The 10 best Mortal Kombat characters of all time, ranked
It’s Sub-Zero vs. Scorpion for the top spot.
Mortal Kombat is a long-running fighting video game franchise that defined the 1990s. After rebooting the story, the series is still running strong today, with a bright future potentially bringing a new timeline into the mix. Mortal Kombat always stood apart from other fighting games because it relied on being absolutely brutal. Fatalities were made as a way to allow their characters to be as deadly as possible, driving the story and letting players pull off the fatal moves. Here is a rundown of the best fighters in the Mortal Kombat franchise.
Related: MK11 tier list – Best characters in Mortal Kombat 11
The best Mortal Kombat fighters ever, ranked
Reptile was the first secret character in Mortal Kombat and started as a green palette swap among Scorpion and Sub-Zero. As time passed, he took on the reptilian appearance he is known for now and always works under Shang Tsung, Shao Kahn, and Kotal Kahn.
Reptile can blend in with his surroundings, making himself appear invisible, and he weaponizes his saliva, which is acidic. He uses both of these fighting factors to degrade his opponent over time.
9. Cassie Cage
Cassie Cage is the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade. She was introduced in Mortal Kombat X, and you can see how she is a combination of those characters. Cassie Cage has cocky moments like her father but is also a Special Forces badass like her mother. She uses gadgets and pistols to take her opponents down and then takes a selfie with their corpses to post on social media. Cassie shows that she carries the superhuman abilities that Johnny has in her battle with Shinnok. She can singlehandedly defeat him on her own.
Her pistols and acrobatic moves are her biggest weapons, with the occasional drone call-in for a little extra help.
Kitana is the daughter of Sindel and believes Shao Kahn is her father until she learns that he killed her birth father and stole his throne as ruler of Outworld. She teams up with and becomes a love interest for Liu Kang. Kitana was cloned by Shao Kahn, and this clone ended up in the creation of Mileena. In the rebooted timeline, she is killed by the resurrected Sindel and becomes a revenant alongside Liu Kang, ruling over Netherrealm. In Mortal Kombat 11, she kills Shao Kahn and becomes ruler of Outworld, referenced as Kitana Kahn. After Liu Kang defeats Kronika, she stays to help him forge a new timeline.
Kitana is best known for her steel fans that she can use to create gusts of wind and pull off fast combos. Because of her quick fighting prowess, she was one of the most popular fighters in her debut in Mortal Kombat II. Her fans are razor-sharp, allowing her to cut her enemies to pieces.
7. Shang Tsung
Shang Tsung is one of the most prominent antagonists in Mortal Kombat. He is a sorcerer that steals the souls of those he defeats and can use that energy to disguise himself as others. He relies on that soul energy to keep himself young. Shang Tsung works underneath Shao Kahn in the early games, helping Outworld invade Earthrealm by throwing the Mortal Kombat tournament. In Mortal Kombat 11, his actions lead Liu Kang to become a fire god and reset the timeline.
Shang Tsung uses his dark magic to transform himself into others and use their abilities against his opponent. He also implements flaming skulls as an attack, but the big focus is on his shapeshifting.
Kenshi is a blind swordsman with many psychic powers and commonly aids Sonya Blade and Jax Briggs in their Special Forces work. He was blinded after Shang Tsung led him to the blade that he now carries. It houses Kenshi’s ancestors, who were all great swordsmen in their own rights, but the power was too much for his body to handle, leaving him blind. Now his one true goal is to defeat Shang Tsung and free his ancestors’ souls. His son Takeda trained underneath Scorpion as a Shirai Ryu.
In combat, Kenshi uses his telekinetic powers and sword abilities to take down his foes. He can create duplicates of himself and throw invisible punches to damage opponents. In Mortal Kombat 11, you can find his corpse in the Krypt, with no explanation as to how he died, and he doesn’t appear anywhere else in the game.
5. Johnny Cage
Johnny Cage is a Hollywood star who enters the Mortal Kombat tournament to prove that he pulls off his stunts. His younger version is very arrogant and very cocky, traits he does grow out of with age and after marrying Sonya Blade and having Cassie as a daughter. Johnny does have superhuman powers, being a descendant of a Mediterranean cult that bred warriors for the gods — you see this by the green afterimage he gives off with many of his moves. He can harness this energy to give him the ability to go one-on-one with a god-like Shinnok and survive.
Johnny’s most iconic moves include punching his opponents in the crotch and uppercutting their heads clean off their bodies. He has a variety of acrobatic moves that he combines with his ancestral powers to win his battles.
4. Liu Kang
Liu Kang is the main protagonist of Mortal Kombat, designed to resemble Bruce Lee. He is a Shaolin monk that becomes Earth’s Champion after winning Shang Tsung’s Mortal Kombat tournament in the first game. He is eventually killed by Shang Tsung and Quan Chi in the original timeline and accidentally by Raiden in the rebooted timeline when the two disagree on how to handle Outworld invading Earthrealm. In both cases, Quan Chi resurrects him as an undead warrior, and he becomes an antagonist. In Mortal Kombat 11, Liu Kang becomes a fire god and resets the timeline, setting up future releases.
Before Liu Kang became a fire god, he already had fire abilities. He can imbue his fists in fire and is most well known for his flying and running kicks. He also can turn himself into a dragon to consume his foes.
Ermac started their life as an error code in the first Mortal Kombat. The game glitched and used the code Error Macro, abbreviated as ERMACS. When players saw this, they assumed an additional secret character named Ermac would be a ninja in red. The development team took this idea and introduced Ermac as a playable character in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3.
Ermac is a combination of the many souls lost in Outworld’s wars combined into one body to serve Shao Kahn until Kenshi breaks the control on him. Because of this, Ermac refers to themself as “we” and “us” because they are taking into account the thousands of souls trapped within. Those souls give them telekinetic powers, including teleportation and controlling objects with his mind. If they stay in Netherrealm for too long, the souls within begin to escape Ermac’s body.
Sub-Zero is the iconic blue ninja that has ice powers. As we have seen the various games come and go, we have observed his capabilities expand. From creating weapons out of his ice to using it to smash his foes to pieces, Sub-Zero has a creative mind when it comes to his abilities.
The interesting thing about this entry is that we are talking about two people here. The first Sub-Zero, Bi-Han, killed Scorpion, but his younger brother Kuai Liang took over the Sub-Zero mantle upon Bi-Han’s death. He is largely considered the main Sub-Zero throughout the games, with Bi-Han becoming Noob Saibot after Quan Chi resurrects him. Even with multiple people taking the name Sub-Zero, this is one of two characters that first come to mind when you mention Mortal Kombat.
Is it actually legal to have a Mortal Kombat character list without Sub-Zero and Scorpion in the one and two spots? Scorpion is the ninja in yellow with a kunai and chain that he accompanies with the iconic shouts “Get over here!” and “Come here!” He has appeared in all Mortal Kombat games except for the original release of Mortal Kombat 3. He has many demonic powers, including using a fiery teleportation move and removing his mask to reveal his skull and breathe flames onto his opponent when he is undead.
Scorpion is an undead ninja killed by Sub-Zero when Lin Kuei attacked his clan, the Shirai Ryu. He has returned from the dead with the sole purpose of enacting his revenge on Sub-Zero. Scorpion does kill Sub-Zero, but after both are resurrected, they ally together after proof that Quan Chi was really the one to kill the Shirai Ryu comes out. In recent games, the Scorpion and Sub-Zero team together often, using their opposing powers and fighting prowess to take down their foes.