In Mortal Kombat 1, the universe has been born anew. The characters we’ve known – good and evil, Earthrealm and Outrealm – have changed. So what does this mean for the Mortal Kombat universe? And how much does a newcomer to the series need to know before throwing their first punch? It's time to uppercut our way through the Mortal Kombat 1 story and plot details we know so far before the grand tournament opens its bloody gates once more.
The set-up: Is Mortal Kombat 1 a reboot?
Yes, but also no. In the closing stages of Mortal Kombat 11, series staple and often-protagonist Liu Kang merges with the lightning god Raiden to become the god of fire. He gains control of a powerful artifact called the Hourglass, previously held by the game’s time-rewriting villain Kronika.
In Mortal Kombat 1, it’s revealed that Liu Kang used the Hourglass to reboot the universe. In an effort to stop the bloodthirsty battles which have engulfed the worlds time and time again, Liu Kang’s reset re-styles the lives of many of the series’ villains and heroes in an effort to create lasting piece.
It’s a noble goal, but this is Mortal Kombat. You can probably guess that things don’t quite work out. A mysterious enemy that Liu Kang “never could have anticipated” threatens the realms, and Liu Kang must once again summon their champions to defend them. Champions who are already finding reasons to get into a scrap or two.
In the game’s debut trailer we see a version of recurring series villain Shang Tsung appear through a portal. A brief montage shows him killing many Mortal Kombat cast staples, so it’s not clear if this Shang Tsung arrives from an alternate reality. Either way, the godly Liu Kang dispatches him quickly, but it’s clear that further threats lurk on the horizon. Character face offs from early tech demos indicate that some degree of time and universe hopping has certainly been happening, but it’s not clear if those voice lines are purely for multiplayer or tie into the game’s main story.
Mortal Kombat 1 story and character changes
So Mortal Kombat 1 is a reboot, but not entirely. A select few characters including Liu Kang and Geras – an immortal being created to assist the Keeper of Time – are aware of the worlds’ changes, granting a through line from the events of Mortal Kombat 11. Everyone else, however, brings something a little new. Here’s returning favorites have changed in Mortal Kombat 1.
Scorpion & Sub-Zero
In Mortal Kombat 1’s universe, the two ninja rivals have been rewritten as brothers. Though not all lies easy between them. Both are members of the Lin Kuei, a group of warriors dedicated to the defense of Earthrealm. At the start of the story, Sub-Zero assumes command of the faction, declaring that they should rise from the shadows and claim their place as a leading nation of Earthrealm. This change in stance troubles Scorpion, who wishes to follow the traditional role of the Lin Kuei and their father. The pair are also aided by returning character Smoke, who also serves the Lin Kuie and is referred to as a brother in all but blood by Scorpion.
Kitana & Mileena
New siblings arise on Outrealm, too. In Mortal Kombat 1’s world, Kitana and Mileena are sisters, with the latter holding the title of heir to Outrealm’s throne. Mileena has an impulsive spirit and, far worse, is infected with the Tarkat disease. It disfigures her to feature her infamous toothy grin and will eventually turn her into a bloodthirsty monster if no cure can be found. The steadier-minded Kitana is devoted to her sister, despite many suggesting she would be a better fit for the role of queen. Whether Mileena’s condition and paranoia will tear the two apart remains to be seen.
The pair of princesses are guarded by the Umgadi, priestesses whose duty is to protect the royal family. It's a role that introduces us to two other characters: Li Mei and Tanya, the former is a disgraced guardian turned constable, who lost her previous position when Outworld’s ruler was murdered. The latter is the leader of the royal family’s personal guard. Sworn to chastity, she holds a secret bond with Mileena.
Raiden & Kung Lao
In this new world, Raiden is no longer the god of thunder. Instead, he lives a humble life alongside Kung Lao in the village of Fengjian. While Raiden is content to live in peace, Kung Lao longs to achieve something greater in his life. The pair are recruited by Liu Kang and must rise up to become the champions they were born to be. Raiden has, in effect, traded roles with Liu Kangfor Mortal Kombat 1. Will he prove a more succesful god or will hundreds more die under his reign? We're banking on the latter.
No longer a member of a separate race of Tarkatans, Baraka is now a former Outworld merchant. Infected by the same Tarkat disease as Mileena, he was exiled to a colony of those with a similar fate. Instead of giving up, he fights for the rights and freedoms of the Tarkatans around him. Far more noble a cause than you might have expected from our usual sharp-toothed monster man.
Johnny, Kenshi, & Rain
Mortal Kombat 1 will see the return of many others from Mortal Kombat’s past. Of all the cast, Johnny Cage seems to have changed the least. He still looks to be the same lovably narcissistic movie star we’re used to. Blind swordsman Kenshi is also back, though this time he’s part of a once great lineage now tied into service with the Yakuza. His first step to redemption? Claiming his family’s sacred sword Sento from a certain arrogant actor.
Then we also have Rain. Once a literal joke character, the sorcerer appears in Mortal Kombat 1’s world as the high mage of Outworld. He has mastered the control of water, but remains hungry to uncover even darker, more powerful magics.
Head here for the full Mortal Kombat 1 character roster, with details on Kameo fighters and more. Mortal Kombat 1 releases September 19, with early access available from September 14 for owners of the Premium or Kollector’s editions. Make sure your gaming gear is fighting fit by picking up HyperX headsets, controllers, and more.