Mortal Kombat features loads of kharacters who are all over the moral spectrum. But the utter cruelty and horrible deeds of some of these villains are more than enough to earn them a special place in the Netherrealm.
Examples in each group are ordered roughly by first appearance for canon works, and release/publication date for others.
- Shang Tsung is Shao Kahn's wicked right-hand man who seeks to plunge Earthrealm into war. Shang Tsung was known by the gods themselves for his evil after he stole a soul long ago, something he continues to do at his leisure, and allies with the equally horrible Quan Chi to betray Shao Kahn, seeking to open a path to the heavens and devour all the souls within to empower himself. Forming an uneasy alliance with other villains, Shang Tsung also works as a Mad Scientist for Shao Kahn, using the "Flesh Pits" to torture and vivisect people in attempts to create Tarkatan clones of Kitana. After Kronika's death and escaping the Void, Shang Tsung deceives the heroes into helping him get her crown, hoping to rewrite all of history to his whims, also having the heroes eliminated while keeping Raiden and Fujin alive to siphon their powers for all eternity, later electing to betray them and steal their souls.
- Shao Kahn, the Emperor of Outworld, is a brutal warlord who seeks to merge all realms with his own. Having poisoned his master, Onaga, Shao Kahn would later subjugate many other worlds, including the peaceful Edenia, where he took King Jerrod's family for his own. Shao Kahn would later invade Earthrealm and, with the help of Sindel, who had been resurrected by Shang Tsung, would use his magic to rip out the souls of everyone in Earthrealm while sending his extermination squads to hunt down survivors. Managing to trick everyone into helping him take Blaze's power, Shao Kahn proudly announces his intention to start an Armageddon and destroy the Earth. In the new timeline, Shao Kahn uses Shang Tsung's Flesh Pits to create Mileena, a psychotic clone of Kitana, and continues his brutal conquests, draining Shang Tsung of life to empower Sindel to slaughter Earthrealm's defenders. Upon being recruited by Kronika, Shao Kahn turns on her and plans to take her Hourglass for himself to build his own empire spanning across all the realms, deciding to achieve this by wiping out both Kronika and Earthrealm's forces.
- Quan Chi is a power-hungry, backstabbing sorcerer who ostensibly plays as Shinnok's second-in-command. Manipulating a conflict between the Lin Kuei and Shirai Ryu, later exterminating the Shirai Ryu, Quan Chi blames the massacre on Sub-Zero to have Scorpion kill him and turns the older Sub-Zero into a wraith, then tries to manipulate Scorpion against Sub-Zero's younger brother. Banished to the Netherrealm for his misdeeds, Quan Chi escapes by enlisting and later betraying demons before allying with Shang Tsung to assist in his own atrocities. In the new timeline, Quan Chi revives the souls of Earthrealm's fallen heroes to use as revenants and has them attack their former friends, while also manipulating Shao Kahn's war to free Shinnok and unleash even more destruction.
- Shinnok, a former Elder God who betrayed his fellow Gods out of an avaricious want to rule Earthrealm, was banished to the Netherrealm for eternal torture for his monstrosity. Freed by the sorcerer Quan Chi, Shinnok overthrew Lucifer in the Netherrealm to take control of the hellscape and amass an army under himself. Attempting to take control of Earthrealm by invading the Heavens, Shinnok is thwarted by Raiden but returns in the new timeline to orchestrate conflict with Quan Chi as his proxy, unleashing the demons of the Netherrealm and manipulated souls of fallen heroes to attack Earthrealm for revenge against the Elder Gods. Corrupting the life force of Earthrealm, Shinnok means to leave it in eternal chaos, and even when beaten, his evil infects Raiden to make his fellow God into something as evil as himself. Ultimately wishing to consume all that lived out of bloodlust and pettiness, Shinnok sought to awaken the destructive One Being to end all of reality.
- Mortal Kombat 11:
- Kronika, the Titan, is the mistress of time and the Greater-Scope Villain of the entire franchise. A vicious Control Freak obsessed with her notions of balance between good and evil, Kronika manipulates her own children, Cetrion and Shinnok, into eternal conflict, keeping their armies fighting forever with countless lives lost. When a timeline proves disappointing to her, Kronika exterminates it, killing everyone and rebooting them to try again, which she has done countless times. Manipulating Liu Kang and Raiden's conflict, Kronika gains allies by promising them anything they want, even having the Lin Kuei traitor Frost unwillingly convert many people to cyborgs for her army. Finally having her own daughter sacrifice herself through a combination of control and emotional manipulation, Kronika proceeds to attempt to erase history again, caring only for her own domination and shaping of destiny.
- Frost is the former star pupil of Sub-Zero who betrayed her master in the cruelest way imaginable. Arrogant and brash, Frost believed she was more fit to take over the Lin Kuei and took Kronika's offer to lead the new Cyber Lin Kuei. Transforming herself into a cyborg, Frost lured out numerous of her former comrades to transform them into robotic minions, using a process that involves ripping them apart and then removing their will to place her own will on them, deliberately choosing Lin Kuei as a form of petty revenge against Sub-Zero. When Sub-Zero and Scorpion tried to stop the Cyber Lin Kuei, Frost ambushed and tried to kill them, believing neither of them ever saw her talent. She returns in the finale leading Kronika's defenses in hopes of having another chance to kill her former comrades and to bring Kronika's plans to fruition, even knowing this would destroy the universe.
- Original live-action duology:
- 1995 film: Shang Tsung is an Evil Sorcerer who drains the souls of his victims and seeks to destroy Earthrealm for Shao Kahn, Emperor of Outworld. Starting the film by killing hero Liu Kang's younger brother and draining his soul, Shang Tsung manipulates the heroes into joining Mortal Kombat so he can see a victory for his side and finally see humanity destroyed. During his tenure as tournament grandmaster, Shang Tsung frequently drains the souls of defeated fighters, even still-living men from his own side, that he absorbs into himself, the souls suffering perpetual torment. When he realizes he may lose the tournament, Shang Tsung proves himself a dishonorable coward by doing everything he can to avoid fighting Liu Kang and trying to challenge weaker fighters in his place before relying on using Liu Kang's brother's form to try to break him mentally.
- Annihilation: Elder God Shinnok, the God of Outworld and the father—and the one behind—Emperor Shao Kahn, is in one form or another largely responsible for the events of the films as a whole. Having once decreed that his sons, Shao Kahn and Rayden (sic), must be able to kill the other to prove themselves worthy as his heir, Shinnok disowned his son Rayden after Rayden hesitated to kill Kahn, and seeks little else but his blood in the present day. Shinnok has conditioned Shao Kahn to be Emperor—threatening to take his soul should he fail to measure up to his standard—and has overseen the successful invasion of one other Realm by his hand, deliberately violating the Elder God's sacred rules to allow Kahn to invade Earth anyways after Shang Tsung's defeat. Shinnok callously oversees Kahn murdering Rayden after he denies his final offer of peace, sneering that Rayden shall die alongside the humans he's dedicated himself to protecting.
- The Journey Begins: Shang Tsung is a Evil Sorcerer and right hand to the Emperor of Outworld. In the past, Shang Tsung showed up to the Mortal Kombat tournaments, killing all the tournament grandmasters and absorbing their souls, trapping them in perpetual torment. Shang Tsung uses their deaths to take over the tournament and begins a 9-tournament win streak for Outworld, during which he would get many people killed and absorb their souls. Shang Tsung was defeated by the Great Kung Lao but came back with Goro and had him killed. Shang Tsung and Goro would lead Outworld to another 9-tournament win streak. During the events of the film, a new set of heroes would come to the tournament on a boat. To prevent them from ever getting there, Shang Tsung orders one of his minions, Sub-Zero, to kill them and make their deaths look like an accident, all for the purpose of having Outworld destroy Earthrealm.
- Legends has the Neatherrealm duo of Quan Chi and Shinnok, who are just as vile as their canon counterparts, along with Kano, who is far worse than his already villainous canon version:
- Scorpion's Revenge: Quan Chi is a powerful sorcerer and the highest-ranking servant of the Mad God Shinnok. Taking over the Netherrealm after Shinnok was imprisoned by the Elder Gods, Quan Chi keeps the realm as a hellish nightmare, where countless people get tortured for eternity. Hatching a plan to free Shinnok, Quan Chi impersonated Sub-Zero and led the Lin Kuei to slaughter the whole clan of Shirai Ryu, personally killing the wife and child of Hanzo Hasashi, aka Scorpion. Promising to resurrect Hanzo's family in exchange for the key to release Shinnok, Quan Chi sent him undercover to the Mortal Kombat tournament to act as his champion, and when Scorpion failed him by choosing to kill Sub-Zero instead, Quan Chi taunted him by revealing that he was the one who destroyed his family and clan.
- Battle of the Realms: Shinnok, the Mad God himself, is the true ruler of the Neatherrealm. In the past, he was sealed away by the Elder Gods and, as revenge, plans to merge the realms and end existence. Shinnok threatens to flay Scorpion alive and bring him back to do it again if he does not cooperate. When Scorpion escapes, Shinnok hires the Lin Kuei to make sure that Scorpion gets the final piece of Kamidogu, needed to awaken the One Being. The Lin Kuei Grandmaster is horrified to discover this and tries to stop him, though in vain as Shinnok's demons murder him along with Sektor, Cyrax, and Smoke. Shinnok then summons the One Being, merges with him, and beings to merge all the realms together to destroy them all.
- Snow Blind: Kano is the leader of the Black Dragon clan and the ultimate Big Bad of the entire series. In the past, after managing to kill Kronika and take over her hourglass, Kano would rewrite history to be to his liking, for what is implied to be many times. In one timeline, he unleashes a horde of revenants onto Earth, resulting in Earthrealm becoming a barren wasteland with its few survivors scattered across remote villages. Kano installs himself as the "King" of Earthrealm and starts raiding villages one by one, killing off a majority of their inhabitants, along with anyone who so much as stands up to him, and forcing whoever was left to be a part of the Black Dragon. Kano would frequently force people in these villages to fight to the death for his own amusement; in one case, when one refused to kill the other, Kano killed her and then killed the loser, despite their expressions of gratitude. When Shang Tsung attempts to overthrow Kano, the latter brutally slaughters Shang Tsung while reveling in his kill, even using his underlings as Human Shields against Shang Tsung. When Kenshi attempts to free one of the villages Kano conquered, Kano chooses to brutally torture him before killing him, all for his twisted amusement.
- Comic books:
- Midway Comics (MK1 Collectors Edition & MKII Collector's Edition): Shang Tsung used his ability to steal people's souls to keep himself young and appease his gods. Participating in the Mortal Kombat tournament to steal the souls of countless warriors he defeated, Shang Tsung was eventually beaten by Kung Lao, leading him to trick his way into organizing the tournament itself and using the Shokan prince Goro to kill Kung Lao and many warriors, so his new master Shao Kahn could invade the Earth. After Earthrealm champions destroyed his forces and foiled his plans, Shang Tsung managed to convince Shao Kahn to give him youth and return his full power, so he could hunt down the Earthrealm champions and destroy the Shaolin Temple of Light, a place where Liu Kang lived from childhood, massacring everyone within.
- Malibu Comics: Shao Kahn is a cruel despot of Outworld, who desires to expand his empire across the universe. Taking over the initially peaceful and utopian Outworld from King Jerrod, Shao Kahn turned it to a horrible wasteland full of life-threatening dangers, which regularly murder many innocents. Brainwashing Jerrod's daughter Kitana into thinking she is his daughter, Shao Kahn repeatedly mind-wiped her every time she found out the truth. Setting his eyes on Earthrealm, Shao Kahn tries to conquer it several times, torturing his minion Shang Tsung for failing to achieve this through the Mortal Kombat tournament. Growing paranoid, Shao Kahn decided to fill his army with undead creatures whom he controlled through Deathstone, and when mutants refused to work with them, Shao Kahn ordered their complete extermination, down to infants, as well as the annihilation of many denizens of Outworld, so he could make them his obedient undead slaves.
- 1995 novel, by Jeff Rovin:
- Shao Kahn, the demonic ruler of the hellish Outworld, is one of the sons of T'ien, the highest of gods, who originated from the creator of all life P'an Ku. Desiring to merge his realm with the Mother Realm—Earth—Shao Kahn sent his chief minion Shang Tsung there to open a portal and extend it enough to fit his demon army through. Sending his nephew Ruthay to serve as a communication device between them, changing his form in the process, Shao Kahn didn't care that it made Ruthay live in a state of eternal agony and the fact that if the portal were ever closed it could result in obliteration of the Mother Realm. Having Shang Tsung kill countless innocent people in search for "the right soul", which could extend a portal, Shao Kahn took parts of Shang Tsung's each time he failed and eagerly waited for a way to Earth, so he could transform it into Hell on Earth, with masses of people tortured and burned.
- Shang Tsung is an Evil Sorcerer who developed an ability to steal people's souls. Losing his memory on Earth after Shao Kahn sent him there, Shang Tsung immediately began slitting throats of lone travelers after Shao Kahn returned his memories and ordered him to do so, and killed a teacher, a warrior and a holy man in his search for "a right soul" to use to extend a portal to the Outworld. Realizing that souls of the warriors is what he needed, Shang Tsung captured, brainwashed and enslaved the seven traveling cooks to rebuild the ancient Shaolin Temple on an island and then enlarges it, so he could create the Mortal Kombat tournament, where he would invite many powerful warriors from across the world. He killed countless warriors and sent their souls to Shao Kahn, so he could enlarge the portal little by little. After being defeated by Kung Lao twelve times, Shang Tsung used the Shokan prince Goro to kill him by ripping his heart out, and much later Shang Tsung planned to quit being Shao Kahn's lackey by using the magic artifact to create his own kingdom, only backing down when the heroes were close to destroying him and his forces, while, for petty reasons, ordering his mercenaries to kill a child who lived in the Temple of Rayden (sic).
- Conquest: Shao Kahn is the lord of Outworld and the conqueror of countless worlds that he brutally dominates, enslaves and harvests for souls. Introducing himself by stealing the soul of a slave, Shao Kahn aims to invade Earth and subject it to his brutal rule like so many others. Setting himself up as a god named "Shakaa", Shao Kahn attempts to harvest the souls of the people in the city of Shakaana under the promise of delivering them to "paradise." In the finale of the show, Shao Kahn proceeds to use his Shadow Priests to exterminate every other member of the main cast, including Shao Kahn's own daughter Kitana, while defeating Rayden (sic). Mocking Rayden for the deaths of all the others, especially Rayden's champion Kung Lao, Shao Kahn forces Rayden to watch as he leads Outworld's forces to utterly dominate and destroy every living soul on Earth.
- "Kitana & Mileena": Shao Kahn is the tyrannical emperor of Outworld, who is bent on expanding his empire as far as possible. Invading the realm of Edenia, as soon as all their champions lose Mortal Kombat tournaments, Shao Kahn brings death and destruction to the peaceful kingdom, slaughtering countless innocents and forcing Sindel to marry him and adopting her daughter Kitana. Fearing that Sindel would tell Kitana the truth in the future, which could lead to her trying to rebel against him, Shao Kahn created her clone, Mileena, from Tarkatan blood, and when Sindel killed herself to merge her soul with that of her daughters to protect her from Shao Kahn's influence, Shao Kahn raised both his adopted daughters as his personal assassins, ordering them to murder all former King Jerrod's imposters and King Jerrod himself. Later ordering his daughters to participate in the current Mortal Kombat tournament, Shao Kahn plans to invade Earthrealm and do with it what he did with Edenia.
- "Scorpion & Sub-Zero": Quan Chi is the powerful necromancer and leader of the Netherrealm, who has his own plans for the takeover of Earthrealm. Seeking his own champion for the Mortal Kombat tournament, Quan Chi found out about the rivalry between the Shirai Ryu and Lin Kuei clans and used it to his own advantage. As both clans managed to achieve a truce, Quan Chi murders the traveling lord of both clans Shogun and all his guards, while taking the appearance of Bi-Han, leader of the Lin Kuei, to lure Hanzo Hasashi, aka Scorpion, out of the Shirai Ryu village, so that he could brutally slaughter his whole clan, along with his wife and child, and blame it on the Lin Kuei. Using Scorpion's thirst for vengeance, Quan Chi resurrected him as his own champion and led him to murder Bi-Han, who was Scorpion's former friend, whom Quan Chi framed for the purging of the Shirai Ryu.