While the recent Mortal Kombat reboot is an incredibly beginner-friendly introduction to the Mortal Kombat video game series — which made its debut in arcades back in 1992 — there’s no denying the series can feel as complicated as it is gory and controversial. In order to help you go into the movie feeling a bit more prepared, here is a quick rundown on some of the game’s lore and characters.
Fair warning though, while this article can prepare you mentally, the new film — which was nearly rated NC-17 — is a real gore fest, filled with the series signature “fatalities,” and I can’t prepare you for those. Oh, and one last thing before we begin: I’d like to clear up the number one confusion I and all of my friends had while growing up and tell you no, Sub-Zero and Scorpion are not brothers. I know, weird right? Anyways, “get over here” and let’s dig into this.
First things first, the series title, Mortal Kombat, refers to the name of the tournament held between the warriors of the game’s different realms. The tournament was created by the Elder Gods as a way to maintain order, as no realm can invade another one without earning ten victories against the realm they wish to take over. So, what are the realms of Mortal Kombat?
While there are six realms in the Mortal Kombat series, these are the ones you need to know for now:
Earthrealm: Just as it sounds, Earthrealm is… Earth.
Outworld: Out of all the realms in this article, this is the weird one. Originally ruled by Onaga the Dragon King, the dark and violent land was taken over by villain Shao Kahn, who seeks to take over the other realms. It is filled with wastelands, pools of acid, and other sinister structures
Netherrealm: You can think of this realm as essentially Hell. It’s hot and full of dead people. Fun fact: it’s also the name of the studio behind Mortal Kombat!
The Good Guys
Cole Young: Cole Young is a new face in the series, so don’t worry about not knowing what his deal is–none of us do!
Jax Briggs: Jax debuted back in Mortal Kombat II as the United States Special Forces superior officer to Sonya Blade. His is one of the series most iconic characters and has been in nearly every title as well as the Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe crossover game.
Sonya Blade: Sonya is an OG Mortal Kombat character and a commanding officer in the United States Special Forces. Her primary goal throughout most of the Mortal Kombat series is to eliminate the Black Dragon crime syndicate.
Kano: Kano is another character who’s been around–and starting shit–since day one. Kano is an Australian mercenary and the leader of aforementioned Black Dragon crime syndicate. While he’s a villain in the game series, Kano is a part of the Earthrealm warriors in the film.
Liu Kang: If there were a main protagonist of Mortal Kombat, it might just be Liu Kang, a Shaolin monk inspired by Bruce Lee and mentored by the thunder god Raiden.
Kung Lao: Kung Lao was first introduced in Mortal Kombat II as a member of the White Lotus Society and best friend to Liu Kang. He was originally selected to represent the Shaolin in the Mortal Kombat tournament, but rejected the invitation, leaving Liu Kang to become the champion.
Raiden: Raiden is perhaps the one recognizable–and important– Mortal Kombat characters. The literal god of thunder, Raiden possesses incredibly strong powers and uses them to protect Earthrealm.
Scorpion/Hanzo Hasashi: Scorpion is another of the original seven Mortal Kombat characters, and is an undead, Japanese Shirai Ryu ninja who is solely driven by revenge after he and his family were slain. His arch-nemesis, and murderer, is Sub-Zero.
The Bad Guys
Mileena: Mileena made her first appearance in Mortal Kombat II, where she was revealed as the genetic experiment and obedient servant of the Shang Tsung.
Kabal: First introduced in Mortal Kombat 3, Kabal is a fairly chaotic chracter who–while having history with the Black Dragon–has bounced between good and evil.
Reiko: Reiko debuted in Mortal Kombat 4 and has only been playable in one other game, making him perhaps an odd choice in the movie. He is portrayed as stoic and power-hungry, with ambitions of ruling Outworld.
Goro: Goro first appears in Mortal Kombat as the notoriously hard mini-boss before the final fight with Shang Tsung. The henchman later became playable in Mortal Kombat Trilogy.
Nitara: Nitara made her debut in the fifth Mortal Kombat game, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, and is a vampire who preys on others to stay alive. While she serves Shang Tsung in the film, Nitara is generally morally neutral.
Shang Tsung: Tsung is a powerful warlock and shapeshifter who devours souls in order to maintain his power. He serves the game’s main villain, Shao Kahn.
Sub-Zero/Bi-Han: An iconic character from the first Mortal Kombat game, the first Sub-Zero is the murderer of Scorpion and a vengeful member of the Chinese Lin Kuei clan who serves under Shang Tsung.
While this information is not necessary to understanding the Mortal Kombat reboot, we hope it cleared any questions you had up a bit and will help you enjoy it even more. Mortal Kombat is in theaters and streaming on HBO Max now.