A fighting game kind of needs to have a storyline for the sake of identity. Not just for the characters, but for the world itself. Who are these characters and why are they fighting? Why are they fighting again? And again?
Usually, these lead to fun B-movie plots that can carry a game or two. Sometimes the sequels just retread the same plot over and over (ie. the Soul Calibur games and King of Fighters), but Mortal Kombat has been able to hold its own for over 30 years due to embracing its own wacky mythology and finding ways to be fresh. Even when they’re literally redoing an earlier story!
There’s a reason why the Mortal Kombat story has been told in different forms. There have been 11 fighting games plus upgrades that are part of its canon and a few side games (Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Injustice: Gods Among Us, and the wonderful Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks are non-canon). As video games have advanced, so has the storytelling. It used to be that we’d just get some profile text, ending text, and a couple of neat images. Now we get full-on cinematic story modes.
Before I really get into the canon story of Mortal Kombat, let’s talk about the makeup of this reality:
The Realms of Mortal Kombat
In the Mortal Kombat multiverse, there are different dimensions (or realms). They’re basically different planets, separated by portals. You have Earthrealm, which is us, or a world similar enough to ours.
Edenia is kind of a happy fairytale world made of magic and beauty. Outworld is a barbarian world where violence and monsters run rampant. Netherrealm is Hell itself. Seido is the realm of order, though to an extreme, fascist degree. On the other side of the coin is Chaosrealm, where anarchy is a way of life. Then you got a bunch of random worlds like the world of reptile people, the world of vampires, the world of bug people, and so on.
These realms are looked over by gods for the most part. You have your regular gods, who tend to meddle in man’s affairs in a limited sense, and Elder Gods, who are higher on the power scale and ultimately don’t do much. They rarely ever interfere, even when they really should. Even higher on the scale in importance and power are Titans, who are hidden in the shadows.
Realms are able to conquer and actually absorb each other, becoming kind of a jumbled landscape in the process. To keep things civil, the Elder Gods put together a rulebook. Conquering and merging can only be done by invoking Mortal Kombat. Every generation, there will be a fighting tournament held. Its champion loses the ability to age until the next one is held. If the invading realm can win ten tournaments in a row, they have the right to take over.
Speaking of lack of aging, people in most of the other realms have incredibly long lifespans and live for thousands and thousands of years.
Many, Many, Many Years Ago…
On Earthrealm, the Elder God Shinnok went mad with power. He opposed his brethren and decided that he wanted the inhabitants of Earthrealm to worship him and only him. Although lower on the godly totem pole, Raiden was able to defeat him and had him sealed away in the Netherrealm. Shinnok buddied up with the mysterious, wandering sorcerer Quan Chi and the two overthrew the damned realm and took over. Shinnok spent endless years biding his time so that he could return and get his revenge.
In Edenia, the god and protector Argus was disturbed when his sorceress wife Delia received visions of a huge battle that would one day cause Armageddon throughout all of reality. The two came up with a cockamamie plan to put their sons Taven and Daegon in hibernation so that they could one day awaken, take part in a race to gather special weapons, kill a fire elemental named Blaze, and this would magically nullify the abilities of all the warriors in said gigantic battle. The winning son would take Argus’ place as protector of Edenia.
For quite a while, Outworld was ruled by a being known as Onaga the Dragon King. Not only was his power unmatched, but he commanded an unstoppable army of warriors. His advisor Shao Kahn betrayed him via poisoning and took over. Onaga’s army had themselves mummified so that they could reunite with Onaga after his eventual resurrection.
Shao Kahn went on a tear, conquering as many realms as he could. Again and again, his champions won Mortal Kombat, and countless realities were merged with his. This included Edenia. Many believed that Kahn murdered its ruler King Jerrod and took his queen and infant daughter as his own. Queen Sindel supposedly took her own life rather than be with Kahn. The truth was that Sindel fell in love with Kahn and killed Jerrod himself. Quan Chi, working for Kahn at the time, decided that Sindel was a distraction and had her killed, staging it as a suicide.
Shao Kahn decided to raise Sindel’s daughter Kitana and trained her to be the ultimate assassin.
Many (But Not AS MANY) Years Ago…
Shao Kahn’s reign of terror saw him conquer the warrior people known as the Osh-Tekk. Although their king Kotal K’etz surrendered to Shao Kahn, he secretly sent his young son to do a walkabout through Earthrealm. It was there that Kotal’s son stumbled upon the Mayan civilization and became a god to them. They worshiped him as “Buluc” the God of War and Sacrifice. Eventually, his people died out and he returned to Outworld.
To help prevent Outworld from taking over Earthrealm, Raiden started a sect of Shaolin monks called the White Lotus Society, based specifically on training warriors to fight for Earthrealm in Mortal Kombat. The greatest warrior was the Great Kung Lao, who defeated Shao Kahn’s sorcerer underling Shang Tsung. His days as champion eventually came to an end at the hands of Goro, the four-armed half-dragon.
Goro dominated the tournament for centuries. There was one warrior in the 1800s that Shang Tsung saw as a threat, so prior to the tournament, he hired Wild West gunslinger mercenary Erron Black to assassinate him. As payment, Black was given the secret to long life, making him virtually immortal.
At some point over the years, Daegon awoke from his slumber prematurely. Between being in the wrong state of mind from the rude awakening as well as the trickery of Shinnok, Daegon attacked and killed his parents. He then started the criminal organization known as the Red Dragon. The Red Dragon later split into a more uncouth offshoot called the Black Dragon.
Shujinko’s Quest (Mortal Kombat: Deception’s Konquest Mode)
Shujinko was a young man who dreamed of protecting Earthrealm from the invaders. He was visited by a glowing ball of energy named Damashi, who put him on a quest in the name of the Elder Gods. He had to spend many decades of his life wandering from realm to realm, getting into adventures, learning more fighting styles, and gathering the Kamidogu, a series of powerful artifacts.
To aid him, Damashi gave Shujinko the power to absorb the abilities of other warriors and make them part of his repertoire. Shujinko never questioned his mission, which was foolish as “Damashi” was really just the spirit of Onaga, tricking Shujinko into causing his resurrection. But that will come into play much later.
Jax vs. The Black Dragon (Mortal Kombat: Special Forces) and Sub-Zero’s Mistake (Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero)
Black Dragon leader Kano freed his subordinates from prison and went off to steal an artifact called the Eye of Chitian. Special Forces soldier Jackson “Jax” Briggs went after them. Jax brought them all back to justice in an adventure that ended with him briefly stepping into Outworld.
Quan Chi had a plot to release Shinnok from the Netherrealm by tracking down his magical amulet. He hired two ninja assassin groups – the Lin Kuei and the Shirai Ryu – to hunt down a map. Representatives Sub-Zero (real name Bi-Han) and Scorpion (Hanzo Hasashi) ended up fighting over the map and Sub-Zero both won the fight and chose to unnecessarily kill his rival. Quan Chi repaid the Lin Kuei by having Scorpion’s family and clan killed. Sub-Zero was then tasked with tracking down the amulet. He did so and Quan Chi took it to the Netherrealm.
Raiden appeared to him and warned him what was going to happen. With Earthrealm’s fate in the balance, Sub-Zero entered the Netherrealm and fought through Shinnok’s forces. This included various monsters, a demonic reincarnation of Scorpion, Quan Chi’s trio of female assassins (one of which, Sareena, sided with Sub-Zero), and Quan Chi himself. Sub-Zero stole the amulet back from Shinnok and escaped back into Earthrealm before Shinnok could take his revenge.
Sub-Zero came to realize that he was allowed to enter the Netherrealm because he was evil. Raiden told him that he could still change his ways and save his soul, but Sub-Zero chose loyalty above all else. In his very next mission, Sub-Zero was sent to take part in Mortal Kombat…
Shang Tsung’s Island Tournament (Mortal Kombat)
Earthrealm’s last chance was held on Shang Tsung’s mysterious island. Fighters came from all over. Liu Kang from the White Lotus Society. Johnny Cage: the actor who wanted to prove to the world that his skills were not just special effects and good editing. Sonya Blade, a Special Forces member searching for Kano. Sub-Zero, who was sent on a mission to assassinate Shang Tsung. Scorpion, back from the grave under the guidance of Quan Chi and out to get revenge on Sub-Zero. Notably, the 2011 reboot retconned the events a bunch and added characters who weren’t in the game itself, like Nightwolf, Sektor, Cyrax, Baraka, and so on.
During the tournament, Scorpion got his revenge on Sub-Zero and killed him. Sub-Zero was reborn in the Netherrealm as a being much like Scorpion, only more sinister, named Noob Saibot. He became Quan Chi’s soldier without Scorpion knowing.
Cyrax decided that the Lin Kuei was no longer for him, mainly because of their plans to turn all the ninjas into cyborgs. He fought off Sektor and escaped. His freedom would be short-lived as the Lin Kuei would track him down and force him to go under the transformation.
Liu Kang was attacked by Kitana, but rather effortlessly fought her off. Taking a shine to her, he promised not to tell anyone about her failure. As far as he was concerned, she never tracked him down to begin with.
Meanwhile, Kung Lao, the descendant/reincarnation of the former Mortal Kombat champion, tried to sneak into the tournament under the guise of a guard. He believed that he was the one meant to save the world.
Regardless, Liu Kang rose through the ranks and defeated both Goro and Shang Tsung. Outworld’s forces were sent packing and the good guys won.
The Outworld Tournament (Mortal Kombat II)
Shao Kahn was pretty pissed at Shang Tsung for failing him on such a monumental level, but Shang had an ace up his sleeve. He suggested that maybe they just invade Earthrealm, cause some devastation, and offer them a double-or-nothing deal. They’ll have a mulligan tournament in Outworld. If Outworld wins, it counts as the tenth win in a row. If Earthrealm wins, Outworld can no longer challenge them in Mortal Kombat. Pleased with this idea, Kahn made Shang more powerful and gifted him with a more youthful body.
Baraka led his army into slaughtering much of the Shaolin to rile up Earthrealm’s defenders. The heroes accepted the challenge.
Sub-Zero’s younger brother Kuai Lang took up the Sub-Zero name and, alongside his Lin Kuei BFF Smoke, investigated the death of his brother. Smoke was ultimately captured by the Lin Kuei and was turned into a robot. Meanwhile, Scorpion realized that this new Sub-Zero wasn’t the one he was angry with and chose to become his protector out of honor.
Jax ran afoul of Ermac (a telekinetic warrior made out of thousands of souls, including King Jerrod’s) and got his arms blown off. They were later replaced with cybernetic attachments.
Kitana discovered the truth about her identity and that her “sister” Mileena was some kind of grotesque hybrid clone created by Shang Tsung. She ended up siding with the heroes.
Once again, Liu Kang won the tournament for Earthrealm by defeating Shang Tsung, Kintaro, and Shao Kahn. He ended it by punching a hole through Shao Kahn’s chest.
The Outworld Invasion (Mortal Kombat Trilogy)
Insisting that he knew of a magic loophole, Quan Chi was able to help Shao Kahn invade Earthrealm by resurrecting Queen Sindel on Earthrealm and brainwashing her for good measure. Kahn’s forces began rampaging through Earthrealm with Raiden finding a select collection of heroes to help him. This included police officer Kurtis Stryker and his partner Kabal. Kabal was a former Black Dragon member who decided to turn his life around. During the chaos, Kintaro mutilated Kabal and he just barely survived, able to live on thanks to respirators and sorcery.
Sub-Zero discarded his ninja appearance out of his disgust with the Lin Kuei’s practices. While helping the other heroes, he was pursued by robotic versions of Sektor, Cyrax, and Smoke. Sub-Zero was able to get through to Smoke, who helped him fight off the other cyborgs.
Speaking of getting through to their friends, Kitana was able to bring Sindel back to her senses and onto her side (though, it was likely a long con by Sindel). Similarly, Kitana’s longtime friend and fellow assassin Jade was tasked with tracking down and killing Kitana alongside Reptile, but chose to defend her instead.
Although Kung Lao was able to cut Baraka in half (Baraka survived by being stapled together somehow), he was seemingly killed by Shao Kahn. This gave Liu Kang the extra edge needed to defeat Kahn and send him back where he came from. Earthrealm was saved once again.
The Netherrealm Invasion (Mortal Kombat Gold)
Thanks to the help of the Edenian traitor Tanya, Shinnok was able to finagle his way out of the Netherrealm. He attacked the Heavens and Earthrealm with Quan Chi, Tanya, Reiko, Reptile, Baraka, Noob Saibot, Mileena, and Scorpion in his thrall. Unbeknownst to him, Quan Chi secretly held onto the real version of Shinnok’s powerful amulet while Shinnok held a fake. Quan Chi was really the one in control.
Shinnok’s plan involved the Jinsei, Earthrealm’s mystical life force. Shinnok wanted to poison it with his own evil magic, corrupting the entire planet and making it his domain.
Raiden put together a group to stop him, which included his fellow god Fujin, Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, Jax, Kung Lao (who had faked his death for reasons), Kitana, and White Lotus member Kai. Because of Shinnok’s threat, even Cyrax, Goro, and Black Dragon member Jarek joined their cause out of necessity.
Once again, Liu Kang came out the winner and Shinnok was sent back to the Netherrealm. Kitana offered him a spot at her side as ruler of Edenia, but he decided against it. His place was Earthrealm. On the upside, Kitana became close allies with Goro and Kung Lao appeared before him to end their family beef.
Also, the adventure helped Cyrax get back in touch with his humanity. Jax and Sonya helped him break out of his programming and used some machinery to put his mind back to its original form. He was still a cyborg, but he had the mind of the man he used to be.
Quan Chi convinced Scorpion that the younger Sub-Zero was bad news and was behind the death of Scorpion’s family. Scorpion defeated Sub-Zero. With everything wrapped up, Quan Chi appeared and admitted the truth. Now Sub-Zero was his for the killing and Scorpion was no longer of use. He began a spell to banish Scorpion to the Netherrealm, but at the last moment, Scorpion lunged over and grabbed Quan Chi. If he was going to Hell, Quan Chi was coming with him.
The Death of Liu Kang (Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance)
Quan Chi finally escaped his endless beatings via the help of two oni creatures named Moloch and Drahmin. During his escape, he found out about Onaga’s unbeatable, mummified army and hatched a plan. He went off to Outworld and sought out fellow sorcerer Shang Tsung. Together, they could find worthy warriors, steal their souls, shove the souls into the mummified army, and then conquer all of reality. But first, they would need to take out the two biggest threats.
First, they visited Shao Kahn and went after him as one. The numbers game was too much and Kahn was killed. Afterwards, they went to Earthrealm to team up on Liu Kang. Shang Tsung snapped his neck and devoured his soul.
Elsewhere, in a war between Edenian and Outworld forces, Goro was slain in battle. Secretly, he was stolen away and revived by Shao Kahn. It turns out that the guy Shang and Quan took out was a double. Kahn and Goro decided to sit on the sidelines and see how it all played out.
Sub-Zero wanted to set things right and rebuild the Lin Kuei. He defeated Sektor and took over as the new Grandmaster. As leader, he obtained an enchanted medallion that increased his power. He restarted the clan, which included taking a protégé in Frost, an egotistical young woman with similar ice powers.
Scorpion went after Quan Chi on his own. He broke into his stronghold, only to be attacked by Moloch and Drahmin. They overwhelmed him and threw his body into Shang Tsung’s Soulnado (a tornado of souls that reaches into the Heavens). Scorpion’s body was torn apart and he vanished, presumably destroyed for good.
Cyrax was sent on a mission to Outworld, but was stranded. Nitara, a vampire, was able to trick both Cyrax and Reptile into helping her liberate her realm from being merged with Outworld. In the end, this subplot caused Reptile to find his way into an incubation chamber where a cult worshiped a big dragon egg. It hatched and a beam of energy blasted out of it and into Reptile, mutating him and making him a host to the reborn Onaga.
Kenshi, a telekinetic, blind swordsman with a lot of hate for Shang Tsung, was sent by the Special Forces to rescue Cyrax. During his excavation, he came across Ermac and was able to break him away from Shao Kahn’s control, turning them into psychic buddies. Instead of finding Cyrax, Kenshi was ambushed by Mavado, a high-ranking member of the Red Dragon. Coincidentally, Mavado was sporting a couple hook swords that he got from Kabal after tracking him down and beating him within an inch of his life.
But back to the main plot…
Raiden put together a team to fight the sorcerers, save the world, and get revenge for Liu Kang’s death: Kung Lao, Johnny Cage, Sonya, Jax, Kitana, Sub-Zero, and Frost. Sub-Zero and Frost got separated from all of this. Frost stole Sub-Zero’s medallion for herself, couldn’t control it, and became frozen in a block of ice. Whoops. On his own, Sub-Zero ended up stumbling upon a half-dead Kenshi and aided him.
As for the other heroes? Well, they died. Sucks to be them.
The Reign of the Dragon King (Mortal Kombat: Deception/Unchained)
Even though it was six-on-two, Shang Tsung and Quan Chi wiped the floor with the heroes and killed all five mortals, leaving only Raiden. They kicked his ass and once he was down for the count, they turned on each other. Quan Chi won the battle of the sorcerers, only for Onaga to show up to reclaim his kingdom. Raiden, Shang, and Quan put their differences aside and triple-teamed Onaga to little-to-no effect. Raiden went desperate and blew himself up. It took out all three of them and the mummified army, but Onaga still stood tall. Onaga had the Kamidogu relics and he resurrected the slain heroes to be his brainwashed goons. He intended to merge everything together and bring order like nobody had ever seen before.
Raiden respawned elsewhere, but something went wrong and he came back red-eyed and vicious. He still wanted to protect Earthrealm, but now at any cost, no matter how merciless. He started by resurrecting Liu Kang’s soulless corpse into a shambling zombie. Meanwhile, Liu Kang’s actual soul got in contact with Ermac and convinced him to help save his mind-controlled buddies.
Speaking of resurrection, the Elder Gods saved Scorpion from the Soulnado and gave him a new mission: save reality from Onaga as the Champion of the Elder Gods and in return they would resurrect his clan.
Seido and Chaosrealm also got involved in the plot. Most importantly, Hotaru of Seido joined forces with Onaga due to Onaga’s vision of bringing a dark sense of order to all the realms. Hotaru was sent to eliminate Sub-Zero and Kenshi, which he failed to do. From Chaosrealm, the Cleric of Chaos Havik found a near-dead Kabal and nursed him back to health. He convinced Kabal to go back to his evil ways and rebuild the Black Dragon. Kabal did so, finding new members in Kobra and Kira.
Ermac and the ghost of Liu Kang were able to bring the brainwashed heroes back to their senses. As for Onaga, his downfall didn’t come from the hands of Scorpion, but from a guilt-ridden Shujinko. The gullible warrior used his power to absorb fighting abilities and summoned the skills of all the fighters involved in the story. He shattered every Kamidogu piece and then killed Onaga.
Afterward, the fire elemental Blaze appeared before Kitana and told her that she needed to gather every hero together to take on the banded forces of evil. Kitana collapsed in frustration over how she’d never see an end to war, but Blaze promised that if her side won, it could very well bring everlasting peace.
The Battle of Armageddon (Mortal Kombat: Armageddon)
One way or another, every hero and villain of the series had returned. The villains, from Onaga to Shao Kahn to the Deadly Alliance, agreed on a temporary team-up to wipe out the do-gooders of the realms. Scorpion rejoined their ranks after the Elder Gods paid him back by resurrecting the Shirai Ryu as mindless ghouls.
Man, the Elder Gods are dicks.
Taven finally awoke from his slumber, only to discover that his intended contest against Daegon had gone completely wrong and that Daegon was a megalomaniac mass murderer. He traveled around to various locations, getting into fights with various characters until getting a front-row seat in the Battle of Armageddon.
As the forces of good and evil fought it out in a desert wasteland, a massive pyramid appeared before them with Blaze standing on top. Everyone was entranced with his energies and then started fighting each other as they raced to the top. It was a massive battle royal between every existing Mortal Kombat character and it was Taven’s to win. After all, he was the hero of the story.
But Taven failed. Instead, the last man standing was Shao Kahn. After the smoke cleared, bodies littered the scene and Kahn stood over Blaze’s slain body, more powerful than ever. Before him was Raiden, defeated and moments from death. As Kahn laughed about how worthless and cowardly the Elder Gods were, Raiden reached for a special amulet he always carried with him. It was shattered into pieces, but he held it together in his hands, spoke an enchantment, and yelled out, “HE MUST WIN!”
Shang Tsung’s Island Tournament Redux (Mortal Kombat 9)
Back to the events of the first Mortal Kombat game, the younger Raiden suddenly became overwhelmed with random visions of the future and the directions that, “HE MUST WIN!” He saw various events, such as his acts as a corrupted god, Sub-Zero being reborn as Noob Saibot, Smoke being turned into a cyborg, etc.
He figured that, “HE MUST WIN!” meant Liu Kang beating Shang Tsung. Therefore, the events mostly transpired exactly as before.
Raiden did try to convince Scorpion not to kill Sub-Zero, as that would bring forth an even greater evil. If Scorpion showed mercy, Raiden suggested that he could maybe convince the Elder Gods to bring back to the Shirai Ryu (um…baaaad idea, Raiden), and Scorpion agreed to his terms. Yet in the end, Quan Chi egged him on too much and Scorpion murdered Sub-Zero regardless. Scorpion lost his only hope of reconnecting with his past.
Liu Kang defeated Shang Tsung, but Raiden was disturbed to see that his own amulet was beginning to crack on its own. It seems that he didn’t prevent the terrible future after all.
The Outworld Tournament Redux (Mortal Kombat 9)
Shao Kahn’s tournament started to show more differences this second go-through. First, Raiden prevented the Lin Kuei from capturing Smoke. Instead, they got their hands on the younger Sub-Zero. In this scenario, the Lin Kuei offered their services to Shao Kahn rather than see him as an enemy.
Raiden figured that perhaps, “HE MUST WIN!” meant Kung Lao, who was just as skilled as Liu Kang. The suggestion rubbed Liu the wrong way, but he didn’t question it. Kung Lao took down Shang Tsung, Quan Chi, and Kintaro, but then Shao Kahn cheaply attacked him from behind and snapped his neck.
Furious over his friend’s death, Liu Kang fought Kahn and, as it was before, took him down with a fist impaling his chest. Even then, Raiden’s amulet continued to crack. This wasn’t the right way either.
The Outworld Invasion Redux (Mortal Kombat 9)
Once again, Shao Kahn’s forces invaded Earthrealm in an all-out war. Kabal fought Cyber Sub-Zero and defeated him. The Earthrealm heroes removed Sub-Zero’s programming, bringing back his free will. He was haunted by all the innocent lives he took and agreed to their plan to act as a spy against Kahn.
Quan Chi opened up a Soulnado in a city cemetery to enhance Shao Kahn’s power. Cyber Sub-Zero fought his brother Noob Saibot while Nightwolf defeated Quan Chi. Noob’s body was thrown into the Soulnado, destroying Noob and causing the Soulnado to dissipate. Raiden was pleased, but upon seeing that his amulet was still cracking, he second-guessed what the next action should be. Liu Kang continued to lose his patience.
He and Liu Kang went off to talk to the Elder Gods, who did absolutely nothing, claiming that technically, Kahn hadn’t done anything wrong…yet. While that was going on, the Earthrealm warriors fought off the Lin Kuei. That was easy enough, but prior to the attack, Kahn decided to kill Shang Tsung and use his life forces to enhance Sindel. Single-handedly, this stronger version of Sindel killed Jade, Stryker, Sub-Zero, Kabal, Jax, Smoke, and Kitana. Nightwolf sacrificed himself to finally stop her. Raiden and Liu returned to find Kitana dying. Liu had finally had enough of Raiden’s foolish decisions and called him out on it.
Desperate, Raiden went to the Netherrealm to suggest a deal with Quan Chi. Quan Chi had no need as he already had a deal going with Shao Kahn: in exchange for his services, he got to keep the souls of the warriors who fell during the war between Earthrealm and Outworld. He then had the undead versions of everyone from Sindel to Kung Lao attack Raiden. Raiden left empty-handed, but Quan Chi did make sure to give him some inspiration to figure out how to stop Kahn.
“HE MUST WIN!” meant Shao Kahn. If Liu Kang fought him, Kahn would be warded off, but he’d survive to fight another day and eventually kill them all. If Kahn simply merged the realms like the egomaniac he was, the Elder Gods would finally have reason to act on it. Quan Chi had set him up to fail all along! Liu thought the plan was nonsense and went after Kahn anyway. Raiden got in Liu’s way and accidentally killed him. Begging for forgiveness, Raiden was horrified when Liu cursed his name before dying from the wounds.
Kahn merged the realms and became stronger. The Elder Gods powered up Raiden and helped him defeat Kahn. They then tore his soul to pieces. Shao Kahn was dead. Finally. In response, Raiden’s amulet fixed itself.
It came at a terrible cost. Of the good guys, only Raiden, Johnny, and Sonya survived. As they left, Quan Chi appeared to admire Kahn’s destroyed helmet. Everything was going according to plan. Shinnok would escape the Netherrealm soon and there would be barely anyone to oppose them this time.
The Netherrealm Invasion Redux (Mortal Kombat X)
The odds were worse than the original timeline’s war against Shinnok. Not only were the good guys reduced to just Raiden, Fujin, Johnny, Sonya, and Kenshi, but the bad guys had a bunch of resurrected and corrupted heroes on their side. Despite all that, Johnny Cage still defeated Shinnok. It turned out that Johnny was part of a special bloodline of Mediterranean warriors bred and trained to kill gods. When Sonya was in peril, Johnny’s genetic powers kicked in and he was able to overpower Shinnok and imprison him into his own magical amulet.
Quan Chi mortally wounded Johnny and tried to recreate him as one of his revenant soldiers. Raiden used his own magic to combat it and not only did it save Johnny’s life, but it returned all the other revenant warriors in the room to regular human form. This included Jax, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero (Kuai Liang, in his human form). Raiden finally had a way of saving his fallen friends from damnation. Unfortunately, Quan Chi escaped, so nuts to that.
After the war, Johnny and Sonya got married and had a daughter, Cassie. The union was short-lived and they got divorced, mainly due to Sonya’s Special Forces duties. Jax was too haunted by his memories as a demon soldier and settled down with his psychiatrist. They also had a daughter, Jacqui. Sub-Zero killed Sektor and rebuilt the Lin Kuei from the ground up.
Scorpion didn’t know what to do with himself, but Kenshi reached out to him and helped him reconnect with his humanity. A man once again, Scorpion decided to rebuild the Shirai Ryu, recruiting those who also lost loved ones.
Raiden hid Shinnok’s amulet away from reality by use of the Kamidogu pieces, now in the form of daggers. He gave them to different people to protect against evil.
Elsewhere, with Shao Kahn gone, his daughter-of-sorts Mileena took the throne in Outworld. Kotal (Buluc), who had worked as Shao Kahn’s underling over the years, convinced others to follow him and forced Mileena into hiding during a sudden uprising. Baraka was one of the victims of this little episode, killed by D’Vorah, a creepy bug lady. Now named Kotal Kahn, the new emperor’s inner circle included D’Vorah, the mercenary Erron Black, Ermac, Reptile, and the bloodthirsty savage duo of Ferra and Torr.
The Reiko Accords (Mortal Kombat X Comic Series)
Kenshi was undercover as a member of the Red Dragon, but his cover was blown. The Red Dragon knew more about him than he did, including how he had an illegitimate son with an old flame named Suchin. Kenshi was too late to save Suchin, but was able to protect their son, Takeda. Kenshi handed Takeda to Scorpion to protect and raise while Kenshi went off to destroy the Red Dragon himself.
Havik orchestrated a plot that cursed the Kamidogu daggers and possessed certain warriors. Using Reiko and others as pawns, Havik worked to summon Shinnok’s amulet and use it for himself as a way to spread chaos through the realms. His machinations caused the deaths of Mavado, Kintaro, Reiko, Goro’s father, Kotal Kahn’s father, and the entire Shirai Ryu (barring Scorpion and Takeda).
While Havik’s threat was great enough that even Kotal Kahn and Mileena decided to work together against him, he was done in by Takeda and Scorpion. Scorpion decapitated Havik, teleported into the Netherrealm with the still-alive head, and handed it over to Moloch and Drahmin for the sake of torture.
After the adventure, Kotal Kahn and Sonya agreed on a pact known as the Reiko Accords that made them uneasy allies.
The Kombat Kids (Mortal Kombat X)
20 years had passed since the Netherrealm War. During that time, Sub-Zero made amends with Scorpion and proved to him that their entire rivalry was based on the manipulations of Quan Chi. To atone, Scorpion dedicated himself to making Quan Chi suffer.
Johnny Cage organized a task force of youngsters to train so that they could take over for the old guard. This included Takeda, Cassie Cage, Jacqui Briggs, and Kung Lao’s cousin, Kung Jin. Meanwhile, Kano got his hands on Shinnok’s amulet and sold it to Mileena to help her regain her spot as empress of Outworld.
Cassie’s team went to Outworld to get aid from Kotal Kahn. Kotal got the wrong idea and tried to have them killed, but cooler heads prevailed and the two parties worked together to apprehend Mileena. D’Vorah executed her. Afterward, Kotal Kahn refused to return Shinnok’s amulet as Raiden had failed to keep it safe twice over. Little did Kotal realize that D’Vorah had been working for Quan Chi and Shinnok all along and this was part of her plan.
Thanks to Jax coming back from retirement, the Special Forces were able to apprehend Quan Chi. Scorpion then appeared and forced everyone to watch him beat and torture the sorcerer, not caring about the fate of others. D’Vorah showed up and handed Quan Chi the amulet. His final words were a spell that would resurrect Shinnok…just before Scorpion chopped Quan Chi’s head off. Not only was Shinnok back, but the fallen heroes could never be turned human again. Only then did Scorpion realize his folly.
Shinnok took over the Jinsei Chamber and poisoned the energies with his evil, all while torturing Johnny Cage. Cassie’s crew, alongside the Lin Kuei, fought through Kotal Kahn’s forces and Shinnok’s revenant warriors. Jacqui even avenged her father by defeating Ermac.
Cassie faced Shinnok’s true form. Seeing her father in peril caused her powers to kick in and she was able to win just like Johnny did 20 years earlier. To purify the Jinsei, Raiden had himself placed within its energies. Shinnok was defeated, the world was saved, and Johnny and Sonya reconnected.
But it wasn’t all a happy ending. Raiden’s sacrifice caused him to become corrupted and he started wielding Shinnok’s amulet as a weapon. He became like his darker self from the original timeline, ready to wipe out anything he considered a possible threat to Earthrealm. To show he meant business, he traveled to the Netherrealm and warned the new rulers – the revenant versions of Liu Kang and Kitana – by throwing the living and suffering head of Shinnok at their feet.
He also tried to start a war with Outworld, but Kotal Kahn held him off by invoking Mortal Kombat. Thanks to the help of Bo’ Rai Cho (Liu Kang, Kung Lao, and Shujinko’s master), Earthrealm was defeated and Outworld was deemed safe from Raiden’s wrath. Still, Raiden was able to trick Cassie Cage into killing Shujinko, thereby preventing the resurrection of Onaga in this timeline.
Kronika’s Revenge (Mortal Kombat 11)
The Titan Kronika was the mother of Shinnok and Cetrion, the Goddess of Virtue. Kronika controlled the sands of time and wished for reality to favor both her children, meaning endless conflict between good and evil through the ages. In her frustration, Shinnok’s beheading had upset the balance in favor of good.
While Kronika could manipulate the lives of humans, her powers did not work on gods. She had, in fact, been attempting to perfect reality by creating timeline after timeline, only for Raiden to screw everything up for her no matter how hard she tried. In many of these timelines, she manipulated Liu Kang into fighting Raiden, as the two of them together were a potential threat to her.
Meanwhile, Raiden led the Special Forces on a mission into the Netherrealm to cripple Liu Kang and Kitana’s forces and destroy their castle base. While successful, it came at the cost of Sonya’s life. Kronika appeared in the Netherrealm shortly after to rewind the castle back to normal and recruit the revenant versions of Liu Kang and Kitana. Her plan was to create a new timeline where Raiden did not exist. She just needed certain items to help amp up her abilities to make it possible.
To help with her plan, Kronika created a massive time rift and various heroes and villains from the era of Mortal Kombat II came into the present. While many were able to interact with their counterparts, gods exist under different rules and the sinister, modern version of Raiden vanished completely. His younger self was horrified to discover what kind of monster he would become while most of the others were confronted by the tragedies they were destined to endure. The visiting good guys included Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Kitana, Sonya, Jax, Johnny Cage, and Jade. Obviously, the recent death of modern Sonya made things awkward. That and the two Johnny Cages coexisting.
Kronika mainly recruited warriors by promising them a rewarding life in the new timeline, even if her plan was for constant war. In the present, she had her unkillable servant Geras, Cetrion, D’Vorah, Kano, Frost, and Jax (tricked into helping, as Kronika exploited his guilt-ridden PTSD). From the past, she brought in Shao Kahn, Skarlet, Noob Saibot, Kano, Erron Black, Kabal, Scorpion, Sektor, and Cyrax. Frost, feeling that the Lin Kuei had lost their way and Raiden never gave her the respect she deserved, restarted the Cyber Initiative and had herself turned into a cyborg. Many Lin Kuei warriors were kidnapped and transformed into cannon fodder for Kronika.
Turned out that Kotal Kahn and Jade were lovers before all this and this time rift was a welcome reunion. The rift also brought back Baraka and his Tarkatan race, who Kotal had previously wiped out completely. Attempting genocide on them once again, Kotal was stopped by Jade and the two ended up being captured by Shao Kahn.
Needing soldiers to face Kronika’s armies, Kitana rallied Baraka and Sheeva to join her side, as Shao Kahn would only make them slaves. Shao Kahn crippled Kotal Kahn in battle, but the execution was interrupted by Kitana’s uprising. Kitana sliced Shao Kahn’s throat, wounding him horribly, albeit not mortally. Kotal stepped down as ruler of Outworld and gave the spot to “Kitana Kahn.”
Speaking of dead characters, Sektor self-destructed, taking the Special Forces base out with him. Sonya ended up killing the younger version of Kano, which in turn killed the modern Kano. The modern Scorpion died from a poison attack from D’Vorah. The incident inspired his younger, demonic self to switch sides and join the heroes. Cetrion killed all of the other Elder Gods, choosing familial loyalty over morality.
Out of desperation, Raiden wielded Shinnok’s amulet and it made him turn more violent and hateful. But then a fight with the younger Liu Kang sparked Raiden’s memories of their multiple battles in previous timelines. Raiden realized that he and Liu Kang working together was the key to victory. Kronika mocked the thunder god and stole Liu Kang away.
Raiden led a siege on Kronika’s keep in the Netherrealm. Kronika’s demons and cyborgs were met by Shaolin monks, Special Forces soldiers, Outworld warriors, and so on. The unkillable Geras was taken out by being wrapped in an anchor and dropped into an endless ocean of blood. Modern Jax realized he was on the wrong side and joined the heroes. Revenant Liu Kang absorbed the soul and power of the younger Liu Kang, only to still lose to Raiden. Raiden grabbed Liu Kang and figured out a solution: he fused his soul to Liu Kang’s. Liu became a god of fire and lightning, not only giving him the power to lead the charge but also making him immune to Kronika’s manipulations.
Kronika rewound the siege, so while Liu Kang was unaffected, his allies were gone. The two battled it out as Kronika brought them back to the dawn of time. Liu Kang won the battle, burned Kronika into glass, and then shattered her. Raiden left Liu Kang’s body, choosing to live as a mortal. Still a god, Liu Kang would be the new keeper of time and would sculpt a new timeline. Mortal Raiden agreed to use the rest of his natural life to help mentor the new god.
Shang Tsung’s Betrayal (Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath)
Before Liu Kang could get too far, a portal opened up, revealing Shang Tsung, Fujin, and Nightwolf. Apparently, the three refused to join Kronika’s side and were banished from time itself. Only Shang Tsung’s sorcery could free them. Shang warned Liu Kang to stop, as he needed Kronika’s magical crown to successfully wield her hourglass. If he did not, all of reality would fall apart. Unfortunately, Kronika’s crown was destroyed in their final battle.
Shang suggested sending himself, Fujin, and Nightwolf into the events of the previous story to steal away the crown. After a private conversation with Fujin, Liu Kang accepted these terms.
The trio appeared around the time Kitana had wounded Shao Kahn and took over as ruler of Outworld. Shang’s master plan involved kidnapping Sindel’s revenant and resurrecting her to counter the eventual fight with Cetrion. While there were bumps in the plan, it all seemed to work out and the heroes even started to lower their guard around Shang a bit more. Fujin was given possession of the crown.
Of course, Shang Tsung and Sindel were scheming together. They rescued Shao Kahn and changed the course of the war. The likes of Sheeva, Kotal Kahn, and Kung Lao were killed as Shao Kahn reclaimed his throne. Shang took Raiden’s form and insisted Fujin hand over the crown. After a pregnant pause, Fujin did so. Enhanced by the crown, Shang absorbed the souls of Fujin and Raiden before betraying his other allies and absorbing the souls of Shao Kahn and Sindel. Shang Tsung then had the power necessary to kill Kronika.
Fire God Liu Kang appeared from a portal. He set all of this up and let his friends take the fall, knowing that it was the only way for this scenario to succeed. The two rivals faced off and Liu Kang won. Shang Tsung turned to dust as Liu Kang placed the crown on his own head. He then became a Titan and began work on a brand-new timeline.
Though as he would later learn, his victory against Shang Tsung was not as cut-and-dry as he originally thought…
The New Era (Mortal Kombat 1)
Lord Liu Kang fashioned a new reality with the magic hourglass. After eons of planning and setting things up with Geras at his side, Liu Kang realized he missed personally dealing with mortals and was afraid that his role as Keeper of Time would drive him mad as it did Kronika. He did away with his nigh-omnipotence and instead downgraded himself to God of Fire and Protector of Earthrealm. Geras secretly hid Liu Kang’s lost power away, feeling he might one day need it.
In this new timeline, Liu Kang bartered peace with Outworld’s rulers Jerrod and Sindel. Every hundred years, they would have a fighting tournament between Outworld and Earthrealm as a celebration. This worked out and the two sides had an equal set of wins over the years. Liu Kang did feel that the upcoming one was incredibly important for Earthrealm to win because Outworld’s General Shao was becoming bolder and an Outworld victory would increase his chances of desiring an invasion.
General Shao was, of course, Shao Kahn reimagined in the new timeline. Liu Kang tried to put certain villains in positions where they would either feel sated by their success or would be toiling in obscurity. The latter included Shang Tsung (a down-on-his-luck snake oil salesman) and Quan Chi (a miner). A being named Damashi, looking and sounding an awful lot like Kronika, interfered and told the two that they were destined to help her rule the realms. The two became skilled sorcerers and wormed their way into the Outworld government. Quan Chi became a trusted advisor with a knack for prophecy and Shang Tsung was put to task with treating Princess Mileena’s disease Tarkat, which was gradually transforming her into a toothy, bloodthirsty monster.
At some point, Jerrod had been murdered. Sindel ruled Outworld with her daughters Mileena and Kitana at her side. Mileena was the heir to the throne, but her disease and secret relationship with her bodyguard Tanya risked her role being compromised. Kitana was loyal to her and tried to keep her on track, all while expressing she had no interest in becoming Empress.
With the help of the Lin Kuei, who were dedicated to Earthrealm’s protection, Liu Kang gathered his champions for the upcoming tournament. They were faded movie star Johnny Cage, yakuza member Kenshi, braggart farmer Kung Lao, and his humbler best friend Raiden. Raiden earned his spot as Earthrealm’s representative and was granted lightning abilities by Liu Kang.
The tournament was a success for the most part. Raiden had defeated every challenger Sindel had thrown at him, including General Shao. The only issue was when Shao got drunk on wine and paranoia during a banquet which almost caused an incident. As it turned out, Quan Chi had told Sindel and Shao a fake prophecy of Liu Kang conquering Outworld and Shao was itching to prevent it. So much so that he was preparing to work against Sindel to protect Outworld.
After the tournament had ended, Geras appeared to tell Liu Kang about how Shang Tsung’s planned life was disrupted by a mysterious benefactor and he was manipulating Sindel. Liu Kang sent some Earthrealm heroes to investigate, but due to a misunderstanding, he fueled the ire between the realms and made war seem more likely. Kung Lao, Johnny, and Kenshi (sans eyes) returned home with the help of Baraka, Reptile, and Ashrah, all heroes in this reality.
Shang Tsung and Quan Chi intended to weaponize Onaga’s mummified army like in the original timeline. They were able to recruit many warriors to their side. The most notable one is Sub-Zero (Bi-Han): the Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei who grew so restless using the Lin Kuei to protect Earthrealm that it corrupted his goals. There was also Havik, a citizen of Seido who wanted to burn it all down in the name of anarchy, and Rain, the High Mage of Outworld who followed Shang Tsung to increase his sorcery abilities.
Quan Chi had also created this reality’s Ermac, made from the souls of those buried in a forest cemetery. This included the ghost of Jerrod, who was later able to take control over Ermac’s body and join with the heroes.
Desperate to prevent a war between realms and wanting to stop Shang Tsung’s plans by any means, Liu Kang came clean about his role as a former Keeper of Time to Sindel, while also showing evidence of Shang’s evil. While they succeeded in defeating Shang Tsung, Sindel was mortally injured. Her soul was absorbed into Ermac’s body, allowing her and Jerrod to be together again. Mileena became the new Empress of Outworld.
Damashi showed herself and revealed her true form. It was shockingly “Titan Shang Tsung,” a more powerful Shang Tsung from a parallel timeline. It turned out that the epic battle between Liu Kang and Shang Tsung over Kronika’s hourglass in the previous game had unforeseen consequences. It created not only a timeline where Shang Tsung won the fight and became Keeper of Time but also timelines where the other warriors were the ones who usurped Kronika. Titan Shang Tsung wanted to wipe out Liu Kang’s vision completely and then conquer the other timelines.
Liu Kang was able to re-bond with the energies that turned him into a Titan. He summoned the Titan versions of his allies from different timelines. Together, they brought together an army of heroes from the multiverse while Titan Shang Tsung brought together an army of villains. The two sides had a gruesome battle on a pyramid in Titan Shang Tsung’s timeline, ending in the death of Titan Shang Tsung. The survivors returned to their correct timelines.
Hours later, a Titan version of Havik appeared in the aftermath, angry that he missed all the chaos. He intended to create another multiversal battle, but he would make it last.
Back in the main timeline, Johnny Cage helped ease the public into one day accepting the existence of Outworld by creating a Mortal Kombat Cinematic Universe. Kenshi, with the help of government agent Jackson Briggs, was able to take down the yakuza. Afterward, the two founded the Outworld Investigation Agency. Scorpion (Kuai Liang in this reality) and Smoke escaped the Lin Kuei to start their own ninja clan (the Shirai Ryu) and later recruited a young Hanzo Hasashi. Raiden also trained with them to help him control any possible anger issues.
General Shao and his second-in-command Reiko tried to take over Outworld with their own army, but Kitana was able to lead Outworld’s army to draw them back. Shao unleashed Onaga from imprisonment, hoping to one day weaponize him. Reiko attempted to tame Onaga, knowing it was probably going to cost him his life.
Havik (the regular one, not the Titan one from the cliffhanger) offered to protect Rain in exchange for his help. Rain used his water magic to create a massive tidal wave that annihilated Seido’s capital. While Havik was ecstatic about liberating his people, the massive loss of life overwhelmed Rain and he returned to Outworld to surrender himself and accept punishment.
The process of regaining his power caused Liu Kang to lose his immortality. He would still live for eons, but he was no longer eternal, and he needed a successor as Keeper of Time. He chose Geras to take over. Geras now watches neighboring timelines, ever vigilant for the next threat to come.