Rating: ★★★☆☆


  • The original Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, in all it’s glory
  • 5-button control scheme is brilliantly done, but…


  • …controls are still ridiculous for a fighting game on a touchscreen
  • Load screens come up too often and take too long
  • Rewards occur randomly

Fighting games and touchpads don’t work so well, and for good reason: they require buttons. Sure, it was cool to say “hey, check out Street Fighter 4…on my iPhone!” but put the game in a person’s hands and after 20 seconds they’ll hand it back and say “eh”. Who could do such a thing? “You need a fightstick,” I’d bark. Think back to the arcades of years prior, to joysticks and yelling in dark rooms and never enough quarters and that musty stink of satisfied defeat.

That isn’t Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 on the iPhone.

For those who don’t remember 1995, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 was ridiculously hard. I remember because I had the irrational belief that if I could beat all my friends at UMK3, I could probably get pretty far in the arcade game myself. Set a high score, plug in my three letters, the whole shebang. That was a sorry mistake. Whoever conceived UMK3 must have thought Mortal Kombat 1 & 2 were too easy (I actually beat the original, on a Game Gear), and decided that no one should ever beat UMK3. A commendable plot, to make a fighting game that if played by our machine overlords in years to come could theoretically drive them to insanity and explode their circuits, thereby saving humanity.

Until that day arrives, we’ll just have to settle by being infuriated by it ourselves. And EA, who took it upon themselves to remake the game on iOS, decided to leave everything just the way it was. Wonderful. It took me an hour and a half to beat the game once, with my favorite character Scorpion, on the easiest difficulty.

Shao Kahn and Motaro, the two bosses, are both ridiculous, though Motaro, the Centaur who has a mirror ability which makes the screen switch sides in hopes of causing an epileptic seizure, is prone to the stupidest defeats. With Lui Kang, I accidentally won by just punching non-stop. But Shao Kahn is a nightmare. His attacks almost always take a quarter of your health or set you up for another attack, which can’t be blocked. One knocks players down, and can be repeated indefinitely (which happens with disturbing frequency). This one attack alone ruins the fight, because it’s so far reaching that it’s nearly impossible to avoid. Then he’ll pull a hammer straight out of his ass and whack you with it. Funny? Yes. But not for players.

You’ll see this screen more than any other…except for the loading screen

Nine starting characters and presumably double that counts the cast of UMK3, but once again, good luck getting them all. It’s not the difficulty alone that makes doing so next to impossible, but the touch controls. Two control schemes, an updated 5-button configuration made just for this version, and the original 6-button layout, are available to players. The good news is the 5-button layout can be customized so the buttons can be placed anywhere on the bottom right corner of the screen. The bad news is that it won’t help. The five buttons include punch, kick, block, special and run, basically eliminating the need to press two buttons with one thumb simultaneously. The new controls make it possible to actually perform special moves, but because it’s so difficult to aim the virtual joystick with any precision, the game more often turns into a cheesing match than Mortal Kombat.

My larger concern with the game is that every time I beat it or achieved something, I didn’t always see a reward. I beat the game with Sub-Zero, but didn’t even get to see his ending story. I beat the game with him and Scorpion but unlocked no new characters. The loading screens, which appear before and after every match which seems absolutely absurd, kept assuring me that I’d be rewarded, and offered codes for multiplayer games…but with each new character walking away a champion, the only prize I’d earn was the chance to say “I did it. I actually did it!” If only the game didn’t promise other rewards.

UMK3 also includes two other single-player modes, Survival and Shao Karnage. The former loops players into a never-ending string of matches until they run out of health, while the latter is 99 seconds of no-holds-barred fighting Shao Kahn, without health bars. A multiplayer mode is also available, for any friends who also have the game, which has all of the special kodes from the original to enjoy. And the graphics are splendid, all things considered. It’s an old game with few upgrades, but it looks good enough to play and enjoy. I mean, cutting up a body with fatalities and seeing blood and limbs splatter everywhere doesn’t need high-res imagery.

Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is a fine game, as it was 15 years ago, but getting adjusted to the touch controls will prove too difficult for many gamers. It only took me four days to finally get the hang of it. Those who push on will likely enjoy the game thoroughly, but it really is one meant to be played with friends. For just $.99, even if it isn’t a great game on iOS, you can spare a copy for yourself and a few of your buddies. I mean, come on…animalities!

James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.