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




  • usedforglue - April 14, 2011 12:54 a.m.

    Honestly guys, what is with all the MK stuff this week. The Mortal Kombat games were never that good and they probably never will be that good. Isn't there something better to report on. No but seriously, I love you guys and the articles are still fun to read!
  • Yaro - April 14, 2011 12:57 a.m.

    Prepare yourself! We examine the original arkade hit that korrupted minds and led to the kreation of the ESRB. Fix'd
  • Rubberducky - April 14, 2011 1:16 a.m.

    Kan you guys do me a favor and do a "history of" on the Legend of Zelda? I haven't played it since probably the N64 days... PS I kept this post on topic by using the K on can. Clever eh, eh?? sigh
  • Zeokroe - April 14, 2011 1:56 a.m.

    @usedforglue: Dude, it's the week before the newest MK. I'm an MK fan to the end. I really enjoyed the old games. I thought they were very fun. The second MK I have on my PS3, and I've preordered/bought the newest one already. They aren't deep in move sets, but they do take strategy. I believe them to be good, but maybe that isn't saying much. I'm totally loving GR this week for Kombat week. This is great.
  • usedforglue - April 14, 2011 2:02 a.m.

    @Zeokroe: I'll have to admit that the new MK game actually looks pretty good. I also played the games as a kid and enjoyed them at the time. The series is just so easy to rip on. I don't make a very good troll! Here's to the new MK game! Make it Kount guys!
  • Nonstop17 - April 14, 2011 2:08 a.m.

    ahhh MK2 that was one f the first games i ever played...good times good times
  • Heyexclamationpoint - April 14, 2011 2:30 a.m.

    "Above: The Ultimate MK3 roster, which added cyber ninjas, a lady-Goro and the pitiful Stryker" Actually the cyber ninjas were already in the original MK3. Ultimate added the regular ninjas.
  • elchetos - April 14, 2011 2:33 a.m.

    This is the kind of article that keeps me coming back for more every day. I sucked at MK back in the day, but I'm really intrigued by the new one, maybe it will pull me back to the fighting games. I still remember my little 8 years old mind being blown the first time I saw sub zero's fatality, that'll be a moment that will be engraved in my twisted memory.
  • NinjaJamez - April 14, 2011 2:42 a.m.

    i would like to know why kano didnt appear on MKII, and why scorpion and johnny cage didnt appear on MK3... is there any plot point that clarifies those absences
  • AntistasMetroid - April 14, 2011 2:50 a.m.

    Yes! Keep the MK content flowing! This is all speaking directly to my nostalgia and i cant get enough. just pre-ordered my copy of the new one adn im gettin pumped!
  • xombiesarelove - April 14, 2011 2:54 a.m.

    I'm loving all the MK articles and can't wait to hear what GamesRadar has to say about the series. Plus what child of the 80's/90's doesn't remember that awesome MORTAL KOMBAT! commercial?
  • ThePigHostage - April 14, 2011 4:07 a.m.

    @NinjaJamez - Kano was supposed to be captured in MK2 (you can see him chained up alongside Sonya in one of the levels) - Johnny Cage was supposed to be dead in MK3 I don't know why Scorpion was originally left out of MK3.
  • XLGirthMan - April 14, 2011 4:59 a.m.

    Honestly I never got to play any MK games before. But I'm still psyched for the new one and have preordered it for the PS3 (KRATOS!!!). All this MK history stuff is making me so much more anxious!
  • bloodyshadow - April 14, 2011 5:21 a.m.

    Kombat Week has my pants moist and I'm very impressed with the research you guys are doing and the little trivia you're all spewing AND getting right. Amazing... ... even if most of the article's content is making fun of the series. :/ Beggers can't be choosers.
  • 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?!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • JohnnyBlackburn - April 14, 2011 10:59 a.m.

    Kano- 'A fallen angle' Really???
  • 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...

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