The Ultimate Scientific Ranking Of Every Playable Mortal Kombat Character
Mortal Kombat has been around for 11 fighting games and has added new faces each time. Do the math, and that means there are a ton of characters that have fought, died, been resurrected, died again, returned as a demon and/or cyborg, turned evil, turned good, then died all over again.
That raises the question: Which fighters are the best of the best? Through the powers of subjective science and opinionomics, we’ve ranked every character ever in our own personal list, from worst to best. We determined this order using an arbitrary combination of the following factors: fun factor, personality, legacy/impact, and overall coolness. Not being Hsu Hao also matters.
We’re not pretending that all (or even most) of you will agree with our ranking because opinions and stuff. Our advice: take a deep breath and don’t take this too seriously, because we only kind of are. We know you’ll be hot and bothered by this list anyway, which is why we’d love to hear how you’d rank these fighters in the comments!
Conditions: We're keeping this in the family, so we omitted non-MK guest characters. We also decided to exclude Cyber Sub-Zero as his own entry; we considered him as a part of our overall judgement for Sub-Zero. Finally, you also won't see Kronika because she isn't a playable fighter. On with the list!
No. Just no. Even MK’s creators are on record for disliking Hsu Hao, and can you blame them? He looks dumb, has nothing to his personality, and is part of the way lamer Red Dragon clan. Hsu Hao also fails the "Not being Hsu Hao" test in spectacular fashion. We're starting at the the bottom of the barrel, folks, and it only gets better from here, albeit gradually.
Boy, have we got little to say about Dairou and these entries aren’t even that long to begin with. He’s a guard, has a forehead tattoo, and rocks a skullet. Yikes.
Daegon is the evil, less-interesting brother of the also boring Taven. Let that sink in for a moment. Although Blaze serves as the big boss, Daegon is true main antagonist of MK: Armageddon. Unfortunately, he and his brother's story just didn't resonate with us, and we're just grateful the series that gave us Shao Kahn and Shang Tsung didn't end with this loser as its final villain.
Ostensibly Armageddon's main protagonist, you wouldn’t guess it given how bland and insufferable he is. Getting through that game’s Konquest mode wasn’t easy given you had to occupy the role of this goober, who feels like an uninspired DeviantArt character more than anything.
Honestly, what can’t you say about Darrius? He’s bald, has a goatee, and wears sunglasses. Okay, Darrius isn't exactly a wellspring of interesting descriptors. He does have an admittedly sick/hilarious fatality where his opponent's body parts like a work of art. Even still, Darrius felt like padding for the MK: Deception roster at the time and even his cool spin kicks aren't enough to want to see him return.
Best known to his not-friends as “Sam’s Choice Ken Masters”, there’s not much to Kobra other than his gi and being Black Dragon clan member #57. Kobra's kickboxing style proved effective enough in the ring, but we had a hard time latching on to this bad boy long-term.
Help us out here. Kira is a bad lady; an anarchist, in fact. But so is Havik, and he’s 1000 percent cooler. She’s also sort-of-kind-of-pals with the equally forgettable Kobra. Strike two. She also wields knives? That’s Kano’s thing! You might be solid in a scrap Kira, but that's three strikes too many for our taste.
Kai, too, is a shaolin monk and was even trained by Liu Kang and Kung Lao. That means he can deliver fireball attacks and martial arts kicks with finesse, but that ultimately makes him feel like a watered-down, unremarkable version of his teachers. Worst of all, the two more famous monks evidently forgot to teach Kai the secret to having staying power.
The big bad of MK: Armageddon lives inside of a pyramid but other than that he’s actually kind of lackluster. His design ho-hum; he's basically a walking version of the planet Mustafar from Star Wars. In fact, Blaze may have actually have been more interesting when he was a tantalizing background detail in The Pit II stage.
Meat is basically what would happen if someone survived a dip in the Dead Pool. He's a bloody, incomplete experiment of Shang Tsung and part of a long line of secret characters made official. His oddball offense includes yanking own eye out to regain health but as unique as he is, he clearly hasn't had the lasting appeal of fellow hidden characters like, say, a Reptile or Smoke.
Drahmin is an Oni who also looks like a weird hodgepodge of every loose accessory in your toy box put together. What are we even looking at here? Some characters get in trouble for being too bland but Drahmin might have a little too much going on there.
Moloch is the least memorable of the series’ roster of sub-bosses, and we’re pretty sure we killed him in Dark Souls as well. We do like his design (except for having way too many toes!), but we’re not itching to step back into the ring with him anytime soon.
Remember Sareena? She looks like BloodRayne’s take on Cruella de Vil and is also a demon that fires purple skulls. That's not a terrible thing to be, but Sareena's had a rough go of it in terms of relevancy (we blame the taint of MK: Mythologies Sub-Zero, the title Sareena made her debut in). NetherRealm did throw her a bone by giving her a decent cameo during MK X's story mode, but she's only been a playable fighter in a couple of games, unfortunately.
Imagine a horrible reality where the 1995 MK film never happened, so Kano never became a charming Aussie bad guy. That’s basically Jarek. He’s Kano’s right-hand man and, uh, that is what he does. Yep, that’s our Jarek. He’s boring if that wasn’t clear.
Tribog is the Swiss army knife of cyborg ninjas in that he's got the abilities of Sektor, Cyrax, Smoke, and Sub-Zero rolled in one. Shouldn't that make him a quad-borg in that case? Anyways, there's little to the character other than that but Triborg is a neat novelty if nothing else.
Although they’re two separate characters, we’re putting them together since they serve the same function: Cram all of the abilities of the male and female ninjas between two bodies. These two are fun but also a liability due to their original transparent appearances making them hard to keep track of during the heat of battle.
Mokap is a terrible fighter conceptually but we love him as a great joke character. He's just a motion-capture actor! That’s amazing! Stupid, but amazing!
Mavado’s weird bungee cord hooks rank as among the series’ stranger weapons, but you can’t argue with the results. Grappling around stages was a fun way to toy with opponents, but Mavado has nothing of substance besides that to make him all that memorable.
Remember that time people thought Reiko was actually Shao Khan? He’s never been that intriguing ever again, but he does appear in the new Mortal Kombat film so that’s something. Swinging a big hammer is always pretty neat, we suppose.
Other than being an absolute nightmare to deal with in MK 3, the most interesting thing to happen to Motaro was getting two of his legs shaved off for the sake of technical practicality in the 3D games. You’d think a centaur would be a cooler character but Motaro hasn’t made a ton of noise since his ‘90s heyday.
Kintaro’s arrival wasn’t as impactful as Goro's since the Shokan boss thing had already been done before. NetherRealm also seems content with giving him more and more feline attributes in place of a personality. Kintaro’s a beast for sure, just one of the less-interesting ones.
There was a time when Stryker would have placed dead last on such a list, but time has allowed a cushion of losers to accumulate for him to sit atop of. He’s still pretty lame, and the backwards hat still hasn't become fashionable again (yes, we know he wises up and wears it forward in MK 9), but there’s a nostalgia factor that raises him above some other dead weight.
Ferra & Torr
We honestly forgot Ferra and Torr existed before making this list, which is weird because they’re a cool concept. The MK version of Mad Max’s Master Blaster? Sure, why not? Their weird moveset took getting used to, but this bizarre tag-team was a perfectly acceptable experiment.
We don't dislike Kung Jin,but he seemingly served as little more than a fun excuse to implement Green Arrow’s moveset from the Injustice series. We wouldn't mind seeing him again but also can’t say we’d be that broken up if he was a one-and-done deal.
Boy, are Kung Jin and Takeda multiple rungs down the importance ladder from their partners, Cassie and Jacqui. Kenshi’s punk kid and Scorpion’s student is...definitely a fighter that exists. He plays fine and can brag about having Jacqui Briggs as his main squeeze, but we honestly didn’t notice his absence during MK 11’s story mode which probably says something.
No, she’s not FemRaiden but rather a demon lady with a big white hat. Ashrah boasts a range of holy-based attacks, and her voodoo doll fatality is one of the more imaginative forms of murders from the Deception era. Ashrah is a respectable fighter, but a forgettable footnote in the larger fiction.
Hotaru looks and plays a lot cooler than he actually is, but sometimes that’s enough to eek by. The law and order kombatant does not tolerate any nonsense, which is why we need a Shaolin Monks-style buddy game starring him and the chaos-loving Havik. We’re only sort of joking about that.
Against all odds, Tremor managed to climb out of the muck of MK: Special Forces and join the ranks as an official fighter. His earth-based attacks are fun and separate him from the army of ninjas before him, but we need to see him in a larger story role before we can place him any higher.
Sheeva’s probably one of the least celebrated characters of the original trilogy. She’s not bad, but best described as “just sort of there,” although relentlessly spamming her stomp attack is always great for a laugh.
For an all-powerful Elder God, Cetrion sure does get her butt handed to her quite a bit during MK 11’s story. She’s got an interesting moveset but really doesn’t do much other than occupy a super serious “Mother Earth” type of persona, which isn't terribly exciting.
Kollector is an intriguing character both in and out of the ring. We get a kick out of beating the snot out of opponents the random assortment of weapons Kollector is peddling. The biggest knock against him is that we still don’t know much about him. He feels like one of those faces we’ll never see again after MK 11 outside of being an in-game merchant, but he still has more personality than a lot of the goobers underneath him.
Deception’s main protagonist has done a big pile of nothing since 2004, which is somewhat surprising given players spend so much time with him in Konquest mode. Sure, he’s a bit vanilla, but he’s got a lot of history to draw upon for future stories and was a solid fighter to boot.
Li Mei may be most notable for immediately biting the dust during Armageddon’s opening movie, but she was always one of the more entertaining fighters to use during her time. Her elegant array of deadly kicks made her a formidable force, one we wouldn't mind seeing again in a future entry.
We admit that Nitara earns a lot of her cool points for simply being a vampire. She also managed to somehow land a role in the new Mortal Kombat film, so she’s doing something right. Nitara utilized blood in her offense long before Skarlet stole her thunder, and is one of the few fighters that can fly. That said, we're still not sure why she didn't immediately soar to the top of the pyramid during MK: Armageddon's opening movie.
Frost has always seemed a tad redundant (do we really need two ice ninjas?) and is basically the Jason Todd to Sub-Zero’s Batman. Defiant, selfish, and boasting the world’s most fragile ego, Frost makes for a decent villain and her moveset, while not quite as good as her master’s, isn’t too shabby either.
Onaga is one the standout faces from the 2000s era of MK that we’d love to see return. This near-invincible dragon king served as an excellent antagonist in Deception. We’re not sure how you bring him back, but anyone that can brush off the combined might of Raiden, Shang Tsung, and Quan-Chi deserves another look.
You know, we’re surprised Havik didn’t take off as a character. He’s a freaky anarchist with a bizarre moveset hailing from the Chaosrealm. That’s pretty cool, and he was a fan-favorite in Deception, but we’re still waiting to see if Havik gets another chance in the spotlight.
Tanya started out as little more than “the yellow female ninja” but future games have fleshed out this Edenian traitor as a survivor that’ll do anything to get ahead and stay alive. That's a good foundation for being a heel, plus her pyrokinetic abilities are nothing to sneeze at either.
Speaking of Edenian jerks, here comes Rain, who started as a joke character and has only kind of been accepted to the main roster. He still can’t be included to a game outside of being a DLC add-on or get a significant role in the story which is surprising given his half Edenian/half god heritage. At least he can still roundhouse kick fools to the other side of the screen.
Compared to basically everyone, Jacqui is such a believably normal, well-balanced woman that it’s always jarring to see her mutilating opponents like her comrades. Her hand-to-hand strikes are even more devastating thanks to her bionic arm guards, a nod to her papa, Jax. She’s still coming into her own as a character, but we’re having fun watching her grow.
Geras is like a sandy version of Terminator's T-1000 in that almost nothing can stop him, and that’s pretty terrifying. He’s even scarier if you can master his unique time-manipulating moveset (ask anyone that’s fought him online). We have doubts we’ll ever see him again, though, which would actually be a mild bummer.
Sure, Fujin isn’t much beyond just being the windy version of Raiden, but he serves as an enjoyable second fiddle to the Thunder God. Fujin's also one of the few MK 4-era fighters that didn’t make us roll our eyes thanks to his fun whirlwind of wind-based offense.
Bo’ Rai Cho
Liu Kang’s master is a hilarious delight thanks to his literal drunken fighting style and fatal flatulence. Okay, we admit it. We’re all in on Bo’ Rai Cho for the farts alone.
We love how Kotal Kahn’s Aztec-inspired visually sets him apart from anyone on the roster. He's a head-turner that turns into a head-snapper thanks to his giant sword and equally distinct offense centered on totems and sunlight. Earthrealm would also agree that its refreshing to have an Outworld ruler that isn’t a murderous conqueror for once.
Remember when Sindel single-handedly murdered 90% of the good guys in MK 9? Why isn’t that talked about more often? The one-woman Red Wedding with the crazy hair is clearly a force to be reckoned with, and that’s before she even opens her mouth to unleash her skin-peeling screech.
Disorienting opponents using Kabal’s super speed is so much fun, we forgive him for scaring the bejeezus out of us as children when he removed his mask to perform a fatality. It’s also satisfying to impale unlucky players with his hook blades and twirl them around.
Nightwolf has always been a wonderfully versatile fighter, sporting ranged arrow shots, tomahawk attacks, projectile reflection, and the power to disintegrate opponents by summoning portals from the heavens. His presence is also of the few not-terrible things in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.
Baraka’s sheer ferocity and sick arm blades have made him a fan-favorite for decades, even though he’s usually a bit player in the lore at best. Then again, I don't think we really want much more from the guy except to see him slice and impale his targets over and over again.
Ensnaring opponents in Cyrax’s net never gets old (though your friends might disagree). Cyrax also has a compelling redemption arc, being a Lin Kuei ninja suffering a bit of buyer’s remorse for the whole “trading my humanity to become a killer robot” thing.
Whether he’s a world-obliterating cyborg or resembling an even more ninja-y version of Metal Gear’s Raiden, Smoke is really cool character both in the ring and outside of it. Due to his sporadic appearances, we're always left wanting more of him.
Some of us have likely earned a few punches to the shoulders from friends for abusing Sektor’s teleport uppercut, and that’s okay. Sektor’s the evilest of the cyborg ninjas, so it’s appropriate to act like a jerk while using him.
We adored Skarlet’s powerful, blood-based offense when she first appeared in MK 9. She’s still a blast in MK 11 while having an actual personality this time around. We hope she sticks around long enough to have an eyebrow-raising confrontation with Nitara.
Ermac went from just being “the red ninja” to his own man. Or is it men? Persons? Anyways, we love tossing opponents up, down, and all around with his telekinetic attacks. It's also been fun watching the community embrace him so lovingly given, again, how much of a non-character he was at the beginning.
Erron Black is a literal cowboy from the Old West that fights in Mortal Kombat. That’s incredible and really all that needs to be said to justify his placement on the list.
Mileena fans may disagree, but we think D’Vorah is one of best (and most disgusting) new faces in years. Sporting a wonderfully creepy design and a wildly unique and entertaining moveset, we can’t get enough of this villainous bug no matter how many of our favorite characters she kills.
We don’t think we truly appreciated Shinnok as a villain until he assumed the top bad guy role again in MK X. He’s a great schemer, and his status as a fallen elder god makes him among the most powerful adversaries in the series.
Who wasn’t stricken with terror upon laying eyes on Goro for the first time in MK 1 (or in the 1995 film for that matter)? MK has had a lot of sub-bosses, but none have left the lasting impression that Goro has in terms of intimidation and impact.
No matter how many times he’s crushed us with his oversized hammer, negated our jumps with his shoulder blocks, or told us how much we suck, Shao Kahn hasn’t completely beaten our love for him away. He’s the monster heel you love to see get his comeuppance
We had our doubts about Quan-Chi when he first appeared in MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero, but helping Shang-Tsung snap Liu Kang’s neck and being the mastermind behind the death of Scorpion’s family solidified this jerk as more than just “the other evil sorcerer”.
Equal parts cool and infuriatingly cheap (depending on what side of his offense you’re on), the former Sub-Zero casts a big shadow when it comes to creative movesets. When he’s not dominating you with constant teleports and shadow clones, he’s dulling that frustration with his ASMR-like whisper growl.
Cassie embodies the best of two worlds, blending Sonya’s badassery with Johnny’s entertaining charisma while feeling wholly original at the same time. Cassie is the breakout star of the four Kombat Kids by a mile and may arguably be the poster girl of the new trilogy. We can’t wait to see what NetherRealm does with her next.
Kenshi’s awesome design and telepathic sword attacks set him apart as one of the few post-MK 4 characters that feels like he belongs with the classic roster. NetherRealm clearly hasn’t turned a blind eye to that fact given how Kenshi was brought back twice in the new trilogy, even playing a featured role in MK X’s plot.
The Kung Lao to Kitana’s Liu Kang is a fierce fighter, namely for her excellent and combo-friendly staff attacks. It wouldn’t be until the recent games, namely MK 11, developed her into a more compelling character beyond just being Kitana’s sister from another mister.
Kano serves as a fantastic scumbag villain and his effective (or cheap) Kano ball attacks have guaranteed him a place towards the top of our rotation for decades and counting. Also of note: cool laser eye.
The original secret fighter once dominated schoolyard rumors and has since become a series staple. Though his appeal has diminished somewhat over the years (maybe we just prefer him as a human-ish guy with lizard powers instead of a full-on giant lizard), his acid attacks and exploitative invisibility power will never lose their luster.
Jax would have been placed high for two reasons alone: He has metal arms and can grow into a giant and step on people (which has still never been explained). His characterization in recent games as a caring father traumatized by years of fighting in this crazy universe made us get behind him even more.
Not even a bad Ronda Rousey voice over can completely sour us on this no-nonsense soldier. Her kiss of death is one of the more memorable fatalities of the series’ early years, and watching her take down all manner of supernatural enemies as a relatively normal human is satisfying in its own right.
Kung Lao has always been an incredibly entertaining fighter to use, and we love how his inflated ego compliments the selfless attitude of his BFF, Liu Kang. Look, when you can chop off heads using a hat that’s also a blade, you’re going to outrank a lot of your peers. It’s science.
If you think Kitana’s evil twin is ranked too high, the internet might want a word with you. While she’s always been fun enough to play, the modern trilogy raised Mileena’s stock considerably by imbuing her with an even more unstable yet strangely seductive personality you can’t help but find alluring – until she bites your head off, of course.
Kitana stole the show when she debuted in Mortal Kombat II for being so good to the point of being broken, and she’s remained a top-tier kombatant since. The warrior princess also wins brownie points for being an endearing source of virtue, and for being one half of one of the series’ best rivalries alongside Mileena.
Besides being a blast to play, Johnny’s goofy, irreverent personality has always been an entertaining juxtaposition to the series’ mostly serious tone. He's only gotten better with age, transitioning into the cool dad you’d love to grab a drink and watch movies with.
The series’ first big villain remains its best evildoer. Mortal Kombat is filled with terrible rogues, but there’s something extra dastardly about a guy who devours souls like candy and mimics the appearance and abilities of every fighter he encounters. Nothing is more satisfying than literally beating the youth out of this creep.
The John Cena of Mortal Kombat bicycle kicks his way to tournament victories time and again, making him the series’ ultimate babyface. When you’re a fireball-shooting version of Bruce Lee, you tend to win a lot. There’s a reason we all collectively gasped when the bad guys finally took him out in Deadly Alliance.
From the moment he graced the art of the first arcade cabinet, Raiden has been one of the most recognizable characters in the franchise, appearing in nearly every game. How could he not? Besides playing a pivotal role to the lore, his offense rocks. "Best Actor Ever" Christopher Lambert doesn’t just pick any old thunder god to play.
Some may argue Sub-Zero is more like the 1B to Scorpion’s 1A and that’s fine. The series’ coolest ninja (not sorry) has always been a fan-favorite, and his seemingly bottomless pit of inventive and fun ice attacks keep him near the tippy top of the mountain.
Scorpion is co-creator Ed Boon’s favorite fighter, so he’s canonically number one by default. But even without Boon’s blessing, the fire-breathing, spear-tossing, come-hithering ninja is always a blast to use, has a great backstory, boasts the series’ most iconic line of dialogue, and never ceases to be a badass.