Mortal Kombat Reboot Poster

MORTAL KOMBAT: Who’s who? (Round 2)

With the upcoming release of MORTAL KOMBAT” (2021) in theaters and on HBO Max on Friday, April 23rd, we figured what better way to prep than to do a deep dive into the rich mythology and ever-evolving backstories of this epic video game franchise? (Click here for Part One!)

Mortal kombat movie poster - mortal kombat: who's who? (round 2)

Mortal Kombat II is often considered by many old school fans as the best game in the series, it built on the first game in a number of ways: increased the roster, added several new characters, deepened the story, upped the blood, and doubled down on the fatalities. Following Liu Kang’s victory in Shang Tsung’s tournament, Shao Kahn hosts a second tournament in Outworld with plans to invade Earth should Raiden’s warriors fail. It was a smash hit at the time, but also caused quite the controversy, eventually leading to the creation of the ratings system. The wave of popularity that followed soon lead to the first “Mortal Kombat” feature film in 1995 and a not-so-great sequel, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” in 1997.


Choose your fighter screen with all character images - mortal kombat: who's who? (round 2)
A few more of the Kombatants coming to theaters and HBO Max on April 23rd


Affiliation: Outworld, himself
First Premiered: Mortal Kombat (1992)
Fighting Styles: Snake, Crane, Mantis
Special Abilities: Soul stealing, mimicry, shape-shifting, de-aging
Played By: Chin Han (MK21), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (MK95)

Picture of shang tsung  - mortal kombat: who's who? (round 2)
<em>Your soul is mine<em>

Shang Tsung is an immortal sorcerer who regains his youth by absorbing the souls of his vanquished enemies. He has the ability to take on the appearance and powers of any opponent he faces. Despite his immense powers, he often resorts to treachery and deception. Tsung hosted the original tournament. Then, after being defeated by Liu Kang he retreated to Outworld where he swore allegiance to Shao Kahn. He would later betray the Outworld Emperor when he joined forces with Quan Chi, forming a “Deadly Alliance” to kill both Kahn and Liu Kang!

The two are successful, but soon turn on one another vying for Shinnok’s amulet. They unwittingly release an ancient evil known as Onaga, the Dragon King! Shang Tsung was ultimately forced to put aside his differences with Raiden to save both their realms from annihilation, but make no mistake, the only side he’s ever been on, is his own.

Although he was the final boss of the first entry, he became a playable character in the second one. In the games, Shang Tsung is kind of a cheap character if you’ve mastered him, because he can turn into all the other characters and even replicate their special moves!

Famously played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa in both the 1995 film and the live action series, “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”, he returned to voice the character for Mortal Kombat 11 which even borrowed his likeness!


Affiliation: Edenia
First Premiered: Mortal Kombat II (1993)
Fighting Styles: Eagle Claw, Ba Gua
Special Abilities: Steel fans, superhuman agility

Picture of kitana - mortal kombat: who's who? (round 2)

Princess Kitana, is a 10,000 year old warrior from Edenia. She is known for her deadly skill with her iconic bladed fans. Initially she was loyal to her stepfather, Shao Kahn, the Emperor of Outworld. However, she switched allegiances when she learned of Earthrealm’s plight from Liu Kang and Raiden, eventually turning against her ‘sister’ Mileena and her evil mother, Sindel. After her death at the hands of her mother, she became the Empress of the Netherrealm, alongside her departed lover, Liu Kang. When Kronika recruited Liu Kang and Kitana’s revenants to her cause, a younger Kitana was summoned from the past, who managed to rally the Tarkatan warriors under Baraka, and the Shokan under Sheeva, ultimately defeating Shao Kahn, freeing Kotal Kahn from execution, and was crowned the new Empress of Outworld!


Affiliation: Outworld
First Premiered: Mortal Kombat II (1993)
Fighting Styles: Ying Yeung, Milan Chuan
Special Abilities: Dual Sais, Fangs, Edenian/Tarkatan hybrid
Played By: Sisi Stringer (MK21)

Picture of mileena - mortal kombat: who's who? (round 2)

When the Emperor of Outworld, Shao Kahn, conquered the land of Edenia, he killed the king and took the queen, Sindel, as his bride and the princess, Kitana (then very young) as his daughter. Although she was in the dark about her heritage, Kahn feared she would one day learn the truth and be a pain in his skull faced ass, so he ordered Shang Tsung to come up with a solution. He kreated a klone using Kitana’s essence and that of a Tarkatan warrior (Baraka’s facially challenged folks).

The result is the ultimate butter face. Cunning, ruthless, incredibly deadly (what with the teleporting, the somersaulting all over the damn place, energy sais, and teeth the shark from Jaws is envious of), and very seductive (at least until she takes off her mask, then it’s just…. it’s not good) she is everything Kahn wanted in a daughter, but never quite gained his acceptance because… well, she’s horrifying.

The first Mortal Kombat game featured a number of ninjas that were identical but palette-swapped: Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and the hidden Reptile. Mortal Kombat 2 introduced the new palette-swap gang: Kitana, Mileena, and the hidden Jade. Mileena has been a playable character in nearly every installment since her introduction. When she hasn’t been featured she is often added in ultimate editions (Ultimate MK3, Mortal Kombat Gold) or as a DLC character.


Affiliation: Outworld, Tarkatan Warrior
First Premiered: Mortal Kombat II (1993)
Fighting Styles: Silat, Hung Gar
Special Abilities: Massive arm blades, fangs, healing factor, a face not even a mother could love

Picture of baraka - mortal kombat: who's who? (round 2)

Like Mileena, Baraka has a face to die for. I mean, look at that! Yeesh. Equipped with razor teeth and giant bone/metal sword/claws, Baraka is one of the deadliest members of his species in Outworld.

Those claws/blades/whatever (sorry, klaws) raise some questions. When retracted, how does he bend his arms without them just popping through his skin? Those suckers would go way past his elbows…

Handsome here is not to be messed with; in a nomadic band of creepy psycho murderers he stands out as the worst. Most often in service to the emperor Shao Kahn, Baraka has been a relatively frequently appearing kharacter since his introduction in MK2; he showed up in Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Mortal Kombat Gold, Mortal Kombat: Deception, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, the reboot/Mortal Kombat 9, and Mortal Kombat 11. With such a unique look and awesome, built-in weapons, it’s a good bet he’ll be sticking around for a while.

Image of baraka winning - mortal kombat: who's who? (round 2)


Affiliation: US Special Forces (Earthrealm)
First Premiered: Mortal Kombat II (1993)
Fighting Styles: Muay Thai, Judo, Wrestling
Special Abilities: Metallic arms!!!
Played By: Mehcad Brooks (MK21)

Picture of jax briggs - mortal kombat: who's who? (round 2)

Speaking of messed up arms, look who it is!

Major Jackson Briggs, aka Jax, was first introduced in Mortal Kombat 2 as Sonya Blade’s special forces partner. Looking for her after she vanished in Outworld (she and Kano are Shao Kahn’s prisoners in part 2). He actually didn’t sport his signature bionic arms in his first appearance; it wasn’t until Mortal Kombat 3 that he picked them up. In the original contiui- sorry, kontinuity, the arms were not replacing his biological ones. Rather they were simply implanted to help fight Shao Kahn’s invading forces. In the new, post-reboot kontinuity the bionic arms were replacements for the biological ones torn off by the red color palette swapped ninja: Ermac. (who was originally based on an inside reference to a glitch in the first game)

Jax is another MK mainstay, and has been a playable kharacter in the majority of games released since his first appearance. He was even one of the fighters from MK chosen for the ambitious (but really awful) Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. But we won’t hold that against him. He was also heavily featured in the second MK feature film, Annihilation. We can all just keep pretending that doesn’t exist though.


Real name: Syzoth
Affiliation: Outworld / Zaterra (the forgotten realm)
First Premiered: Mortal Kombat (1992) – as a secret character
Fighting Styles: Pao Chui, Crab, Hung Gar
Special Abilities: Cold-blooded, acid spray, invisibility, healing factor

Picture of reptile - mortal kombat: who's who? (round 2)

Originally he was a secret character from the original game. Reptile was officially introduced as a playable character in the second game. He has since been given a more fleshed out backstory, look, and move set. Throughout the games he has become less and less human looking.

“Reptile” (originally known as Syzoth?) is one of the last of his kind – the Saurians: an endangered species from a forgotten realm known as Zaterra. They are a race of shape-shifting reptilian humanoids with numerous mutant adaptations for survival. Including (but not limited to) acid-spray, chameleon-like cloaking, regeneration, and disguising themselves as human. One of his most distinguished traits is unwavering loyalty to the Emperor of Outworld. Whether it be Shao Kahn or Kotal Kahn…


Affiliation: Shaolin Monk / Earthrealm
First Premiered: Mortal Kombat II (1993)
Fighting Styles: Shaolin Fist, Mantis, White Lotus, Wing Chun
Special Abilities: Fancy razor-rimmed hat, teleportation (sometimes)
Played By: Max Huang (MK21)

Picture of kung lao - mortal kombat: who's who? (round 2)

Originally kind of just a stoic, badass monk type, Kung Lao actually has a lot of personality to go along with his murder hat. He’s sarcastic, funny, and likes to push his good friend Liu Kang’s buttons whenever the opportunity arises. Like Liu Kang, Kung Lao is a Shaolin monk, and member of the White Lotus Society like his ancestor for whom he is named: Kung Lao the great, the last Mortal Kombat earthrealm champion (before Liu Kang) who lost to Goro 500 years ago. He sat out Shang Tsung’s tournament despite being Raiden’s first choice as champion. However, after Tarkatan soldiers invaded and killed a bunch of monks he joined Liu Kang in storming Outworld and seeking vengeance. Like Liu Kang, Kung Lao has been featured in nearly every Mortal Kombat game. Including the underrated Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks.

Kung Lao has always been a fan favorite; how can you not love a monk that fights like Ip Man and has a murder hat?


Affiliation: Himself (Emperor of Outworld)
First Premiered: Mortal Kombat II (1993)
Fighting Styles: Cheap Ass Tactics
Special Abilities: Insane strength and durability, a deep booming voice, shoulder slam, giant hammer, resurrection, trolling the crap out of you! (Typically the final boss)

Picture of shao kahn - mortal kombat: who's who? (round 2)

The Emperor of Outworld himself, Shao Kahn is a force to be reckoned with. Armed with immeasurable strength, one giant ass sledge hammer, and the powers of a god. Kahn is a ruthless conqueror with his sights set on Earth. He’s mastered numerous dark arts, including the ability to resurrect his fallen allies, like Shang Tsung, Sindel, and Prince Goro. Kahn is also responsible for creating Mileena and Ermac (a mysterious entity brought to life from the countless souls of fallen warriors). Despite his incredible powers, perhaps Shao Khan’s greatest strength is his willpower. However, his greatest weakness has always been his overconfidence and his tendency to underestimate his enemies…

He also sucks to fight.

Picture of multiple mortal kombat characters - mortal kombat: who's who? (round 2)
Most of the MKII roster is heading to the big screen in this years Mortal Kombat in theaters and on HBO Max on Friday April 23rd

To be kontinued in Round 3!

This article was co-authored by Erik Slader and Chris Carroll.

Erik Slader

Erik Slader

Erik Slader is an author, podcaster, and full-time nerd. He’s the co-author of the “Epic Fails” book series (The Wright Brothers: Nose-Diving Into History, The Age of Exploration: Totally Getting Lost, etc) and the creator of Epik Fails of History, a podcast and blog about the most epic fails… of history. He’s also a co-host on 2 Young 4 This Trek: A Star Trek Podcast, a frequent contributor to (with his podcasting co-host and fellow blogger, Chris Carroll), and the current editor of Podcasters Assemble! He currently lives in Green Cove Springs, FL with his fiancé, two teenagers, and too many cats.


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