Anyone who grew up during the advent of fighting games remembers how scarce female fighters were back then. Admittedly, the rosters were much smaller as a whole at the time, but even among, say, eight characters, there would be just one token woman among the bunch. “Street Fighter” had Chun-Li, while “Mortal Kombat” had Sonya Blade. Part of that was because some developers figured most guys (the target demographic) wouldn’t want to play as a woman.
RELATED: Every Mortal Kombat Ninja, Ranked
Obviously a lot has changed since then, and now fighting game franchises like “Mortal Kombat” are full of iconic female fighters. So, we decided to look at all the women of the “Mortal Kombat” games and pick our favorites. Don’t forget to tell us your picks in the comments!
She made the bottom of our ranking for the Mortal Kombat ninjas, and likewise, Khameleon claims last place among the female warriors as well. She’s just one of those characters who doesn’t have many redeeming qualities, and is going to be low on the totem pole no matter how you’re judging things. Khameleon is so unloved, even by the creators of the series, that she only appears in “Mortal Kombat Trilogy” and “Armageddon,” and only in certain ports of the two games.
Khameleon has always lacked much to make her distinct, initially just being a character who could use the abilities of Kitana, Mileena and Jade. But given the opportunity to flesh her out further in “Armageddon,” Khameleon still got short-changed on an interesting story or competitive moves. Yeah, her whole gimmick is to copy the female ninjas and blend in with them. Well she succeeds — Khameleon blends in so well that she does nothing worth taking notice of.
If you don’t recognize Sareena, don’t feel bad. Despite debuting in “Mortal Kombat Mythologies,” she didn’t actually become playable in a main game in the series until “Armageddon.” The developers wanted to make her playable for a long time, first in “Mortal Kombat 4,” then again in “Deadly Alliance,” and once more in “Deception.” Sareena got cut every time, though. That should tell you a lot about how significant she is to the series.
Even when Sareena first became playable in the handheld “Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition,” her move set was just a mishmash of characters from the console version of “Deadly Alliance.” From barely being featured to stealing moves, so much of what describes Sareena is similar to Khameleon, but we give Sareena a slight edge for at least having a distinct personality. She’s kind of interesting since she is a demon who betrayed Quan Chi, but it’s hard to get excited about a character who we have barely ever seen.
It’s a pretty common opinion that “Mortal Kombat 4” is the worst fighting game in the series. The transition to 3-D left the game mechanics in need of some polish, but there’s also the problem that most of the new characters sucked. Quan Chi was a gem, but we also got the likes of Reiko and Kai. “Mortal Kombat’s” developers have been wise enough to ditch most of the game’s cast, but for some odd reason they keep bringing back Tanya.
Besides appearing in “Armageddon,” Tanya was also in “Deception” and was even brought back as DLC in “MKX.” When fans realized Tanya was one of “MKX’s” last characters to be added, many people were just baffled as to why she would make the cut over someone like Baraka. Tanya’s big claim to fame is that she is a traitor to Edenia. At this point, who cares? She’s been coasting off her reputation as a backstabber for years now rather than doing anything else interesting.
Ashrah is another female demon in the franchise, albeit one who is a bit more interesting than Sareena. Ashrah wound up becoming something of a traitor to her own race after she was offered the chance at redemption and a soul cleansed of evil, but only if she wiped out other demons in exchange. That’s a respectable enough goal. It’s not like any of the warriors of Earthrealm have any more of a fondness for demons, so Ashrah’s motivation is fine.
Where things start going downhill is with Ashrah’s outfit. While we appreciate the change of pace of a female fighter in the series who wears more sensible clothing than an armored bikini, Ashrah’s clothing is just so dull. It looks like she stole Raiden’s hat but combined it with an impractical veil, and a bunch of white clothes that will show every bloodstain. Even her moves feel like a watered down version of Raiden’s. With a retooling, Ashrah could be good, but right now her design needs work.
A common theme you’re going to see in this ranking is that we don’t have much of a fondness for characters that copy existing characters. It’s just a bad situation for the newcomers because it immediately makes them get compared to an old favorite, giving them an even bigger hurdle for feeling unique and interesting. So it wasn’t the best idea when Sonya and Kano were left out of “Deception,” but Kira was inserted into the game as a hybrid of the two fighters.
Not only is Kira a member of the Black Dragon clan like Kano, she directly steals his cannonball special movie, as well as one of his fighting styles from “Deadly Alliance.” But Kira also steals from Kano’s rival, taking Sonya’s kiss of death special move where she blinds her opponent, as well as one of Sonya’s fighting styles from “Deadly Alliance.” We’ve got nothing against Kira’s personality or appearance, and we’re totally open to giving her a chance, but we need to see something more from her than just copying other people’s moves to truly welcome her into the series.
You’d think a vampire would fit right in with a game series that features ninjas, cyborgs, centaurs and dragon people, but Nitara just didn’t catch on. Her appearance is kind of cool, but her storyline was cut off from everything else happening in the franchise. Her race came from a world of vampires that had become tethered to Shao Kahn’s, and Nitara wanted to help her people break free. So, she forms an alliance with Cyrax to retrieve an orb that will allow her to sever the connection. In her ending, she smashes the orb with no problems, and that’s the end of her journey in “Deadly Alliance.” It’s way too neat and conclusive for a fighting game.
Nitara doesn’t really have any rivals in the series, and she doesn’t have any interesting plot twists either. Nobody betrays her or anything interesting. How do you make a vampire this uninteresting? “Deadly Alliance” did bring us a few noteworthy characters, so it’s not like the developers didn’t know how to make interesting fighters. Nitara just didn’t wind up being one of them.
After years of her being rumored to be a secret character in the franchise, Skarlet finally made her long awaited debut in the 2011 edition of “Mortal Kombat” that saw the game’s timeline get retconned to avoid the events of “Armageddon.” Though the roster of the game primarily drew upon the characters of the first three games in the series, a few newcomers did make their way into the title. One of these was the downloadable warrior Skarlet, a new female ninja who was composed of blood.
This new warrior for Shao Kahn had kind of a cool gimmick, but was very scarce on personality. Back in the first few games when violence was enough of a selling point for the series, Skarlet might have survived based on her violent moves alone. But by 2011, violence in games was nothing new so there was little shock value to Skarlet. If she could be revamped a little bit to show more personality and backstory, we’d be happy to see Skarlet again in the future. But in her first outing, Skarlet didn’t do much to stand out and has wound up being a one off character in “Mortal Kombat.”
Sheeva seemed like a good idea when she was introduced in “Mortal Kombat 3,” since Goro and Kintaro were such intimidating bosses. Sheeva gave fans a playable version of the Shokan race to use and stomp on people with. But like the early days of the ninjas in the franchise, Sheeva just doesn’t have enough differentiating herself from others like her. It’s hard to think of much that separates Sheeva from the other four-armed fighters.
The team behind “Mortal Kombat” has managed to take other characters with good concepts and make them interesting in terms of story. Ermac and Rain have improved tremendously since their debuts. So, even though Sheeva lacks something right now, it’s not like she’s a character we don’t want to see return. We just want her to come back with something unique to set her apart from the pack from now on.
We already had numerous members of the Lin Kuei clan show up in ”Mortal Kombat,” most notably Sub-Zero, but also the likes of Cyrax, Sektor and Smoke. Each one had their own powers, but in “Deadly Alliance,” we saw our first female member of the clan show up with ice powers just like Sub-Zero’s. Frost employed a lot of the same abilities we had seen Sub-Zero swap in and out of his repertoire from previous games, which was both a positive and a negative.
On the plus side, Frost’s style gave fans of the debilitating freezing attacks another option to try out and find their favorite. The downside is that because Frost was so similar to Sub-Zero, it was hard to justify having the both of them in the same game, and no newcomer is going to win a popularity contest with Sub-Zero. There was really nothing wrong with Frost, but when she died at the end of the game and didn’t come back except for “Armageddon,” there wasn’t really a big outcry over her short career.
10. JACQUI BRIGGS
Come “Mortal Kombat X” there was a strong push in the series to introduce some fresh blood. Unless the developers wanted to keep rehashing the roster of the original trilogy each game, the series desperately needed some new characters that fans cared about. So, we’re definitely behind the reasoning of bringing in someone like Jacqui, but she gets outshined by a number of different newcomers in “X.”
In terms of fighting style, Jacqui has her dad’s penchant for incorporating guns into her repertoire, but isn’t quite the powerhouse that he is. But maybe Jacqui follows in her footsteps a little too closely, because in the game’s story mode, she quickly winds up playing second fiddle to other heroes. Just like Jax takes a backseat to Sonya, Jacqui winds up kind of falling to the wayside while Cassie saves the day. There’s potential in Jacqui, and we definitely expect her to come back, but we’re waiting to see her step out of Jax’s shadow a bit more the second time around.
Ferra was an extremely unique fighter who immediately attracted the attention of fans. Not only was this the first child to fight in “Mortal Kombat,” she was also the first fighter to fight alongside someone else at the same time. Noob Saibot and Smoke were a team that could be swapped in and out in “Deception,” but Ferra and Torr took on their opponent at the exact same time, with Ferra riding on Torr’s back. Visually, the duo was very compelling, but based on their story, they didn’t have long together as a team.
At the end of their story mode, Torr winds up dying off, while Ferra becomes an enlarged hulking creature like Torr was. This is how their people exist, with one riding on the other until adulthood, at which time the younger one becomes the new brute to be ridden. So it looks like Torr is gone for good, but if Ferra returns, we’re expecting her to look very different in the future. We give her big points for novelty, but her story has a long way to go to be as engrossing as other fighters on this list, so Ferra is someone we’d categorize as cool, but lacking depth right now.
8. LI MEI
Though “Deadly Alliance” did have a weak roster overall, Li Mei did at least have the honor of being the best new female character of the bunch. Yeah, that’s not saying too much, but Li Mei was the only new woman who got brought back for “Deception,” so clearly the developers recognized she had potential. She even got featured in “Mortal Kombat X’s” story mode, hinting that we may see her fight again at some point. Her move set was good too, but her story couldn’t really keep her away from a tragic fate.
During “Deadly Alliance” Li Mei has her soul trapped in a mummy by Shang Tsung, seemingly taking her out of action for good. She was rescued in “Deception” and now sported some wildly impractical armor that was basically underwear. It wasn’t only clothes she lost while in the mummy, though, since her personality also seemed different. In “Deception,” she initially wanted to destroy Onaga, but when she finally met him, she allied with him and became his queen instead. Li Mei was actually a pretty decent character, and if Bo Rai Cho can come back, we wouldn’t mind seeing one of “Deadly Alliance’s” other best newcomers get to return as well.
Considering Sindel’s connections to characters of importance in “Mortal Kombat,” it’s honestly kind of surprising how few of the games she’s been in. After her debut in “Mortal Kombat 3,” she disappeared until the events of “Deception.” But this is someone who is not only the mother of Kitana, but also Shao Kahn’s queen while he had her under his power. Sindel is the rightful queen of Edenia, though, so you would think she would feature much more prominently in the foreground of the games.
Apparently come time for 2011’s “Mortal Kombat,” someone on the development team agreed, because Sindel infamously had a very prominent role in the story. She single-handedly killed the majority of the heroic characters in the game and led to them being revived under the power of Quan Chi. So, the story elements are definitely there for Sindel to be a great character, but she needs to be implemented more into the power struggles. Sindel might be the queen, but her daughter is the one who seems to rule Edenia.
Fans will no doubt argue for why Jade should be ranked higher since she is a classic character in the series, but we don’t want to let nostalgia cloud how awesome some of the newer women of the franchise are. Yeah, Jade was pretty intriguing in “Mortal Kombat II” when she was one of the three secret characters in the game. And she’s also a pretty good character to pick if you’re looking to give your friend a hard time. In her early days, Jade had some pretty lethal combos, and even in her later appearances there’s a lot of potential for unique attacks, thanks to her signature staff.
All that stuff is why we rate Jade pretty highly. But we don’t see an argument for her being much higher, since her story is fairly bare bones. For all of her time in the franchise, Jade has pretty much been defined as being the best friend of Kitana. In a series where lasting friendships are rare, that’s a cool little detail, but it also puts Jade in a role that makes her seem secondary to Kitana. In more recent years, Jade’s had a few more details added to her history, like being a general in Kitana’s army, but it’s hard not to just view her as an accessory to the story of other characters.
5. CASSIE CAGE
Despite being such a newcomer to the franchise, Cassie immediately caught a lot of people’s attention. As the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade, you’d expect her to be really cocky, but also a fierce opponent. And she certainly lives up to those preconceptions. Cassie has the skills to hang with some of the top fighters in “Mortal Kombat X,” but she’s also so confident that she debuted one of the funniest and most memorable fatalities in the game where she takes a selfie with her dead opponent and posts it to social media.
Even in the context of the franchise’s story, Cassie is undoubtedly impressive. When everyone else was falling by the wayside against Shinnok’s corrupted form, Cassie became the last woman standing. In a clear passing of the torch moment, Cassie was the one who took down this latest threat to the worlds of “Mortal Kombat” and took her place as someone to lead the franchise into a new era.
When new characters get introduced in a fighting game, it’s always interesting to see which of them — if any — will catch on with players. Luckily, “Mortal Kombat X” really struck gold and produced a number of characters who fit right in with the franchise. It’s actually a challenge to pick who is the best of the bunch because there are a number of good candidates. But as far as who fit best into the brutal nature of “Mortal Kombat,” we have to go with D’Vorah.
The insect-like fighter managed to be unnerving even by today’s standards of the franchise. She brutally kills Baraka by ripping out his brain, then later kills Mileena by filling her with insects that devour her from the inside. There’s no way anyone who played “MKX” could forget D’Vorah, and we would call her the best female fighter that the franchise has seen in a long time.
3. SONYA BLADE
Sonya is someone we can’t help but place highly since she’s the woman who started it all in “Mortal Kombat.” From her early days sporting ugly lime green sweatpants, to her most recent outing where she continues to fight and be a commander even while taking care of a daughter, Sonya has endured the test of time. Of course, we can’t pretend that her status as an original combatant means she was always popular. She and Kano getting sidelined in “Mortal Kombat II” was no coincidence, as the two of them were the least popular characters to play as from the original game.
Due to that, we obviously can’t say Sonya is most people’s favorite character, but she has endeared herself to the fan base more as the years have passed and we learned more about her. While there are probably still a couple women who are more popular than her in the series, we still have to give Sonya credit for being a trailblazer in the franchise, and being someone who immediately comes to mind when you think of the women of “Mortal Kombat.”
When Sonya got left on the sidelines after the original “Mortal Kombat,” she got replaced by two new female characters who wound up being the franchise’s female equivalent of Scorpion and Sub-Zero. And just like Scorpion revealed he was more than meets the eye when he unmasked and showed his true skeletal face, Mileena showed during her fatality that beneath her mask she was actually a Tarkatan just like Baraka.
Despite a face equipped to devour her opponents, Mileena still became very popular among fans. Morbid curiosity among fans has led to her becoming a sex symbol for the franchise, even getting featured in “Playboy” magazine. It wasn’t until “Mortal Kombat X” that her story began to deviate from just being Kitana’s clone and she actually struck out to try and be a ruler of Outworld, but Mileena immediately gets everyone’s attention when it’s revealed she’ll be on the roster.
Though Sonya is certainly one of the first names everyone thinks of when talking about the woman of “Mortal Kombat,” she’s not exactly recognizable outside of the game. If you were at Comic-Con and someone was dressed as Sonya, you’d probably have to take a minute to figure out who she was unless she was hanging out with people dressed as other “Mortal Kombat” characters. Mileena and Kitana are the two most recognizable female faces on the roster, so we had to give the top spot to one of the female ninjas.
Mileena certainly stands out with her mouthful of fangs hidden behind her mask, but her story is so tied into Kitana’s that we have to give the blue counterpart the edge. While Mileena is just some monstrous clone, Kitana is the rightful princess of Edenia. Her story started off interesting, with her believing Mileena to be her twin sister, and that Shao Kahn was their father. Then Kitana realized she had been lied to her whole life and rebelled against the emperor. Then Kitana’s story hit another snag when her mother Sindel was brought back to life, albeit as a servant of Shao Kahn. Her story has consistently evolved and stayed interesting, her costume is iconic, and Kitana’s fighting style keeps her as a threat that has endured like few others in “Mortal Kombat.”
Which of the women of “Mortal Kombat” is your favorite? Tell us about it in the comment section.