Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Mortal Kombat 1

Go To

Spoilers for all the previous works of the franchise up to this game will be left unmarked. Proceed with caution. You Have Been Warned.

"In my new era, all beings will have the opportunity to find peace. Whether or not they do, will be their responsibility. For my power only permits me to begin this endeavor. It is the duty of mortals to finish it."
Lord Liu Kang

Mortal Kombat 1 is the twelfth installment in the Mortal Kombat franchise, serving as a second rebooted installment of the franchise. It was released for the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, Steam, and Epic Games Store on September 19, 2023. It runs under a modified version of Epic Games's Unreal Engine 4.

The game's story follows on from the Cosmic Retcon ending of Mortal Kombat 11's Aftermath DLC, taking place in the New Era created by the Fire God and Keeper of Time, Liu Kang. In the newly-forged Outworld, a lowly Snake Oil Salesman named Shang Tsung finds himself visited by a mysterious individual, claiming that he was conspired against since birth and destined to control the realms if not for the Gods' intervention. With this visitor pledging to aid him in gaining this power, the New Era may already be under threat as Earthrealm and Outworld gather their champions for their centennial Mortal Kombat tournament…

Gameplay-wise, the game abandons much of the key features of its predecessor (custom movesets, the Breakaway system, etc.) in favour of returning to a baseline more akin to Mortal Kombat 9 and Mortal Kombat X, with faster-paced gameplay and a more standard approach to the super meter, though Fatal Blows still function mostly as they did in MK11. However, the standout feature of this game is Kameo Fighters, which the player can call in during a match to assist in combat, break them out of combos and even perform their own unique Fatalities. Kameo fighters pull from a separate roster of characters, largely made up of classic incarnations of fighters like Sonya Blade, Goro and Cyrax — though a few characters are available as both playable and Kameo fighters.

In addition to the usual story and tower modes, MK1 also introduces a new single-player experience called "Invasions" - an evolving experience allowing players to explore the realms and face a wide array of challenges, be it fights under unique conditions or the return of Test Your Might-style minigames. Players can also earn cosmetic rewards through Invasions to be equipped on both playable and Kameo fighters.

Not to be confused with 1992's Mortal Kombat, the first game in the Mortal Kombat series, or Mortal Kombat 9, which was simply titled Mortal Kombat.


Playable Kombatants

Italics indicates DLC/Pre-Order Bonus.

Kameo Fighters

Italics indicates DLC.


The game contains the following tropes:

  • Aborted Arc: In a brief scene during the tournament, Mileena implies that many Outworlders are dubious if she's worthy to be Sindel's heir and are looking at Kitana to replace her. This never comes up again: Kitana is totally loyal to Mileena and has no ambition to usurp her, Sindel has no intention of choosing Kitana to succeed her, and all of the named characters involved with Outworld politics never discuss the idea of which sister should take power. Mileena's ending sees her ascend to empress and makes mention of the transition of power being difficult, but things settle down as she proves herself worthy after all.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • Baraka was the punching bag of the series, losing so often that no one in or out of universe considered him a threat. This game finally gives him a chance to shine, especially in his chapter, where he defeats several Tarkatan clones, including a highly advanced one, as well as Reptile and Ashrah. And during Kenshi's chapter he even manages to give Shang Tsung a hard time.
    • After the first two games, Reptile became a Chew Toy, whose only purpose was to lose to anyone he fought. This game rerails him to the skilled fighter he was back then. While initially defeated by Baraka, Reptile gets to show how formidable he is in his chapter where he defeats Li Mei, Kitana, Tanya and Shao in quick succession.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Invoked in-universe as a plot point. When Liu Kang crafted his new era, he altered the destinies of "certain malefactors" to ensure they would not threaten the peace he wished to achieve. This means that several characters are portrayed in a more sympathetic and heroic light than usual and some have had their backstories entirely changed, such as Reptile, Mileena, Sindel, Baraka, and Tanyanote , and it's implied that this was done for several other villainous characters in the franchise.
    • Liu Kang also wanted the same for characters like Shang Tsung, General Shao, Quan Chi and Bi-Han, but sadly this didn't stick and they remained, if not became more villainous.
  • Adaptational Mundanity:
    • Smoke is a regular human this time around, instead of an Enenra. Tellingly, his default mask incorporates a respirator for the first time in the character's history.
    • Similarly, Johnny Cage is now just a Badass Normal and no longer has the mystical lineage that gave him the green aura that allowed him to throw out energy balls or enhance his blows. He still retains his Shadow Kick move however.
    • Downplayed with Scorpion. As he's now the human Kuai Liang, the nature of his fire skills is now normal fire from pyromancy, rather than the much more potent and fantastical hellfire only accessible by a hellspawn spectre. (It also means that this Scorpion loses his signature 'flaming skull for head', barring certain skins)
  • Adaptational Modesty: The purchasable throwback costumes for some female characters like Li Mei and Nitara have been modified to tone down a few of the Fanservice elements the 3D Era was somewhat infamous for.
  • Adaptational Relationship Overhaul: Just as many lives have changed in Liu Kang's New Era, so too have the relationships between various characters.
  • Adaptation Species Change: Tarkatans are now people infected with a deadly, disfiguring disease, rather than a separate race unto themselves.
  • Adaptational Sympathy: Despite Liu Kang failing to make certain characters like Shang Tsung, Quan Chi, and (General) Shao less of a threat in this timeline, a majority of them have slightly more sympathetic reasons for being a villain this time around, instead of just being straight evil-because-they-are antagonists. Particularly the former two, as their backstories almost read as if they were being punished for someone else's crimes. Baraka's backstory change has, solely as a matter of circumstance, gotten so much worse that he confesses he would have preferred non-existence.
  • Adapted Out: The Special Forces and the Black Dragon factions, in general, have been absent from story-related promotional material despite being prominent factions in previous Netherrealm titles.
  • Aerith and Bob: Almost verbatim. After decades of the franchise introducing Shokan characters named Goro, Kintaro, Sheeva and Gorbak, Invasion Mode introduced Johnny Cage's personal Sho-Kan bodyguard, named Bob.
  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated:
    • In Chapter 13, Mileena is amazed by Johnny Cage's drone, calling it incredible. Though she mistakes it for magic before he tells her it's technology.
    • In one of the pre-fight intros between Kitana and Johnny Cage, Kitana reveals how she has now grown an appreciation for Earth films thanks to his suggestion, calling seeing a film a "transcendent experience".
  • Alliance of Alternates: For the climactic battle, Liu Kang and Titan Shang Tsung gather allies from across the multiverse, consisting of good and evil versions of every character as titans, who in turn bring along their followers from their respective timelines. The resulting Big Badass Battle Sequence at the Pyramid of Argus features an absolutely dizzying array of fighters on each side, including Evil Counterparts, Distaff Counterparts and fighters that are amalgamations of two characters.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Anyone who contracts Tarkat is treated like an outcast and banished to the wastes, which is why Mileena tries so desperately to hide her affliction.
  • All Part of the Show: In his chapter in Story Mode, Johnny Cage thinks that Liu Kang, Scorpion II and Sub-Zero I showing up at his mansion is his then wife's practical joke with costumed role players. Liu Kang having a fiery outburst is enough to convince Johnny that this visit is genuine.
  • Alternate Self: Doing a Mirror Match reveals that the opponent may be the same character from another timeline. For instance, Sindel can encounter either 'Reboot Timeline Sindel' who killed Jerrod, or 'Midway Era Sindel' who was forced into marriage by Shao Kahn.
  • Alternate Timeline: The in-universe premise behind this Continuity Reboot is that Fire God Liu Kang used his new powers as Time Keeper received at the end of Mortal Kombat 11 to Restart the World, changing the status quo of the entire history of the franchise. Some places of note that have been changed:
    • Practically every characters' backstories and roles have been altered in some form or another, with some of the more major changes being Johnny Cage no longer having the powers that gave him a green aura and Shadow Balls, Kuai Liang taking the role of Scorpion, Raiden being born as a mortal instead of a god, and Kitana and Mileena being biological sisters.note 
    • Tarkatans aren't a race anymore, but Edenian citizens being inflicted with a disease that turns them into ravenous monsters, Tarkat.
    • Zaterrans, Reptile's people, have not been wiped out to near extinction as they were in previous timelines and are a thriving and major race in Outworld.
    • Vaeternus, Nitara's homeworld, still exists, and has not been merged into Outworld.
    • Chaosrealm, Havik's home realm in past timelines, doesn't appear to exist, with Havik being from Orderrealm now. In his arcade ending, Havik, with the help of Rain, destroys Orderrealm's capital Seido, and rechristens it as Chaosrealm.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • Even in-universe, it's not clear whether Earthrealm humans are vulnerable to Tarkat; in his chapter, Baraka warns Kung Lao, Kenshi, and Johnny Cage against prolonged contact, but the three of them spend considerable time in Baraka's company without getting sick. He also describes the disease as "difficult" to contract, so it's not clear if the Earthrealmers' contact was insufficient to contract Tarkat, or if they simply can't catch it. Both possibilities are brought up in fight intros, but no solid answer is ever provided.
    • The circumstances of Jerrod's assassination are unclear, particularly who the culprit was. It is implied that he was killed 1000 years ago or more, a timeframe that rules out the usual suspects — Shang Tsung and Quan Chi weren't active at that time and it doesn't fit Rain's personality in this continuity. That leaves General Shao, but it's unlikely he would have had Jerrod assassinated without it being part of a larger coup attempt, and he wouldn't have retained his position if that were the case. For that matter it's unclear if the assassin is known in the first place, and if they were caught or escaped. When Jerrod takes over Ermac's collective, he briefly says that his assassination "wasn't [Li Mei's] fault", but says nothing of it otherwise.
    • When General Shao produces Shinnok's Amulet, Geras proclaims that "its maker" is powerless per Liu Kang's design, and Liu Kang takes the Amulet's presence as further proof of "foreign interference"; while this implies that Shinnok does exist in the New Era, albeit not as an Elder God, it's not clear if Titan Shang Tsung empowered him as he did with the Deadly Alliance, if the Amulet was recreated by one of the sorcerers, or if Titan Shang Tsung brought it over from his own timeline.
  • Artistic License – History: Downplayed. While explaining Sento's history, Johnny Cage says the Taira Clan were one of Japan's first families until they were wiped out 400 years ago in the Siege of Aomori. While there was once a Taira Clan among Japan's nobility and royalty, their line ended 800 years ago, not 400. And while a town named Aomori did exist approximately 400 years ago in the Edo period, it wasn't the site of any significant battles around that time. That said, this is the Mortal Kombat universe, so this could simply be chalked up as a result of Liu Kang's changes to history.note 
  • Arc Words: "It's in our blood" serves as the game's Tagline and doubles as a Driving Question — Liu Kang has resculpted time and altered the backgrounds of numerous characters, particularly the antagonists, to give them a chance at better, more peaceful lives. Who among the cast will seize their second chance at happiness and who will repeat their old rivalries and ambitions once more?
  • Art Evolution: Perhaps subtler than most examples of graphic upgrades between installments, but MK1 runs on an upgraded graphics engine with more advanced lighting technology compared to its predecessors (from Mortal Kombat 9 to Mortal Kombat 11, all NetherRealm Studios games were done in a modified version of Unreal Engine 3; this game runs on UE4). The result is that on top of featuring the high level of realism and detail of MK11, MK1 features significantly more crisp lighting and vibrant colors, making it the most colorful Mortal Kombat game since MK9.
  • Aside Glance: In pre-fight dialogue with Geras, Reptile states that he doesn't need Geras' or Liu Kang's opinions on his relationship with Ashrah. When he says Liu Kang's name, he breaks the fourth wall by looking directly at it, acknowledging Liu Kang's omniscience over the game's interface, and potential status as the fight announcer.
  • Assist Character: The major new addition to the gameplay is the presence of "Kameo Fighters", being this installment's means of customizing the usual 1v1 kombat. Kameo Fighters are their own roster of characters selected separately from the "point" characters, and unlike the Variant systems of Mortal Kombat X or the more in-depth Character Customization of Mortal Kombat 11, the options are universally available and every Kameo fighter can be paired up with anyone else. While they can't tag in directly for true 2v2 fights, they can be summoned to contribute their own moves, throws, Fatal Blows and Fatalities to accentuate and combo with those of your main fighter, allowing players to get creative with who they pair up and how.
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Liu Kang makes it very clear that, while he will give the people of the New Era the freedom of choice, if someone, like a certain soul-stealing sorcerer, threatens the New Era, he'll not show mercy.
  • Back from the Dead: The intro of the Story Mode makes it look that Kronika is also back in this new timeline after being killed both by Liu Kang and Shang Tsung in MK11 and Aftermath. It's subverted when it's revealed that it's actually Titan Shang Tsung from his ending in Aftermath in disguise. This is considered true because each time one of the Titans die, they stay dead for good.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • While arguing with Sindel, General Shao mentions a prophecy made by "the sorcerer", with Shang Tsung's prominence in the opening scene and the marketing implying that he is the sorcerer in question. A meeting in Shang Tsung's laboratory reveals that the supposed prophet is actually Quan Chi.
    • Likewise, Damashi, Shang Tsung’s mysterious benefactor, initially appears to be a very thinly disguised Kronika. At the climax, Damashi is actually revealed to be Titan Shang Tsung from the alternate ending of the previous game, who has become the ruler of his own timeline.
  • Battle Couple: Shipping aside, there are canonical couples fighting side by side.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: One possible Quitality animation has the quitter's character snap their own neck rather than face whatever finisher the opponent might have in store for them.
  • Big Damn Reunion: Chapter 14 sees Liu Kang using the Hourglass to call for allies across the various intersecting timelines, including versions of Kitana, Kung Lao, and Raiden who in their different continuities each defeated Kronika and became the new Keeper of Time. It's an especially heartfelt reunion for Titan Kitana as she quickly realizes that our Fire God Liu Kang is the very same one from her continuity.
    Kitana: If many timelines sprung from one, and we were both part of it, then... you are... my Liu Kang.
    Liu Kang: The same one who battled you in Shang Tsung's Courtyard. Who fought at your side in the Koliseum. (holds her hand) Who beamed with pride when you became Outworld's Kahn. (cue The Big Damn Kiss)
  • Body Horror:
    • In this timeline, the Tarkatans' disfigurations are a product of the horrific Tarkat virus.
    • The hybrids created in Shang Tsung's laboratory also count. Sindel's reaction to them sums it up fairly well.
  • Bookends:
    • The first chapter of the main story features Kung Lao and Raiden starting their journey by having dinner in Madam Bo's Teahouse, sparring to decide who's paying beforehand. In the ending, the two along with Johnny and Kenshi are left arguing on who's paying for dinner after Liu Kang leaves to aid the recently formed Shirai Ryu.
    • The time travel shenanigans began in 9, immediately after Armageddon, taking place on a giant pyramid. It all comes to a head in the final chapter of this story, where Liu Kang and Shang Tsung's time armies clash in a similar location.
  • Breaking Old Trends: Fitting with being another Continuity Reboot, but on a bigger scale than before, this game does a lot of things differently from its predecessors.
    • On a meta level, the first game that uses a modified Unreal Engine 4 rather than the heavily modified Unreal Engine 3 that powered everything between 2008's Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and 2019's Mortal Kombat 11. Note that this list also includes Injustice: Gods Among Us and Injustice 2. That's 11 years and 6 games of using the same, heavily modified engine, with evolving visuals.
    • It's the first game where Liu Kang is the Big Good instead of Raidennote , with Raiden now being mortal and Liu Kang's champion.
    • This is the first game where separate Assist Characters (called "Kameo Fighters") are a core gameplay mechanic integral to the fight rather than a game option. They can execute different moves split into Combat moves (usually used as combo enders) and Ambush moves (used as Combo Breakers, Wake-Up attacks and combo linkers). They also give the first proper hit in the Fatal Blow after the move connects, and even come with a Fatality of their own. Ed Boon equated the whole system to Tekken Tag Tournament in the Playstation Blog interview.
    • Not counting Legacy Characters and third-party characters, this is the first game not to introduce any new kombatants to the roster: everyone, both fully playable and Kameos, have made at least one prior appearance.
    • Johnny Cage no longer has the Forceball, a move that has been a staple since the very first entry in the franchise.
    • The first NetherRealm MK game where the first full Fatality displayed in the announcement trailer doesn't share its name with the Tag Line. While previous games did follow this trend with Scorpion's in MKX and MK11 being called "Who's Next?" and "You're Next!", in this case, Liu Kang's not named "It's in Our Blood" but "Double Dragon".
    • Liu Kang is featured on the box cover instead of Scorpion and/or the franchise's dragon logo.
    • This is the first of the NetherRealm games to have the first Story Mode chapter not be focused on a member of the Cage family. Instead, Kung Lao is the subject of Chapter 1.
    • This is the first NetherRealm game which not all chapters in the main story follow the pattern of four fights for the featured character of each chapter. In Chapter 3, Raiden has a total of seven characters that he has to fight and win. In Chapter 5, if you count each round against the five Tarkatan clones as a seperate fight (since you fight a different clone each round), then Baraka has a total of eight fights that he has to win. In the second Battle of Armageddon, the chosen final fighter must go through nine Kombatants from alternate timelines before the final battle against Titan Shang Tsung and Quan Chi.
    • The multiple character endings, unlike in past games, are not non-canon alternate endings/timelines, instead acting as a sort of "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue for each character after the ending. All the endings are compatible with each other and many intertwine, giving the implication that they are all canon to the main story.
  • Brick Joke:
    • While showing his chakram hat off to Raiden, Kung Lao cheerfully remarks that he'll have to thank Sub-Zero for inspiring it. In a pre-fight intro, he does exactly that.
    • After getting fed up with Johnny Cage's antics, Sub-Zero kicks him, breaking a $30,000 sculpture in Cage's home. In an intro, Cage remarks that Bi-Han still owes him for it.
    • Johnny Cage's wife tells him that he needs to sell their mansion. In Invasion Mode, he mentions that he's been trying, but is having trouble, due to all the supernatural stuff going on in there.
  • The Bus Came Back: Granted, they aren't exactly the same characters, but this game brings Ashrah, Havik, Li Mei and Nitara as playable characters, and Darrius, Motaro, Sareena and Shujinko as Kameo Fighters. It's worth noting that outside of minor appearances, all of them return to the game after 17 years and two continuity reboots since their last playable appearance in Armageddon.
  • Call-Back:
    • An evil version of Sindel once again delivers a curbstomp to the heroes, thrashing around several kombatants at once, just like what happened in MK9. Unlike that time, the only casualty from this one is New Era's Sindel.
    • One of Johnny's intros with Liu Kang has him inquiring about a relationship he had in the last timeline, obviously a reference to Sonya.
      Johnny: So last time around, I hooked up with somebody else?
      Liu Kang: Spoilers, Johnny Cage.
  • The Cameo: In addition to the Kameo system, the final battle at the Pyramid of Argus features alternate versions of characters that don't exist yet in the New Era such as Cassie Cage and Jacqui Briggs.
  • Camera Abuse:
    • Johnny Cage's Fatal Blow involves smashing his opponent's face into the screen, breaking it, before picking up the camera itself and slamming it into his opponent's chest.
    • Reptile has a bit more mundane version in both his intro animations where his reptilian form spews spots of green goo onto the screen.
  • Cardboard Prison: The various character endings reveal that, after the battle at the Pyramid of Argus, Shang Tsung, General Shao, and Reiko were captured and thrown in a Outworld prison, but they all later escaped, with Shao and Reiko setting out to tame the dragon king Onaga, and Shang finding a mysterious island and discovering the Well of Souls.
  • Chekhov's Gag: During most of his screen time, Johnny Cage is seen filming stuff with his cellphone. Near the end of the game, he reveals that he's planning to screen write and direct an entire film based off the events of the game. His arcade ladder ending even shows that he's been entrusted with the task by Lord Liu Kang himself.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In Chapter 2, Cage's wife Cris mentions that Cage wasted $30,000 on a drone. Fast foward to Chapter 13, Cage uses the drone to spy on the Dragon Army.
    • In the transition between Chapters 3 (Raiden's) and 4 (Kenshi's), Geras materializes in Liu Kang's inner sanctum. While they talk to each other, Geras goes to takes a small jade dragon statuette from the shelf to admire it, then puts it back. This comes into play in the climax of the game when it was revealed that said statue is a gift from the Great Kung Lao and that it stores Liu Kang's Time Keeper powers, should he need to use them again.
  • The Chosen Many: In the Second Battle of Armageddon, the player can choose a character as Liu Kang's champion, ranging from the heroes from Liu Kang's timeline, to Good Counterpart versions of the villains, an alternate version of Sindel who’s still alive, and even a second version of Liu Kang. Liu Kang himself lampshades this with the player-chosen fighter showing their gratitude.
    Liu Kang: And they call me The Chosen One.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: A noteworthy example, thanks to the true mastermind behind events: Titan Shang Tsung betrayed himself (or rather, his variant in Liu Kang's new era) in his quest to conquer Liu Kang's timeline.
  • Church Militant: The Umgadi are a religious order of female warriors worshipping the Outworld gods Delia and Argus (e.g. Tanya called them the "Blessed of Delia" and warned Reiko that she considered insults against them as blasphemy against their patron deity) and are tasked with guarding the royal family. They are selected from the firstborn daughters of Outworld's noble families and have to, much to Mileena and Tanya's chagrin, also take a Vow of Celibacy (Johnny is also quite vocal about how this is a crime, but this is just a part of his doomed quest to make Tanya or any of the royals interested in him).
  • Combo Breaker: The game abandons the evasive Breakaway system introduced in Mortal Kombat 11 and returns to the more traditional, retaliation-based combo breaker seen in MK9 and MKX. Relative to those games, the combo breaker featured in MK1 requires substantially more resources to use — older games required two-thirds of a full meter to use, but this game requires an entire meter plus your Kameo Fighter to be available (in this game, rather than your fighter snapping out of a combo string with a punch, it's your Kameo that bails you).
  • Comeback Mechanic: The Fatal Blow mechanic from Mortal Kombat 11 is back. This time it can be used only once per match; if you used it in the first round, you can't use it in the second. It also works different, as it's the assist who deals the first hit and the point character deals the second hit. They're still as damaging as ever.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In his Aftermath ending, Liu Kang first meets the Great Kung Lao as he's making a jade statue of a jaguar. Turns out this statue was later used by Geras to safeguard Liu Kang's Titan powers should he need them again.
    • If Rain is chosen as the character in the Final Chapter, after the defeat of Shang Tsung and Quan Chi, the alternate Rain and Liu Kang have this exchange:
      Liu Kang: And they called me the Chosen One.
      (Alternate?) Rain: High praise for the Son of Argus. May I?
    • In the original timeline (in the transition between Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat 4/Mortal Kombat Gold), the Outworld Investigation Agency (OIA) was created by Special Forces members Jax and Sonya Blade. In this game, in Kenshi's arcade ending, he and Jax found the OIA.
  • Continuity Reboot: The game takes place in Liu Kang's New Era, creating a blank slate for the new and returning fighters.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Though infinitely preferable to the hellish wasteland in the original timeline, the New Era's Outworld still has some serious problems behind its surface-level prosperity, namely the unequal treatment of certain races and a plague that slowly turns people into mindless bloodthirsty monsters before killing them. Queen Sindel's inability to address either is exploited by General Shao to gain a support base for his coup.
  • Create Your Own Villain:
    • In this timeline, Shang Tsung has been reduced to a Snake Oil Salesman, hocking "miracle cures" on the outskirts of Outworld to eke out a meagre existence. Unfortunately, while Liu Kang has managed to marginalize the threat he poses to the realms, this kind of life has still shaped Shang Tsung into the treacherous, greedy, lying manipulator he was before, but this time with an extra chip on his shoulder from being kicked around all his life and living in poverty. So when Damashi/Titan Shang Tsung under the guise of Kronika approaches him whispering that he should have been a great sorcerer, but divine forces conspired against him out of fear of what he could become, naturally Shang Tsung eagerly leaps at the opportunity to realize his true destiny. And if he knew it was Liu Kang specifically who was responsible for his circumstance, he'd have better reason than ever to be his arch-enemy. Geras subverts this when he hints that Shang Tsung’s plight is self-inflicted rather than active manipulation on Liu Kang’s part.
      Shang Tsung: The squalor I endured as a child…
      Geras: Do not lie. I know the truth.
    • To a lesser extent, this also applies to Bi-Han and the Lin Kuei. In the original timeline the Lin Kuei were mercenary assassins and their members usually only got involved in the Mortal Kombat tournaments when they were hired to. It was only once Kuai Liang took over as Grandmaster and rebuilt the clan that they became a force for good. In this timeline the Lin Kuei have been entrusted as protectors of Earthrealm by Liu Kang for centuries, making them more active in the history of the tournaments. However, having a position of importance among the realms, yet forced to hide in secret within Earthrealm, has made Bi-Han (now Grandmaster) resentful towards Liu Kang, and he feels that his clan ought to help lead Earthrealm instead of just protect it from the shadows. This is the major factor that convinces him to join Shang Tsung on promises of power.
  • Culture Chop Suey: The New Era incarnation of Outworld takes heavy influences from China and Southeast Asia, with the Umgadi being references to the African Dahomey Amazons. The castles and dungeons on the outskirts have very European sensibilities as well.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • In the announcement trailer, Shang Tsung is seen brutally murdering Scorpion, Mileena, Sub-Zero, Kitana and Kung Lao in quick succession, right up until Liu Kang does it right back to him.
    • Immediately after his creation, Ermac's telekinetic powers allow him to throw the protagonists around like ragdolls. He's only driven off when Sento absorbs some of Ermac's many souls and the magic binding him together is weakened enough for Jerrod to briefly take control.
    • Subverted with Evil Sindel. We're led to believe that all of the characters surrounding her are going to be killed at her hand, akin to how Sindel in 9 killed almost everyone. Turns out that while Evil Sindel was indeed too much for the kombatants, they were merely knocked down, and the only casualties from the battle were both Sindels, the evil one killing the good one, and Mileena retaliating against Evil Sindel.
  • Cutting Off the Branches: Subverted. Promotional materials led us to believe that Liu Kang's Aftermath ending is revealed to be the canonical ending that leads to this installment. In the story proper, however, it's later revealed that both endings happened - each creating a unique timeline, with Aftermath's Shang Tsung posing as Kronika to infiltrate Liu Kang's timeline and neutralize it, by manipulating his counterpart. The trope is then inverted as it turns out basically everyone's arcade mode ending also created a timeline for them, leading to Liu Kang gathering the original Kitana, Kung Lao and Raiden — who are all keepers of their own timelines — as allies to fight Shang Tsung.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: During a pre-kombat dialogue with Kitana, Liu Kang voices concern about her sister building a koliseum (where Shao Kahn hosted blood sports in the prior timeline), to which his opponent replies by asking whether Earthrealmers don't have sports.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • Sonya Blade, Jax, and Kano; all mainstays on the playable roster in the Netherrealm and most of the Midway timelines, only appear as Kameo fighters this time around.
    • Kotal, Sheeva, Erron Black, and D'Vorah, who were playable in 11, are merely referenced through voice lines in this game. Kollector fares slightly better, being in Invasion mode as a shopkeeper with the same model as 11. Skarlet and Cetrion, on the other hand, fare worse, being completely absent and unmentioned.
    • Hanzo Hasashi is another example, being quite prominent as Scorpion all across the previous timelines. Here, his role is taken over by Kuai Liang, and he has a small appearance on Smoke's arcade ending and as a Kameo fighter.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • When you fight in Cage's Mansion, Kenshi's sword, Sento, is usually on display. But if Kenshi is fighting on that stage, there will be something else in its place. Likewise, Sindel and/or Mileena will be absent from the Great Hall stage if they're fighting on it.
    • Performing Johnny's "Hollywood Walk Of Pain" fatality on another Johnny who's wearing the Jean-Claude Van Damme premium skin will have Van Damme's name appear on the plaque instead of Johnny's.
    • Also Subverted. For the most part, when a character draws Reptile's blood, it comes out green. The one exception is when Smoke is on the attacking side of an intro, and when he hits the other character, a bit of blood is drawn. The blood will be red regardless of who he hit.
    • A lot of characters in Story Mode will lack moves that depend on attributes/weaponry they've yet to acquire by that point. As some examples:
      • Kung Lao has yet to come up with his signature Weaponized Headgear in the first chapter, meaning he can only use moves and strings that don't involve it.
      • When sparring with the other Earthrealm heroes in his chapter, Raiden has yet to acquire the amulet that grants him his lightning powers. By the time the tournament in Outworld begins, the moves that require his lightning become unlocked.
      • Kenshi doesn't obtain his telekinesis and ancestor spirit until after he's been blinded. For his playable chapter - which takes before it, he fights using his Sento stance but without any moves that require his spirit. He also cannot enter his normal sheathed stance, locking him out of moves that require his telekinesis.
      • The first two battles in Mileena's chapter have her fight under the effects of the serum that suppresses her Tarkat infection, locking her out of moves that normally show her Tarkat-infused traits like her mouth and shoulder blades. The serum runs out from her third fight onwards, opening them up for her to use.
    • Normally, a Quitality will involve the offending player's character either snapping their own neck (If they're standing) or spontaneously exploding into a puddle of gore (If they're in the air). If they're in a scenario where they can do neither, such as being knocked down at the end of a round, their Kameo will run in to snap their own neck instead, with the primary character following suit as soon as they get up.
    • In this timeline, Kenshi loses his sight from having his eyes stabbed out instead of being magically blinded. As such, Fatalities that target or expose the opponent's eyes, such as Baraka's "Split Decision" and Sub-Zero's "Brain Freeze", won't damage or show any eyeballs when used on Kenshi.
  • Dialogue Tree: The pre-fight intros from X and 11 come back. This time, however, they're restricted to Versus matches, during the loading screen and limited to one line per character (an affirmation or question and a retort).
  • Disabled in the Adaptation: Instead of being a distinct race native to Outworld, the Tarkatans in this installment are a community of people who suffer from a debilitating disease not unlike leprosy.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: Discussed; when the main party strolls through the Living Forest, Johnny points out that all forests are, strictly speaking, living, to which Baraka replies that they don't all house the souls of fallen Outworlders.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The side-plot revolving around the Tarkatan virus is bound to remind some players of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and hearing Baraka describe it in his intro interactions only adds more parallels. The subtlety is practically dropped in one intro against Kung Lao, who asks him if he should be wearing a mask. Another intro between Baraka and Sindel has them discuss those who deny that Tarkat even exists, mirroring real-life skepticism relating to the disease.
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
    • You get to fight Quan Chi and Ermac (and Khameleon as a Kameo) in the story mode prior to them becoming playable via the Kombat Pack 1.
    • In the strictest sense, Shang Tsung as a playable (and fightable) opponent for those who didn't pre-order the game. He even has his own playable chapter, with Quan Chi as a Kameo.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • With Shang Tsung and Quan Chi being tricked by Shang Tsung's Titan counterpart, both sorcerers allied with Liu Kang to stop Titan Shung Tsung from destroying their timeline. Because of this, Shang Tsung is the only villain from the New Era that joins Liu Kang at the Pyramid of Argus, the rest being substituted by their alternate timeline counterparts, including Bi-Han.
    • In several pre-kombat dialogues, Kenshi thinks about teaming up with Black Dragon against the yakuza, something his opponents warn him against due to said mercenary organisation being too untrustworthy for even an alliance of convenience in any timeline.
  • Everybody Lives: Almost everybody, at least in the New Era, with Sindel being the only one killed outright, her soul being taken by Ermac/Jerrod. That being said, there are many, many warriors on both sides from alternative timelines that perish in the final battle of Armageddon.
  • Everyone Can See It: Played for Drama. Princess Mileena and her bodyguard Tanya have a attraction to each other, but they have to keep it secret due to the Umgadi's vow of celibacy, as well as what a scandal such as a forbidden relationship could do to Mileena's already poor public opinion. However, Kitana warns her that their Secret Relationship is not as secret as they make it out to be.
    Kitana: Careful, sister. Entanglements with Umgadi are forbidden. You know their vows.
    Mileena: Who told you?
    Kitana: No one. I have eyes. As do the snakes at court who would cheer your downfall.
  • Evil Counterpart: In the timeline Titan Shang Tsung created, he has evil versions of the heroes fight on his behalf and serve him loyally. Liu Kang however isn't impressed with his evil alternate counterpart and fought a far more evil version of himself.
  • Evil is Petty: Ultimately, the reason for everything going wrong turns out to be Titan Shang Tsung interfering. While he does want to take over the multiverse, he specifically wants to wipe out all life in Liu Kang's timeline and merge it with his own for no other reason except to spite the version of Liu Kang who defeated him and got his happy ending.
  • Exact Words:
    • In the beginning of the Story Mode, Damashi/Titan!Shang Tsung (posing as Kronika) accurately informs Shang Tsung that he's been conspired against since he was born and denied the power and status he enjoyed in a previous life; she simply omits that Liu Kang was very much in the right to change Shang Tsung's destiny and that he obtained that power and status by being a backstabbing, soul-stealing scoundrel.
    • In a lighter example from the first chapter, Kung Lao is quick to point this out to Raiden when they discuss who will be paying the bill for the teahouse dinner.
      Raiden: I'm glad you're paying. Madam Bo might just pad the bill with her anger.
      Kung Lao: I am paying? You finished work last.
      Raiden: But I delivered my cart first.
      Kung Lao: Delivered?! Huh? The bet was "filled".
      Raiden: That's not what I remember.
  • Expendable Alternate Universe: In the ending, the New Era is preserved and (almost) every named character survives, but Titan!Shang Tsung's "dark" timeline is wiped from existence with his death, and the battle to defeat him claims the lives of countless fighters from other timelines, heroes and villains alike.
  • Flexible Tourney Rules: Heavily downplayed compared to past games, here the Mortal Kombat tournament does have a standard set of rules that both realms abide by, and while they don't go into detail on them, it is clear both realms are following them. For instance, Liu Kang explains that because Outworld is the host of this round, they have the right to field several opponents while Earthrealm can only field Raiden (presumably the other warriors who accompany Liu Kang are there for ceremonial purposes). Outworld has traditional opponents they field, like their first constable, a warrior from the army hand-picked by their general, the ruler's heir-apparent, and ending with their general. In fact, when Kitana is announced to fight in place of Mileena, Liu Kang protests that it's against the rules to pit Raiden against someone he wasn't informed about beforehand, but he's convinced to let it slide by Sindel and Raiden. The only fuzzy part is when Liu Kang grants Raiden an amulet to grant him lightning powers, and says it is to level the playing field against Outworld's combatants who have their own magic; no one ever brings up if this is within tournament rules or not, but the Outworlders don't question his powers either way.
  • Foil: Two sets of siblings, Sub-Zero/Bi-Han and Scorpion/Kuai Liang, and Mileena and Kitana, have a number of parallels and contrasts. Both elder siblings are the Hot-Blooded heirs to the family legacy (the Lin Kuei for Bi-Han, Outworld's throne for Mileena), contrasting their more dutiful and cool-headed younger sibling, who tries to be supportive. Mileena's Adaptational Heroism sharply contrasts Bi-Han's Adaptational Villainy; she mourns her mother's death while he didn't lift a finger to save his father. Kuai Liang and Kitana, on the other hand, remain the heroes they were in prior timelines. By the game's end, each character is in a position of power, but the dynamics between the siblings couldn't be more different; Sub-Zero and Scorpion, despite the New Era's changes, end up as bitter rivals, leading their clans against one another, while Mileena and Kitana, now Empress and Supreme Commander respectively, remain close and devoted to each other, their second chance having worked out.
  • Force Feeding: The Thanksgiving Fatality has the player character dislodging their opponent's jaw on the edge of a table, cramming potato salad, pumpkin pie and a turkey down their throat and then jumping on their Balloon Belly, causing vomit to violently erupt from their mouth, eye sockets and the top of their head.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The very Tag Line of the game: "It's in our blood." Meaning certain characters such as Shang Tsung, Shao, and Quan Chi will always be evil no matter how hard Liu Kang may try to steer them away from their dark paths.
    • Smoke, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero's first appearance portrays them in a very menacing and antagonistic light before the whole thing is revealed to be a ruse. While Smoke and Scorpion are genuine heroes, Sub-Zero ends the story even worse than he'd pretended to be.
    • Near the start of Sub-Zero's chapter, Bi-Han becomes agitated (more than usual, anyway) when Smoke mentions their late father. Upon his Face–Heel Turn, Bi-Han reveals that he let his father die so that he could become the Lin Kuei's Grandmaster; clearly, he doesn't like being reminded of his prececessor.
    • Sub-Zero's default mask in this game, which he wears throughout the story, is colored black instead of blue like the primary color of his outfit. While Bi-Han doesn't become Noob Saibot in this game, he ends up turning to the dark side just the same.
    • Sindel has Mileena drop out of the tournament out of fear of her "condition" being discovered, and it's implied to be something physical from how she clutched her stomach at dinner. It is later revealed she's contracted tarkat and its being covered up. Tarkat is also mentioned in the intro scene by Shang Tsung long before it is explained what it means.
    • During Geras's first appearance in the story where he meets Liu Kang, when Liu Kang told Geras he has relinquished his power as Keeper of Time, Geras then goes to the shelf and retrieve the jade jaguar statue to look at it around. Hinting the item's importance later in the story where Geras revealed to Liu Kang that the statue stored his power as Keeper of Time that he had relinquished, which later in the story he regains it to gather allies from multiple timelines.
    • A number of hints point toward the true identity of Shang Tsung and Quan Chi's benefactor:
      • When first meeting Shang Tsung in the opening, the benefactor is very praising of him and sympathetic to his "plight". While Kronika wasn't above flattery to get people on her side, Shang Tsung would naturally feel that any version of himself, even one he intended to throw under the bus, would deserve to "live among kings, not peasants", and the sorcerer's overblown ego would find things to praise about even the lowest version of himself.
      • The fact that Shang Tsung and Quan Chi were both raised from obscurity by their benefactor. Despite his service to her son Shinnok, Kronika never showed any interest in recruiting Quan Chi. Titan Shang Tsung, however, worked with Quan Chi in the past, and clearly wishes to reap the benefits of a new Deadly Alliance.
      • In describing the benefactor to Johnny Cage, Ashrah refers to her as "a sorceress beyond compare" who taught Shang Tsung and Quan Chi everything they know. Kronika, while powerful, never showed much knowledge of sorcery, even having Shang Tsung design and empower her crown, making it unlikely that she is capable of such education. Shang Tsung himself, on the other hand...
      • Learning of Shang Tsung and Quan Chi's partnership reminds Liu Kang of the previous Deadly Alliance, which he alludes to aloud. Titan Shang Tsung deliberately brought them together to recreate his own past and present partnership with Quan Chi.
    • During the final chapter, none of the opponents include a version of Havik. This serves as a subtle clue to the arrival of a Titan Havik after the battle has ended, who may be even more vicious than Titan Shang Tsung. Gameplay-wise anyway, as a version of Havik can actually be seen among the ones summoned, though is never fought.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: During Scorpion's struggle with a dagger-wielding Sub-Zero after the latter's betrayal, eagle-eyed gamers will notice that Bi-Han quickly moved the dagger to his left hand and made a stabbing motion with his empty right hand a moment before Kuai Liang does.
  • Fun with Subtitles: The game's subtitles, especially in the story mode, quietly get a lot of comedic mileage from subtitling sound effects or other goofy motions of note. For example, during the early teahouse brawl, the moment where Sub-Zero freezes Raiden's hands in place and the apathetic bar patron casually snaps a piece of ice off for his drink is helpfully emphasized with a *plink* and *plonk*. Moments later, Kung Lao's flaccid attempt at attacking Sub-Zero by tossing a straw hat at his head is punctuated with *bonk*.
  • Funny Background Event: Throughout the entire story, because of Johnny's renewed Fish out of Water status, he's constantly seen filming things he sees throughout the game on his phone such as the new Kung Lao showing off the invention of his former-era counterpart's iconic hat.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • By the end of the story mode, Mileena has not succumbed to her tarkat and retains her sanity and a more normal voice to go with it. In versus fights though, she has her tarkatan physical traits and voice. Justified by several of her intros, which imply that she lets out her tarkatan side in private to vent her aggressive instincts in kombat against an opponent who can handle her.
    • Stryker's kameo throw incorporates blinding his opponent with his flashlight. This still works on Kenshi, who is blind.
    • It is entirely possible to kill Hellfire Scorpion, the final boss of Invasions’ first season, by ending the fight with a Fatality or Brutality. However, no matter how the player chooses to dispatch him, the ending cutscene will show that Hellfire Scorpion was non-lethally subdued by the heroes, with the character even getting a happy ending of sorts where he is reunited with an alternate version of his dead wife Harumi.
    • Cyrax's Global Destruction Fatality will always show the Earth being destroyed, even if the fighters aren't on Earthrealm.
  • Gender Flip: Of a sort. In the original timeline, Quan Chi had a sect of acolytes, the "Brotherhood of Shadow," which included his personal female assassins Kia, Jataaka and Sareena. In this game, Ashrah says she was a member of Quan Chi's "Sisterhood of Shadow," mentioning Kia and Jataaka among its members. This implies the group is all-female this time around.
  • The Ghost:
    • Multiple intro interactions reveal that the now mortal Raiden has a sister in this timeline, implied to be the younger sibling to him. These intros also indicate that she is a young martial artist like he is and that the main characters are preparing for her own training at the Wu Shi temple. Currently, her name is unknown, and we have yet to see her in-game.
    • Both Sheeva and Kotal are mentioned as opponents Raiden fought and defeated during the tournament, and pre-fight intros reveal that Mileena made the latter a general in Shao's place, but they never appear in the story or the arcade endings.
    • Shinnok is alluded to when General Shao produces (a possible copy of) his amulet, but he makes no appearance and is implied to possess neither power nor his status as an Elder God.
    • A number of past characters, including Jade, Mavado, Hotaru, and Frost, are referenced in pre-fight intros, but haven't (yet) appeared in the New Era.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: The first season of Invasion mode, "The Spectre," consists of Hanzo Hasashi traveling to different timelines to see if he could reunite with his dead wife Harumi, only to find that she was already dead in each one. In the one timeline she doesn't die, she is married to Kuai Liang instead. Driven mad, he vows to destroy the timeline, as if he couldn't have Harumi, no one would.
  • Good Costume Switch:
    • Downplayed with Reptile. He loses his mask following his fight with Baraka, which is almost immediately followed by his Heel–Face Turn. Of course, this does fit with him being Forced into Evil in the first place.
    • In the final battle, variants of villainous characters are available for choosing to play as. To help distinguish your character they have more bright and colorful outfits to contrast with the dark ones worn by your enemies.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Oddly enough, Shang Tsung's stabbing of Dark Reiko is partially obscured by his body in one shot.
  • Guest Fighter: This time the theme for the guests is "dark superheroes". Kombat Pack 1 features Omni-Man from Invincible, Peacemaker from The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker, and Homelander from The Boys.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The tournament plotline between Earthrealm and Outworld is resolved 3 chapters into the story with Raiden defeating all of Outworld's champions. The rest of the game focuses on the conspiracy between Shang Tsung, Quan Chi, and their mysterious benefactor to take over the New Era timeline.
  • The Hilarity of Hats: A Running Gag throughout Kung Lao's pre-fight intros revolves around his signature chakram hat, which he created after being inspired during his fight with Sub-Zero in the story mode. It's clear he's very proud of it and brags about it in all of his intros. Characters like Bi-Han and General Shao insult it or treat it as a dumb joke while others compliment his ingenuity or in more humorous cases, want it themselves.
  • History Repeats: The announcement trailer and the game's tagline ("It's in our blood") imply that a key aspect of the game's narrative is whether the characters will repeat the same rivalries and bloodshed as they did in countless previous timelines or make peace with each other. This is emphasized with the trailer showing Scorpion with Sub-Zero as well as Kitana with Mileena during Liu Kang's Rousing Speech.
  • Iconic Attribute Adoption Moment: Happens a lot for many characters.
    • In Kung Lao's chapter, he gets the idea for his Weaponized Headgear when he throws his straw hat at Sub-Zero (to little effect) before throwing a nearby chakram at him with much better results. Later on in Chapter 3, he shows off his new creation to Raiden.
    • Kenshi gets his trademark red blindfold when Johnny uses the cloth as a bandage to apply salve to his eyes, after their encounter with Mileena saw his eyes gouged out.
      • Likewise, he doesn't get Sento by stealing it but he receives it from Johnny Cage as thanks for saving his life.
    • Quan Chi gets his ghostly white skin after a freed soul from the Living Forest sucks out part of his own.
    • Kuai Liang/Scorpion gets the scar over his right eye after Bi-Han/Sub-Zero pulls a Face–Heel Turn, slashing Scorpion in the face with an ice dagger.
    • Havik has a normal face throughout most of his story mode appearances. He acquires his signature exposed jaw when Scorpion shoves him face first into a vat of molten metal.
  • Identical Stranger: Sindel and Li Mei's appearances are both modeled after the latter's voice actor but there is no indication in story mode or intro dialogues that the two are related in anyway.
  • In Spite of a Nail: As much as Liu Kang changed history, many events of past timelines still come to pass.
    • Despite Liu Kang taking steps to marginalize Shang Tsung, Quan Chi, and Shao in this timeline, things seem to be drifting towards familiar territory as the former two become powerful sorcerers in service to Sindel and plot with Shao to install him as Emperor for an invasion of Earthrealm. Liu Kang becomes very concerned when he learns the Deadly Alliance has reformed, because he tried to ensure that wouldn't be possible. It turns out this is due to the machinations of Titan!Shang Tsung, who is intentionally guiding his other self and Quan Chi down the path of villainy because he intends to conquer this alternate timeline. Being manipulated like this does lead to the New Era's Deadly Alliance allying with Liu Kang to defeat him, although neither are exactly thrilled by the arrangement.
    • For all the changes that Liu Kang made to the characters' backstory, many are still in the same positions they were in previous timelines, such as Johnny Cage still being an arrogant struggling movie star. Additionally, many characters regain the powers or attributes they had in the past timelines, such as Raiden getting his lightning powers from an amulet or, more tragically, Kenshi still ending up becoming blind, this time by the hands of Mileena.note 
    • While the Shirai Ryu do not exist at the beginning of the story, they do form in the same manner as their original counterparts: comprised entirely of former members of the Lin Kuei. However, in this case, it's for a different reason, in that Sub-Zero/Bi-Han betraying the Lin Kuei by forming a Face–Heel Turn prompts Scorpion/Kuai Liang and Smoke/Tomas to form the Shirai Ryu to stick to their principles.
    • Although Shao Kahn never became Kahn and absorbed Edenia, Outworld is still ruled by Empress Sindel. It was formerly ruled by her late husband, Jerrod, but he was assassinated prior to the game's story. As stated by Mileena in one pre-fight intro with Reiko, after the story events, Kotal still ends up becoming a General for Outworld's forces (as he was in the previous timelines according to Shao Kahn in Mortal Kombat 11) and taking Shao's old position (albeit as the aforementioned General, and not as Kahn).
    • Civil war still breaks out in Outworld after Mileena takes the throne. The difference being that Kotal rebelled because Mileena was a horribly cruel ruler that took offense to Kitana holding a peaceful reign, while in this timeline Shao is rebelling because he thinks Earthrealm absolutely must be subjugated if Outworld is to prosper.
    • The Lin Kuei still undergoes a change of alignment. However, since Liu Kang set the Lin Kuei up to be good first, it ends up becoming bad while the opposite happened in the previous timelines (where it started bad, later becoming good).
  • Ink-Suit Actor:
    • Li Mei is modeled after her voice actress, Kelly Hu.
    • The three Guest Fighters are all visually designed to resemble their actors from their comics' respective television adaptations: Antony Starr for Homelander, J. K. Simmons for Omni-Man and John Cena for Peacemaker. Simmons and Cena would reprise their respective roles, though Antony Starr would not.
    • Nitara was not only being voiced by Megan Fox herself, her design also retains Megan's facial features.
    • Before becoming the game we know today, Mortal Kombat was planned to star Jean-Claude Van Damme himself, who was incredibly popular during the 80s and 90s, but he was unable to commit to the part, so Midway Games reworked him into Johnny Cage. Over 30 years later, Van Damme would make his MK debut as an alternate skin for Johnny based upon how he looked in his prime in films like Bloodsport, Kick Boxer and Universal Soldier.
  • Internal Homage:
    • The game takes more inspiration from the "3D Era" of Mortal Kombat (both the PlayStation 2 games as well as Mortal Kombat 4) than the previous trilogy of games has, due to the return of several fan favorite characters from those games and the return of Air Kombat from Armageddon. The climax of the game is also hugely evocative of Armageddon in specific as another dream match clash, drawing upon kombatants of past continuities (and then some!) to decide the fate of the universe across a pyramid.
    • The Official "It's In Our Blood" Trailer takes a few cues from the 1993 commercial for the home console releases of the first MK game, featuring a growing mob of people gathering interspersed with people yelling "MORTAL KOMBAT!"
  • Irony:
    • While Johnny Cage is clearly a Hopeless Suitor towards Kitana, whose eyes are only for Liu Kang alone, she's also this towards the Fire God as mortal (although a long-lived one) and demi-god respectively. Even more now since he had reunited with his Kitana after regaining his Time Keeper powers while implied that, while they must part, as Titans they could reunite at another time.
    • Speaking of Cage, he claims to Liu Kang in an intro that he somehow made him more perfect, not knowing that he took away his green energy that originated from his Mediterranian ancestors.
    • In the reboot trilogy, Sindel was infamously the biggest Hero Killer in the roster, killing no less than eight named characters. New Era Sindel on the other hand is the only character who dies in the story campaign. At the hands of another Sindel, no less.
    • One of Havik's versus intros with General Shao reveals that he knows about the general's intention to free Onaga and is looking forward to the chaos the Dragon King will unleash, which is pretty ironic because in the original timeline, Havik was against Onaga as he feared that he would bring total order to the realms, and Shao Kahn was the one who deposed Onaga as the emperor of Outworld.
    • The game goes all-in with the multiverse, yet for the first time in the series, the arcade ladder endings are all in-canon and compatible with each other, basically showing what happened to each character after the main story rather the usual "What if so-and-so defeated the Big Bad?" endings.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: Lose a fight in story mode, and it will be followed by a caption box that reveals the aftermath of your defeat.
  • Jumped at the Call: Kung Lao, who's desperate for some excitement in his mundane life, eagerly accepts Liu Kang's invitation of joining his Earthrealm champions.
  • Killed Off for Real: When Geras and Liu Kang are discussing the possibility of Kronika reviving, Geras states that Titans cannot revive after death. The Kronika in question is Titan Shang Tsung in disguise after he defeated Liu Kang in his ''Aftermath'' ending, and created his timeline. He then suffers this himself after Liu Kang's champion defeats him, and the latter kills him permanently.
  • Kill the Parent, Raise the Child: In his backstory, it's revealed that Tomas Vrbada (Smoke) was a member of a family who trespassed the Lin Kuei's property while hunting. The Lin Kuei warriors killed Tomas's parents, but the Lin Kuei grandmaster was so ashamed of his subordinates' actions that he took the boy under his tutelage in order to make amends. In the present, Tomas is number three in the Lin Kuei's hierarchy, right behind Bi-Han and Kuai Liang at least until Bi-Han's betrayal led to Kuai Liang and Tomas leaving the Lin Kuei.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: All pre-release material and the Story Mode itself freely spoil that Liu Kang became a Fire God during the climax of MK11 and usurped Kronika's place as the Keeper of Time, keeping this status during the entirety of Aftermath and using these powers to restart history.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: When the group finds Shang Tsung in the Tarkatan outpost, Baraka quickly gains the upper hand on the sorcerer, prompting Johnny Cage to tell the group the fight is going well without them and to let it play out. Averted though, when Kenshi tells them that they must intervene since Liu Kang needs Shang Tsung alive.
  • Lighter and Softer: Thanks to Liu Kang's manipulations, the current timeline is rather tame in comparison to the gorefests of the previous two timelines. Most of the cast, while leading similar lives to what they had before, have the opportunity to better themselves and not be forced into evil or their grim situations like in the previous timelines, and it's up to them whether they'll become better or not. Indeed, by the end of the game, the majority of characters are firmly on the side of good or neutral, while only a few are actively malevolent (and even fewer are completely and irredeemably so), most of them going to this path thanks to Titan Shang Tsung's interference.
    • The Mortal Kombat tournament isn't a fight to the death (it isn't even called that) nor is it run by madmen, instead it's a jointly held contest of mutual respect between Earthrealm and Outrealm and Liu Kang notes that it is not a duel to the death so regardless of victory or loss Raiden shouldn't fear for his life.
    • Outworld itself has gotten a significant glow up thanks to Liu Kang's machinations. No longer a barren wasteland where factions engage in endless combat, we are treated to a colorful, prosperous nation where Outworlders of all ancestries gather and celebrate in peace.
  • Living Weapon: According to what several charaters said in their pre-kombat intros, Shang Tsung is plotting with Bi-Han to turn the tarkat virus into a bioweapon.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Killing Titan!Shang Tsung results in his timeline imploding due to him having been the only thing holding it together.
  • Male Gaze: After X and 11 dialed it back considerably, the camera in story mode is more appreciative of the female figures this time around.
  • Mood Whiplash: Kenshi, Johnny Cage, and Kung Lao's heroic entrance into Shang Tsung's laboratory goes from dramatic to humorous when Johnny makes an ill-timed (and little understood) reference to Aliens.
  • The Multiverse: It's revealed at the climax that Liu Kang and Shang Tsung's fight for the Hourglass in Aftermath fractured the singular timeline into many, where each kombatant usurped Kronika as Keeper of Time, making every 11 Tower Ending canon.
  • Mythology Gag: Too many to count, so it has its own page.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Basically everything shown in the first teaser never happens in the game proper. Kitana and Milenna do get escorted in a carriage during a festival, but at night and wearing different clothes. And while Shang Tsung is a major bad guy in the story, he never dies at the hands of Liu Kang. His Titan counterpart does.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In Kenshi's chapter, Johnny, Kenshi, and Kung Lao do their best, but they twice screw themselves over after being sent to capture Shang Tsung:
    • First, they prevent Baraka from killing the sorcerer, which makes Baraka think they're Shang Tsung's allies and attack them, giving Shang Tsung time to escape.
    • Later, as they infiltrate Shang Tsung's lab, they stop him from giving Mileena an injection, assuming that he was trying to infect her with Tarkat, only for it to be revealed that she already has the disease, and his serum was meant to suppress the symptoms. This mistake leads to Mileena attacking them all and gouging out Kenshi's eyes before she can be subdued, as well as the heroes being imprisoned.
  • Nice Mean And In Between: Of the three Lin Kuei brothers, there is Smoke/Tomas who is sweet-natured and rather dorky (Nice), Sub-Zero/Bi-Han who is gruff and abrasive (Mean), and Scorpion/Kuai Liang who is polite and humble, yet stoic (In-Between). Out of the the three of them, only Sub-Zero betrays Earthrealm.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The final battle involving everyone on the side of Liu Kang against everyone on the side of Shang Tsung. It contains not just every surviving character we're already familiar with from the current and previous game, but also hundreds of permutations and combinations of the familiar characters from many different parallel worlds, all with mix-matched abilities and gimmicks.
  • Non-Heteronormative Society: Although Outworld has it's problems, homophobia doesn't seem to be one of them; when Mileena and Tanya's romance is referenced as a potential problem, it's due to Tanya's vows as an Umgadi, not the gender of those involved.
  • Not Blood, Not Family: Bi-Han, who is Sub-Zero in this game's timeline, does not treat Smoke with any respect due to the latter not being part of the Lin Kuei by blood. This is in direct contrast to Kuai Liang, Bi-Han's blood brother and this timeline's Scorpion, who greatly values and trusts Smoke.
  • Not Me This Time: Liu Kang asks his warriors to infiltrate Outworld and capture Shang Tsung, and warns them that he's a liar and manipulator, so assume anything he says is a lie to save his skin. The group finds him extracting bone marrow from Baraka and mixing it into a serum that he's about to inject into Mileena with Tanya and Rain watching. Naturally the Earthrealmers assume Shang Tsung is conspiring to undermine the royal family and about to infect Mileena with tarkat, so they intervene and stop him and don't listen when he denies their accusations. Unfortunately, Shang Tsung really was telling the truth — Mileena is already infected with tarkat and the serum is meant to suppress the disease and keep its symptoms from manifesting. Since they stopped him, Mileena begins to mutate, and the heroes have to stall her and hold her down while Shang Tsung finishes mixing up a new batch of serum for her.
  • Official Couple:
    • It's revealed in various intros that Reptile and Ashrah have gotten together following the events of the game. Doubles as a case of Interspecies Romance.
    • This game also makes Mileena and Tanya's relationship explicit, with the two of them being a secretive couple during the story mode due to Tanya's vow of celibacy. Tanya even quotes a passage from the episcopal wedding vows during a versus match with Mileena, showing her faithfulness to her lover.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Much of Raiden's progress throughout the martial arts tournament is skipped over, only showing his fights with the other playable characters. For added measure, Sindel mentions him defeating Motaro, Sheeva, and Kotal before he fights Kitana and General Shao.
  • Oh, My Gods!:
    • Many Outworld characters (especially Tanya) invoke the Outworld gods Delia (often to ask her for blessings or miracles) and Argus (often to ask him to curse the wicked and give the faithful strength to defeat them).
    • Vaeternians worship the god Enshar; in a pre-kombat dialogue, Nitara dedicated her fight against Kitana to that deity.
    • Several characters affiliated with Liu Kang such as Raiden, Kung Lao and Ashrah invoke the Elder Gods, but there's no indication that they worship them.
  • Once an Episode: Ever since 9 every piece of Mortal Kombat media depicting the origins of a timeline has ripped off Jax's arms. Here though the Jax is actually from an alternate timeline that had already implanted cybernetics but still lost the arms in the final battle.
  • Only Killable at Home: Shang Tsung eventually is defeated and erased from history for good in his own dimension.
  • Open Secret: Even though the royal family and Tanya try to keep a lid on the very forbidden relationship between her and Mileena, many characters talk about it in pre-kombat dialogue.
  • Overcrank: Unlike Mortal Kombat 11, as seen in the various gameplay previews, it triggers during the activation of the Fatal Blow, much like the super moves in Injustice: Gods Among Us and Injustice 2.
  • The Plague: Tarkat is a mysterious disease that causes its victims to mutate hideously and eventually become half-mad berserkers with a taste for blood. As the name suggests, it creates the New Era's incarnation of the Tarkatan race — Baraka is a leader among the marginalized Tarkat sufferers while Princess Mileena is a Zombie Infectee trying to hide her worsening condition.
  • Poor Communication Kills: War almost breaks out between Earthrealm and Outworld largely because their rulers are keeping secrets from each other and don't trust each other enough to share them. Among other things, Sindel's court try to cover up Mileena's tarkat infection not just from their people but from Liu Kang and his warriors, because Outworld cannot show weakness. On the other hand, Liu Kang is keeping a lot of secrets due to his prior role as Keeper of Time, so when he sends his champions into Outworld on a secret mission to apprehend Shang Tsung for reasons not even they know, it comes off to Outworld like he's trying to undermine them through subterfuge. It's only once Liu Kang fully comes clean about his past and demonstrates to Sindel he can be trusted with Mileena's secret that the war is averted.
  • Power Copying: As a Kameo, Shujinko can copy two moves from the opponent. If it is Shang Tsung, then the second move will be transforming into whoever Tsung's own assist is. If Shujinko transforms into himself then it simply wastes the player's gauge by triggering his normal copying ability with no effect.
  • Press X to Not Die: Some scenes in story mode feature the "Test Your Might" minigame. The players must clear it to proceed, and failing will cause them to start the part again after a grisly death scene.
  • Proscenium Reveal: Johnny Cage is introduced as an Adventurer Archaeologist making his way through an ancient ruin and fighting monsters. It is then revealed that this is all part of a movie he is filming.
  • Puppet Fighter: As seen in the various gameplay videos, Kenshi uses the Fighting Spirit of one of his ancestors along with his telekinetically controlled sword to perform combos from across the battlefield. It works like an extended version of his Possessed variation in X but behaves more like Zato-1 from Guilty Gear in that the Fighting Spirit can move and attack separately from Kenshi himself rather than just being an Assist Character.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Upon regaining his titan powers, Liu Kang looks for other titans of times to ally with against Shang Tsung from the MK11 timeline. The first he finds is Kitana, who realizes she and Liu Kang came from the same timeline too. This gives them the idea to summon other allies from the MK11 timeline: Kung Lao, and the original Raiden, who all became Titans of Time when they defeated Kronika in their story mode ending in 11.
  • Rage Against the Heavens:
    • In the process of restarting history at the end of Mortal Kombat 11, Liu Kang altered the destinies of potentially dangerous individuals as a means to neutralize them and prevent them becoming the dangers they had been in previous timelines. These changes include things like making Shao Kahn a loyal follower instead of a would-be conqueror, or making Mileena a true daughter of the Edenian royal line instead of the malformed clone of Kitana. Numerous fight intros featuring Liu Kang or Geras feature characters aware of this fact questioning or otherwise resentful of the changes Liu Kang wrought in their lives as part of his role as Keeper of Time. Shang Tsung is perhaps the most prevalent, as the story starts with him being a Snake Oil Salesman rather than the powerful, malicious sorcerer that has gone between Big Bad and The Dragon throughout the rest of the series.
      Shang Tsung: I resent what you've done to me in this timeline.
      Liu Kang: And I what you've done in all others.
    • Characters who did nothing evil also have a beef with some of Liu Kang's alterations or actions. Smoke, for example, resents the fact that his destiny seemingly required him to be orphaned, while Baraka regards Liu Kang as being to blame for the disease Tarkat that afflicts him, though Liu Kang describes the latter as "unforseen consequence". The standout here is Raiden, whose tower ending reveals that beyond merely being born mortal, Raiden was also given the temperament of a Humble Hero to try and prevent the rage that consumed past versions of Raiden. Raiden understands, but disagrees, and seeks out the Shirai Ryu to Teach Him Anger.
  • Rage Breaking Point: While the new Scorpion, Kuai Liang, still maintains the humble, yet righteous demeanor he did as Tundra, the fire in his heart burns as brightly as Hanzo's did, coming to a head when his pleas to his brother fall on deaf ears and Bi-Han betrays Earthrealm to Shang Tsung while also admitting to letting their father die in the accident to gain control of the Lin Kuei, Scorpion SNAPS, and proceeds to brutally maul everyone present with the shackles he's currently chained up by. Notably, when Scorpion tries to beat Bi-Han while they're down, he's stopped by a mook and takes his anger out on the poor schmuck instead.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The champions Liu Kang chooses to represent Earthrealm for the tournament in Outworld consist of a reserved yet kindhearted and polite farmer content of living a humble life, his overconfident best friend who yearns for more excitement to his life and to make a name for himself, an arrogant and self-centered actor struggling to maintain his waning fame and finances, and a stoic former Yakuza who seeks to redeem his family name from their crime-ridden past.
  • Raiders of the Lost Parody: The film Johnny Cage is introduced to be working on is a beat-by-beat recreation of the opening to Raiders of the Lost Ark. He's even got Indy's signature outfit on for good measure. The set that the movie is filmed on is its own stage with the music being a Pastiche of movie scores composed by John Williams.
  • Recursive Canon: Johnny Cage's ending has him create an entire franchise of films, tv shows, and games based on his experience in Outworld, as part of Liu Kang's efforts to slowly reveal the existence of other realms to the people of Earthrealm. The implication that this is the Mortal Kombat franchise in-universe is very strong.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Turns out there's a Shang Tsung who can put the needs of the realms and timelines above himself for once, and he and an allied Quan Chi try to stop the Armageddon to help Liu Kang fix things, in contrast to the cautious Enemy Mine of their New Era counterparts. Then Titan Shang Tsung and his own Quan Chi proceed to rip their souls (and skeletons) right out of their bodies from behind for their troubles.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Scorpion and Sub-Zero are now brothers, which also makes Scorpion a Composite Character with Kuai Liang, the second Sub-Zero. This also ties in with Smoke, whose character bio reveals he is Scorpion and Sub-Zero's adopted brother.
  • Related Differently in the Adaptation:
    • The bios for Mileena and Kitana reveal that Mileena is no longer Kitana's half-Tarkatan clone, but rather her older twin sister and legitimate daughter to Empress Sindel.
    • In previous timeline, Sektor was the son of the Lin Kuei Grandmaster, but now it's Sub-Zero and Scorpion biologically and Smoke through adoption.
  • Remixed Level: Every stage has at least one variant taking place in a different time of day or weather condition, with a few taking direct inspiration from prior games:
    • The Wu Shi Academy returns as a playable stage, only this time, kombatants fight outside of the iconic suspended ring rather than inside it.
    • The Living Forest makes its return to the game, this time as a Lighter and Softer portrayal as a sort of graveyard for the spirits of dead Outworlders. The stage itself has its own Corrupted version after Quan Chi's Soul Collector is destroyed which recalls older versions of the stage which had a darker atmosphere.
    • Shang Tsung's Flesh Pits make a return from Mortal Kombat 9, now prominently featuring an unfortunate victim of the sorcerer's experiments.
    • Kahn's Kave from 3 is now Outworld's Palace, and is even mixed with some parts from The Church from 3.
    • The final chapter of Story Mode takes place across an ascent of a monument similar to Argus's Pyramid from Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. In both the Story Mode and the klassic tower, the final boss is fought at the summit of the pyramid.
  • Replacement Goldfish: A double whammy. In Invasion mode, Liu Kang finds a timeline where Harumi is the Scorpion who lost her Hanzo to Quan Chi, and so the original Hanzo joins her in her timeline and helps her defeat Quan Chi and his forces. And thus, both Hanzo and Harumi are each other's replacement goldfish and emotional support as they clash with their enemies.
  • Reptilian Conspiracy: Discussed In a fight intro between Reptile and Kenshi. The former wondering why some Earthrealmers believe in it, and the latter wondering if Reptile isn't the first Zaterran to come to Earthrealm.
  • Revisiting the Roots: A somewhat nuanced example. In the rebooted trilogy, the series leaned more towards the futuristic and fantastical Western elements, with a lot of emphasis put on the Special Forces, the Black Dragon, and the Lin Kuei and their Cyber Initiative. This meant that military commandos, cyborgs, and armored vehicles dominated the aesthetic and tone of the story. This game instead heavily downplays those elements, with the Special Forces and Black Dragon not even mentioned and the Lin Kuei not yet beginning the Cyber Initiative. Instead, more emphasis is put on the Shaolin and the Wu Shi, the different races and cultures of Outworld, and the Earthrealmers learning about other realms for the first time. This slants the game much more towards the Eastern aesthetic of the original Mortal Kombat, a setting of demons and sorcery where most kombatants utilize fantasy martial arts instead of high-tech guns and explosives.
  • Richard Nixon, the Used Car Salesman: The main villains in the story are demoted to this status. Justified by Liu Kang and Geras reshaping the timeline from scratch to ensure they would not become threats.
    • In this era, Shang Tsung and Quan Chi are not Evil Sorcerers with the power to topple realms, at least at first, with the former eking out a living as a Con Man in Outworld's rural areas and the latter being a lowly menial labourer in a mine somewhere. It's only after their Mysterious Benefactor's direct interference that they get anything approaching the power and resources they had in past timelines. According to pre-fight intros, this was seen as a mercy so that neither would have to be Retgone entirely but their prior abuses of power would not be tolerated.
    • Downplayed with Shao Kahn, who is no longer Emperor of Outworld, but is still allowed to be a mighty warrior and leader of its armies. Compared to those other two, this is a place in history with much greater prestige and power. It is possible that Shao's childhood frailty was an attempt on Liu Kang's part to prevent his rise to power which was unintentionally squashed by Shao's father choosing to fix the issue himself.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: While Tarkat is portrayed similarly to historic plagues like leprosy, one of Baraka's round win quotes is a reference to the more recent COVID-19 pandemic:
    Baraka: I should've worn a mask...
  • Rousseau Was Right: This seems to be Liu Kang's stance in reforging the destinies of the villains. He believes that by giving them better lives, they would cease to exist as threats in his New Era. Most of them end up as allies as a result.
  • Rousing Speech: Liu Kang gives one in the announcement trailer, announcing his New Era to be a fresh start with the intent to create a world of peace and prosperity, and presenting his listeners with the choice to retread the violence of their previous incarnations or stand united together against future threats.
  • Role Swap AU: In nearly all games prior to this, Raiden was the protector god of Earthrealm while Liu Kang was his chosen champion to defend the realm against Outworld's aggression. In MK1, Liu Kang is the protector god of Earthrealm after having created the New Era, and Raiden assumes Liu Kang's former role as Earthrealm's mortal champion in a tournament against Outworld.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Normal Shang Tsung wears yellow with silver. The vastly more dangerous Titan Shang Tsung wears yellow with gold.
  • Sadistic Choice: In the pre-kombat dialogue Sindel vs. Tanya, the former reminds the latter that her forbidden relationship with her daughter compromises her ability to fullfil her duty as guardian of the royal family as a whole with the monarch on top by asking the following question: "if forced to chose, would you save Mileena or me?".
  • Scenery Porn: This timeline's version of Outworld features greater emphasis on its exotic and outright beautiful landmarks rather than its foreboding wastelands, to say nothing of Earthrealm's usual scenery...
    • Scenery Gorn: Which isn't to say that Mortal Kombat as a franchise hasn't wholly abandoned its morbid side with stages like Shang Tsung's Flesh Pits or the Corrupted Forest being rendered in horrific detail.
  • Schrödinger's Player Character: You can pick any character you like to climb the pyramid at the Battle of Armageddon, including an alternate Liu Kang or good guy versions of villains. The only change is how each one replies to the Fire God's praise after Shang Tsung and Quan Chi are defeated.
  • Secret Test of Character: After Raiden and Kung Lao's meal at Madame Bo's tea house, Smoke, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and various other members of the Lin Kuei attack Madame Bo and start wrecking the restaurant. After Raiden and Kung Lao defeat them, it's revealed that it was all a test for Raiden and Kung Lao to see if they were ready to begin training under Liu Kang at the Wu Shi Temple. Various intro interactions between characters indicate that the whole thing was Madame Bo's idea.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • The story's endgame focuses on the existence of countless timelines and Titans, with no guarantee the realities will all stay separate.
      • This is directly alluded to post-credits after Liu Kang and an ally of the player's choosing defeat the Titan Shang Tsung, win the Battle of Armageddon, and bring peace to the New Era. However, a Titan Havik, arriving too late to participate in Armageddon, admires the carnage and promises to start a new, bloodier war in the future.
      • Pre-fight dialogue between Geras and some others reveals the existence of at least one timeline where Kronika still lives as Titan Keeper of Time, as well as the fact that there was one before her.
    • While Bi-Han remains Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei with Sektor and Cyrax supporting him and him conceiving the idea of Cyber-Lin Kuei, Kuai Liang and Smoke leave and found the Shirai Ryu, setting up their clans' bloody rivalry to play out again in a different manner.
    • Unlike past games, the character endings of this title aren't mutually exclusive and act as a postscript, with several of them intertwined. The implication they're canonical means there are several major developments happening for Earthrealm and Outworld, as well as other realms:
      • Earthrealm at large is ignorant of Outworld's existence, but Liu Kang intends to reveal the truth to them with help from Johnny Cage.
      • Kenshi's ending has him and Jax establish the Outworld Investigation Agency, further increasing the degree of awareness about other realms.
      • Shang Tsung's ending has him finding his island and the Well of Souls, and various fight intro banter implies he's preparing to host a tournament there.
      • General Shao and Reiko's ending reveal the general is preparing to resurrect and tame Onaga, the Dragon King.
      • Reptile's ending has him uncover a conspiracy that had every other shape-shifting Zaterran killed by the orders of a mysterious benefactor.
      • Rain and Havik's ending has Rain summon a tsunami to drown the Seido capital, plunging the realm into chaos.
      • Ashrah's ending has her save Sareena from being Quan Chi's slave and establish the Order of Light.
      • Realizing that retaking the power of the Keeper of Time turned him mortal (though still Long-Lived), Liu Kang begins training Geras to be his successor.
      • Li Mei is sad that as a (former) Umgadi, she didn't knew her parents, but Liu Kang hints that it may change in the future.
  • Setting Update: Despite ostensibly being a reboot/heavily altered retelling of Deadly Alliance, the events of the story take place in The New '20s rather than the Turn of the Millennium, as evidenced by Johnny's smartphone and references to streaming shows.
  • Shout-Out: Shares a page with the rest of the franchise.
  • Skewed Priorities: In one of the intros between Kenshi and Sindel, Sindel mentions her doubts about Raiden beating Kitana fairly. Kenshi responds that after all that happened, she is still focused on the tournament.
  • Slasher Smile: When Kronika offers Shang Tsung a chance to reclaim the status he had before Liu Kang's New Era, he starts slowly smiling at the prospect until he's baring his teeth in a blood-chilling grin.
  • Soft Reboot: The game is almost a complete Continuity Reboot, and for the most part, Mortal Kombat 1 does many jobs as one: taking place in a reset and reconstructed timeline from the previous games, many characters have majorly reworked backstories and altered characterizations, rebuilding the status quo as being much different, though still familiar, to what the series had previously established (compare this to how Mortal Kombat 9 created its timeline, where things only diverged from the start of the tournament in the first game). However, this still qualifies as a "soft" reboot as not only is there an in-fiction explanation for this (the newly-ascended Fire God Liu Kang using the Hourglass to rebuild the timeline), but some characters have still experienced said events and remember the timeline that was abandoned, namely Liu Kang and Geras. This regard to past continuity as having definitively "existed" even in the New Era ends up being an important plot point, with the climax revealing that ever since Liu Kang and Shang Tsung's clash in Aftermath, there now exists countless parallel timelines that had become increasingly aware of each other, including one from which a Titan Shang Tsung originates.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Played With. King Jerrod is long dead before the events of the game, just like in the previous timelines, but this time, it doesn't stick. After his soul is among the many taken from the Living Forest to create Ermac, Jerrod slowly takes control of the creature's body, technically reviving him and reuniting him with his family. The fact that Ermac is set to be a DLC fighter later also turns Jerrod into a playable fighter for the first time.
  • Stable Time Loop: One of Geras' Fatalities has him create a time loop. He opens a portal to the future and tears the head off his opponent's future self, which he then uses to bludgeon his present opponent. The Fatality then ends with a portal appearing, through which past Geras reaches to tear the opponent's head off.
  • STD Immunity: In a pre-fight intro, Baraka reminds Tanya that being madly in love with someone (in her case with Mileena) does NOT make one immune to the Tarkat virus.
  • The Stinger: Titan Havik arrives in the aftermath of the Battle of Armageddon, wishing to begin another war to enjoy the chaos.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: One of Shang Tsung's Fatalities begins with him doing this to his opponent before cutting them open and pouring a substance on the opened wound, spawning a creature that eats its host.
  • Super Move Portrait Attack: As seen in the various gameplay videos, the Fatal Blows now start with a closeup of the executor and their Kameo, the whole startup being reminiscent of Netherrealm's other big franchise, Injustice.
  • Swapped Roles: In the previous timelines, Liu Kang was Earthrealm's champion and The Chosen One while Raiden was the Big Good and the god of thunder. In this timeline, however, Raiden is Earthrealm's champion and The Chosen One while Liu Kang is the Big Good and the god of fire.
  • Tamer and Chaster: Many returning characters, both men and women, have more covered up outfits than their last appearance in MK11. It's not across the board, though. Mileena has a mildly sexualized design similar to her MKX default design, Sindel sports some noticeable cleavage, Nitara wears a fairly revealing outfit, Johnny Cage wears nothing but skin tight shorts in his Jean-Claude Van Damme skin, and the Kameo fighters are as revealing as their original games.
  • Thematic Sequel Logo Change: The MK logo usually is made of a solid metallic looking circle around the dragon; this game's logo has been changed to the dragon's tail forming the outside where it ends, showing how this New Era is different in many ways.
  • Third Act Stupidity: Once Titan Shang Tsung reveals his evil plan to take over the timeline and become the only god of all timelines, he has a Dark Raiden and a Dark Sindel next to him while they're surrounded by several of the heroes and even an opposing Shang Tsung watching him exposit. It's not until he has already taken control of the Dragon Army and departs that anyone does anything to stop the remaining two cohorts. The result is their Sindel's death and the heroes having to resort to allying with other timelines to stop Titan Shang Tsung.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: The long-last Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain Mileena finally gets a real bone thrown at her, even though she suffers a bit in the story. For one, she's not a clone created by Shang Tsung but Sindel's blood daughter and Kitana's older sister, meaning she grew up in a loving family. She's also the heir to the Outworld's throne and for once she gets to fight with the good guys. At the end of the story, Mileena becomes empress, succeeding Sindel.
    • Reptile gets similar treatment. Though he originally suffers from being an exile and losing his family, he winds up with true friends, a healthy and aspirational relationship with Ashrah, and standing in Mileena's court as the liason to the Zaterrans to improve relations between them and outworld at large.
  • Time Crash: Much like The Flash did back in Injustice 2, Geras can weaponize time traveling. His portion of the Fatal Blow has him crashing his opponent's skull with their past selves'.
  • Title 1: A twist from the usual usage of this, as the 1 is to mark the beginning of a new timeline and to distinguish itself from the actual first game of the series, whose title lacks a number (despite the original game being informally referred to as Mortal Kombat 1 by the fan community).
  • Title Drop:
    • Done by way of subversion of the series titular feature in the story.
    Liu Kang: I would not send my champions unwittingly into Mortal Kombat.
    • In a pre-kombat intro with Johnny, guest character Omni-Man drops the title of his home franchise:
    Johnny: You look like the dad I never had.
    Omni-Man: You're fragile. My son... is Invincible.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The Umgadi trailer for the game introduces Baraka right after a line from Kenshi saying that Liu Kang can help with Tarkat, with Baraka saying "If he could help, he would've done so by now" implying that despite his more sympathetic backstory Baraka would still be opposing Liu Kang and the heroes. In reality, the line is from one of Baraka and Kenshi's intros and doesn't pertain to the story at all. While the intros do show that Baraka isn't exactly fond of Liu Kang, he spends his entire screentime as a heroic figure and only comes into conflict with the heroes due to them stopping him from killing Shang Tsung before they can interrogate him, and after the misunderstanding is resolved spends the rest of the story helping them.
  • Training from Hell: Tanya is not only Mileena's bodyguard (and secret lover), she also trains her to fight even better than she already can, but judging by the following pre-kombat dialogue, she may be overdoing it sometimes:
    Mileena: Haven't we fought enough today?
    Tanya: Do you wish to be trained or not, Your Highness?
  • Trash Talk: Unlike Mortal Kombat X and Mortal Kombat 11, as seen in the various gameplay videos, they talk right after the stage was chosen. As a result, this feature is only available in Versus modes, and is completely absent from the Towers mode/Arcade ladders.
  • Treacherous Advisor: As seen in the Early/Closed Beta gameplay videos, in one pre-fight intro, Kitana apologizes to Kenshi for mistrusting his comrades. Kenshi puts the blame in a "snake hissing in [her] ear":
    Kitana: I mistrusted you and your comrades.
    Kenshi: Didn't help that you had a snake hissing in your ear.
  • The Trees Have Faces: The Living Forest has been reimagined in the New Era, no longer haunted and perpetually shadowed. It instead is a living shrine to the souls of the honored dead in Outworld and houses spirits as benevolent as it looks. It's only after Quan-chi robs the forest of the souls inhabiting it for his Soul Battery that the Forest takes on the more familar and grotesque look as The Corrupted Forest, with faces twisted in agony and pain, and green fire ravaging it in the background.
  • Underestimating Badassery: In the Story Mode Preview, the Lin Kuei members (Smoke, Scorpion II and Sub-Zero I) terrorize Madame Bo's restaurant. While the three of them fighting Kung Lao alone would qualify as this, Raiden is seen knocking out some of their mooks, which surprises both of them.
  • The Unmasqued World: Johnny's ultimate role and purpose as tasked by Liu Kang is to reveal to Earthrealm the existence of Outworld, as someone with broad enough fame to be believed. Johnny ultimately decides the best way though is to ease people into the idea by presenting it as a fictional Cinematic Universe so the shock of discovering reality isn't so sudden.
  • Unrelated in the Adaptation:
    • Rather than being Sindel's second husband and Kitana's stepfather, in this timeline, Shao is just an Outworld general with no familial relationship with the royal family. One of Kitana's Mirror Match intros even has her shocked to learn that Shao was her father in other timelines.
    • Harumi Shirai is not the wife of Hanzo Hasashi, but rather she is Childhood Friends-turned wife of Kuai Liang. Hanzo Hasashi of Liu Kang's new timeline is a poor child trying to survive and they both take him in as a Shirai Ryu apprentice as Kuai Liang was impressed by his skills.
  • The Un-Reveal:
    • Jerrod was murdered, as in previous timelines, but the culprit and circumstances are never cleared up. Li Mei, as head of the Umgadi, was blamed for failing to prevent his death, but Jerrod himself insists that she wasn't to blame, and Jerrod never explicitly identifies his killer.
    • The origin and exact nature of Tarkat is never fully explained. Despite being an apparently contagious disease that requires its victims to be permanently quarantined, everyone with the affliction in the game contracted it prior to the events of the story. According to Sindel, Mileena contracted Tarkat after leaving the palace one night. However, it's never explained exactly how she got it, something Baraka states is "difficult to do" and that he only got from prolonged close contact with his family. Indeed, most of the cast is in direct physical contact with a Tarkatan at some point, several seemingly receiving cuts from their blades, but no one ever exhibits symptoms.
    • Although General Shao produces Shinnok's Amulet as a weapon when he reveals his betrayal of the royal family, where the Amulet came from is never revealed; Geras says that "its maker is powerless", implying that Shinnok was brought back in the New Era, but not as an Elder God, and the Amulet's origins are never addressed.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In the Story Mode preview, one of the patrons of Madam Bo's teahouse is seen casually enjoying a drink while Raiden and Sub-Zero brawl with each other nearby, taking advantage of Raiden's swipes with a meat cleaver cutting open a bottle to get a free drink. When Sub-Zero freezes Raiden's hands to the bar table, the patron casually plucks off a shard of ice and drops it in his drink.
  • Versus Character Splash: A unique variation: as shown in early gameplay footage, after both players select their characters and stage, the playable characters clash with each other in a manner not dissimilar to Injustice 2, trading Pre Ass Kicking One Liners with each other before kombat begins.
  • Villain Ball: Syzoth/Reptile is a reluctant yet dedicated servant to Shang Tsung due to the latter holding his family hostage. When the Earthrealm party engineers a breakout at the Flesh Pits despite Syzoth's attempt to stop them, Shang Tsung decides to punish Syzoth by leaving him to die with the rest while he floods the Flesh Pits with poison gas... and can't help but twist the knife by gloating to Syzoth that he had his family killed ages ago. Naturally, they escape the gas and Syzoth is now fully on board with taking down Shang Tsung.
  • Villain Opening Scene: After Liu Kang's opening monologue about the New Era's creation, the first major character we meet is Shang Tsung, making a meagre living as a Snake Oil Salesman. The same scene also introduces the game's Big Bad, albeit in disguise.
  • Was Once a Man: As explicitly said by Baraka and confirmed by the character bios of both himself and Mileena, in this timeline, the Tarkatans are depicted as victims of a disease (Tarkat) that slowly turns anyone infected with it into monsters and it's implied the same will happen to Mileena as well.
    Baraka: We are victims of Tarkat. It disfigures, then debilitates. In time, it will turn us all into bloodthirsty monsters. Death is our only release.
  • Wax On, Wax Off: A pre-fight intro between Liu Kang and Johnny Cage indicates that Liu Kang has been training Johnny using this tactic. Johnny, true to form, lampshades it by shouting-out the Trope Namer.
    Liu Kang: I will now demonstrate why you sanded those floors.
    Johnny Cage: Holy shit! I've been Miyagi'ed.
  • Welcomed to the Masquerade: Enforced moreso than past entries. In the story mode, Liu Kang is stated explicitly to keep the broader Earthrealm ignorant of the existence of Outworld and other realms (but not vice versa), with only a chosen few allowed in the know. The initial chapters are about Raiden, Kung Lao, Kenshi, and Johnny Cage being brought into the fold, while Jax Briggs finds out himself in Kenshi's ending.
  • Wham Line: One of the pre-fight intros between Reptile and Havik includes a shocking reveal that is in neither the story mode nor any of the arcade endings.
    Reptile: Return to Seido, Dairou.
    Havik: Where did you learn my real name?!
  • Wham Shot:
    • Kronika appears before Shang Tsung during the prologue, when they had previously been assumed to be Killed Off for Real. And she was, as a subsequent entry explains
    • Quan Chi's arrival in Shang Tsung's laboratory, revealing that the Deadly Alliance has returned in the New Era.
    • The grand twist of the story's third act: The crown used to conjure the Dragon Army levitates into the air, as a figure manifests out of time magic to claim it. But it isn't Kronika, it's Titan Shang Tsung from the alternate ending of 11, who had been using his Alternate Self as a pawn all along.
    • From a bit of a gameplay standpoint too, during the beginning of the final chapter where the game has the command Choose Your Final Kombatant and brings up the character select screen, letting the player choose who gets to go with Liu Kang to be the ultimate hero of the story.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The Klassic Ladder endings for each character take place after the events of Story Mode, with none of the endings contradicting any other, making them natural continuations of the story. To name a few examples: Scorpion and Smoke co-found the Shirai Ryu to counter Bi-Han's corrupt Lin Kuei (which has begun building battle robots), General Shao and Reiko escape imprisonment and make preparations to restart their rebellion, Sindel joins Jerrod's soul within Ermac's body and fights alongside him for control over Ermac, Mileena enlists Baraka's help in providing humanitarian aid to the Tarkatans and Havik convinces Rain to help him destroy Seido's capital.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?:
    • When Nitara tries to tempt Tomas with a promise of immortality by her Coven in a pre-kombat dialogue, he refuses by quoting the line from the song by Queen the article took its title from verbatim.
    • When Nitara made the same offer to Kitana, she refused because of how Vaeternians attained immortality (through vampirism).
    • When Kung Lao expresses his envy of the Edenians' longevity in a pre-kombat dialogue with Sindel, she asks him why he thinks it isn't a hardship.
  • X-Ray of Pain: Returning from Mortal Kombat 11, the Fatal Blow returns with the major impact frames now being shown as X-ray images.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain:
    • Reptile is at last fulfilling his goal of living amongst his own kind in this timeline. However, due to his human form, he is an outcast and banished from Zaterra.
    • Similarly, Nitara's bio states that her home realm of Vaeternus remains unmerged from Outworld in this timeline, her own lifelong goal in the previous timelines, but her people have overfed on the other creatures in the realm, causing environmental collapse and starvation.
  • You Fight Like a Cow: As seen in the "It Has Begun" Kombat Kast, one of Johnny Cage's mid-round taunts is "My agent is tougher than you". He may be half-joking, as one of his brutalities involve his 'agent' (or just his make-up artist) to slice and dice his opponent's face away.

"You have chosen to defy peace. Then you have chosen war with a GOD!"


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Mortal Kombat 12023


One nasty beating

There's no question on the fact that Kuai Liang is polite. But after Kuai Liang witnesses Bi-Han's betrayal, he snaps and gives a nasty beating to not only General Shao, his army and Shang Tsung, but also his brother.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / BewareTheNiceOnes

Media sources: