If you’re talking video games, one of the most popular franchises to bring to the discussion is Mortal Kombat, a fighting series that debuted in 1992 and is still going strong. Its popularity has extended to comic books, movies, and other forms of media in ways that aren’t too surprising, given that the series is filled with some of the most basic elements of good storytelling, not the least of which is the presence of great characters.
This character aspect is a detail that Mortal Kombat got so very right, so very early on, that the original characters are still relevant in the franchise, even though the initial game was primarily an arcade-style fighting setup. In this less than three-dimensional world, these characters have proven strong enough to become staples in the series.
Unfortunately, though, missteps have happened along the way, and Mortal Kombat has come to know characters lame enough to challenge the coolness of the game’s top contenders.
Keep in mind that this list isn’t only focused on levels of strength, abilities in battle, or awesome fatalities. Rather, it’s looking at how cool (or un-cool) characters are, which means that their general attitude and style matter just as much as how gruesomely they can annihilate an opponent. It’s a recipe, and each of these ingredients can sway the rankings.
Now prepare for battle, because here are the 8 Koolest (And 7 Lamest) Characters In Mortal Kombat Ever, Ranked.
15 Coolest: Smoke
One of the most intriguing stories that Mortal Kombat offers deals with the Lin Kuei changing three of its members into cyborgs— Sektor, Cyrax, and Smoke. Smoke was apprehensive over the alteration, and he and Sub-Zero left the Lin Kuei to avoid it. In what was one of the most critical moments in the character’s history, Smoke was caught and forcibly turned into a cyborg.
This is just one part of Smoke’s tragic tale, as his story has contained sacrifice and reprogramming, and his very being has been altered against his will more than once— human, machine, revenant… There’s so much room for mystery, anguish, and redemption that it’s hard not to be drawn in.
Plus, he’s just plain cool since he’s capable of using smoke in battle and transforming into smoke to earn an advantage over his competition. This detail is a bonus to a poised and sure fighting stature, and when you add all of the factors together— tragic history, mystery, poise— he’s definitely one of the coolest Mortal Kombat characters ever.
14 Lamest: Chameleon/Khameleon
The idea of characters who can become other characters was really awesome. Then five minutes passed, and the novelty was officially gone.
In practice, having fighters who can look and act like their opponents does come with a tactical advantage, since the enemies might not know who’s who— of course, the transparent quality of early versions of the characters kind of killed that idea. However, when going through an arcade ladder, it’s an option that’s just a few inches shy of ridiculous. If you wanted to play as Kano, after all, you could’ve just picked Kano.
There’s not much that these two characters bring to the one-on-one fight approach besides smaller details, such as adding variety as you fight battle after battle. They’re literally replaceable in fights because they look and fight like someone else, so why not just fight with the characters that they’re representing?
13 Coolest: Ermac
Once upon a time, all of the ninja characters in Mortal Kombat looked identical aside from the color that was paired with black on their attire. As distinctive as their powers were, that uniformity didn't do them any justice.
One of these characters was Ermac, and his image has since become something more befitting a being of his intrigue, mystery, and power— fierce, glowing eyes and hooded attire that invokes fear and awe much more than the basic red and black combination could.
This change in appearance is one way that the character has gotten better with age, but as players have come to know him as a collection of souls— a detail he embraces by referring to himself as a plural being— the intrigue has grown. He looks like the capable fighter he is, and his deep, growl-like voice is the daunting detail you didn’t need to show his prowess, but appreciate just the same.
Simply put, this guy looks the part, and acts the part, and we're extremely happy about it.
12 Lamest: Jarek
Let’s be honest-- Jarek was doomed from the start. What else can you expect of a player whose moves are pretty much identical to Kano’s? Even if Kano trained him, a bit more differentiation between their fighting styles early on in the series would’ve been nice.
Once more, let’s be honest-- Kano isn’t that awesome of a character either, so even if Jarek was going to employ another character’s moves, Kano wasn’t the most brilliant of choices. So, essentially, there was no hope whatsoever for Jarek.
Jarek even looks boring, which is a terrible quality to have when other characters in the franchise look like monsters, demons, and royalty. The combination is enough to leave a gamer wondering what the makers of Mortal Kombat were thinking when they thought up this character— bland face, generic haircut, boring outfit, and stolen moves.
To be fair though, he did end up having a stand-out moment. Remember when he accidentally ran off that cliff in Mortal Kombat 4? Yeah, that’s something to be remembered for…
11 Coolest: Sonya Blade
There are a number of women in Mortal Kombat, and plenty have earned the label of awesome. When it comes to cool though, it’s hard to think of a more relevant one than Sonya Blade.
Meaning no disrespect on the matter to characters like Kitana and Milenna, several women who’ve surfaced in the story share a similar look in regard to clothes and hairstyles. Like the earlier mentioned ninja detail with Ermac, the uniformity can cause awesome characters to get lost in the midst of other similar-looking ones.
You never had that problem with Sonya, though, particularly after her (admittedly lame) aerobics instructor outfit was traded in for a tactical hat and gear.
Beyond the outfit, she has a no-nonsense attitude that almost dares people to mess with her, and she’s the only female character in Mortal Kombat who goes all the way back to the first game. That’s cool, Sonya. That’s cool.
10 Lamest: Ferra And Torr
One can accept that Scorpion can call on minions to help him in battle, and it’s okay that Noob Saibot can use a shadow, and the two of them can rip an opponent to pieces. Regardless, the line needs to be drawn somewhere, and a piggy-back tag team seems like a good spot.
The story behind Ferra and Torr is unsurprisingly boring, and there’s little reason given as to why the two are so connected— only that they can’t survive without each other. As fantastic as codependence is(n’t) in strong, soldier-type characters, a concrete reason why they can’t stay apart would’ve been a nice gesture on the part of the writers. Who knows? Maybe an explanation would’ve made these two less ridiculous.
As it stands though, the pair are essentially Kotal Kahn’s muscle, making them not only codependent, but lackeys. No matter how brutally strong Torr is, that’s a lame combination that doesn’t deserve to be ignored. In fact, it deserves to be frozen in ice and never mentioned again. Oh, wait…
9 Coolest: Raiden
As another original characters Raiden has stood the test of time with well-deserved popularity. In regard to power, he’s the God of Thunder and his skills manifest in his ability to electrify opponents— even while they’re suspended in air— as well as his knack for teleportation. It’s hard to top the guy who has electricity at his reserve, and there’s little in the way of visuals that can outdo watching lightning that heeds his call.
He’s also the protector of Earthrealm, so his character possesses nobility and compassion that might be hard to come by in a game that’s so focused on people being brutally murdered. He’s committed to a cause, isn’t afraid to fight, and can literally fry his opponents. That’s a combination that makes his continued relevance in Mortal Kombat’s story so very understandable.
It’s also worth noting that he hasn’t really changed that much in appearance since the original game, but he doesn’t feel outdated or in need of an upgrade-- he was awesome from the start.
8 Lamest: Drahmin
According to Drahmin’s trading card, he was a landlord...
Admittedly, there’s more to the story— like being punished in the afterlife— and, sure, the landlord detail is potentially a typo since the presented backstory would be laughable when compared to other characters’ tales.
It is, however, an example of the missteps taken with this character that make him frustrating. With the Netherrealm details, he could’ve been awesome, but with what seemingly happened with the trading card, the game creators didn’t put the pieces together very well.
For instance, he attacks opponents with flies— wow, wouldn’t that hurt?— and doesn’t look overly intimidating for a creature who’s spent so many years in the Netherrealm. Seriously, Drahmin, put some clothes on, and find a way to keep your cool without that ridiculous mask.
Also, when you have uneven iron on your arm, it shouldn’t take two hits to end someone with a fatality, but Drahmin completely fails in this aspect. Overall, he is just lame.
7 Coolest: Erron Black
Logically, this character doesn’t fit in Mortal Kombat. Why would there be an Old West guy in this fantasy setup? It’s outdated, it’s out of place, and there’s no rational reason for it. However, it is pretty cool to see a gunfighter in Mortal Kombat.
Better still, this gunfighter would’ve had a sure place in the Old West since he excels with a revolver and a rifle— and can ricochet a shot off of a coin he tosses in the air to hit his opponent.
Erron Black's bullets, bearing the name of the intended victim, can even ricochet inside of the person to hit their hip, bounce to their shoulder, and end up flying out somewhere around their mouth. When combined with attire befitting a cowboy like the hat, poncho, vest, and boots, it’s a combination of western cool.
His skills aren’t limited to his guns either, since he’s also competent with a sword and hand-to-hand combat. He also comes with his own one-liners and almost casual confidence. In the gist, Erron is plain awesome.
6 Lamest: Stryker
If there’s violence among the realms, it makes sense to have some protection for the general population. That’s one of the great things about Raiden— he protects the realm. It's important to remember, though, that Raiden is a god, while Stryker is the police officer.
Police officers can be wonderful protectors in real life, but when you bring elder gods and post-death creatures into the equation, you might want to search a little farther for your defender.
Had more been done with the character, the career detail would’ve been fine, since a police officer wanting to help is a sensible step into the mayhem. Unfortunately, Stryker’s character never advanced beyond this one element.
His moves involve police weapons— like fighting with a flashlight or tripping someone with a nightstick. Even his fatalities are obvious and based on this basic premise, like using a taser or an explosive.
He just wasn’t ever developed enough as a character to stand out in a good way, making him lame among the grand cast of great characters.
5 Coolest: Sub-Zero (All Forms)
If you’re a casual player of the game, you might not know that there are multiple representations of Sub-Zero. The first one was killed by Scorpion, and his younger brother vowed to avenge his death and took up his Sub-Zero name. Most likely, this is the version of Sub-Zero you’re familiar with.
This isn’t the end of the Sub-Zero representations though, since the first Sub-Zero was resurrected in the form of another character you might know: Noob Saibot.
This means that, in labeling all forms of Sub-Zero as one of the coolest, two deserving characters are getting a position on this list, and that’s a two-for-one worth taking.
Both characters— the second Sub-Zero and Noob Saibot— come with unique styles that make them very different from one another. Whereas Sub-Zero’s primary weapon is ice that he wields like a champion, Noob Saibot has a much darker approach and can even call on shadows to assist him in battle. Either way, it's incredibly awesome.
Regardless of their differences, both are deadly, stealthy, effective, and downright cool.
4 Lamest: Mavado
Mavado seems like he should be a great character. With a strong build, spikey hair, and dark clothes, he looks like he means business. Unfortunately, though, he’s an incredible boring guy.
Given his appearance and his stance in the Red Dragon, you’d think that there would be more that’s imposing or interesting about him, but his character is too uncomplicated and uninteresting to make him worthwhile. There’s no fiery demon eyes, raging temper, supernatural powers, stand-out personality-- nothing. There's just a bungee and some hooks on a guy whose temperament was built for a wallflower.
Maybe all of this could be overlooked since being boring isn’t the worst quality for a character, and being human can work well in the game. Still, in a franchise where fatalities include beating someone to death with their own leg and blowing up the whole world, the Kick Thrust (aka the bungee of doom) will never be anything but completely and disappointingly lame.
3 Coolest: Scorpion
Scorpion is one of the most recognizable faces in Mortal Kombat, and he’s earned this title through unique moves and amazing fatalities. He can set an opponent on fire, rip out their spine, or turn into a giant scorpion for the final attack. Fatality by fatality, it’s questionable that there’s any other series character who can compete with him.
What makes him all the more interesting is that he has already died and has a place in the Netherrealm, and the treachery connected to his resurrection at the hands of Quan Chi is one of the best story arcs in the franchise.
Beyond the quality of the Quan Chi narrative, this Netherrealm detail adds another intriguing element to Scorpion since he treats the Netherrealm as his own backyard by dragging opponents there and summoning minions to help him in fights, as if it’s his to command. Someone who can make the Netherrealm even partially bend to his will deserves a concrete spot on this list.
He’s otherworldly, mysterious, angry, and powerful, which is an awesome combination.
2 Lamest: Mokap
The basic premise of Mokap is ridiculous in that there was never a real reason why he would have ever been involved in this otherworldly business. He was literally a motion capture actor— see how they got his name? Isn’t that sooo clever?— who somehow ended up in Mortal Kombat.
This is lame for two reasons. The first is that the game already has a movie guy by the name of Johnny Cage, and there was never a need for another. (This goes for you, too, Stunt Man.) The second reason is that being a movie guy in Mortal Kombat fits better with Johnny’s personality. He seems like the guy who’d assume he was awesome enough to be okay in fight-to-the-death combat. Mokap, on the other hand? Never.
As far as his appearance goes, Mokap might only be rivaled in ridiculousness by Meat. You see, Mokap is actually dressed in motion capture attire. He goes on a battlefield in a blue and black suit, a black hat, and sensors.
The only thing that's worse is that he became a constellation after Armageddon.
1 Coolest: Johnny Cage
Hands down, Johnny Cage has been the Mortal Kombat epitome of cool since the first game. As was already mentioned, he was an actor who decided to partake in the tournament to prove he was the real deal in regard to martial arts, and that decision took a level of ego. Essentially, you could interpret this as him saying “I could die, but I can handle it.”
Cage never had the larger-than-life fatalities of Scorpion or Shang Tsung, but he had confidence that added to his performances and helped to make him one of the most popular characters in the franchise.
He’d pose with sunglasses and crossed arms after annihilating an enemy, and one of his fatalities included leaving an autograph, making him the essence of cool in the series for over twenty years.
He’s also Cassie Cage’s father, and her inherited quips and confidence made her a close call on this list as well. So, because of his own coolness and for being connected to a new generation of cool, Johnny Cage wins this title.
What do you think? Are there any other kool (or lame) characters from Mortal Kombat that we missed? Leave a comment and let us know!