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Test your might.
Choose your destiny.
Flawless Victory.

Mortal Kombat is a long-running series of fighting games. It was started and developed over a long time by Midway Games and has since crept out into other media. The series is defined almost solely by its uber-violence and the odd spelling of its title.

In its prime, for about three games, Mortal Kombat was the very essence of cool. It had style that passed for maturity at the time, a certain something that more family-friendly games couldn't replicate. Packed with secrets, Easter Eggs, and hidden characters (and largely predating the Internet), the first few games lent themselves well to an Urban Legend of Zelda or two, and it seemed like just about anything was possible.

What started as a fairly typical global tournament clone in the vein of Street Fighter II or Enter the Dragon quickly transmogrified into an interdimensional war and the mass genocide of the human race, which still somehow managed to shake out in the form of a series of one-on-one matches.

In its heyday, it was incredibly risqué, especially when Nintendo practically owned the video game market, as most games did not include overt, bloody violence. Pre-MK, most designers kept some sort of plausible deniability in their games, claiming that nobody was really dead, or it was only monsters, or some other excuse. Mortal Kombat was the first game to ditch that pretense, with copious amounts of High-Pressure Blood, screaming, impaling, and Finishing Moves that delighted in how many body parts they could sever. The Moral Guardians went through the roof, but the series was a smash hit anyway.

The designers, encouraged by their success, racked up the body count in subsequent installments, devising entirely new methods of dismemberment and decapitation. Eventually, the violence grew cartoonish in its excess, and the gameplay engine was not enough to sustain its popularity once other companies caught on to the idea that violence was nothing to be scared of. And while other series have made a successful leap to 3D, MK was "hit and miss". Add that to the fact that virtually no one ever actually died in the story, despite the ultra-violent nature of the games (a move that virtually guarantees stagnation), and you've got a series that seemed to be on its last legs...

...until Midway went bankrupt and Warner Bros. promptly picked up the studio that produces the series (now known as NetherRealm Studios). The end result: a complete continuity reboot (with an in-game explanation, no less) in 2.5D. Mortal Kombat 9 was not only a critical and commercial smash, but also earned a spot as one of the featured titles at the EVO Championship Series, a first for a Mortal Kombat game, and a signal that its improved gameplay had finally earned respect amongst the fighting game community. 9 also began a new series tradition of adding guest fighters from '80s horror and action movies, beginning with Freddy Krueger's appearance in this entry.

The series saw two follow-ups in The Eighth Generation of Console Video Games that built on 9 and continued that game's narrative, Mortal Kombat X and Mortal Kombat 11. As with 9, both were warmly received by critics, continued to be mainstays at EVO, and were commercial smashes; in fact, the only fighting game of the generation to sell more than X and 11 was Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, showing there's much life in the series once nearly left for dead.


Main games


Adaptations to other media

The general story is about an universe with several different dimensions (called "Realms") and how one of these, called Outworld, is on a mission to take over all realms. They are bound by divine laws dictating that they must challenge the greatest warriors of whatever realm they wish to invade to a tournament. If the Outworld warriors win, they have free reign, but if the realm's warriors win, Outworld cannot enter the realm. Outworld's next target is Earth(realm), and it's up to a select few warriors to determine the fate of their realm.

Besides that, we have TONS OF Characters and their special moves and backstories. Character sheets can be found here, and are separated according to the various games.

See also:

The Mortal Kombat franchise provides examples of:

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  • Advantage Ball: Originally used the simple "won the tournament and attained victory in all life goals" pretty much every fighting game used. With the advent of the later games' storytelling roulette, characters that winning fights they otherwise would likely not has become canon. Actually a plot point in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe as the balance of power goes back and forth between characters.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Whether from a different realm or even nationality, there is practically no language barrier and the entire cast speaks perfect English. Even the Great Kung Lao, implied to have been from the feudal Japan era (clearly before he would become an immortal champion, no less) has no problem communicating with his time-traveling descendant. That said, there is a Tarkatan language, first depicted in MK11.
  • All There in the Manual: If the info's not available in the game, it's mentioned in some hard-to-find strategy guides. For example, Kintaro's fate - death by Raiden's hands - was only revealed in the MK3 strategy guide.
  • Almost Lethal Weapons: Getting hit with any projectile weapon (from spears to fireballs to electricity to freaking grenades and gunfire) doesn't hurt much more than being punched and still leaves the target able to move normally.
  • Ancestor Veneration: Liu Kang and Kung Lao's ancestor, (the latter of whom shares his name) is known as the "Great" Kung Lao, honored for defending Earthrealm during the Mortal Kombat tournament centuries ago.
  • Animalistic Abilities:
    • Deadly Alliance, Deception and Armageddon feature a Stance System which allows characters to alternate between fighting styles. A number of martial arts based on animals were featured such as Dragon (Sub-Zero, Jarek), Crane (Shang Tsung), Crab (Reptile), Mantis (Kung Lao, Shujinko), Monkey (Noob Saibot).
    • Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks: Liu Kang uses Dragon and Monkey Kung Fu as his fighting styles.
  • Animated Adaptation: Three: The Animated Series Defenders of the Realm, The Journey Begins, an animated short film about the first game, and Legends: Scorpion's Revenge, a 2020 animated feature film which aims to be Truer to the Text.
  • Another Dimension: Outworld, Edenia, Netherrealm, and many others.
  • Anti-Hero: In an universe like Mortal Kombat, it often becomes necessary to kill. But the ridiculous gruesome and painful ways in which some characters do so does call their morality into question.
  • Anyone Can Die: Though Death Is Cheap in some examples.
  • Armed Females, Unarmed Males:
    • This applied to male and female ninjas in the first three games. All three female ninjas (Kitana, Mileena, and Jade) used weapons in gameplay. With the exception of Scorpion and Smoke's human incarnation in Mortal Kombat II, the male ninjas fought unarmed.
    • Baraka and Mileena are the sole playable Tarkatan characters in the games. Baraka has blades that extend from his arms like the rest of his race, while Mileena lacks arm blades presumably due to being half-Tarkatan and fights with a pair of sai.
  • The Artifact: The Stance Switch button went from changing your character's fighting/weapon style in the 3D Era games to simply changing which way your character faced the camera in the 2.5D Netherrealm games, as some moves or strings can change your character's laterality relative to the camera. While X-Ray Moves / Fatal Blows are performed with Block + Stance Switch and 11 would tack on a few additional functions to this button (Roll escape, Mercy, a scant few Kustom Abilities), Stance Switch on its own has almost no implications for general gameplay in those entries.
  • Artistic Licence – Anatomy: A staple of the franchise.
    • A lot of the Fatalities are not physically possible, but particularly in older games when the Ludicrous Gibs included bones... which often consisted of multiple full rib cages, dozens of femurs, and sometimes even multiple skulls. In behind-the-scenes videos for Mortal Kombat X, the creators mention that they go out of their way to avoid the Fatalities being something that a normal human could realistically do, in order to cut down on the possibility of someone trying to imitate them.
    • X-Ray Attacks qualify as well. They show in graphic detail bones being snapped and organs being destroyed, yet characters keep fighting afterward like nothing happened. On top of that, X-Ray Attacks can be done multiple times during a fight meaning that a character who has had his or her bones or internal organs gravely harmed will inexplicably have them restored before being snapped or destroyed again.
    • Fatal Blows turn this up to eleven, as all of them, without exception, have Fatality-like capabilities.
    • Uppercuts. Any blow strong enough to launch an enemy that far into the air would leave the puncher with at least one shattered bone in their arm. And this doesn't even account for scenes where fighters can be knocked upward through the ceiling.
  • Ascended Meme: Nearly every urban legend about the games eventually made it into the series (Ermac, Animalities, Skarlet, etc.). It'd be shorter to name what averted this, such as characters like Hornbuckle.
  • Attract Mode: The first four games had those, along with showing the character bios.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: This was something that haunted the earliest Mortal Kombat gameplay. Special moves look flashy and many of them allow you to attack at range, but had a lot of drawbacks: barring a few exceptions - they did less than damage than a footsweep or high kick, some of them had an overly elaborate set-up time and almost all of them were easily countered by a block and an uppercut (which took off 25% of a character's life back then!!). Scorpion's Leg Grab from the 2nd game was the epitome of this trope and the move was removed from most games in the series. Later games do a much better job of balancing this.
  • Badass Normal: Some of the good guys have no special upgrades to fight with, particularly those in the Special Forces.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: How the original Midway Games timeline ends. Shao Kahn succeeds in taking Blaze's power for himself, and with every other named character dead and no one else to stop him, he is free to conquer all the realms as he pleases. The only saving grace is him possibly turning out like in his Armageddon arcade ending, where he goes mad from having nothing left to conquer.
  • Bald of Evil: Coincidentally enough, all of the main characters that are bald in this series are evil. Notable examples include Quan Chi, Baraka, Kano (in the original timeline, although he was mostly balding - MK3 was the only game where he was fully bald, and also his past incarnation in 11), Shao Kahn, Kronika and D'Vorah.
  • Beat 'em Up Spin-Off: First came Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, which fleshed out the origin story of the original Sub-Zero and introduced Sareena, Quan Chi, and Shinnok. Next came Special Forces, which starred Special Forces agent Jax as he took on the Black Dragon. And most recently, Shaolin Monks, where players take control of Liu Kang and Kung Lao as they fight Shang Tsung's forces shortly following the first tournament.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Usually, this is played as straight as in any other fighting game, with the exception of Fatalities; the females are just as subject to brutal, gory deaths as anyone else. It was subverted completely in 9, however, where the characters were injured during the fight, and even the winner was usually badly wounded by the end. Kitana's lovely face was just as likely to be marred by bruises and black eyes here. It is, however, played completely straight in the Story Mode, where the blood and gore is taken out and Fatalities aren't allowed (in the Story Mode, a fighter can't actually die unless the plot requires it, so it can't happen during a match).
  • Big Bad: Shang Tsung in the first game, Shao Kahn in 2, 3 and 9 , Shinnok, in 4 and X, Onaga in Deception, Kronika in 11, and Shang Tsung again in MK11: Aftermath.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: In Deadly Alliance, the Deadly Alliance themselves, Shang Tsung and Quan Chi.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The series became fond of this trope around the start of the 3D era and has continued in most titles since, seemingly to give the series more of a complex edge; the original four numbered games featured standard Good vs. Evil narratives and concluded with Earthrealm experiencing an age of peace thanks to Liu Kang's defeat of Shang Tsung, Shao Kahn and Shinnok.
    • Deadly Alliance begins on a dour note as Liu Kang is murdered by the titular sorcerer duo in the opening cinematic. The immediate sequel, Deception, would reveal in its opening cutscene that almost every single Earthrealm hero died in the final battle against the Deadly Alliance, retroactively rendering the plot of MK:DA a Shoot the Shaggy Dog Story. Raiden kills Shang Tsung and Quan Chi in a self-sacrificing attack designed to stop Onaga (Raiden, Shang Tsung and Quan Chi were momentarily forced to pull an Enemy Mine against the Dragon King), but Onaga himself is unfazed by it. Several other characters, namely Li Mei and Reptile, also have canonical arcade endings that are... less than ideal for them.
    • Deception similarly ends on a bittersweet note as Onaga is ultimately defeated, but Shujinko wastes most of his adult life on a pointless quest orchestrated by Onaga himself. The game also reveals that Raiden was reincarnated into a darker persona after his fatal battle against Onaga in the intro, while Liu Kang was resurrected by Raiden as a mindless, decaying zombie.
    • Armageddon builds up to the titular apocalyptic conflict in its story mode, with Taven trying in vain to prevent it. Alas, Armageddon is inevitable and almost every kombatant kills each other in a bloodlusted frenzy to get to the top of the Pyramid of Argus. Worse, MK9 shows that Shao Kahn of all people would've been the ultimate champion. The only saving grace is that the timeline is seemingly aborted by Dark Raiden's last act of sending a message back through time to his own past self, seconds before Shao Kahn finishes him.
    • MK9 initially seems to set up a worse timeline than the original as most of the Earthrealm warriors die much earlier than they were supposed to, all thanks to Raiden attempting to influence the course of history based on his future self's vague warning. Quan Chi resurrects many of said warriors as brainwashed Revenants. Raiden, with aid from the Elder Gods, narrowly manages to destroy Shao Kahn once and for all, thereby preventing Armageddon, but the sacrifices to reach this victory are too tremendous to contemplate.
    • MKX probably has the most straightforward happy ending since the original tetralogy. Cassie Cage singlehandedly defeats Corrupted Shinnok, saves the realms, and even manages to reunite her estranged parents. However, Raiden's absorption of Shinnok's darkness in the Jinsei causes him to yet again take on the Dark Raiden persona and he sends a clear message to Liu Kang and Kitana (now the undead rulers of the Netherrealm) that he is done taking shit from other realms (many arcade endings also show him going on the warpath against Outworld, forcing Kotal Kahn to invoke the sacred right of Mortal Kombat against him). Additionally, Scorpion's hasty execution of Quan Chi dooms the other remaining Revenants to their hellish existence forever.
    • MK11 ends with Liu Kang and Raiden breaking free of Kronika's temporal manipulations and defeating her by performing a Fusion Dance, but they are forced to repair the Hourglass and reset the timeline from scratch once again. The Aftermath DLC story expansion initially seems to set up another straight up Downer Ending as Shang Tsung and the other villains go on a brutal soul-harvesting spree, altering the events of the final battle at Kronika's Keep and seemingly emerging victorious. Thankfully, Fire God Liu Kang pulls a clever Batman Gambit on his nemesis and, after defeating him, truly begins work on resetting the timeline for the better.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: The protagonists are Jerks with Hearts of Gold or Anti Heroes at best. The villains are often either genocidal rapists, mass-murderers, or sociopaths. Some of the latest would describe themselves as all three. Even Raiden has ventured into the Knight Templar category or uses manipulation as a means of protecting Earthrealm.
  • Black Comedy: The entire series is fueled by this, and is arguably the main thing that keeps the gore from becoming legitimately nauseating. Highlights include: Cassie smashing in the opponent's jaw and uploading it to social media, Cassie kicking the opponent so hard in the dick that their entire skeleton pops out from their head, Skarlet repeatedly stabbing the opponent in the face with icicles made from their own blood, Quan Chi ripping off the opponent's leg and beating them repeatedly with it even after they're dead, Mileena eating the opponent and then spitting all their bones back out...
  • Bladder of Steel: The earliest installments had no pause mechanism whatsoever. The Start button was used for blocking.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Compared to other games in the genre, which was its selling point. And of course, each game released is Bloodier and Gorier than the last.
  • Bloody Hilarious: The gore is tongue-in-cheek most of the time.
  • Boss Tease: The first game would allow you to sneak a glimpse at an extra character who wasn't on the roster being down to fight, appearing rarely before fights to offer hints as to how he could be fought himself. By doing specific things in a specific order, one could finally fight Reptile.
  • Bootstrapped Theme: "Techno Syndrome" by The Immortals is widely considered to be the definitive theme song of the entire franchise, despite it originally being composed for Mortal Kombat: The Album, and only breaking out one year later in the 1995 film. Went full circle as of Mortal Kombat 11, where a remixed version of it is used as the official soundtrack for the reveal trailer, a good 24 years after it became famous.
  • Button Mashing: The Test Your Might minigame, and later the "Dial-A-Kombo" in any game with the infamous "Run" button.
  • Canon Foreigner: Since most of the games' appeal involves having the characters killing each other with their Fatalities, when the games were adapted into comics and films, the authors of these adaptations had to create several new characters in order to have the main characters display their Fatalities without killing off any of the canon characters.
  • Casualty in the Ring: Pretty much every variation of this has been presented across of the installments. After all, it's Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Changing of the Guard: Unlike other fighting game series that tend to expand on each previous roster, Mortal Kombat tends to radically shift its character rosters between games, giving each instalment a unique feel. Even the most popular characters have been known to miss instalments, either due to being Killed Off for Real or their actors being unavailable.
    • Mortal Kombat 3 controversially removed many of the most popular characters from the first and second games to make way for newcomers, most damningly Scorpion and Raiden. Most of the old favourites returned in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy due to persistent fan demand.
    • MK: Deception upheaved the status quo by giving the slightly lesser known past characters a chance to shine (e.g. Jade, Kabal, Nightwolf, Noob Saibot) while removing many of the more iconic characters from the roster altogether. Most of the newcomers introduced in the immediate predecessor, Deadly Alliance, were also replaced with another batch of newcomers.
    • MKX marks the series' long-awaited first attempt at a "new generation" roster, in a similar vain to Street Fighter III and Garou: Mark of the Wolves (Ed Boon had been wanting to do this concept since Armageddon). However, some of the old guard are still present on the roster.
    • MK11 emulates Deception to a lesser degree, as it also switches out some of the main recurring characters for past Ensemble Darkhorses that skipped the previous instalment. Though as with X, the most important characters still remain playable.
  • Character Roster Global Warming: The series handles this very oddly: every Mighty Glacier in the series is a boss and is only playable (barring a few exceptions, such as Goro and Shao Kahn in the GameCube version of Deception and its PSP port Unchained) in the full cast games.
  • Color Animal Codename: The Red Dragon is a criminal syndicate founded by the demigod Daegon. The Black Dragon, which Kano is a member of, is a splinter group founded by Red Dragon members who disagreed with the code of honor of the Red Dragon.
  • Color-Coded Multiplayer: As expected when both players choose the same character.
    • This is mostly averted for the various ninja characters, particularly in earlier games where their colour schemes were their only identifying features to set them apart. In mirror matches, the second player's costume would only be a slightly different shade of the ninja's main colour scheme. MK11 is the first game to avert this somewhat, since the ninjas now have diverse enough designs for them to be recognisable in different colours.
  • Combos: While not a major mechanic, combos were made especially easy in the third game with the Run Mechanic. Several games have a strict Dial-A-Combo system. Mortal Kombat is also the series that introduced juggling to fighting games.
  • Comic-Book Time: Surprisingly averted (for a while, anyway). Most titles in the series are actually set in the year the final revision of each game was released, seeing as Deadly Alliance (2002) is stated to occur a full decade after the events of the first Mortal Kombat (1992). Deception and Armageddon, however, take place immediately after DA, whereas MK9 is a second timeline, which returns to the time of the original trilogy. X's story takes place across 25 years, allowing the story to catch up to the time of its release.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: One of the reasons Mortal Kombat especially does not really stand up today is that the computer has godly reflexes and is able to block nearly everything you throw at it while throwing all the special moves at you before you can block. Mortal Kombat II at least is a little more broken in your favor, while 3 swings back around button-reading your input, especially with regards to Shao Kahn, who's appearance in 3 has topped many lists of "Most Unfair Bosses Ever."
  • Continuity Snarl: Oh boy. Listing every example would take up an entire page, but to summarise, many characters' backstories have been altered over the years and some spontaneously return from the dead between games for no readily apparent reason.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Invoked with any lava level (and there are quite a few).
  • Crapsack World: Make no mistake, with all the horrific violence occurring on a daily basis, good doses of Black-and-Gray Morality, Jerkass Gods and brutal conflicts happening constantly, life in the Mortal Kombat universe fucking sucks. However, if there's one part in particular that showcases how much of a wretchedly horrific hellhole life is in this world, it has to be Outworld, obviously as explained in Death World below, but many other realms veer into this. As presented in Mortal Kombat: Deception, there's a Lawful Stupid realm that basically runs on perpetual tyranny. There's a Chaotic Stupid realm where people do whatever they feel like, which is usually "murder each other for fun." There's the Netherrealm - which is basically Hell. There is a Heaven for virtuous souls, but a powerful enough sorcerer can steal souls from it without fear of retribution. There are gods who are more or less benevolent, except they are bound by rules from higher gods that prevent them from actually doing anything. The Elder Gods are a cross between The Gods Must Be Lazy and Jerkass Gods. It really doesn't even matter if you're good or evil in the end anyway, as it seems that once you die, any demon, sorcerer, emperor, or god can come along and just take your immortal soul - and there's nothing you can do about it. A few nicer realms like Earthrealm and Edenia are either invaded every other game or under constant threat of invasion. The best the heroes can do is beat back the latest threat for a brief peace since villains either suffer from Joker Immunity, or are replaced by new ones. Oh, and if the good guys fail even once, said fail will result in The End of the World as We Know It. If mortals will get too powerful or the battles will get too extreme, it will cause a Class Z Omniversal FUBAR... with perhaps only the Elder Gods surviving.
  • Darker and Edgier: It seems like, with every installment (except for the crossover with DC), they go with this:
    • MK4 removed Babalities and Friendships, and included armed combat and fatality cinematics.
    • Deadly Alliance, with Shang Tsung & Quan Chi murdering Liu Kang in the opening cutscene.
    • The Deadly Alliance/Deception/Armageddon trilogy added more and more graphic death scenes (in Armageddon, the player must "build" the Fatality), as well as the story going From Bad to Worse: The Hero Dies, then The Bad Guys Win, then during the Darkest Hour comes The End of the World as We Know It.
    • Mortal Kombat 9 added the X-Ray Moves, and the Fatalities and Stage Fatalities are more graphic, with the horsepower of the then-current consoles allowing for more detailed and creative dismemberment. The Story mode also makes sure the player feels the overwhelming odds of the heroes by dealing them one narrative loss after another until the despair of the last heroes standing feels deserved.
    • Mortal Kombat X has upped the ante even further - with even more graphical power at their disposal, the series raised the bar with incredibly graphic gore from incredibly detailed character models, while also muting and darkening the overall color palette from 9, which still had a stylized, vibrant look to it.
    • Mortal Kombat 11 manages to deliver exceptionally graphical violence. Fatal Blows and new radical Fatalities outshine everything the MK series done so far. The gore was so next-level that Fatality videos were actually triggering YouTube automated content flags, the system algorithm believing actual dismemberment videos were being uploaded. And that's just scratching the surface, with an incredibly bleak and depressing storyline that reaches its Darkest Hour, starting with Sonya's Heroic Sacrifice, culminating all the way with everyone dead, and despite our heroes' efforts, the universe ends up being destroyed.
    • Also, Rebirth, which was Kevin Tancharoen's way of pitching his idea for a new film to Warner Bros.
  • Death by Cameo: The creators tended to do cameos in the games as severed heads on spikes. Their names also appeared on headstones.
  • Death Is Cheap: Considering that this is a fighting game series where brutally maiming opponents is commonplace, you bet this trope applies. If a major playable character dies in the storyline, don't expect them to stay dead for long. Towards the end of the 3D Midway era, the writing team stopped bothering to give excuses for characters inexplicably coming back to life, as they openly admit in Hsu Hao's Armageddon Kombat Kard.
    • Reversing the backwards dialogue from a Chaosrealm or Neatherrealm NPC in Deception confirms that none of the Mortal Kombat characters truly die (this could also link to Gameplay and Story Integration, as the series' trademark Fatalities are never permanent).
    • The Netherrealm Studios instalments tend to give character deaths slightly more weight, though the fact that many dead warriors come back through Quan Chi's magic or time travel hijinks means that the trope is still very much in effect.
  • Death World: Outworld, and any realm that gets merged with it. The dominant biomes are Mordor, Shifting Sand Land, and Evil Forest, and every single one of them is perpetually littered with mutilated corpses. Further, anyone not a part of the Emperor's inner circle can look forward only to a life of hardship and enslavement, and even those who are a part of Shao Kahn's cadre get punished harshly the first time they screw up (just ask Shang Tsung about that). Luckily Outworld does get a little better over the series, as the heroes beat back Kahn's forces.
  • Debug Room: Nearly all games had one.
  • Deck of Wild Cards: Outworld, especially the inner circle surrounding its ruler Shao Khan, heavily embraces an every-man-for-himself outlook, and even those most closely aligned with or fiercely loyal to Shao Kahn (such as Baraka, Sheeva and Sindel) are willing to betray him at the first sign of weakness or that Khan will have them replaced.
  • Defeat by Transformation: In response to criticism that the first game's Fatalities were too violent, Mortal Kombat II introduced the concept of the "Babality", an alternate Fatality where the opponent is transformed into a literal baby. These returned in Mortal Kombat (2011).
  • Digitized Sprites: A distinguishing feature of the series for the first several games. It were among the first to make this successful, thanks to smooth animation and consistent hitbox detection, two things its imitators usually lacked.
  • Disowned Sibling: Bi-Han and Kuai Liang were once close, with Kuai Liang looking up to his older brother. But as Sub-Zero and Noob Saibot, the two have grown to despise each other; Sub-Zero for his brother's vile deeds, and Noob for his younger brother's perceived betrayal. Each has said to the other at one point or another "We share blood. We are not brothers."
  • Divergent Character Evolution: Due to using digitized sprites, the cast was expanded by taking the same sprites and re-colorling them to create new characters. Most famously, this was the case for the male ninjas (Scorpion, Sub-Zero, etc.), female ninjas (Kitana, Mileena, etc.), and cyborgs (Sektor, Cyrax, etc.). After the series made the jump to 3D, different models were used for those characters further distigushing them. In particular, Reptile, who started off with Scorpion and Sub-Zero's moveset combined, was given his own unique moveset in his next appearance and gradually became more reptilian in each successive game. Similarly, Ermac gradually became more like an undead mummy.
  • Divine Ranks: Mortal Kombat has a fairly detailed hierarchy of gods in its expanded lore:
    • There are the Protector Gods who each have an individual realm to watch over. Raiden, of course, acts as the Protector God for Earthrealm. Raiden is flanked by the lower Elemental Gods; his brother Fujin, the God of Wind, is named as his heir. Argus was the Protector of Edenia alongside his wife Delia; together, they sired twin demigod sons, Taven and Daegon... and Argus also had Rain at some point. Lucifer was once the Protector of the Netherrealm before he was dethroned by Shinnok, eons prior to the events of the series. According to backwards dialogue spoken by Chaosrealm and Netherrealm denizens in the Konquest Mode of Deception, Shao Kahn was originally installed as the Protector of Outworld before he betrayed the Dragon King Onaga and took the realm for himself.
    • Far above the Protector Gods are the Elder Gods, the aloof and irreproachable watchers over all the realms, responsible for setting up the Mortal Kombat tournament thousands of years ago. They often masquerade as large, ghostly humanoids, but their true forms resemble the Mortal Kombat dragon logo. Millennia ago, Shinnok was cast out to the Netherrealm by the other Elder Gods, becoming the first Fallen Elder God. So far, Cetrion is the only full-powered Elder God to be Promoted to Playable. Elder Gods are impossible to kill by any normal means (only a more powerful god can possibly execute them).
    • Above even the Elder Gods are the enigmatic Titans. The Final Boss of 11, Kronika, has dominion over time itself and orchestrated the events of the series with her Hourglass. She also mothered Cetrion and Shinnok. Scorpion's arcade mode ending in the same game reveals that many other Titans and eldritch horrors exist in the cosmos.
    • Finally, we reach the Top God: The One Being. All of reality is a dream of the One Being, with every organism merely a separated fragment of its consciousness. The One Being can only be awakened by the complete merging of all realms, at which point it will devour everything, including the Elder Gods. As such, it subtly influences the actions of the series' main antagonists (namely Shao Kahn, Shinnok and Onaga) in order to have them successfully merge the realms, allowing it to become whole again.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: Seriously, do not go for a walk in the forests of Outworld. Those trees have mouths for a reason.
  • Dragons Up the Yin Yang: All over the place.
  • Duel to the Death: Even outside of the tournaments, many characters are enemies or have personal feud going left and right against many others, or are simply AxCrazy enough to want nothing but this, however when allied or more moderate characters are put against each other, they will often handwave the fight as training, or as a test of their abilities, and so on.
  • Ethnicity Monarch:
    • Depending on the continuity, Sindel or Kitana reigns as Queen of the Edenians, meaning all of the people that originate from their realm, Edenia. In the reboot continuity, Edenia is stated to be permanently gone as its own realm, which means that all Edenians are now Outworlders. Some still look up to Sindel/Kitana as their leader, but it's irrelevant because all Outworlders have to obey whoever rules as Khan.
    • Goro is the Prince of the Shokan (half-Dragon) race. Later, he is succeeded by Sheeva.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: As revealed at the start of MK9, roughly 99% of the established characters from MK1-Armageddon are killed in the Battle of Armageddon. The only ones left alive in the original timeline are Taven, Shinnok and Shao Kahn, who is the one that ultimately wins and dooms the original timeline.
  • Exposed to the Elements: Just look at all of the fantastic and bizarre locales the cast visits and try to tell us that the shirtless men and half-naked ladies are appropriately dressed.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Ninjas, shaolin monks, cyborgs, gods, aliens, U.S. Special Forces, cops, actors, and whatever the fuck Kabal is supposed to be, all beating the ever-loving crap out of each other.
    • Interestingly justified in case of Outworld. A myriad of different lifeforms inhabit Outworld, and it was Shao Kahn's lust for conquest that brought them all together. Whenever he defeated a realm in Mortal Kombat, he subsequently annexed that realm (along with the resident population) and merged it with Outworld. So don't be surprised if you see reptilians, insectoids, four-armed humanoids and various other monsters running about Outworld.
  • Female Groin Invincibility: In the first two games, Johnny Cage's Groin Attack special move doesn't work on female characters. This doesn't apply to the third game and onwards, where they get affected by it regardless of gender.
  • Far East: The series loves this, with some Interchangeable Asian Cultures at hand (for starters, Scorpion and Sub-Zero are Chinese ninja).
  • Finishing Move: Multiple fatalities for each character, Brutalities, Animalities, and stage-specific Fatalities. The Friendships and Babalities are the Lighter and Softer versions of this.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: The Netherrealm. UMK3 even called it "Hell".
  • Fixed-Floor Fighting: The first two games, as well as the reboot.
  • Flawless Victory: The Trope Namer. Actually pulling it off, specially against bosses, is not so easy.
  • Free-Floor Fighting: Most of the games starting with the third one, corresponding to the switch into 3D, although MK3 and its updates were 2D.
  • Frequently-Broken Unbreakable Vow: The rule that Mortal Kombat is required to merge the realms is the premise of the first game. After that, though, Shao Kahn starts using either Loophole Abuse or flat out disobeying the rules, and the Elder Gods consistently do nothing about it.
  • From Bad to Worse: The storylines became rife with problem escalations starting in Deadly Alliance.

  • Gameplay Roulette: The endless minigame cycles in the 3D entries.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: In certain matchups, the fatalities count as this since there's nothing preventing characters who are canonically friends/allies (or even family members/love interests) in the series lore from brutally murdering each other at the end of a match. You get stuff like Liu Kang turning into a dragon and eating Kitana, Cassie Cage kicking her father's heart out, or Jax tearing his own daughter's arm off. All of this is completely out of character for them.
  • Genre Shift: MK started out as another tournament fighter in Enter the Dragon fashion. Then came the second installment, which introduced the battle-for-souls plot that has driven the series since, and then the third installment, which took things in a post-apocalyptic direction.
  • God and Satan Are Both Jerks: Sort of. The closest two characters, The One Being for God and Shinnok for Satan, are both morally awful, with the former feeding on the Elder Gods from the beginning and being willing to destroy all realms, while the latter is, well, Shinnok.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: Averted by younger gods like Fujin and Raiden, as well as the Fallen Elder God Shinnok - but the Elder Gods definitely play this trope straight, as they're notorious for being slackers. They are loathe to interfere in the events of the multiverse. Even when their hand is forced by a cataclysmic threat to the multiverse, they're more likely to institute some roundabout scheme like the Mortal Kombat tournament or Blaze's contest in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, to keep from having to deal with it themselves. To the extent that the plot of the reboot game comes down to Raiden trying everything he can to finally get them to do something.
  • Good Is Not Soft: The various heroes are very willing to kill if it'll protect their homeworlds from the Forces of Darkness. Most of them are shown to be otherwise morally upstanding, virtuous, and overall likable characters when the fate of the universe isn't at stake.
  • Gorn: Being a series flooded with over-the-top violence, this was expected. The Moral Guardians went apewire.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Despite all the violence, MK has almost little to no swear words uttered at all. So far, Scorpion has indulged in it in Shaolin Monks, which sometimes he'll alter his iconic "Get Over here!" into more profane versions. It's subverted because they (mostly) avoid the phrases where the swears would go, obviating the need for narmy substitute words. Sonya also swears a few times in 9, with most of her profanities being somehow interrupted. This is averted in Mortal Kombat X onward, where there is actually quite a bit of profanity, especially from Cassie Cage.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The One Being. It is responsible for all events that occur throughout the franchise and subtly manipulates powerful beings such as Shinnok, Shao Kahn and Onaga, into achieving their goals by merging all the realms so it could be whole again.
  • Guest Fighter: Starting with 9, NetherRealm has been adding guest characters to each game as DLC.
  • Guide Dang It!: Every Secret Character and fatalities in the older games.
  • Hammered into the Ground: Has been seen throughout the series, especially with Sheeva's Nail Driver fatality which involves her driving her defeated opponent to the ground with her four arms. Jax does the same with his Three Points fatality in 9.note 
  • Head Crushing: The series is laden with fatalities like these, appearing as early as the arcade games.
    • Jax's Head Clap fatality has him clap his hand against his opponent's head, crushing it to pieces.
    • Tremor's "Stalag-Might" has him impale his opponent with three stalagtites and then finishes them off by turning his arms into hammers and smashing them between their head.
    • Erron Black has a fatality involving stomping on a head (while it's being dissolved by acid).
  • Healthy Green, Harmful Red: Green is full health, red is low, in some games:
  • High-Heel Power: Several female characters wear high heels (like princesses Kitana and Mileena), which seem strangely practical in combat.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja: In all the colors of the rainbow.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Several entries definitely enjoyed seeing blood rocket out of the body.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The fanservice gradually increased in every game, especially once graphical technology got good enough to the point where real actresses/actors were no longer required to make a decent 3D model. In addition, each game in and of itself would feature alternate costumes that were usually sexier than the defaults. Reached its logical peak in 9, featuring outfits that you really would expect to see in a strip club. This trend was reversed in Mortal Kombat X, which opted for realistic proportions and less revealing outfits. Compare Mileena, who has the skimpiest outfit in both games, between 9 and X.
  • An Ice Suit: Sub-Zero and Frost's outfits. In some games, Sub-Zero even has a coat of ice covering his forearms and hands.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Anyone who gets knocked into The Pit, except in the second and third games, where the loser hits the pavementbelow really hard or gets shredded to bits by revolving blades, respectively. Other stage fatalities do this too (such as the Kombat Tomb in II, which has spikes on the ceiling into which the losing fighter can be uppercut), and some characters too, such as Baraka. Deadly Alliance also allowed certain fighters to lodge their weapons into the opponent's body, albeit non-fatally.
  • Inevitable Tournament: Even after the story progresses beyond the necessity of the tournament, the games still function as one-on-one battles. Also, in order to accomplish anything in the series, a character inevitably has to enter and win — there's no chance of just sniping the Big Bad from fifty feet away, or just fighting until you've killed the guy you're after then quitting while you're ahead, or whatever. Some characters actually do just that in the story.
  • In Spite of a Nail: The Continuity Reboot of the series may have changed several key aspects of the timeline, but there are some things that remain constants regardless of what happened:
    • The younger Sub-Zero becoming the Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei, despite being automated, killed and turned into an undead revenant in the new timeline.
    • The older Sub-Zero being murdered by Scorpion and revived as Noob Saibot, despite Raiden's attempt to stop Scorpion.
    • In both timelines, Liu Kang will die and become undead, just under different circumstances.
    • Scorpion finding out about Quan Chi's murder of his family and clan and turn on him, despite the fact that the latter interfered a lot more in the rebooted timeline to keep the former under his thumb.
    • In both timelines, Raiden Came Back Wrong as a darker version of himself, just under different situations.
  • Interactive Narrator: In the early games, the announcer is Shao Kahn. Understandably, if he beats you, instead of "Shao Kahn wins", he just declares "I win."
  • Invisible to Normals: With the exception of a few key individuals, towns, sects, and organizations scattered the world wide, most of Earthrealm did not know of Outworld's existence (and by proxy, the existence of the other realms) until Shao Kahn's invasion in 3. Even so, most Earthrealmers are probably considered Muggles on the overall scale.
  • Jerkass Gods: The Elder Gods are supposed to enforce the rules of Mortal Kombat. Yet they allow Shao Kahn to merge Earthrealm and Outworld in Mortal Kombat 3, reinterpret the rules to justify doing nothing in Mortal Kombat 9, and generally screw over any mortal they have dealings with.
  • Jiggle Physics: Only present in the DA-D-A trilogy and 9 in any great measure.
  • Joker Immunity: Every single character has it, apparently. Seriously, despite the fact that cruelly killing your opponent in the most brutal ways possible is encouraged in this series, it's almost impossible for a character to stay dead, at least plotwise. As far as Gameplay and Story Segregation goes, the two conflict so often that it almost makes the series a contradiction.
  • Killing Your Alternate Self: Since the game allows mirror matches, and its original gimmick was being able to gruesomely eradicate your defeated opponents, this one was inevitable.
  • Kiss of Death: How some of the female combatants finish off opponents.
  • Leotard of Power: Nearly every female character has this as a main or alternate costume.
  • Lizard Folk: The Saurians are reptilian humanoids who evolved from dinosaurs in Earthrealm's distant past and moved to the realm of Zaterra.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Every Fatality and Brutality reduces its victim to this.
  • Machine Blood: Robotic characters, such Cyrax, Sektor, Smoke (post-cyberization), and RoboCop, have blood that is colored dark brown or black, making it appear that they are bleeding oil.
  • Made of Plasticine: The losing fighter during a Fatality.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Characters rarely display more than minor annoyance towards such injuries as broken limbs and being impaled by their opponent's weapons, and it's taken to absurd levels with the X-Ray moves of MK9 and MKX, and Fatal Blows of MK11. Almost all the X-Ray moves (and every Fatal Blow) would hideously cripple the victim at best, if not outright murder them in real life.
  • Masked Villains, Unmasked Heroes:
    • Shao Kahn is the Evil Overlord of Outworld and wears a skull-like helmet. His primary opponents are Liu Kang, Raiden and Kitana. Raiden and Liu Kang do not wear masks. Kitana does wear a mask but is more likely to be seen without it in contrast to Shao Kahn who almost always seen wearing his helmet.
    • Most of the mask-wearing characters in the games are either evil or frequently switch alignments. Kitana, Jade and the second Sub-Zero are the only masked characters who have consistently been on the heroic side.
  • McNinja: Scorpion is the only actual ninja, hailing from Japan. The Lin Kuei are not ninjas, since they come from China, and in Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero they even get offended at being referred to by that word. The other "ninjas" (Kitana, Mileena, Ermac, etc.) are all from other dimensions where ninjas aren't even a thing, they just happen to use similar stylings.
  • Mechanically Unusual Fighter: Shang Tsung is capable of turning into other characters. In some games, he can turn into any character at will. In others, he can only turn into his opponent (at least, when used by a human player). In later games, he can also heal himself by taking energy from his opponent.
    • A similar concept was used for Shinnok in 4, only instead of transforming into other characters, he simply copied their movesets.
  • Mechanical Muscles: Jax volunteered to have his arms reworked with prosthetics in MK3. Subverted with the later games in which his arms appeared more robotic than human-shaped.
  • Medieval Stasis: Outworld seems locked into this, despite having one guy there packing six-guns. This situation sort of ends, when Kano and the Black Dragons sells guns and missiles to the Outworlders but this really only improves their weapons tech and nothing else (this is demonstrated during the Story Mode of 9 when Baraka reprimands another Tarkatan who damn near shoves a shotgun into his face while trying to figure it out).
  • Merger of Souls:
    • Shang Tsung's power is said to be derived from his having absorbed the souls of his vanquished opponents. He is dangerous because he is not one opponent, but thousands.
    • Ermac, who is made up of the thousands of souls whose shells died resisting Shao Kahn's rule.
  • Monster Modesty: Goro and Kintaro both wear little black briefs and nothing else. Sheeva (depending on the game) either wears a leotard or a Chainmail Bikini. Other characters, like the Netherrealm oni Moloch and Drahmin, wear as little as loincloths, in the comics Goro's father King Gorbak just wears a cape and a loincloth.
    • Motaro and Blaze both enter battle in the nude, but given that Motaro is a Centaur with the lower body of a horse and Blaze is a being made of living flames and magma, there's nothing immodest to be exposed, although Blaze does wear a pair of black trunks in Deadly Alliance (in which he looks like a regular Man on Fire, rather than the giant with solid magma protusions from Armageddon). Motaro does gain a loincloth after being mutated into a Minotaur for his single playable appearance in Armageddon.
  • Mood Whiplash: The series has a knack for doling out the gore with a nice helping of comedy. One minute, you're bisecting your opponent and the next minute you may be turning them into a baby. But the biggest example of the trope comes from the names of the Fatalities themselves, for as gory as they may be, expect their names to be loaded with puns related to how the opponent is killed. Ironically, as the Fatalities get more gruesome with the newer games, their names tend to get even cheesier. And then there's those Fatalities that are so ridiculous, they cross right over into Bloody Hilarious: imagine breaking your opponent's jaw right off their skull, then posing for a selfie with them and posting it on your social network, like Cassie Cage in X?
    • The Friendships serve as this. One moment, the fighters are beating each other. The next moment, the winner finishes off by doing something sickeningly friendly and nonlethal.
  • Mordor: Outworld is often depicted like this under Shao Kahn's rule.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Prior to Mortal Kombat X toning this aspect down considerably, you could count on one hand the number of times a named female character appeared in clothing that didn't invoke this to some extent. Even Ashrah, for whom the designers deliberately went for something modest, has a comparatively skimpier alternate costume.
  • Multiple Endings: For each character. Most of them contradicted each other, to the point where figuring out the official canon is a massive undertaking; to some fans, it's just easier to ignore the endings that contradict one another and see what's left. In the past, all you had to do was go by Liu Kang's ending. But well... he's kinda Killed Off for Real. Well, he's technically Back from the Dead, but he's a zombie slave of Quan Chi's for most of Mortal Kombat X, so it doesn't really count. And at the end, he and Kitana are still undead revenants after Quan Chi's defeat, but they have taken control of the Netherrealm.

  • Named After First Installment: The original game was just titled Mortal Kombat (1992), with all future sequels either using the name along with a number or subtitle. The title is based on the "Mortal Kombat" tournaments important to the franchise, especially in the first game.
  • Nemesis Magnet:
    • Shao Kahn and Raiden are at each other's throats for control of earth realm. Liu-Kang becomes personally invested with Kahn's defeat after he murders Kung Lao. And His adopted daughter Kitana grows a personal vendetta towards him after learning about what he did to her true father, and specifically after replacing her with Mileena.
    • Shang Tsung was the final boss of the first game and was defeated by Liu Kang who is The Hero for most of the franchise. In Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Tsung kills Liu Kang in revenge and earns himself the anger of Liu's friend Kung Lao who dies trying to avenge him. Deadly Alliance also introduces Kenshi, a swordsman who was blinded by Shang Tsung's treachery and seeks to slay the sorcerer.
    • Due to his role in the death of the former's older brother and the destruction of the latter's family and clan, both Sub-Zero and Scorpion have a personal enmity with the sorcerer Quan Chi.
  • Ninja: Nine males, seven females, four cyborgs at last count. Only one is literally a ninja, however. The rest just have the look/style.
  • Nintendo Hard: The first three games abuse the hell out of Perfect Play A.I., SNK Boss, The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard, and Fake Difficulty all in the interest of sucking as much quarters out of players as humanly possible. Things were toned down for Mortal Kombat 4, and none of them since have been quite as nasty. (Though 9 gets damn close at times.)
  • Non-Lethal K.O.: Averted by fighting game standards: This series beats the crap out of this with a scythe, then breathes fire on it for good measure.
  • Off with His Head!: A lot of fatalities involve this. Johnny Cage's fatality in the first game can even take off three heads... somehow.
  • Our Souls Are Different: If you lose your soul in Mortal Kombat, you're usually dead. Unless you are a fully converted cyborg.
  • Palette Swap: The ninjas, at least initially. Something funny about this is when you use the term for the mirror matches: in Mortal Kombat, only Sonya had a completely different color set for her mirror match (red instead of the usual green). The other fighters were merely covered in a slightly darker shade, which sometimes makes the difference just that subtle (picture Liu Kang in a time he had neither the headband, nor the highlights on his pants).
  • The Paralyzer: One unique aspect to Mortal Kombat as a fighting game series is its prevalence of moves that make an enemy helpless, with the most famous being Subzero's Ice Ball and Scorpion's Harpoon. In contrast, many other fighting games only feature stunning when a character takes too many heavy damage hits in a short time, or else the stunning moves are restricted to "Super Attacks", such as in Darkstalkers 3.
  • Personality Powers: Not everyone per se, but there are standout cases, such as Scorpion (fire), Sub-Zero (ice), and Noob Saibot (shadow/darkness).
  • Possessing a Dead Body: In Deadly Alliance, the Villain Team-Up of Shang Tsung and Quan Chi, defeated and killed a lot of the Defenders of the Earth, especially the until-then protagonist Liu Kang. But later before the Cosmic Retcon of MK9 (Deception and Armageddon), a revived and heel-turned Raiden reanimated Liu Kang's body as a zombie to fight with him against Onaga and everyone who stands in his way, no matter if they're allies or enemies.
  • Primp of Contempt: Three of the female ninjas have exercised this trope:
    • After performing a brutality in X, Tanya crosses her arms and looks at her nails, saying either "You disgust me" or "You may die now."
    • In one of Jade's taunts from MK11, she throws her bo onto the ground and leans against it while checking her nails, often accompanied by snarky lines such as "Take your time getting up."
    • Mileena's grab in 11 features her turning around and checking her nails while Sais fly into her opponent. In another one of her attacks, she stabs her opponent in the eye multiple times, checks her nails, and lands one final stab.
  • Pun: About ninety percent of the Fatalities are puns. Every once in a while, though, you'll receive a few stealth puns.
  • Punch-Kick Layout:
    • Back when the series was new, the games 4 had two punch and two kick buttons, with the division being based on angles: High (head-level) and Low (torso-level) punches and kicks. Holding backwards and pressing high or low kicks would do a roundhouse or sweeping kicks respectively, and high punch while crouching becomes an Uppercut. The series used this sort of layout up to and including Mortal Kombat 4.
    • The installments from PS2 era up to Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe would simply name the basic attack buttons as Attacks 1 to 4. At least two are these are still punches and the rest are kicks.
    • Mortal Kombat 9 would switch to the layout consisting of Front Punch, Back Punch, Front Kick, and Back Kick as its basic attack buttons. Whether "front" and "back" refer to the left or right limbs depends on your stance: attacks using the front-facing limb are faster, while those using limbs in the back hit harder. And while crouching, your back punch becomes an Anti-Air whereas your back kick trips your opponent.
  • Punched Across the Room: Besides the prevalence of Stun Attacks in the game, the Mortal Kombat franchise is also well known for having a normal uppercut and roundhouse kick that sent victims flying for large amounts of damage (damage on it got toned down from 3rd game onwards). Prior to the Mortal Kombat games, uppercuts and roundhouse kicks were merely a stronger than normal attack that may or may not knock down depending on the game. Games like Tekken would take Mortal Kombat's powerhouse uppercut and turn it into a Launcher Move (Mortal Kombat in turn would have some characters use a special uppercut in a dial-a-combo as a launcher).
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: In the early games, while all of the normal attacks looked/were performed the same, moves tended to have slightly different effects for each character. Also, the hitboxes were determined by the poses and body size of the actors who were greenscreened. Subverted with Johnny Cage's Ballbuster attack - in the first two games, it didn't work on female fighters at all.
  • Rated M for Manly: It's a fighting game with as much blood as possible, and many bonafide badasses, including some manly women.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Nearly everyone who isn't from Earthrealm is several centuries old, even if they don't look like it. An extreme case are the Edenians: Kitana, for instance, is around 10,000 years old. And there's her mother Sindel, too.
  • Replaced with Replica:
    • Done with Shinnok's amulet twice.
    • In the original timeline (as revealed in Mortal Kombat 4), after Bi-Han (Sub-Zero V) retrieved Shinnok's amulet and gave it to Quan-Chi, Quan-Chi switched it with a forgery. He gave the forgery to Shinnok and kept the real one to himself.
    • In Mortal Kombat X, set in the new timeline, Shinnok's Amulet is stolen from Raiden's Sky temple and replaced with an elaborate forgery (presumably the same one Quan-Chi had originally created for his own scheme described above) so that no one would realize that it was gone until Mileena began her renewed attacks on Kotal Kahn in the Outworld civil war.
  • Replay Mode: In both Mortal Kombat X and Mortal Kombat 11, completing a fight or chapter in Story Mode makes it available for replay in a chapter select menu. This feature isn't present in Mortal Kombat 9, meaning that you have to replay the whole story mode if you wish to go through a desired chapter.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Reptile and Khameleon subvert this, at least as far as lizard-humanoids are concerned: both are ultimately motivated simply to revive their extinct species, and Khameleon tries to convince Reptile to undergo a Heel–Face Turn in Trilogy. Reptilian traits are used more as a straight example, though; when Reptile especially goes nuts, he becomes more reptilian and less humanoid, and in Kano's Armageddon ending, when he defeats Blaze, the Red Dragon Clan's experiments on him seems to finally come to fruition, as he becomes a reptilian black dragon. On the snake side of things, Shang Tsung has a snake motif; he has snakes on his robes, he's turned into a snake multiple times, and he even uses Snake-style kung fu. Shao Kahn also has patchers of reptilian scales and spikes on his body, as well as facial features similar to other reptilian characters.
  • Resurrection Revenge: There are two ninjas named Scorpion and Sub-Zero. In the back story, Sub-Zero killed Scorpion before entering the tournament. Scorpion has now come back from the dead for his revenge.
  • Retcon: Some of the characters have had their backstories altered thorough the series:
  • Robot Hair: The Lin Kuei robots had a set of cables on the back of their heads which resembled pony tails.
  • Ruder and Cruder: Mortal Kombat X and its successor Mortal Kombat 11 have more profanity than all of the prior MK media combined. Notably, the profanity in these games comes exclusively from mortal Earthrealmers. Non-Earthrealmers and non-humans also have their own share of profanity, but it's either obfuscated, or archaic curses are used instead of modern ones.
  • Rule of Cool: Almost everything in the series. Instant Awesome Just Add Ninjas, Laser Blade, Made of Explodium... Boon and Tobias probably use that index as a checklist.
  • Schizo Tech: The Mortal Kombat world has energy weapons capable of fitting inside someone's head, full-body cyborgs, and man-made dimensional gates. Even Lex Luthor was impressed at the technology they got. On the other hand, people are running around with swords, spears, maces and throwing stars. And that's Earthrealm, the other worlds seem to be stuck in Medieval Stasis.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Noob Saibot's name is the last names of the series' creators spelled backwards.
  • Serial Escalation: The Fatalities get more outrageous with succeeding titles. Not satisfied with simply melting, decapitating and immolating your enemy? How about you scare their souls out of their bodies? Or blow up the earth? Or whack them to death with a bunny rabbit?
    • If that's still not enough, you can pull them across Kung Lao's hat buzzsaw-style, or attach what can only be described as an Instant Rack to them, which dismembers all four limbs and head and lets the limbs hang there (Scarecrow, indeed), or for a little Fan Disservice, watch Mileena pleasure herself after eating the head of her opponent. Watch that and try to sleep.
    • The X-Ray moves that first appear in 9 are subject to this as well. In the first game they appear in, while extremely brutal and crippling, they are generally something that a person could believably survive, at least for a bit. With X onward, many of the X-Ray attacks are comically over the top with how deadly they are, with many involving the recipient getting shot or stabbed in the face yet able to continue fighting if their health isn't depleted by it.
  • Sexual Karma: Liu Kang and Kitana's relationship is shown to be more affectionate than Sindel and Shao Kahn's relationship. While Liu Kang and Kitana are emotionally supportive and expressive towards each other; whereas, Sindel and Shao Kahn's relationship is enabling the worst aspects of the other and they are both perverted individuals.
  • Sliding Scale Of Silliness Vs Seriousness: All over the place. This is a series where a bloody fight to the death for the fate of the universe in a dark, creepy dungeon can have Dan Forden pop up in the corner to shout “Toasty!” and end with a “Friendship” move where they draw something or bake a cake for their dizzied opponent, to the audible confusion of the announcer. Exactly where on the scale each game lands at can vary, with Mortal Kombat 4 and Mortal Kombat: Deception leaning towards the serious side, while Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat 11 lean towards the sillier. Regardless of what game it is though, there’s guaranteed to be at least something that causes serious Mood Whiplash.
  • Sigil Spam: The sigil of the Elder Gods — the stylized Asian dragon logo — is everywhere.
  • Single Player Gauntlet: Arcade Mode is a recurring mode throughout every entry in the series, most of the time using the same format of a ladder.
  • Skyward Scream: The famous Title Scream originates from one of those in the "Mortal Monday" TV ad.
  • Songs in the Key of Panic: When a match is over and the victor has a chance to finish an opponent, the background music becomes more hectic. This is a case in which the tension can cause both players to panic; the loser can be worried about being finished off, while the victor can also be worried about not performing a finisher within the short amount of time given.
  • Speaking Simlish: Most of the fighters tend to belt out odd, usually incomprehensible warcries during attacks, leading to hilarious misinterpretations on the player's part. In cutscenes, however, they speak fluent English.
  • Spontaneous Weapon Creation: The Kori Blade that Sub-Zero uses as his weapon style from Deadly Alliance onwards is created by Sub-Zero himself using his ice-based powers. Frost, being Sub-Zero's protege, uses the same technique to produce her own ice weapons, though her relative inexperience means that she can only create a pair of small daggers as opposed to Sub-Zero's entire sword.
  • Story and Gameplay Segregation:
    • Many characters are portrayed as being Technical Pacifist, either explicitly in their bios or their characterization. Johnny Cage and Kuai Liang are both extremely hesitant to kill according to their character sheets. This doesn't stop the player from being able to use Fatalities during any versus match, including against characters they care about.
    • Building off of this, the later games start off each match with some banter between the fighters, generally with the aim of justifying why the characters are fighting. While fights between allies are often framed as friendly sparring matches, the player can perform Fatalities all the same.
    • Only a very small number of characters have canonically died during the original timeline. However, the first 4 main titles in the series had no restrictions on Fatalities other than not telling you how to do them.
  • Stripperiffic: Most of the female characters have tight, cleavage-baring outfits that don't exactly need a glass of water to swallow, and quite a few of the male characters bare plenty of skin themselves.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: This is a franchise that doesn't just settle on simply knocking out your opponent like other games. When given the "FINISH HIM/HER" prompt, the victorious player is given the chance to deliver a grisly "Fatality" finisher with the right code, to ensure the loser is reduced to chunks of meat and bone.
    • Some fatalities (like Hotaru's triple Neck Snap in Deception or Johnny Cage's fatality in 9, where he uppercuts his opponent's head off then rips off their torso too) go above and beyond what is required to end the opponent's life for pure showmanship. Ed Boon himself has admitted that, whenever the team is developing a game, they hold meetings to decide on the most creative ways to finish off the opponents.
  • Title Drop: Several times. It is the name of the tournament in which Earthrealm's fate hangs in the balance, after all.
  • Tuckerization: Sonya and Tanya are named after Ed Boon's sisters, and Johnny Cage's true name, John Carlton, is that of a programmer in another Midway title, Nba Jam.
  • Unbreakable Weapons: Almost without exception, weapons never show damage or wear. In the reboot games, if this does happen (or even if the weapon is thrown), it disappears and fades back into the characters' hands.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: Several games in the series contain the old arcade shooter Galaga as a hidden minigame, unlocked after an unfeasibly large number of versus matches.
    • The game-within-a-game modes in Deception (Chess Kombat and Puzzle Kombat) and Armageddon (Motor Kombat) may also be this.
    • From the original game to the current, there has always been "tests" that differ from beating the shit out of somebody. These include Tests of Might, Sight, Strike, and Balance (in the PS Vita version).
  • Unwilling Roboticisation: Smoke in 3, Sub-Zero (the younger one, Kuai Liang) in the 2011 game. It's implied to have happened to other Lin Kuei as well, given the wide scope of their automation program.
  • Victory Pose: Every character has several - for winning a round, winning a match, winning with a Fatality, winning with a Brutality, and so on.
  • Video Game 3D Leap: The transition to 3D was made much more successfully than most other 2D fighting game series. Of course, the MK fanbase isn't as known for hardcore meta-gaming as some. The game's combo system has changed with just about every 3D incarnation released. In Mortal Kombat 9, the game plays in 2D.
  • Video Game Cruelty: It was the whole purpose behind the Finishing Moves and the success of the series. You already won the match, but pulling off the finisher was likely the most stressful part of the game.
  • A Villain Named Khan: Shao Kahn, ruler of Outworld and The Emperor and Big Bad of the series. This becomes subverted in X, which reveals that "Kahn" is actually the title bestowed upon the ruler of Outworld, and Kotal Kahn is shown to be a Noble Demon at worst. He goes on to pass the title on to Kitana in 11, even calling her by the official title "Kitana Kahn".
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: As a design counterpart to the Stripperriffic women, plenty of male characters have done this throughout the series. Liu Kang, Jax and Johnny Cage are the most frequent users (until X when their basic outfits included shirts), but there have been others.
  • Warrior vs. Sorcerer:
    • The Hero of the first game is the Warrior Monk Liu Kang. The Big Bad was Shang Tsung, an evil Shapeshifting sorcerer with a penchant for stealing souls. Liu Kang defeated Shang Tsung and the two have been bitter enemies ever since.
    • Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance: Shang Tsung earns the enmity of two warriors in this game. One is Kung Lao, Liu Kang's friend and fellow Shaolin Monk who seeks to avenge his friend's death at Shang Tsung's hands. The other is Kenshi, a swordsman who was blinded by Shang Tsung's treachery and seeks to kill him as revenge. Kenshi never gets to confront Shang Tsung and Kung Lao dies in battle against the sorcerer.
    • One of the few evil Edenians in the franchise is Tanya, an evil Lady of Black Magic. Her chief enemies are Kitana, Jade and Sindel note . While these three do have superpowers, they are not explicitly stated to be magicians and are treated more as warriors.
    • Scorpion was the greatest warrior and assassin of the Shirai-Ryu clan before he was killed an resurrected as a specter with Hellfire powers. His Arch-Enemy is the evil sorcerer Quan Chi who slaughtered Scorpion's family and clan.
  • World of Badass: This being a fighting game setting, just about everyone is capable of kicking all kinds of ass, whether they be a Warrior Monk, a special forces member, a monarch from another dimension, a riot cop or even a Hollywood actor.
  • World of Buxom: Apparently, Pettankos don't exist in the MK universe. This is especially true as of Deadly Alliance. The only exception is Ferra, who looks more like a kid, and so doesn't have the same... "tracts of land" as the other female kombatants. D'Vorah and Jacqui also do not have big breasts. Starting from Mortal Kombat X, the female characters' cup sizes become more varied.
  • World-Wrecking Wave: Some of the more imaginative Fatalities can do this. Also what will happen should Earthrealm merge with Outworld.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: It's a good thing to know that if the forces of good and evil ever get bored, they can always go into showbiz and start their own wrestling federation.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: Consider the first letter in the second word of the title to be the first of thousands of instances. Some games in the series will replace every single usage of the hard "c" (except in names such as Johnny Cage, titles such as Conquest, or third party character names such as Captain Marvel) with "k". Most arcade machines have an eternally blinking "Insert Koin" for example.
    • According to Steve Ritchie, he came up with "Kombat" specifically because of this.
      Steve Ritchie: "I made up that name and gave it to Ed Boon. They had 'Mortal' on the white board. I added the word 'Kombat'... Because it was cool."
  • You Don't Look Like You: A common problem with the character designs for the games as they move from one to the next. Liu Kang and Jax in particular has this pretty bad as they never seem to maintain a consistent appearance. This also happened back in the digitized sprite days whenever actors were replaced between games. Liu Kang himself was an example of this, as Eddie Wong, who played him in 3 and its updates, looks nothing like Ho Sung Pak, who played Kang in the first two games.
  • You Keep Using That Word: Sub-Zero will often correct someone to clarify that his clan, the Lin Kuei, are not ninja, despite their rivalry/alliance with (and similarities to) the Shirai Ryu ninja clan.
  • Your Size May Vary: If you've bothered to pay attention to official heights, you'll see that most of them are not accurately conveyed in-universe.





Mortal Kombat 9

Raiden realizes the message of "he must win" was actually for Shao Kahn all along.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

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Main / ProphecyTwist

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