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How Goro’s head rolled into the NetherRealms

The original prop from the 1995 film lives in Chicago

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a close-up of a prop of the face of Goro from Mortal Kombat Photo: Prop Store via Internet Archive
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

On the outside, Chicago’s NetherRealm Studios looks like a chiropractor’s office. I guess it could also pass for the entrance to a small sales office for a paper goods distributor. But just inside the front door is a museum, home to physical models and props used to make generations of Mortal Kombat games.

And there, in the dim light near the front door, is the collection's crown jewel — the disembodied head of none other than Goro himself.

A photo of Goro’s Head, taken during a tour of the studio in 2015. It sits in a dim corner due to its age. Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

So how did this movie prop from the 1995 film make it all the way back here to its sweet home in Chicago? Because that's where Mortal Kombat fans thought it belonged.

Fansite, or The Realm of Mortal Kombat, was founded in 1996. Since then it's been one of the premier communities for Mortal Kombat fans on the internet. Patrick McCarron is the site's co-founder, and when a friend saw Goro's head up for auction at Prop Store McCarron knew he had to let the team at NetherRealm know.

As it turns out, McCarron is also the secretary of the Chicago chapter of the International Game Developers Association. So he pulled a few strings to make sure the right people read his email.

an angle shot of a prop of the head of Goro from Mortal Kombat Image: Prop Store via Internet Archive
a front shot of a prop of the head of Goro from Mortal Kombat Image: Prop Store via Internet Archive

"I sent it over to a few people," McCarron told Polygon via Twitter. "The community manager got them to buy it before the fans did."

So, for somewhere around $1,800, NetherRealm had their prize; an animatronic head custom made by Amalgamated Dynamics Incorporated in 1995. They're the same prop shop that made the graboids in Tremors, the Alien in Alien 3, Ed Norton's Incredible Hulk and all manner of nasty creatures for Starship Troopers.

This is the only full-size Goro head ever made, and you can see it buzzing and whirring in the video below around the 1:05 mark. When it arrived, Mortal Kombat X producer Shaun Himmerick said it was still working, but the skin had begun to degrade.

The original Raiden costume as seen in the original Mortal Kombat game.
Both Goro’s head and the original Raiden costume sit in shadowy corners of the office.
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

The team at NetherRealm decided to power it up one last time, curled Goro’s mouth into a fiendish grin, and then set him to rest inside his plastic case right next to their original Raiden costume.

And there Goro sits, staring down each journalist as they make the long walk from the NetherRealm presentation room, through the studio's exhibit hall, and back out the front door. With luck, he'll be there for a long time.

It's not known where the rest of Goro ended up. McCarron says that the upper body of the monster went on sale shortly after the head. If you've seen it, drop Polygon a line.

Polygon visited NetherRealm to get hands-on time with their next title, Mortal Kombat X. You can see the first 30 minutes of the single-player campaign below.

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