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Main series: MK1 (Part 1 | Part 2) | MK2 | MK3 | MK4 | Deadly Alliance | Deception | Armageddon | MK vs. DC Universe | MK9 | MKX | MK11
Spinoffs: Mythologies: Sub-Zero | Special Forces
Non-videogame: The Movie | Conquest | Defenders of the Realm
Individual Characters: Scorpion | Liu Kang | Raiden | Sub-Zero II | Shao Kahn


Spoilers for Mythologies will be unmarked


Shao Kahn

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/shao_kahn_5.png
"I am Shao Kahn! Konqueror of Worlds! You will taste no victory!"
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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; Eduardo Fonseca, Latin American Spanish)
Non-game appearances: Mortal Kombat (Frank Welker, cameo), Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (Brian Thompson), Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm (John Vernon, and later Michael des Barres), Mortal Kombat: Conquest (Jeffrey Meek), Mortal Kombat: Legacy (Aleks Paunovic)

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.

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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.

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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.


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  • 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, midway into the story mode, his only remaining allies are Skarlet and Kollector.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
    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.
  • 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."
  • 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 is ultimately killed by one of his most personal victims - Kitana - in single kombat.
  • 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, so it can also suggest that Kronika or Geras bent time to draw a different version of Shao Kahn.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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, 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:
    Shang Tsung: Over a millenium, I've failed you twice.
    • 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.
  • Bald of Evil: Under the helmet.
  • Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: As indicated by Sindel (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 — he has Mind Manipulation at his disposal strictly to deal with that.
  • 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 first three games, where his wish to conquer Earthrealm drives the plot. Returns as this in MK9, whose plot happens to be based on the first three games.
  • Big "NO!": His reaction upon being defeated as the final boss.
  • 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.
  • Brought Down to Normal:
  • 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 curved witch-like nose, red eyes, and monstrous teeth.
  • Butt-Monkey: Downplayed. In the alternate continuity of versus matches, Shao Kahn is not killed 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!
  • Card-Carrying Villain: He doesn't hide it anymore in MK9. During his Badass Boast to Raiden, he states that his "venom" is spreading and bringing the Armageddon. That makes his intentions all clearer now...
  • Combat Pragmatist: For all his talk about the strong ruling over the weak, Shao Kahn has zero problem with underhanded tactics to get what he wants, and will throw out any pretense of an honor code once it's inconvienent.
    • 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.
    • Kahn got his current position by way of 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 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.
  • Cool Helmet: And as seen in MK9 and later MK11, it got cooler as time went on.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: Before he gets killed in 11's story, Kitana rips out the skull mask off his helmet.
  • Drop the Hammer: It was his most feared special in MK3 and later became his weapon style in the GameCube version of Deception.
    • It gets heavily incorporated into Shao Kahn's moveset in MK11.
  • Dynamic Akimbo: Usually his Victory Pose, but he also takes this pose even during battles, where he taunts you and laughs.
  • 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!
  • 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 of 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.
  • 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: He always has some epic ones.
    • He provides one for his own Arcade Mode ending in MK11.
  • Evil Overlord: He's one of the key villains of the series, and he is the only one 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, among others.
  • Eye Beams: A move of his in 3 and its revisions, where he shoots a sphere of energy from his eyes.
  • 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.
  • Final Boss: Shao Kahn is the last enemy faced in several games, starting with Mortal Kombat II.
  • For the Evulz: Shao Kahn 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 Khan's weakness is his arrogance. In MK9, this is actually the closest thing he gets to an in game weakness. His AI is programmed to be forced to taunt periodically. This is the only thing in the game that prevents Shao Khan from infinitely combo the player.
  • 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.)
  • Gold-Colored Superiority: His armor incorporates typically elements of gold into its design, particularly in 11.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: He's introduced as this to the first game. Big Bad Shang Tsung and Dragon Goro were actually Co-Dragons to Shao Kahn, who was all too ready to execute the former for losing the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament before being convinced to give him another chance.
  • Guttural Growler: Has a very deep and raspy voice in MK11, courtesy of Ike Amadi.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: It is very easy to piss him off. Especially of you keep failing him constantly. 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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: Maybe. From their unending shit-talk to the sheer catharsis 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.
    • Big time in case with Kotal Kahn. No wonder why Shao wants his throne back.
  • 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.
  • 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 killed by Kitana, the stepdaughter who's life he ruined.
  • 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.
    • As for his past version in MK11, Kitana might as well killed him for good.
  • 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 pwned 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: The all-time king of it in Mortal Kombat. In some games, he takes time during the fight to personally insult you, leaving himself completely open in the process. His verbal barbs include, but are not limited to:
    "I AM SHAO KAHN... BOW TO ME!"
    "You weak, pathetic FOOL!"
    "FEEL THE POWER OF SHAO KAHN!"
    "It's official... YOU SUCK!"
  • Last-Second Chance: He is offered one by Baraka in an intro, who expresses he could win Tarkata's loyalty back...by 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.

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  • 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.
  • The Man Behind the Man: To Shang Tsung.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Pet the Dog: 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.
  • Pretender Diss:
    Shao Kahn: Kahn?! Pathetic fool! You pretend on my throne!
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: In the eyes of Kotal Kahn, at least.
    Kotal Kahn: Outworld rejected your pointless wars!
    • 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 aforementioned You Got Spunk 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!

  • Post-Rape Taunt: His marriage to Sindel was not consensual on her part, 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 Khan twists the knife by saying that Sindel always pleased him. Unsurprisingly, Kitana is even more driven to kill him after that remark.
  • Prepare to Die: He says this verbatim as one of his taunts.
  • Pyrrhic Villainy: Every time 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.
  • 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. 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, it's the thought of her mother laying with Shao Kahn that angers Kitana the most.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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!
  • 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 stake 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.
  • 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 and Armageddon, which give him pants.
  • Taken for Granite: When defeated in II, he somehow is petrified. Then he explodes.
  • 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: At least in versus match continuities: despite the fact that Kitana clearly kills him in 11, he somehow escaped the same predicament - and is now reduced to wandering Outworld as a fugitive.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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 undignifiedly killing him. Even his greatest moment from the original timeline, his victory at Armageddon, is revealed to have been orchestrated by Kronika.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Whenever defeated, he would scream a Big "NO!" as he exploded.
  • Villain Respect: He can genuinely respect people with a serious backbone, like Erron Black.
    • 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.
  • Weapon of Choice: His infamous hammer, which gets a lot more attention in MK11.
  • Whole Costume Reference: To The Lord Humungus.
  • Yellow Eyes of Sneakiness: In 9, he has now these kind of eyes, instead of his previous red eyes.
  • You Got Spunk: In 9, after Sub-Zero defeats Reptile and demands a chance to fight Scorpion, Shao Kahn, impressed by Sub-Zero's bravery and strength, acquiesces.
    Sub-Zero: Your followers hold you in high esteem, warlord. They fight and die for your amusement. My brother participated in this folly; I do so only to face his killer!
    Shao Kahn: And you shall.
  • You Have Failed Me: His biggest berserk button is the prospect of his subordinates failing him. Even once.
    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.

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