The history of Mortal Kombat


A thunder god in the body of a human, Raiden is personally invited by Shang Tsung to participate in the Mortal Kombat tournament as the protector of Earthrealm. He’s also by far the loudest and most visually exciting character in the game; electric currents course around his body, he screams nonsense when doing his Superman move, he teleports around the screen and then, to top it all off, summons lightning for his victory pose.

So yeah, Raiden was a favorite. His lightning attack is a typical fireball motion (quarter circle forward), but he also has a useful teleport done by hitting down then up.

Above: Insert your own gibberish here 

Signature move: Even with several memorable moves, Raiden’s best is undoubtedly his Superman flying attack. He shoots across the screen in a full horizontal dive while yelling… something. Arcade smalltalk suggested he was saying “Your momma’s in LA,” among other things.

Fatality: Using his electro-powers to detonate the other guy’s head.

Above: He’s tall – that’s cuz he flies! The superman with eternal life!

Liu Kang

A member of the White Lotus Society, Kang doesn’t like the direction the Mortal Kombat tournament has taken and decides to make it honorable again. He dons his trusty black pajamas and arrives as Mortal Kombat’s do-good protagonist.

Though he’s the “hero” of this story, compared to the other characters Kang is undeniably the most boring (and a blatant Bruce Lee clone). He’s a normal human monk, standing next to a thunder god, a movie star and a fire-breathing ninja zombie. Boo.

Above: One of his two moves 

Signature move: Tapping Forward-Forward-High Kick sends Kang flying at the opponent, leg outstretched in a superhuman feat of martial artistry.

Fatality: Uh… yeah Liu Kang doesn’t really have a “fatality” per se. He flip-kicks his way over to the dizzied opponent, then uppercuts them one last time. Noble, but boring.

Above: Did you know Liu Kang is the youngest, and also the fastest warrior in China?


The first of two palette-swapped ninjas who would become synonymous with the Mortal Kombat franchise, Sub-Zero is an assassin sent by the Lin Kuei to kill Shang Tsung. As his name implies, he has the mysterious ability to generate and project extreme cold.

Sub-Zero was one of the most popular characters even in the early days. His easy-to-use ice ball (done just like a Street Fighter fireball) made play easy for MK defectors, and his fatality is one of the most iconic moves in all of gaming.

Above: Ice to meet you / Have an ice day, take your (ice) pick 

Signature move: Obviously his ice ball, which would freeze opponents in place for a few seconds and leave them vulnerable to attack. This often led to the game’s signature combo: ice ball, uppercut, slide.

Fatality: Arguably THE most notable fatality. This move alone corrupted minds and gobbled quarters like none before it, prompting near-hysteria from the mainstream media. Today… who cares? We see new bloody spines almost every week.

Above: Your life is a mystery, warrior with a mask


Yin to Sub-Zero’s yang, Scorpion truly lives on the other end of the spectrum. Instead of freezing enemies with ice and approaching, he pulls them closer with a lethal spear yank. Instead of a pale blue, Scorpion wears bright yellow. And finally, instead of being alive… Scorpion’s dead.

Turns out Sub-Zero killed not just Scorpion, but Scorpion’s whole clan. He’s now back as a fire-breathing demon bent on revenge. But apparently he came back from the dead with a sense of humor – he openly mocks Sub-Zero’s outfit by wearing a similar costume, but with a cowardly yellow color.


Signature move: The spear. It’s vicious, effective and elicits the iconic “GET OVER HERE / COME ‘ERE” yell that’s nearly as famous as the game itself. Like Sub-Zero’s ice, it leaves the enemy dazed for a moment, allowing for combos or a simple uppercut. It’s been a part of Scorp’s arsenal ever since.

Fatality: It’s been used again and again since, but the fire breath is still a classic. The initial reveal of Scorpion’s inhuman status came as quite a shock, too. Once you see his skeletal face, you realize this isn’t just a fight between mortals, and that larger, weirder things could be in play.

Above: Lost soul, bent on revenge. WHOAAAAAAAA HOAAAAA!

Sonya Blade

A mulleted special forces badass in pursuit of Kano. Unlike her murderous target, who was left to do whatever the hell he wanted, Sonya was captured and given an ultimatum: participate in the tournament or die. Luckily she happened to know how to shoot pink rings out of her hands, giving her a fighting chance.

Sonya has perhaps the most versatile set of moves in the game. Her rings can cover the ground, her “square wave flight” or whatever it’s called can shut enemies down in the air, and her scissor leg grab deals big damage when close.

Above: Scissor me, Sonya! 

Signature move: Everyone has a projectile. Anyone can jump in the air and punch. But only Sonya has a command throw, one that has decent range and a big payoff. It does look awfully crude though – watching one digitized sprite person literally overlap the other was amusing in 1992, and today it’s plan ‘ol awful.

Notable fatality: With a teasing nod to her otherwise downplayed femininity, Sonya blows a kiss at her opponent. It just so happens to ignite their body and leave nothing but bones. Kiss of death, indeed.

Above: She’s 26 and on her way




  • moan4stalone - April 15, 2011 2:41 p.m.

    Something beter to report on? FINISH HIM JK
  • taterboob - April 14, 2011 10:11 p.m.

    No, no, no. You guys are crazy. Everybody knows that Raiden REALLY says "TIDY BUBBA GAAAAY!!!". I'm glad I could clear that up.
  • sternparez - April 14, 2011 8:37 p.m.

    I'm totally on a nostalgia trip and am definitely going to pick up MK9 but does anyone else wish they'd gone for a more realistic look staying faithful to the originals?
  • Camo335 - April 14, 2011 5:39 p.m.

    Am I the only one who LOVED the PS2 games?! Deadly Alliance, Deception, Armageddon and Shaolin Monks were a LOT of FUN! VS DC did suck, though.
  • TheMonarch - April 14, 2011 5:17 p.m.

    Totally enjoying the recent MK love on Games Radar. I had the fortunate ability to play UMK3 free. My cousin won the actual cabinet from an EGM (I think) contest. He still has the game, it still works and is still fun to play every once and awhile.
  • jmcgrotty - April 14, 2011 3:24 p.m.

    (Only mentioned because someone in another comment asked about it. Not trying to post off-topic with it) Here is the complete history of Zelda: In 1986-87 (Depending on country), Nintendo released The Legend Of Zelda. Following that release, the series went downhill quick, with no other game released being worth playing.
  • mothbanquet - April 14, 2011 3 p.m.

    You know, I never really gave much thought to the new MK but these excellent features have really whipped up my nostalgia real good. I now remember the insane amount of time I used to play MKII with mates after school and the trailers for the new one look pretty sweet. So, as with DNF, you lot are single handedly responsible for selling these games to me...
  • ultimatepunchrod - April 14, 2011 2:11 p.m.

    maybe its just me but the writer seems like a hardcore SF fan. im not saying thats a bad thing, but if youre doing a tribute article for MK maybe you shouldnt bash it continually saying SF was a better game. i know you cant talk about MK's history without talking about SF but still. other than that, good read.
  • philipshaw - April 14, 2011 1:55 p.m.

    I love it when you do these sort of articles, also having the characters music from the MK album was a nice touch
  • JetpackJesus - April 14, 2011 1:45 p.m.

    @NinjaJamez Yeah, Kano and Sonya were both captured in MK2. The true reason Johnny Cage didn't appear was because his MK1 and 2 actor - Daniel Pasina - appeared in an advert for MK rival video game "Bloodstorm" dressed as Johnny Cage and making fun of Mortal Kombat. After he was fired, they decided to write Johnny Cage as dead in the canon storyline before he was revived. As for Scorpion, Daniel Pasina also played all of the ninja's in the first 2 MK's, hence none of the ninja's appeared in MK3, bar Sub-Zero who was replaced by a different actor. As for the storyline, well, I can't remember what it said for Scorpion not appearing in it, but yeah, they were all brought back by Mortal Kombat Trilogy.
  • NightCrawler_358 - April 14, 2011 12:17 p.m.

    this article was... kool. I'm still trying to decide between MK9 or Portal 2 on day one, I'm not sure which one will have more content. At first I was really excited fro P2, but now I'm kinda leaning on the MK side. guess I better "kollect some kash."
  • cyclone306 - April 14, 2011 12:03 p.m.

    P.S. I guess that means these are kickass articles though...what I'd REALLY like to see is more character spotlights...*nudge nudge*
  • cyclone306 - April 14, 2011 noon

    GODDAMN "KOMBAT WEEK". All week of this mortal kombat bullshit. How much is WB or whoever the fuck owns the rights paying you? Now I'm going to go buy this game EVEN THOUGH I DON'T EVEN LIKE FIGHTING GAMES, because I'm extremely susceptible to corporate properganda. This is exactly what happened to me with UMK3 on XBL I was like "oh shit I did have a lot of fun with MK 1 & 2 I should totally buy this." Play it for 10 minutes, lose to the easy computer and haven't played it since.
  • TheElephantManchurianCandidate - April 14, 2011 11:39 a.m.

    Loving MK week don't listen to the haters aka. Portal 2 fanboys
  • CitizenWolfie - April 14, 2011 11:18 a.m.

    It's amazing how popular the series became konsidering it was a bit of a SF ripoff. I loved it as a kid though, even the krappy films and kartoon. There weren't many arkades where I lived but going to a mate's house and playing VS mode for hours was a bit part of my khildhood. I think on the day of release, it should be a National Mortal Kombat Day. The world over should kelebrate by replaking all Cs with a K and shouting gibberish while lunging wildly at eakh other. As you kan see, I'm getting the praktike in for the K thing already...
  • JohnnyBlackburn - April 14, 2011 10:59 a.m.

    Kano- 'A fallen angle' Really???
  • Synchronatic - April 14, 2011 7:19 a.m.

    Fucking fantastic read. Loved every bit of it. I agree with Romination though, a more in depth article on MK II and III would kick ass.
  • Romination - April 14, 2011 6:32 a.m.

    I'd actually hoped for a longer, more in-depth thing on MK II and III. With character bios and whatnot, that was actually really interesting.
  • Spacem0nkey77 - April 14, 2011 6:04 a.m.

    My buddies and I finally agreed that Raiden actually says "Raging balls of hay"...I never heard "your mommas in LA" which is also pretty funny. "I smoke weed all day" was a close second to Raging balls of hay.
  • funkymonk - April 14, 2011 5:36 a.m.

    @ usedforglue YOU READ MY MIND... Please GR, stop with all this Mortal Kombat material. I love MK as much as the next person but damn. Maybe a Good Top 7 or a Music of the day? What happened to those?!

Showing 1-20 of 34 comments

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