Why Mortal Kombat 12 Is Now Called Mortal Kombat 1

The long-awaited Mortal Kombat 12 is actually called Mortal Kombat 1. Why? Well, that's a very good (and surprisingly complicated) question.

Mortal Kombat 1
Photo: Warner Bros. Games

Fighting game fans are eating well right now. We are weeks away from Street Fighter VI being released. Tekken 8 is coming out sometime soon. King of Fighters XV and Guilty Gear Strive are still cranking out DLC. We even have new installments of Fatal Fury and Under Night on the horizon. Adding to the pile is the recently released trailer for Mortal Kombat 12, which is coming out on September 19!

Of course, the thing of it is that the game is actually called Mortal Kombat 1. They hinted as much with the teaser trailers, one of which included the hand on a clock skipping the 12 and going straight to the 1. So what does this confusing choice even mean? I mean, it was bad enough when the ninth game was called “Mortal Kombat.” Now they have to throw this at us?

Then again, fans of Mortal Kombat 11 knew this was in the cards due to the unique way the game ended, which did not make having a conventional sequel look easy.

In review, after seven Mortal Kombat fighting game installments (and a DC Comics crossover that is sort of canon, as I’ll get to in a moment), things ended so dire that Raiden had to do a little time travel spell to prevent this disaster. Mortal Kombat 9 was a detailed reimagining of the first three games with Raiden trying to alter history. Each retelling went further off the rails until nearly all the heroes were slaughtered, and Liu Kang died despising Raiden in his final breath. On the upside, Raiden did succeed in his mission and warded off the doomed future.

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Mortal Kombat X jumped forward twenty years to introduce new heroes and villains. This culminated in Cassie Cage defeating the evil god Shinnok and saving the realms, though the adventure had corrupted Raiden’s very soul. The ending showed that Liu Kang and Kitana had become the undead rulers of Hell itself.

Mortal Kombat 11 introduced Kronika: a deity who controlled time itself and manipulated history via a mystical hourglass. Kronika was Shinnok’s mother and was furious at his defeat. She ended up bringing in characters from circa Mortal Kombat II to confront the modern cast as part of her elaborate scheme. As the younger incarnation of Liu Kang ended up getting in a fight with the corrupted Raiden, Raiden suddenly had visions of the two of them battling it out over and over again in different forms in different locations. This was not the first reboot. Not by a longshot.

In actuality, Kronika had been restarting the timeline repeatedly for the sake of setting Liu Kang and Raiden against each other, hoping that the two biggest threats to her plans would destroy each other. Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and Liu Kang’s ending from Mortal Kombat: Armageddon were just old timelines that Kronika attempted. In the end, Raiden merged with both “Past” Liu Kang and “Present” Liu Kang to create Liu Kang: God of Fire and Lightning. This version of Liu Kang fought Kronika through the time-space continuum and killed her at the beginning of time. In the end, Liu Kang remained a god with a human version of Raiden helping guide him in controlling Kronika’s hourglass.

Then the DLC hit and we got an extended story, where Shang Tsung got involved. This led to two possible endings. Either Shang Tsung was going to be on his way to ruling all of reality or Liu Kang was going to build a new timeline where he would mentor the Great Kung Lao (Earthrealm’s hero from 500 years ago) famously known for getting killed by Goro and getting the ball rolling for the first Mortal Kombat game.

The trailer shows that this new timeline is one Liu Kang created in hopes of experiencing the best possible world. Raiden and Kung Lao are farmers. Kitana and Mileena are royalty and come off as actual sisters, at least for the moment, Sub-Zero and Scorpion are working together. Then Shang Tsung appears, kills a handful of characters, and gets Fatality’d by Liu Kang. Evil as Shang Tsung is, there is an air of menace to Liu Kang buried under his so-called benevolence. Is he truly the god we should be fighting for or yet another deity we should be fighting against? Is he really so different from Kronika, choosing to mold reality to his liking?

The other big question from the trailer is when this takes place. There is nothing modern in the trailer, so this could very well be circa 1500 AD, where the previous game left off. Many of the characters live for thousands of years and we don’t know if we’re dealing with the original Kung Lao or his modern descendant of the same name. Then again, the promotional info confirms Johnny Cage as being in the game, so would he be a reimagined version living in the past? Would that even work without getting to use the existence of Hollywood or even sunglasses?

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Instead, maybe this is actually the present, but in a timeline where Earthrealm never lost the Mortal Kombat tournament. A world where Outworld’s frustrations boiled over time.

I guess we’ll know for sure this September.