Quan Chi is an interesting part of the Mortal Kombat series. Mortal Kombat 9 was a time-travel-based reboot that retold the stories of the first three games in far more detail. Part of the reason is because Mortal Kombat is famously bad when it comes to characters created post-Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Sure, there are a couple gems in there like Frost and Kenshi (the latter was included as DLC), and there were cameos of Havik and Bo Rai Cho, but many of those characters are passed over for the sake of giving focus to the icons.
Quan Chi may not be an iconic character in Mortal Kombat, but the people behind the games sure like to think he is. That’s why he got to appear as playable in Mortal Kombat 9 despite not being introduced until after Mortal Kombat Trilogy hit the scene.
In fact, Quan Chi was the only playable character to come out a winner. Everyone else either lost a war, suffered lost allies, or is flat-out dead. Not Quan Chi, though. He’s the one who gets to stand tall.
Quan Chi’s first appearance, strangely enough, wasn’t in a video game at all. Quan Chi first showed up in Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm. If you’ve never seen or heard of Defenders of the Realm, it was a Saturday morning cartoon that somehow existed despite being based on a video game known for horrific murder. He appeared halfway into the series in late 1996, a full year before his first game appearance. In “The Secret of Quan Chi,” the sorcerer uses a magical gem to turn the Earthrealm heroes against each other, causing them to fill increasingly with hatred. It was memorable for an unintentionally hilarious subplot where Jax would get his feelings hurt when anyone ever brought up his childhood nickname, “Blubber Butt.”
Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero hit the scene in late 1997. A mediocre side-scroller, it acts as a prequel, telling the story of the older Sub-Zero brother. The same Sub-Zero who killed Scorpion, only to be murdered by a resurrected Scorpion in the first Mortal Kombat game. This is where that initial killing comes into play. Quan Chi is introduced as the second-in-command to Shinnok, the fallen Elder God and current ruler of the Netherrealm (Hell). Despite playing second banana, Quan Chi is more notable in that he is shown having killed Scorpion’s entire clan as a token of gratitude for Sub-Zero’s help. He also murders Scorpion’s family and pastes the blame for both killing sprees on Sub-Zero. Naturally, Scorpion isn’t going to hear out the man who killed him.
The best thing about the game was the unlockable blooper reel. God, the live-action cutscenes were cheesy.
Around the time of Mythologies’ release, Mortal Kombat 4 came out in the arcade, eventually ported to Nintendo 64, PlayStation, and Dreamcast (as the upgraded Mortal Kombat Gold). Still Shinnok’s top henchman, Quan Chi was almost inexplicably the marquee character of the game, showcased on the sides of the arcade cabinet with his silly glare.
It’s just as well, considering Quan Chi was the only new character in the game who wasn’t outright terrible. Shinnok was a knockoff of Shang Tsung. Jarek was a knockoff of Kano. Tanya was a recolored Kitana after they decided to remove her for the sake of more new characters. Reiko was…there. Kai was…also there. Quan Chi looked like a million dollars compared to these guys and it helped that he had the only original Fatality in the game that wasn’t garbage. He’d tear his opponent’s leg off and beat them to death with it. Even typing out that sentence put a huge smile on my face.
Quan Chi’s stock rose in the game’s various endings, portraying him as more of a master manipulator than just a simple lackey. His ending reveals that he had always had the upper hand against Shinnok, and listened to orders based on his own agenda. Despite that, he remained loyal and only turns on him because he is unfairly repaid for centuries of servitude. Meanwhile, Scorpion’s ending (which is canon) shows Quan Chi gloat over how he’s been using Scorpion as a pawn since the beginning, especially against the Sub-Zero brothers. This proves to be his undoing when he tries to banish Scorpion back to the Netherrrealm. Fading away, Scorpion dashes forward and grabs Quan Chi, dragging him down to the depths with him.
Despite one of the few times Quan Chi is ever shown getting his comeuppance, he escapes in the follow-up, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. There, he starts working with fellow scheming sorcerer Shang Tsung with a master plan that involves an unbeatable, undead army. The interesting coincidence here is that years earlier, the live-action cheesefest, Mortal Kombat Conquest, had Quan Chi as a recurring villain, including an episode where he and Shang Tsung briefly worked together. The title? “The Unholy Alliance.”
Oh! And another piece of fun Quan Chi trivia: Quan Chi appeared in the original ending of Mortal Kombat Annihilation as Shinnok’s right-hand man as a hook into a third movie, but I guess they already knew they were dead in the water when it came to getting another sequel, so they went in a more straightforward direction.
So anyway, Deadly Alliance. It was a game that not only features Quan Chi as a co-final boss, but it was also meant to be a new beginning for the series, as shown by how he and Shang Tsung have together wiped out major characters Shao Kahn and Liu Kang. Naturally, the game sets it up so that the two would be taken out by the remaining heroes, presumably Kung Lao and new guy Kenshi. Not Scorpion, though. Not only does Scorpion get torn to pieces in his very own ending, but promotional footage of a CGI Scorpion vs. Quan Chi duel shows Quan Chi hand Scorpion his own ass.
There’s bad fortune for all of the challengers as the sequel, Mortal Kombat: Deception, shows that evil comes out on top. The opening intro flat-out shows a bunch of dead bodies of characters like Kung Lao, Johnny Cage, Sonya, and so on. The Deadly Alliance killed everyone, culminating in their joint takedown of Raiden. Then, because they’re evil jerks, the two turn on each other for power play reasons. This cutscene depicts Quan Chi as the winner, but then the game’s big bad Onaga steps in and puts a damper on things. Raiden, Shang Tsung, and Quan Chi momentarily team up, but it’s not enough. Raiden blows himself up to stop Onaga – which fails – and Quan Chi teleports away at the last second.
Quan Chi isn’t even in Deception, by the way. You don’t play as him and you don’t fight him. Essentially, they spent their animation budget making sure that a guy who isn’t even on the roster is so badass that he’s able to beat almost everyone. That’s kind of odd.
He gets the red carpet treatment in 2005’s Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, an alternate telling of the Mortal Kombat II story via Liu Kang and Kung Lao beating up everyone and everything in their way instead of simply taking part in a tournament. When Shao Kahn is killed in the climax, Quan Chi gets to pop in at the very end to show that this is “all according to plan” in setup for the supposed next game.
Quan Chi would come back in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, but then again, so would everyone. Meant to be an explosive finale of a game, all Mortal Kombat characters take part in a big battle royale in the desert, fighting their way up a mysterious pyramid with ultimate power waiting for whoever came out the winner. Quan Chi forges a new alliance with Shang Tsung, Shao Kahn, and Onaga. He knows that they’ll eventually turn on each other, but that would have to be after taking out the more heroic opposition.
Like everyone who isn’t eventual winner Shao Kahn, Quan Chi dies a horrific death in the battle.
In the non-canon Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Quan Chi once again shows up, being handed a rather important role. This one’s a bit shocking, as not only is he the only Mortal Kombat character included who isn’t from the first two games, but he isn’t even playable in the game! Though granted, the plan was to eventually make him DLC (along with Harley Quinn), but then Midway went bankrupt and that was out of the question. Meanwhile, he kept his manipulator persona in the forefront with the narrative pointing out several times that he would essentially be the Mortal Kombat counterpart of Lex Luthor.
Then came 2011’s Mortal Kombat reboot, otherwise known as Mortal Kombat 9 for simplicity reasons. Being a retelling of the first three games, Quan Chi is suddenly thrust into the backstory. He’s there in the first game’s tournament, not as a participant, but as Scorpion’s handler from the Netherrealm. He makes sure to push Scorpion into killing the first Sub-Zero as a way of revenge for the events of Mythologies while tying up loose ends. Also, when Shao Kahn fails in his Mortal Kombat II plot, it’s Quan Chi who comes up with the loophole that would allow Kahn to invade Earthrealm outside of the usual tournament rules. In other words, Quan Chi is retconned into being a bigger deal than he already was.
One of the nicer touches is how Quan Chi tends to be planked by either Scorpion or Noob Saibot at most times. Never both. Noob Saibot is an undead, further corrupted Sub-Zero and it’s very likely that Scorpion has no idea that his sworn enemy is on the payroll.
The alternate timeline creates a lot of dead bodies on the hero side and Quan Chi is shown to command their reanimated corpses from the pits of the Netherrealm. He expertly plays both sides against each other, aiding Raiden by helping him figure out the way to stop Shao Kahn once and for all. And then, once the dust is settled, Outworld is defeated, almost all the heroes are dead, and we once again get an ending where Quan Chi pops in to point out how everything is going according to plan. As Shinnok’s visage appears beside him, he knows that the heroes of Earthrealm are in no shape to stop their upcoming invasion. Oh, and in Quan Chi’s arcade mode ending, he clowns Shinnok yet again.
Once more, Quan Chi has all the cards, as he did in the original timeline. Netherrealm will continue to push Quan Chi as the Loki of the Mortal Kombat mythos, causing trouble and playing all sides against each other for his own benefit. Now we’ll see what kind of tricks he can pull on a new generation of kombatants.
Shang Tsung is still way cooler. Yeah, I said it. What do you think about that, magic mime?