Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is an action game released in 2005. Based on the events that occurred at the end of Mortal Kombat leading into Mortal Kombat II and its final confrontation with Shao Kahn, players take on the role of Liu Kang and Kung Lao as they fight to defend Earthrealm.
The story begins with Earthrealm's warriors battling for their lives against Outworld's forces on Shang Tsung's island fortress. Liu Kang eventually confronts the sorcerer and gains the upper hand against him, only for Goro to enter the fray. While the heroes are distracted by this new threat, Shang Tsung is able to open a portal to Outworld and retreats with his evil allies as the fortress begins to crumble around them. Escaping, Liu Kang and Kung Lao find the Wu Shi Academy under attack from Baraka and his Tarkatans. Defeating them the duo decide to meet the threat head on, despite the odds, and battle through Outworld itself to face Shao Kahn in person.
The game was welcomed by fans and critics alike for being an enjoyable fatality-filled action beat 'em up; no doubt in part to the last two Spinoff games, Mythlogies and Special Forces, being less than stellar.
Whilst the gameplay and bloodshed was greeted with joy, many story elements were not. Kung Lao's character was now arrogant, jealous of Liu Kang becoming champion and no longer the reluctant warrior of his original introduction. Many established canon story elements and characters were now changed or completely altered. Whether the game was intended as a Broad Strokes approach to the story, a Retcon, an Alternate Continuity or simply a case of Midway not knowing their own continuity is up for debate. Needless to say the fans have their own opinions on the matter.
Tropes found in this game:
- Adaptational Jerk Ass: The same Kung Lao who was once a humble warrior who did not seek the spotlight is now an honour obsessed, ill-tempered Jerk Jock who endlessly teases Liu Kang about Kitana, not to mention buying into Shang Tsung's scheme.
- Badass in Distress: Sonya is kidnapped by Baraka after the Tournament and by the end of the game, both Johnny Cage and Katana have been captured and can be found in cells just before the final battle with Shao Kahn.
- Big Bad: Shang Tsung.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Shang Tsung, much like the main series. His entire plan to overthrow Shao Kahn. His plan never gets very far as he's killed by Liu Kang and Kung Lao before he has the chance to even try, implying he didn't have a chance of success regardless.
- Bonus Boss: The player has the option of fighting Kano before leaving to fight Shao Kahn. Doing so results in Kano's death & Jax arriving to take Sonya back to Earthrealm, which'll also leave you an extra health item to use in the final boss fights; otherwise they remain in the background of the arena. Ermac can also be challenged in the Warrior Shrine, and a return trip to the Living Forest and exploring the previously unreachable treetops can get you a second fight with Mileena.
- But Thou Must!: In the battle against Kitana, Mileena, and Jade, it doesn't matter which one you hit with the Fatality stunner, Jade is always the one killed.
- Canon Discontinuity: Mortal Kombat 9 doesn't make any direct references to Shaolin Monks in the story, aside of a small nod, and seems to use the "original" versions of MK1 and MK2's stories instead, but several of the Challenge Tower missions are directly based on parts of the game.
- The game also adopted Kung Lao's outfit here as his standard, and a minor plot point of him sneaking into the first tournament disguised as a guard.
- Compilation Re-release: Mortal Kombat Kollection, which shipped this game alongside Mortal Kombat: Deception and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.
- Death by Adaptation: Jade, Goro, Baraka, Reptile, Ermac, Kano, Scorpion, Shang Tsung, Kintaro and finally, Shao Kahn.
- Demoted to Extra: Jax, who only appears during the Outworld Foundry near the end of the game looking for the captured Sonya and he helps in rescuing her.
- Dressing as the Enemy: Kung Lao and Shang Tsung in the opening.
- Eye Scream: After disabling Mileena with a punch to the face, Liu Kang kills Jade by stabbing her in the eyes with Mileena's sai. Yes, it was both completely unnecessary and completely hilarious.
- Fake Ultimate Mook: The couple of Orochi Hellbeasts you bump into through the campaign. They are strong and everything, but the problem is that they both come with smaller mooks, and that the Fatality stunner isn't disabled when they're around, allowing you to very easily start a Brutality off of one of the small fry and brutalize them well before the time runs out.
- Fauxshadowing: Raiden's warning that "Outworld changes a person. The next time you see Sonya Blade, she may not be a friend"? Nothing comes of it. And this is despite the Let's You and Him Fight nature of fighting games. Possibly justified, as "Raiden" is actually Shang Tsung trying to sow seeds of distrust in the monks.
- Fire Means Chaos: After players (Liu Kang and/or Kung Lao, as well Scorpion and/or Sub-Zero) arrive to the Shaolin temple where Raiden will prize them and the other warriors of the Earthrealm for their courage, a Tarkatan army goes to invade and destroy the temple by throwing giant balls of rock on-fire via catapults. Then the stage starts with the temple on fire and with various monks running and screaming when they're burn, also damaging the player.
- Greater-Scope Villain: Shao Kahn. The main plot is kicked off by Shang Tsung's plot to overthrow Shao Kahn and fighting Shang Tsung is the focus of the game. Shao Kahn only appears at the end of the game right before the fight with Shang Tsun.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Ermac is crushed by the same boulder he planned to use to crush the heroes. In fact his psychic concentration is broken when another boulder he threw at them is kicked right back at him.
- Hub Level: The Portal, which serves to get you to most of the other levels of the game, and little else.
- Kill Steal: Johnny Cage interrupts the player to land the killing blow on Goro. This is followed by Cage raising his fist in celebration, and Kung Lao shrugging in confusion. The next scene even has Liu Kang (or rather, Shang Tsung) grousing about Cage stealing his kil.
- Limit Break: What Fatalities, Multalities, and Brutalities are in basic combat. Subverted during boss fights, and versus mode, where you perform Fatalities after the battle instead in true Mortal Kombat style.
- Load-Bearing Boss: In the opening cutscene, Shang Tsung's defeat brings his entire fortress crumbling down around the Earthrealm warriors, though if the player comes back through a hidden portal, the island isn't exactly any worse for wear than it was at the start of the game.
- Metroidvania: A hybrid of this, Beat-em-ups, and Mortal Kombat's over-the-top gore.
- Mythology Gag:
- In the fight between Liu Kang, Kung Lao, and Goro, Johnny intervenes and finishes off Goro. This is both a mirror of his rivalry with him, and a nod to the final scene of the Cage vs. Goro battle in the first movie.
- Bonus Boss Ermac's inclusion is likely a reference to his origins as a rumored secret character in the first game.
- The Fatality delivered to Shang Tsung mirrors how he killed Liu Kang in the opening of Deadly Alliance
- Two of Kung Lao's fatalities have him pulling killer rabbits out of his hat, referencing Kung Lao's Friendship in II.
- No Kill Like Overkill: This being Mortal Kombat, there are several candidates and all but Kintaro's death is gloriously over the top. All four arms torn off, then his head for good measure. You can then throw it at Shao Kahn afterwards when you fight him.
- Nostalgia Level: Many of the levels are based on the classic stages from the first two games. Justified since it's a retelling of MKII.
- Obvious Trap: Shang Tsung is blatantly trying to goad Liu Kang and his allies into entering Outworld, where they will be vulnerable and likely fail to save Sonya. So of course they take the bait and decide to fight against the odds.
- Plot Coupon: The "Tournament Victories" you get after defeating the bosses. They collectively serve as the key to the Foundry, which serves as the final dungeon.
- Precision F-Strike: Every once in a while, when Scorpion uses his spear, he says either "GET OVER HERE, BITCH!" or "GET THE FUCK OVER HERE!"
- Pull a Rabbit out of My Hat: Two of Kung Lao's Fatalities feature him doing this (as a nod to his MKII Friendship) and then offering the rabbit to his victim. The first has the victim accept the rabbit, which results in them getting mauled by it. The second has the victim reject the rabbit, which results in Kung Lao mercilessly beating them to death with the poor rabbit.
- Running Gag: Kung Lao endlessly teasing Liu Kang about his attraction to Kitana.
- Secret Character: Both Sub-Zero and Scorpion are playable characters after you beat the game. Both have their own unique playstyles, what with Sub-Zero's ability to freeze his enemies, and Scorpion's signature spear attack. However, you only play through the levels as them. The story and cutscenes are the same. Though Scorpion and Sub-Zero replace Liu Kang and Kung Lao respectively in the scenes, the game acts like it's the same character.
- She Is Not My Girlfriend: A lot of the dialogue in this game is Kung Lao mocking Liu Kang's attraction to Kitana and an exasperated Liu protesting that Kitana isn't his girlfriend. Its almost to the point that "Kitana is not my girlfriend!" becomes Liu's Catchphrase.
- Shout-Out: This way.
- Socialization Bonus: Some of the secrets are only accessible in co-op mode. None of them are ultimately that essential, though, and generally just consist of artwork.
- Spin Attack:
- Shao Kahn has this attack with his hammer. The player won't be thinking this is "better"; however, it has a lot of reach. If the player gets hit once, they will get stunned and hit again by the rest of the attack.
- The player also has access to Kung Lao's spin special, which can be upgraded to encompass a wider radius.
- The Starscream: Shang Tsung disguised as Raiden manipulates Liu Kang and Kung Lao into going into Outworld and killing many so that he can take their souls, giving him enough power to betray Shao Kahn and become ruler of Outworld. Unfortunately for him, Shao Kahn is fully aware of Shang Tsung's attempt at treachery. However, the emperor lets the Sorcerer proceed with the plans anyway, then watches as the heroes defeat the sorcerer, ending his plans of betrayal. As Shao Kahn would say, "All in this realm serve my will, even those who would betray me."
- Turn Red: When Shao Kahn loses half of his health he pulls out his hammer.
- What Happenedtothe Mouse: After the second boss fight against Mileena, she is not seen again for the rest of the game.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Kitana's reaction to Liu Kang killing Jade.
- When Trees Attack: The Living Forest is here, and this time, you actually can feed your enemies to the trees. It's actually required to do in order to progress,but you can do it as much as you like. However, if you run out of health in the area, YOU will be fed to the trees.
- Xanatos Gambit: Shao Kahn letting Shang Tsung's plot take its course is implied to be this. Either Shang Tsung wins and his enemies die, or his treacherous underling dies.