With fan favourites like Johnny Cage and Mileena playing a minor role or missing from the recent live-action film, fans are up in arms about who should have been the focus of the film and how these characters were done dirty. Of course with the huge roster of characters to pick from, not everyone was going to get their cameo in. But long-time fans of the franchise believe some of the best Mortal Kombat characters being left out is unforgivable.
Given that there are fourteen games, countless collections, re-releases and editions now available, you are likely asking how it is even possible to pick the best characters. Well, I’m going to help you out by picking out the characters based on a mix of how many appearances they have, how they are received best by fans, how they control in-game and their overall standing appeal.
5. Erron Black
I can hear you shouting already! It may be a bit controversial to include such a recent roster addition on this list, but if you’ve played Mortal Kombat X or 11, then it may be clear why the Outworld mercenary is on this list. Black is easy to play and difficult to master with powerful special attacks and simple to pick up timing on combos. A great trait for a fighting game character is how much fun can you have from the moment you start playing as them, and Black is tons of fun right from the start. Voiced by Troy Baker, Black immediately won over fans with his mysterious nature and cool aesthetic. Bringing the Wild West feel to the Mortal Kombat setting probably shouldn’t work, but it does.
Once I saw how Sonic Fox utilised him on the pro circuit, it became clear why everyone fancied themselves as an Erron Black expert online. Fans were even convicted that the character was made specifically for Fox to dominate the pro scene with! Playing Mortal Kombat 11 online, in any mode, it was impossible to go more than one or two games without playing against Black.
Hopefully Black is here to stay and features in future games and becomes a staple of the franchise like others on this list. If I am honest, I was tempted to put him higher, but having only featured in the two games so far, it’s hard to rate him higher than the other characters in this list. The next game, whenever it arrives, will hopefully solidify Black as one of the franchise’s best characters.
4. Johnny Cage
Appearing in twelve games so far, Johnny Cage has been ever present in the Mortal Kombat universe. When you think of the best characters in the game, you probably have Cage come to mind ahead of many other long-serving names. Maybe its his humorous one-liners or memorable fighting style, but it’s hard not to be a fan of Cage once you’ve played as him a few times. All this despite that he’s one of the tougher characters to control given that parts of his moveset is based on parrying, which requires more precise timings compared to aggressive characters.
What he loses in playability, he makes up for in personality. If you’ve played Mortal Kombat X and 11, you may have noticed a more grounded version of Cage. He still has his moments of fun but the story overall has more feeling to it with the introduction of his daughter Cassie and relationship with Sonya Blade. This connection seems intended for older fans who had grown up with Cage and may be going through similar times in life. Just without all the supernatural happenings and impending apocalypse, hopefully.
An OG of the Mortal Kombat series, Sub-Zero even got his own spin-off game at one point. Never mind that Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero was a failure in every aspect, the character had still earned their own game and that spoke to the growing popularity of the character and the franchise. Of course there is an argument for Sub-Zero being the best character in the franchise overall. For me he falls just short based mostly on the slight increase in complexity to playing him well online compared to those above him on this list.
By no means is Sub-Zero a bad character to play as or hard to control, but to really get the best out of the character you need to chain together certain combos and special moves. These moves tend to have very tight frame windows that I personally have struggled with.
There’s a good chance, if you were around in the 90’s, that you will remember the controversy around Mortal Kombat’s violence. An often-used clip, to aid those up in arms about the game, was of Sub-Zero’s spine rip fatality. This move became synonymous with video game violence in general, was seen my millions of people worldwide, and helped attract a lot of interest to the game from those who were yet to play it at the time. The lore of Mortal Kombat is heavily built around the connection and ongoing conflict between Sub-Zero and Scorpion. This has likely been influenced by fans’ love of the two characters since their appearance in the very first game.
2. Liu Kang
Appearing in no less than fifteen games as a playable character, Liu Kang is another original who’s stood the test of time. When you think of the best Mortal Kombat characters, Liu Kang has to be in the conversation. As the main attraction of the 1994 film, Kang was already a key roster member but this took him to another level. A unique in-game fight style and appearance heavily influenced by Bruce Lee, Kang used his deadly speed and martial arts discipline to overwhelm opponents with brutal combos.
The only downside you might argue works against Kang is the poor storytelling in relation to his story arc throughout the franchise. For someone seen as a clean cut good guy, things have been a little muddled at times. Even though the game stories are always a little cheesy and overworked, it prevents him being the overall best Mortal Kombat character for me. I just don’t relate or care for what happens to him next.
Was there any ever doubt who would be number one? Scorpion is likely the first name you think of when you’re asked about Mortal Kombat. The poster boy for the franchise has appeared on the cover of the last three games and is a focal point of the newly released feature film. If you don’t think of Scorpion when you think of the franchise, then I’m not sure what to say! Many fans know his combo timing and special attacks off by heart, a great character for long-time fans and newbies alike. With the advancing complexity of games and storytelling, Scorpion is more than just a yellow ninja sprite in some gory fighting game. He’s a complex character, an anti-hero, the kind of character that you can’t help but love!
Truly the definition of a character who has transcended the series that created him. His iconic ‘Get over here!’ line is synonymous with gamers worldwide; you do not have to be a Mortal Kombat fan to know it. A badass mascot for a franchise that has grown massively since its early days, and Scorpion still plays a big role in its future plans. Whether it was obvious to Midway, Ed Boon and John Tobias back in 1994 or not, they struck gold with Scorpion and haven’t put a foot wrong with the Shirai Ryu ninja since.
Do you agree with my picks? If so, you must have great taste! If not, drop me a comment and let me know who you have down and your top five. With over 60 playable characters in the franchise, you have plenty to pick from! Just know if you pick Meat, I will judge you.