Alright, so the Mortal Kombat universe doesn’t actually have that many villains, per se. It’s rather surprising how many of the so-called “evil” characters are essentially neutral, more often than not. Or perhaps, in certain cases, they are simply unwilling villains. But generally speaking, aside from the obvious characters, most of them are just astonishingly selfish beings. That just doesn’t work out so well for the good guys, when something like Blaze can wield so much power. So, disregarding the traditional sense of the word, let’s rank ten of the most recognizable and iconic villains in all of Mortal Kombat.
Although she has clearly been designed as the ultimate antagonist of the entire franchise, she only just debuted in Mortal Kombat 11. As the Keeper of Time, she’s technically responsible for every single problem we’ve ever had in the franchise. She’s also been established as a Titan, yet another level in the hierarchy of mythological power, even greater than the Elder Gods. She’s a neat freak that forces everything to conform to her will, and destroys anything that won’t. She doesn’t guard time so much as manipulate it, which is definitely wrong. Also, she birthed Shinnok, and that’s always a terrible thing to do. Either way, she’s got a huge impact on the story, despite fans’ mixed reception.
The only female ninja that does not veil her face, Tanya is most infamous for the consistent betrayal of her peaceful home Edenia. One of many “villains” that only commit their various misdeeds out of pure selfishness, she will align with literally anyone if it means she will acquire power or survive a conflict.
This led her to allow the evil Shinnok and Quan Chi into her realm, something she never lives down. Every character she crosses seems to acknowledge her traitorous ways; but in certain situations, such as her forced allegiance to Onaga, she doesn’t necessarily intend to be evil. Either way, her skills as a manipulator are undeniably worthy of this list.
9 Noob Saibot
This is a truly fascinating villain because he is actually the original Sub-Zero, of the Lin Kuei clan. Yes, that iconic ninja from the first game. Dying at the hands of Scorpion after the first tournament, he fell to the Netherrealm and joined Shinnok as a wraith-form of his prior self. He stood by Shao Kahn, aided Shinnok and Quan Chi, and has even mortally wounded Goro himself.
In the new timeline, his origins remain similar enough, more or less—but his longtime history as a constant agent of evil would easily earn his place on any list of villains. Besides, his all-black outfit is just a great design.
A clone of Princess Kitana, Mileena acts as her twin sister and is constantly consumed with jealousy. For rule, and for the preference of their demented adopted father Shao Kahn. Mileena never wins any of her confrontations with her pseudo-sister, and to make matters worse, her body was made with the DNA of a Tarkatan—giving her an ironically unappealing face. This may cause her to flaunt her body more lately, but don’t be fooled. When Onaga ordered her to impersonate Kitana, in order to assume control of Edenia, she instead wields Onaga’s own undead army for herself. She will always act on her own self-interests. Her ruthlessness and ironic appearance have made her a fan favorite.
Kano just doesn’t get the attention he deserves. A smartmouthing, cruel, and vulgar character, his winning attitude alone makes him impossible to ignore. In a universe that’s established countless monsters and petty gods, he’s only got that handy cybernetic eye. He leads the Black Dragon Clan, a criminal cartel, which is a far more relatable position than the many supernatural threats in this mythology.
He’s just a terrorist, and those are all too real. He sold weapons to the enemy Outworld warriors. He’s also stolen an amulet from Shinnok, and sold that to Mileena of all people.
Like many other stereotypical villains, he simply desires unlimited power. However, the so-called Dragon King did rule the Outworld once, and he definitely has a killer design. The combined forces of Shang Tsung, Quan Chi, and Raiden could not destroy him—even when Raiden sacrificed himself with a powerful self-destruction. And, in addition to this incredible might, Onaga was also quite manipulative. He tricked your favorite character ever, Shujinko, into collecting six Infinity Stones—I mean, Kamidogu—for him, which could allow him to become the One Being. Unfortunately, the writers just didn’t allow Onaga to achieve his full potential.
One of the most recognizable characters of the franchise, Goro is a prince of the Shokan race—half human, and half dragon. This is one of those characters that some would prefer not to call a villain, but honestly, he was aligned with Shao Kahn for a ridiculously long time. He does tend to be more concerned with his own self-interests, even joining the war against the Centaurians at one point, but that doesn’t exactly absolve him. Besides, with that menacing appearance, memorably frustrating introduction, and his famous (or infamous) role in the 1995 Mortal Kombat film, there’s no omitting our favorite Shokan.
Officially debuting in Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, of all places, Shinnok has been a recurring villain throughout the entire franchise. He’s most famous for breaking dimensional barriers with his DIY Amulet, which nearly resulted in the complete destruction of Reptile’s race. Shinnok is often pretty undersold; he assumed control of the Netherrealm itself, and his ensuing Army of Darkness caused a lot of problems. If only someone mentioned it to Ash. Ultimately, Shinnok took over Edenia, and nearly killed all of the Elemental Gods. It’s truly a shame that he was recently defeated by Cassie Cage, presumably an effort by the writers to make their new character seem better than she is.
3 Shang Tsung
Even without his appearance in the first Mortal Kombat film, this member of the Deadly Alliance was always a popular fan-favorite. His penchant for munching on people’s souls to accumulate power is a fun dynamic, and his sorcery has long been unquestionably powerful. Using magic to impersonate a close ally, he was able to snap Liu Kang’s neck. He’s managed to resurrect Sindel, Onaga’s army, and he even manipulated a series of tournaments so that Shao Kahn could invade Earthrealm—even though he later goes on to betray the emperor himself. He was somewhat nerfed after that, but he remains an iconic, memorable villain that made his mark.
2 Quan Chi
A lot of Quan Chi’s maneuvers have helped to drive the plot of the entire franchise. That’s because he’s probably the most impressive manipulator of the series, to the point that he even dethroned Shao Kahn himself. He also ended Scorpion’s entire family and clan, then misdirected Scorpion’s vengeance. Although Quan Chi’s been defeated in combat before, he and Shang Tsung together were able to overcome Raiden and all of his chosen defenders. And when Shang Tsung tried to double-cross him, Quan Chi was victorious. But he still had the sense to let it go, to unite once more in order to battle the forces of good alongside Onaga and Shao Kahn. Many can scheme, but Quan Chi plays chess on another level.
1 Shao Kahn
This famous emperor of Outworld is truly deserving of the highest position, even if he isn’t so much a martial artist as a madman with a giant hammer. He poisoned Onaga to death. He enslaved all of Edenia, slew the king, and raised the man's daughter Kitana as his own. He rigged a tournament to invade Earth, robbed billions of their souls, and warped nature by combining dimensions! He’s one of the most popular villains in video game history, with his iconic hulking design, ridiculously OP strength, and frustrating taunts. Shao Kahn’s villainous efforts are also frequently successful, and with the combined appeal of his blunt force and carefree attitude, there’s no question that he’s at the top of anyone’s list of ruthless maniacs.