja clan Lin Kuei's "cyber-assassin" program (in which Sub-Zero refuses to join and becomes marked for death) and Jax and Sonya's hunt for the elusive Kano.
The game later received a major revision in November 1995, known as Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, that added new characters (including the return of masked human ninjas), new game modes (including 8-player tournament mode and 2-on-2 team matches), new backgrounds, and updated character movelists. It was further updated on with the console-exclusive game Mortal Kombat Trilogy a year later.
Along with 16-bit console conversions (by Sculptured Software) for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo Entertainment System and handheld conversions (by Software Creations) for the Game Boy and Game Gear (the latter exclusively in Europe), the original game also received a port by Williams to the 32-bit Sony PlayStation shortly after that console's North American release. The game also received two versions for PCs: a MS-DOS version by Sculptured Software and a Windows version by Williams (the latter being a port of the PS1 version). All of the original ports were released by Williams (with the European version co-released by Acclaim). The game was also included two compilations: the 2004 Midway Arcade Treasures 2 for the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and GameCube, and the 2006 Midway Arcade Treasures: Deluxe Edition for the PC.
The gameplay in Mortal Kombat 3 builds upon the gameplay from the first two Mortal Kombat games. Along with four attack buttons (High Punch, High Kick, Low Punch, Low Kick) and a Block button, the game adds a Run button, which builds upon the offensive game by allowing the player to quickly dash forward. Along with this new button comes a "Run Meter", which limits the use of running.
Mortal Kombat 3 introduces a "chain combo" system in which players can perform pre-programmed combos by linking normal attacks together. These combos cannot be escaped and usually end with either an attack that sends the opponent flying forward, or a launcher that allows the player to further juggle the opponent.
The game also introduces the concept of "Choose Your Destiny", a difficulty selection screen shown before the single player campaign where players can choose between different "towers", each increasing in difficulty. The difficulties included in Mortal Kombat 3 are Novice (in which the player fights six opponents), Warrior (in which the player fights eight opponents), and Master (in which the player fights ten opponents).
In the versus screen before two-player matches, players can cooperatively enter a six-digit code (known as a "Kombat Kode") to modify key gameplay mechanics, fight hidden characters, and read hidden text messages. Gameplay mechanics that could be changed include disabling blocking, disabling throwing, disabling the Run Meter, changing the vitality of a player's life bar, making the screen pitch black, and forcing both players' characters to randomly change every few seconds.
When the Game Over screen appears after the sole player chooses not to continue, the player the option to enter a ten-digit secret code (known as an "Ultimate Kombat Kode"). Players have little time to input the code (either randomly or figured out through alternate sources). Only one working "Ultimate Kombat Kode" exists in Mortal Kombat 3: the ability to permanently unlock (for that arcade machine) Smoke as a playable character.
Fatalities, Friendships, and Babalities return from Mortal Kombat II. The requirements for performing Friendships and Babalities are now less restrictive (and can only be performed when the player does not press Block during that player's winning round).
Introduced in Mortal Kombat 3 are Mercies and Animalities. When a player has won a match that went to three rounds, the player has the option to prolong the fight with a special Mercy button combination. (Holding the Run button and pressing Down on the joystick four times when the character is at least a half a screen away) If the player defeats the opponent after showing Mercy, that player has the option to perform an Animality, in which the player transforms into a different animal and kills the opponent. (In a similar fashion to Liu Kang's Dragon Fatality from Mortal Kombat II).
The original arcade release included 15 playable characters (one of which must be unlocked beforehand), two unplayable boss characters, and one unplayable hidden opponent for a total of 18 combatants.
Along with final boss Shao Kahn, eight characters return from previous games in the series. All returning characters have different appearances (including Jax sporting metal arms, Sub-Zero fighting un-masked, and secret character Smoke being a cybernetic).
- Cyrax (Sal Divita) - One of three prototype Cybernetic Ninjas built by the Lin Kuei, unit LK-4D4 (also known as Cyrax) is sent to find a terminate the rogue Sub-Zero. He is a yellow palette swap of Sektor.
- Kabal (Richard Divizio) - A mysterious hooksword-wielding warrior who was scarred by Shao Kahn's extermination squads, requiring the use of artifical respirators to survive.
- Nightwolf (Sal Divita) - A Native American historian, using shaman magic to protect his tribe's sacred land from Shao Kahn's forces. Removed in the GB, GG, and SMS versions.
- Sektor (Sal Divita) - One of three prototype Cybernetic Ninjas built by the Lin Kuei, unit LK-9T9 (also known as Sektor) is sent to find a terminate the rogue Sub-Zero. He is a red palette swap of Cyrax.
- Sheeva (stop-motion miniature) - A Shokan picked by Shao Kahn to serve as Sindel's personal protector, only to become suspicious of him after choosing a member of the enemy Centaurion race as the head of his extermination squads.
- Sindel (Lia Montelongo) - The former queen of Outworld, resurrected 10,000 years after her untimely death as the key to Shao Kahn's invasion.
- Stryker (Michael O'Brien) - A riot officer and the leader of the Riot Control Brigade before Shao Kahn's invasion. Removed in the GB, GG, and SMS versions.
- Motaro (stop-motion miniature, sub-boss) - A Centaurian who serves as Shao Kahn's bodyguard and the head of his extermination squads. Only playable in the SNES, Genesis, and DOS versions through cheat codes. Removed in the GB and GG versions.
- Kano (Richard Divizio)
- Shang Tsung (John Turk) - New actor. Removed in the GB, GG, and SMS versions.
- Shao Kahn (Brian Glynn, final boss) - Only playable in the SNES, Genesis, GG, SMS, and DOS versions through cheat codes.
- Smoke (Sal Divita, secret character) - Unlockable through cheat codes. Unlike in Mortal Kombat II, Smoke is now a cyber-assassin (and a grey palette swap of Cyrax/Sektor).
- Noob Saibot (Richard Divizio, hidden opponent) - Unplayable. Removed in the GB version. Unlike in Mortal Kombat II, this version of Noob Saibot is a black palette swap of Kano (with a limited moveset).
There are eleven playable stages (thirteen if Noob Saibot's Dorfen is counted, where the player fights Noob Saibot, and Hidden Portal, where they fight Smoke), which is built into a simple, looping rotation. However, The Balcony is always the stage in Motaro matches and The Pit 3 is always the stage in Shao Kahn matches. The stages that include Stage Fatalities are The Subway (in which the player uppercuts the opponent into the adjacent tracks, who gets run over by a subway car), The Bell Tower (in which the player uppercuts the opponent down the Bell Tower through many floors, who then gets impaled by spikes), and The Pit 3 (in which the player uppercuts the opponent over the side of the bridge and into rotating blades below).
A new addition to Mortal Kombat stages is mid-match stage transitions, where a simple uppercut can knock the opponent up into another stage. The Subway transitions to The Street, The Bank transitions to The Rooftop, and The Soul Chamber transitions to The Balcony.
- The Subway
- The Bank
- The Street
- The Rooftop
- The Balcony
- The Bridge
- The Soul Chamber
- The Bell Tower
- The Church
- The Graveyard
- The Pit 3
Versions and Ports
16-bit conversions for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo were released on September 8, 1995, along with a Game Boy version as well. A rare Game Gear version of MK3 was made but only saw a release in Japan and Europe. MK3 was an early member of the Sony PlayStation library, as a 32-bit conversion was released on October 7, 1995, less than a month after the PlayStation launched in North America. As part of its battle with Sega Saturn over the 32-bit market, Sony bought exclusive rights from Midway to release the game on 32-bit consoles. As a response, Sega purchased exclusive 32-bit rights to Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Two versions of MK3 were released for PC. One version was strictly made for DOS. The other version was the PlayStation version ported over for Windows. An emulated version of the game was included on Midway Arcade Teasures 2 for the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and GameCube in 2004. It also was featured on Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play for the PSP in 2005 and Midway Arcade Teasures Deluxe Edition for the PC in 2006. Deluxe featured a 1995 10-minute documentary about the making of the game.