Mortal Kombat has been the most successful fighting game franchise since its release in 1992. From its inception in 1998 through the release of Mortal Kombat 11, a total of eleven main series games (including Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe in 2008) have been released, along with a number of enhanced editions and spin-off titles.
This fighting game franchise is noteworthy for its ferocity compared to other major fighting game franchises such as Street Fighter and Tekken, with characters being able to eviscerate and slaughter each other in graphically violent ways.
Mortal Kombat contains 78 original characters playable across the franchise’s versions, 11 guest characters, and 11 DC characters in Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe. Over the course of the franchise’s almost 30-year existence, fans have developed strong attachments to a number of different characters.
These are the ones that are just too good not to play as all the time.
Johnny Cage is a Hollywood action actor who appears in every Mortal Kombat game except Mortal Kombat: Deception. He is a comedic relief character in the series and has long been a favorite of Mortal Kombat fans. His selfish, self-absorbed demeanor sets him apart from the other series heroes.
In the original timeline, Cage enters the inaugural Mortal Kombat tournament to secure his Hollywood legacy and ends up as an Earthrealm defender. He was murdered in Mortal Kombat 3 by the centaur Motaro and revived in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. He has joined the Special Forces and had a kid named Cassie Cage with fellow Special Forces member Sonya Blade in the revamped timeline.
Cage has a number of well-known special moves, including the ‘Shadow Kick,’ in which he glides toward the opponent with green energy and kicks them in the chest, and the ‘Nut Punch,’ in which he performs a split and punches the opponent in the crotch.
Raiden, the Thunder God of Earthrealm, protects Earthrealm on behalf of the Elder Gods. With the exception of Mortal Kombat 3, Raiden has appeared in every game in the franchise. However, he was subsequently added to the Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Raiden is frequently essential to the storylines of the games, and his mighty thunder powers have made him a fan favorite.
Raiden bestowed the title of Champion of Earthrealm on Liu Kang and made him compete in the inaugural Mortal Kombat to stop the Outworld invasion. He is generally viewed as the leader of Earthrealm’s heroes, rallying them against the other worlds’ dangers.
Shao Kahn is the fearsome ruler of Outworld and the primary villain of the Mortal Kombat franchise. Despite not appearing in the original Mortal Kombat, he serves as the last boss in Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3. Shao Kahn finally made his playable debut in the Mortal Kombat Trilogy.
Shao Kahn first served as an advisor to Onaga, a strong entity that reigned over the realm of Outworld. He ascended to power after poisoning Onaga and seizing his throne, after which he initiated Mortal Kombat with several other realms to rule over them.
Shao Kahn is a powerful boss in his original playable form, wielding his enormous ‘Wrath Hammer’ to decimate many foes. In Mortal Kombat 11, he appears as a pre-order bonus DLC character. Although in this reiteration, Shao Kahn is not as strong as he has been in the past, he remains one of the most popular characters in the genre.
Among the Mortal Kombat franchise’s key antagonists, Shang Tsung is second only to Shao Kahn in terms of prestige. He is an ancient sorcerer from Earthrealm who has sworn allegiance to Shao Kahn. With his nasty, self-serving ambitions and schemes intertwined with the tales of most characters, Shang Tsung has become a fan favorite.
In the original game, Shang Tsung takes on the appearance of an elderly man and serves as the tournament’s host until Liu Kang defeats him. In the second game, he reappears, having been made younger by Shao Kahn. He doesn’t appear as a prominent villain again until Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. The current timeline has him being slain by Shao Kahn during the Outworld invasion so that his life energy may be harnessed and utilized to fuel Sindel’s power.
Reptile is one of the last of the Saurian race, a lizard-like people that can spit acid and blend in with their surroundings to the point of invisibility. Reptile made his playable debut in Mortal Kombat II and has appeared in every Mortal Kombat installment except Mortal Kombat: Deception in 2004 and Mortal Kombat 11 in 2019.
Like all the palette-changed ninjas, Reptile is still one of the most popular characters on the roster, despite not necessarily being the most strong. Fans have clamored for his comeback in Mortal Kombat 11 as a DLC.
Liu Kang is a Shaolin Monk who serves as the Champion of Earthrealm in the Mortal Kombat franchise. Except for Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Liu Kang is a playable character in every iteration of the game. Since the beginning, fans have adored Liu Kang, who provides an easy introduction to a range of other characters.
Liu Kang defeats Goro, the Outworlds champion, as well as Shang Tsung in the first Mortal Kombat tournament and Shao Kahn in the second tournament. He is finally slain by the Deadly Alliance, only to be revived as a zombie by Raiden. In the current timeline, Liu Kang was accidentally slain by Raiden during the Outworld invasion before confronting Shao Kahn. Quan Chi transforms him into a revenant, which he retains throughout Mortal Kombat X and Mortal Kombat 11.
Liu Kang is a prominent character in the franchise, frequently being a quick, adaptable figure capable of wreaking havoc on his opponents. His ‘Bicycle Kick,’ in which he flies towards the opponent and kicks them repeatedly as if pedaling a bicycle, is one of his most iconic moves.
Jackson ‘Jax” Briggs
Jackson Briggs, popularly known as “Jax,” is a Special Forces major. Jax has been playable in every Mortal Kombat game since his introduction in Mortal Kombat II. His most distinguishing characteristic is his bionic arms, which he first wielded in Mortal Kombat 3 and has since used in all subsequent games. He is good friends with Sonya Blade and is often seen as a no-nonsense counterbalance to Johnny Cage’s banter.
Jax attends the second Mortal Kombat tournament in Outworld to save Sonya, whom Shao Kahn has kidnaped to compel Earthrealm to participate. In the rebooted timeline, Shang Tsung kidnaps Jax, which is why Sonya enters the inaugural Mortal Kombat tournament. Sonya is taken once more, prompting Jax to travel to Outworld to save her. During this time, he is confronted by the red ninja Ermac and gets both of his arms severed. From this moment on, he wears the bionic arms.
Mileena was initially featured in Mortal Kombat II as one of Shao Kahn’s warriors in the second Mortal Kombat tournament. Mileena has long been a fan favorite, appearing in every Mortal Kombat game except Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.
Despite being referred to as Shao Kahn’s daughter, Mileena was really a creation of the sorcerer Shang Tsung at the Emperor’s request. Shao Kahn was dissatisfied with his adopted daughter, Kitana, and wished for a more powerful fighter and successor. In his ‘Flesh Pits,’ Shang Tsungutilized DNA from both an Edenian (Kitana’s race) and a Tarkatan (Baraka’s race) to make the savage Mileena.
Sub-Zero is a ninja assassin from the Lin Kuei, an ancient clan of ninja assassins. In addition to being able to freeze opponents with a range of ice projectiles, Sub-Zero has a multitude of mobility choices that allow the characters to switch up moves effortlessly. Every Mortal Kombat game has had a playable version of the character.
Bi-Han is the name of Sub-Zero in the original Mortal Kombat. He teams up with the necromancer Quan Chi and destroys a rival clan to the Lin Kuei called the Shirai Ryu. Scorpion, a member of this enemy clan, takes revenge and kills Bi-Han. In all later games, the character’s identity is revealed to be Bi-Han’s younger brother, Kuai Liang.
Hanzo Hasashi, better known as Scorpion, is easily the most popular of the Mortal Kombat ninjas. Scorpion has appeared in every Mortal Kombat game except Mortal Kombat 3. However, he was present in both Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy.
Sub-Zero assassinates the Shirai Ryu clan in both timelines, including Scorpion’s wife and kid. Scorpion participates in the inaugural Mortal Kombat competition for vengeance. Later, it is revealed to him that Quan Chi was the mastermind behind his clan’s massacre, prompting Scorpion to wreak revenge on the necromancer as well.