The Mortal Kombat franchise has been around for over 30 years already, which makes it older than me! While I was growing up, a Mortal Kombat game has always been around somewhere. Even though I was never really good at fighting games, I enjoyed playing through them mainly because of their unique characters and storylines I found awesome! My favorite characters were always Scorpion and Johnny Cage, even though Cassie Cage did make it up to the top in later releases of Mortal Kombat.
Mortal Kombat 1 is supposed to completely reshape the timeline of the Mortal Kombat universe we all know and love. It was released in the middle of September 2023, and I finally managed to find the time and actually play through the campaign. So, let’s talk about Mortal Kombat 1 and see if it lived up to the hype!
Quick note: I will only be reviewing the main campaign of the game, as I did not play any of the other modes available.
And also, SPOILER ALERT!!
Gameplay of Mortal Kombat 1 was what you would expect from a Mortal Kombat game. Imagine sitting in front of your TV watching a super long movie, with you controlling the fighting in between. The fights were very smooth with awesome animations, I can tell the developers did a really good job. Fighting during cutscenes was amazing as well, with the actors performing perfectly while being motion-captured.
Events of Mortal Kombat 11
Before we talk about the story of Mortal Kombat 1, we have to know what happened during the events of its predecessor. During the whole of Mortal Kombat 11 Kronika, the keeper of time, tried to reset the whole timeline and erase Raiden from it. She was so obsessed with balancing both good and evil, that she kept resetting the timeline every time it did not go according to her plans. Eventually, Raiden and Liu Kang merged, and so Fire God Liu Kang was born. Liu Kang went on to defeat Kronika, earning himself the title of Keeper of Time.
But as the main game came to a close, the Mortal Kombat 11 DLC named Aftermath came out. It finished up with a battle between Fire God Liu Kang and Shang Tsung, who wielded Kronikas crown. You could choose your own side in this fight and the final ending of the game was dependent on your choice. But little did we know at the time, that this DLC would have huge effects on the next game.
Mortal Kombat 1 Story
The story starts by following Shang Tsung, who is nothing but a charlatan of a sorcerer in this new era. He’s trying to live from day to day by conning Outworld people into buying his phony medicine. But soon it becomes obvious he will be the main antagonist of the game, as what appears to look like Kronika offers him great power.
The first character we get to play is Kung Lao. He and Raiden are both just simple farmers, trying their best to provide for the village they grew up in while training in martial arts. After a long day of work, they decided to grab some dinner at Madam Bos, which gets attacked by Sub-Zero, Scorpion, and their Lin Kuei clan. Pretty soon it is revealed that the whole attack was just a test by Liu Knag, to determine the abilities and character of the two young warriors if they are worthy of becoming Earthrelms champions.
The most interesting part to me though was the revelation of the identities of Sub-Zero and Scorpion. Sub-Zero is Bi-Han, the original Sub-Zero who was killed by Scorpion as revenge for destroying his clan and family in the previous games. He appears as an antagonist a lot of times, both as Sub-Zero at first and Noob Saibot later. Scorpion is revealed to be Kuai Liang, who was Bi-Han’s younger brother in the previous games and even inherits the Sub-Zero mantle. This revelation was quite shocking to me, as the Scorpion we had so far was Hanzo Hasashi, grandmaster of his own clan Shirai Ryu.
After the fight we got to meet Johnny Cage, a struggling Hollywood action movie star, seeking to revitalize his career and reputation. He is attacked in his home by Kenshi, trying to retrieve a sword named Sento, which he recently purchased for 3 million dollars. The fight is stopped by the visit of Liu Kang, Sub-Zero, and Scorpion, who recruit both of them to become Earthrealms champions.
The Mortal Kombat Tournament
As Sub-Zero and Scorpion, along with their Lin Kuei went back to their duties of defending the Earthrealm, the recruits trained vigorously under the watchful eye of Liu Kang and the Shaolin Monks. After passing many difficult trials, Raiden was chosen to be the sole Earthrealm champion in the Mortal Kombat tournament. As the tournament is hosted in Outworld, the hosting realm has the advantage of having more fighters, as opposed to the one from Earthrealm. Victory in the tournament is of the highest importance, as Liu Knag believes Earthrealm victory is the only thing keeping Outworld from invading Earthrealm.
As our heroes made it to Outworld, they were greeted by princesses Mileena and Kitana, who led them to Empress Sindel. In this timeline, Sindel rules Outworld firmly yet justly, as Shao is a general in her military ranks. The Mortal Kombat tournament started quickly, with Raiden defeating the first constable Li Mei, Shao’s second in command Reiko, and the Empresses’ Daughter Kitana in the grand finals. Per tradition, Raiden was supposed to combat Mileena, but at the last minute, plans had to change.
The Tarkatan Disease
The Tarkatans were considered their own race in the previous games. Where exactly the origins of Tarkatans lie varies from game to game, but one thing remains the same: they are a species of brutal and bloodthirsty warriors.
The new timeline introduced in Mortal Kombat 1 features the Tarkatans as their own species again, but they are considered mutants. They are infected with the Tarkat disease, which gradually disfigures them into the Tarkatan appearance we already know from previous games. Over time, the disease also affects the infected brain, reducing the mental state of victims to primitive and savage monsters. The most known Tarkatans in Mortal Kombat 1 are Baraka and Mileena.
Mileena’s infection with Tarkat is also the reason she had to drop out of the tournament, as the crown is doing everything within its power to hide the infection from the public. They go as far as to enlist the help of Shang Tsung, who has already regained much of his power.
Shang Tsung is once again causing trouble across the realms. Long story short, he is in cahoots with General Shao Quan Chi, while trying to overthrow the government of Outworld so they can launch an invasion of Earthrealm. He performs sick experiments on Tarkatans in his laboratory while trying to produce a cure for Princess Mileena. Other than that, he is mostly up to the usual things Shang Tsung is up to, trying to steal as many souls as possible to become as strong as possible.
He traps the Earthrealm heroes there while they are inspecting what he is up to, and uses Syzoth, also known as Reptile. At first, he has an antagonistic role, but when he finds out Shang Tsung killed his family his loyalty switches, as he helps the Earthrealmers escape.
While trying to escape Outworld I got to play as Ashrah. While escaping we run into Quan Chi operating a large soul-stealing device. We eventually defeat him and shut down the soul stealer, but Ermac is created in the process.
As expected, Bi-Han once again got corrupted and became an antagonist. Shang Tsung was planning all along that his ambition would lead to him betraying Liu Kang and his brothers Smoke and Scorpion. Scorpion does manage to defeat his brother, but that means the Earthrelm has lost some of its most powerful defenders in Sub-Zero and his Lin Kuei.
At the same time, Liu Kang travels to Outworld to prevent the possible overthrowing of Empress Sindel, where he also reveals his true identity as the Keeper of Time. He shows the princesses and Sindel the events of previous timelines while trying to get their trust and he succeeds.
As all of our favorite Outworld and Earthrealm characters joined forces to stop Shang Tsung and Quan Chi, a shocking revelation was uncovered.
The Real Shang Tsung
As Liu Kang and Shang Tsung fought in the Mortal Kombat 11 DLC Aftermath, the fight resulted in more than just one timeline. It is revealed that Shang Tsung in Liu Kang’s timeline was manipulated by the one who created another timeline and conquered it. The supreme Shang Tsung made it his goal to conquer Liu Kang’s timeline as well and to officially make himself the only Keeper of Time.
But as Liu Kang and Geras talked, they came to the conclusion that it is possible these two timelines are not the only ones. So, Liu Kang once again picked up the mantle of Keeper of Time and scoured every existing timeline for possible allies in the fight against Shang Tsung who wanted to conquer them all.
I got to choose my own fighter in the final chapter of the game and naturally, I chose my favorite character, Scorpion. He and Liu Kang fought through many different versions of characters from the previous games before they finally reached Shang Tsung and defeated him.
The Scorpion Ending
As Shang Tsung was defeated, the fight was not yet over for Scorpion. Soon Bi-Hans loyalists started hunting him and Smoke down. He had fled to Japan to seek help from an old family friend Harumi. She helped him forge a new clan to defend a new clan Shirai Ryu and they kept growing closer and closer.
To me personally, Mortal Kombat 1 did live up to the hype. Everything was improved from its predecessor, including the story and graphics. Perhaps it was a bit hard to follow all the different timeline stuff in the end, but I eventually got a grasp on it and now I can appreciate the geniuses behind crafting such a story.
Before you play this game I highly recommend you play through at least the previous couple of games to get you up to speed on what was happening. If not, the second part of the game will just leave you confused.