A Brief History of Robocop vs. Terminator - Prima Games

A Brief History of Robocop vs. Terminator

by Thomas Wilde

Today’s Mortal Kombat 11 trailers, featuring matches between guest characters Robocop and the Terminator, was technically the characters’ fifth bout. The Robocop/Terminator feud’s been going on for almost 30 years, but thanks to time travel, not even they know about it. Here’s the inside story of Murphy vs. the T-800.

A Brief History of Robocop vs. Terminator

It’s not quite Alien vs. Predator, but it’s close. Starting with a comic from Dark Horse in 1992, Robocop and the Terminator have fought repeatedly, including in an Epic Rap Battle of History (ERB is canon, we all know that), and Mortal Kombat 11 is only the latest chapter in their rivalry. I wouldn’t be surprised if half the reason Netherrealm put Robocop in the game in the first place is because the Terminator was already there. If nothing else, every time you beat Robocop as the Terminator in MK11, you’re doing your part to even up what has been, to this point, a remarkably one-sided fight.

Robocop Versus the Terminator (Dark Horse, 1992)

It all started with a comic from Dark Horse, written by Frank Miller (Sin City, Daredevil) and drawn by Walter Simonson (Thor, Fantastic Four). Both were superstars in American comics in the ’80s and ’90s, which makes it weird that the comic has fallen into relative obscurity. Miller had already written the screenplay for Robocop 2, and would go on to finish off the trilogy (and almost the entire franchise) with the screenplay for Robocop 3. The four-issue series is currently digitally available in a special enhanced edition, with a brand-new cover by Simonson.

One of the last surviving humans in the Skynet-dominated future travels back in time to Robocop’s Detroit, to assassinate him before his technology can be used to help develop Skynet. When Murphy finds out that he’s an unwitting participant in the extinction of humanity, he turns the tables by traveling forward into the future, in order to bring an end to Skynet’s war on the humans.

The weirdest thing about the original Robocop Versus the Terminator comic is that it’s one of the few Terminator spin-offs that has a relatively upbeat ending. Instead of just postponing Judgment Day or accidentally ensuring that it’ll happen, Robocop prevents it entirely, and in so doing, erases the events of the comic from the timeline. That, in turn, makes the match intro dialogue from this morning’s match footage (“We have met. I am sure of it.”) sound more like a subtle shout-out to the comic than the simple meta-joke that it initially appears to be.

Robocop Versus the Terminator (Super Nintendo, 1993)

Both Robocop 2 and Terminator 2 had been successful movies, and both had spawned a few different video game tie-ins at this point, so why not combine the two? Virgin Entertainment published several Robocop vs. Terminator video games over the course of 1994 and 1995. Like a few other licensed games in the 16-bit era, the most notable of which is probably Shadowrun, the various versions of Robocop vs. Terminator are entirely different, platform-specific games. They’re all side-scrolling action-platformers, but they were developed by different studios.

The SNES version was made by Interplay, and is based loosely on the events of the Miller/Simonson comic, with comic-style introductions in the early stages. It feels like it owes a lot to Contra 3, complete with Robocop being able to dangle off of railings by one arm. In its final levels, Robocop ends up reassembling himself in the Terminators’ future, much as he does in the comic, and stays there to help the human race rebuild after he brings an end to the war.

It’s another unusual element for a Terminator spin-off. Robocop doesn’t try to time-travel another half-dozen times in a series of increasingly desperate attempts to prevent Skynet from ever being a thing, which is kind of what you end up doing in Terminator media. Instead, he just wrecks Skynet, then sticks around to help with the clean-up. I’m starting to think that the real problem with the Terminator film franchise after the third one is that Robocop isn’t in them.

Robocop Versus the Terminator (Sega Genesis, 1994)

The Sega Genesis version of Robocop vs. Terminator was developed by Virgin Games USA, and came out second despite being the first game to enter development. It follows its own plot, which feels like you’re dropped into it halfway through: Robocop’s systems architecture in this timeline were a key step to creating Skynet. When it sends a few Terminators back in time to eliminate key members of the human resistance, Robocop destroys one of them in Detroit and sets out to deal with the others.

The Genesis version is remarkably plotless. About all you get for the in-game story are text scrolls at the start and finish, the latter of which informs you that Robocop has destroyed Skynet and saved the future. Somehow. Beyond that, it’s a similar but different game to the SNES version, which to say it’s a post-Contra 3 action game.

There are a couple of other editions of Robocop Versus the Terminator on other systems, such as the Game Boy and Game Gear, but at that point, the actual link to either franchise was getting tenuous. The Game Gear edition is a really pared-down take of the Genesis game, and the Game Boy rev (below) is a standard platformer for the system that stars a vaguely-Robocop-ish object as he moves through what might be the Mushroom Kingdom.

Terminator/Robocop: Kill Human (Dynamite Entertainment, 2011)

We probably shouldn’t even talk about this one. Written by Rob Williams with art by PJ Holden, Kill Human is as bleak as the Miller/Simonson crossover is weirdly uplifting. In Kill Human, the last woman on Earth in the Terminators’ future stumbles into a museum, where she finds a deactivated Robocop in a display case. When she accidentally wakes him back up, a traumatized Robocop uses Skynet’s time travel equipment to send himself into the past in an attempt to prevent the war.

On paper, this isn’t a terrible idea for a crossover story: what if Robocop suddenly showed up in the middle of Terminator 2? However, Williams introduces an additional, more questionable step: what if Robocop showed up in the middle of T2 and screwed absolutely everything up for everyone, including himself? If you have any affection for Robocop as a character, I wouldn’t blame you if Kill Human made you legitimately angry. I’m only vaguely fond of the first movie and Kill Human still annoys me.

It’s been a big couple of weeks for Robocop fans. Check out some of our other MK11 coverage at our game hub, including:

Mortal Kombat 11‘s renewed the Robocop vs. Terminator rivalry after nearly 30 years, and MKX had the Alien fighting the Predator. At this point, I’d be fine if future guest characters in MK11 continued the trend of cinematic feuds. I mean, the rights for Kramer vs. Kramer have to be cheap at this point, right? Tell us what cinematic guest characters you’d want to see in MK11 via our official Twitter, @PrimaGames.

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