Why Is There No “C” In Mortal Kombat?

We all love a good, meaningful title, but sometimes something simple hits just as hard. In fact, many of gaming’s earliest franchises have fairly simple names—Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros, and so on. But even a fairly basic name can have a lot of history behind it.



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Let’s take Mortal Kombat. It’s an interesting name and definitely sells the premise pretty well. But why the ‘K’? It’s not exactly a standard spelling, even if it does sound the same, and it even made the series more iconic in the long run. Let’s dive in and find out why.

How Mortal Kombat Began

Several Mortal Kombat characters from the original game stand in a line in the arena.

The actual history of how Mortal Kombat even began is pretty funny, especially seeing where it is now. With such an iconic plethora of characters now, it can be hard to imagine it was initially envisioned as a tie-in video game.

Planned to be an adaptation of the film Universal Soldier and intended to have Jean-Claude Van Damme playable, the plan ultimately fell apart when it came out that another company had already acquired the rights to the adaptation.

With the game already under development but Jean-Claude no longer involved, it grew to become Mortal Kombat as we know it today, with the beloved character Johnny Cage as a not-so-elaborate homage to Jean-Claude. They even share the same initials.

Why The Name Mortal Kombat?

Johnny Cage's Jean-Claude van Damme skin.

So that brings us to the pertinent issue – with Jean-Claude and Universal Soldier as an adaptation removed, how did they land on Mortal Kombat, and with that spelling no less? In many ways, purely by accident.

They had run through plenty of different names during development, but none of them managed to stick with everyone. Kumite, Dragon Attack, Death Blow, and Fatality (interesting one there) were considered, but none reached a final agreement.

Then, as a random suggestion, Mortal Combat was written down. According to Ed Boon, series co-creator, someone else then wrote over that name with a ‘K,’ creating the iconic Mortal Kombat. Fellow co-creator John Tobias has a similar tale, though he says the real reason they went with the spelling with a “K” rather than “C” was simply because they couldn’t get it past the legal side of things.

So, in reality, like many of gaming’s greatest hits, the name of Mortal Kombat ended up being a series of mistakes that made something great.

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