Based on the iconic video game franchise, the 2021 martial arts fantasy Mortal Kombat is jam-packed with action, blood, and plenty of gory goodness. The thrilling ‘90s game quickly earned a reputation for its epic graphic violence for the time and exciting characters, with their brutal finishing moves causing quite a frenzy upon its release. Fans of the Mortal Kombat franchise have had an impressive selection of players to choose from over the course of its 24 games, with each possessing specific powers and strengths that set them apart from the rest; some of the most popular legendary characters include Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero (to name just a few).
The franchise has also featured a crossover of entertainment universes, with familiar faces like Freddy Krueger, John Rambo, and even the Joker (and other characters from DC Comics) serving as playable guest characters in the game. Hollywood has acknowledged the widespread appeal of the edgy series, with multiple film adaptations having been created for the masses. A reboot of Mortal Kombat was released in 2021, becoming a financial success and earning praise for its authenticity and faithfulness to its original source; a highly-anticipated sequel is currently in development, and with the tease of Johnny Cage at its conclusion, fans can’t wait. Here is a character guide and description of the major players in the newest installment of Mortal Kombat.
One of the few characters to have not yet been in a Mortal Kombat video game and thus an original cinematic creation, Cole Young is a devoted father and husband, but also a gifted former MMA fighter. Young discovers he is a descendant of Scorpion after he and his family are rescued by Jax Briggs during an attack by Sub-Zero. Cole is told that his rare birthmark is actually a dragon marking, signifying his destiny to fight in Mortal Kombat and access his “Arcana” (a special, unique power that only the chosen few possess).
Determined to keep his loved ones safe, Cole teams up with Sonya and Kano in order to locate Raiden’s Temple and train for the tournament, meeting current Earthrealm champions Liu Kang and Kung Lao. After having difficulty activating his Arcana, Cole finally manages to gain his powers when he defeats Goro, receiving a suit of armor and tonfas; he uses his newly acquired gifts to defend Earthrealm from the evil Outworld.
Military officer Sonya Blade is partners with Special Forces Major Jax Briggs, and has spent years researching the Mortal Kombat tournament and its champions of the Earthrealm. Though she does not have the dragon mark needed to enter the tournament, Sonya remains steadfast in locating Raiden’s temple and escorts Cole Young to the mystical location.
A fierce and powerful warrior, she harbors an intense hatred for Kano, who has managed to murder his way into gaining a tattoo and thus can enter Mortal Kombat. Sonya is loyal and protective of Jax, helping her close friend recover when he is fitted with a pair of bionic arms. The strong-willed female action lead (who might be in a relationship with Johnny Cage in the sequel, as they were in the games) inherits an Arcana when she defeats a powerful foe, earning her the power to fire purple energy blasts.
The notorious archenemy of Sonya Blade, Kano is the foul-mouthed Australian mercenary and leader of the Black Dragon who steals a marking after killing Reptile, gaining the ability to shoot a laser out of his right eye. Having revealed he knows the location of Raiden’s temple, Kano is offered $3 million by Sonya to take her and Cole to the mysterious spot, ultimately doing so and receiving a less-than-warm welcome by Raiden, Liu Kang and Kung Lao. Unsurprisingly, Kano betrays the champions of Earthrealm and joins forces with the nefarious Outworld led by Sub-Zero and Shang Tsung, leading to an epic showdown between the devious Kano and battle-ready Sonya.
Special Forces Major Jackson “Jax” Briggs is a powerful protector and leader who has dedicated his life to learning the truth about Mortal Kombat, working closely alongside friend and ally Sonya Blade on his quest for knowledge. Having gained his dragon marking by killing a wanted fugitive in Brazil, Jax saves Cole and his family from a brutal attack by Sub-Zero but is severely wounded when his arms are frozen and shattered.
Liu Kang rescues the injured Jax, taking him to Raiden’s temple where he is given bionic arms. After struggling with his new physical reality and feeling useless in the fight against Outworld, Jax unlocks his Arcana while rescuing Sonya, joining the other champions as they battle to protect Earthrealm.
A pivotal member of Lord Raiden’s team of gifted champions, Liu Kang is a Shaolin monk and the dedicated guide for the Earthrealm warriors in Mortal Kombat, knowing each and every facet of the brutal tournament. With the ability to create and manipulate fire, Liu is a lethal adversary who never loses faith that Outworld will be defeated and helps newcomer Cole and the others train alongside his close friend Kung Lao.
Having been a member of the Wu Shi Academy, Liu earned his Arcana after killing a man who trafficked orphans, and has since made it his mission to protect Earthrealm from evil forces. He joins Cole, Sonya, Jax and his fellow champions in facing the evil Outworld in Mortal Kombat.
A powerful descendant of The Great Kung Lao, the first Earthrealm champion of Mortal Kombat, Kung Lao is a fearless warrior known for his razor-brimmed wire hat that he uses as his leading weapon against enemies. Though silent with almost no dialogue and observant by nature, Kung has a deep bond with his friend and partner Liu Kang and helps the Earthrealm champions train in Raiden’s temple for the violent impending tournament. Lao is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect his fellow fighters against Shang Tsung and the malicious Outworld forces, leaving Liu devastated and unflinching in his pursuit of justice.
Based on the Japanese deity Raijin, Raiden is the powerful god of thunder and the protector of the Earthrealm, granting sanctuary in his temple to the champions bearing the dragon mark to fight in Mortal Kombat. Equipped with the power to send anyone anywhere within Earthrealm with a flash of lightning, Raiden serves as an important mentor to the warriors yet has grown weary over the centuries in his quest to be triumphant in the tournament, having lost the previous nine competitions. The stoic character has a bitter rivalry with Shang Tsung, with the pair going head-to-head in their crusade to win in Mortal Kombat and protect their champions.
Dominating sorcerer and primary villain Shang Tsung consumes human souls in order to sustain immortality, having led the Outworld to nine victories in Mortal Kombat. With the ability to shapeshift, the wicked character can take the form of others and even access their powers, moving amongst his enemies undetected. Shang sends his prized warrior Sub-Zero to assassinate Cole Young (a descendant of Hanzo/Scorpion) to prevent a prophecy from coming true that would result in Outworld losing the tenth tournament. He uses his champions to target Earthrealm, leading to an epic showdown between the opposing forces.
The lethal warrior Sub-Zero has the power to control ice in various forms and serves as an assassin for the Lin Kuei clan. Serving as the secondary antagonist almost more terrifying and cool than Shang Tsung, the character is sent to take out champions of the Earthrealm including new fighter Cole Young. Sub-Zero murdered the family of Hanzo/Scorpion in 1617 Japan, making an eternal enemy of the undead ninja and his bloodline; his descendant Cole is set to fulfill a prophecy that would result in Earthrealm being victorious in Mortal Kombat. Sub-Zero largely stays out of fights between the conflicting sides, but has a long-awaited, epic battle with Scorpion that leaves only one of them victorious.
Revered as the greatest warrior to ever live, Hanzo Hasashi is better known as Scorpion and is an undead ninja on a crusade to avenge the deaths of his beloved family and himself. Banished to the Netherrealm when he was brutally murdered by Sub-Zero, Scorpion is trapped in eternal fire but able to manifest when his descendant Cole uses his blood-stained blade during a fight with the evil villain. Scorpion and Cole team up to confront and fight the malevolent Sub-Zero, resulting in a brutal battle to the death that finally frees Scorpion from his banishment and keeps the Hashasi bloodline intact.
The terrifying half-human, half-dragon warrior Prince Goro of the Shokan is infamous for his four massive arms and gigantic size and has brute strength that leaves many opponents at his mercy, working alongside Shang Tsung and the Outworld in his quest for dominance. He is sent to eliminate Cole before he can compete with Earthrealm in the Mortal Kombat tournament, but is defeated when the headstrong fighter rouses his arcana and kills the beast with his tonfas and suit of armor. Goro is undoubtedly the most intimidating and frightening member of Outworld.
Created from the blood of the Tarkatan species, Mileena is a clone of the Edenian princess Kitana and a lethal fighter known for her razor sharp teeth and dual sai blades. Fiercely loyal to Shang Tsung and Outworld, Mileena develops an immediate hatred for Sonya Blade, whom she declares not worthy of her time since she does not possess a dragon marking. When the opposing forces end up in the void, Mileena is shocked to discover Sonya has in fact received an Arcana, which she swiftly uses to impale and kill the vicious villain.