In the first decade of this century, Mortal Kombat’s future was put into question after publisher Midway closed down. Fortunately, WB bought the studio that made the popular fighting game franchise, turning it into NetherRealm Studios.
The franchise came back stronger than ever with 2011’s Mortal Kombat, which has since been followed by two sequels. These titles bring back most of the old roster, though some of them are radically different than how fans remember. For the most part, these changes are either extremely positive or at least help us see the character from a new perspective. Those who do not like the new look can usually play with the old costumes too.
Stryker was easily the dorkiest character on the 2D roster. He was supposed to be a cop, but he looked more like the security guard at a local shopping mall. When he was brought back for the reboot, his redesign kept the color scheme while making him look tougher and meaner. Unfortunately, his catchphrase, “police brutality coming right up,” has aged extremely poorly. We wonder if the character will return soon in a sequel or as MK 11 DLC.
Sub-Zero is confusing to follow. There are two of them, though the first one dies in the first game and becomes Noob Saibot. In the 2011 game, the second, more virtuous Sub-Zero is turned into a cyborg against his will. Fortunately for him, he retains his consciousness. While the same person, Cyber Sub-Zero is a different character on the roster. Being turned into a robot is a rough deal.
Many of the ninja characters who are not Sub-Zero and Scorpion go through radical design changes throughout the games. The last Midway Mortal Kombat game sees him quite literally as a body of smoke. In the 2011 game, he has a more humanoid look, this time sporting flowing hair. It is honestly not the best hairstyle for him. He looks like he is wearing a wig. Better to keep the ninja headwear.
Sheeva has a relatively iconic look from the old games. Who can forget anybody with four arms? The red outfit stayed in Mortal Kombat from 2011.
She was absent from Mortal Kombat X, but her return in the most recent Mortal Kombat 11 saw a radical redesign. Sheeva now has a more practical suit of armor and a mohawk instead of a ponytail. She looks more imposing than ever now.
You could not be blamed for not knowing who Tremor is. His first appearance was in the horribly lambasted Mortal Kombat: Special Forces for the original PlayStation. In this title, he appears as a typical pallet-swapped ninja. Fans were surprised when he was announced as DLC for Mortal Kombat X. His new design better reflects his ground-shaking abilities. Somehow the developers made something from Special Forces cool and appealing.
For the most part, Cyrax is the same old cyborg ninja we know and love. However, in the 2011 reboot fans get to see both him and Sektor as humans before the Lin Kuei turned their members into robots. Cyrax is hesitant to change and is eventually forced into it, while Sektor is more willing. While they do not stay human for long, it is cool to see them like this and learn more about the two’s backstory.
4 Johnny Cage
Mortal Kombat X changes things up by taking place twenty-five years in the future. Fans see beloved characters as older people and even play as some of their children.
Johnny Cage goes from being a cocky young movie star to an older, still kind of cocky father. His relationship with Sonya Blade and the interactions between them and their daughter, Cassie Cage, shines a new light on the character. Plus, he just looks a lot different as an older person.
3 Kung Lao
In the 2011 game, Kung Lao is just like the character fans knew from the older games. In Mortal Kombat X he and several other mainstays are turned into revenants, thus transmogrifying them into ghastly versions of themselves. While this also happens to Liu Kang, at least we already saw him as a zombie in Mortal Kombat: Deception. The time travel hook of Mortal Kombat 11 sees the old Kung Lao make a return.
First introduced in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Frost took a big break after Armageddon. Upon her return in Mortal Kombat 11, the character was turned into a cyborg. However, she is still instantly recognizable as Frost from the older titles. The characters introduced in Deadly Alliance and Deception were not beloved by fans, but Frost is a big exception. Maybe her resemblance to Sub-Zero makes her more likable.
Sindel actually makes few aesthetic changes in the series, but the change in Mortal Kombat 11’s expansion, Aftermath, is perhaps the most controversial of all. The developers simply retconned her story to make her a willing participant in Shao Kahn’s conquest of Edenia from the beginning. Before, she had always been brainwashed and was said to have killed herself after her husband’s death. Retcons are nothing new, but it makes certain events from 2011’s Mortal Kombat simply not make sense anymore.