This page covers the general events for the entire series's lore. For more detailed information about a particular game's storyline, visit that game's Recap page.
In time, a powerful warlord in Outworld, the Dragon King Onaga, emerged to begin a war to unite the realms under his rule. Using the magic in his heart to raise an undead army and powerful magics to transfer his consciousness into a dragon egg should he die, it seemed as though the realms would fall to Outworld, until the Elder Gods interceded and appointed Onaga's former right-hand man, Shao Kahn, as Outworld's protector. Shao Kahn, however, fell victim to greed and a lust for power, poisoning Onaga to death and taking over Outworld himself.
To gain the right to konquer Edenia, Outworld would need to win ten consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments, which are only held once every generation. In the end, despite the best efforts of Edenia's champions, Outworld won ten consecutive tournaments. With this, Shao Kahn was allowed to absorb Edenia into Outworld, killing the Edenian king Jerrod and taking the queen Sindel as his wife, and their daughter, the princess Kitana, as his daughter. Shao Kahn planned to konquer Earthrealm next, but Sindel, in an act of spite against the tyrant who slew her king, traveled to Earthrealm and committed suicide to create a protective ward that would prevent any attempt at annexation by Outworld. Shao Kahn managed to contain Sindel's soul in Outworld, however.
Shao Kahn sent his most capable underling, the soul-stealing sorcerer Shang Tsung, to Earthrealm to establish the Mortal Kombat tournament there, attracting kombatants to participate with the promise of a long life via delayed aging to the winner. Earthrealm's appointed guardian, the minor thunder god Raiden, would establish the White Lotus Society, a sect of the Shaolin Order of Light, to train champions to fight in Earthrealm's defense. Among the ranks of the White Lotus was a Shaolin monk of such renown that his name would be subsequently passed down through the generations since, the Great Kung Lao. This champion would make his way to the finals of Earthrealm's first Mortal Kombat tournament, only to fall by the hands of Shang Tsung's personal champion, the Shokan prince Goro.
Over the next several generations, Outworld would emerge victorious in nine Mortal Kombat tournaments. With Outworld on the cusp of annexing Earthrealm, Raiden gathered a new group of warriors to fight against Outworld's champions: Liu Kang, the White Lotus Society's most capable disciple; Sonya Blade, a soldier with the international peacekeepers known as the Special Forces; and Johnny Cage, a movie star hoping to use the tournament to advance his career. Also entering the tournament were Sub-Zero, a Lin Kuei assassin and cryomancer; Scorpion, a revenant created from the soul of the Shirai-Ryu ninja master Hanzo Hasashi; and Kano, an internationally wanted criminal and Sonya's nemesis. Over the course of the tournament, Sonya apprehends Kano and Scorpion takes his revenge on Sub-Zero, who killed him and exterminated his clan before the tournament. Liu Kang would go on to defeat Goro, only to be challenged to a final battle by Shang Tsung. In the end, the sorcerer is defeated, and with Liu Kang's victory, Earthrealm breaks Outworld's victory streak, saving it from annexation.
Upon returning to Outworld, Shang Tsung is threatened by Shao Kahn with execution. Shang Tsung, however, manages to convince his liege to grant him another chance to conquer Earthrealm: by luring Earthrealm's champions into Outworld and forcing them to compete in a new tournament. To this end, Shang Tsung sends an army of Tarkatan warriors to ambush the Wu Shi academy, killing several Shaolin monks and taking many captives, including Sonya Blade. Liu Kang follows the Outworld army in the hopes of rescuing Sonya, accompanied by Jackson "Jax" Briggs, Sonya's commanding officer. They are joined by another Sub-Zero, the younger brother of the man killed by Scorpion in the last tournament; Smoke, another Lin Kuei assassin and Sub-Zero's trusted ally; Kung Lao, Liu Kang's best friend and fellow monk; and Johnny Cage. They would fight in the Outworld tournament against the realm's champions: Kitana, Shao Kahn's adopted daughter from his konquest of Edenia; Baraka, a Tarkatan warrior; Mileena, Kitana's "sister" created by cloning her and introducing Tarkatan DNA; Reptile, the last of the Zaterran race; Shang Tsung, himself; and Kintaro, another Shokan and Shao Kahn's personal champion. In the battles that ensued, a splinted faction of the Lin Kuei that chose to become cyborgs kidnap Smoke and forcibly cyberize him. In addition, Jax would lose his arms in the fighting, and would later have them replaced with cybernetic prostheses.
The Earthrealm warriors emerge victorious and rescue Sonya, but little do they realize, the Outworld tournament was a distraction; while Raiden's champions were indisposed in Outworld, Shao Kahn sent shadow priests to Earthrealm to resurrect Sindel. Since the former Edenian queen was his wife, this gave Shao Kahn the right to enter Earthrealm to reclaim her. Through this loophole, Shao Kahn is able to force a merger between Earthrealm and Outworld. The warriors of Earthrealm rallied together and, in the end, Liu Kang emerged victorious over Shao Kahn, forcing him to retreat. This not only undid the merger between Earthrealm and Outworld, but also liberated Edenia from Outworld's control and allowed it to be restored as a separate realm once more.
Back when the realms were young, the Elder Gods faced insurrection among their own ranks when Shinnok rebelled against them in the hopes of taking Earthrealm for himself, only to be defeated by Raiden and cast down into the Netherrealm. Although Earthrealm would be spared from Shinnok's reign, the war between him and the Elder Gods irrevocably weakened the barrier between the realms.
For a time, Shinnok was left to the mercy of the Netherrealm's ruler, Lucifer. With the help of the sorcerer Quan Chi, however, Shinnok killed Lucifer and took over the Netherrealm. With Quan Chi's aid, Shinnok set into motion plans to escape from the Netherrealm and exact revenge against the Elder Gods, sending the sorcerer to Earthrealm to retrieve his amulet, an artifact that granted terrifying power to whoever held it. With the help of the elder Sub-Zero, Quan Chi managed to lay claim to the amulet, then created a forgery of it to give to Shinnok while keeping the genuine amulet for himself. While Shinnok was able to break free of the Netherrealm for a time and kill all of the Elemental Gods save for the wind god Fujin, he would ultimately be defeated by the elder Sub-Zero due to his amulet being a weak forgery, with Scorpion dragging him back down into the depths of the Netherrealm.
This was a temporary setback, however, and Shinnok would bide his time, manipulating events in Earthrealm and Outworld while recruiting the aid of the Edenian turncoat Tanya and the corrupted soul of the elder Sub-Zero, rechristened as "Noob Saibot", for his eventual return. Following Shao Kahn's failure to force a merger between Earthrealm and Outworld, Shinnok made his move, invading the newly liberated realm of Edenia to continue his war against the Elder Gods. In the war that ensued, Liu Kang would challenge Shinnok to kombat and emerge victorious, condemning the fallen Elder God to imprisonment in the Netherrealm once more. At the same time, Scorpion learns that Quan Chi orchestrated the extermination of the Shirai Ryu, leading the revenant to hunt down Quan Chi when he, two, was condemned to the Netherrealm. Raiden, meanwhile, is appointed as a new Elder God for his part in helping to protect the realms from Shinnok, with Fujin subsequently appointed as Earthrealm's new protector.
Quan Chi would escape his imprisonment from the Netherrealm and emerge in Outworld. Upon learning of its past under the reign of the Dragon King Onaga, Quan Chi hatches a new plan to seize power: he approaches Shang Tsung and proposes that they join forces to take Onaga's immortal army and conquer the realms for themselves. Thus, the Deadly Alliance is forged. Together, they start by eliminating the two warriors that could undo their scheme: the deposed Outworld ruler Shao Kahn, and Earthrealm's greatest champion Liu Kang. While Liu Kang would die by the hands of his old nemesis Shang Tsung, Shao Kahn would escape death by allowing a body double to die in his place.
Raiden is forced to abdicate his position as an Elder God to come to the realms' aid once more against the Deadly Alliance, rallying together warriors from Earthrealm and the other realms to fight back. Unfortuantely, the combined might of Shang Tsung and Quan Chi proves too great for the other kombatants to overcome...
At the same time, an Earthrealm warrior known as Shujinko was completing a decades-long quest to reclaim the Kamidogu from across the six realms, a task given to him by an emissary of the Elder Gods named "Damashi". Unfortunately, upon completing his quest, he learns that "Damashi" is actually a projection of the Dragon King Onaga, who manipulated Shujinko into collecting the Kamidogu to hatch the dragon egg containing his soul so that he could reclaim dominion over Outworld and begin his konquest anew.
Raiden contends with both Quan Chi and Shang Tsung, but is subdued by the fearsome twosome. Shortly after, however, the Deadly Alliance falls apart as Quan Chi and Shang Tsung turn on one another, a fight that ends in Shang Tsung's defeat. Quan Chi has no time to celebrate his victory, as Onaga reemerged at that very moment. Quan Chi and Raiden are forced into a truce to contend with this mutual threat, but their combined powers prove similarly fruitless. Not even Raiden's sacrifice, creating a massive and powerful explosion, can defeat Onaga.
Raiden would return to life some time after, but his soul would be corrupted by his encounter with Onaga. Angered at the Earthrealmers for taking his protection for granted, and enraged at Shujinko for the role he unwittingly played in reviving Onaga, Raiden vows to take a hardline stance against any that would threaten his domain: no longer would he simply protect Earthrealm, now he would preemptively seek out and destroy any potential enemies. To that end, he began to hunt down Shujinko while at the same time resurrecting Liu Kang as a zombie to enforce his new rule.
Onaga used the magic in his heart to resurrect the Earthrealm warriors that had been killed by the Deadly Alliance and bring them into his undead army while drawing on the power of the Kamidogu to make him invincible. Shujinko would rally the surviving kombatants to fight back against the Dragon King, destroying the Kamidogu and robbing Onaga of his invulnerability. Onaga attempted to teleport away, only to be brought down to the Netherrealm by the Earthrealm warrior Nightwolf, who used powerful magic to confine Onaga's soul in the Netherrealm, freeing the other realms from him.
The kombat that had been fought across space and time, especially the recent konflicts, had worn at the fabric of the realms. At the current rate, the violence between the kombatants, whose powers were growing at an unprecedented rate, would eventually result in Armageddon, the complete annihilation of reality as it is known. Delia, the mortal wife of Edenia's patron god Argus, had a prophecy of these events eons before. In the hopes of saving the realms, she and Argus enacted a plan to deal with the kombatants' growing power and ferocity: a pyramid would emerge in the Edenian Southlands, with the fire elemental known as Blaze sitting upon its summit, and the promise of unlimited power to whoever slew him. Like moths to a flame, kombatants from across the six realms would flock in the hopes of claiming this prize.
Little would the kombatants realize, Argus and Delia planned for one of their own children to be the victor: the demigods Taven and Daegon. Entrusted with weapons powerful enough to slay even the Elder Gods, Argus and Delia had one of two outcomes planned through their children's victory: one of the sons would destroy the kombatants, while the other would divest the kombatants of their power. Either way, the realms would be spared.
Unfortunately, the plan was placed into jeopardy when Shinnok prematurely awakened Daegon from his stasis and manipulated him into killing Argus and Delia. Taven wouldn't awaken until several years later, when the realms were most imperiled. He would defeat his evil brother Daegon just as the pyramid and Blaze emerged, forcing him to race against the other kombatants in the hopes of defeating Blaze and saving the realms
Unfortunately, Argus and Delia's hopes were for naught, for the one who laid Blaze low and claimed unlimited power was Shao Kahn. Now unmatched in power, Shao Kahn killed the other kombatants one by one, until only he and Raiden remained. With what strength he has left, Raiden casts a spell that sends visions of the events leading to Armageddon to his younger self, along with a message: "He must win..."
Upon receiving the visions from his future self during the opening events of Earthrealm's tenth Mortal Kombat tournament, Raiden sees cracks forming on his amulet. Over the course of the tournament, he ponders the meaning behind the visions and the message he had received. At first, he believes that his future self wanted Liu Kang to win the tournament, breaking Outworld's streak and saving Earthrealm from annexation. Even though Liu Kang managed to defeat Goro and Shang Tsung, however, more cracks begin to form on the amulet, a sign that Armageddon was still coming.
After the tournament, Shang Tsung, at Shao Kahn's behest, proposes a new tournament in Outworld, the steaks being Earthrealm's immediate annexation, or Outworld forsaking all claim to konquering Earthrealm. To force Raiden to comply, Shang Tsung sends Tarkatans to lay siege to the Wu Shi temple and kidnap Sonya, forcing Raiden's hand. Now believing that his visions are a warning that allowing events to play out as they had before would result in Armageddon, Raiden takes steps to ensure key events play out differently. He saves Smoke from being kidnapped by the Cyber Lin Kuei, but in so doing, allows Sub-Zero to be cyberized in his place. When confronted by Kintaro, he sends Kung Lao to fight Outworld's champion in Liu Kang's stead. While Kung Lao defeats Kintaro, he would be immediately and unceremoniously killed by Shao Kahn, enraging Liu Kang into fighting and defeating him.
Even though Earthrealm was now protected from any further attempts at annexation by Outworld, Quan Chi proposes resurrecting Queen Sindel to force a merger. History diverges as Shao Kahn sacrifices Shang Tsung to increase Sindel's power severalfold, sending her to Earthrealm and killing all of the realm's champions, save for Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, and Johnny Cage, who are only spared by Nightwolf sacrificing himself to destroy Sindel.
Desperate to avert Armageddon, Raiden travels to the Netherrealm to parley with Quan Chi, leading Liu Kang to believe Raiden had gone mad and forsaking him. Raiden soon discovers the true meaning behind the visions and the message he had received: "He must win..." did not refer to Liu Kang emerging victorious, but rather, allowing Shao Kahn to win to force the Elder Gods to intervene. He tries to convey this information to Liu Kang, but to no avail. In the end, Liu Kang challenges Raiden, seeing him as unfit to protect Earthrealm, only to die in the fight.
When Shao Kahn emerges in Earthrealm and prepares to kill Raiden, the Elder Gods finally intervene, acting through Raiden and killing Shao Kahn, ending his threat to the realm.
Some time after Shao Kahn's death, Shinnok enacts his plan to get revenge against the Elder Gods by taking Earthrealm's lifeforce, the Jinsei, to empower himself. The Special Forces, now joined by Johnny Cage, fight against Shinnok's army, now including the revenants of Earthrealm's fallen warriors, and repel his invasion for a time when Shinnok is imprisoned in his own amulet.
Over two decades later, a civil war in Outworld between Mileena and the new ruler, Kotal Kahn, would see the Special Forces pressed back into action. Joining them are Cassie Cage, Johnny and Sonya's daughter; Jacqui Briggs, Jax's daughter; Kung Jin, Kung Lao's cousin; and Takeda Takahashi, a disciple of the reformed Shirai Ryu.
Mileena had managed to steal away Shinnok's amulet, which tipped the balance of power in the Outworld civil war in her favor. While Cassie and her allies are able to defeat her and have Mileena disposed of for good and all, Kotal decides to take Shinnok's amulet for himself to safeguard Outworld. Unfortunately, Kotal's right-hand woman, D'vorah, betrays him and steals away the amulet.
At around the same time, the Special Forces manage to apprehend Quan Chi, whom they hope to use to restore life to the revenants of Earthrealm's warriors, having succeeded in reviving Jax, Sub-Zero, and Scorpion. Upon learning that Quan Chi had been captured, Scorpion immediately heads to the Special Forces base to kill him and exact revenge for his family's murder. In the moments before taking his head, however, Quan Chi is able to release Shinnok from his amulet. The fallen Elder God kidnaps Johnny Cage, who was instrumental in his previous defeat, and makes his way to the Jinsei.
Cassie and her team give chase, eventually finding Shinnok and a heavily injured Johnny Cage in the Jinsei chamber. Shinnok unleashes his evil energies into the Jinsei, threatening to destroy Earthrealm, while taking some of its essence into himself and transforming into a viscious demon that heavily injures Raiden. Cassie, however, manages to defeat Shinnok. Afterwards, Raiden enters the corrupted Jinsei to purge it of Shinnok's taint and save Earthrealm....but at great cost...
As a result of the influence of Shinnok's taint, Raiden is hardened into a dangerous and aggressive god who decides to preemptively destroy any threats to Earthrealm. Wearing Shinnok's amulet as a trophy, he beheads the fallen Elder God and plans to present his head to the new rulers of the Netherrealm, the revenants of Liu Kang and Kitana, as a warning.
Shortly afterwards, Raiden leads the Special Forces into the Netherrealm to lay siege to Liu Kang's castle, crippling the Netherrealm army. They succeed, but Sonya Blade dies during the battle. Shortly after the battle, Liu Kang and Kitana are approached by a being of immeasurable power: Kronika, a Titan who had the power to manipulate time. Having grown weary of Raiden interfering in her designs, she enlists their aid in helping her create a New Era, one where Raiden would not be allowed to exist.
Past and present begin to merge due to Kronika's manipulation, summoning the past versions of kombatants while also resurrecting Shao Kahn and many of his followers. As a result of this time merger, Kronika is able to recruit Shao Kahn, the Cyber Lin Kuei, the past and present versions of Kano, and Liu Kang's revenant. The past version of Kitana would go on to kill Shao Kahn and become the new ruler of Outworld, brokering peace between the warring Tarkatans and Shokan in the process; while the past version of Sonya Blade rids the world of Kano by killing his past self.
The past Raiden, whose appearance causes his present self to vanish, finds himself troubled by the fact that he becomes a tyrant. His attempts to stop Kronika's ambitions are nearly derailed when he falls victim to the influence of Shinnok's amulet, forcing him to fight Liu Kang. In this fight, however, Raiden realizes that events were playing out the same as in the past timeline, and all timelines that came before: Kronika had manipulated him and Liu Kang into fighting each other to prevent them from interfering in her plans. Realizing this, Raiden resolves to destroy Kronika and end the threat she posed.
As the united armies of Earthrealm and Outworld make their way to Kronika's keep, the past Liu Kang is kidnapped by his revenant self and has his soul stolen. Raiden, however, manages to purify the revenant by merging with him, causing Liu Kang to transform into a Fire God. Liu Kang leads the charge against Kronika, but he arrives too late to stop her from rewinding time. In the end, Liu Kang kills Kronika, leaving him and a mortal Raiden to start history anew.
Before they can start history over, however, they are approached by an old nemesis: Shang Tsung! The sorcerer warns that without Kronika's crown, which was destroyed when Kronika was killed, any attempt to reshape history would end in the destruction of time. The only way to safely restart history was to allow Shang Tsung to travel into the past and retrieve Kronika's crown before her daughter, the Elder Goddess Cetrion, could take it. Neither Raiden nor Liu Kang trust Shang Tsung, but for want of another solution, they agree to it, sending Fujin and Nightwolf back with Shang Tsung to watch him.
Together, Shang Tsung, Fujin, and Nightwolf fight their way to the sorcerer's island and lay claim to the crown, with the aid of the resurrected Sindel. What no one realizes is that in this timeline, Sindel and Shao Kahn were actually partners in konquering Edenia. The Outworld army becomes splintered between those loyal to Kitana Kahn and those Shao Kahn coaxed back into his ranks. To make matters worse, Shang Tsung takes Kronika's crown for himself and betrays everyone in a bid to claim control over time for himself.
The present Fire God Liu Kang foresaw this, however, and allowed Shang Tsung to take out all potential obstacles, including Kronika, so that he would only have to contend with Shang Tsung. In the fight that ensues, Liu Kang defeats Shang Tsung, once again, once and for all. With time safeguarded, Liu Kang starts history anew, approaching the Great Kung Lao in his youth to help him train for what was to come...