Now, if you were to tell me that Mortal Kombat came about after filming actors going through a series of martial arts moves in a small closet-like room with basic lighting via a home video camera - I would probably respond with, "Yeah that makes sense". As a direct, grittier response to the popularity of Street Fighter II a new oral history of the original Mortal Kombat provides some insight into its creation.
In that the actors and moves were basically created during intense 8 hour sessions that were not only lo-fi, but also low-pay. Daniel Pesina, the actor who portrayed Johnny Cage, Sub-Zero, Scorpion and Reptile, notes, "We experimented with every martial art move for about three days, eight hours a day, filming and trying to figure it out. Any sort of sophisticated video game animation technology wasn’t around. What you see is videotaped footage of us doing the actual moves."
Rich Divizio, the actor who portrayed Kano, adds, "Where we filmed was nowhere near professional. It was like a junk closet, with a makeshift backdrop, makeshift lights and John had a camera — I think it was his dad’s — a HI-8 video, about the best quality at the time."
The costumes themselves were created based on what was available, and due to the low budget the colour swap from say Sub Zero to Scoprion was an easy way to add more characters. Daniel Pesina explains, "John [Tobias, Mortal Kombat co-creator] had the idea that we could have even more ninjas by doing a color swap to save time. But because we’re all friends and we used to rib each other, my brother Carlos was like, “John, that’s just lazy, get off your ass and let’s film all the characters,” because originally we had a bunch of characters that we wanted to put in the game, but couldn’t because of time constraints."
It's a great read, so be sure to check out the full feature here