Fighting games are a popular breed among the numerous genres of gaming and few match up to the history and longevity of Mortal Kombat. It all began back in 1992 with the release of Mortal Kombat and has continued up until 2016’s Mortal Kombat XL, the deluxe edition of the tenth entry in the series.
With such a longstanding history, it also goes without saying that the series has showcased some of the most famous fighters in gaming history. These characters have expansive lore and deep backstory (for the most part) that help us to better understand the fighters’ intentions and their place in the realms.
Of course, due to the technical limitations of the gaming hardware at the time of its initial release, many of these fighters appeared with exactly the same model, with the only difference coming in the form of their primary color palettes. Thankfully time and technology caught up with the dreams and ambitions of NetherRealm Studios and we eventually got each character in the form of their own model and unique gameplay mechanics.
Whether they were ninjas, warrior princesses, estranged sons, lizard people, or a legion of lost souls bound together in one entity, they all come with their own motivations and alliances and each one is more intriguing then the last.
Their moves are numerous and widely diverse, and, without a doubt, there is one ninja character out there for everyone, you just have to take a look at this list to figure out which ones are worth trying and which ones aren’t.
A very under represented character to say the least, the female version of the Chameleon character is nothing too special. She made her first appearance in the N64 version of Mortal Kombat Trilogy and she has only appeared in one other title as a playable character, with her appearance again being limited to a console exclusive edition of the game.
Her lack of game presence aside, she isn’t a character that stands out too much anyway. She is pretty much the exact same thing as Chameleon, just with a female character model instead of the male. She is fairly generic in terms of move set and capabilities, seeing as how she appeared when everyone looked the same and when everyone played very similar in combat style.
While only a very basic step up from his female counterpart, Chameleon is a little more interesting in his design and came before Khameleon, giving him the originality factor and landing him one place in front of her. It is cool to see his color change throughout a match, but his lackluster moves and overall skill set put him far beneath the rest of the ninja characters.
He lacks any sort of real spark of life, aside from his color swapping character gimmick. He hasn’t been seen in a game since 2006’s Mortal Kombat: Armageddon and it's unlikely that we will see him any time soon, due to his unpopularity among players. So if you never got to play as this character, don’t worry, you really aren’t missing much.
Front is essentially nothing more than a female version of the much more popular Sub-Zero. Her hair is cool, but outside of that, almost everything about her is that she is exactly the same as the cloth she was cut from.
She was playable in three games within the whole series and she can be most recently seen in her very brief cameo in Mortal Kombat X, where she almost single handedly ruins the moment we were all waiting for years, when Scorpion and Sub-Zero finally make peace.
Her young take on the Sub-Zero type character does distinguish her a slight bit from her older and more popular ice-toting counterpart, so she does have the potential to develop down the line. I guess we will see.
Smoke is perhaps the most obnoxiously annoying of the ninjas; whether as a cyborg or not. Smoke is known for the hooks that he has while in cyborg form and, when he is not that form, such as in Mortal Kombat (2011), he has some of the most annoying moves in the game.
A large quantity of his move set revolves around displacing either himself or his opponent using smoke. Whether he is teleporting behind them to hit with three consecutive attacks or teleporting them above him to drop them in for a wide-open combo opener, he is sure to drive people crazy and lead them to want to fight any other character available. He certainly isn’t the most fun cyborg, let alone the most enjoyable ninja, leaving him lower on this list.
An Edenian and a controller of all things storm related, all of Rain's moves are predominantly water based and can often leave his opponents in very compromising situations. His Water Ball essentially leaves his opponent suspended in a floating orb of water, while his Lightning Strike is pretty much what you would expect it to be; a strike of lightning that breaks through blocking opponents.
When he debuted, he was rocking the same ninja garb that every other ninja wore at some point, but was rocking a stylish set in purple. He definitely gains points for being a joke character based off the Prince song “Purple Rain,” while also being of Edenian royalty. However, despite that fun tid-bit, not much else really sticks out about Rain, leaving him at 16th.
Now, this warrior is one with an interesting concept. Skarlet is a brutal and merciless fighter created by Shao Kahn. After collecting the blood of fallen warriors, Shao Kahn merged the blood with sorcery to create one of his most trusted warriors.
Skarlet is interesting because her moves revolve around her lust for blood and the fact that she actually requires it stay alive. In her first and only playable appearance in the series, she is actually the owner of the most powerful non-boss projectile move in the form of her Blood Ball. Of course, the move cost her a small amount of her own health. She also has a teleport and can throw her kunai knives for a little more distance damage. Her fatalities are no joke either, seeing as how both end with her bathing in the blood of her slain opponent.
Tremor is one of the newest ninjas to join the series as a playable DLC fighter for Mortal Kombat X. This quake-commanding beast of a ninja brought the pain, flinging boulders, lava, and golden spikes all over the battleground. He boasts a move set that controls the field, making it difficult for the opponent to even get in close enough to strike. If they do manage to close the gap though, they will be treated to some of the most painful and damaging moves in the game.
The Black Dragon clan member has gone rogue since a mission for the Black Dragon resulted in Tremor being betrayed by Kano. The state of their relationship is currently unknown, but he was a fairly popular fighter and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him return in the next installment in the series.
13 Takeda Takahashi
If any character on this list has a chance to be truly badass, it's this one. Takeda Takahashi is the son of the blind telekinetic swordsman Kenshi and was trained by the legendary ninja Hanzo Hasashi, otherwise known as Scorpion.
He has an interesting assortment of abilities depending on the variation you choose to use. He can use whips much in the way that Scorpion does but with a little moe flair to it. He can also use a plasma blade to slice his foes, whether from his hands directly or by throwing it his enemies feet. He is a very agile fighter who works as well from the air, as he does from the ground and his daddy issues add a nice touch to his character. He's only made one appearance on this list, leaving him a little lower, but he has plenty of time to flesh out his character and become a true MK fan favorite.
12 Noob Saibot
The reanimated soul of the first Sub-Zero, Bi Han, has been causing trouble for Mortal Kombat players for years, both as a playable and non-playable character. He was the black robed ninja back in the day.
Noob’s true identity isn't revealed until a good bit into the story, but he comes packing moves that will push even the most patient of players to their limits. He not only can use his shadow doppleganger to attack his opponent at range, but he can also generate wormholes that can teleport opponents to him for an up close and personal fight. Don’t even get me started on his Ghost Ball, which makes his opponent unable to block and his Teleport Slam which is almost unblockable and can come at any time. Aggravating doesn’t even begin to describe Noobs capabilities as an MK fighter. So, due to his uneven and, at times, unfair play style, Noob doesn't crack the top of this list.
Yet another Edenian who finds herself on this list and another who comes with a full arsenal of attacks and weapons that will leave her opponent without a second to breathe.
Her most recent appearance in Mortal Kombat X gives her some incredible moves to play with, that ensure damage and combos are on their way every time she is picked. Her “Dragon Naginata” variant gives her a large naginata to stab and slice her opponents with and it actually gives her THE longest range for a basic poke attack, as she can pretty much stab the opponent from all the way across the map. She can also utilize teleportation, fireballs and some very rapid spinning to literally drill her way through an opponent and come out wearing their organs as a necklace. Very interesting, to say the least.
Another member of the Lin Kuei ninja clan that became another statistic of the clan-wide cyber initiative that turned all the ninjas into cyborgs. Sektor was not only in favor of the initiative, but he openly helped to round up any clansmen who differed in opinion. Being the son of the Lin Kuei Grandmaster probably played a hand in him supporting the cyber initiative.
Sektor utilizes missiles and teleportation to keep his target at a distance and uppercut them when he needs to close the gap. Should they manage to close the gap themselves, he also has a wrist-mounted flamethrower that he can use to incinerate any who oppose this crimson robot and the will of his clan. According the game's canon, Sektor was disarmed and decapitated by Sub-Zero when he became the tyrannical grandmaster of the Lin Kuei.
While not royalty like a certain fan blade wielding princess, she is every bit as badass as the aforementioned warrior princess. Jade comes out swinging with her weapon of choice, her pole staff. She is yet another very capable fighter that has some of the best melee range in the series. She also has a boomerang that can help her to get a small advantage at range, making her someone you really don't want to fight at a distance with.
In her most recent appearance, Jade meets an incredibly unfortunate end along with most of the rest of the hero fighters at the hands of Sindel, thus leading to her exclusion from the roster of Mortal Kombat X.
While she is unplayable in MKX, you can kind of play her in a way via Kitana’s “Mournful” variation.
The yellow cyborg ninja made his debut early on in Mortal Kombat 3 and has really developed into his own over the years, leaving Sektor and Smoke in his wake. Cyrax is a master of battlefield control with the focus of his move set coming from his bombs and his net. His net alone is enough to keep an opponent begging for you to stop, seeing as how it constantly leaves them open for an endless onslaught of punches and kicks.
Cyrax received a large amount of character development in Mortal Kombat (2011) when he was found to be one of the only members of the Lin Kuei ninja clan who opposed the cyber initiative (the program that eventually led to the robot-human hybridization of every Lin Kuei clansman). He was eventually taken against his will to undergo the procedure. It was actually pretty sad to see him captured and lose his humanity. His fleshed out backstory and interesting move set see him as the second highest ranked cyborg ninja on this list.
As one of the more diverse fighters on the Mortal Kombat X roster, Triborg brought a lot of excitement with him. This amalgam fighter brings back three very iconic fighters in one slot. He represents Cyrax, Sektor, and Smoke and brings them all into Mortal Kombat X in a big way.
MKX’s variant mechanics make it possible to play as one of these iconic robo-ninjas. Triborg will emulate one of the now deceased cyborgs and comes complete with all the moves we love/hate. He also possesses one of the coolest fatalities in the game, where he summons all three cyborgs to dispatch his enemies with haste by utilizing their most iconic moves.
It is also possible to access a secret fourth variant during character selection, which allows Triborg to gain the powers of Cyber Sub-Zero via secret code. It’s a nice little callback to the old days of cheat codes and secrets that the series has been known for.
A science experiment gone awry, the partial daughter of big baddie Shao Kahn, and also the former empress of Outworld, Mileena is a pretty important character in the lore of the MK universe.
She was created in Shang Tsung’s flesh pits as a hybrid of human and Tarkatan DNA, which has led to a very aggressive fighter with a pretty janky set of teeth. She has an insatiable lust for battle and thoroughly enjoys ripping her enemies to pieces, often with her own hands and teeth.
She can teleport, roll, and she is more than capable with her trusty pair of Sai. She is great at close-ranged, fast-paced combat and can quickly close a gap if an opponent tries to get some space. Plus she has some of the most gruesome fatalities in the series, which is what we really all want to see when we play.
Ermac began as just another ninja palette swap, this time rocking the color red, but he eventually grew into a character that differed very much from same-skinned ninjas. Ermac is a being comprised entirely of thousands of souls and he uses these souls in a way that is pretty much telekinesis. He can lift his opponents straight off their feet and slam them down with whatever force he deems necessary.
This legion of lost souls has remained loyal to the bloodline of Shao Kahn, causing him to join with Kotal Kahn, Reptile, and D’Vorah in overthrowing Mileena, when he figures out her true lineage as an experiment.
He is definitely an opponent to keep pressured, since the slightest pause in combat can lead to Ermac taking total control by flinging you around and making sure you don’t come close to touching him. His telekinetic attacks are very useful for chaining moves together, as they often leave the opposing fighter in a very vulnerable state.
The princess of Edenia does not come to battles prepared to let any sort of servant do the hard work for her. She is an incredibly capable fighter and one that will punish you every time if you’re not careful.
Her trademark fan blades are a staple of her character and they are the focal point of her move set. Her fans are not only a deadly pair of projectiles, but they can produce gales of wind that leave opponents helplessly floating in the air. Kitana can also use them to propel herself through the air, either to damage her opponents or evade incoming damage herself. This princess aspect of her exists only in title, as she is ready to throw down with whoever in order to defend her friends.
A member of the core three ninjas to the series, Reptile has gone through quite a bit of aesthetic changes over his time on the roster. Over the years, he constantly flipped back and forth from resembling a human who can assume lizard form to being a complete lizard in every facet.
The popular acid spitting, head munching, lizard man was the series first real hidden secret, appearing as a secret non-playable challenger if very specific conditions were met during the course of a series of matches. He was the start of a trend that would persist throughout the future of the franchise.
He’s also a really capable fighter from pretty much anywhere on the field, utilizing slides, acid, bubbles, invisibility, and his overall above average agility to control a match and keep it at whatever pace he wants, while laying a plethora of harmful obstacles for the opposing fighter to navigate through.
One of the faces of the entire series, Sub-Zero is also one of the most polarizing fighters in the series. He’s the fighter you love to play as and hate to play against. Few other fighters match his level of frustration inducing moves. All it takes for Sub-Zero to take control of a match is for him to catch you off guard with a freeze ball or one of his many other freezing moves. It's hard to fight back when your frozen solid.
He is also one of the more lore-rich characters in the series (having his own game), especially since there has been more than one character to carry the mantle of Sub-Zero. Most of us are used to Kuai Liang throwing the snowballs, after his older brother Bi Han was killed and became the undead specter Noob Saibot. Two different siblings, the same amount of frigid frustration.
The poster boy for the entire series, Scorpion comes packed with his swords, flames and demon spawn. One of the two “OG” ninjas from Mortal Kombat, Scorpion packs a punch with both power and style. While his look has become much more modern as the years have moved on, his look remains mostly intact and the iconic demon is still throwing hands in 2016’s Mortal Kombat XL.
While his fighting prowess and kill first mentality is at the forefront of our knowledge of this character, it is his truly tragic past that makes the Shirai Ryu ninja a truly captivating character. We finally got to see Hanzo Hasashi find peace, with the return of his soul in Mortal Kombat X, and we finally see him and Sub-Zero make peace with each other.