For roughly 30 years now, Mortal Kombat has been one of the top fighting game franchises on the market. While several games have come from this storied franchise, the big games are those played in the arcades throughout the 1990s and the numbered console games. Since around MK6, the numbered versions have tried to flesh out a proper story about the Mortal Kombat characters. Each comes from a different background, with some belonging to various clans on different worlds entirely. Whether we include the “realm” side of things or simply refer to the world side, these characters have become pretty popular.
Some of the characters have gone on to become iconic. A few have even appeared in different game universes entirely. We felt it would be good to discuss these major characters and decide who belongs to the best and worst list. Before getting to that, we want to make sure to reference that we will NOT be including those added as DLC from other universes. This includes people like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger, Rambo, or anyone like that. Since MK also worked with the DC Comics Universe in a game, we will not include any of the DC characters or creations from that game either. With that out of the way, let’s get started!
Ermac was interesting early on for players because people initially thought he was a glitch in the original game. A diagnostics error text would read “error macro.” Leading to the “Ermac” name. The rumors were false about this, but it only made people want to see him more. Thus he debuted in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 in 1995. Originally just a telekinetic ninja, his backstory has since changed numerous times. The current is that to punish all of those who attempted to stop his claim to the throne of Edenia, Shao Kahn fused all of the dead souls from his conquering together to give us the Ermac being. He’s simply ever-changing with nothing concrete.
Kano might be a villain, but among the most well-known Mortal Kombat characters, he has always been consistent. He always was a bad guy who did bad things, including hurting Sonya Blade’s partner, Jax. Sonya always had a problem with him, and things became personal for him. Thus, Kano now wants to end her life any chance he gets. He’s a thief overall and pretty good at it, allowing him to become the leader of the Black Dragon clan. Known for his bionic eye and other cybernetic enhancements, people forget he’s also very skilled with knives among other weapons.
Ideally, Queen Sindel would normally be one of the best Mortal Kombat characters. Her scream is impressive, and her backstory as royalty is great. But the events of MK11 really make us dislike her. Initially, we’re led to believe that Sindel becomes evil because Shao Kahn had her brought back from the dead using dark magic. Thus allowing him to marry her and make her his Queen. Yet we find out that she has always been evil. She betrayed her husband, the King of Edenia, allowing Kahn to get the upper hand in his attempt to overthrow. The random change just killed any real reason to care about the character.
Geras is new to the Mortal Kombat world, having just debuted in MK11. He’s an immortal being created by the Keeper of Time and the original Architect of the Universe’s Destiny, Kronika. As her loyal servant, he was blessed with immense power and the ability to come back from pretty much anything. Geras has actually “died” thousands of times, only to come back stronger and wiser than before. As a “fixed point in time,” he has also lived a long life. Allowing him to experience things like the Ice Age. All of his knowledge and power make him one heck of a challenge to defeat. He’s truly a brilliant character.
Can you remember much about Tanya? Us either. It seems the developers wanted to make a female ninja only and felt this would be the best way to do that. Tanya is Edenian, who was originally revealed to be innocent but was corrupted by evil. This made her a worshiper of the God, Shinnok, and an ally to the Brotherhood of Shadow. She then served Shao Kahn, the Deadly Alliance, and other evildoers. She’s mostly considered a “henchwoman” who claims to do what she does out of survival, but she’s said to also be very intelligent. A lot simply does not add up about her.
Nightwolf has been one of the most well-rounded characters in this universe. He is a Native American shaman that originally set out to aid Raiden in his quest to protect Earthrealm. Originally, he operated as a trainer or guide for people. Noted for his ability to conjure up bows and tomahawks out of thin air to use against his enemies, Nightwolf is often a handful for anyone to beat. This is why he’s been one of the coolest and best Mortal Kombat characters since his arrival. As part of the Matoka Tribe, this version of the Nightwolf (just like others) will protect Earthrealm no matter the cost.
It is nothing against the D’Vorah character, as this was a sort of interesting character introduction in Mortal Kombat 10. However, they have since tried to insert her into other long-running storylines too. She is part of the humanoid insect species in Outworld known as the Kytinn. From the realm of Arnyek, D’Vorah is truly unique among her species. As they are said to not have any insight or loyalty, yet she somehow became a minister in Kotal Kahn’s Kingdom and is loyal to Shinnok. Which goes against the Hive’s entire concept!
Noob Saibot is the original Sub-Zero, Bi-Han. During the earlier events in Mortal Kombat, it was claimed that Sub-Zero was the one who killed his family. Quan Chi, however, manipulated Scorpion into believing what was essentially a lie. Randomly, after his brother takes on the mantle, Bi-Han is “sort of” resurrected as a wraith known as Noob Saibot. Ever since his mysterious debut in Mortal Kombat II and playable debut in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, he has been a fan favorite. Constantly using the darkness and shadows to aid him, the character is simply awesome.
Sektor never really made much sense, and neither did the story about the Lin Kuei randomly becoming the “Cyber Lin Kuei.” Apparently, it was supposedly a move to better serve Kronika whom the clan did not worship at all anyway. Sektor’s Grandmaster status made him lead the Cyber Initiative, but he was insane and completely remorseless. Always wanting his entire clan to be like him, which the Cyber Initiative would force. Yet his use always seemed incredibly forced, and he’s not even the most fun robotic character in the franchise.
While Baraka has usually always been on the side of evil, we did not really know why he did what he did until his story was fleshed out more. He’s part of the Tarkatan species in Outworld that was essentially enslaved by Shao Kahn. Baraka happened to be a skilled General for the Horde, and one of its best warriors. Known for the Tarkatan teeth and blades, Baraka is someone Kahn used to his advantage many times. Eventually, in the events of Mortal Kombat 11, both Baraka and the Tarkata rise up against Shao Kahn. Claiming they are done fearing him.
While the combat mechanics for Fujin improved in MK11, the character has never really appealed to fans. It isn’t as if he’s annoying or overused by NetherRealm Studios or anything. Simply put, the character comes off as a Raiden clone that is nowhere near as interesting. It should not shock you that he is the younger brother of Raiden, as well as the God of Wind. He made his official playable debut in Mortal Kombat 4 but was pretty much out of most games since then until MK11’s DLC expansion, which was roughly 14 years since his last outing.
Probably one of the coolest newer Mortal Kombat characters is Skarlet. She made her debut back in Mortal Kombat (2011) as a DLC. She was considered to be one of the best characters in the game back then, yet she never appeared in another game until returning for Mortal Kombat 11. While she is one of the adopted daughters of Outworld Emperor Shao Kahn, she also acts as his personal bodyguard too. Yet what makes her awesome is that she is a mage of Blood Magik, meaning all of her move-set involves the use of blood. Something every opponent she faces off with will have in great supply.
Thus far, Kung Jin has only appeared in Mortal Kombat X. He’s said to be the nephew of Kung Lao, who blamed Raiden for his uncle’s death. After moving to America, he was forced to become a thief to get by. He then planned to steal from the Shaolin Temple when Raiden caught him. Letting go of his resentment, he trained with the White Lotus Society. Yet he has an undeserved ego with impulsive and immature behavior added on top of it. He was the first MK character to reveal that he is gay in franchise history, so people wanted to like him. However, the character is seemingly attempting to be Kung Lao but is nowhere near as good.
Initially, people were sort of worried that Frost would come off too much like a female Sub-Zero or a Killer Frost clone from DC Comics. Thankfully, Frost managed to separate herself from both due to proper character development. She began her journey training under Grandmaster Sub-Zero as a member of the Lin Kuei. Gifted with freezing abilities, she had a rage that had to be controlled by her Grandmaster. Yet this combined with brashness and ego constantly made her feel she’d be a better leader for the Lin Kuei. Frost is always trying to prove herself and stands as a great representation of a strong female antagonist.
Originally, Officer Kurtis Stryker seemed like an interesting addition to the list of Mortal Kombat characters. After debuting in MK3, Stryker was described as a member of the New York City Police Department who led the Special Riot Control division. He uses things like guns, explosives, tasers, and nightsticks in battle. At first, with the smaller list of characters, Stryker kind of made sense. Yet in spite of his knack for surviving against major threats, the character is no longer really appealing. He has yet to really evolve since his debut either.
Remember that Lin Kuei Cyber Initiative we referenced before? Smoke left the Lin Kuei clan due to this, but he was captured and forced to become robotic. The Lin Kuei assassin version debuted in MK2 as a secret character while his cyber version debuted in MK3. Smoke’s abilities allow him to create smoke fumes, thus allowing him to disappear or attack opponents when they cannot see. The smoke acts as normal smoke too, choking those who inhale it. The Cyber version has similar abilities though it doesn’t use them much.
Reptile’s story has changed so often that it is truly hard to keep up. He originally debuted back in MK2 as one of the ninjas, just wearing green. He remained like this for a while until the creators realized…oh wait, he’s Reptile-like. So they had him wear the same ninja costume, but appear as a humanoid reptilian creature. Though his ability to disappear into the background is cool, his character changes and odd use have been so difficult to follow. Moreover, he’s made to be a villain while having sincere intentions to free his homeworld. Yet after the death of Shao Kahn, he does not return to his newly free homeworld but goes on to work for Kotal Kahn.
Mortal Kombat X was a game that tried to introduce a lot of legacy characters. Some worked better than others, but one stood out among MK fans as truly unique due to his abilities and backstory. Takeda is the son of Kenshi, but due to his mother being killed, his father went to search for the wrongdoers. Thus, he left Takeda with a trusted ally, Hanzo Hasashi, better known as Scorpion. Takeda would train with Hanzo, yet still possessed a lot of his father’s gifts. Combined with Hanzo’s training and part of his traits, Takeda became a very compelling character worthy of praise.
Motaro’s only true defining trait is that he is a centaur. His entire race served Shao Kahn as hunters and warriors in Outworld, with Motaro leading an invasion squad into Earthrealm. He’s even responsible for ending Johnny Cage during one of those invasions, which Raiden interfered with and corrected by killing Motaro before this took place in another timeline. At least, that is the canon thing we know of right now. It’s clear that Motaro is one of the most uninteresting Mortal Kombat characters ever known.
Jade along with a few other females in Mortal Kombat had the same appearance early on, only differing by color. However, Jade having black skin gave her a slightly altered look that allowed her to stand out. Her character was then properly fleshed out in later stories. She trained alongside Kitana and became her best friend, while both had to serve Shao Kahn. Once Kitana turned against Kahn, Jade was ordered to capture her, but instead joined her friend. Jade is noted for her infamous staff and razor-rang along with her use of Edenian magic, making her a tough opponent.
If we were to ask you to describe Jackson Briggs, how would you do it? Likely, you’d reference his metallic arms that were put in replace his original arms that were torn off in battle. You might also reference him as Sonya Blade’s best friend and partner. But that is about it. Jax is not special, and nothing about him makes him interesting outside of his arms. Sure, we might get hate for saying it. However, with all of the other interesting characters, how is Jax not among the worst these days?
At first, some assumed Quan Chi was just someone MK developers had to use to replace Shang Tsung. However, they truly fleshed out his character perfectly. He was initially just a mere demon of the Netherrealm. But due to his immense abilities in dark magic and necromancy, he became a notable figure there. Enough to become a close ally to the Elder God Shinnok. He is the one that is responsible for making Scorpion into a Hellspawn and manipulating him into killing Bi-Han. Meanwhile, it was actually Quan Chi that killed Scorpion’s family as it was his plan all along to make Scorpion into his personal hellspawn.
While Cyrax was certainly a weird addition when he debuted in Mortal Kombat Trilogy, his story was eventually fleshed out properly. We later find out that Cyrax was a member of the Lin Kuei during their Cyber Initiative. He too was forced into this and was made into a villain. Weirdly, this is not the story early on and he just acts as a villain with no true backstory. The change not happening until later on annoyed fans, as Cyrax could have been interesting to see in his assassin form. Now most only know of his cyber version, and it’s really just not compelling.
While Cassie Cage’s look changed dramatically from her debut in Mortal Kombat X to Mortal Kombat 11, one thing did not. Her character was always going to have a very difficult job, as she had to actually live up as the daughter of Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage. That is a tall order, and more than that, she had to step up as her own character too. This did not happen in MK10 but did in MK11. Cassie’s character did just that as she became a great leader and skilled fighter. Often using tech more than her parents, she adds this to her impressive martial arts knowledge. On top of her love of using guns for darn near anything.
Honestly, Tremor had everything it took to be one of the best Mortal Kombat characters. Yet it was simply how he was used that truly made him a problem for most fans. He was once an assassin and enforcer for Black Dragon, loyal to Kano. His first mistake, obviously. Like the other ninjas in MK, Tremor has powers. For him, it’s all about geokinesis. Being able to move the Earth around you should be a huge asset but time and time again, he was made to be uninteresting. While he was better in MK10, he’s still not as good as he should be.
Prince Goro of the Shokan is one of the Outworld winners of the Mortal Kombat Tournament. He held the Grand Champion title for nine consecutive tournaments too. Known for his large stature and four arms, he’s incredibly difficult to beat. He originally debuted in the first Mortal Kombat as a Sub-Boss, helping arcades eat up quarters due to how hard he was to beat. Goro instantly became a beloved favorite to MK fans and has been in every major MK release ever since. Goro is iconic at this point, and one of the best Mortal Kombat characters of all time!
What is so sad here is that it is easy to like Kabal. He was a villain that became a hero. Kabal was once a member of Black Dragon who was betrayed by Kano, leading to his body being badly burned. During a universal reset in Mortal Kombat (2011), Kabal was on the side of good during the Outworld Invasion unburned when he was on the bad side originally. By then, he was a member of the Special Forces alongside his partner Stryker and rose up to fight Shao Kahn. The problem is that Kabal, while interesting, has become really convoluted. They even made his speed too important to his character, which made him just MK’s Flash.
Kung Lao is a descendant of the “Great Kung Lao,” one of Earthrealm’s Mortal Kombat Tournament champions. He is always trying to live up to the legacy of his ancestor, to a point that he gets in his own way. He is constantly trying to prove himself equal to Liu Kang, making him come off as immature and conceited. A Shaolin Monk, Lao is first and foremost a pacifist but will go to battle and end lives if he must. Known for his razor-rimmed hat and impressive martial arts abilities, he is incredibly difficult to defeat.
The Fallen God known as Shinnok is still technically one of the immortal Elder Gods. He is the son of the Titan Kronika, and brother to Cetrion. Oh yeah, and he’s the father of Shao Kahn and Raiden. We’re told that Shinnok’s power level is immense, but Raiden once carried around his father’s severed head and planted it right in front of evil Liu Kang and Kitana. The Amulet of Shinnok is truly the major power source, it’s one of the Elder Gods’ sacred relics that made reality possible at all. Yet Shinnok himself does not seem to be all that impressive without it.
When you think of iconic villains in gaming, Shang Tsung should always pop up. The infamous line: “Your soul is mine” is likely burned into the mind of many gamers. If that isn’t enough, Tsung is the ORIGINAL boss of the Mortal Kombat universe. Yet he did not become playable for gamers until MK2. Shang is a soul-stealing sorcerer known for taking the powers and sometimes even appearance of other MK characters. In the MK universe, he is a multi-time winner of the Mortal Kombat Tournament who eventually served as host for the tournament.
Now one would think that if you wanted someone to stand out from their parent, you’d make them similar but also as different as possible. Yet the MK developers thought, nahhh, when it came to creating Jacqui Briggs. Her father Jax needed his infamous arms because his actual ones were torn off. Jacqui has gauntlets that act as mechanical arms while also being equipped with weaponry. But what is she without them? Her fighting skills are subpar and her reliance on those gauntlets does not make any sense. Her arms are completely fine!
Sonya Blade was the very first female to debut in the Mortal Kombat franchise. Originally, she looked like a 1980s runner who was still in her workout clothes. Eventually, her character is properly put together by MK developers. In the games since, she then became an officer with the special forces and even a General. She hates Kano with everything that is within her and wants to end him. Yet she’s mostly devoted to protecting Earthrealm from evildoers. Blade possesses tech-like energy bracelets and wind blades to battle against the powerful enemies she comes across in the universe.
Kotal Kahn began simply as General Ko’atal, serving under Shao Kahn before his death. Once he died, someone had to take over the Emperor of Outworld role and Kotal made the most sense. He is a powerful and high-ranking Osh-Tekk. While they use the power of the sun to their advantage, skin tone seems a bit odd. It was widely assumed Kotal just had green skin but it seems to just be a form of paint that high-ranking officials wear. On top of this, he was just randomly inserted into the MK Universe without any establishment prior to MK10. It’s still odd to see him, two major games deep.
Kenshi is blind thanks to Shang Tsung, whom he hates. He’s essentially a skilled ronin who possesses psychokinetic and telekinetic abilities. This seems to allow him to “see” without actually being able to do so. His wife was killed by Red Dragon, and he went on a mission to find them. Due to their missions aligning, he often worked alongside Sonya Blade and Jax. This also helped him align with Sub-Zero and eventually Scorpion, whom he left his son with. While he has not been in a ton of games, Kenshi’s story is so compelling, as is the character. Making him one of the best Mortal Kombat characters ever.
Want a random monster boss for your game? Here, take Onaga. He’s really just terrible, and most would say he was never even fun to play as. The Dragon King’s story isn’t too bad, to be fair. He was a long-dead ruler of Outworld before Shao Kahn. Even his army believed him to be unbeatable, but when he died, he was mummified and kept in an ancient tomb where our favorite necromancer Quan Chi came across him. With a story like this, it seemed that he’d be fun. Yet not only is he essentially boring, but he’s completely unimportant to the universe at large.
It has been said that Erron Black could be best described as the Boba Fett of the Mortal Kombat universe. That seems fitting for sure. Like Fett, Black just oozes coolness. He’s also not exactly on the side of the angels at first but does ultimately try to do the right thing when he can. Of course, Erron’s first love is himself and the money he can make off of doing jobs for those who can afford his fee. This gunslinger can fight with the best in the MK Universe, still managing to look awesome no matter what. He might be newer, but he’s already one of the best Mortal Kombat characters of all time.
Cetrion was an Elder God and daughter of Kronika. We’re led to believe initially that she is one of the “good” Elder Gods. In fact, she is the Goddess of Life, Virtue, and Light for crying out loud! However, not only does she fail to actually live up to this…she gives in to her mother’s plans when it makes no sense to do so. Especially after seeing what her brother Shinnok did to humanity, the fact she ignored that to side with her mother is nonsense. Making her one of the worst Mortal Kombat characters ever, because there is simply no proper consistency.
Shao Kahn is the son of the evil Elder God Shinnok and brother to Raiden. We’re led to believe early on that he is not exactly a God, differing him from his father and brother. However, he is still very powerful. He has spent many years as Emperor of Outworld, constantly trying to conquer new places. One of those included Edenia, where he took Princess Kitana as his forcefully adopted daughter. Kahn has often used others to do his bidding, but he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. Making him one heck of a well-defined character in the MK Universe.
Reiko had literally everything one could ask to be a good character. He’s a General in Shao Kahn’s army, known for his furious brutality and the fact he spares no one mercy. MK Creator Ed Boon even supplied his very own face to be the face of Reiko. On top of this, there was a heavy debate on whether Reiko was supposedly Shao Kahn in disguise or taking over the throne. Moreover, he has a few different endings that gamers can find. However, neither are good or well thought out. It’s like they just did not care about making Reiko compelling or interesting at all.
Raiden is one of the most iconic Mortal Kombat characters of all time. Known as the “Thunder God,” most of his offense and even defense is made up of moves connecting to electricity or lightning in some form. His story closely resembles that of Thor from Norse Mythology, both in his God-like status and his relationship with other Gods. His one mission in life is to protect Earthrealm from his father, brother, and others that will do it harm. Thus, he invented the White Lotus Society to prepare warriors for each Mortal Kombat Tournament.
It is likely early on that MK developers had no real plan for Mileena. She pretty much just showed up as a color swap version of Kitana, where she wore pink rather than blue. Eventually, her character’s background was formulated. Due to Shao Kahn’s disappointment in his adopted daughter, he had Shang Tsung make a better daughter for him. Thus, Shang used her DNA and mixed it with that of a Tarkatan. Mileena and Kitana are like twins except for the massive Tarkatan teeth. Mileena just seemed forced early on and still does. Though they have done a better job defining her existence, all it does is further muddy the waters.
Johnny Cage has been incredibly well done in the MK Universe. Originally, MK was developed after Midway was not able to make a Jean-Claude Van Damme game. Yet they were huge fans of his, so Cage’s entire reason for being was their love letter to JVD. Thus, he was made into an actor with legit fighting ability who wanted to prove himself. Along the way, he falls for Sonya Blade and calms down a bit to become smarter about how he does things. This is incredibly present in MK11 where he can be seen ashamed of his past self’s attitude and general d*** behavior.
Early on, Rain was Ed Boon’s favorite character seemingly. As he was a huge Prince fan, so Rain’s attire was purple for a legit reason. Boon’s favor for Rain only continued as he made the once random ninja into something that really seemed forced. Rain went from being an apparent Lin Kuei ninja to a Demi-God former Prince of Edenia somehow. He is now seeking the Outworld throne for himself, while also seeking revenge against his father, the God Argus, for killing his mother. Rain has always been fun to play as, but his story has gotten so wild and complicated that it’s really just too much now.
Liu Kang has always been so well done and was pretty much made out to be the hero of the game from the start. While he’s used a bit weirdly in the MK11 game, becoming what is essentially a Fire God, he fits in so well with this universe. A lot of Mortal Kombat characters seem so random at times. Yet Kang felt like a true hero you could care about who fought well and was always fun to play as. It’s hard to find anything negative to say about the guy really.
Due to the success of Goro in the original Mortal Kombat, it seemed that MK developers were really big on trying to bring in more of the Shokan. That eventually led to bringing in a female from the species, named Sheeva. While we later find out she was actually Queen Sindel’s protector, her role was not really defined most of her existence in the franchise. Moreover, she felt forced. Like the franchise felt they HAD to put in a female Shokan rather than offering a proper reason for it.
Princess Kitana was part of Edenian royalty until Shao Kahn took the throne away from her family by force. He then adopted Kitana who was forced to become an assassin and fight in his honor. She never wanted that life. Her mother Sindel killed herself and we later find out she even betrayed her father, always evil. When Kitana was innocent in all of this. Noted for his fans that can slice your head off, her ability to fight makes her a literal Warrior Princess. Kitana is easily one of the best Mortal Kombat characters ever created. Plus, her story has usually been consistent.
The Titan Kronika is supposedly the keeper of time and the very reason the MK Universe exists at all. However, her entire reason for being was seemingly forced in because of an issue within the series. For those unaware, Midway Games had their own MK series. But when they were bought out and Warner Bros. created NetherRealm Studios, they had their own Universe. There was a need to combine things to make one, official universe, leading to the events of MK11. Kronika only ever existed for this game only, just to give us the official universe.
Important to note here that we are referring to the current Sub-Zero, the Grandmaster Kuai Liang. He is the brother of the original Sub-Zero, Bi-Han. Noted for his freezing powers, Liang is now thought to be far better than his brother ever was. He is also capable of doing things with his powers that Bi-Han was unable to or never could truly do. Though he has also had run-ins with the likes of Scorpion among other major ninja characters, Liang is thought to be a good guy who has now managed to get along with most people. Even his former enemy and killer of his brother, Scorpion.
Only ever appearing in the latest Mortal Kombat film, Cole Young is literally forced into this movie without one reason as to why. We’re given that he is somehow a descendant of Scorpion, but it’s truly unknown why we needed him. He’s the MAIN CHARACTER of this movie having never once appeared in any of the games. MK likes to introduce new characters and bringing him into the world was fine. But making him THE main character, having the movie flow through his actions. It’s nonsense, and he isn’t even that interesting.
Scorpion is the best Mortal Kombat character to ever exist. Seriously, fight us on this if you want, but we’re saying it. Hanzo Hasashi’s wife and son were killed by what he assumed to be the Lin Kuei, especially Sub-Zero. More than this, his entire clan of the Shirai Ryu was taken out too. The real person behind it was Quan Chi, whom Hanzo later kills to get revenge. While Scorpion is still essentially a hellspawn, he managed to bring back his clan and even become something of a Grandmaster to help others. We also know he will do literally anything to protect the ones he loves. Even go to hell and back. GET OVER HERE!
Where do we Find this Stuff? Here are Our Sources: