Originally known as Hanzo Hasashi, he is the son of a former clansman who chose to live as an assassin, yet he is very devoted to his family and generally goes on and about the game, serving his own purposes and none other.
One of the most recognizable characters of the game, he starts off as your typical Antihero, looking for revenge on Sub-Zero for having killed him. In the first issues of the game, Scorpion is shown to fail and be sent to Netherealm. He has a Heel-Face Revolving Door relationship with the second Sub-Zero, his former nemesis' younger brother. In 4, he ends up entangled in the machinations of Quan-Chi, who turns him against the younger Sub-Zero again. From Deadly Alliance onwards, he strikes a deal with the elder gods to destroy Onaga in exchange for his clan's revival.
In Mortal Kombat 9, Scorpion pretty much keeps the same role as the previous games, with the notable difference of being more willing to be Quan Chi's soldier, as Quan Chi's treachery has so far not been detected by him.
The raised arm from his fighting pose in the first four games and the hilt of his swords (starting in Deception) evoke a scorpion's stinger, while the pauldrons on his shoulder for both costumes in 9 are also modeled after a scorpion.
Anti-Hero /Anti-Villain (Type I): The best example in the entire series. Most characters in the series are either fully good or fully bad, but Scorpion is a True Neutral, participating in the games' events for his own purposes. While he has exhibited a little bit of a conscience and his actions (unintentionally) help the good guys, he's when all's said and done in it for himself and no one else.
Arch-Enemy: Quan Chi. Before him, the elder Sub-Zero (Bi-Han).
Papa Wolf: He had a family as a human, but they were killed, and he believed their deaths were caused by the Lin Kuei, hence his grudge against them. He goes back on his vow to protect the younger Sub-Zero after Quan-Chi implicates him in the murder of Scorpion's family. His son is later kidnapped by Quan-Chi immediately after being brought back to life in his Armageddon ending.
This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: His "Get over here!" line had "Bitch!" put at the end in Shaolin Monks. There was even a "get the fuck over here!" variant! Of course, this happened very rarely, making this and the former additive probably the only times in MK that there's been profanity.
Everything's Better with Penguins: To make up for the Scorpion Animality already being taken by Sheeva (supposedly, the dev team did not have Ultimate in mind when making MK3), Scorpion's Animality form Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is a penguin which lays explosive eggs.
Exact Words: In Deception, the Elder Gods promised to bring back Scorpion's clan if he agreed to help them by slaying Onaga. Scorpion fulfills his part of the bargain, and the Elder Gods bring back Scorpion's clan... as undead abominations. Cue the Rage Against the Heavens.
The Faceless: As the series went on many masked ninjas have been revealing their faces at least once in one of the installments, save for some who are still covered, Scorpion is one of those, his facial features as Hanzo have never been properly shown (properly in this case meaning someone who isn't Daniel Pesina from the very first game as he played many other characters in it). Hanzo still has to show his true face sometime in the future.
Fan Nickname: His rope-and-kunai combo was often called the "Spear" in the move lists of earlier MK games.
Raiden, having a premonition that Sub-Zero will become a greater force for evil if killed, tries to convince him to spare Bi-Han!Sub-Zero by offering to revive his family; and Scorpion agrees. Unfortunately, after defeating Sub-Zero and intending to spare him, Quan Chi goads Scorpion into killing him by showing him a vision of Sub-Zero murdering his wife and son. Sub-Zero becomes the wraith Noob Saibot, and Scorpion stays in Quan Chi's employ.
Like Sindel, the Arcade Ladder ending had Scorpion eventually find out the truth on his own, and then rather than tormenting Quan Chi in the Netherrealm, he flat out burns him to death.
Highly-Visible Ninja: Scorpion's bright yellow garb isn't exactly stealthy, which is ironic, considering that out of all the "ninjas" in the series, Scorpion is the only one who was once a ninja. The original manual tried to justify if by saying that he modeled his uniform after the Lin Kuei's and chose the yellow color as a Take That to the clan, calling them cowards. In Japan the color yellow symbolizes courage, which makes it better since Scorpion is Japanese while the Lin Kuei are Chinese.
Neck Snap: His Hara-Kiri (and the final blow of one of his fatalities) in Deception.
Ninja: Of all the MK "ninjas", he's the only one who was from Japan. Sub-Zero directly says this to Quan Chi in Mythologies.
Ninjatos Are Just Better: Starting with Deadly Alliance, he finally uses one. He also carries an additional one on his back, although he only starts using the second katana in 9.
No Campaign for the Wicked: Averted, he has a chapter in the Story Mode of 9 (Chapter 3), though he is more of a neutral character.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Hounded Quan Chi throughout the Netherrealm after 4 and delivered many of these on the sorcerer (Scorpion drew on strength from the 5th plane of the Netherrealm, whereas Quan Chi's sorcery was weakened). It was only by enlisting the aid of Moloch and Drahmin that Quan Chi was able to narrowly escape death by the vengeful spectre's hands.
Revenge: His hatred of Bi-Han is just as important as (if not more so) the memory of his family. In MK9, Nightwolf, while empathizing over his familial ties and his need to avenge them (Nightwolf claims that his ancestors were wronged as well at some point in the past), calls him out for Revenge Before Reason. Raiden then promises to make an appeal to the Elder Gods to return Scorpion's family and the entire Shirai Ryu clan to life should he not kill the elder Sub-Zero. It almost works (even with Scorpion dragging Sub-Zero to the Netherrealm)... until Quan Chi misleads Scorpion by falsely accusing Sub-Zero to have killed Scorpion's wife and son, causing Scorpion to lash out in rage and murder his foe anyway.
Palette Swap: Of Sub-Zero, originally. The same is true in reverse.
Pet the Dog: Aside from his love for his family, he discovered back in 2 that Sub-Zero was actually the younger brother of Bi-Han—the man he had killed in the last tournament—when he saw Kuai Liang sparing the life of his opponent. He decided to become the Lin Kuei's guardian from there on out of atonement.
Stripped to the Bone: In the DC crossover, Scorpion summons a pool of lava and drags the opponent in it. Moments later, the body is thrown back out of the pit, now reduced to a skeleton. This returns as his second fatality in 9, with the addition of stabbing them with his kunai and wrapping it around their neck.
Non-game appearances: Mortal Kombat: The Movie (François Petit), Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (J.J. Perry), Mortal Kombat: Legacy (Kevan Ohtsji)
A professional assassin, recently revealed to be originally named Bi-Han, of the legendary Lin Kuei clan. As his name implies, he has the ability to control ice. After succeeding in killing Scorpion, his rival, he is hired by Quan Chi to reclaim Shinnok's amulet. Along the way, he fights four of the Earthrealm gods (including Fujin), but before moving onward, he is confronted by Raiden, who reveals Quan Chi's true intentions. Furious at Quan Chi for duping him, he travels to the Netherealm to stop the evil plot, and on the way encounters Sareena, one of Quan Chi's Oni servants, and befriends her. He defeats Quan Chi, but this does not stop him from reviving Shinnok, and after retaking Shinnok's amulet in a surprise move, he escapes the Netherealm through a portal, leaving Shinnok trapped again.
Later he is hired by Shang Tsung to enter the Mortal Kombat tournament. He makes his way up the ladder until he faces a newly revived Scorpion, who exacts revenge by burning him alive.
Thus was the life of Sub-Zero.
NOTE: Tropes regarding the younger Sub-Zero and Noob Saibot should go into the Mortal Kombat II character sheet.
Black Screen of Death: His Spine Rip Fatality in UMK3, as none of the fighters had animations in place that would make it feasible to show.
The Fatality was additionally censored so as to mock the controversy the move causes in the original game.
Bullying a Dragon: In 9, after Scorpion defeats Cyrax and Sektor in the tournament. Granted, Sub-Zero did (canonically) defeat Scorpion twice in Mythologies, but it's not a good idea to piss off the one hellspawn who seriously wants you dead.
Scorpion: "I will have my revenge, but I will not kill Sub-Zero."
But Not Too Foreign: He was the son of an American woman and a Chinese man. Said father was also descended from the Cryomancer race, thus making the Sub-Zero brothers not fully human.
This has been retconned as of Mortal Kombat 9, as Sub-Zero's trailer for the game shows the parents of both of the brothers in a region that is pretty clearly in East Asia. It also explicitly states that both Bi-Han and Kuai-Lang were abducted as children which contradicts the earlier backstory of the brothers having been born to an American woman with a sister and then later on being taken by their father to China.
Hoist by His Own Petard: In the movie, he's pitted in a fight against Liu Kang. He seems to get the upper hand when he starts to freeze his surroundings and is rapidly cornering Liu Kang; unluckily for him, his chilling power backfires when Liu throws a bucket of water at him, which freezes, impales, and kills him.
Off with His Head!: His infamous "Spine Rip" Fatality, which involved ripping out the opponent's head and spinal cord from their shoulders, which is almost single-handedly responsible for the whole ESRB rating creation!
Interestingly, he is not a mere Palette Swap of his own character in Mortal Kombat 9. If you choose Sub-Zero's alternate outfit, he also gains the voice samples of Bi-Han instead of Kuai Liang, which means the alternate outfit is Bi-Han.
"Oh, I got a knack for survival. You, on the other hand, are going to die here."
Debut game: Mortal Kombat (Richard Divizio)
Other appearances: Mortal Kombat II (cameo), Mortal Kombat 3 (Richard Divizio), Mortal Kombat: Special Forces (David Allen), Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Mortal Kombat: Deception (cameo), Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Michael McConnohie), Mortal Kombat 9 (Michael McConnohie)
Non-game appearances: Mortal Kombat: The Movie (Trevor Goddard), Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm (Michael Des Barres), Mortal Kombat: Legacy (Darren Shahlavi), Wreck-It Ralph (Brian Kesinger)
Kano is the leader of the Black Dragon organization, a criminal empire of cut-throat madmen. A portion of Kano's face is covered with a metal plate as a result of wounds he sustained at the hands of Major Jackson Briggs prior to the events of the series, with the plated eye being a glowing red orb capable of emitting laserlike beams. He entered Shang Tsung's Mortal Kombat tournament after hearing rumors that Tsung's palace was filled with gold and other riches; after the final battle between Shang Tsung and Liu Kang, Kano teamed up with Sonya and Johnny Cage to fight Goro. During the battle, the island began to crumble because of Shang Tsung's defeat, and before they knew it, Kano and Sonya found themselves in a forest in Outworld. They were found and captured by Shang Tsung. Kano managed to save his own life by convincing Shao Kahn to accept him as a weapons instructor for his armies, and later, during the events of Mortal Kombat 3, Sonya tossed Kano to his surmised death from the roof of a high building, only for Kano to be healed back to life by Motaro.
Eventually, Kahn's forces were defeated. Earthrealm was free, and so was Edenia. Shao Kahn's act of promoting Kano, however, proved to be a lucky shot, as Kano was a very competent general. During the events of Deadly Alliance Kano declared his allegiance to the Sorcerers; however, he was attacked and apparently captured by Red Dragon member Mavado.
In Armageddon's Konquest mode, Kano is found by Taven to have been held prisoner by the Red Dragon Clan for quite some time. Before escaping their facilities, Kano explains to Taven that the Red Dragon Clan had been experimenting on him, in an effort to create Human-Dragon Hybrids, yet without apparent effects on Kano.
Kano is pretty much the same as in the previous games in Mortal Kombat 9, but is a more willing soldier to Outworld than before, even going so far as to sell the forces of Outworld Earthrealm weapons to help in Shao Kahn's invasion of Earth. Pretty much, he's a race-betraying prick.
The Special Forces. He's quite... "invested" in his rivalry with Sonyanote in Deadly Alliance, he hung a lock of her hair obtained by tearing it from her head during their battle atop the skyscraper in MK3 around his neck as a symbol of their rivalry, and Jax is responsible for the metal plate on his face.
The Red Dragon clan. They're long time enemy of Kano's Black Dragon Clan.
Bad Boss: In Special Forces. The other Black Dragon clansmen (barring the possibility of Jarek) are unquestionably loyal to Kano, who exploits them as distractions for Jax to deal with (and unlike Jarek, they might all be dead by Jax's hands, too).
Cyborg: Only insomuch as needing a synthetic eye that has also been outfitted with a heat-emitting beam (justified as the Black Dragon cartel has a high proficiency in areas of technology). The rest of him is human.
Only in It for the Money: His reason for joining Shang Tsung's tournament and for siding with Outworld and selling stuff for them.
Pet the Dog: In 9, he's the one who saves Kabal (his former Black Dragon cohort) from dying and surgically implants him with his mask and breathing apparatus after Kintaro roasted him alive.
Additionally, when he heard of Kabal's apparent demise at the hands of Mavado, it is said that he would have most likely hounded the Red Dragon leader and had his head if not for his post in Outworld as the leader of Shao Kahn's armies. Kabal had long since forsaken the ways of the Black Dragon.
Non-game appearances: Mortal Kombat: The Movie (Linden Ashby), Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (Chris Conrad), Mortal Kombat: Rebirth/Mortal Kombat: Legacy (Matt Mullins)
Johnny Cage is a Hollywood movie star. Originally entering the Mortal Kombat tournament to display his fighting skills and prove himself to skeptical movie critics and the movie-viewing public, Cage becomes one of the brave and loyal warriors for Earthrealm.
In Mortal Kombat, When Shang Tsung's island fortress began to crumble because of his defeat to Liu Kang, Raiden saved Johnny and dropped him off at a boat that belonged to the Special Forces Agency near the island. Not long after that, Cage traveled into Outworld to join the other Earthrealm warriors in MK2. Defeated, Kahn ordered his forces to kill the Earth warriors. Johnny’s comrades were fortunate to make their way back to Earthrealm. Johnny, however, was not so lucky and was killed by Kahn's forces. Raiden then resurrected him temporally during the events of Trilogy and permanently during the events of MK4. However, Johnny was killed once again during the final assault on the Deadly Alliance's Tarkatan warriors.
Later, he is, as well as many other warriors, restored to life one more time by Onaga and made into his slave. Some time later, he was freed from this state by Ermac and the spirit of Liu Kang, in time to join the Armageddon.
Back from the Dead: Constantly. Lampshaded when, prior to joining the battle against the Deadly Alliance, he was (unwillingly) starting to film Mortal Kombat: The Death of Johnny Cage, in which he was repeatedly killed and brought back to life.
Ironically, in 9 he manages to survive a plot where most of the major characters die.
Johnny Cage:"Fans think my moves are all wire work and special effects. Truth is... I am the special effects."
Badass in a Nice Suit: In MK9, he comes to the first tournament wearing a tuxedo with a loosened bow tie.
Prior to the events in Deadly Alliance, he arrives on Shang Tsung's Island dressed in a tux via parachute. Guy's got style.
Berserk Button: Goro should not have crushed those $500 pair of shades. That, and killing off Johnny's friend.
Born Lucky: While other kombatants can justify their special powers for they went through a Training from Hell, some are Physical Gods themselves, and the rest are sorcerers and Ninjas/McNinjas; Johnny Cage has no background for how he got his energy blasts, he's simply naturally gifted, in MK9 it is made even more obvious how his powers are so natural, Johnny initially is in disbelief about the whole Mortal Kombat and other realms thing, and yet he doesn't mention or see his powers as being equally unbelievable.
The funny thing in all this is the whole reason he's there is because of people calling him out and saying he's all flash with no substance. He insists that his energy powers are legit and will prove it at the Mortal Kombat tournament... yet thinks nothing of them in spite of that.
Armageddon tries to take the "fake" part out, by having him being the first of the heroes to see Shinnok back into the scene, and then rallying the band of heroes for the final battle. But since we don't know much about the game's story, we just leave what happened between this point and the all-out battle to imagination.
Groin Attack: His "Split Punch" signature attack, a special move where he does the splits and plants his fist directly into his opponent's balls. It wouldn't work on Sonya in the first game or on Kitana, Jade and Mileena in the second game since there's not much there to hit anyway.
Also, the first part of his X-Ray move is a three-punch combo to the groin. Ouch.
In Shaolin Monks, he has a fatality where he will punch the opponent in the groin several times, mugs for the camera, punches the groin for a bit like a speed bag, and then does one final monster punch that pulverises the entire pelvic region, effectively cutting the unlucky victim in half.
During Jax's chapter in 9, Johnny, Raiden, and Jax find themselves stuck at the Kombat Armory, when he probes Jax's relationship with Sonya.note Mind you, Jax and co. are mulling around Outworld looking for her whereabouts, as Sonya is scheduled for execution as they speak Johnny, being himself, makes his intentions with Sonya a little less than subtle. This prompts Jax to challenge Johnny to a fight right there and then. However, afterwards, he brushes it off later and even good-naturedly jokes about it after they find Sonya.
Red Herring Shirt: Johnny Cage survives the events of Mortal Kombat 9. Keep in mind that in every form of media he's been in (the films, the games and even In-Universe in a role he refused to take part in), he dies in some form or fashion.
Thou Shalt Not Kill: In 9, he's shown to be against killing his enemies, refusing to kill Baraka after defeating him in the tournament. He even lampshades one of the most well-known concepts of this game - Fatalities - in that scene; when Shao Khan tells him to "Finish him" after winning, he says, "Finish him? Heh. Yeah right." (Of course, this happens in the Story Mode, and you can't even use Fatalities there; the only way a character can die is if the plot demands it.)
Unfazed Everyman: During his chapter in 9's story mode. Also doubles as the Audience Surrogate for those new to the series, as he's just as out-of-the-loop as newcomers probably will be.
Non-game appearances: Mortal Kombat: The Movie (Bridgette Wilson), Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (Sandra Hess), Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm (Olivia d'Abo), Mortal Kombat: Rebirth/Mortal Kombat: Legacy (Jeri Ryan)
The Chick of the franchise, or at least the very first one. A member of a top United States Special Forces unit known as Outer World Investigation Agency (OIA), Lt. Sonya Blade is a beautiful, stern, tough-as-nails Earthrealm warrior. Her impulsiveness is catalyzed by her superior and good friend Major Jackson "Jax" Briggs. Sonya represents a very emancipated and headstrong woman, but for all her stubbornness and pride, she deeply cares about the lives of her friends and comrades.
Sonya and her team were in hot pursuit of Kano at the time of the original game; after following him to a remote island they were ambushed by Tsung's personal guard. To keep her team safe, she agreed to compete in the Mortal Kombat tournament. Shang Tsung, however, had no intention of fulfilling his end of the bargain and had her unit killed. After Tsung's defeat, she and Kano were taken prisoner to Outworld to appease the emperor, Shao Kahn, only to be later rescued by her comrade Jax. The two privates were among the few chosen warriors left to oppose the invasion of Earthrealm in MK3. Sonya meet her old nemesis Kano on top of a skyscraper during the invasion; in the fight that ensued she managed to hurl Kano off the roof to his apparent death.
In Mortal Kombat 4, Sonya and Jax, having formed the Outworld Investigation Agency, team up with Raiden and Liu Kang to free Edenia from the Fallen Elder God Shinnok's grasp and prevent him from coming to Earth, as well as to capture the last known member of the Black Dragon Clan, Jarek, who apparently dies in his attempt to kill Sonya.
Years later, Sonya would once again heed Raiden's call, this time to travel back to Outworld — for Sonya, this coincided with her search for two missing OIA operatives, Cyrax and Kenshi. She is killed in a fight with the Deadly Alliance and its minions, only to be resurrected and enslaved by Onaga, along her fallen comrades. She would eventually be freed from Onaga's control by Ermac and Liu Kang, in time to participate in the events of Armageddon.
Mortal Kombat 9 sees Sonya being pretty much the same tough lady she's always been, although her pursuit of Kano is massively derailed by the events of the game, making her take a much more active role in the defense of Earthrealm.
Disappeared Dad: According to 9, she's been searching for her MIA father, although she fears that he might already be dead. In her Arcade Ladder ending, she encounters a ghost claiming to be that of her father, but it's unknown if the apparition is real or if it's an aftereffect of her PTSD in the aftermath of the battle with Shao Kahn.
Despair Event Horizon: Given her Arcade Ladder Ending in 9 (which is likely cannon, given the ending to the Story Mode) she almost falls into this after the deaths of her friends and companions. Fortunately, an apparition claiming to be her father helped pull her out of it and encourage her not to give up.
Dual Wielding: In Deadly Alliance and Armageddon, she could use a pair of kali sticks in battle.
Heroic Willpower: Here's the situation: You're tied up, hanging by a hook over The Dead Pool, with Sheeva watching you, and her boss has signed your death warrant, so it's clear what's likely going to happen here soon... And you still haven't lost your Deadpan Snarker attitude. ("What is it with you Shokan and underground cesspools?") Yeah, I'd say she qualifies for this.
Ink Suit Actress: Like Kano, Sonya's model in the 3D games resemble her actresses in the movies. From Deadly Alliance to Armageddon, she takes after Sandra Hess, whereas in Mortal Kombat 9, she takes a lot after Bridgette Wilson-Sampras.
Stripperiffic: Averted; her costumes are way more modest than the other females.
Woman in Black: Her default attire in 9, although she's a large subversion.
Wounded Gazelle Gambit: During her rooftop battle with Kano in 3, Sonya feigned defeat in order to lure him to the edge of the building and throw him off of it.
"Show me what you can do."
Debut game: Mortal Kombat (Ho Sung Pak)
Other appearances: Mortal Kombat II (Ho Sung Pak), Mortal Kombat 3 (Eddie Wong), Mortal Kombat 4 (Joshua Y. Tsui), Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (cameo), Mortal Kombat: Deception, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Tom Choi), Mortal Kombat 9 (Tom Choi)
Non-game appearances: Mortal Kombat: The Movie/Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (Robin Shou), Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm (Brian Tochi)
Known as "The Immortal Champion of Mortal Kombat," Liu Kang is one of the best warriors of Earthrealm, and has beaten many powerful foes to prove his valor. Throughout the years, Liu Kang has been portrayed as the main hero of the series, becoming champion after the events of the first game.
Coming home from Tsung's Island after defeating both Goro and the sorcerer, he found many of his fellow Shaolin monks killed in a vicious attack by a Tarkatan horde. Enraged, Liu Kang decided to travel to Outworld alongside Raiden and the other Earthrealm warriors. At the Outworld tournament he met Kitana, and began to fall in love with her. Liu eventually fought Shao Kahn, overpowering the emperor. Shortly after, during the events of Mortal Kombat 3, he found himself the primary target of Kahn's extermination squads. Kung Lao, who went against Shao Kahn, was nearly killed by an powerful spell. An enraged Liu Kang challenged the Emperor, and after the final battle, he defeated Shao Kahn again, forcing him and his forces to retreat back to Outworld.
Years later, upon learning that Kitana's home realm of Edenia had been captured by the fallen Elder God Shinnok, he set out on his own to save her, but he was unsuccessful. Liu Kang returned to Earth, where he began gathering Earth's warriors to save the realm and assist his mentor, Raiden. Eventually, Liu Kang confronted Shinnok and emerged victorious, effectively ending his occupation of Edenia. Liu Kang returned to the Shaolin Temples, believing he has lost Kitana forever. However, the Edenian Princess appeared through a portal from Edenia and thanked Liu Kang for all he had done. She offered him a chance to join her at the throne of Edenia. However, due to the responsibilities as a Mortal Kombat Champion, Liu Kang was forced to decline her offer.
Liu Kang went on to enjoy relative peace for many years afterward. However, the Deadly Alliance would make itself known on Earth by its successful assassination of Liu Kang. His mutilated body was discovered by Kung Lao, and he was laid to rest at the Wu Shi Academy, where a shrine was built to honor the former Champion.
His rest was short however, as a corrupted Raiden restored the monk as a living corpse, which went on a rampage and proceded to slaughter many of Liu Kang's fellow Shaolin monks. Liu Kang's spirit wasn't technically responsible, but he couldn't help but feel responsibile for the actions perpetrated by his corpse. Eventually, he defeated his body, stopping it from doing further harm.
In Mortal Kombat 9, Liu Kang once again is Raiden's chosen champion to participate in the Mortal Kombat tournament.
Shao Kahn as well. Even moreso in the new timeline as Kahn murdered Kang's best friend Kung Lao, and later brainwashed Sindel into killing her daughter and Kang's Love Interest Kitana.
And if he returns for the next game, we can expect Raiden to be an arch-enemy.
As Long as It Sounds Foreign: "Liu" is a common Chinese surname and is typically not used as a given name. The order of Liu Kang's name would seem to follow Eastern naming convention, in which the family name comes before the given name, but all characters address Liu Kang as "Liu," treating "Liu" as his first name; even his own brother Chan does so in the movie.
Boring Invincible Hero: He's the least complicated character in the franchise storywise, and he was the in-story winner of the first four games. And then BRUTALLY averted in both Deadly Alliance and 9.
Bruce Lee Clone: He even had his own in-games vocals when the other men all had the same.
Celibate Hero: He passed up on Kitana's offer of ruling Edenia with her after Mortal Kombat 4, because of his status as the Champion of Earthrealm.
Despair Event Horizon/Trauma Conga Line: All of his friends save for Cage and Sonya die, he finds his faith in Raiden completely shattered, and dies a horrible death when he attacks the latter out of rage.
Dragons Up the Yin Yang: One of his fatalities in MKII, in which he turns into a Chinese Dragon and consumes the upper body of his opponent. This fatality was turned into an Animality in MK3 and back into a normal fatality in MK4.
Drunk with Power: In Shang Tsung's Arcade Ending in 9, he becomes this after successfully taking Raiden's place as a god and Protector of Earthrealm, and turning into a power-mad tyrant.
Faith Heel Turn: He does this in 9, when he starts to believe that Raiden's visions are turning him insane. This culminates with him completely turning against the Elder God, when he tells Liu Kang that the Big Bad must be allowed to win.
In Arcade Mode, he does this again in a much more substantial fashion, upending Raiden as the protector of Earthrealm, and becoming a Drunk with Power tyrant.
Famous Ancestor: Like his friend Kung Lao, Liu Kang is also descended from The Great Kung Lao.
Ret Canon: The affection between him and Kitana was inserted into the games after the success of the first film:
In his ending in 4, Kitana offers him the chance to rule by her side in Edenia and presumably other rewards. He politely declines, choosing to respect his duties as Earthrealm's champion. Then Liu Kang gets killed at the beginning of Deadly Alliance.
In MK9, he spares Kitana's life after he defeats her in their first battle. This plays a part of Kitana's High Heel-Face Turn, and there's an affection growing on both of them to the other. Unfortunately, after the group's battle with Sindel, Kitana is mortally wounded and passes away in Liu Kang's arms.
Thou Shalt Not Kill: Sort of. Despite still being labeled a Fatality, his butterfly kick/uppercut finishing move in MK1 didn't show the screen darkening like the other characters' finishing moves did, inferring that it was nonlethal in comparison as an example of his Shaolin beliefs. This was changed in MKII's variation of this particular Fatality, and he's been just as graphic as other competitors since.
Walking Shirtless Scene: He has been shirtless for almost all of the series, the only exceptions being MK4 and parts of MK9.
Back from the Dead: His soul is in Outworld, but his body just kept on fighting without him.
Came Back Wrong: His corpse, revived by Raiden. Subverted with his soul, which retains his true essence.
Best Served Cold: Shows up in the Armageddon intro to confront Shang Tsung, his neck still snapped from when Shang killed him. After snapping his neck back, it's on. If 9 is any indication, Zombie Liu Kang managed to kill Shang Tsung and prevent him from reaching the top of Argus' Pyramid.
Chained by Fashion: By learning the secrets of an ancient cult known as the Houan sect, Raiden was able to use necromancy and his lightning powers to reanimate Liu Kang's body with the help of bloody ceremonial chains. Unfortunately, these chains are not used as weapons in gameplay (they're only seen being wielded by Liu Kang in the intro to Armageddon).
Demonic Possession: Used as a fatality in Deception. He transforms his body into a spiritual state and enters the victim's body, possessing it. A second later, the victim rips their own head off to reveal his head replacing it before bowing down.
Non-game appearances: Mortal Kombat: The Movie (Christopher Lambert), Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (James Remar), Mortal Kombat: Conquest (Jeffrey Meek), Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm (Clancy Brown), Mortal Kombat: Legacy (Ryan Robbins)
Raiden is the eternal God of Thunder and former protector of Earthrealm. Being a god, he possesses many supernatural abilities and a radically different outlook on life than a mere mortal.
When Earthrealm was young, Raiden was its protector. With the aid of the Elder Gods, Raiden managed to defeat Shinnok, a rogue Elder God who wished to rule it, and managed to banish him in the Netherealm. Some time later, Shang Tsung invited Raiden to participate in Mortal Kombat. Aware of the threat posed by this tournament to the future of Earthrealm, Raiden took human form to compete. One year later, the Thunder God found that he had no choice but to accept Shang Tsung's offer of Mortal Kombat in Outworld. When Shao Kahn reached the Earthrealm by merging it with the Outworld, Raiden was able to protect the souls of his Choosen Warriors, but couldn't join the fight himself. Following Liu Kang's defeat of Shao Kahn, Raiden and his warriors again entered battle when Shinnok escaped the Netherealm to once more wage war against the Gods; when the Forces of Light emerged successful, he was granted the status of Elder God and turned over his position as Earthrealm's protector to Fujin.
As an Elder God, Raiden could not interfere when Shang Tsung and Quan Chi killed Liu Kang many years later. Disgusted at his peers for their refusal to intervene, he renounced his position as an Elder, gathering his warriors to stop the Deadly Alliance. This time, disaster struck the heroes. Raiden confronted the two sorcerers in front of the Soulnado chamber, but was defeated by the Alliance as Onaga, the Dragon King, entered the scene. In a desperate measure, Raiden released his godly essence, the effect of which was a single, massive explosion that apparently killed him but did not harm Onaga. While Raiden's essence soon gathered again in the Earthrealm, since his essence was corrupted because of Onaga, he had now became furious with the way Earthrealm's inhabitants had treated their own realm. He started by punishing Shujinko for his unwilling role in the Dragon King's return.
His doings on Deception caught the attention of the Forces of Evil; Raiden joined their ranks during the Armageddon in an attempt to secretly uncover and prevent any plans that could harm the Earthrealm.
Badass: Made clear in the more recent games. Deception had take on Quan Chi and Shang Tsung as the same time and did better against them the rest of the heroes did collectively, though he still lost. Mortal Kombat 9 has Quan Chi sick undead versions of the warriors killed by Sindel and beats them, and later, he kills Liu Kang, which occurred when he was trying to avoid killing him.
Enemy Mine: In the intro for Deception, he briefly joins Shang Tsung and Quan Chi when attempting to stop the Dragon King.
Everything's Better with Samurai: The motif behind his alt. in Deadly Alliance (which would be passed on to his darker persona in Deception). Among other things, his pants are replaced by hakama and a katana is fashioned to his waist. The costume also reveals Raiden to have long hair (it's somewhat noticeable in his default costume, but you have to squint).
Idiot Ball: A glaring one in Mortal Kombat 9 has Raiden standing back and doing nothing as Lin Kuei cyber-ninjas attack Sub-Zero and take him away, even going as far as to stop Smoke from helping out. This is despite the fact that, in a nearly identical situation involving Smoke, Raiden didn't hesitate to blast all of the cyber-ninjas with lightning, taking them out and saving Smoke. He stated that if he got involved that it would make the situation worse, but even then that was a weak excuse... especially considering his attempts to not intervene in the game's events were only making things worse.
Out-Gambitted: The ending of 9 shows that Shinnok had been manipulating the events of the story the whole time, and it is strongly implied that he, too, messed with the timeline just as Raiden did (for example, Quan Chi, his servant, was not present in the original events, but features heavily here). So really, Raiden didn't actually make things worse at all, since Future Raiden could not account for the Elder Gods and in retrospect Raiden made barely any significant changes, and his role in the new timeline is actually roughly the same it was in the first.
Retcon: Raiden's story in the first title was much more self-serving, as he had been invited by Shang Tsung to compete and does so in order to prove mortals are puny when matched with a god. His ending from that game has him overthrow the tournament and turn it into a showcase of the gods (that eventually destroy the world). Later games throw this characterization out the window and instead portray him as a concerned protector who feels he must participate in order to avert disaster (as this happens after the first movie also changed the entire story of the first game).
Spell My Name with an S: Depending on the game continuity or the platform in which he appears, Raiden is sometimes called Rayden, because of copyright issues as a Shoot 'em Up was also named Raiden, or possibly to keep from confusing him with Raiden from the Fatal Fury series. Curiously, sketches from Deadly Alliance also use the Rayden spelling.
Came Back Wrong: A less extreme example than most, but according to Fujin, he should have been resurrected as a blank slate. Instead, he comes back Darker and Edgier.
Badass Cape: Tattered and torn in Deception and Armageddon.
Dark Messiah: After his attempt to destroy Onaga failed, he reconstituted darker, and became disgusted with the humans' doings. Shujinko's screw-up souring him only made things worse.
In his non-canon Deception ending, he still kills Shujinko, despite the fact that he managed to save the Earthrealm.
Evil Costume Switch/Paint It Black: Both his main and alternate outfits are more or less unchanged from Deadly Alliance, but the color schemes are now primarily darker colors, mostly black.
Evil Sounds Deep: Or at least, Darker and Edgier Sounds Deeper. His narration in Deception (in his ending, where he kills Shujinko) is a fair bit deeper than that of his narration from Deadly Alliance.
Fling A Light Into The Past: Pretty much what he does in MK9. After the events of Armageddon, he sends a message across time and space to his younger self of the first game's timeframe, in order to prevent the repeating of events. He believes that, with proper warning, his past self will not make the same mistakes that brought the fate of the timeline which ends with Armageddon.
Heel Realization: Quite possibly the entire reason he attempts to change history in 9, coupled with Shao Kahn's victory. His revival of Liu Kang is one of the key events shown in the flashback message he sends to his past self.
Idiot Ball: If he would have been more specific with his message, the amount of casualties suffered on the heroes' side would have most likely been avoided.
Taking You with Me: In Deception, he tries to pull this off against Onaga, but in vain. It actually works straight when used as a Fatality in that same game.
Trailers Always Lie: All promotional art of Raiden in Deception as well as his appearances throughout most of that game's Konquest Mode use his depiction from Deadly Alliance, perhaps as to not spoil the transformation he had undergone there.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Saving the Earth first by resurrecting Liu Kang and making him into a killer zombie, and then by destroying all the other realms, even those that were harmless to the Earth itself... yeah.
A green-garbed, human-like reptilian creature. Reptile is said to be physically hideous and repulsive, but he is renowned for his great stealth, impressive fighting skills and unquestioning loyalty. Reptile has an obsession about finding the last remaining member of his race, the Saurians, and freeing his homeworld Zaterra from Outworld's grasp; While well-meaning and sincere, this obsession is so important to him that it causes him temporary fits of insanity.
After acting as a stealthy bodyguard to Shang Tsung during the first Mortal Kombat, he returned to his master, Shao Kahn, in order to aid him in the Outworld tournament, under the promise that Kahn would release the remaining members of Reptile's race from slavery if he would unquestioningly do his bidding. Such an opportunity arose During the Earthrealm invasion: he and Jade were to recapture an escaped Kitana, killing her if necessary. He did not succeed, as Jade betrayed him to help Kitana. After the war he was bought to Edenia as prisoner, and subsequently exiled to the Netherealm. Reptile grasped the opportunity to join Shinnok's army, hoping for the rogue Elder God to revive his race. Alas, when he found himself on the losing side once more, he decided to resume his service to Shao Kahn.
Because of his state of separation from the other members of his race, especially his matriarch, Reptile had begun to show signs of devolution, becoming progressively more insane and saurian-like. When Reptile wasn't able to protect his master from the recently formed Deadly Alliance, he went into an even greater madness. Desperately looking for a new master, he eventually came across the vampire Nitara, who shared with him artifacts and knowledges of his lost people, the Zaterran. This was enough to gain Reptile's trust; she send him to fight Cyrax in order to advance her own agenda. Afterward, when Reptile realized that she was going to leave him behind, he tracked her down to an ancient incubating chamber, but she was already gone. All that remained was the almost fully incubated egg of Onaga the Dragon King. The egg hatched, a beam of light struck Reptile as the Saurian's body became the vessel for the reincarnated Onaga.
After the fall of the Dragon King at the hand of the Forces of Light, Reptile found himself free from the villain's possession. At the time of the Armageddon, he seems to be part of the Red Dragon clan's human-reptilian hybrids experimentations. It's not clear if he's willing, but this might have been another way, in his eyes, to get his Saurian race to be restored.
Reptile is pretty much the same he's ever been in Mortal Kombat 9: an assassin for Shang Tsung and foot soldier for Outworld.
Anti-Villain (Type II): Even though he sides with the likes of Shao Kahn and Shinnok, all he wants is to revive his extinct reptilian race. Later games suggest that over the centuries since his race's destruction, he's been ever so slowly going mad, and attaches himself to whatever authority figure he can. After Shao Kahn's apparent death, he almost immediately enters Nitara's servitude.
Butt Monkey: With the exceptions of MKII (as it's his first time), Armageddon, and 9, pretty much every other ending of his can be boiled down to "His employers screwed him over":
In Ultimate 3, he gets a promise from Shao Kahn to revive his race if he kills Kitana. He does it, but Shao Kahn breaks his part of the deal. Reptile kills him, but this denies him the chance to know what his true race is.
In 4, he gets a denial, again, but this time from Shinnok. He succeeded during his fight against Earthrealm's warriors, so he talks to Quan Chi so that he may convince Shinnok to send Reptile back in time to his homeworld before it was destroyed. After a useless plea, Shinnok appears, does a Neck Lift on him, and Reptile's head explodes.
And, in (surprisingly) the only canonical ending of Deadly Alliance, he finds Cyrax and Nitara's essence, but not any of them. Later, he's caught by an energy cascade around what was a dragon embryo, his body providing a host for Onaga, the Dragon King.
In Mortal Kombat 9's story mode, despite that he survived the events of the game, he seems to exist solely to get his ass repeatedly kicked by the heroes. Although in the non-canon Arcade Mode, he DOES gets what he wants when he forced Shang Tsung to recreate his race, and then kills him before he gets screwed again.
His fatality in 4 and Deadly Alliance has him reducing the enemy's head to a mere skull via acid. In the latter, he eats it.
Imagine Spot: Due to his waning lucidity, Deadly Alliance's Konquest Mode notes that Reptile's imagination tends to get out of hand frequently, causing him to daydream about hypothetical battles (such as he thwarting the Deadly Alliance's assassination attempt on Shao Kahn).
Invisibility: He can turn invisible in nearly every game where he's playable.
It Was a Gift: The Kirehashi blade that he uses in Deadly Alliance and Armageddon is an ancient Raptor weapon offered to him as a sign of peace by Nitara. While this was mostly done to get Reptile's guard down and gain his trust so that Nitara could lure him over to her side, this also suggests that there is some sort of shared history between the people of Zaterra and Vaeternus (the Vampire race is said to be a record keeper of the history of other races, but it's unknown how deep their connection with other species were).
Rolling Attack: In some games, Reptile could curl himself up into a ball and roll forward, knocking the enemy down.
Sanity Slippage: Starting with Deadly Alliance, its been shown that Reptile is mentally unstable due to his separation from his race, and his mental state has continued to deteriorate. In Konquest he's having full-blown battles with hallucinatory opponents, even once mistaking his then-master, Nitara, as one of the sorcerors. At the end, he "fights" the enemy he thinks has been the source of all his failures to the death. It was himself.
9 also brings up his insanity. In his arcade ending, he finally snaps and becomes an Omnicidal Maniac.
Guide Dang It: MK1 required sheer perfection and luck on one specific fight in order to obtain him. Every so often, the game would have him pop out and drop a hint on this. And if you want to know, you are required to be on The Pit stage ("Tip eht fo mottob"), win with a double Flawless Victory ("Perfection is the key") and finish the opponent with your character's fatality ("Fatality is the key") and NOT Block ("Blocking will get you nowhere"). The worst part of that was, Sonya couldn't fight him at all, because she had to Block in order to use her Fatality.
Luck-Based Mission: Even after all that, a shadow has to fly past the moon for it to work ("Look to la luna"), which only occurs ONCE IN EVERY 6 CONSECUTIVE GAMES! (unless you're cheating on a console version, in whose case you don't get the bonus points).
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: The only time you're allowed to touch the block button is when inputting Sonya's fatality, the only one in the game that requires block.
Shapeshifter Default Form: Inverted. Reptile prefers to take on a more human form, with his resemblance to a human or humanoid lizard varying from game to game. Yet, members of his race can lose their humanoid appearance when separated for long periods of time from their monarchal leader, with hints that Reptile's temporary insanity is what caused his more bestial appearance in Deadly Alliance.
The Speechless: In 9, he has no spoken dialogue during the story mode, though he "converses" with Shang Tsung using growls at one point. He does have a few text-based lines in the Challenge Tower.
Sssssnaketalk: He had it in the comics, and it was carried over to 4. For some reason however, he does not have it in Armageddon.
Undying Loyalty: Mostly due to his status as an Extreme Doormat and his misguided hopes that he'll eventually be rewarded with the revival of his race, but once Reptile enters the service of most his masters, he is violently determined to protect and serve them. Even more pitiable is the fact that what Reptile perceives as failure starts weighing heavily on his conscience. When he's unable to defeat Cyrax at Nitara's command and flees, Reptile (in an odd villainous variation of Heroic Self-Deprecation) starts beating himself up for being unable to carry out the wishes of another master.
Proud member of the half-dragon race, the Shokans, Goro was the undefeated Champion of Mortal Kombat, being able to win nine consecutive tournaments over a span of 500 years. He helped Shang Tsung grow ever closer to achieving Shao Kahn's goal of domination over Earthrealm.
In his tenth title defense, however, he faced and lost to Liu Kang. In the tournament's aftermath he went missing after a battle where he fought Kano, Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade, and was believed to be dead. He would later resurface after Shao Kahn's defeat to lead his fellow Shokans in a war against the Centaurians. Kitana intervened and negotiated both races an uneasy truce and peace accord. When Shinnok and his legion were defeated and Edenia was once again free, Goro and the Shokan race decided to ally with the Edenians.
Years later, during the time of the Deadly Alliance, the united Edenians and Shokans marched on Shao Kahn's weakened army. Goro was exhausted from battle and was struck from behind by Noob Saibot. He was mortally wounded, apparently dying from the injury. So, Princess Kitana held a royal funeral for her former ally. However, Goro was able to survive, being saved from death by Shao Kahn himself, with the promise to return the Shokans to their former glory and the banishment of the Centaurians in exchange for his allegiance. Agreeing to these terms, Goro resumed his place at Shao Kahn's side and helped him to become once again the Emperor of the Outworld during the time of the Armageddon.
Heel-Face Revolving Door: The only constant in his motive is his desire to do right by the Shokan race, and he will ally himself with whoever can provide them the best status. To wit: started out as Evil in the first Mortal Kombat, then was more Neutral in MK4, then turned Good at the end of MK4 and Deadly Alliance (to the point of even making peace with Kung Lao over Goro's rivalry with Lao's ancestor; he's then killed by Noob Saibot) then back to Evil in Deception.
Odd Friendship: With Kitana. If Deadly Alliance is indication, the two are old friends, to the point that she attended his funeral at Kuatan Palace after he was slain by Noob Saibot sometime between 4 and DA.
Our Giants Are Bigger: There are others who embody this as well (such as his fellow Shokan, Moloch, and Onaga), but Goro is probably the most well-known example within MK.
Really Gets Around: In his profile on the official comic and instruction manual for the first game, he is stated to be a polygamist, having seven wives. Fans often assume that Sheeva was one of them, but this has not been proven.
Really 700 Years Old: At the time of the first Mortal Kombat, he has already lived something like 2000 years.
SNK Boss: In the early games, Goro was far from balanced. All of his moves did way more damage than all of the other characters, and because of that he was notoriously difficult to defeat in the first game.
Non-game appearances: Mortal Kombat: The Movie (Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa), Mortal Kombat: Conquest (Bruce Locke), Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm (Neil Ross), Mortal Kombat: Rebirth (James Lew), Mortal Kombat: Legacy (Johnson Phan)
A powerful and deadly sorcerer and a primary villain in the Mortal Kombat series, Shang Tsung is a demonic shapeshifter who needs to consume souls in order to sustain his health and life. Throughout his unnatural lifespan, he has achieved an intellectual and mental sophistication far greater than that of any other baddie of the series.
Several centuries before the start of the series, a young and promising Tsung was taken to Outworld and trained by the Emperor in the Black Arts. For a time, Shang Tsung would be the Grand Champion of Mortal Kombat himself, but when he lost his title to the legendary Shaolin warrior, the Great Kung Lao, he had to wait several years for his greatest student, the Shokan prince Goro, to restore once more Outworld's domination of the Mortal Kombat Tournament. This time Tsung, now aged and weakened, secured his domain on the Tournament, by becoming its sole Grandmaster and holding future competitions on his private island, a zone in between Earth and the Outworld.
During the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament, the final victory that would enable Shao Kahn to conquer Earth, Liu Kang, a Shaolin Monk, defeated Goro, breaking the streak. Liu Kang then challenged Shang Tsung in Kombat to restore the honour of the once-sacred tournament; Liu Kang prevailed, and Shang Tsung fled to Outworld. He confronted an enraged Shao Kahn and convinced him that, if they challenged Earthrealm to Mortal Kombat in Outworld, they would have to accept or forfeit. Kahn agreed to this plan, and restored Tsung's youth. Despite this, in the Tournament the sorcerer lost again to Liu Kang, who also defeated Kahn. Shortly after, with the aid of his cult of Shadow Priests, Shang Tsung managed to revive Shao Kahn's former queen, Sindel, on Earth, giving Kahn and his forces a way to invade the Realm. Tsung was granted more power than ever before, but during the invasion that followed he lost to Liu Kang once more.
Some time after the merge of the two Realms failed, the fellow sorcerer Quan Chi come to Shang Tsung with an offer: if Tsung helped him revive the lost army of the Dragon King by means of his ability to transplant souls, he would open a "Soulnado" to the Heavens, giving him an endless supply of souls. Tsung accepted, and they formed the DeadlyAlliance. Together, the sorcerers not only managed to assassinate both Liu Kang and Shao Kahn, but eventually the duo defeated Earthrealm's champions and triumphed over Raiden himself in a final battle. Their victory, however, would not be savored. Shang Tsung's lust for power and Quan Chi's suspicion finally came to light. The two fought, with Quan Chi emerging the victor, and immediately after that, Shang Tsung had to confront a revived Dragon King alongside the two enemies; in the battle that ensued, Tsung was killed by Raiden's self-sacrificial blast.
His soul, still bound to Kahn, reached the not-so-dead Emperor. Kahn provided Tsung with a host body and then allied with him and Goro in taking his kingdom back. Some time later, during the Armageddon, the sorcerer formed an alliance with Onaga, Shao Kahn, and Quan Chi so that the group may prevent the Forces of Light from obtaining the power that Blaze possessed.
The events of Mortal Kombat 9 happen pretty much the same for Shang Tsung as in the previous games, with an exception.
Ambiguously Human: We don't really know where Tsung came from initially, but it's repeatedly implied to be Earthrealm.
Implied nothing. His biography in Mortal Kombat 9 confirms he is from Earthrealm.
Cursed with Awesome: When Shang Tsung committed the atrocity of taking a soul, he was cursed by the Elder Gods not only to kill his enemies, but to take their souls as well. Only in this way would he hold off his grim fate: to age rapidly and die prematurely. However, as a side effect of his consuming the souls of others, Tsung was able to access their memories and knowledge, a happenstance which would greatly benefit him in the future.
Demonic Possession: In MKII, he enters his opponent's body, which violently shakes until it explodes as Shang appears in the opponent's place. It inspires one of Liu Kang's Deception fatalities, and in MK9 it comes full-circle with it being based on Liu Kang's one instead of his MKII one.
Killed Off for Real: "Volunteered" his essence in 9's story to Sindel by way of Shao Kahn to give the former a power boost. Ended up working pretty well since she went on a Curb-Stomp Battle all over the Earthrealm heroes, though Shang Tsung does seem to be toast.
Kung-Fu Wizard: While a sorcerer, he does plenty of fighting with his bare hands as well.
Neck Snap: In Deadly Alliance, he delivers one to Liu Kang, killing him for good. This comes back in the Battle of Armageddon, where Undead!Liu Kang necksnaps him.
Only Sane Man: In the DC crossover, he has apparently the strongest self-control of all characters from both worlds, as he never gives up to the rage until Dark Khan reveals himself and makes rage take everybody. But even after that, he managed to bring himself back to normal, while Raiden was still under Dark Kahn's infulence.
The Punishment: This is what the Elder Gods call his soul-sucking ability. Admittedly it's required to keep him sustained, though he can do much more with it than that and he's definitely not objecting.
Scaled Up: He could turn into a cobra to finish his opponents as an Animality in MK3.
Tournament Arc: He really likes these, to the point that, in MKvDCU, when he encounters Captain Marvel in the Netherrealm, he has his allies face off against Marvel one at a time, announcing results between rounds as if it were Arcade Mode ("Captain Marvel wins!").
Unlimited Wardrobe: There's no better example in this franchise. Shang Tsung's "main" appearance has changed considerably from game to game, except in Armageddon, which reutilized his Deadly Alliance model.
What The Hell, Elder Gods?: For the atrocity of stealing a soul, Shang Tsung was condemned to... do it over and over again. Just to twist the knife, Shang doesn't give a crap about the souls he takes either, and it actually makes him more and more powerful. It's like condemning a murderer to a life as a Serial Killer, and the murderer enjoys killing.
Yellow Peril: In the original game, though it's balanced by the fact that the protagonist is also Chinese.