With previous appearances in Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, Injustice, and Injustice 2 The Joker is basically a Netherrealm fighting game veteran at this point. That’s significant because his newest iteration in Mortal Kombat 11 is easily his best one yet, absolutely nailing The Joker’s penchant to make you laugh one moment, and then think “oh my god, this sick, sadistic freak” the next. Mortal Kombat 11’s M rating certainly helps enable that, but The Joker is also simply a ton of fun to play, resulting in one of Mortal Kombat 11’s best DLC characters so far.
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The best thing about The Joker from an aesthetic point of view is the look of his moveset. It consists mostly of techniques familiar from his appearances in other games, but with some new and wildly entertaining spins. His gun is now a Batman hand puppet that Joker will actually talk to if you hold down the button and delay the shot; His short-range knife from Injustice is now a cane that he wields with the flourish of a circus performer; and his gas canisters are now exploding jack-in-the-boxes that are used in all new fun ways.
Above all else, Joker just looks like he’s having fun out there, and it makes him really fun to play as a result.
Of course, it also helps that, upon first impression, he seems really, really strong. His cane gives him a far-reaching high attack that is excellent for whiff punishes and establishing his range in the neutral; he’s got great zoning in his first competitive variation, fantastic set ups in his second, and huge combo damage potential in his third. Each variation seems uniquely viable so far, which is great because it allows for a lot of versatility in how Joker is played.
My personal favorite variation is the third one, which outfits him with a launching special move in his “Kapow” spring-loaded boxing glove, allowing him to convert big damage off of his combo strings. In addition to that, this variation also has a one-of-a-kind gas can special move that allows him to drop a trail of gasoline and ignite it for big damage over time.
Joker is appropriately very mind game heavy, with the ability to hold many of his special moves and release them right as the opponent makes a move. Even his Fatal Blow can be held and canceled, a quality shared only by Johnny Cage, which allows for all sorts of nastiness, especially considering that he has a krushing blow on his forward throw that can be utilized when the fatal blow is on cooldown. It’s also one of the most satisfying krushing blows in the game, featuring the Joker literally exploding his opponent’s balls (or just general nether region for those lacking.)
This allows The Joker to be a character who is extremely good at comebacks since he becomes a lot more dangerous when he’s in fatal blow territory. Any block string can become a guessing game between whether he will fatal blow, cancel it into a krushing blow throw, or into another combo. Not to mention, it also gives his less combo heavy variations a way to deal substantial damage by using the fatal blow cancel to extend otherwise impossible combos.
On top of all that, he also has very solid damage without even needing meter thanks to a fast meterless launching combo across every variation, a great far-reaching low poke, and a fantastic uppercut with great range,
All of this strength isn’t balanced by any single glaring weakness, but a bunch of small inconveniences that you’ll just have to deal with when you decide to choose Joker. He doesn’t really have any moves that leave him with advantage on block, forcing you to always give up your turn when your pressure is stopped; he doesn’t have a fantastic way to close the distance if the opponent wants to keep him out; and his otherwise excellent poke with his cane hits high, which can be easily ducked under and uppercutted if it’s scouted.
Even outside of his combat look and feel, Joker is similarly excellent. Veteran voice actor Richard Epcar reprises his role from Injustice and Injustice 2 and turns in an exceptional performance as the clown prince of crime, expertly evoking the same psychotic glee that makes Mark Hamill’s take on the character so iconic.