The 20 Best 'Mortal Kombat' Characters, Ranked

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Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Mortal Kombat is held in high regard as the sort of fighting game that left an indelible mark on the face of gaming as a whole.

It introduced the most over-the-top presentation in fighters thanks to a whole lot of bloodletting and gory Fatalities. So much so that the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) had to be put into place just to govern the gaming industry and warn parents of what they were about to purchase for their little ones. Uppercutting your opponent into a pit of spikes, ripping off someone’s head with their spine still attached, and beating someone to death with their own dismembered leg are just some of the insane finishers the Mortal Kombat franchise offers to its willing participants.

There’s a ton of love and care put into the series’ backstory and the many “kombatants” that go to war within them. Since the franchise’s inception back in 1992 right on up to the most recent installment in NetherRealm Studios’ premier fighter, Mortal Kombat has filled out its massive roster with some incredible heroes and villains. We took a look at everyone that’s been thrown into the fray throughout the series’ long history and came away with 20 of its finest warriors. These are without a doubt the best Mortal Kombat characters of all time.

20. Jax

Major Jackson "Jax" Briggs may not have a black belt in any legit martial arts expertise. But he still manages to dislocate limbs and clap heads into tomato paste with his bionic arms in tow. Jax is an honorable military man that always fights for the greater good and does so by fighting alongside Sonya Blade and the rest of Earthrealm's Special Forces unit. When it comes to badass Mortal Kombat characters and admirable POC icons in the world of gaming, Jax gets legit billing in those two categories.

19. Sonya Blade

General Sonya A. Blade is one of Mortal Kombat’s lady OG’s. Even though she was a late addition to the original game, Sonya ended up becoming an integral part of the series’ ongoing canon from that point forward. She’s always been one of our go-to picks throughout MK’s storied lineage due to her powerful pink-colored energy ring projectiles and impressive gymnastics. Seeing her destroy her hated rival Kano with a new drone buddy at the ready makes Sonya even more of a femme fatale nowadays.

18. Frost

One icy ninja is cool. But what about two? When that prospect became a reality in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance back in 2002, players got introduced to the cryogenic ninja known as Frost. We never knew we wanted a female version of Sub-Zero until she showed up and captured our imagination. We know you guys got a kick out of stabbing her frozen daggers into your opponents' knees so you could laugh your ass off while they bled out. Frost’s robotic revival in Mortal Kombat 11 definitely increased her “cool” factor even further.

17. Smoke

Mortal Kombat sure loves its multi-colored ninjas, doesn’t it? The same can be said for its rotating roster of battle-ready cyborgs. One of the series’ most formidable fighters happens to have appeared in both formations. Smoke first showed up on the scene as a cyborg surrounded by toxic fumes. Once the 2011 reboot of MK hit the scene, Smoke became even more of a favorite as he adopted a human form and expanded his moveset in the process. Smoke with his slick-back hairdo and sudden disappearing act makes him one of the more dangerous ninjas/cyborgs we’ve ever played with & faced in battle.

16. Raiden

The “God of Thunder” that fights alongside EarthRealm’s Chosen Ones has been doing it since the series got its start. And through the years, he’s held onto his position as one of the most vicious deities in fighting game history. Raiden’s lightning-based moveset has always been awesome (that nasty shove he does all the way across the screen never gets old). He’s certainly had his moments of pure evil (which made him look pretty awesome with that red color change, in our opinion). And to be quite honest, our love for him never wavered. Raiden’s awesome as both a hero and a vengeful villain.

15. Shang Tsung

“YOUR SOUL IS MINE!” The most untrustworthy sorcerer in all of gaming happens to get his rocks off by depleting stronger warriors of their souls so he can consume them. And by doing so, he gets to look as young and spry as ever. Shang Tsung’s cunningness and penchant for backstabbing make him the type of character you hate to love. Since the very beginning, Shang has participated in many climactic battles and played a huge part in the politicking behind each tournament.

14. Kenshi

There aren’t a whole lot of things cooler than a deadly samurai who just so happens to be blind. One of the best character debuts from Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance featured that type of “kombatant” and his name is Kenshi. Kenshi looks cool as all hell, plus he’s equipped with some of the slickest moves the series has ever seen. One of Kenshi’s finest renditions is his “Possessed” variation from Mortal Kombat X, which lets him command the abilities of a demon while still being able to cut down the opposition with his ancestral blade.

13. Cyrax

Once the Lin Kuei moved into the future, they ended up introducing a line of techno ninjas that instantly became fan favorites at first sight. We gotta give all the props to the best-looking one of them all, which is the braids-rocking cyborg Cyrax. Cyrax’s yellow color scheme stands out in the best way possible, plus his Energy Net & Detonator specials give him that extra ounce of cool. All of his designs look great, but we’ll always show the most love to his Mortal Kombat 3 variation.

12. Kabal

“Got the spins?” We sure do, Kabal. Getting clipped by his insanely fast Raging Flash tends to have that effect on everyone. And when he literally gets his hooks in, Kabal’s sinister side becomes even more prevalent. The character design for Kabal is awesome thanks to the presence of an intimidating respiratory mask and his unique set of armor. Kabal’s speed is off the charts and he’s one of our main’s due to that impressive attribute.

11. Johnny Cage

Johnny Cage embodies the douchiness most folks expect from a Hollywood A-Lister. While he may have started out fully embracing that side of himself, Johnny eventually morphed into a commendable husband and father as the series wore on. Even still, he still knows how to drop a funny quip or two as he’s tapping into his green Ki aura to batter his opponents. Johnny’s always turned heads with that split into a groin punch maneuver of his, plus his Mortal Kombat 11 Fatalities pushes him a few notches above the competition.

10. Lui Kang

Here’s one of the golden rules for fighters - at least one member of the roster has to be a complete Bruce Lee doppelganger. Street Fighter, Tekken, Dead or Alive, and even World Heroes have their own playable tributes to the originator of Jeet Kune Do. Mortal Kombat has one of its own and he’s always gotten top billing as the proud savior of Earthrealm. Lui Kang knows how to throw a mean fireball and cave his opponent’s chests in with some nasty kicks. And how can you not love the man’s hilarious battle cries for the earlier games in the series?

9. Kitana

Fun fact - Edenia’s princess is actually 10,000 years old. That’s pretty nuts when you take a good look at Kitana and realize she doesn’t look a day over 30. Kitana’s one of our lady faves due to a number of reasons - her attire is incredibly stylish, her usage of bladed fans is lethal, and her continued heroic efforts are commendable. Watching her and Lui Kang grow together as they fend off Earthrealm's enemies has been pretty inspiring and we hope to see that trend continue.

8. Kung Lao

Lui Kang’s best buddy/rival is none other than Kung Lao. In all honesty, we prefer Kung over Lui just because he’s always eager to show his combat expertise and jump headfirst into battle. And he makes all the vicious beatdowns he delivers look oh so good thanks to his Razor-Rimmed Hat-assisted maneuvers and fast-paced fisticuffs. Kung just so happens to have some of the coolest looking Fatalities in Mortal Kombat history thanks to the clever ways he chooses to incorporate his trusty hat.

7. Noob Saibot

If you’re not in the know about Noob Saibot’s true identity, then allow us to clear that important detail up for you - after the original Sub-Zero’s met his end, he came back as an evil wraith that utilizes the powers of darkness to dominate his foes. His teleportation tactics and dark clone assists have both done a bang-up job when it comes to making his combos stand out. Noob’s Mortal Kombat 11 variation is definitely one of his best (that gravelly voice of his is pretty cringy, though).

6. Shao Khan

“It's official, you suck!" One’s salt levels would instantly go through the roof once Shao Khan uttered this disparaging phrase. Ever since he debuted in Mortal Kombat II, the hammer-wielding giant has entertained us and pissed us off at the very same time. As a boss, he’s super infuriating. But it’s so hard to stay mad at Shao thanks to his awesome warlord getup, simple yet efficient approach to combat, and salt-inducing catchphrases.

5. Goro

We’re sure most of you were shocked to see the original Mortal Kombat’s sub-boss for the very first time. How could you not? Goro’s an enormous foe with four limbs and a beefy body build that takes a hell of a beating. Once we finally got the chance to try him out for ourselves, we ended up warming up to the big guy as we became more familiar with his brutal grabs and devastating leaps. For those aforementioned reasons, Goro is one of the most recognizable characters in Mortal Kombat history.

4. Ermac

"We are many, you are but one." Ermac is the full embodiment of all the tortured souls that lost their lives during Outworld’s many wars. The cursed magic used to create him certainly worked like a charm since it ended up birthing one of the most dangerous “kombatants” in Mortal Kombat history. His masterful use of telekinesis gives him access to a slew of slick moves that make his combos pop off the screen.

3. Mileena

All she wants is a family. How can you fault the poor girl for that? Well, here’s the problem - she makes it tough for anyone to get too close to her due to the fact that she can bite your face off in a few seconds flat. Mileena was pretty much made in a lab and set up to be Kitana’s sibling. But her affiliation with Shao Khan relegated her to the role of a baddie. Wait, let us rephrase that...lovable baddie. Mileena’s oppressive combat style and memorable lines are part of the reasons why she has such a massive fanbase.

2. Sub-Zero

Ninjas > Pirates. That’s just a simple fact. And to be honest, ninjas are cooler than a whole bunch of other comparable warriors from real-world history. One of the most recognizable ninjas in gaming history is the “coldest” one of them all, Sub-Zero. Both his original self and the younger sibling that took over his position represented the role quite well. And over the years, Sub-Zero has been adorned in some awesome costumes and acquired, even more, moves that tap into his bone-chilling moveset.

1. Scorpion

“GET OVER HERE!” You can utter that phrase in any setting and most folks will look your way to acknowledge who it belongs to. That person is none other than the best Mortal Kombat character of all time, the Hellspawn ninja known as Scorpion. His yellow attire is iconic and so is his trusty batch of debilitating maneuvers. His deadly spear, flame belching, and teleportation specials are instantly recognizable. Scorpion isn't just the greatest character in Mortal Kombat history, but he’s also one of the best characters in all of gaming.

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