It’s hard to imagine what the fighting genre would look like today without Mortal Kombat. The title revolutionized the industry with its adult themes and sophisticated five-button control scheme when it debuted in arcades nearly three decades ago. Since then, Ed Boon and his development teams have introduced fans to a plethora of sadistic and depraved mascots. Their names have become synonymous with bone-breaking special moves and spine-ripping fatalities. The following are the best characters that we’ve had the pleasure of knowing so far. Be warned that spoilers for each fighter’s backstory may be found below.
Best Mortal Kombat Characters | Sub-Zero
Sub-Zero’s accessible frost-based fighting style has made him a staple of every entry in the franchise so far. Though he was technically killed off in the first game, the original mascot’s younger brother, Kuai Liang, took up the moniker out of respect for his deceased sibling. While this second Sub-Zero is a bit more scrupulous than other members in his kin, it’s evident that he harbors a hatred toward his brother’s murderer, Scorpion.
Despite this, Raiden relies on the Cyromancer’s formidable battle prowess whenever Earthrealm’s existence is threatened. Ripping out spines, gouging eyeballs, and impaling skulls on ice spears are a few fatalities that define Sub-Zero’s methodic madness.
Best Mortal Kombat Characters | Mileena
Mileena is a deadly assassin who yearns to kill her clone, Princess Kitana, in order to rule over Edenia. The deranged sai-wielder has superbly blended brute strength with agility since her debut in Mortal Kombat 2 and can swiftly take care of foes in seconds when in the right hands. Her teleportation moves and ability to quickly chomp down on opponents aids in her unpredictability on the battlefield. That’s not to mention her fatalities, which include literally eating an enemy’s face off and feeding on their intestines. It’s clear that developer NetherRealm Studios intended Mileena to be both menacing and attractive.
Best Mortal Kombat Characters| Raiden
Seeing as how Raiden is based off the Japanese thunder god Raijin, it makes sense that the fighter’s abilities revolve around electricity. Throughout the franchise, the deity has summoned lightning with his thoughts, seen into the future, and raised the dead. Earthlings should be grateful to have Raiden as their protector, as few combatants in the franchise possess such fearsome talent. Since he’s also mastered over 750 forms of Jujitsu and three other martial arts, newcomers may find him to be remarkably fluid in combat. Frying torsos in midair, bursting heads into pieces, and zapping eyeballs are common occurrences when playing as the god, so they better quickly get used to that.
Best Mortal Kombat Characters | Goro
The four-armed Shokan warrior Goro appeared as a sub-boss in the original Mortal Kombat. Since then, he’s earned his spot on the roster of many of the franchise’s entries thanks to his savage brawn and surprising projectile attacks. Indeed, Shao Kahn’s humble servant can pester enemies with fireballs to make up for his lack of speed. This makes him tough to take down both up close and at a distance. Perhaps the warrior’s best features lie in his fatalities, however, which are entertaining to watch no matter if one is the victor. Goro’s “Shokan Amputation,” for instance, has the giant stomp on an opponent’s body and rip off all of his or her appendages simultaneously. How efficient.
Best Mortal Kombat Characters | Johnny Cage
Who doesn’t love Johnny Cage? The cocky movie star (who’s a parody of Jean-Claude Van Damme) entered the first Mortal Kombat tournament in an effort to gain recognition for his fighting skill. He’s appeared in nearly every entry since then, perhaps due in part to his comic relief antics. His appearance alone is hilarious, as he sports a tattoo of his name on his chest and almost always dons sunglasses, even when indoors.
Despite Johnny Cage’s phony personality, the actor is powerful enough to be considered one of Earthrealm’s mightiest protectors. On the battlefield, he can harness a mysterious green energy to produce confusing afterimages or protect himself from an enemy’s incoming attacks. The character’s “Here’s Johnny” Fatality is a great representation of who he is. In it, he tears a hole through his foe’s torso and peeks his head inside saying “Heeeere’s Johnny!” Never change, Mr. Cage. Never change.
Best Mortal Kombat Characters | Shao Khan
Shao Khan the Konqueror is recognized by some as being one of the most iconic video game antagonists ever conceived. Introduced in Mortal Kombat 2, the villain’s goal throughout the franchise is to merge his realm, the Outworld, with every other realm in the universe. Several factors that contribute to his imposing nature include the fact that he towers over most of the series’ cast, has thousands of years worth of battle experience, and is incredibly hard to overcome in most campaign encounters.
Shao Khan serves as the announcer in many Mortal Kombat entries, too, which is perhaps an allusion to his vast knowledge of nearly everyone and everything in the cosmos. He can also rip someone’s body in half with a brief swipe, which is pretty cool.
Best Mortal Kombat Characters | Scorpion
Many loyal Mortal Kombat fans consider Scorpion to be the face of the franchise. The yin to Sub-Zero’s yang, the character has access to a range of versatile fire-based moves that are best showcased during fatalities. His “Stop Ahead” move, for instance, burns a cavity through his opponent’s torso to reveal his or her still-beating heart.
Scorpion’s constant strife with his icy counterpart spans multiple timelines. In some instances, he and Sub-Zero are rivals willing to put aside their history for the sake of the greater good. In others, only one reigns victorious. This perpetual clash is representative of the fighting genre as a whole. As long as humans exist, the spirit of war will live on.
Most of the icons above will return when Mortal Kombat 11 (Amazon link) releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on April 23. Time travel will play a big role in this entry, allowing fans to interact and fight with younger versions of their favorite characters. The premise may serve as a nice throwback for veterans who’ve grown attached to Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and the rest of the franchise’s cast since their arrival on the scene in 1992. That’s not to say that newcomers who aren’t interested in Mortal Kombat‘s lore won’t find plenty to love about the title. Who isn’t immediately drawn to beautifully rendered mutilations and buckets of blood nowadays?
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