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I don’t like sleep, so I took a deep dive into Mortal Kombat’s lore

The Mortal Kombat lore is very convoluted but with a new era comes some much needed change, so let’s look at what Liu Kang has done differently.

Mortal Kombat lore - Johnny Cage posing in front of Liu Kang

The long wait for Mortal Kombat 1 is over, and it’s fair to say that fighters worldwide can’t wait to dive in. As with any MK game, it’s the lore that’s causing some intrigue, and that’s understandable with every release, in all honesty. However, there’s a bit of grace in this fresh game as it’s a whole new universe. You might remember the final events of Mortal Kombat 11, in which Liu Kang transcends into being a fire god, going on to create the world in his image.

So, from that perspective, the lore of Mortal Kombat 1 might be a bit easier to get to grips with, though certain similarities and differences might have you scratching your noggin. Still, a fresh world is easier to understand than the convoluted lore from all of the previous games. You see, before MK1, there were two distinct timelines in the world of Mortal Kombat, each of which holds a different fate and story for each character.

Despite Mortal Kombat 1 starting again, we understand that you might want to know a bit more about the lore of a franchise as a whole, so what better time to take a look at some key differences between the previous and new timeline? Honestly, there are some surprising changes, great homage to what has come before, and clever reiterations of events from the previous two timelines.

You know, NetherRealm studios really did want to shake things up with the new timeline. At the conclusion of MK11, Liu Kang becomes the Keeper of Time after defeating Kronika, meaning he has the power to rewrite time. Naturally, he started the universe over again and rewrote the destinies of the Mortal Kombat characters. Firstly, Liu Kang is now the protector of Earthrealm, not Raiden, who’s instead the childhood best friend of Kung Lao. At least Liu Kang didn’t do the former Thunder God too dirty, and it certainly makes for an exciting and new dynamic. However, that’s not the most interesting change in the new timeline.

Mortal Kombat lore Mileena vs Kitana

Mileena and Kitana

I want to take a specific look at Mileena, Kitana, and Sindel. Now, in all timelines, Sindel is the mother of Kitana, whose DNA is taken and combined with that of a Tarkatan to create Mileena. The latter is inherently evil, while Kitana is good, and Sindel loses her way thanks to her ghastly marriage to Shao Khan. Well, the new timeline makes a few substantial changes.

Are you ready for this? It was quite the revelation for me: Mileena and Kitana are full-fledged sisters. Yes, Liu Kang chose to make his former love interest and maniacal sister actual siblings, and you know what? I think this works really well. It gives us a breath of fresh air, and it offers something different. Yes, Sindel is the biological mother of both of them, with the pair also sharing the same father. No, it’s not Shao Khan. Instead, Sindel rules Outworld alone after losing her husband, Jerrod.

If you’re a huge fan of Mortal Kombat’s Mileena, like myself, you don’t have to worry about her tarkatan half being gone forever. Instead, in this new timeline, it’s a plague that ravages Outworld, and it just so happens that Mileena gets infected. This is a stroke of genius on behalf of NetherRealm Studios. Why, you might ask? It’s simple, you get to see the real Mileena in this game. By that, I mean you witness her true human nature and see the horror her loved ones must face with such a dark secret.

In the original timelines, Kitana and Mileena despise each other. Mileena is a mistake, a freak of nature to Kitana (and she’s right), while Kitana symbolizes everything Mileena hates – she’s good and true. Mileena wants to rule Outworld in Shao Khan’s image, becoming his heir over Kitana after her creation. Kitana, meanwhile, is ready for peace among the realms and wants to lead Outworld into a golden age. Yes, that’s an incredibly short and somewhat blunt detail of the ‘sisters’ relationship in other timelines, but it shows the growth that comes with a true family bond.

It’s so different to see Kitana caring about Mileena and trying to protect her while Mileena is trying to hide her illness and learn how to be a dignified ruler from her mother. The fact that Mileena is the heir indicates that she’s the older sibling, which is certainly different from past timelines, given she’s cloned from Kitana’s DNA.

Mortal Kombat lore Baraka facing Reptile


Here’s something I never thought I’d say: Baraka is Edenian. In the new timeline, at least. Originally, in both the first and second timelines, Baraka is a Tarkatan. Depending on which of the two timelines we’re talking about, his race is at first said to be a crossbreed between Netherrealm demons and Outworlders. Still, it later changes to Tarkatans being an entirely different race whose realm is conquered and annexed by Shao Khan.

Now, if we return to me saying that Baraka is Edenian in the new timeline, I’ll explain how this works. You see, rather than being a true race, the Tarkatans come from the Tarkat virus, a plague that infects people and mutates them. Before meeting this fate, Baraka was a proud and successful Edenian who would ply his trade in Outworld as a well-respected merchant.

However, the biggest consistency is that Baraka wants what’s best for his people, but in the new era, he understands how evil Shang Tsung and Shao Khan are, making it easier for him to become a friend to the heroes of Earthrealm.

Mortal Kombat lore Ashrah and Reptile


Syzoth, also known as Reptile, is one of the most popular characters in fighting game history, and that might be because he represents the first ‘secret’ in the genre, appearing as a hidden character in the first Mortal Kombat game. Originally, he’s a bit of an antagonist, frequently siding with the other characters from Outworld. However, that’s certainly not the case in Mortal Kombat 1, as he’s an outcast from his own people due to being able to present as a human, and he ends up being a lackey for Shang Tsung – a very reluctant lackey.

As a result, he actually helps the Earthrealmers, aiding Liu Kang in his fight against General Shao and Shang Tsung. This is a stark contrast to his reality in the previous timeline, where he graciously served both of those men. But do you want to know what my favorite thing about Reptile is in this era? He finds love. As he’s such a good guy in this timeline, it thrills me to see him enter a relationship with Ashrah – though it’s admittedly very surprising. Speaking of Ashrah…


She’s alive. That’s the difference between timelines. Welcome back, lady. May you finish many demons.

Mortal Kombat lore Sub-zero facing Scorpion

Sub-Zero and Scorpion

Oh boy, we all know the hostile history between these two iconic videogame characters, but let’s recap their relationship in other timelines before diving into the new one. The original Sub-Zero, Bi-Han, was one vicious character, though he was a devout member of the Lin Kuei. Ultimately, Scorpion kills Bi-Han at the end of the first Mortal Kombat tournament in the original timeline, an act that was in retaliation to his own death at the hands of Sub-Zero. This might be a little bit confusing, but Scorpion at this point is a remnant from Netherrealm after being resurrected as such by Quan Chi, yet he has memories from his life as a human, urging him to get revenge on Sub-Zero. After the death of Sub-Zero, Quan Chi resurrects Bi-Han as Noob Saibot, a truly evil being.

Now, I know what you’re all thinking, ‘but Kayleigh, Sub-Zero is in every Mortal Kombat game after the first one.” Yes, he is, but it’s not Bi-Han. Instead, it’s Kuai Liang, his younger brother. And yes, his reasoning for wanting to kill Scorpion is to avenge his brother’s death, though one might argue that Bi-Han deserves his fate. There’s plenty more surrounding Sub-Zero and Scorpion, but those little tidbits explain why I absolutely love what happens with them in the new timeline. They’re brothers.

Sub-Zero and Scorpion are biologically related, and the latter is raised as a loyal member of the Lin Kuei clan. Except, there’s one little thing. Scorpion’s real name isn’t Hanzo Hasashi, it’s Kuai Liang. Yes, keep up with me here. Liu Kang has only gone and changed Scorpion from a Shiriai Ryu ninja and Netherrealm remnant into the younger brother of Bi-Han, making him the man who would go on to become Sub-Zero in the first two timelines.

Mortal Kombat lore Scorpion and Sub-Zero in the character select screen

That change is wild to me in the best possible way. I honestly wasn’t expecting Scorpion to be Kuai Lang, even though he and Sub-Zero are brothers. Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting Sub-Zero to be Bi-Han. I thought it would be a case of Kuai Liang and Hanzo being siblings. I have to say, Liu Kang, I’m impressed. What a great way to play with fire and ice.

I’m certainly keen to see where this timeline goes after MK1. Can we expect to see Noob Saibot down the line? If so, do we no longer have a Sub-Zero in this timeline as Kuai Lang is Scorpion, meaning he can’t go on to replace his brother as the cyromancer? Liu Kang’s new era has interesting possibilities, and I, for one, can’t wait to unravel all of its secrets.

Clearly NetherRealm has a thing for bringing enemies together as a family in MK1. Mind you, it’s a bit different from Kitana and Mileena. Bi-Han is still that same man who is ruthless in his ambition, even to the point of letting his own father die to take control of the Lin Kuei, and that means there’s conflict between the brothers, while the sisters want the best for each other, and wouldn’t turn on one another in this life.

Mortal Kombat lore Raiden vs Liu Kang

Liu Kang, Kung Lao, and Raiden

Okay, I know I said it’s not the most interesting of the changes between timelines. However, I still feel the need to touch on some key differences with these three characters, especially since it’s Raiden who serves the Elder Gods as Earthrealm’s protector, holding the status of Thunder God. At the same time, Liu Kang and Kung Lao are prospective champions for Earthrealm, and that’s been the case through two timelines and numerous games. Furthermore, as everyone knows, it’s Liu Kang who proves to be Earthrealm’s number one champion.

I draw attention to that as Liu Kang has essentially pulled the ol’ switcheroo on us with this new timeline. He’s a Fire God serving as Earthrealm’s protector, while Raiden ends up being the realm’s top champion. One thing remains consistent, Kung Lao loses to both of them in all timelines at the crucial points.

Mortal Kombat lore Johnny Cage facing Mileena

Johnny Cage

Perhaps the biggest difference between the past and present timelines for Johnny Cage is Sonya Blade. In the previous timeline, he ended up married to the Special Forces general, going on to have a daughter, Cassie Cage. His personality is consistent across all variations of Mortal Kombat’s lore, but there are still some other differences beyond Sonya (who isn’t present in MK1 as a playable character, but it’s possible she and Johnny may end up together).

Shall we start with Johnny’s wife? We actually get to meet his first wife in this timeline, Cristina, who soon leaves the washed-up actor when he can’t put his glory days behind him and admit he needs to be more careful with money. Months down the line, Johnny refers to her as his ex, so it feels safe to assume she filed for divorce. Yes, like the rest of you Sonya fans out there, this also gives me hope that Blade and Cage end up together in this timeline, too. She’s his second wife, after all.

However, the most surprising thing is that by the time the credits roll, Johnny is more humble and can even be called a friend to the likes of Raiden, Kung Lao, and Kenshi. In previous timelines, in the early days, he’s considered to be incredibly obnoxious and annoying, with few fighters thinking of him as a friend.

Mortal Kombat lore Sindel facing Shao Khan

General Shao

Ah, Shao. Not to be confused with Xiao, one of PT’s very lovable PT pets. You may know him as the ruler of Outworld in previous timelines, ruling the realm with an iron fist in search of total domination of the remaining realms, particularly Earthrealm. Well, in Liu Kang’s New Era, he’s not in charge. Sindel is the empress, while Shao is a General. Yes, he still has some power, but nothing compared to Sindel, a woman he treats so abhorrently in previous timelines until she becomes his willing and evil accomplice.

Things are still the same in that he’s after the domination of Earthrealm, and he certainly wants to usurp Outworld’s throne. I like to see consistency like this between the timelines because, at heart, the characters aren’t too different, but their circumstances certainly are, and that’s what makes this new timeline intriguing.

The Mortal Kombat tournament

In Liu Kang’s Era, Outworld and Earthrealm still partake in a tournament, but it’s no longer known as the Mortal Kombat tournament. In fact, the Fire God makes a point of telling his champions that he’d never send them into ‘mortal kombat,’ meaning nobody dies in the tournament anymore. In previous timelines, characters would die at the Mortal Kombat tournament, something Liu Kang never agreed with.

Admittedly, there are more differences and similarities to share between the new and previous timelines, but if I dive any deeper, I’ll never stop talking. Instead, I’ll point you in the direction of our Mortal Kombat 1 characters guide, and if you want an even deeper dive into specific characters, check out our Mortal Kombat Mileena, Mortal Kombat Sonya, and Mortal Kombat Sub-Zero articles.