13 Essential Tips for Mortal Kombat 11

Mortal Kombat 11 is the biggest installment yet in the iconic fighting game franchise — and, as a result, it can get a bit overwhelming. From the game’s revamped combat engine and custom variation system, to its plethora of single player modes and in-game currencies, there’s a ton to wrap your head around in this blood soaked brawler, whether you’re playing casually or competitively. With that in mind, here are 13 tips for crushing the competition both online and offline like a pro.

Do the tutorial

Mortal Kombat 11 has one of the most robust tutorial modes of any modern fighter, and it’s worth playing all the way through. The game’s tutorial covers everything from basic offensive and defensive mechanics to tournament-level strategies, and also offers handy breakdowns of each individual character. Plus, you’ll be rewarded with lots of Koins and Time Krystals for the normal tutorials, and character skins for the fighter-specific lessons.

Play story mode

Story mode is another great starting mode for new players. The game’s three-hour-or-so campaign lets you feel out a good chunk of the game’s roster, and you’ll earn tons of koins, skins and other items as you progress. Plus, you owe it to yourself to watch two Johnny Cages go at it in the game’s crazy time-traveling narrative.

Pin your moves

Nearly all of Mortal Kombat 11’s game modes let you pin up to 10 moves from the move list onto your screen by pressing Triangle (PS4), Y (Xbox One) or X (Switch), which is really handy for glancing at key combos and special attacks while you fight. This is a great tool for learning your character's skills without having to constantly pause to look at moves.

Focus on your fundamentals

Mortal Kombat 11 is a game that favors smart space control over crazy combos and aggressive offense, so start small. Hop into training mode and get a good sense of the speed and range of your character’s normal attacks, then get familiar with a few moves and strings that hit both overhead and low so you can keep the opponent guessing. It’s always best to come up with a basic gameplan of normal attacks before you move on to crafting combos.

Master your Krushing Blows

Among Mortal Kombat 11’s most important new mechanics are Krushing Blows, which are dramatic, higher-damage versions of certain moves that trigger when you land an attack under specific conditions. Some of these techniques activate when you interrupt an opponent’s attack; others take place when you land a special move a certain number of times.

Be sure to check the in-game move list to figure out the Krushing Blow conditions for your favorite characters. There are also universal Krushing Blows that the entire cast has access to: for example, interrupting an opponent’s high attack with an uppercut (down + back punch) will lead to big damage and a juggle opportunity.

Use Fatal Blows wisely

When your health drops below 30 percent, you’ll gain access to your Fatal Blow: a high-damage super move that can help you mount a big comeback. However, be careful not to let your Fatal Blow rip just because you have one. Try to incorporate Fatal Blows as part of a combo, or when your opponent has clearly whiffed an attack and is vulnerable. Also keep in mind that you can land only one Fatal Blow per match, so if you successfully use one in the first round, you won’t have access to it later on.

Know your defensive options

Mortal Kombat 11 completely overhauls the way you play defense, and there are some key mechanics worth keeping in mind. When you’ve been knocked down, getup attacks (up + punch or kick) are good for knocking away an aggressive opponent, while rolls (forward or back + L2) are good for making some distance between you and your opponent, or getting out of the corner. Both of these moves cost one bar of defensive meter. Just be sure to mix up what you do while getting up, as your opponent can punish you for big damage if they predict your wakeup attack.

Another key defensive move is the Breakaway (Down + R2), which lets you spin out of a combo at the expense of two bars of defensive meter (as such, use it wisely). Finally, you have Flawless Blocks, which allow you to recover from a block faster (and do an optional follow-up move at the cost of one bar of meter) if you block an attack with perfect timing. This is another technique worth practicing in training mode.

Experiment with variations

When you’re learning a new character, be sure to head to the Kustomization menu and create a few different loadouts with different moves (aka Abilities). The Kustom Variation system gives you a lot of freedom to craft your own playstyle, so try out different Ability combinations in practice mode until you find something that feels right for you.

Create some competitive variations

If you plan on playing online Ranked matches or want to join the offline tournament scene, you’ll want to practice the game’s preset competitive variations. Frustratingly, these variations are different from the default ones you’ll find in other modes, so you’ll have to recreate them yourself if you want to use them in practice and casual matches. To do so, simply open up tournament mode from the Fight menu, take a look at the preset variations for your character, and equip those same moves for your fighter in the Kustomize menu.

Don’t forget your Konsumables

When playing the Towers of Time mode, you can use Konsumables that help turn the tide in your favor with everything from assist attacks, to shields, to health potions. It’s easy to forget about Konsumables and skip right to the next fight, so make sure you equip some by pressing Square (PS4), X (Xbox One) or Y (Switch) before every battle.

Also, pay attention to your opponent’s extra perks. For example, if they have an ice-based assist, try using a Konsumable that gives you resistance against ice attacks. Towers of Time gets pretty hard without Konsumables, so you’ll want to take advantage of them. And if you need more, head to the Krypt and start opening some chests.

Do the character towers

If you’re looking to earn gear and cosmetics for a specific character, check out the character towers (typically located in the top-left section of Towers of Time). While these gauntlet challenges can be a bit of a grind, they’re a guaranteed path towards getting some cool goodies for your favorite tighters.

Know your currencies

Mortal Kombat 11’s myriad in-game currencies can be overwhelming, so here’s a quick breakdown. Koins are the game’s main currency, and are earned by doing pretty much anything in the game, and can be spent on opening chests in the Krypt. Soul Fragments can be earned by getting high scores in the Tower of Time mode, and are necessary for opening certain parts of the Krypt. Hearts can be earned by performing Fatalities and Brutalities, and are used for opening special Krypt chests and unlocking certain Tower challenges.

Finally, Time Krystals are the game’s premium currency that can be earned from both leveling up and spending real-world money. You can spend Time Krystals on the in-game premium store, which features a rotating selection of cosmetics and Konsumables.

Watch and learn

One of the best ways to up your Mortal Kombat game is to watch the pros play. There are already plenty of Mortal Kombat 11 Twitch streams and YouTube videos out there, and watching top players such as SonicFox, HoneyBee and Ketchup and Mustard is a great way to pick up pointers on specific characters and see how the game is played at its highest level.

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.