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Underrated: NetherRealm Studios puts the K back in Kombat

on 1 June 2013

In the gaming world, there is a lot of talk from gamers about game studios being “overrated.” Fans and haters of different critically acclaimed studios battle it out on forums all across the internet in a never-ending flame war over which studio is overrated or why another studio isn't.

What about the other guys, though--the game developers that bring us great titles but don't necessarily get the appreciation or attention they deserve? There are some that bring up how underrated a developer may be, but for every one of those, there are thousands of gamers saying a developer is overrated. Well, in these “Underrated" articles, we are going to take the time to name developers that could be considered underrated and tell you why they deserve your time.

NetherRealm Studios (Mortal Kombat, Injustice: Gods Among Us)

Over the course of the PlayStation 2 generation, the Mortal Kombat franchise lost a lot of its popularity and respect amongst fans. Midway Games tried to ditch the classic 2D fighter format in favor of a 3D arena format like Tekken. This change in the Mortal Kombat franchise lasted into this console generation with Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, and although the game wasn't terrible, it didn't deliver the true blood-filled Mortal Kombat experience that fans come to expect.

In 2009, Midway Games became a part of WB Games Chicago. In 2010, this studio merger was given the name NetherRealm Studios. With Midway Games came Mortal Kombat--its most successful franchise. Ed Boon, co-creator of Mortal Kombat, came along for the ride as well and became the team leader at NetherRealm. With the many years of game industry experience that Ed Boon brought to NetherRealm Studios, it comes of no surprise that his influence is very apparent in everything the studio has done since.

NetherRealm Studios didn't pull any punches with its introduction to the gaming world. With courage and confidence, NetherRealm launched themselves into the spotlight by rebooting Mortal Kombat--one of the most widely known and popular fighting game franchises of all time. In terms of human growth, this is like skipping crawling and going straight for Olympic hurdles or, more appropriately in this instance, kick boxing. Thankfully for gamers, the gamble paid off brilliantly!

The reboot, simply titled Mortal Kombat, was a great return to what made the series popular in the first place. Mortal Kombat had the incredibly fast-paced gameplay, the ultra-bloody fighting moves, and the over-the-top fatalities. It had all of the things fans of the series would want, but it was so much more than a repeat of all the content we have seen from the Mortal Kombat franchise.

NetherRealm improved on the age-old franchise and gave it a new set of legs to kick with. A fun single-player mode other than the expected tower tournament mode was added to Mortal Kombat with interesting storyline. It also lasted a quite a few hours--something that most (if not all) fighting games lack. Aside from the strong single-player campaign, the reboot also included an interesting power meter that builds up by taking and dealing damage. The power meter is spent on combo reversals, enhanced special abilities, and x-ray techniques--the latter of which are exceptionally brutal!

Injustice: Gods Among Us, NetherRealm Studios' most current offering, pits the mightiest of the DC Universe's super heroes and villains against one another. In terms of gameplay, it continues where Mortal Kombat left off with great single-player modes and all the punches and kicks any fighting game fan could ask for, but NetherRealm didn't just make a Mortal Kombat clone. The fighting areas in Injustice: Gods Among Us had a new level of interactivity that included breakable walls and objects, pushable buttons, and multiple areas that can be accessed by beating your opponent into them. This added a lot to the gameplay and helped the fighting experience feel different from other fighting games. PSU's very own Lazar Odic gave Injustice: Gods Among Us a strong 8.5 out of 10.

In the short time that NetherRealm Studios has been around, it has not only completely revived the classic gaming franchise Mortal Kombat, but also given us a strong new fighting game that could continue to evolve and eventually become a franchise of its own. The courage that NetherRealm has is worthy of respect all on its own, but its a good thing for us that the courage that its shown is backed up by some of the best fighting games we have seen this gaming generation. The future of NetherRealm as a studio looks promising and if you haven't stepped into the ring of one of its games yet, you're missing out. So what are you waiting for? Round 1, FIGHT!

Check out our Injustice: Gods Among Us game gallery for news, screenshots, and more.


Next week, we will talk about another developer that we believe is considered underrated. If you missed out on last week's installment of Underrated, check it out right here. Do you think this studio could be considered underrated? What studios do you think are underrated? Let us know in the comments section below and be sure to come back for next week's installment!