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Characters / Mortal Kombat – Shao
aka: Mortal Kombat Shao Kahn

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Original and Reboot Timeline: MK (1992) | MK2 | MK3 | MK4 | Deadly Alliance | Deception | Armageddon | MK vs. DC Universe | MK9 | MKX | MK11
The New Era: MK1
Spinoffs: Mythologies: Sub-Zero | Special Forces
Non-video game: The Movie | Conquest | Defenders of the Realm | 2021 Movie
Individual Characters: Scorpion I (Hanzo Hasashi) | Sub-Zero I/Noob Saibot (Bi-Han) | Johnny Cage | Liu Kang | Raiden | Shang Tsung | Sub-Zero II/Scorpion II (Kuai Liang) | Kitana | Mileena | Shao Kahn/General Shao | Quan Chi

Spoilers for Mythologies will be unmarked

Shao Kahn
"I am Shao Kahn! Konqueror of Worlds! You will taste no victory!"

Debut game: Mortal Kombat II (Brian Glynn/Steve Ritchie)
Other appearances: Mortal Kombat 3 (Brian Glynn/Steve Ritchie), Mortal Kombat: Deception (Gamecube version only), Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (Nigel Casey), Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks (Steve Ritchie), Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Patrick Seitz), Mortal Kombat 9 (Bob Carter), Mortal Kombat 11 (Ike Amadi, English; Stephan Scalabrino, Face Model; Eduardo Fonseca, Latin American Spanish), Mortal Kombat 1 (Ike Amadi, English)
The supreme ruler of Outworld and one of the biggest threats facing Earthrealm, Shao Kahn is one of the most powerful forces in all the realms. The Emperor has long been obsessed with the conquest of Earth.

Shao Kahn was once the advisor of the legendary Dragon King, Onaga. Before the Dragon King could obtain immortality, Kahn poisoned him and took his former master's throne. Eventualy going on to conquer countless lesser realms through brute force and Mortal Kombat, he consumed untold souls in his neverending quest for power.

When he took Edenia — a milestone in his campaign — he murdered King Jerrod in battle and took his wife Sindel as his bride. He then raised Jerrod's daughter Kitana as his own, and trained her to be his personal bodyguard. Sindel eventually decided to kill herself rather than live as his slave — but even death would not free her of Shao Kahn. He trapped her soul in Outworld, thus denying her the afterlife.

Kahn's next target was Earthrealm. He sent Shang Tsung — and then Goro — to gain enough victories in Mortal Kombat to allow him to freely invade the realm. Despite a 500 years-long winning streak, Goro was denied the vital tenth victory by Liu Kang — a descendant of the very same man who had put an end to Shang Tsung's dominance of the sacred tournament centuries ago. Enraged, Kahn brought Tsung before him to punish him personally. However, the sorcerer begged him for another chance, one that the Emperor believed might hold the key to undoing five centuries of wasted plans. The plan was to draw Liu Kang and his allies into an Outworld tournament where they would surely die. However, the new Mortal Kombat Champion proved to be too great even for the Emperor of Outworld — by defeating him personally. Unwilling to accept this, Kahn ordered his forces to kill off the Earth's fighters, but they managed to escape.

Shao Kahn had one last plan up his sleeve, however. Shang Tsung was ordered to complete a plan 10,000 years in the making by reviving Kahn's long-dead wife, Sindel, not on Outworld — but on Earthrealm. This allowed Kahn to step through the gateways between the realms to claim her and undermine the safeguards of Mortal Kombat, thus launching a full-scale invasion of Earth. Consuming countless millions of souls upon entering the realm, he then sent extermination squads to destroy those whose souls he could not steal. The chosen few eventually defeated Outworld's forces, with the Emperor himself falling once again to the might of Liu Kang. Shao Kahn was greatly weakened by this defeat, and Earthrealm was restored. Many of his so-called loyal soldiers had abandoned him, and his adopted daughter Kitana had turned Sindel to her side, thus restoring Edenia as an independent realm. To make matters worse for Kahn, the Shokan race had joined their ranks. When Shang Tsung and Quan Chi came before him to pledge allegiance, this meeting soon became an assassination attempt — and seemingly his reign had finally come to a violent end. However, Deception revealed that the Outworld Emperor had planted a clone in his stead and restored the mortally wounded Goro with his remaining power, thus regaining Shokans as allies.

During the events of Armageddon, Shao Kahn would go on to form an uneasy alliance with Quan Chi, Shang Tsung, and resurrected Onaga in the hopes of preventing the Forces of Light from defeating Blaze and then seizing his own opportunity to strike when it came. He eventually succeeds and gets Blaze's godlike power, pretty much killing off Raiden and seizing all of the worlds for himself in the process.

Avoiding Shao Kahn's causing of Armageddon is the basis of the entire storyline of Mortal Kombat 9, in which the original canon's Shao Kahn is about to kill off Raiden and overthrow all the realms. Kahn's role in 9 is mostly reflective of the role he played in the original canon, being the main threat to Earthrealm in the eyes of Raiden. Things proceed mostly the same for Kahn with some minor exceptions, (such as the murder of Kung Lao, who had won the Outworld tournament instead of Liu Kang) until the very end, where Raiden's message from the future finally becomes clear: since Kahn's invasion is considered an unlawful breach of the rules of Mortal Kombat, he must be allowed to overthrow Earthrealm so the Elder Gods can punish him. In doing so, Shao Kahn is finally defeated once and for all.

Returns in Mortal Kombat 11, as pre-order DLC and an antagonist in the story mode. This also marks the first time he is playable in the initial roster of a non-Updated Re-release or Dream Match Game entry in the series and not billed as a boss character. He is brought back from the past by Kronika and aids her in guarding the Hourglass, distracting the heroes by trying to reclaim his throne from Kotal Kahn. He plays a larger role in the Downloadable Content Aftermath, where his interactions with Sindel are given focus as well.

In Fire God Liu Kang's new timeline, introduced in Mortal Kombat 1, Shao is not a ruler of Outworld, but instead an esteemed general serving Queen Sindel.

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Tropes related to Shao Kahn

  • 0% Approval Rating: He practically achieves what Mileena did by Mortal Kombat 11. Most of Outworld is sick of his reign, and this is frequently lampshaded in arcade endings and character interactions. Ultimately, the only allies who don't defect from him are Skarlet, Kollector, and Sindel. However, even they are only loyal to him out of the opportunity for more power and they end up usurping his throne in their respective endings. In fact, the only reason he gained an army in Aftermath is because he offered them clemency in exchanged for serving him.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: In an intro dialogue in 11, Shao Kahn tells Cassie he intends for her to be a concubine, to which she gives a "No. Just… No" Reaction.
  • Abusive Parents: His adopting Kitana after killing Jerrod, her biological father, makes Shao this by default. He expects absolute loyalty from his adopted daughter without repaying her back equally and any mess-ups Kitana makes are responded to by Shao either dismissing her as a disappointment or is all too willing to kill her in the event she betrays him to fight with the forces of Earthrealm. In the end, Kitana is less his daughter and more a tool or minion that only lives to serve Shao and is just as disposable as anyone else.
  • Actually a Doombot: Remember him getting killed by Shang Tsung and Quan Chi in the beginning of Deadly Alliance? Yeah, neither does he.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Normally, he looks like a monster under his helmet (see Butter Face below). In Annihilation, he looks like a regular human being. In Legacy, he's even got a good head of hair!
  • Adaptational Dumbass: Downplayed, but it's still a main aspect of his Villain Decay come in MK11. In the original timeline, Kahn was cunning enough to fake his own death in the intro of Deadly Alliance, creating a magic clone for Shang Tsung and Quan Chi to kill while he, with Goro's help, starts recuperating his empire in Deception behind everyone's backs. 11 however, portrays him as much more emotionally impulsive, unable to keep his empire running for a few seconds before Kitana defeats him, and if Sindel's ending is anything to go by, she had swooned Shao Kahn into being her Dumb Muscle husband. An intro with Spawn lampshades this...
    Spawn: Another dime-a-dozen petty dictator...
    Shao Kahn: Petty?! I am mighty!
    Spawn: Mighty stupid is what you are, Shao Kahn.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Many of his appearances in re-tellings downplay this.
    • In the Mortal Kombat Legends series. In the main series, Shao Kahn was ready to execute Shang Tsung for his failure in Mortal Kombat (1992), until Shang Tsung proposed a plan to host another tournament in Outworld. In Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge, Shao Kahn simply beats Shang Tsung. While he does still invade Earthrealm despite losing and scoffs at the Elder Gods at one point while meeting with them in the sequel, Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms, Shao Kahn does respect them enough to go through proper channels in the first place to get another tournament approved.
    • In Mortal Kombat: Conquest. When he has Kitana killed in the finale, he seems genuinely upset that he had to kill his own step-daughter (contrasting the gleeful boasting of his other victims' death). In the games, he only ever saw her as a disposable tool at best.
    • In Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, he says the people of Earthrealm will rest in peace. An Implied Death Threat for sure, but compared to how often he enslaves people in one form or another, this seems like he just intends to kill them instead. Again, very downplayed, especially since he still goes through with killing people and what he did to Sindel.
  • The Ageless: At least, though it's not clear how he differs from the millions of others in Outworld or Edenia (or, basically, anywhere but Earth). Raiden explicitly refers to him as an immortal in the first film, and the games are somewhat vague on the matter. Several characters do try to kill him but actually doing it seems to be a bitch. However, Raiden, with the help of the Elder Gods may have actually succeeded in killing him at the end of MK9, with the only thing bringing him back for 11 being time travel shenanigans. He does seem to be the oldest of Outworld's denizens (who seem to be pushing tens of thousands of years), and when he offed Onaga he seemed to shelve the latter's plans of gaining eternal life, suggesting he already had it. His origins have never been explored but it's generally implied that he is not an ordinary citizen of Outworld. The most plausible explanation seems to be that he is a god, or at least some kind of demigod. In Deception's Konquest mode, Damashi who is the spirtual avatar of Onaga states to Shujinko that Shao Kahn was to Outworld is what Raiden is to Earth. So, he seems to be a god, or was one at any rate.
  • All Your Powers Combined: In service with It's All About Me, Shao Kahn will assimilate any power that rivals his own. It's implied that most of his powers and abilities result from various races and warriors that he's conquered. In the end, all power exists only to serve him.
  • Amazon Chaser: Has a thing for women with fiery spirit, and wants to add Cassie to his harem much to her disgust. However, Kahn doesn't admire their strength enough to respect their autonomy.
    Shao Kahn: I like females with fire.
  • Ambition Is Evil: His whole motivation for merging all of the all the realms with Outworld and ruling over everything is based solely on ego and a lust for conquest and power.
  • Anarcho-Tyranny: The only law in Outworld under his rule is "Obey Shao Kahn", and beyond this, people are free to do whatever horrible things they like. Outworld is a very factional realm and he encourages the various races to fight for his favour.
  • And Then What?: In his ending for Armageddon, Kahn achieves the power of Blaze and finally conquers all known realms. Unfortunately, with no worlds left to conquer, he winds up going mad...
  • The Announcer: In MKII and MK3, to the point that if he wins a round in the latter, he says: "I win."
  • Arch-Enemy:
    • He is this to Liu Kang, more so in the new timeline as Shao Kahn snaps Kung Lao’s neck and later brainwashed Sindel into killing the other Earthrealm champions and her daughter Kitana who is Kang’s love interest.
    • He’s one to Kitana as well, as Kitana discovers the truth behind her true heritage and that she is actually Edenian.
    • He can also be considered one to Raiden and they have been opposing each other for centuries as Raiden keeps trying to stop him from invading Earthrealm.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Gives this vibe to Kitana in MK11.
    Shao Kahn: It's time you die, daughter.
    Kitana: The feeling's mutual, Father.
    Shao Kahn: Then let us begin...
  • Attack Reflector: From Deception to vs. DCU, Shao Kahn can erect an energy barrier that reflects projectiles. Contact with it can also harm his opponent.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Given heavy emphasis in MK11. He is betrayed by almost all of his closest allies, and then Kitana, one of his most personal victims, defeats him in kombat and slashes his eyes out, as the crowds of Outworld look on. And in Aftermath, he is betrayed and has his soul consumed by Shang Tsung, the sorcerer he constantly threatened and disposed of when he served no further purpose.
    • Some of the non-canon endings from other games have Shao Kahn being punished by other villains. Examples are Onaga condemning him to be tortured for eternity, Khameleon transforming him into a raptor like her (a process so painful he begs for mercy) and Shang Tsung turning him into a centaur slave.
  • Ax-Crazy: He becomes in his Armageddon ending. Zigzagged in general compared to his subordinates: Shao Kahn lives for conquest and kombat, but is generally composed and calculating when not set off.
  • Back from the Dead: His inclusion into Mortal Kombat 11 roster suggests this. However, time-travel is a part of MK11's storyline. His return to the story comes from Kronika bringing him forward in time from the point just before he kills Kung Lao.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Delivers a truly amazing one at the begining and at the end of MK9. Evil Is Hammy at its best.
      Shao Kahn: "Where are the Elder Gods, Raiden? Their pathetic Mortal Kombat shackles me no longer. They masquerade as dragons, but are mere toothless worms. My venom spreads. It's the end of all things. Armageddon. It is done. Your time has passed. Ages wasted in foolish resistance. Now is the dawn of my rule. Yes. Pray to the worms, Raiden. As your world ends."
    • Another example comes from this interaction in 11:
      Shao Kahn: Who is this? A new contender?
      Spawn: Hell's got a special place for you, Shao Kahn.
      Shao Kahn: Keep it warm. I'm not done living yet!
  • Badass Cape: Often shown with one in other media, but it wasn't until recently when he started wearing one in the games themselves. In MK9, his younger self doesn't wear it, but the one from the original timeline does. His alternate samurai-inspired costume in 11 has a tattered one with a stylized symbol of his helmet.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: He ultimately wins after the events of Armageddon. He survives the ascent up the Pyramid and follows that by attempting to kill Raiden. This prompts the Thunder God to invoke the Timey-Wimey Ball and telepathically send a message to his younger self from the time of Mortal Kombat (1992), warning him of the events to come, before Kahn can strike the killing blow. Subverted in 9, where this trope actually proves to be the key to Shao Kahn's defeat and the prevention of Armageddon. Raiden's words to his past self ("He must win") actually refer to Shao Kahn; Earthrealm must let Kahn win and merge Outworld with Earthrealm so that the Elder Gods will then punish the Emperor for his treachery.
  • Bad Boss:
    • Comes with the territory of being a psychopathic tyrant. Here's a good example:
      Shao Kahn: You've failed me too often, sorcerer...
      Shang Tsung: Over a millenium, I've failed you twice.
      Shao Kahn: That is unacceptable!
    • One of his intros in MK11 has two of his minions struggling to carry his hammer for him. He promptly wrests the hammer out of their hands and violently kicks them off-stage.
    • More than a few of his exchanges with Baraka in 11 have Shao talking down to him, referring to the Tarkatans as dogs, and refusing to make them anything more than servants in his empire. This is despite the fact that the Tarkatans are the only organized force supporting him to take the throne; even the Shokans have abandoned his cause by this point.
    • Befitting a tyrannical dictator, Shao Kahn is also wary of his subordinates becoming too successful. It's implied he betrayed Ko'atal to Shang Tsung's flesh pits for this reason, and warns Skarlet to not set her ambitions too high.
    • Also, Shao just can't imagine his vast empire without slaves. So much so that he fully deserves the nickname "skull-fucker" — which is given to him by a certain Hellspawn, of all beings.
  • Bald of Evil: He is shown as being bald in Annihilation, while the concept art for 3 shows he lacks hair in the games as well with 11 fully showing this in certain Fatalities and Fatal Blows.
  • Battle Couple: Chapter 16 of the Aftermath DLC story in 11 focuses on him and Sindel, who have reunited to aid Shang Tsung in his schemes so they can reclaim the leadership of Outworld. They refer to each other and husband and wife and fight most of the other kombatants and their allies together.
  • Bear Hug: In 11, Shao delivers one to Kotal before crippling him.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: His ending in Armageddon sees him attain all ultimate power and conquer all of the realms... and then go mad from boredom because he has nothing else to conquer. 9 makes this ending canon due to Raiden invoking the Timey-Wimey Ball, so if the canon timeline still exists and wasn't simply erased, the canon version of Shao Kahn basically defeated himself by getting exactly what he wanted.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Failing him in any way guarantees that you pressed this button. Always.
    • Don't bring up the fact that you've killed Mileena. He will fuck you up.
  • Big Bad:
    • Of the second and third game, where his wish to conquer Earthrealm drives the plot. Technically this in the first too as The Man Behind the Man to Shang Tsung, but he doesn't appear. Returns as the Big Bad again in MK9, where the plot happens to be based on the first three games.
    • Of Annihilation which loosely adapts the plot of the third game; after Shang Tsung's failure to win the Mortal Kombat tournament, Shao Kahn tosses out the rulebook and just invades Earthrealm directly.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Shao Kahn is this in the Aftermath DLC. During the climax of the story, he tries to kill Kronika and steal her power, but he and his wife Sindel were being used as pawns by Shang Tsung. After Shao Kahn and Sindel were defeated, Shang Tsung steals their souls.
  • Big "NO!": His reaction upon being defeated as the final boss in the second game.
  • Black Magic: Shao Kahn isn't only a melee fighter. He is also a very skilled sorcerer, perhaps even more talented than Shang Tsung, whose restored youth was Kahn's doing.
  • Blood Knight: It is clear that Kahn loves to fight and kill. In his Armageddon ending, he went mad because there were no more realms to conquer. His tower ending in 11 reveals that the end goal of his conquests is a universe in which he is champion of kombat for all eternity.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: He's powerful enough to take down almost every kombatant, but he always stops to gloat and mock them at any given opportunity. Naturally, this leaves him wide open for a surprise attack. This tendency ends up screwing him over in the Battle of Armageddon as despite having the power of Blaze, his Evil Gloating gives Raiden enough time to rewind the timeline and send an ominous message to his past self in doing so in order to prevent Kahn's victory.
  • Brought Down to Normal:
  • Brutish Character, Brutish Weapon: He uses his infamous two-handed Wrath Hammer as his weapon of choice, which is indicative of his strength and power and the iron-fisted brutality with which he both fights and rules his realm.
  • Butter Face:
    • Below the neck: musclebound shirtless hunk. Above the neck: what looks like a cross between Darth Maul and an orc. Thank goodness for the helmet...
    • This gets downplayed in his default design from 11, where his skin has a rather monstrous quality to it, and he also has claws on his hands and feet — in addition to spikes coming out of his bare left arm. As for his actual face — which is revealed for a very short moment — it lacks the reptilian scales from the comic-book version, but has a curved witch-like nose, red eyes, and monstrous teeth.
  • Butt-Monkey: Downplayed. In the alternate continuity of versus matches, Shao Kahn is not defeated by Kitana and reduced to a wanderer as the new Kahn rules. Many characters like to make fun of him for this, but he remains calm and determined to reclaim his throne.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Owing to being overthrown as Kahn and his list of past failures, many kharacters in 11 don't take Shao Kahn as seriously as before and enjoy taunting him. His usual response is calmly reminding them of how powerful he still is, and who they're messing with.
  • The Caligula: He didn't manage to make things any better for Outworld than Onaga. He is, at the end, a bloodthirsty warlord who doesn't care for the well-being of his subjects. Many kombatants in MK11 even lampshade and condemn him on his tyrannical reign.
    Shao Kahn: Sektor was a better Grandmaster.
    Sub-Zero: He led through lies and fear.
    Shao Kahn: They are the pillars of order!
  • The Cameo: At the very end of both the 1995 film and Scorpion's Revenge, Shao personally announces his intention of taking Earthrealm by force.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: He makes no secret of the fact that he is a singularly awful person. In fact, in an intro in 11, when Spawn expresses Shao Kahn has sinned on the scale of gods, Kahn proudly boasts about it.
    Shao Kahn: Only one of us walks out of here.
    Spawn: You've sinned on a scale reserved for gods!
    Shao Kahn: And you can't beat that.
    • Yet another one has Spawn claim that Hell has a special place reserved for Shao. His response? "Keep it warm." Man knows damn well where he's going.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • For all his talk about the strong ruling over the weak, Shao Kahn has no problem with using underhanded tactics to get what he wants, and will throw out any pretense of an honor code once it's inconvenient. He tries to bum-rush the players even before the announcer reaches the "Fight!" signal when they face him. Of course, considering he is the announcer.
    • Shao Kahn got his current position by killing the previous Emperor, Onaga. But rather than the usual Klingon Promotion of meeting the enemy in fair combat, Kahn poisoned him behind his back. In his Unchained ending, Kahn double teams Onaga with Goro who is using Poisoned Weapons.
    • In 9, when Kung Lao defeats a number of Kahn's heavy hitters in a straight fight, Kahn sneaks up behind him and snaps his neck while his back is turned rather than challenge him directly.
    • When he loses his all-for-nothing Mortal Kombat tournament and forfeits the right to ever invade Earthrealm, Kahn channels his inner five-year-old and just breaks the rules he himself set up. The logic of this move being that nobody is strong enough to stop him so he might as well throw out the rulebook.
  • Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: Shang Tsung was a wizened, shapeshifting sorcerer who relied on cunning and manipulation before resorting to kombat; Shao Kahn is a hulking monster of a man who, while intelligent and a capable sorcerer in his own right, prefers direct kombat and bloody conquest to get the job done.
  • Cool Helmet: Wears a skull-faced Samurai-inspired helmet with horns. In 11, he can wear various other helmets as part of the customization system.
  • Covert Pervert: Dialogue with Sheeva in 11 cement that Shao Kahn is the one that enforced her infamous Stripperific slingshot bikini as dress code policy. When he expresses that he misses her old attire, she scoffs she doesn't dress for him.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Delivers a vicious one to Raiden at the beginning of 9. Both were the last kombatants to reach the top of the pyramid, yet Raiden was visibly bruised and barely able to stand on his feet, while Shao Kahn didn't have one scratch and tossed him around like a ragdoll.
  • A Day in the Limelight: He became the focus in Chapter 16 of MK11's "Aftermath" expansion, along with his Queen, Sindel.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sometimes expresses an unpleasant sense of humor underneath the seriousness.
    Shao Kahn: Now I remember you, Scorpion.
    Scorpion: I fought Sub-Zero in your Koliseum.
    Shao Kahn: And lost horribly, as I recall!
  • Death by Irony: Prior to his final fight with Raiden in Mortal Kombat 9's story, he says that the Elder Gods "masquerade as dragons, but are mere toothless worms." How is he defeated? The power of the Elder Gods take the form of golden dragons, bite him, and drag him up to the heavens!
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: Whenever he's the final boss, he explodes upon defeat.
  • Demoted to Dragon:
    • Even in games where he wasn't the Big Bad, Shao Kahn never answered to anyone until MK11 when he becomes one of Kronika's minions in exchange for being restored to the throne of Outworld.
    • In Aftermath he becomes The Dragon to Shang Tsung's Big Bad instead of the other way around. Unfortunately, Tsung is such a great manipulator that Kahn doesn't realize it until he's on the cusp of victory... and doesn't take it well when the news are broken to him.
  • Didn't Think This Through: At the ending chapter of Aftermath, Shang Tsung has absorbed the souls of two gods, the soul of the avatar of the Great Spirit, and is wearing a soul-infused crown with the power to control the flow of time. Moreso, Shang Tsung is (and always has been) openly untrustworthy and only barely ever hid his greater ambitions. Shao Kahn still somehow thinks Tsung works for him, and immediately begins throwing his weight around when it feels like he's not getting his due respect. What happens next isn't hard to figure out.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • He sends Skarlet after Spawn rather than face him himself. Although Skarlet sincerely believes Shao Kahn trusts her to come out on top, Spawn notes he has sent her to death merely to assess Spawn's full strength for his inevitable fight with him.
    • Despite all his rhetoric about the weak serving the strong, he only got his job as Emperor by poisoning the guy who had it first, since he was too frightened to face him in a straight fight.
  • Dirty Old Man: Zig-Zagged, he's old by Earthrealm standards but by Outworld standards he's of average old age. Regardless of his age, he's known to be a pervert who forces women to dress a certain way and he apparently has some concubines with his wife Sindel. Even creepier, Mortal Kombat 11 justified the skimpy outfits from 9 as Shao Kahn making his servants dress that way, including his adoptive daughter who he made believe that she was his biological daughter.
  • Downloadable Content: His way into Mortal Kombat 11. Notably, unlike Goro in X and Darkseid before him, Shao Kahn actually plays a role in the game's story and has a chest that unlocks in the Krypt like all of the other main characters.note 
  • Draconic Humanoid: His appearance in 11 has him sport many dragon-like features. He has scales around his arms, legs, and back, he has claws on his hands and feet, and his eyes are very similar to the dragon eyes that are shown in the past games.
  • Dramatic Unmask: In 11's story, Kitana rips out the skull mask off his helmet before dealing the finishing blow of their battle.
  • The Dreaded: Shao Kahn inspires utmost fear towards his enemies and anyone whose world he sets his eyes upon for conquest and considering the raw brutality, constant backstabbing, and sadistic torment he is capable of inflicting, those feelings of dread are more than justified. The very idea of Shao Kahn being close to claiming Earthrealm is enough to terrify the normally stoic and reserved Raiden into taking drastic measures to defeat him. Taking things even further, Shao himself believes that this trope is necessary when it comes to being Outworld's emperor, in stark contrast to Kotal and Kitana's approach in reaching out to others via respect and genuine loyalty.
  • Dynamic Akimbo: Usually his Victory Pose, but he also takes this pose even during battles, where he taunts you and laughs.
  • Dumb Muscle: Subverted in MK11.
    • This is what Kronika obviously sees Shao Kahn as — a one-note brute that will willingly obey her for control of Outworld again. However, despite his adaptational impulsiveness, Shao Kahn is already plotting ahead of her, but not openly trying to take her on.
    • It's played for laughs, though, in that this is what Sindel sees him as and only admires him for. Her ending even sees him reduced to a servant fanning her.
  • The Emperor: As noted many times in the series, he is the Emperor of Outworld.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Zigzagged. He is absolutely furious hearing D'Vorah for killing Mileena and tries to murder her as a result, but on one hand, the reason for it is primarily he sees Mileena as a valuable tool. Kahn even admits later to Kitana in their confrontation that had she shown the ruthless resolve now under him, he would've had no further use for Mileena. On the other hand, he takes offense toward others when they insult Mileena, implying that, in some twisted way, he does slightly care about her (even if he doesn't want to admit it).
      Shao Kahn: Raiden chooses champions poorly.
      Liu Kang: This coming from the man who chose Mileena?
      Shao Kahn: Do not mock my daughter!
    • Shao Kahn's interactions in battle intros with Sindel in 11 reflect that he valued her enough to ask her become his empress a second time. In the Aftermath story mode his affection seems genuine and reciprocated, with the two of them embracing warmly and Shao Kahn telling her that he has missed her. Though considering he still plans to form a harem of women and previously never made any attempts to revive her...
    • His General Shao version seems to genuinely care for Reiko and sees him like a son.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Even someone as arrogant and smug as he thinks Frost is egotistical to a fault.
    Shao Kahn: You want to lead my armies?
    Frost: Good luck finding anyone better.
    Shao Kahn: A street urchin would do better!
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Say what will you have him, but even Shao Kahn distrusts the Black Dragon clan. When Kabal casually says that's a good call, Shao questions how the clan hasn't dissolved yet — let alone survived long enough.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • To Raiden. Both of them are two of the strongest individuals in the franchise and respectively are the key figures for both good and evil, with Raiden protecting Earthrealm and Shao ruling Outworld. Mortal Kombat: Deception also implies that Kahn had once held a similar position as Raiden did for the Elder Gods, but Shao Kahn grew weary of order and control and started conquering other realms for shits and giggles. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation went the extra step of making Raiden and Shao Kahn brothers.
    • Kotal Kahn shows himself as the antithesis to Shao via serving as the Emperor of Outworld. While the latter is a Blood Knight who believes in Might Makes Right-sort of ruling with an iron fist, Kotal cares deeply for his people and understands when sacrifices and hard choices need to be made in order to ensure his subjects' survival. Ironically, Kotal isn't too different from Shao: both of them dress in tribal clothing, wield massive melee weapons, and will readily execute those who break the rules — but Kotal only does so for the betterment of Outworld while Shao is Ax-Crazy. In addition to this, Kotal had achieved and attained leadership without murdering his predecessor while Shao had poisoned Onaga and took over at first opportunity. Adding to this is the fact that Kotal had willingly gave up his position to Kitana, while Shao wants to remain as the Emperor of Outworld forever — and kills anyone who dares to disagree with him. Bonus points in that they both have Edenian lovers, though Jade genuinely loves Kotal but will stand against him if she thinks he is wrong while Sindel only loves Shao because she's Brainwashed and Crazy (pre-retcon) or enables and supports his insanity (post-retcon).
    • In a strange way, he’s one to Johnny Cage as well, given that they're both Attention Whores with staggering amounts of Awesome Ego. They also have a wife and daughter each (Sonya and Cassie to the former and Sindel and Kitana to the latter). The MKX comic even lampshades it with artwork of Johnny sitting on a chair eerily similar to how Shao sits on his throne. Hell, they even share a Fatality where they rip a person apart by digging their fingers through their opponents' chests and pulling them apart. However, the aforementioned wife and daughter of Shao Kahn are actually enslaved and brainwashed, while Johnny has a normal and healthy relationship with his family.
  • Evil Is Bigger: Very few MK characters can match Shao Kahn's size and most of the ones that can are evil themselves.
    Spawn: You've sinned on a scale reserved to gods.
    Shao Kahn: And you can't beat that...
  • Evil Is Hammy: Probably the hammiest villain in Mortal Kombat saga, which is saying something.
    "Is that your best?"
    "You're still trying to win?"
    "You will never win!"
  • Evil Laugh: As part of his grandstanding and Evil Is Hammy attributes, he often laughs as the announcer and tends to stop and laugh at the player in his fights, which serves as an opening point for players to attack him. He provides one for his own Arcade Mode ending in MK11, and has an outro called "Laughing Stock" where he laughs triumphantly over his foe.
  • Evil Overlord: He's one of the key villains of the series, and one of the select few who rules over some territory, which is Outworld in his case. Gets name-dropped and lampshaded by Johnny Cage in 11.
    Johnny Cage: You know, the "Evil Overlord" bit's played out.
    Shao Kahn: What would you suggest?
    Johnny Cage: Right now, it's only anti-heroes...
  • Evil Sorceror: Kahn uses his magic to restore Shang Tsung's youth, hold Sindel's soul in Outworld so she wouldn't find peace in the afterlife and create Ermac, among others.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Shao Kahn always has a very deep and nightmarish voice.
  • Eye Beams: A move of his in 3 and its revisions, where he shoots a sphere of energy from his eyes.
  • Eye Scream: Gets his eyes slashed out by Kitana in 11. It doesn't last though; in Aftermath, Sindel releases him from jail and restores his eyes with the Soul Chamber.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Any time Shao Kahn has been canonically faced with death, he never begs or squeals, only remaining largely silent. In certain brutalities in 11 that leave him at the absolute mercy of his opponent, he'll bluntly tell them to get it over with, whereas many other kombatants are not too proud to beg for their lives.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: Kahn's default outfit in 11 has him wear mismatching and shiny armor. Most notably, he has an uncovered left arm.
  • Fatal Flaw: His biggest flaw is overconfidence and arrogance, as he has often underestimated mankind, and therefore tried to conquer Earthrealm many times to no success. He's also a Blood Knight — and that trait alone can sometimes override his better qualities, thus allowing him to be manipulated by the likes of Shang Tsung, Quan Chi, or even Shinnok — who are all cunning enough to exploit this weakness.
    • Even in victory, Shao Kahn's arrogance has ultimately proven to be his downfall — his Armageddon ending shows that even though he won, it will lead to him becoming mad with boredom. The reboot shows him on the cusp on victory in 9, so self-assured that the Elder Gods would do nothing, that this leads to him underestimating Raiden and being Killed Off for Real. In 11, he was so certain that victory was his, that he outright neglected to keep one of the biggest backstabbers in the entire series in check, and wound up paying for it in the most horrible way imaginable.
  • Final Boss: Shao Kahn is the last enemy faced in several games, starting with Mortal Kombat II.
  • For the Evulz: He enjoys instigating most of the tensions and conflict in Outworld for fun, such as encouraging the Shokans, Tarkatans, and Centaurs to compete for his favor. Delightfully deconstructed by the eleventh game: this is what Kitana brings up to turn the Shokan and Tarkatans against him, leading to no one helping him as he is killed.

  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Shao Kahn's weakness is his arrogance. In several games when fought as an AI opponent, he'll stop to taunt you in the middle of the match, dropping his guard and letting you get in a free shot for his cockiness.
  • Genius Bruiser: Emphasis on "bruiser", but while Shao Kahn might be an Ax-Crazy hothead with a Hair-Trigger Temper, that does not mean he is stupid by any means. He has a mastery of black magic to rival any sorcerer and even the fallen Elder God, and he gained the throne of Outworld through manipulation and treachery rather than brute force. He also managed to fool Shang Tsung and Quan Chi with a magical clone when they tried to assassinate him rather than pointlessly risk his life against the two sorcerers. When he wants to be, Kahn can be exceptionally devious and difficult to outsmart.
  • Giving Someone the Pointer Finger:
    • When he taunts his victim, he will happily point at them too. Especially if they're lying on the ground.
    • If Kahn speaks first in MK11, he points at the opponent on his second line.
  • Go-Go Enslavement: His victory pose in Mortal Kombat 9 features such a slave crawling up to him and embracing his leg. The female characters who are seen chained in the Kahn's Coliseum arena are wearing barely-there bikinis, and given how female Edenian warriors (even ones who are loyal to him) tend to dress, this sort of thing may well be a law he is enforcing. (In fact, when Kitana is officially working on the heroes' side, her outfit is a lot more modest.)
  • A God Am I:
    • Worshipped as such in Outworld and other realms, or expects his subjects to anyway. He is Raiden's opposite number too, which implies he might be the genuine article. Definitely one in Annihilation (and vs. DC Universe)... but the less said about that, the better.
    • In 9, at the end, when he's staring down an Elder God-empowered Raiden, Kahn casually laughs at the deities arrayed against him and announces that he will become the Elder God. Raiden kills him anyway.
    • One of the backwards dialogues in Deception's Konquest Mode says that Shao Kahn is part of the same race of beings as Lucifer and Raiden.
  • Gold-Colored Superiority: His armor incorporates typically elements of gold into its design, particularly in 11.
  • Greater-Scope Villain:
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: It is very easy to piss him off. Especially if you fail him more than once.note  He also will unleash his wrath in an Unstoppable Rage when he gets pushed in his fight.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: In 9, Kahn is able to do this to his opponents... with his bare hands!
  • Hammerspace: Literally, in his case. Look closely at the sprites for his hammer attack in MK3 and the move in MK9 — it appears to materialize out of thin air!
  • Hero Killer: What he's meant to be seen as, although he only successfully kills Kung Lao in the style of one (in 9). He does sic Sindel on the heroes' hideout, though, and that proves very effective (although that really makes her the Hero Killer).
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Downplayed. Shao Kahn regularly trusts Shang Tsung and Quan Chi, but it's made clear in various endings he is always mindful of their ambitions. This trust gets him often played for a fool behind the scenes anyway, and an intro in 11 has him subvert this trope altogether by swearing them his enemies.
  • Horned Humanoid: In MK1, Shao has a pair of curved horns sticking out of his skull.
  • Humongous-Headed Hammer: Shao Kahn wields the Wrath Hammer, which is fittingly large and heavy for someone his size, and the head is large enough to either cave in someone's skull or send it off flying like a baseball. One of Shao's intro animations in Mortal Kombat 11 emphasizes this as a bunch of mooks struggle to bring it to the battlefield, only for Shao to yoink the Wrath Hammer with one arm and blasting away said mooks with the force applied in said pull.
  • I Am Not Your Father: He eventually reveals to Kitana that he is not her father, and that he murdered her true father, king Jerrod, long ago.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: As indicated by Sindel (pre-retcon) and one interaction with Cassie Cage, a common practice of Shao Kahn's is to spare women from realms he's conquered just to add them to his concubines. Their willingness is irrelevant.
  • I Shall Taunt You:
    • Subverted. He just taunts you because you fight against him in Outworld, and you were supposedly stupid enough to a fight with the big cheese himself around here. So, he assumes that some casual gloating here and there won't hurt — since, in his mind, he could swat you away with his index finger. However, in reality, there's nothing calculated behind these taunts, and in doing so, he's unable to move or react, thus he's completely vulnerable to a big combo (this is a major part of beating him up in II and 9). This even leads to his ultimate downfall in the new continuity's storyline: in Mortal Kombat 9, Shao Kahn comes out on top in the events of Armageddon, with literally no one left but him and Raiden (who is exhausted and on the verge of death). Kahn takes the opportunity to taunt Raiden about this, which gives Raiden enough time to send a message to his past self, which ultimately averts this outcome and destroys Kahn before the Armageddon would ever come to pass.
    • It's given some practicality in 11, temporarily weakening his opponent and allowing him to inflict a specific Krushing Blow on them. It still leaves him open to an attack, so the end of a combo is the best time to use it, as it will have ended by the time the opponent gets back up, allowing Shao Kahn to block again.
  • Iconic Sequel Character: Though alluded to in the first game, Shao Kahn didn't show up until the sequel, but he quickly became not only the series' iconic Big Bad, but one of the most iconic and memorable villains in gaming history.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: He uses spears as a part of his moveset in 11. His Fatal Blow provides this trope in spades.
  • Interactive Narrator: Of the entire franchise. In MK3, he even says "I win!" if he wins a round.
  • It's All About Me: Shao Kahn's actions only serve himself, despite dressing his goals of konquest as improving the power of Outworld, it never improves the lot of its denizens. The only person who benefits from the endless expansion of Outworld is Kahn himself, and the few he deems worthy to serve at his side. In fact, if Kahn no longer sees a purpose to allowing one of his servants, or an entire race, to exist, he can and will have them all exterminated, especially if a more useful group is among the newly-konquered.
  • It's Personal:
    • invokedMaybe. From their unending shit-talk to the sheer catharsis Shao Kahn gets from finally laying on the beatdown, it's abundantly clear that the Emperor and Raiden have a very lively history. Aside from a non-canon mention of their being brothers in the second movie, however, it's never really been expanded on.
    • He gets this Big time with Kotal Kahn in 11. Upon being brought into the present, he becomes incensed at seeing Kotal "pretend" to occupy his throne and vows to kill him on the spot, going so far as to stage an execution for him when he manages to capture him.
  • Javelin Thrower: He uses javelins as a secondary weapon in several games.
  • Jerkass: In short: Shao Kahn claims one needs to be this trope and worse to maintain Outworld's empire. Most of the cast begs to differ.
  • Kick the Dog: Essentially tells Scorpion to shut-up about his losses already.
    Shao Kahn: I've heard enough of your family and clan.
    Scorpion: Disrespect them at your peril!
    Shao Kahn: I don't fear you, ninja.
  • Joker Immunity: Despite II and 3 ending with his apparent death, he survived and even after supposedly being Killed Off for Real in Deadly Alliance he returned. This is somewhat lampshaded in 9 where Raiden states Kahn always survives and it will take more than simply defeating him during his invasion to stop him for good.
  • Karmic Death:
    • In MK9, he is killed by the Elder Gods when they possessed Raiden's body to defeat him.
    • MK11 has an even better one. He is defeated by Kitana, the stepdaughter whose life he ruined.
    • Yet again in Aftermath, where he winds up having his soul stolen by Shang Tsung, the sorceror he treated as little better than a slave. Really, Kahn mistreats so many people that any time he's killed it's destined to be by SOMEBODY he's tormented.
  • Killed Off for Real: Hard to tell, but he appears to have met his end at the hands of Raiden and the Elder Gods. However, rather than go to the Netherrealm, he's sealed inside of Ermac... who is rotting away according to Word of God.
    • MK11: Aftermath puts the definitive end to the past version of Shao Kahn... by having his soul consumed by Shang Tsung.
  • The Kingslayer: He poisoned the previous ruler Onaga and claims the throne for himself. When Onaga comes back, he kills him again, this time in actual combat.
  • Klingon Promotion: He obtained the throne of Outworld by killing the previous Emperor — Onaga — by poisoning him.
  • Kneel Before Zod: One of his taunts.
    Shao Kahn: Bow to me!
  • Know When to Fold Them: Granted, Kronika never did anything to garner tensions, but Shao Kahn is surprisingly subservient in her presence and never questions her imposing authority over him. Given who she is, it's likely even Shao Kahn knows what would happen if he tried anything.
  • Lack of Empathy: Especially in 11. Would you expect empathy from Shao at this point?
    Kitana: Outworld's citizens deserve better.
    Shao Kahn: They need an iron fist, not a velvet glove.
    Kitana: You have always lacked empathy.
  • Lame Comeback: Gets shown up by Liu Kang, of all people, in 11.
    Shao Kahn: Your power won't stop me, Liu Kang.
    Liu Kang: It's done so twice before.
    Shao Kahn: Quiet, Earthrealmer...
  • Large and in Charge: Is depicted as being around the size of Goro and Kintaro. Only Onaga is bigger than him.
  • Large Ham:
  • Last-Second Chance: He is offered one by Baraka in an intro, who expresses he could win Tarkata's loyalty following Kotal's example as a leader. Shao Kahn is not amused.
  • Leg Cling: His victory pose in 9 has one female slave doing this to him.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Despite his height, he has some lightning-fast attacks who still deals a lot of damage. It's the main reason for his SNK Boss status.
  • Loincloth: His main outfit features one.

  • Made a Slave: Humorously happens to him in various Armageddon endings by villains he's wronged before. In 11, this happens to him again in Skarlet's ending, where she has him reduced to desperately groveling at her feet for her favor.
  • Made of Iron: In 9, despite Liu Kang punching right through his heart in what would be the ending of the second game, Kahn survived without much explanation aside just being that hard to kill.
  • Magic Knight: Kahn's brute strength and large physique can make it easy to forget that he is a skilled sorcerer himself. His magical accomplishments include creating Skarlet from bloodnote  and creating a clone of himself to deceive would-be assassins.
  • The Man Behind the Man: To Shang Tsung.
  • Moment Killer: In Kotal's chapter, he and Jade share a brief moment of eye contact before Shao rudely shoves Jade aside and challenges Kotal to kombat.
  • Mr. Fanservice: The main reason of his armor seems to accentuate his physique. Delves into Fan Disservice when you unmask him, though. This is even less applicable in his MK11 design, where the rest of his body seems just as monstrous, including spikes coming out of his left arm.
  • Multiversal Conqueror: Taking over Outworld wasn't enough for him. He's out for Earthrealm as well, and has taken Edenia during his campaigns. His Armageddon ending has him succeeding in taking over all realms... and going mad for having nothing else to conquer.
  • Myopic Conqueror: Shao Kahn is the long-serving ruler of Outworld, and a Multiversal Conqueror who captures other realms mostly through invasion, but also through subterfuge when necessary. Kahn is an entirely self-absorbed ruler whose goals only serve to satisfy his own lusts, whims and ego. Though he and his supporters claim that his conquests are for the glory of Outworld, talking to anyone who's been in his service long enough to see his uglier side will have them reveal that this isn't the case. Shao Kahn's conquests do nothing to help Outworld or its people, and in a lot of ways make things worse for them. For instance, if he conquers a world with subjects that make for better warriors or slaves, his first order will be for them to kill the ones he no longer needs.
  • Near-Villain Victory: He practically won in Armageddon and was on the verge of killing Raiden. It's only thanks to him gloating that it gives Raiden time to send a message back to himself in the first game and hitting the Reset Button that costs him his victory. Then again he came close once more in the new timeline but this time there was no Armageddon for the Elder Gods to be concerned over to stabilize the realms this time. And by finally entering the Earthrealm, the Elder Gods finally realize his threat and take action leading to his death.
  • Neck Snap:
    • Delivers one to Kung Lao in 9 to show that Anyone Can Die. Liu Kang, needless to say, was most displeased.
    • Also, he personally kills Johnny Cage this way in Annihilation.
  • Never My Fault: Shao Kahn is furious Kano's guns did little good for Outworld's forces. Although the competent Baraka implies he sold defective goods, Kano retorts the lack of success is because Shao Kahn armed Tarkatans with most of the guns.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Says this verbatim in 11.
    Shao Kahn: Sparing you taught me one thing.
    Kitana: Yes, Shao Kahn?
    Shao Kahn: No good deed goes unpunished...
  • Obviously Evil: Back in the intro of II, you see him as a tall silhouette pointing down at Shang Tsung and stating to have Tsung executed for his failure at the tournament. Then, the next scene is a glorious picture of him standing confident with his arms on his waist, red eyes, skull helmet and spiked shoulder pads on a red background, with a text stating that the kombatants can meet certain death at his hands. What would you expect? He's a good guy!
  • Oh, Crap!: Even the ruthless genocidal maniac like Shao can have a legitimate one. Kahn becomes surprisingly terrified when he learns that a single Terminator can take down his entire army. Single-handedly.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Shao Kahn is usually the person who should make such offerings... until the story mode of MK11, where Kronika issues one to him — namely, a new empire to rule. Given his bloodthirsty nature, Shao Kahn obliges without hesitation.
  • Offing the Offspring: While she's adopted, Shao has absolutely no compunctions about killing Kitana in the event she betrays him and sides with Earthrealm due to his lack of concern and penchant for treachery.
  • Painting the Medium: When he defeats you in II, he doesn't announce victory. Also, he says "I win!" if he wins a match in 3.
  • Papa Wolf: Shockingly, he demonstrates this trope in 11 when D'Vorah off-handedly mentions her murder of his clone experiment "daughter", Mileena — he's so enraged that he tries to kill her for it, and would have undoubtedly done so had Kronika not interrupted.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • In 9, he gives Kuai Liang a chance to fight Scorpion, his brother's murderer, after he defeats Reptile in the tournament and proves his worth.
    • In 11, where his interactions with most characters are hostile, he is nothing but cordial and teaching to Skarlet alone in their intros. He is also very complimenting and warm to Kollector for his loyalty until Kollector expresses he has failed him, at which point Shao Kahn demands he pays with his life.
    • In story mode, he is livid when D'Vorah mentions that she killed Mileena. D'Vorah brought it up so casually that she probably didn't expect him to react so strongly to the news.
    • An intro with Kano has Kano mentioning he kidnapped Kollector and demanding ransom from Shao Kahn for his life. Shao simply demands to return his subordinate — or die.
    • He is surprisingly cordial to Sheeva in 11, making a humorous comment at her expense and even expressing reluctance to fight her. He even claims he treated the Shokan well for their work, although Sheeva thinks otherwise.
  • Physical God: Deception explicitly states he is "of the same race of beings as Raiden and Lucifer."
  • Post-Rape Taunt: Prior to retcon, his marriage to Sindel was not consensual on her part, and the only time she was ever "willing" being when she was brainwashed into being his queen. One match intro with Kitana has her say that the thought of the two of them together repulses her. Shao Kahn twists the knife by saying that Sindel always pleased him. Unsurprisingly, Kitana is even more driven to kill him after that remark. Post-retcon, the trope is subverted, as Sindel's relationship with Shao Kahn was very consensual.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • In the eyes of Kotal Kahn, at least.
      Kotal Kahn: Outworld rejected your pointless wars!
      Shao Kahn: Empires must expand – or die!
    • While he declares Mileena his heir and even commends Kitana for showing ruthlessness, ultimately he only seems to accept women having power when it's in line with his interests; aside from his remark to Cassie, he also mocks Kotal for letting 'his woman' represent him.
    • And here is his exchange with Kotal:
      Shao Kahn: Earthrealm snickers at your weakness...
      Kotal Kahn: No, Shao Kahn, they respect me.
      Shao Kahn: Respect? You should be feared!
    • Shao Kahn's empire is built on the backs of slaves, something he's downright pleased about.
      Spawn: Imagine Outworld free of slaves.
      Shao Kahn: Over my dead body.
      Spawn: Today's the day, skullfucker.
  • Prepare to Die: He says this verbatim as one of his taunts.
  • Pretender Diss:
    • In 11, upon learning that his former general Kotal became Kahn of Outworld in his absence, Shao doesn't take it well.
      Shao Kahn: General Kotal?
      Kotal Kahn: Kotal Kahn.
      Shao Kahn: Kahn?! Pathetic fool! You pretend on my throne!
    • In Aftermath, after Kitana has been defeated by Sindel, Shao Kahn derides her as a false Kahn who led Outworld astray by allying with Raiden.
  • Pride: Shao Kahn is a brutal conqueror who has ruled supreme over Outworld for thousands of years, and he has a towering ego to match that status. His sheer arrogance is his Fatal Flaw (detailed above), and even in 11, when he finds himself decades in the future with no idea of what's going on, he immediately plunges Outworld into civil unrest rather than even momentarily entertain the idea of accepting Kotal's offer of refuge.
  • Putting on the Reich: Downplayed; while Shao Kahn and his empire is predominately inspired by ancient Japanese/Mongolian conquerors, his banner seen in his arena features his insignia in black in a white circle and a red background, reminiscent of Nazi Germany's flag.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Usually when he wins, it amounts to this.
    • In his Armageddon arcade mode ending, he ultimately wins after the events of said Armageddon by surviving the ascent up the pyramid and follows that by killing Raiden, but loses his own sanity for having nothing else to conquer.
    • MK9 opens with him likewise triumphing during the events of Armageddon — but this just motivates Raiden to send a message to his past self, preventing this outcome.
    • MK9 concludes with Shao Kahn finally succeeding in conquering Earth — only for the Elder Gods to utterly destroy him moments later in response, rendering all his efforts moot.
    • Horrifically subverted in his 11 arcade ending. Not only does he obtain the Hourglass, he merges time into a singularity where he rules over all reality as the undisputed champion of Mortal Kombat, a fate he is all too happy with.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: As an emperor, he is very difficult to defeat.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Of all the Big Bads, Shao Kahn is the only one who is known to force women into sexual service — willingly or not. Based on Sindel's biography pre-retcon, he has absolutely no qualms about using Mind Manipulation to force them into his bed, and will even bring them back from the dead if they escape his clutches through death. In 11, the specific case of Sindel is subverted, as it's revealed that her rape, suicide and brainwashing were all a lie.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Given that he's been around since the time of Sindel (if not longer), his age is easily in quintuple digits. Taven in Armageddon notes that Shao Kahn was infamous before he was sealed in stone. Considering that the demigod was sealed several thousand years ago...
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • He can come off as this to lesser villains as long as there's something in it for him. He is rather easily dissuaded from executing Shang Tsung for his failure when he comes up with a great suggestion, even reinvigorating his youth and power to Raiden's surprise.
    • He abruptly puts his Mortal Kombat tournament on hold to hold negotiations with Kano without any qualms.
    • When the Lin Kuei barge in on his tournament to kidnap Sub-Zero after his fight with Scorpion, he is momentarily taken aback, but ultimately allows it when they offer to aid his army.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: In most of his appearances, he has been depicted with red eyes, which only furthers his Obviously Evil appearance.
  • Red Is Violent: In nearly all of his appearances, the brutal and bloodthirsty Shao Kahn sports a red cape and/or red-accented armor.
  • Related in the Adaptation: He is depicted as Raiden's brother and Shinnok's son in Annihilation.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: We dare you to type his name on Google and take a drink every time it's misspelled as "Khan". Your liver will fail and you will die, mortal.
  • Rousing Speech: Delivers one to the Koliseum spectators, as he's about to execute Kotal.
    Shao Kahn: You've suffered too long at this pretender's hands. But I've returned, and I will save you from his madness! Only I can rebuild the empire. All realms will tremble before me! Outworld will again be conquerors, never the conquered!

  • Sanity Slippage: In his Armageddon ending, he succeeds in taking over all realms, but goes mad for having nothing else to conquer.
  • Shadow Archetype: He's this to Raiden and Kotal Kahn.
    • He represents what Raiden could have chosen to be had the thunder god went the route of conquest and subjugation. Unlike Raiden, Shao is an Evil Overlord who ill-treats his minions and subjects, sometimes just for the sake of it. By Mortal Kombat 11, everyone in Outworld is sick of his tyrannical reign, and this is frequently lampshaded in arcade endings and character interactions.
    • He is also the dark antithesis to Kotal Kahn as well, as while Kotal cares deeply for Outworld and understands when sacrifices and hard choices are needed in order to ensure his subjects' survival, Shao is a ruthless tyrant who believes in Might Makes Right, cares only about his own power, and would kill anyone on a whim. In addition to this, Kotal had achieved and attained leadership without murdering his predecessor, while Shao overthrew Onaga and took over at first opportunity. In essence, Shao represents what Kotal could have been had the Osh-Tekk chose to rule by fear instead of genuine compassion, as Shao even mocks Kotal for being a weak leader.
  • Skeletons in the Coat Closet: Mostly noticeable with his skull helmet.
  • SNK Boss:
    • Shao Kahn in MK3 and its updates (Trilogy included). While his moveset is exactly the same as in MKII (even his sprites were mostly unchanged, aside from the addition of some new moves, such as his infamous hammer), he is way more Hammer Crazy than in his previous appearance.
    • This trope is back with a vengeance in MK9, thanks to most of Kahn's moves being armored (one of which is an unblockable projectile that stuns the player), Kahn himself having twice as much health as any other character, and possessing extremely damaging attacks in his arsenal. True to form of the title of SNK Boss, he is very susceptible to a simplistic attack pattern (he's aggressive to a fault, attacking as much as possible and leaving himself open to being jumped over; plus he doesn't have any armor between attacks).
    • In 11, he is quite a bit stronger during Story Mode than he is when playable. Downplayed in that while he's tougher than when controlled by a player, he isn't nearly as tough as he was in prior games.
  • The Sociopath:
    • Can be mostly seen with his treatment of Sindel and Kitana, who all have been anything but tools to him so far. Baraka of all people wised up to this in MK11.
      Baraka: So, Shao Kahn has replaced me?
      Skarlet: He can count on my loyalty.
      Baraka: But he'll not repay it.
    • Outright confirmed by his very first revealed intro dialogue in 11. Upon seeing his adopted daughter, Shao Kahn does not think of expressing his fatherly pride towards her; he simply wants her to die. Unsurprisingly, Kitana has mutual feelings.
    • He even taunts Raiden over his own emotional baggage in his official reveal trailer for 11.
      Shao Kahn: You burn with guilt, don't you?
      Raiden: For the pain I have caused others, yes.
      Shao Kahn: Compassion is for fools!
  • Something Only They Would Say: Does this with Sindel in one of their MK11 intros. She tells him that Quan Chi murdered her under his nose; it is the real Sindel, but Shao Kahn doesn't buy it.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: One of his taunts' is "You suck." There's also an even MORE faux-sophisticated, almost memetic version: "It's official. You suck!"
  • Sorcerous Overlord: It can be assumed that his sorcerous powers played a big part in his realm conquests.
  • Sore Loser: VERY sore. He tries to hold a tournament in Outworld where the stakes were, if he win he gets Earthrealm. If not, he leaves the realm alone. Even though he loses, he pretty much says "Screw it, I'll take the realm by force," leading to an all out invasion.
  • Stance System: Tai Tzu and Lui He. He keeps the former for Armageddon while Fujin picks up the latter.
  • The Starscream: Towards Onaga. Ironically, Kahn himself is frequently Starscreamed in other character's endings and in Aftermath.
  • Stripperiffic: A very rare male version of this. Just look at his costume! Likely enforced down the ranks as well, judging by how all his minions dress. Downplayed in his alts in Deception, Armageddon and 11, which give him pants.
  • Super-Strength: Has immense brute strength in addition to his powerful magic.
  • Taken for Granite: When defeated in II, he somehow is petrified. Then he explodes.
  • "Test Your Strength" Game: One shows up for his MK11 Friendship, which he naturally uses his giant hammer for. He even hits it so hard the bell breaks!
  • Third-Person Person: He refers to himself in third person in some of his taunts.
    Shao Kahn: "Feel the wrath of Shao Kahn!"
    Shao Kahn: "Feel the power of Shao Kahn!"
  • Tranquil Fury: His constant state of being in the nutshell, as 11 shows. Even though Shao Kahn was established as a hammy bastard of all the MK verse, there he remains surprisingly calm and collected. But that doesn't stop Shao from giving death threats to anyone who crosses his path.
  • To Create a Playground for Evil: His arcade ending in 11. After conquering time and history itself, Shao Kahn does not go mad like his Armageddon ending depicted. Instead, he entertains himself by hosting unending Mortal Kombat tournaments with himself as the obviously undefeatable champion.
  • Uncertain Doom: In MK11, Kitana slashes at his head, and the camera angle doesn't make it clear where he was struck. The reactions of on-lookers and the fact Shao Kahn isn't seen in the story again would imply she sliced his throat, but Word of God is that she sliced his eyes and blinded him, but he's not dead. Aftermath confirms he is still alive, but blinded and a captive of Kitana.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Despite Shang Tsung having provided him a capable service for over a millennia, the moment Shang Tsung fails he orders his execution. Shang Tsung's suggestion of holding the Mortal Kombat tournament in Outworld is the only thing that saves his hide.
  • Unholy Matrimony:
    • Took Sindel as his wife after killing King Jerrod and usurping the throne, although Sindel was soon Driven to Suicide afterward. This is more noticeable in 9, when he enthralls the revived, yet brainwashed Sindel to his side, effectively making her his new Dragon. Sindel seemed pretty eager to serve as his right-hand woman. In 11, the Aftermath DLC story shows that these feelings for her were in fact canon. And also that Sindel did love Shao (or at least his power) in return, but was assasinated by Quan Chi and framed as a suicide
    • An almost exactly similar situation between the two also played out in Annihilation. In Mortal Kombat: Legacy, it's stated that he actually fell in love with Sindel himself. However, the series is non-canon.
  • Unstoppable Rage: You do not want to make this mad emperor angry, especially when he's already in a bad mood.
  • Unwitting Pawn:
    • In 9, Shao Kahn was this to both Shinnok and Quan Chi. He was unaware that Quan Chi was a double agent and was The Dragon to Shinnok, so everything that happened was all part of the fallen Elder Gods plan.
    • He is once again this in the Aftermath DLC, except this time he and his revived queen Sindel were manipulated by Shang Tsung as he betrays them after trying to confront Kronika. After Shang Tsung defeats them, he steals both of their souls, killing them instantly.
  • Victory Is Boring: If he takes over all the realms in Armageddon, this is his ending. Almost became canon, if it wasn't for Raiden rebooting the franchise before this could happen in MK9.
  • Villain Decay:
    • MK11's story mode gives him a lot of crap. When brought back by Kronika, he doesn't receive higher treatment than the other villains allied with her, he loses both of his in-game fights, has his role as Outworld Emperor usurped by someone he didn't even suspect, and his moment of glory —taking back the realm from Kotal Kahn's grasp— is cut short by Kitana defeating him. Even his greatest moment from the original timeline, his victory at Armageddon, is revealed to have been orchestrated by Kronika.
    • Aftermath is a noticeable aversion of this trope. When Shao gets his sight restored after the trip to Soul Chamber, he is not messing around... until he gets his soul drained by Shang Tsung, that is.
  • Villain Has a Point: When pitted against Frost, he scornfully remarks that a street urchin could do better as a leader of his armies than Frost. And since he's trained such a street urchin, Skarlet, Shao Kahn knows what he's talking about.
  • A Villain Named Khan: One of the series' primary villains and holds the title of Kahn.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Physically and psychologically. Whenever defeated in II, he quickly realizes his failure and yells a Big "NO!" before he gets Taken for Granite and explodes. 3 has his body melt down as he's left roaring until detonation.
  • Villain Respect:
    • Shao Kahn believes Sektor was an admirable Lin Kuei Grandmaster, if only because of his ruthlessness.
    • He is... interested in Cassie Cage because of her victory over Shinnok. To her horror.
    • Zigzagged with Kronika. Shao Kahn is uncharacteristically subservient within her presence but isn't above making cautiously light jabs at her ultimate defeat in match intros. At worst, he claims Kronika is no Titan and that she should have heeded his guidance to win.
  • Villainous Valor: In MK9. Even when the Elder Gods (through Raiden) are telling him quite clearly how he's going to pay for breaking their rules, Kahn just scoffs at them and declares he'll be THE Elder God.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: He's had some pants in alternate outfits, but never a shirt. Subverted in MK11 as one of his alternate outfits is a full suit of armor that covers his torso and back.
  • Weapon Across the Shoulder: Some of his intro and victory animations in 11 have him resting his hammer on his shoulder.
  • Whole Costume Reference: To The Lord Humungus. His alt costume in Deception and Armageddon can also bring Triple H's King of Kings gimmick to mind.
  • World's Strongest Man: He is one of the only beings who is stronger than Raiden, with the only time Raiden's ever beaten him was when amped up by the Powers That Be for the finale of MK9 — something that the Elder Gods only decided to intervene in at the last minute because Shao Kahn did not merge the realms he invaded and conquered in accordance with their laws. However, it's established that Raiden, as Earthrealm's protector, is at his strongest when on his home turf, which he's usually drawn away from for the final battles of most games. Deception also implies that Shao Kahn once held a similar title to Raiden in Outworld, which would account for his power. In short, he's managed to stay Emperor for good reason, though Deception threw a major wrench into the works by introducing Onaga, who pulled Eviler than Thou on every other villain up to that point and was the previous Emperor of Outworld until Shao Kahn, then an advisor/subordinate to the Dragon King, backstabbed him. Even so, Shao Kahn would go on to become the winner of the Battle of Armageddon and receive godlike power in the process, a result that led to Dark Raiden reaching out to his younger self (and setting off the events of the reboot) in the first place.
  • Yellow Eyes of Sneakiness: In 9, he has now these kind of eyes, instead of his previous red eyes.
  • You Have Failed Me: His biggest berserk button is the prospect of his subordinates failing him. Even once. Kabal in a discussion with Mileena says he doesn't want to work for Shao Kahn for this reason, regardless of how well he pays.
    Shao Kahn: Do you know how I punish failure?
    Kano: Guessin' yer about to tell me...
    Shao Kahn: I'll stuff that grin with your entrails.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Done on him. One match intro has Shang Tsung sent to kill Shao Kahn on behalf of Kronika. Shang doesn't immediately make it known what he's here for, but Shao's response to the allusion of her terminating him is daring her to try.
    • Actually happens to him in Aftermath. Shang Tsung uses Shao Kahn to help him reach the Hourglass — and then takes his soul out of him when he is no longer needed.

General Shao
"Outworld needs a steadfast leader."
Debut Game: Mortal Kombat 1
Portrayed by: Ike Amadi (English), Eduardo Fonseca (Latin American Spanish), Stephan Scalabrino (face model)

Born into a military family, Shao was frail in his youth but proved himself to be a brilliant prodigy and eager to follow in his family's footsteps. His father, displeased with the results of Outworld's physicians and doctors, created an extreme training program that, in time, molded Shao into the perfect soldier and a veritable One-Man Army. He now serves as the leader of Outworld's armies and a decorated war hero, though his ambitions and loyalty to Outworld itself may very well put him at odds with Empress Sindel.

    Tropes related to General Shao 
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In contrast to previous depictions, particularly MK11, General Shao is depicted with more human-like and conventionally attractive facial features, and frequently goes without his helmet in non-kombat scenes.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Downplayed. Unlike the previous two timelines and other media, where Shao is depicted as an evil emperor that colonized Edenia — murdering King Jerrod, forcing Sindel to be his wife — and having enslaved countless people, here he is instead depicted as a respected military general, whose motivations behind wanting to usurp the royal family are because he genuinely believes that doing so will benefit Outworld, rather than wanting power for its own sake. In fact, he's actually offended when Tanya compares him to Outworld's "despots of antiquity", calling them "dark kahns". However, it's clear that his views on war and distinterest in peace put him at odds with Queen Sindel. Geras called the previous timelines' Shao "evil incarnate" in a pre-kombat dialogue with him to drive that point home.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Shao Kahn was a self-absorbed, power hungry, mean-spirited Bad Boss who treated all with disdain and allowed pride to rule his actions. General Shao is much more well-meaning (if only by his own standards), and while still contemptuous of enemies and Earthrealmers, treats his lieutenant Reiko with considerably more respect than Shao Kahn ever showed anyone. General Shao also lacks Shao Kahn's sexism and much of his Fantastic Racism; he doesn't force women into sexual service, his issues with Sindel and her daughters are political, not gender-based, and while his opinion of Earthrealmers is very low, Shao is more egalitarian where Outworlders are concerned, taking soldiers from any race willing to fight for him.
  • Adaptational Relationship Overhaul:
    • Unlike the previous continuities, he isn't married to Sindel, but is her general, and their relationship has no romantic or sexual component.
    • In the previous timeline, Shao (Kahn) was Mileena's father and had enough affection for her to be enraged to learn of her death. Here, the two of them have no familial bond whatsoever and they end up as mortal enemies.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Shao Kahn was a sorcerer on par with, if not superior to Shang Tsung, having effortlessly stolen his soul to power up Sindel and personally teaching Skarlet blood magic. General Shao in contrast does not appear to know any sort of soul magic, although he demonstrates some magical prowess as part of some of his attacks.
  • Adaptational Weapon Swap: He trades his iconic Wrath Hammer for a massive battle axe in Liu Kang's New Era.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Justified. He's not called "Shao Kahn" because, in this timeline, not only has he never sat on the throne of Outworld, but in the New Era, the title of "Kahn" is only applied to universally reviled "despots of antiquity" (even the militarist and failed usurper Shao was angry at Tanya for comparing him to them), with the Outworld monarchs of the present using the titles of Emperor and Empress instead. Although his dark counterpart from Chapter 13 of the Story Mode is outright called Shao Kahn.
  • Anti-Villain: Shao is a Type III thanks to his (downplayed) Adaptational Heroism — while he did end up betraying Outworld and attempting to coup Sindel's government, Shao does it because he genuinely believed that Liu Kang had sinister plans regarding Outworld and Sindel was being manipulated by Liu Kang to enable it, and thus he also wholeheartedly believes that deposing her would benefit Outworld as a whole. In addition, at no point is he ever seen abusing or mistreating his subordinates (including Reiko), which is why Reiko is more than willing to stick by his side no matter what, even willing to die in his service by taking on the incredibly dangerous job of taming Onaga.
  • Badass Boast: After Sindel rattles off an impressive list of Shao's achievements, Shao brags to Raiden that that's only a fraction of what he's done and that a complete list would take days.
  • Barbaric Battleaxe: General Shao carries a massive two-bladed axe as his default weapon, as opposed to the Humongous-Headed Hammer he used as Shao Kahn in prior timelines. Despite his minor Adaptational Heroism, Shao is still an imposing General Ripper in heavy armour with a brutal fighting style that puts his axe to work, and his massive horns further add to his barbaric aesthetic.
  • Benevolent Boss: As harsh as he is, Shao's treatment of his subordinates is leagues above that of Shao Kahn; he treats Reiko with genuine respect, he never gives his other troops reason to complain of him, and Outworld's disenfranchised flock to his banner after his rebellion, with Shao taking anyone willing to fight for him, regardless of race or status.
  • Black Sheep: Shao was born into a distinguished military family, with his father being an especially decorated soldier. While Shao's siblings remained loyal to the throne (though Kitana notes that she'll be keeping a close eye on them), Shao himself ultimately betrayed the royal family, for which his family disowned him (according to a pre-kombat dialogue with Ermac, that even includes his dead ancestors contained within him).
  • Blood Knight: This Shao may not be the monstrous conqueror of previous timelines, but his taste for kombat hasn't lessened; in a Mirror Match, he derides his alternate self claiming that battles can be won without fighting as nonsense.
  • Brought Down to Badass: In previous timelines, Shao Kahn was alternatively a Physical God "of the same race of beings as Raiden and Lucifer" or simply a very powerful immortal who carved his way up to the title of Outworld's supreme ruler through vicious bloodshed. This incarnation is less than that, but only barely — according to his biography, he was a mortal who was born into a mundane military family and was raised through extensive training to become the imposing colossus we all know and fear; not enough to become Outworld's king, but still more than enough to become head of Outworld's military and champion in Mortal Kombat.
  • Brutish Character, Brutish Weapon: He is still as much of a brutish powerhouse as he was previously, and his new double-bladed battle axe hits as hard as the Wrath Hammer.
  • The Corruptible: Shao's nationalism and paranoia prove to be the perfect strings for Shang Tsung to pull; the sorcerer manipulates Shao into turning on the royal family and nearly provoking a war against Earthrealm by portraying such things as being in Outworld's best interests.
  • The Creon: Despite his differences with Sindel, he is seemingly content with his place as leader of Outworld's armies, and only tries to take the throne after being convinced Sindel's family are crooked and his rule is what's best for Outworld. He doesn't even appear to have considered the idea of ruling personally until Shang Tsung suggested it.
  • Dark Messiah: Post-coup, Shao insists that his planned campaign is Outworld's salvation, and that even if he is killed, his followers will rally around him as a martyr.
  • Determinator: Losing his status and his freedom after Titan Shang Tsung's defeat didn't discourage Shao in the slightest; once he was free from Lei Chin Prison, he immediately got to work building a new army from Outworld's disenfranchised to continue his work against Mileena's government.
  • Draconic Humanoid: His exact species isn't named, but Shao, as well as the ancestors of his who appear in Reiko's ending, sports a large pair of horns, visible scales, clawed fingers, fangs, and glowing red eyes.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Despite his bloodlust, warmongering and disdain for Earthrealmers, Shao has no prejudice against any race from Outworld and will allow any of them to serve in his army. He adopted and forged Reiko into a soldier despite his common blood, works alongside Goro and Motaro with respect during the story and even allowed at least one Vaeternian, Nitara's mother Kasomira, to fight for him and reach the rank of admiral — quite a respectable position, considering most Outworlders, including the royal family, see Vaeternians as vermin. An intro with Reptile reveals that he has rallied Zaterrans to his cause, Shao saying that anyone who has been left behind by Sindel's regime is welcome in his service.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Shao's father forged him into a powerful warrior, and when he's mentioned in the story or intros, Shao still holds his father in high regard. He's angered and horrified when Ashrah tells him his father's soul is in the Netherrealm, insisting he died honourably.
    • Downplayed with his siblings; Shao speaks highly of their strength, but derides them as spineless for disowning him after the coup fails.
    • While their relationship is more professional than familial, Shao took an orphaned Reiko in and trained him to become an ideal soldier. He expresses pride in Reiko's skills when introducing him at the tournament, and doesn't berate or punish him after his loss.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • While he's no better because he also betrayed Outworld, Shao makes it clear to Sub-Zero that he has no respect for him due to betraying Earthrealm. As far as he's concerned, there is nothing lower than a traitor. Though he may be drawing the line based on why they turned traitor: Shao is a Well-Intentioned Extremist who betrayed Sindel because he thinks Liu Kang is secretly scheming to take over Outworld and so he ought to take over to protect it from him; Bi-Han betrayed all of Earthrealm to Shang Tsung purely in the name of selfishly getting power and glory for the Lin Kuei, after boasting of patricide no less.
    • While not totally grateful for Bi-Han breaking him out of prison post-story, Shao still refuses to betray Sub-Zero to Scorpion when Kuai Liang comes looking for his brother.
    • For lying to and manipulating him, Shao makes it clear that he will never work with either Shang Tsung or Quan Chi again.
    • Played for Laughs, but he was shocked by Kung Lao's obvious lack of table manners.
    • Subverted with Havik's destruction of Seido. Shao is one of the few characters to express approval of the atrocity as a tactical masterstroke, something that mildly surprises Havik himself.
    • When Tanya compares him to the "despots of antiquity", Shao takes offense, denying that he's anything like the "dark kahns" of yesteryear.
    • Despite the methods he took, when he finds out Quan Chi's true intentions, he straight up tells him that he would have never helped him in the slightest, showing why Quan Chi and Shang Tsung had to lie to him.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Shao's paranoia and militaristic attitude prevent him from understanding that Liu Kang is a genuine friend to Outworld. That someone so powerful could be altruistic simply doesn't compute for Shao, who can only see a threat.
    General Shao: Your endgame is Outworld's oppression!
    Liu Kang: Nothing could be further from the truth!
  • Evil Counterpart: Ironically, General Shao can be considered a dark reflection the previous timeline version of Kotal Kahn. Both are Outworld generals who end up staging a rebellion against Mileena to take the throne, believing it to be for the best of Outworld. However, while the previous timeline's Mileena was a bloodthirsty and tyrannical ruler who Kotal believed had to be dethroned for the sake of a more just Outworld, this timeline's Mileena is a stern but benevolent ruler who the warmongering Shao thinks is too soft on what he perceives as Earthrealm's threat to Outworld.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: General Shao's voice is even deeper and more guttural than that of Shao Kahn, and while he's less evil than his previous incarnation, Shao is nevertheless a villain.
  • Evil Virtues: Determination, diligence, valor, and even (in his own way) kindness and loyalty; though born weak and sickly, Shao, with his father's help built himself up into a mountain of a man, and he maintains that level of commitment as a general, with an impressive list of accomplishments to his name and refusing to give up after losing his status after a failed coup. His adoption and nurturing of Reiko also shows that he's not incapable of treating others well, and his villainous deeds are ultimately driven by his loyalty to Outworld, not a desire for personal power.
  • Expy: General Shao's design and mannerisms are inspired by Steppenwolf.
  • Fantastic Ableism: In a pre-kombat dialogue with Baraka, he calls him a "beast" for having Tarkat (although he also is proud to have them in his rebel army).
  • Fantastic Racism: He has nothing but contempt for Earthrealmers and sees them as a threat to Outworld (although unlike his counterparts from previous timelines, he doesn't hate any of the Outworld races).
  • Fatal Flaw: While not without Shao Kahn's flaw of hubris, General Shao's biggest problem is paranoia; he doesn't trust any authority other than himself, and especially not Liu Kang, a trait which is easily exploited by Shang Tsung to make Shao go from a mere dissenter to full-on rebel, costing him all the prestige for which he worked so hard.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Freeing Onaga is something that even Shao wouldn't consider doing under most circumstances, but the ragtag state of his rebel army, combined with a devastating defeat at Kitana's hands forces him to reconsider, and Shao ultimately sends Reiko to tame the Dragon King to use as a doomsday weapon.
  • Hero of Another Story: Mentions having routed the Kytinn in a previous battle when speaking with Reiko.
  • Heroic Lineage: In bygone days, General Shao's ancestors managed to defeat Onaga, whom Shao considers a doomsday weapon, and trap him in Mount Tsaagan, an achievement that went down in Outworld's history. Showing that he himself is no hero, after the story, Shao intends to free Onaga to use against Mileena's government.
  • Horned Humanoid: This time, he bears horns that are explicitly part of his body instead of his helmet.
  • Hypocrite: In his pre-fight intros with Sub-Zero, he make it clear that he has no respect for him due to him betraying his own realm, despite the fact that Shao himself was not only one of the people who talked him into it, but also betrayed his own realm. Granted his actions are done out of a genuine desire for what is best for Outworld, while Sub-Zero sold his realm out and betrayed his family on multiple levels purely for personal gain, at Earthrealm's cost.
  • I Have No Son!: Post-story fight intros reveal that after his treason, Shao's family disowned him. As far as he's concerned, this just proves that he's the only one of them with a spine.
  • Improperly Paranoid: Shao justifies his treason against the royal family and aggression against Earthrealm as necessary for Outworld's freedom and survival. Liu Kang has no desire to enslave Outworld, only to keep the peace between the two realms. And while the royal family are imperfect, they do show the capacity to learn from their mistakes. Indeed, Shao's allegiance with Shang Tsung is the true threat to Outworld, not Liu Kang or the royal family.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Although he's no longer an immortal conqueror or Outworld's Kahn, Shao remains a brutal Blood Knight with no fondness for Earthrealm's protector. By the end of the story he also still ends up nearly as dangerous a villain as he was when he was Kahn in the original timelines. In his Arcade Ending he even successfully manages to escape from his imprisonment post-insurrection attempt, and now sets his sights on conquering Outworld and deposing Mileena.
  • In Vino Veritas: During a feast celebrating the tournament, Shao nearly causes a diplomatic incident when he responds contemptuously to Raiden's remark that Earthrealmers and Outworlders have more in common than not, which Shao blames on having had too much wine.
  • Jerkass: As ever, Shao is mocking, aggressive thug who looks down on almost everyone else. That General Shao still manages to be much less of a jerk than Shao Kahn goes to show how awful Shao was prior to the New Era.
  • Jobber: Not counting Kameo losses, General Shao loses more fights than any other character in 1’s story mode, losing a total of four fights (five fights if you count Dark Shao's loss in Chapter 13).
  • The Krampus: The game's Christmas-themed winter fatality has Shao, dressed in a Santa outfit and looking like the traditional appearance of the Krampus, driving a sleigh of demonic reindeer to trample over the victim and dismember them with the sleigh's tracks before flying off into the night with a jolly "Merry Christmas!".
  • Like Father, Unlike Son: According to Sindel, Shao's father believed that war was a last resort, not the first, a contrast with Shao's own warlike and bloodthirsty tendencies. Shao's father also remained loyal to the throne until the day he died, while Shao himself betrayed Sindel and refuses to accept that he was in the wrong.
  • Meet the New Boss: By his ending, he seems to be losing all of his sympathetic and Noble Demon traits and is becoming more and more like the old Shao Kahn, being focused on winning at all costs and treating the outcasts and lower classes of the existing regime as a source of recruitment and nothing else, and even plotting to unleash Onaga as a weapon to win the throne; more than anything else, he seems to be enjoying the fact that he's free of his old responsibilities and is just loving the thrill of konquest and war. It's telling that while Reiko's ending speaks of his loyalty to the general and his cause, Shao just seems to be lusting for the next battle without any other cares at all.
  • Mighty Glacier: General Shao is Mortal Kombat 1's resident heavy-hitter, with a moveset capable of annihilating opponents with huge burst damage if they get caught in his ideal range, with a single buffed combo easily able to chunk off a third or more of the opponent's life bar. The downside is that he is slow, with many moves featuring lots of windup and can be easily punished if dodged, and he's greatly reliant on being in the closest possible range, meaning he's also easy to zone out.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Shao's loyalty is to Outworld itself, and he will do anything for the sake of it's safety and security. This is why his treason against Sindel doesn't register as treachery to him or his followers; as far as Shao is concerned, he's doing what's best for Outworld, and if that includes dethroning the royal family, so be it.
  • Noble Demon: For all his belligerence and disdain for Earthrealmers, General Shao displays honor, loyalty, and sincerity that sets him apart from most other villains (including his own past self); he's steadfastly loyal to Outworld itself (if not the royal family), treats his followers well, and genuinely believes that his extreme actions are both morally right and necessary to protect his realm.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: While helping Shang Tsung entice Sub-Zero, Shao draws a comparison between Outworld and the Lin Kuei, claiming that both have been shackled by Liu Kang and deprived of their full potential. Given his later expressed contempt for Sub-Zero, as well as his sentiments towards Earthrealmers in general, it's implied that Shao is just playing along with Shang Tsung's manipulations, not expressing a sincere belief.
  • Not So Similar: Incensed at Raiden's "Not So Different" Remark about Earthrealm and Outworld at a feast, Shao angrily proclaims that the two realms couldn't be more different, though Sindel cuts him off before he can go into any detail (or potentially cause a diplomatic incident).
  • Obviously Evil: The moment Johnny Cage laid eyes on the horned, hulking, red-eyed General Shao, he lampshaded the Outworlder's classically evil appearance, and even describes him as a stock villain (to Shao's confusion in one of their intros).
  • The Paragon Always Rebels: General Shao is introduced as Outworld's champion and greatest soldier. He's also conspiring against the royal family along with Shang Tsung, though for vastly different reasons.
  • Parental Substitute: He's implied to be this for Reiko. General Shao mentions having taken Reiko in as an orphan and molded him to be the warrior that he is now. This is partly why Reiko is so devoted to the General.
  • Patriotic Fervor: He is a staunch believer in Outworld's superiority above all else. On the positive side, this means he respects all of Outworld's races, even those that have been marginalized. On the negative side, he considers the presence of any other realm within Outworld's borders, such as Earthrealm, to be an immediate threat that needs to be destroyed.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Shao's relationship with Reiko is probably the biggest sign of his nicer characterization in the New Era; he took in an orphaned boy, raised him to be a perfect soldier and has the adult Reiko's unquestioning, undying loyalty, for which Shao treats him with more respect than he shows anyone else.
    • In the main story, Shao and his forces almost always capture and imprison the protagonists alive on a loss. This stands in stark contrast to every other antagonist who either executes them on the spot or inflicts a Fate Worse than Death, such as Ermac, Quan Chi, or even Subzero.
    • Despite his contempt for Sub-Zero, Shao has enough regard for him to warn Bi-Han that his new initiate (implied to be Frost) intends to eclipse him.
    • A twisted example, but Shao is the only kombatant to give Havik a compliment about his destruction of Seido's capital. Havik even notes with surprise that he wasn't expecting the deed to impress Shao.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Shao considers all Earthrealmers to be inferior to Outworlders, calling them frail and weak. His introduction revolves around him antagonizing Liu Kang's champions and smugly asserting that Earthrealmers couldn't handle "the truth" of Outworld's existence.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: He has red eyes, which glow menacingly in the "Rulers of Outworld" trailer to show that he is still bad news.
  • Reformed, but Not Tamed: He may have changed to be a more steadfast and valorous warrior to Outworld, but he is still as prone to warmongering and mocking as the Shao Kahns from previous timelines. Then he ends up throwing himself in with Shang Tsung when he feels his distrust of Liu Kang isn't being heeded by Queen Sindel, though unlike his previous depictions, he does legitimately seem to believe he's still acting in Outworld's best interests.
  • Stance System: Shao has a temporary stance as he can throw his battle axe into the ground, changing his normal strings that use the axe and giving him extra specials that interact with it.
  • Sickly Child Grew Up Strong: Shao's remade backstory had him born a frail and sickly child to a military family, much to the displeasure of his father, who used an intensive training regime to whip Shao into shape. The result is a hulking brute of a man who now serves as the high commander of Outworld's armies.
  • Sore Loser: When he is defeated by Raiden in the tournament, Shao angrily brushes aside the hand Raiden offers to help him up.
  • Sword and Fist: His gameplay style has him alternate between smashing opponents apart with his axe and dropping it to instead slug them out with his fists. When he's without his axe, he ends up with a slightly altered moveset that adjusts his basic strings and tweaks around his special abilities, giving him a grapple that has him slam his opponent onto his axe and other damaging moves that combine with him drawing his axe back into his hand.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Sub-Zero broke him out of Lei Chin Prison, but Shao just growls that he owes Bi-Han nothing and disdains him for his treachery (a crime Shao is also guilty of).
  • Unrelated in the Adaptation: Rather than being Sindel's second husband and Kitana's stepfather, in this timeline, Shao is just an Outworld general, with no familial relationship with the royal family. Moreover, as Mileena is the biological daughter of Sindel and elder twin sister to Kitana, rather than a clone, he lacks a paternal relationship with her as well.
  • Unwitting Pawn: While he's a conspirator of Shang Tsung and Quan Chi, Shao spends the story believing that their only enemies are Earthrealm and Sindel's family, oblivious to the sorcerers' ambitions to conquer all realms, intending for Shao's rebellion to weaken Outworld so it can be ripe for the taking. Post-story, while he doesn't abandon the ambitions they stoked in him, Shao is understandably very unwilling to work with either sorcerer again.
  • Villain Respect: General Shao is the only character to approve of Havik flooding Seido, an act that all of the other villains, even Reiko, who is undyingly loyal towards Shao, find to be absolutely contemptible.
    General Shao: Laying waste to Seido was a masterstroke.
    Havik: (surprised) I didn't think it would earn your respect.
  • War Hero: Shao is hailed as one of Outworld's greatest generals and has a long list of achievements under his belt.
    Sindel: Victor of the Tervarian War. Conqueror of the Kuatan Plains. Defender of the Navala Coast. As has his family for generations, General Shao defends us with zeal and tenacity. All of Outworld is grateful for his service.
    Raiden: That's a notable list of accomplishments, General.
    Shao: It is a mere fraction of them. A full recitation would take days.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: In Shao's eyes, Liu Kang and Earthrealm can't be trusted and have been implicitly manipulating the royal family for their own ends, and must be conquered to avoid Outworld's eventual total subjugation. Even after he's betrayed the throne in collusion with Shang Tsung, Shao insists that he's fighting for a noble cause and that Liu Kang is a devil who needs to fall for Outworld to be safe. Additionally, his arcade ending hints that there may be genuine discontent with Mileena's rule from some of Outworld's people, and Shao himself states that there are many who feel abandoned by the Empire.

Alternative Title(s): Mortal Kombat Shao Kahn, Mortal Kombat General Shao