Remembering MORTAL KOMBAT: DEFENDERS OF THE REALM, The Failed Animated Series From The '90s

With the release of the new Mortal Kombat film, we take a look back at Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, the oft-forgotten and disappointing animated series from the '90s,

New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures' Mortal Kombat officially released today in theaters and on HBO Max. The film, which is based on the popular video game franchise of the same name, serves as a reboot of the previous Mortal Kombat film series. But did you know there was a previous Mortal Kombat animated series?

In celebration of the new film's release, we're taking a look back at Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, the 1996 animated series produced by Threshold Entertainment and Film Roman. Unfortunately, while a lot of animated series benefit from nostalgia by those who grew up during the time, Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm is not remembered with the same rose-colored glasses that many other shows from the 90s.

The series premiered in September 1996 and ran for only one season. It consisted of 13 episodes and served as an alternative sequel to the first Mortal Kombat live-action film and the events of the 1995 Midway video game Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3.

The series followed a group of warriors -- Liu Kang, Stryker, Sonya Blade, Jax, Kitana, Sub-Zero and Nightwolf  -- assembled by Rayden (yes, it was spelled differently in the series than the game) to defend Earthrealm from invaders from other dimensions. Operating out of Nightwolf's secret base, the warriors monitored portal openings and would then fly their dragon-shaped jets to deal with the invaders. Shao Kahn, the brutal warlord and emperor of the mystical Outworld realm, served as the series' main archvillain.

The characters portrayed in the series were mostly continuous with the movie and Threshold's representation in the series canon. Interestingly, some of the video game series' most popular characters, including Johnny Cage and Kung Lao were no shown or referenced in the show.

Now you may be thinking, "An animated Mortal Kombat series?! Awesome!"

But if you look back at any reviews of the show, you'll see that it was met with an overwhelmingly negative response. I don't particularly remember hating the series as a kid. After all, it was a cartoon based on one of the most popular games at the time. And as a child, you tend not to overanalyze things or overly critique them. 

Looking back at the series now and reading various articles that mention it, you'll see that Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm was an overwhelming disappointment. Interestingly, the series was mostly criticized for its lack of violence. It would make sense that the series couldn't be filled with the same over-the-top, gruesome violence as the game because it was a children's television show. But Gamesradar, for example, also criticized it for other reasons:

Not content with skimping on violence, the shows creators felt that they also needed to follow in the steps of the cartoon greats of the past (Super Friends and GI Joe, for example) and teach the youth of America life lessons with comically cheesy public service announcements.

The now-defunct 1UP called it a "terrible, one-liner-packed train wreck of a kids' show" in their listicle "The Top Ten Times Mortal Kombat Went Wrong."

It seems most of the criticism that Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm received was aimed at its lack of violence. Obviously, being based on a game where fighting and violence are the main draws, the lack of violence could pose a problem.

Thankfully, it doesn't seem we have to worry about that with New Line Cinema's most recent film. There seems to be plenty of gore and violence to keep fans content.

If you didn't ever get the chance to watch Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, you're a bit out of luck. Outside of releasing a few of the episodes individually on VHS, there was never a DVD release in the United States. It's also not available on any streaming service (although a quick search on YouTube could yield you the results you're looking for). The good news is it doesn't sound like you missed much.

Did you remember watching Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm? Let us know your thoughts on the animated series in the comments below!

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