Who Actually Won Mortal Kombat?
The gaming industry is no stranger to convoluted storylines, with series like Metal Gear Solid and Xenosaga leaving many fans scratching their heads. If there’s one corner of gaming with more incomprehensible story arcs than all the others, it’s the fighting genre. They often feature a roster of dozens, each with their own motives, origins, endings, and relationships with other characters. Mortal Kombat can be one of the most confusing, with its numerous realms, powers, alternate storylines, and return appearances of seemingly dead characters. Even though I’m a lifelong fan of the long-running series, I wasn’t even sure who actually won the various Mortal Kombat tournaments in the canon. After doing some internet scrounging consisting of YouTube videos, fan forums, wiki entries, and more, I'm closer to understanding who the victors of Mortal Kombat’s many games are. Here’s what I found.
Note: I didn’t include MK vs. DC Universe, as it isn’t canon. Also, some of the games didn’t feature the typical “tournament” format. In these cases, I just listed whoever killed the evil sorcerer/emperor/necromancer/dragon guy/god at the end.
Mortal Kombat 1 - Liu Kang
At the outset of the first Mortal Kombat title, Goro was standing as the reigning Mortal Kombat champion for 500 straight years (after defeating the Great Kung Lao). Shang Tsung was basically the Bobby "The Brain" Heenan to Goro's Andre the Giant, and was using the big guy to create enough chaos on Earthrealm for Outworld to conquer it. The Shaolin monk Liu Kang recognized this threat, and entered the tournament in an effort to thwart Shang's plan. Kang successfully defeated the four-armed beast, and went on to take down Shang Tsung himself. Afterwards, he rode off into the sunset to hang out back at the Shaolin temples, presumably to never again worry about having his spine ripped out of his body.
Mortal Kombat II - Liu Kang
Surprisingly enough, Liu's attempt at a peaceful retirement didn't go as planned. You see, Outworld's emperor Shao Kahn was none too pleased with Shang Tsung's failed takeover of Earthrealm, and sentenced him to death. In desperation, Tsung begged Kahn to let him lure Earthrealm's warriors to Outworld for the next Mortal Kombat tournament. The emperor accepted, and restored Shang Tsung's youth. The Thunder God Raiden is informed of the next tournament, and he gathers the kombatants in preparation for the tournament in Outworld. Despite his wishes for peace, Liu Kang finds his Shaolin brothers slain by a horde of Tarkatan (the spiky-toothed race that Baraka belongs to). Now on a quest for revenge, Liu Kang convinces his fellow monk Kung Lao and actor buddy Johnny Cage to travel to Outworld with Raiden and the rest. There, Kang wins his second consecutive tournament by defeating Shao Kahn and his Shokan bodyguard Kintaro.
Mortal Kombat 3 - Liu Kang
Once again, Kang returns home to Earthrealm to attempt a quiet retirement. Along with Kung Lao, he begins training young Shaolin warriors back at the temple. It would seem that the threat of Shao Kahn was extinguished after the last tournament, considering that he exploded into a million pieces after our hero bicycle kicked him into oblivion. Apparently impervious to exploding, Outworld's emperor hatches a new plan to invade Earthrealm by merging it with his own realm. He does this by having Shang Tsung and his Shadow Priests revive his former queen Sindel. By resurrecting her in the Earthrealm, Kahn and his armies would be able to cross over onto Kang's home turf and wreak havoc. Considering that the Shaolin monk had twice thwarted Outworld's takeover attempts, he becomes the primary target of Kahn's extermination squads. While these minions had trouble taking on Liu Kang, Kahn himself was able to injure Kung Lao badly enough to make Kang believe he had died. Enraged, Liu Kang mowed through more of Shao Kahn's army and defeated the emperor himself.
Mortal Kombat 4 - Liu Kang
Ever the optimist, Kang once again returns to Earthrealm (this time to the USA) to train a new generation of Shaolin warriors. While Kahn seems to actually be dead this time (spoiler: he isn't), another threat arises in the form of the Elder God Shinnok. Using his powers of deception, the Elder God breaches the peaceful realm of Edenia and kidnaps the princess (and Liu Kang's love interest) Kitana. Upon learning this, Kang once again begins gathering Earth's warriors (now in 3D!) in an effort to save Kitana and the realm itself. He faces Shinnok, who fell before the Shaolin monk like Kahn and Tsung before him. Kang believed Kitana to be dead, but she reappears in his ending movie. Appearing through a portal, she thanks Liu for his actions and offers him a seat by her side as a fellow ruler of Edenia. Since Liu Kang is stupid and actually thinks he can go lay in a hammock and peacefully train Shaolin warriors, he declines.
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance - None?
You'd think at this point that Liu Kang would be in the Witness Protection Program, ruling Edenia alongside Kitana, or anywhere but the constantly-under-attack Shaolin temples. Nope. At the beginning of Deadly Alliance, Liu Kang is trying to mind his own business and practice his katas, when Shang Tsung (initially disguised as Kung Lao) attacks him. The sorcerer Quan Chi assists Shang Tsung by stunning Kang with his magic, and Tsung proceeds to snap the four-time Mortal Kombat champion's neck in two. Shang Tsung and Quan Chi (who also killed Shao Kahn, who was alive again for some damn reason) form the Deadly Alliance, who aimed to resurrect the long-dead army of the ancient Dragon King. Instead of merely resurrecting his army, they accidentally brought back Onaga (the Dragon King and former ruler of Outworld) himself. Tsung, Quan Chi, and Raiden all recognized the threat this posed and attempted to fight him off. In an attempt to stop Onaga, Raiden sacrificed himself and released some kind of electric suicide blast (it's confusing). The explosion killed Shang Tsung, but failed to take down the powerful Dragon King.
Mortal Kombat: Deception - Shujinko
Shujinko was a new character introduced for Deception's lengthy Konquest mode, and he was the focal point of that game's story. As a child, Shujinko was approached by a spirit that called itself Damishi and claimed to be an agent of the Elder Gods. This entity tasked Shujinko with gathering six relics known as Kamidogu, and they were spread throughout the realms (Earthrealm, Netherrealm, Chaosrealm, Outworld, Orderrealm, and Edenia). For decades, Shujinko learned the abilities of various kombatants in his quest to obtain all six Kamidogu. Upon completing his quest for the relics, he planned on presenting them to the Elder Gods. It was then that Damishi revealed himself as Onaga, who took the Kamidogu for himself. Shujinko retaliated by rallying many warriors, absorbing their abilities, and using his newfound powers to confront the Dragon King and shatter the Kamidogu. After Onaga was defeated, Nightwolf used his powers to bind the Dragon King's soul to the Netherrealm.
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon - Taven
This entry has faced much criticism from Mortal Kombat fans for its lackluster and confusing story (not to mention the lack of proper Fatalities). After spending a lot of time trying to find a clear answer to the "winner" of Armageddon, I understand why. Armageddon's big hook was that it featured every character that ever appeared in a Mortal Kombat game. In addition to this, it also introduced the new character Taven (along with his brother Daegon) as the protagonist of Konquest mode. After a long quest that involved facing his brother in Mortal Kombat, the Battle of Armageddon begins. This battle was predicted by the Elder Gods, and involved every kombatant in the series. The forces of good and the forces of evil fought in a gigantic skirmish, and a massive structure known as the Pyramid of Argus rose on the battlefield. Atop this pyramid was Blaze, who you might remember as being this guy (yes, that dude became the boss of a Mortal Kombat game). Whoever defeated Blaze would be granted their greatest wish, so all of the kombatants battled their way to the top of the pyramid to take their shot at the game's boss. Taven managed to kill Blaze, but an unexpected outcome occurred. This leads directly into the opening of...
Mortal Kombat (2011) - Raiden
After Taven defeated Blaze, all of the kombatants were blessed with increased powers. They all wound up killing each other except for Taven, Shao Kahn, and Raiden. Outworld's emperor and the Thunder God faced off, but Raiden was no match for Shao Kahn. Just before dying, Raiden sent a message back through time, to be received by his former self from the original game's timeline. At the beginning of this new timeline, Raiden's past self tries to understand the message of "he must win." He travels through an alternate version of the timelines from the first three games, trying to find the chosen kombatant that will save the world from Kahn. At the end, Raiden discovers that he's destined to win when the Elder Gods possess his body and assist him in defeating Shao Kahn once and for all (but not really).
Also, this was the title that rewrote the series timeline, and basically made it so none of the stuff I wrote about in this article ever happened.