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Ensemble Darkhorse / Mortal Kombat

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Given the Loads and Loads of Characters, it would only be fair that Mortal Kombat would have some popular characters under its belt.

Main Series

Mortal Kombat
  • Although he's one of the "ninjas" who was riding off of Scorpion and Sub-Zero's popularity, Reptile has established himself as a lesser darkhorse among the fandom due to being the first Secret Character in the series (which sparked a great amount of interest in discovering and facing him, not unlike Akuma in Super Street Fighter II Turbo). Being an odd anti-villainous example of a Butt-Monkey as well as the Cosmic Plaything of the series, as well as sporting one of the better fight scenes in the movie has helped to give Reptile something of a cult following among MK fans.

Mortal Kombat II

  • Dan Forden, the "Toasty!" Man. Though his appearances are random and very brief, he is a well-known Easter Egg and often used in parodies of the series, and even made re-appearances in Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat 9, and Mortal Kombat 11. The fact that he is the key to finding Smoke in Mortal Kombat II also helps.

Mortal Kombat 3

  • The Cyber Lin-Kuei Cyrax, Sektor and Smoke are an interesting case in that while they were decried for being ridiculous ninja "klones" at first, the fans grew to accept them due to later games establishing personalities and excellent gameplay for them. Mortal Kombat 9 later explored the human sides of all three, giving them a huge spike in popularity (with Cyrax and Smoke becoming the most popular). Come Mortal Kombat X, and the three became highly requested DLC characters that made the cut as part of the final DLC pack in the form of Triborg, with each representing three of the four variations, respectively.
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  • Kabal and Ermac were divisive at the time of their debut (vanilla MK3 and UMK3 respectively) due to being overpowered. After being toned down in later revisions, they moved over this way and returned for Deception.
  • Rain, originally a goofy Joke Character ninja Palette Swap who doubled as a Shout-Out to Prince and made his debut in UMK3. Although at first he was in Base-Breaking Character territory, when it was revealed that he was one of two characters from the original trilogy to not be playable in 9 (the other being Motaro, who actually does cameo in the story a few times), Ed Boon's Twitter was flooded with demands for Rain to be included as DLC. They got their wish, allowing him to head in this direction.
  • Khameleon from the N64 version of MK Trilogy pushed herself here when it was revealed that she was the only pre-existing character not playable in Armageddon. Fan outcry singlehandedly made sure that she had a spot on the roster in the Wii port of the game. It doesn't hurt that her story gives Khameleon a direct connection to Reptile, one of the most pitiable creatures in existence (namely, repopulating their nearly-extinct race and turning him away from his servitude to the villains, the same party that seems to screw him over at any opportunity).

Mortal Kombat 4

  • Reiko. The speculation his ending caused has a lot to do with it. The creators seem to have caught on to his popularity, as he makes an appearance as one of Shao Kahn's most trusted generals in Armageddon, has cameos in Mortal Kombat: Conquest and 9, and is depicted as a possible suitor to Mileena in the MKX prequel comics.
  • Tanya was popular enough to be the only character introduced in Mortal Kombat 4 who returned before Armageddon, which required the presence of everyone due to the nature of the game (she was an unlockable character in Deception). Being a new addition to the already popular female ninjas (Kitana, Mileena, Jade) helped, in addition to her treacherous personality.

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance

  • Kenshi (think Daredevil plus telekinesis) is one of the few characters from the post-Trilogy era to earn unanimous praise from the fanbase. How popular is he? Popular enough to make it into Mortal Kombat 9 as DLC despite the roster mainly consisting of characters from the first three gamesnote , and popular enough to return as a starter playable character in Mortal Kombat X.
  • Nitara, the sexy, manipulative Vampiress had an intriguing appearance and backstory, but not much time to develop it further; in fact, a poll for which characters fans would like to see in MKX held at this very wiki had Nitara place fourth (behind Rain, Kenshi, and Motaro), a fair bit ahead of other popular gals such as Sareena and Khameleon.
  • Frost, Sub-Zero's Distaff Counterpart and Deceptive Disciple, originally received much scorn after being introduced in Deadly Alliance (some even going so far as to say she'd "ruin Mortal Kombat"), but fans quickly warmed up to her. To the point she was included in the comics, made an appearance in Mortal Kombat X's story mode, and returned as a playable character once again in Mortal Kombat 11.

Mortal Kombat: Deception

Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe

  • The Joker got a huge ovation when he was announced, and his "Killing Joke" Fatality is one of the only ones people think didn't suck (so much so, that Shang Tsung borrows it in Mortal Kombat 9.)
  • Captain Marvel is a darkhorse thanks to this being his debut in a video game and for being one of the lesser known DC Heroes getting a chance to shine in a crossover.
  • Deathstroke, who also gained praise for this being his debut in a video game and being a Ninjaesque assassin character, who would not be out of place in a main Mortal Kombat title.

Mortal Kombat 9

  • Johnny Cage becomes a darkhorse thanks in part to borrowing his movie incarnation's personality (which was already an Ensemble Dark Horse) and having his status as a well-meaning douche amped up to the point of hilarity. MK9 has quite a few CMOFs; Johnny is responsible for most of them. MKX makes him a Cool Old Guy and the best dad in the franchise, alongside giving him his best ever CMOA while still keeping him as a source of great laughs despite the heartwarming rapport with his daughter and his improved badassery.
  • Nightwolf is interesting as he started out as an Ethnic Scrappy due to his Game-Breaker and Magical Native American status in Mortal Kombat 3 but was rescued come Mortal Kombat: Deception and cemented himself with this position with 9 due to having Took a Level in Badass and being established as a trustworthy ally of Earthrealm.
  • Another example of a character who was Rescued from the Scrappy Heap by the retcon is Kurtis Stryker. Before the 2011 game, he was seen as a bland and boring character (if a Tier-Induced Scrappy in gameplay, especially after his Ultimate MK3 incarnation added the gunshot move) with an incredibly goofy design that reached Narm levels. His reappearance in Armageddon didn't exactly turn heads, despite his altered appearance. Come MK9, the creators throw him a bone by not only giving him a backstory very similar to the biography of John McClane, but also a much improved appearance that made him look sharper and more similar to a New York policeman. It also allowed him to have his crowning moments of ass-kicking in the story mode where he is able to take down the likes of Reptile, Mileena, Kintaro and Ermac, using only his training in the force.
  • Cyber Sub-Zero, Kuai Liang's Lin Kuei counterpart. After it was revealed Smoke wasn't the one kidnapped by the Cyber-Lin Kuei and programmed to help Shao Kahn conquer Earthrealm, Sub-Zero's new appearance as a cyborg was warmly met. It helps that, like Cyrax and Smoke (who is still a human as noted in the Mortal Kombat 3 section), he never wanted to be part of the Cyber Initiative, while having gameplay differences from the human Sub-Zero that helped him stand out. His popularity would later include him in the Kombat Pack 2 for Mortal Kombat X, as a (not-so) secret variation for Triborg, with even more gameplay differences from Sub-Zero!

Mortal Kombat X

  • Erron Black, The Gunslinger in Mortal Kombat X, was popular the second he was introduced in the prequel comics and fans immediately called for him to appear properly in game. His cowboy design, dry humor, neat gun tricks, and being revealed to be much older than he looks in his ending give him plenty of reasons to be a fan favorite.
  • Of Cassie Cage's group, Takeda is the biggest example. His introduction in the prequel comics as Kenshi's son and one of Scorpion's students/his adopted son left fans impressed, especially after he broke out of his timid shell and found the will to kill if necessary. His appearance in the game as a proud warrior, yet still a nice guy and arguably The Heart of Cassie's team, as well as the first fighter to extensively use whips for combat, has also helped his case significantly. In fact, he's one of the few characters that didn't return for Mortal Kombat 11 that have noticeably been missed.
  • The Old Lady at the Marketplace stage -known as Blanche by the staff- is quite popular for a background character in a random stage because of the sheer amusement of watching the fight and being used as a weapon. She instantly became a Memetic Badass once it is revealed that she can beat people to death as a stage brutality. See for yourself!

Mortal Kombat 11

  • Among the game's newcomers, Geras is by far the most well received. His awesome voice, unique moveset, and fascinating characterization all contribute to it.
  • While he already could be considered one by nature for his design, Baraka's new characterization in 11 started to gain a new sleuth of fans for finally subverting the Always Chaotic Evil trope he's known for and showing him as a competent leader of the Tarkatan horde who only wants what is best for his own people.
  • Noob Saibot became one as well, mainly due to the developers upping his Deadpan Snarker tendencies. He is also among the most popular characters to use in A.I. battles.

Spin-Off Games

Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero

Mortal Kombat: Special Forces

  • Tremor who may perhaps be the greatest example of Ensemble Dark Horse in MK, a member of the Black Dragon clan and the only ninja to not be playable in the main series until X. What makes this so exceptional is that he hails from what is undoubtedly the worst game in the series by an Outworld mile. Ed Boon himself commented (via Twitter) on Tremor's surprising popularity, calling him "the new Rain." While Tremor wasn't included in 9note , Boon refused to outright say that Tremor will never be included again in the series. This became prophetic when X finally upgraded him to a playable character via DLC to the delight of many. AND HOW! From every aspect of his character (voice, costume, variations) oozing "BADASS", him having the highest amount of brutalities (10!) and an ending that places him in the same tier as physical gods Raiden and Fujin, he finally got the honors he deserved.


Mortal Kombat: The Movie
  • Reptile is one of the better things of the movie, especially his fight with Liu Kang. It might have been weird and out of nowhere, but many of the movie's fans have said it was actually the best fight in the whole movie; even better than the final fight!
  • Trevor Goddard's performance in the movie as Kano was very well-liked by fans due to it adding a cocky, money-grubbing sleazeball personality to the flat depiction of the games. His performance was generally well received by fans and even the creators of the games loved his portayal so much Kano was actually changed from a Japanese-American with little character and no hair to an Australian-born thug with a full head of it (and a wicked widow's peak, to boot).
  • Linden Ashby's portrayal of Cage is a darkhorse, especially with the wittiness, the fight with Goro and how much he cares about Sonya... all of them things that eventually found their way into the MK canon as noted above.

Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm

Malibu Comics' Mortal Kombat

  • Hydro, the water-based Lin Kuei warrior and partner to Sub-Zero who appears first in the Malibu comics. He's a very popular character with fans, enough to be included in MK fan works such as the numerous M.U.G.E.N-based Mortal Kombat Project full games and even appeared in Mortal Kombat: Legacy as a cyber-ninja.
  • Bo, the completely normal but damn huge Scary Black Man that Cage hires as Liu Kang's bodyguard is this as well. Especially the way he beats Reptile in Tournament Edition #2 with a broken arm to boot.


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