Ensemble Darkhorse: Mortal Kombat
Given the Loads and Loads of Characters, it would only be fair that Mortal Kombat would have some popular characters under its belt.
- Scorpion (pictured right here) and Sub-Zero are among the most popular characters in the series. At one point, a lot of the newer characters (Smoke, Ermac, Noob Saibot, etc.) were directly based off their character models. In fact, Noob was later revealed to be the original Sub-Zero after the younger Sub-Zero (debuting in II) made his first unmasked appearance in Mortal Kombat 3.
- Although he's one of the "ninjas" who was riding off of Scorpion and Sub-Zero's popularity, Reptile has established himself as a lesser darkhorse among the fandom due to being the first Secret Character in the series (which sparked a great amount of interest in discovering and facing him, not unlike Akuma in Super Street Fighter II Turbo). Being an odd anti-villainous example of a Butt Monkey as well as the Cosmic Plaything of the series, as well as sporting one of the better fight scenes in the movie has helped to give Reptile something of a cult following among MK fans.
- Although his role in the story (Especially after MK9) is a Base Breaker nowadays, Raiden was always one of, if not the most popular non-ninja character from the first game thanks to his Nice Hat and gibberish in his flying move with many finding him fun to play as. Being inspired by Lightning from Big Trouble in Little China (Whose already an ensemble darkhorse) and having a movie performance that is generally considered to be fun to watch also helps him.
- Trevor Goddard's performance in the movie as Kano was very well-liked by fans due to it adding a cocky, money-grubbing sleazeball personality to the flat depiction of the games, so much so it was carried over.
- From the second game, we have Kung Lao, the razor-rimmed hat-slinging best bud of Liu Kang. There's also Liu's woman, Princess Kitana, her "sister" Mileena, and Baraka. And the secret characters: Jade, Smoke, and Noob Saibot (who, as noted above, is actually the original Sub-Zero from the first game).
- Kabal and Ermac were mild Base Breakers at the time of their debut (vanilla MK3 and UMK3 respectively) due to being overpowered. After being toned down in later revisions, they moved over this way and returned for Deception. Rain, originally a goofy Joke Character ninja Palette Swap who doubled as a Shout-Out to Prince and made his debut in UMK3, might also be heading this direction (at the very least, he's out of Base Breaker territory). When it was revealed that he was one of two characters from the original trilogy to not be playable in 9 (the other being Motaro, who actually does cameo in the story a few times), Ed Boon's Twitter was flooded with demands for Rain to be included as DLC. They got their wish.
- Quan Chi started out as a one-shot villain in Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm. He was then carried over to Mythologies and MK4 and rose to prominence as a key player on the villains' side. Whatever he's a Magnificent Bastard or a Villain Stu is up to debate.
- Also from Mythologies (and probably second only to Quan Chi) is Sareena, a member of Quan Chi's Amazon Brigade who had a change of heart after Elder Sub-Zero spared her life. For a relatively minor character, she garnered a sizable fanbase and demand for a return. She was finally made playable in Tournament Edition (one of the two portable versions of Deadly Alliance) and Armageddon, where she forms a strong bond with Younger Sub-Zero. Being The Atoner and The Woobie also helps garner endearment points from the fans.
- Kenshi from Deadly Alliance (think Daredevil plus telekinesis) is one of the few characters from the post-Trilogy era to earn unanimous praise from the fanbase. How popular is he? Popular enough to make it into Mortal Kombat 9 as DLC despite the roster mainly consisting of characters from the first three games.
- Khameleon from the N64 version of MK Trilogy pushed herself here when it was revealed that she was the only pre-existing character not playable in Armageddon. Fan outcry singlehandedly made sure that she had a spot on the roster in the Wii port of the game. It doesn't hurt that her story gives Khameleon a direct connection to Reptile, one of the most pitiable creatures in existence (namely, repopulating their nearly-extinct race and turning him away from his servitude to the villains, the same party that seems to screw him over at any opportunity).
- From Deception we got Havik, the Crazy Awesome, Cloudcuckoolander cleric of Chaos whose repertoire of techniques has him twist and contort his body in odd ways, such as snapping his own neck to regain health; he's also notable for this moment where he says "This Is Gonna Suck".
- Perhaps the greatest example of this trope is Tremor, a member of the Black Dragon clan and the only ninja to not be playable in the main series. What makes this so exceptional is that he hails what is undoubtedly the worst game in the series by an Outworld mile. Ed Boon himself commented (via Twitter) on Tremor's surprising popularity, calling him "the new Rain." While Tremor wasn't included in 9, Boon has refused to outright say that Tremor will never be included again in the series. Fans, when the inevitable Mortal Kombat 10 is announced, you know what needs to be done. Mortal Kombat X finally upgrades him to a playable character who will be available as DLC.
- In MK9, Johnny Cage becomes a darkhorse thanks in part to borrowing his movie incarnation's personality (Which was already an Ensemble Darkhorse) and having his status as a well-meaning douche amped up to the point of hilarity. MK9 has quite a few CMOFs; Johnny is responsible for most of them. Stryker and Nightwolf (having already been Rescued from the Scrappy Heap around the time of Deception and Armageddon) might be working their way up here as well, thanks in part to vastly better developed characterization and taking several levels in badass.
- In the recently revealed Mortal Kombat X, newcomer Cassie Cage is also heading to this way. Being the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade also helps along with her funny fatality.
- A few more examples: Tanya note , Frost note , Nitara note .