For a series all about brutalities, fatalities, and fights to the death, the Mortal Kombat universe surprisingly has a variety of norms and rules set by the Elder Gods to ensure Armageddon does not unfold. One of the norms set about by the Elder Gods is the format of the Mortal Kombat tournament. Realms do battle against each other for power, but the Mortal Kombat tournament itself isn’t exactly like the fights that players partake in. Killing opponents is allowed in the tournament, but players may be surprised at how very few Kombatants actually die there.
Every character in the Mortal Kombat series has fatalities in their arsenal, deadly moves that finish off their opponents. However, many MK fighters simply don’t kill their opponents in battle. Characters who are morally good find themselves sparing their defeated opponents if given the opportunity, at least in the game’s plot and whenever they utilize MK3’s Mercy option. Players likely won’t see a Liu Kang fatality happen often in Mortal Kombat’s story modes unless he’s going up against someone really evil – or he’s currently evil himself.
Mortal Kombat 9, which is officially called Mortal Kombat, is a reboot of the series that takes place in an alternate timeline. Mortal Kombat’s story mode goes through the first three Mortal Kombat games and showcases how official Mortal Kombat tournaments work. While Shang Tsung and Shao Khan encourages Kombatants to finish off their opponents, very few deaths occur during the tournament fights. A few no-name fodder characters are killed, but the deaths of actual characters in the early chapters of the story occur off tournament grounds. In fact, most of the deaths that occur in Mortal Kombat happen when Shao Khan invades Earthrealm.
The first major death that occurs in Mortal Kombat (2011) is Sub-Zero, who is killed by Scorpion in the NetherRealm after Quan Chi reminds Scorpion of what Sub-Zero supposedly did to his clan. The Scorpion and Sub-Zero rivalry was renewed when the two officially fought in the tournament, with Scorpion winning and sparing Sub-Zero’s life after some persuasion by Raiden. Sub-Zero’s death did not occur until after their fight, however, and was not a part of the official tournament.
The second major death that occurs is Kung Lao, who is killed by Shao Kang after he defeats Kintaro in the second Mortal Kombat tournament. The rest of the Mortal Kombat deaths occur after chapter 12, which marks the beginning of the Mortal Kombat 3 portion of the story. Jax, Jade, Kitana, Cyber Sub-Zero, Smoke, Stryker, and Kabal are all killed by Shao Khan’s wife Sindel in Earthrealm. Sindel herself is later killed by Nightwolf, who sacrifices himself in the process of killing her. Shang Tsung is supposedly killed by Shao Khan after absorbing him to give power to Sindel. Liu Kang is then accidently killed by Raiden, and Shao Khan is killed by the power of the Elder Gods.
Despite the number of deaths that happen outside of the Mortal Kombat tournament, there have been some major deaths that actually have happened during sanctioned fights. In the events before the first Mortal Kombat game, The Great Kung Lao from a different Mortal Kombat timeline was killed by Goro in the finals of a tournament. Also, when characters do die it’s entirely possible for them to return in future Mortal Kombat games – many of the people killed by Sindel in Mortal Kombat came back as undead Revenants in Mortal Kombat X, for instance.
With Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath potentially rewinding time to that of The Great Kung Lao’s era, it could be possible that the Mortal Kombat tournament will return back to its original format. If that does occur, players could potentially see a prequel to the original Mortal Kombat. With a fresh start, perhaps players may be able to prevent the deaths of many beloved characters, or at least finally kill Goro in the earliest-known Mortal Kombat tournament as The Great Kung Lao.