Generally favorable reviews - based on 41 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 31 out of 41
  2. Negative: 0 out of 41
  1. A shining triumph of beat 'em up glory, spinning off from the traditional MK one-on-one gameplay and showing us all just how excellent the old-school beat 'em up can be in this current generation of gaming.
  2. The 3D beat ‘em up I have been waiting a long time for. The fighting engine just feels fantastic.
  3. 88
    Unfortunately, this game is not online, something that would have significantly boosted replay value.
  4. The game flows extremely well, and is just a complete blast to play. Seeing your favorite MK landscapes come to life is a total joy and the story provides some insight into the strange MK world.
  5. I haven't had this much fun with a co-op game in quite some time. [Oct 2005, p.122]
  6. The fighting - and there's tons of it - never grows laborious or monotonous... [Nov p.76]
  7. 85
    While the nutball MK mythos is annoying—click through those windy speeches by Raiden as quickly as possible—it's all good once disembodied heads are bouncing around like popcorn.
  8. A good mix of an action/adventure game and a traditional fighter. Fans of either genre will find something to enjoy and MK fans will especially enjoy the references to MK lore.
  9. A little bit of "Final Fight" and "Devil May Cry," and an even littler bit of "Prince of Persia," Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is a must-have for MK fans. It's repetitive – what did you expect? You fight the same enemies repeatedly.
  10. Far from the dodgy cash-in we expected, Kombat dwarfs the likes of Beat Down and offers genuine improvements in the formerly stagnant scrolling fighter genre. [PSM2]
  11. It's a really nice combination of old and new Mortal Kombat.
  12. The combat system is easy to learn but has enough depth that it will take time to master.
  13. What you get out of Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks depends on your familiarity with the series. The more you know, the more you’ll like.
  14. Reinventing Mortal Kombat was risky, but Shaolin Monks rams home the action with style, guts and excitement to spare. [Nov 2006, p.138]
  15. 80
    Midway has done a great job of taking a very popular, well-entrenched franchise and moving it over to another genre with success. Shaolin Monks isn't without its faults, but the game's tenets are good, the moves, the fighting, the unlockables, and its surprising level of depth all count for so much. And all of this is topped off with the superb co-op mode.
  16. It's a game that will certainly appeal to MK fans thanks to its self-referencing details, but more than that, Shaolin Monks will appeal to action/adventure fans in general thanks to a very solid combat system that surpasses previous attempts at multi-directions 3D combat.
  17. It's a game that gets back to the basics and is chock-full of Mortal Kombat goodness, especially for two players simultaneously. [Dec 2005, p.84]
  18. If you're looking for a fight you came to the right place. If you're looking for something more than just a fight you've also come to the right place. Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks puts the mental fun back in fundamental.
  19. 80
    It offers a stellar single-player adventure mode experience, a ton of unlockables, a comprehensive two-player versus mode, and best of all, the original freakin' "Mortal Kombat II" arcade game. For all of these different modes in a single game, the price tag is practically a steal.
  20. The mighty "God of War" is a little more deserving of your action cash if you've only got the funds to buy one game where you run around killing stuff. But Shaolin Monks is a very close second-best in the heaving action sector, thanks to its good looks, decent play and a gory, blood-soaked style that's well in keeping with the Mortal Kombat legacy of pain. [PSW]
  21. If you don't understand Mortal Kombat, this isn't the game for you. But if you do get it, especially if you loved the first two arcade games, this IS the game for you.
  22. The Mortal Kombat transition from fighting game to action-adventure experience is handled exceptionally well in Shaolin Monks. As Scorpion would say, "Get over here!"
  23. 80
    Shaolin Monks certainly has its problems, but the action at its heart is the most enjoyable the series has offered in ages.
  24. The creators get points for keeping the combos, juggles, air attacks, and instant-kill fatalities, not to mention the chopsocky feel and cameos from familiar faces like Baraka and Reptile.
  25. While it ventures into new territory,it does so in an interesting way.
  26. It's not overly deep or terribly long, but for anyone looking for simple, cartoonish blood and brutality, this is very definitely the place.
  27. The game's simplistic look and occasionally spotty camera might be a turnoff for some, but the pure fun the game provides easily overrides these shortcomings. [Nov 2005, p.91]
  28. Were it not for the sometimes-unclear objectives (coupled with a tough-to-follow map); puzzles that almost always involve throwing an enemy into a wall, spikes, and the like; and some minor annoyances, this one would be award worthy.
  29. Apart from actually putting together a completely decent gameplay engine, Shaolin Monks is so ridiculously chock-full of hidden goodies and subtle wink-and-nod-style in-jokes that anybody who professes to have a degree in MK will be hard-pressed not to come away entertained.
  30. This game has a lot of things to keep you coming back. You can play the single player or Ko-Op mode again with a new set of characters (we will keep them secret for now) and the unlockable arcade version of MKII is a nice addition for the fans.
  31. The story is weak, boss fights are hard, but the action is extremely enjoyable and in a game where the main focus is the action, which is all that counts.
  32. If there's a rhyme or reason to it, perhaps it's that the violence and gore are still satisfyingly novel, but that this time it's more show-and-tell than learn-and-apply.
  33. If you love all things MK, you'll see Shaolin Monks as a special milestone in the franchise and a reward for your loyalty. Otherwise, it's just a fun brawling diversion with lots of gloopy blood and two unlockable characters. Either way, it's good stuff.
  34. Fans of the series will be satisfied by the amount of secrets and unlockable features in the game, but for the non-fans, this might be worth a rental instead of a purchase.
  35. 70
    It won’t win any game of the year awards, but for a piece of brainless action, you can’t really go wrong with Shaolin Monks.
  36. 70
    The advantage is (once again no surprise) the Dual Shock controller. Instead of having to strain for the white and black buttons, fatalities and throws reside on the shoulder buttons, where they belong.
  37. The generous slathering of nostalgia for the locations and characters of the old arcade games is a treat. [Dec p.93]
  38. A fairly impressive beast. It might not be smart, polished or new, but it's wonderfully violent, varied and bloody. Plus, it’s proof that two heads are better than one.
  39. Despite there being a massive selection of attacks at your disposal, you won't use them, and after battling through your seventeenth batch of Oni bastards, you'll soon settle for the simplest and most effective means of disposal and trade any style for progress.
  40. 60
    Shaolin Monks' replay value could use a jump-start or two from Raiden’s fingertips. Despite an arcade port of Mortal Kombat II and a two-player versus mode, there’s simply not enough "kontent" to justify a purchase for most.
  41. It’s a non-offensive way to while away a few hours digging up the past, but the core gameplay doesn’t hold a candle to the title it’s so fondly remembering. [Nov 2005, p.108]
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 50 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 19
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 19
  3. Negative: 1 out of 19
  1. Apr 24, 2011
    A enjoyable co-op or single player adventure game! Mortal Kombat fans and casual gamers will love this,any other who says this is not good must be really,really a big die hard street fighter fan! Full Review »
  2. Jun 8, 2014
    OVERALL: Maybe the best 2-player cooperative game, certainly the best of those in the Beat-em-Up genre (yes, better than the Sega Die Hard/Dynamite Cop games, better than Shank 1, better than Double Dragon Neon, better than Dynasty Warriors _).

    Graphics are good, especially in their adherence to the mortal kombat aesthetic and in character designs, at least by PS2 standards. The exception is the Sub-zero special effects, which look like ugly static bitmap blue clouds plastered over what's supposed to be "frozen." Enemies blast into bloody gibs if you hit them hard enough, which I loved. Sound effects are great. The cutscenes, CGI and rendered, have really great fight choreography, although they are extremely silly in the classic mortal kombat style.

    Although moves only affect one enemy at a time, MK:SM lets you move around really well with the left joystick so you don't lock-on. Combos are based on button presses, not directional inputs, which avoids the problems of Devil-Must-Cry games. There's dedicated throw button, dedicated jump button, (so already we're leagues ahead of modern beat-em-up games), attack button and launch/uppercut button. Holding down the shoulder button makes these buttons activate different character-specific special moves that draw from a recharging meter. You can also pick up, use and throw weapons. The feel of combat is perfect, and it's amazing how well all the character-specific special attacks from the 2D games translate into 3D space. You can also pick up, use and throw weapons. Fatalities are incorporated as instant kill or "rage" attacks.
    It's just simple enough to allow friends to pick-up-and-play, but deep enough to carry the entire game as you upgrade the special attacks and unlock more combos. There's a large variety of enemy types, incorporating most of the MK2 characters as well as background extras from the first movie. I personally prefer the MK:SM versus mode for one-on-one combat to any of the fighting game series of mortal kombats.
    In addition to combat, there's also some basic platforming. Puzzles work well because they all amount to throwing or knocking enough enemies into specific obstacles, so they're integrated into combat.

    Here is where all the little annoyances appear, due to some bizarrely-obviously bad design decisions.
    For one thing, there are parts of the game where you need a walkthrough to figure out where to go, not to mention the secrets (including critically important unlockables like the survival mode, extra bosses to fight and extra characters for the versus mode) that are impossible to find without one.
    There's no way to drop-in/drop-out of cooperative versus single player mode, so you have to restart the game to change. There's not even a way to switch characters besides restarting.
    Also, both players share one health bar, which seems like the worst possible design choice in terms of player health.
    There are only 4 playable characters in the campaign mode, even though there are 8 in versus mode and more besides that as bosses.
    But it's a mark of how great the core gameplay was that this is the only game I have ever gone through the hassle of getting the Action Replay cheat system to work for. Using cheats, you can play as not just the 8 fully-coded-for characters, but also as any enemy that appears in the game (although most of the enemies have limited movesets).
    It also gets very difficult at the end. I'm not too proud to admit I had to cheat heavily to get past the final boss Shao Kahn, who is very cheap in the classic mortal kombat final boss way.
    And it's short. 4 hours!? But better a brilliant short game than a good but padded one.
    Despite the flaws, it remains the best 2-player cooperative campaign I ever played, and even as a single-player game it rivals the best of the beat-em-ups.
    Full Review »
  3. Sep 17, 2012
    I wrote a 4000 character review on how this game was amazing though I accidently clicked back on my mouse and am not going to write the review again >:( Anyway 9/10, I would recommend this to anyone as a coop game. Full Review »