The clash between good and evil is almost upon us yet again, as NetherRealm Studios' Mortal Kombat 11 launches on Tuesday. The war between Earthrealm, Outworld and the Netherrealm is denser than you'd expect, however.
In preparation for the release of the next chapter in the 27-year-old video game franchise, here's a recap of the major players and what they've been through.
The End, and the Beginning
In the game's universe, Mortal Kombat is a generational tournament in which the various realms send their best fighters to face off. Ten straight wins allows a realm to invade and conquer another. Outworld ruler Shao Kahn wanted to invade Earthrealm, but to stop him, thunder god Raiden recruited fighters, including failed Hollywood actor Johnny Cage, soldier Sonya Blade and Liu Kang, the monk who eventually became Earthrealm's champion. At the end of 2006's Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, every fighter from the games died until only two were left standing: Shao Kahn, given the power of the Elder Gods and ready to bring about Earthrealm's end, and Raiden.
With everyone dead and himself about to die, Raiden pulled a last-ditch effort and used his amulet to send a message to his past self, saying "he must win," effectively rebooting the franchise all the way to the beginning in 2011's Mortal Kombat. Because the message is so vague, the younger Raiden thinks the "he" refers to Liu Kang, the last contender for Earthrealm. Just as Liu is about to win, as he did in the original game, the sorcerer Shang Tsung convinces Shao Kahn to hold a second tournament in Outworld, and has an army ready to hold Earth hostage unless Raiden submits.
As the second tournament occurs, the timeline changes; Kuai Liang, the ninja who would become the second Sub-Zero, is taken away by cyber ninjas to be converted, and Kahn's daughter Kitana defects to Earthrealm after learning Shang was ordered by her father to create her clone, Mileena. Raiden has the ex-Shaolin monk Kung Lao take Liu's place in the second tournament, which leads to Lao being murdered by Kahn. Kahn and the Netherrealm sorcerer Quan Chi team up, using their forces to invade Earthrealm. Several characters die during the invasion, including Kitana, her friend Jade, Sub-Zero and his ninja rival Scorpion, Johnny's friend Jax Briggs, and thug-turned-cop Kabal, all of whom are in MK11.
After accidentally killing Liu, it's only then that Raiden realizes he was meant to let Kahn win. Doing so forces the Elder Gods to empower the god of thunder so he can destroy Kahn for violating Mortal Kombat code. Raiden promises to help Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade save Earth, just as Quan Chi reports to his master Shinnok, Elder God of Death, that the Earth is ripe for the taking.
Mortal Kombat: The Next Generation
Two years later, Shinnok attacks Earthrealm with his demon army and the fighters killed in the previous game, now Revenant warriors. Those forces distract Earthrealm and Raiden long enough for Shinnok to try to use his corrupting powers on the Jinsei -- the life force of Earthrealm -- and destroy everything. With the help of Johnny, who unlocks ancient powers passed down his bloodline, Raiden traps Shinnok inside his own amulet and stores it away for safekeeping. Johnny, Raiden and Sonya defeat Quan Chi and revert Jax, Scorpion and Sub-Zero to their old selves. However, Liu Kang, Kitana and others remain Revenants.
You'd think that would end the series, but Mortal Kombat X jumps ahead 25 years to show that isn't the case. Like a comic book universe, the world is ever-changing. Mileena was ousted from her Outworld throne by her war chief Kotal Khan, which leads to a peace treaty with Earthrealm. Sub-Zero killed a clan of cyborg ninjas (long story) and buried the hatchet with Scorpion. Johnny and Sonya married and had a daughter named Cassie; their friend Kenshi had a son of his own named Takeda, who was trained by Scorpion. Cassie found a friend in Jax's daughter Jacqui, and the three of them, along with Kung Lao's cousin Kung Jin, form a joint unit between Special Forces, Scorpion's Shirai Ryu, and the Shaolin Monks.
Cassie's team is sent to Outworld to help Kotal end the civil war between with Mileena, who hired the mercenary Kano to steal Shinnok's amulet in hopes she could use it to reclaim her throne. Cassie's team recovers it, and Mileena is executed, but Kotal turns on them and reclaims the amulet for himself. It's at that point that Kotal's right hand, the insectoid D'Vorah, reveals she's an agent of Shinnok and steals his amulet to return to Quan Chi. As she makes her escape, Kotal is led to believe she's in league with Raiden, and decides to invade Earthrealm.
Back in Earthrealm, Johnny, Sonya and Jax arrest Quan Chi. Having learned from Sub-Zero that Quan was responsible for his family's death, Scorpion arrives to take his vengeance. As he decapitates Quan, D'Vorah tosses the stolen amulet, allowing the sorcerer to awaken Shinnok as his final act. Shinnok captures Johnny and corrupts the Jinsei, forcing Cassie and her team to follow. Cassie fights Shinnok, able to unlock the same powers of her father and, yet again, the Elder God is defeated by a Cage. Raiden is able to reverse the effects of the Jinsei, both Outworld and Revenant retreat, and the day is saved. Only ... not really.
The only way for Raiden to reverse Shinnok's corruption to the Jinsei is to absorb it into himself, which turns his lightning red. Deciding to go on the offensive against Earthrealm's threats, he decapitates Shinnok and drops the still-living head at the feet of new Revenant leaders Kitana and Liu Kang, promising, "There are fates worse than death." But as we see in the opening cutscene for MK11, Raiden is the least of everyone's worries, as his actions have angered time itself.
Time is Running Out
Or rather, its keeper Kronika. She's been behind everything since the first Mortal Kombat, and Raiden defeating and decapitating her son Shinnok hs caused her to step in and prevent good from winning. To that end, Mortal Kombat 11 will see her bring in dead characters from the past to help: Baraka (killed in between MK9 and MKX by D'Vorah), the human versions of Kitana, Liu Kang and Kung Lao, and Shao Kahn. At some point, the past versions of Johnny, Jax, Raiden, Sonya and Scorpion arrive in the present as well.
So says Kronika's daughter Cetrion, the Elder God of Life, that the only way to stop Kronika from initiating temporal Armageddon and erasing everyone is to get her hourglass, which controls the flow of time. But to get there and restore time will take a lot of punching and characters coming to terms with their past -- and future -- when Mortal Kombat 11 releases Tuesday, April 23, for PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.