Mortal Kombat Trilogy

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Mortal Kombat Trilogy is a 2D fighting game released in 1996 by Midway.

Game Mechanics

Based on Lex's guide from



Blocking in MK is different from virtually every fighting game. Obviously, there is a button for block, rather than holding back, which eliminates the need for proximity blocking entirely, and you can buffer moves easily while blocking. A not so obvious concept about blocking in MK is frame update. Since character sprites are behind by one tick in MK, you can block things upon the frame they connect. There is a similar concept in SFA3 called "Blue Blocking" which your character turns blue and it takes away less guard stun meter. You can tap D BL on or just before the frame the sweep will connect, and your character will not have to duck, enabling them to counter faster, or sometimes duck half way, and stand back up instantly. It is a good idea to learn how to block only when absolutely needed, so you aren't stuck in standing back up frames after releasing block, rather, releasing block at the end of the contact and standing up while unblocking.


In simplest usage, the run bar depletes when you press the run button and forward, and you continue to run by holding forward, not forward run. You can hold run and tap forward repeatedly to take small, medium, and large running steps. If you hold forward run after the run bar has been depleted in any situation, the run bar will not refill until you release either forward, or run. Run bar is depleted in slightly different delegations for an aaLP or HP, a little more for aaLPLP or HPHP, and on moves like the Teleport Uppercut, and Liu Kang's Bike Kick. After a pop up combo, you can walk forward and let the run bar begin to fill up, once you get a sliver of green, you can take a "run burst" and get an extra HP before many juggle combos.

Special Moves

All special moves in UMK3 are "taps". For insance, Ermac's lift is Back, Down, Back HK. Most street fighter players interpret this as a Dragon Punch motion. It can work like that still, but keep in mind that all you need to do is register the BACK switch, then the DOWN switch, then the BACK switch, and hit HK. No fluid motion is needed and you will find your game improving as you become faster, but more labored in your direction hitting. This game was made for switches and not 360's. A lot of players have trouble juggling with moves like Kitana's Air Fan, or even Kabal's air fireball. It's pretty easy to do once you understand how "taps" work. After an aaHP,HP, punisher, hit Forward UP HK for the jumpkick, then hit Forward HP LP to toss out the fan instantly, and very high, enabling a good follow up juggle. Remember that you can generally buffer move directions with a pause, and while blocking to hide your movements, and then pressing the activating attack button shortly after.

Throw Defense

Hold "Back" and you will not be thrown. Up Back, Down Back, Down Back Block also works. Many people complain about throws, but throw prevention is pretty easy in MK, and it's been this way from MK1 through MK4.


The purpose of a crossup is a little different in UMK3 from other fighting games. The main purpose of this is to "flip" the controls of the victim, setting up potential cross up throws. It's also useful to crossup and try for a jumping HP starter to ground combo, which if timed correctly, can snuff uppercuts. There are a lot of character specific tactics for jumping HP linkers, for example, Kabal can often times land within the collision area of an uppercut and start his combo without getting hit, or Jax and the female ninjas can cross up while still in the air, and connect a jump punch starter with their foot behind them, because the attack started before you crossed the other player's axis, but the collision box became hot after, thus putting it directly behind them. Another cross up concept is the reverse hitting in general. You can time sweeps to connect behind you if someone does a shallow cross up to try and land for a cross up throw. The opponent will land right behind you, and you if you time it right, the sweep will be out in front of you, and your back side will touch them. This also works on standing LKs very often in similar situations.

Punishment Mode

When certain moves are blocked, the attacker will roll up into a ball and float right next to the other player setting up a punisher juggle. Blocked moves that cause this are Kano's regular Cannonball, The Ninjas' teleports, Kung Lao's dive kick, Mileena's Roll, and Stryker's Baton Dash. Other characters who have a definition air punishment set up are Sektor and Robot Smoke's teleport uppercut, which has somewhat limited options to punish depending on who you are using, Liu Kang's Bike Kick, and Mileena's Drop Kick. Other punishment scenarios to look for are against Liu Kang's Dragon Kick, Kabal's Spin, Sonya's leg grab, Reptile's Elbow Dash and Ninja Slides. All of these, when blocked, make them stay locked in place, generally very close to you, free to be countered, but only within a very brief time. This is not much longer than the amount of time it takes you get out of blocked so you must react quickly.

Damage Protection

This is a very necessary concept in games with single moves that do as much as 21% and no air hit-limit juggle combos. It is a safeguard that makes attacks do approximately half their normal damage (chip damage is generally 25% normal damage). Grounded Jump Kicks activate damage protection, so anything you connect after a JK will do half damage. Certain special moves activate damage protection, like Male Ninja Teleport Punches, Stryker's Riot Gun, Mileena's Roll, etc, while others do not, like Robot Ninja Teleport Uppercuts, Harpoons, and Shang Tsung's Ground Eruption. Cyrax's and Sheeva's Throws can be juggled off of, and they both activate damage protection. In MK3 they did not, and you could score reasonable damage off them. This was a pointless change, as they are now even more crippled than before. Stryker and Sonya's command throws (the Baton Dash and the Leg Grab) have their own damage protection built in, in which the move itself is reduced to half damage after 3 hits combo before it, and if you get them in an autocombo, they will do 1/4 their normal damage if the combo goes beyond 3 hits. Kabal's spin is the only attack that can turn off damage protection. If you do his pop up combo, and only the uppercut connects, spin them and let them fall to the ground. On the way to the ground do aaHPHP, JK, air fireball, and you will get the full damage for the juggle, plus 1% for the uppercut in his combo, and 1 pixel from the spin, totalling 45%.

Example character: Human Smoke

Block a teleport punch from Another Human Smoke,and he goes into punishment mode. If you are mid screen, do aaHPHP, JK, teleport punch, harpoon, 3 hit pop up, aaHP, JK, air throw. The result is (with the air throw counting as a hit and adding damage) 11 hits 68%. To break this down completely and understand where the DP comes into play: aaHPHP = 13.6%, JK = 15.6%, teleport punch = 9.5% (activates DP), and now your harpoon does 2.5% intead of 5%, and the 3 hit pop up do 9% instead of 19%, (the remainder of the hits do what they should do after his pop up).

Your new combo is aaHPHP(13.2%), teleport punch (miss)(0%), aaHP (6.6% and replacing the teleport punch which does 3% more), JK (15.5%) harpoon(5%), 3 hit pop up(19%), aaHP, JK, air throw. 11 hits 78%. Even if you do aaHPHP, TP miss, aaHPHP harpoon, the combo will do 1% more than the other.

This is not always a usable combo because it depends on how close to the edge of the screen Human Smoke is, but it shows that the same amount of hits, with one hit doing less damage than the DP activating alternate move, will result in more damage.

Example character: Sonya

aaHP, JK, leg grab 3 hits 43% (no DP) JK(DP), aaHP, leg grab 3 hits 29% aaHPHP, JK, (personal DP)leg grab, 4 hits 33%

Example Character Ermac:

JK, TKS, aaHPHP, JK, TKS, aaHPHP, aaHP, JK 8 hits 52% (counting the slams' damage)

aaJK (meaning while both players are in the air) TKS, aaHPHP, JK, TKS, aaHPHP, aaHP, JK 8 hits 91% (again counting the slams damage) - identical combos, huge damage difference because the JK hit in the air.


If you block a normal attack in the corner, the attacker gets pushed back to just under jump distance (with the exception of LP jabs, as you should know by now). If you juggle someone in the corner with two LP/HP jabs, or a jab after just about any other hit, you will be pushed back, but you can cancel this with any special move. The same thing applies to when you throw out 3 jabs in succession and they are blocked, the third punch frame will freeze and you will be pushed back. At any time during the "iceskate", you can cancel out with a special move.

Corner Resets

With crossup throws when the player lands on top and the sprites overlap, and you dont throw, the attacker will "ice skate" out of the overlap. There are rules for this when it happens in the corner, and they are very useful to know.

Mock up of the starting positions:

p1 - player one's starting position p2 - player two's starting position p1c - player one corner p2c - player two corner | - wall

|p1c p1 p2 p2c|

p2 backs p1 all the way back into p1c so that he can't go any further. Now, when p2 jumps on top of p1's sprite, he will always be pushed back out of the corner and p1 will remain in the corner. p2 will not be able to get behind p1 while p1 is backed all the way into p1c.

so, if p2 is backed all the way in p1c, and p1 jumps on top of p2's sprite, then p1 will be in the corner and p2 will be pushed out. So why is this useful? Read about kabals corner trap below and you shall see.

example character: kabal

its kabal vs. kabal. im p2 and I back p1 all the way into HIS corner, and he blocks. I start the corner rj's while waiting for him to let go of block. once he does, I hit him with the flash (B, F LK) then the corner reset pushes me back OUT of the corner. Instead of doing the uppercut combo (which will push me back on the final hit), I continue to rj until he lets go of block and i hit him w/ the flash once more. Again, the corner reset keeps him trapped in the corner, but this time I sweep him. The most common reaction to this is to "wake up jump" out of the corner. So after I hit him w/ the sweep, I hit LP to juggle him immediatley after he jumps, and I get pushed back cause its a juggle. THEN, I cancel with the flash during the "iceskate" and spin him in the air. Since his forward jump brought him out of the corner a little bit, and he was NOT all the way back into the corner, I DON'T get pushed out of the corner. Instead, he's hovering off of the ground and I get flipped around, setting me up for an easy 2xHP, JK, Fireball juggle for 42%.

Glitch Canceling

Many special moves in MK have a number of hits you can do before that move is locked. Moves like the Harpoon and teleport punch have a limit of 4 hits and the moves are essentially turned off. MKII did not really have a feature like this, but they started implimenting time limit usage on moves, which still exists in UMK3. You can cancel a LP, HP, JP, or JK on the frame of contact, into a special move with a hit limit, one hit beyond that limit. In other games this technique is referred to as "Just Frames" meaning essentially you have just one frame in 60 to get this to work.

Example character: Scorpion

Block a teleport punch, counter with aaHPHP, delayed JK, teleport punch, run in, aaHP(glitch cancel on contact frame) - harpoon. You have just broken the rules and done 5 hits before a harpoon.

Other examples of moves with hit limit cancels: Kitana's Fan lift (0) Sub's Freeze (1), Mileena's Roll (2), Reptile's Forceball(3), Ermac's Telekinetic Lift(4). Sindels' scream has very strange properties. The scream itself has no legal limit, if you connect a single aaHP or LP between screams, you can continue doing screams until they are too low to the ground, however the general hit limit is 2. If you juggle 1 HP, scream, 2HPs, scream, you can continue doing single HP, dancing on that last hit limit.

After this, you can glitch cancel her scream multiple times: aaHPHP(limit reached), aaHPHPgc, aaHP gc, etc. This concept in general is a very advanced tactic and you should stay away from it in game until you know what you are doing, but the easiest character to practice this with is Sub-zero, as you will see more gcing with him than anyone.

Off the Ground

For some reason at the end of an autocombo, you cannot block on the last landing frame, or even completely lying on the ground which is why you can sweep after Jade's and Kitana's 4 hit punch combos and Jax's 7 hitter (minus the the last hit), or ducking LKs in the corner after many combos. The ducking LKs can result in free counters however, so do not use them against someone like Kabal, how can just allow you ducking LK and spin you immediately, Robot Smoke, who can teleport uppercut for free as well. Nightwolf has a 3 hit kick combo and the first hit is very low to the ground, allowing him to hit the Robots, Kabal, Kano, and Sheeva while they are laying completely on the ground in the corner within the duration of time you have before they can block. In any other situation, if you hit someone while they are lying on the ground, or in the first landing/blockable frame you will instantly appear blocking if holding block. If you connect a standing LK or HK after an auto combo the opponent will appear standing and selling the hit, unable to block. For characters like Sonya, Jax and Kano, their sweep recovery is very fast and wake up otgs are possible, however blockable. If you get a sweep close enough, you can start an autocombo with a knee lift directly afterwards, and it is very difficult to react in time to block it. Liu Kang can do this to some extent as well with his kick combo, so can Nightwolf and Kabal.

Animation Lag

This was originally introduced in Mortal Kombat II. One of the noticeable problems with the original Mortal Kombat was a general sluggish feeling. When a collision occurs, your opponent does not react to it until the following tick. In order to make the game look and feel more responsive, the animation of the characters was offset by 1 tick. At any time, the frame of animation your character is in is actually representative of the last tick. You can view this by simply pausing the game during a move like a punch or kick. Pause the game and look at your characters shadow. If you are doing a punch, the shadow may be 1 tick ahead of the character because the shadow represents the current tick while the animation of the character represents the previous tick. There will be times where the shadow and animation line up because characters will often hold a frame for more than 1 tick.

As a result, the time between when the attack animation appears to connect and when the opponent reacts is shortened because the collision actually happens a tick before you see it happen and then the reaction happens almost simultaneously after you see the collision happen.

Player Priority

Unlike other fighting games, in the 2D Mortal Kombat games, both players cannot be hit at the exact same time. One of the players has priority over the other. Which player has priority is selected at the beginning of each round. If two people pick the same character and are near each other and both players do a HP at the exact same time, one player will take priority. Which player has priority stays the same for the entire round.

This applies to projectiles as well. It can appear during normal gameplay that both players can be hit by projectiles at the exact same time. In fact, their life will even begin to drain on the same frame. However, one player was actually hit before the other. If both players are in danger and use a projectile so that they'll connect at the exact same time, the player with priorities will hit first, kill the opponent and he or she will survive.


Ground Combos

Blocked ground combos are very good for two reasons, chip damage and position. You should almost never finish a ground combo unless you want to use the last hit as a positional setup of some kind. Stopping a ground combo before the last hit keeps you close so you can continue the rushdown. 99% of all ground combos push the opponent back on the last hit.

example character: Jade

When someone is blocking, run in and do her knee combo (HK, HK, LK, HK). Stop on the 3rd hit to remain close, and then go into run jabs. The reason for this is you can get more guaranteed damage from the chip hits and continue rush, resetting the trap, and to make sure they are blocking throws and not trying to counter attack. Restart the leg combo, stop at the 3rd hit, then mix it up, maybe stick in a standing HK or a dash kick. This is a lot better than completing the initial ground combo and pushing the victim back, allowing them to counter attack easier, and continue assaulting them.

Run jabs

You can cancel a LP or HP by tapping any other attack button, however, run performs no action when you tap it (except if you hold it even without run meter you can no longer do special moves) so there is no chance of throwing out a HK or LK or blocking, and you can create a rhythm to continue advancing forward, or doing a double LP, cancel with Run. What this does is it forces the LP or HP to retract the instant it completes it's contact frame, rather than holding it, reducing the total jab duration by 1/3. It may not seem like much, but it is in the heat of battle. The best way to run jab is to keep your meter from emptying for as long as possible. This means you should hold forward, and alternating tapping run and LP, and releasing forward briefly during the LP, so the run meter doesn't drop anymore than it has too. This is a very offensive tactic and dramatically changes the game when used effectively. Not only does it give you multiple chances of landing a throw, but its really good chip damage and it moves the victim towards the evil, evil corners. Doing more than 2 LP run jabs in the corner will result in push back, so try to keep it to a pace of 2, and mix up with other attacks when you see an opening. Watch for early counter ducking LKs or uppercuts.

Kara jabs

Canceling a LP or HP with block can be a very good idea against characters with fast wake up moves, specifically Kabal. Essentially, you should make it a point to throw out some LPs, in effort to bait a spin out of Kabal, and cancel that LP with block so the instant the spin happens, you will go into block frames. As long as you are holding block on or before the frame of contact, the spin will not be able to connect, even if you hear the jab sound, nothing will come out, you will just block. This also sets up the chance for snuffs and throws out of special moves, especially one that require a forward tap. The LP will either connect, you will throw them, or you will block. As long as you are dong this properly there is very little chance a surprise move will get you. You might want to try practicing against Kabal players, try to get a basic combo or a sweep to knock him down, then run in and labor an obvious LP. This will generally cause the Kabal player to react with a wake up spin. On the average player, the Spin will plow through them, but if you kara jab rather than run jab, the spin will be blocked and you can punish Kabal. This tactic works well on just about any character with a special move like this.

Corner Runjabs

Once you have someone backed into the corner and blocking, run up to them and tap LP, run, LP, run, or LP,LP, run etc. to throw out really fast run jabs. They will be in the corner, and they will eat pixel after pixel of block damage. Don't do more than 3 jabs in succession or you will suffer "pushback". The only thing that the victim can really do is escape with a special move (teleport, fly kick, square punch, etc), uppercut, or crouching LK. If you can sniff out when they are going to try to do any of those, do a knee or special move, preferably a containment. If they block a knee you will be pushed back, so do it wisely to keep them trapped in the corner. Try to throw out 4-6 run jabs then knee, because thats usually when people realize that they are losing a lot of energy to chip damage. If the knee hits, continue to run jab and keep them locked down. Also, don't forget to hold back while you do the corner run jabs so that they can't counter throw. If you are under corner run jab pressure, after the first 1 or 2, try and spam on HK, and you have a good chance of sneaking out a knee lift on them right as they are about to do another run jab.

Crossup Throws

This tactic is best used while an opponent is being defensive. The best way to describe this is when you are at jump distance, do an early jumpkick, so you land directly on top of the victim, without hitting them. You will land overlapping the victim's sprite. If you hit LP right as you land, you will have a very good chance of connecting a throw because they have to hold back to prevent the throw, and the direction is pretty hard to determine in such a close situation in a small amount of time. A good example of this is with Kano's upward Cannonball. You can place this move to descend directly on top of your opponent, and this results in a free throw very, very often if they don't have time to counter you before you land, which is limited generally to an uppercut, followed by their rush down, and your choice of counter uppercut, or Cannonball wake up.


Commonly referred to as "aa" directly in place of the attack which would be used as anti-air. These are attacks which are used to take someone out of the air. It is very important to understand every character's best aa opportunities. A standing HK is a very simple and effective way to anti air someone. Look to use this in close range if someone tries to jump away from a run jab scenario, but also sometimes use the run jabs to juggle into a special move. Some characters can aaHP others out of the air very easily, setting up decent, to super high damage combos. Off a single aaHP, Ermac can achieve 82% on almost every character, but Jade can only get 18% when countering a jumping attack. Some characters should go for RHs on their aa's because it will set up combos, traps, or other tactics and set ups. The best simple form of aa is the uppercut. Try and scout early JKs, run under, and uppercut them from the other side. It is a great psychological tactic. Run under RHs work well also with certain characters who hit high on the RH. Some characters have special moves which serve this purpose, like Ermac's lift. It can be used if the person jumps from far away, which can be baited by use of a non side switching teleport punch. Sindel's scream is excellent anti air, as well as Kano's upward ball. Kabal's spin can be used as anti air from even a ducking position.

Fake Ducking

When rushing down someone, an interesting tactic to use is a fake duck. Run in, duck outside of normal attack range, stand up and run in again after they attack and counter with a combo, or at least a standing HK. This is a great bait move to throw in every now and then if you are having a hard time getting in for run jabs. You must be very fast and aware of placement for this to work, it is good for a character like Nightwolf, or Sonya.

Relaunch combos

What you must do is do a pop up (launcher) combo and then jump as they arch in the air. Right before they land you have a small window to connect another jump punch that fools the game into thinking they are on the ground, making them stand up and sell the attack standing instead of being juggled. If you mistime it, they will either be juggled by the jump punch, missed, or they will be able to block it. Not everyone can relaunch every character due to collision detection. Kano, Ermac and Human Smoke can relaunch everyone. Sonya, Kabal and Classic Sub-zero can relaunch a lot of characters, and so and so forth. Some characters are very hard to relaunch, some are easy when it's the computer, like the Robots and Sheeva, because they don't block until the combo breaks and their vertical collisions are taller than others. This means they are touching the ground and still hittable for longer duration, but they are in blockable frames longer as well, so ultimately they have just as small a window to legit relaunch. With characters like Sonya, Ermac, Human Smoke, and Kano, you must pause after their pop up before jumping forward since they recover faster than Kabal and Classic Sub-zero. With the latter, you can just hold Up Forward after the pop up and getting relaunchers with them is very easy. In general, this is another advanced, somewhat cheap tactic, and generally not worth it unless you have mastered the timing.



Tier List

Banned Tier God Tier Top Tier High Tier Mid Tier Low Tier Bottom Tier

N64 Tier List

1- Noob Saibot
2- Human Smoke
3- Kabal
4- Ermac
5- Sub Zero
6- Robot Smoke
7- Nightwolf
8- Jax
9- Kitana
10- Reptile
11- Kano
12- Sheeva
13- Kung Lao
14- Stryker
15- Rain
16- Sindel
17- Cyrax
18- Sonya
19- Baraka
20- Scorpion
21- Jade
22- Raiden
23- Liu Kang
24- Mileena
25- Johnny Cage
26- Shang Tsung
27- Khameleon
28- Sektor

Game Versions

Kombat Kodes

MKT Navigation

Controls and Notation
Human Smoke
Johnny Cage
Klassic Sub-Zero
Kung Lao
Liu Kang
Noob Saibot
Shang Tsung
Klassic Jax
Klassic Kano
Klassic Kung Lao
Klassic Raiden
N64 Sub-Zero
Shao Kahn