Mortal Kombat 1 Story Changes Explained: How This Reboot Alters The Timeline


The Mortal Kombat series loves to lean on its lore, and Mortal Kombat 1 is no different. While technically a continuation of Mortal Kombat 11, it takes the series in a brand-new direction based on rebooting the timeline and creating a very new universe. Classic characters have a new coat of paint and even some obscure names from the past get a new lease on life.

For those who need a refresher, the first seven Mortal Kombat games culminated in a cataclysmic event that was so bad that Raiden had to use time travel to fix it. His results were mixed, as he saved the universe, but also got a lot of his friends killed. After several games in this second timeline, a time-controlling entity named Kronika became the next big threat, ending in Liu Kang killing her and taking her spot as the Keeper of Time. Being a benevolent sort, Fire God Liu Kang wants to create a utopian reality.

Rather than simply wipe out all the insidious members of the Mortal Kombat roster, Liu has been trying something more positive. Threats like Shao Kahn, Mileena, Rain, Reptile, and so on have been given what Liu thinks they want or need. If they’re placated, they may become constructive to the well-being of all life in the realms. Of course, all of this is in danger of imploding upon itself. Whether Liu’s setup is too flawed or if there is someone sabotaging it (or a mix of the two) remains to be seen, but Liu Kang is trying to set things right.

Here’s how his vision differs from the lore before.

The Champions of Light

Previous Mortal Kombat Timelines

Lord Raiden was the God of Thunder and Protector of Earthrealm. It was his duty to gather champions to compete in Mortal Kombat, a tournament that kept Earthrealm from being conquered by the rulers of Outworld. After Earthrealm lost nine consecutive tournaments, his final chance came at the hands of Liu Kang: a highly skilled Shaolin warrior whom Raiden considered the chosen one. Liu succeeded in winning the tournament and saving Earthrealm.

Kung Lao was Liu Kang’s best friend and rival. He was also the descendant (and unknowingly the reincarnation) of the Great Kung Lao: a former Mortal Kombat champion who was killed by Goro hundreds of years earlier. Lao always had a chip on his shoulder, feeling the need to be the one to save the world and redeem his family name. While pure of heart, his jealousy did make him reckless at times.

In the second timeline, the relationship between Raiden and Liu Kang crumbled due to Raiden’s increasingly disastrous choices in trying to change history. Liu died and became a revenant, serving the Netherrealm and later ruling it. Eventually, the two overcame their differences and stopped Kronika. Through the adventure, Liu Kang ascended into godhood while Raiden became mortal.

What Mortal Kombat 1’s Timeline Changes

The roles have reversed as Liu Kang is the God of Fire and Protector of Earthrealm. Raiden is a mere farmer who is exceptionally skilled in martial arts while able to wield electricity from his body. Under Liu’s tutelage, Raiden is the chosen champion of Mortal Kombat.

In this world, there was no brutal defeat for the Great Kung Lao. In fact, the Mortal Kombat tournament is more of a showcase for Earthrealm and Outworld, treated as a celebration of cultures. The modern Kung Lao does want to prove himself as a warrior, but he will hopefully prove to be less brash than his previous self (err…selves).

The Lin Kuei

Previous Mortal Kombat Timelines

The Lin Kuei was a guild of assassins who sold themselves to the highest bidder. One of their greatest warriors was Bi-Han, the first Sub-Zero. Bi-Han was a cold-hearted (no pun intended) killer with little compassion. In one mission, the one where he famously murdered his rival Scorpion, he nearly allowed the Netherrealm to invade Earthrealm before stopping it himself. In the aftermath, he was warned that remaining with the Lin Kuei would scrap any chance he had at redemption. He remained with the organization, which spelled his doom as he was soon confronted and killed by a resurrected Scorpion. Bi-Han himself was resurrected as the evil wraith Noob Saibot, void of any remaining compassion.

Bi-Han’s brother, Kuai-Liang, took over the Sub-Zero mantle. Kuai-Liang was an honorable man who hated what the Lin Kuei had become, especially as its Grandmaster and his son Sektor insisted on transforming all their assassins into cyborgs against their will. This second Sub-Zero eventually started a coup and rebuilt the Lin Kuei from the ground up as an organization dedicated to protecting Earthrealm from the forces of evil.

As a child, Tomas Vrbada was kidnapped and sacrificed by a cult. The sacrifice ended with Tomas becoming a smoke creature called an Enenra. Calling himself Smoke, Tomas joined the Lin Kuei and became close friends with Kuai-Liang. Unfortunately, his fate would always be tragic. In the first timeline, he was turned into a robot and reprogrammed into being evil. In the second timeline, he was killed and became a revenant.

The Lin Kuei’s main enemy was the Shirai-Ryu ninja clan. The most notable member was Hanzo Hasashi, otherwise known as Scorpion. After being murdered by Bi-Han during a mission, Scorpion was resurrected and gained his revenge. His path became erratic in both timelines, especially when it came to his relationship with the second Sub-Zero. In the second timeline, Hanzo became human again (while retaining his Hell powers), led the Shirai-Ryu, and became close allies with Sub-Zero.

What Mortal Kombat 1’s Timeline Changes

The Lin Kuei begins the story as Earthrealm’s defenders. Bi-Han and Kuai-Liang are the sons of the Grandmaster. Bi-Han, as Sub-Zero, has grown disillusioned with the role of protector, feeling that the Lin Kuei should rule the world. In a shocking twist, Kuai-Liang’s powers are flame-based and he calls himself Scorpion.

Smoke is their adopted brother, whose parents died just outside of Lin Kuei headquarters when he was just a boy. As of this writing, it is not known if Smoke is still Tomas Vrbada at all. Either way, Kuai-Liang considers him family, even if they do not share blood.

Outworld Monsters

Previous Mortal Kombat Timelines

The Tarkatans were a race of toothy creatures covered in sharp bone protrusions that lived in the wastelands of Outworld. Their leader was Baraka, a toady for Shao Kahn. Baraka intended to lead his race to greatness and hoped that he would gain favor for them under Shao Kahn’s rule. Baraka only wanted equality for his people. Well, that and plenty of blood and meat to feast on.

Reptile was part of the Saurian race. These lizard creatures were enslaved and wiped out by Shao Kahn. Desperate to bring them back or to at least find some level of acceptance, Reptile acted as a soldier for all sorts of overlords. The only one to truly respect him was Kotal Kahn, as they felt a kinship due to their roles as the last of their kind.

What Mortal Kombat 1’s Timeline Changes

Tarkat is a literal disease that has been infecting those in Outworld. It transforms its victims into toothy beasts covered in bone protrusions. They are all exiled, like lepers. Baraka, once a merchant, was also affected by this plague. Seeing the state of his kind, he has chosen to stand up for the infected and fight for hope.

The fact that there is no cure for the disease does raise some questions. Why did Liu Kang allow this to happen? Is this something that was caused by an outside party? Is this a remnant of the previous reality trying to force its way into existence?

While the Saurian race lives on just fine, the one named Syzoth does not live among them. Syzoth, otherwise known as Reptile, has the ability to morph into a human ninja form. This made him a freak and an outcast to his kind. He has become an ally to Earthrealm’s heroes, giving him the friends and acceptance that he had always hoped for.

The Outworld Throne

Previous Mortal Kombat Timelines

After killing its previous leader Onaga, the Konquerer Shao Kahn became ruler of the barbaric realm Outworld. He was obsessed with conquest and targeted the other realms. He set his sights on Edenia, ruled by King Jerrod and Queen Sindel. With Sindel’s help, Shao killed Jerrod and merged Edenia with Outworld. Sindel died shortly after and Shao raised Sindel’s daughter Kitana. He trained her to be a deadly assassin.

In time, Shao found Kitana’s killer instinct to be rather lacking. Wanting a daughter who fit his brutal personality more, he tasked Shang Tsung with creating one. The sorcerer engineered a clone that mixed Kitana with Tarkatan biology, creating the insane and vicious Mileena. While dedicated to Shao Kahn, all Mileena truly wanted was her sister’s love and acceptance. Kitana was more disgusted and repelled, driving Mileena more to madness.

Kitana would eventually learn the truth of her true father and break away from Shao’s influence, becoming a great leader herself. Sindel was resurrected and whether she was truly good or truly evil really depends on the writer. As of Mortal Kombat 11, she and Shao Kahn were genuinely in love and she considered Kitana a disgrace.

What Mortal Kombat 1’s Timeline Changes

Sindel is a benevolent ruler of Outworld, mourning the untimely death of her husband Jerrod. She and Lord Liu Kang founded the Mortal Kombat tournament years prior. She had twin daughters, Mileena and Kitana. As Princess Mileena was born first, she will one day become empress.

Kitana is protective of her sister and wants her to rule, but Mileena is paranoid, especially because there is talk that Kitana would make a more level-headed ruler. Even worse, Mileena appears to be infected by the Tarkat plague and if this were to become known by the public, it would jeopardize her spot on the throne.

As for Shao? His new origin puts him in a more Steve Rogers direction. Once a sick and scrawny child, Shao was pushed into extremes until years of training turned him into the ultimate soldier. Now he is General Shao, a celebrated military officer. While he fights for Outworld, he finds Sindel’s friendship with Liu Kang distasteful and thinks little of the Earthrealm warriors.

Soldiers of Outworld

Previous Mortal Kombat Timelines

As an Edenian, Tanya wanted her people liberated from Outworld’s grasp, but that was outweighed by her survival instincts. Tanya would always side with whoever she considered the greater threat and knew how to throw others under the bus. Previously, she has acted as a henchwoman for Shinnok, Onaga, and Mileena.

Reiko was one of Shao Kahn’s most feared generals. While enjoying the widespread bloodshed that came with the emperor’s orders, Reiko secretly wished to one day kill Shao and take over as the ruler of Outworld. He even had a tendency to put on Shao Kahn’s skull mask when nobody was around, dreaming of the day when he could make his move.

Then there was Li Mei: an Outworld peasant whose village has regularly been affected by the actions of Outworld’s greatest villains. Her people were enslaved by Shang Tsung and Quan Chi in one timeline while another had her lead her people into Earthrealm as refugees due to Mileena’s wrath.

What Mortal Kombat 1’s Timeline Changes

The Umgadi are a highly trained sect of warrior women who are tasked with protecting the Outworld throne by any means necessary. Li Mei was once in their ranks, only to receive blame for failing to stop King Jerrod’s murder. She quit her position and became a constable, intent on redeeming her failure.

Tanya is also a member of the Umgadi and is regularly at Mileena’s side. While the two are very close, they must keep their romantic relationship a secret, as it goes against the Umgadi’s oaths.

As for Reiko, while he still serves under Shao, he does so with endless loyalty and admiration. Years before, Reiko’s family was killed, and he was captured during a war. He was liberated by General Shao, who watched the young Reiko singlehandedly murder his captors. Impressed, Shao took Reiko under his wing and made him his squire.

Earthrealm Allies

Previous Mortal Kombat Timelines

Johnny Cage was an obnoxious egomaniac of immense skill. He could be a great hero if he didn’t have his head up his ass. Over time, he matured and even found a family with Sonya Blade and their daughter Cassandra. Johnny was actually the descendant of a sect of Mediterranean warriors obsessed with creating fighters capable of slaying gods. This is the explanation for his trademark green glow, which allowed him (and later Cassie) to take down the evil Elder God Shinnok.

One man who fought by Johnny’s side during Shinnok’s invasion was Kenshi Takahashi. Like Johnny, Kenshi was a foolish warrior drunk off of his own ego. This led to him being tricked by Shang Tsung, where the sorcerer not only devoured the souls of Kenshi’s ancestors but also blinded Kenshi. Armed with his ancestral sword Sento, Kenshi gained magical psychic abilities to make up for his lack of sight.

What Mortal Kombat 1’s Timeline Changes

Johnny is mostly the same. A great hero when he isn’t full of himself. This time, though, there is no sign of Sonya, negating the existence of Cassandra. He also lacks his green glow powers. Could it be that Liu Kang is hedging his bets and taking a potential threat to his well-being off the table?

As for Kenshi, he is no longer riding the wave of his bloodline’s greatness but wishes to regain its lost honor, as the Takahashi family had hit hard times and became part of the criminal underworld. That includes getting his hands on Sento, now sitting in Johnny’s personal collection. Kenshi goes into this adventure with his sight intact, but that other shoe is definitely going to drop.

The Ambitious Sorcerers

Previous Mortal Kombat Timelines

Rain was the bastard son of an Edenian god and a peasant woman. He spent his upbringing as an orphan, living in squalor, bitter because he felt that he was destined for greatness. Wielding a power over water itself, Rain worked his way up and became one of Shao Kahn’s more decorated warriors, though he never felt like he ever received the respect and accolades he deserved.

Shang Tsung was another underling with a never-ending thirst for power. A pupil of Shao Kahn’s, the sorcerer became addicted to devouring the souls of others. With his charisma and shapeshifting abilities, Shang Tsung was a high-level trickster who could walk his way out of nearly any situation. This led to him nearly ruling the realms on two separate occasions.

What Mortal Kombat 1’s Timeline Changes

The two have seemingly switched places. Rain is a renowned sorcerer and has earned the role of High Mage of Outworld. While respected, Rain still pushes himself and is interested in studying darker magic. That can’t end well.

As for Shang Tsung, he grew up in poverty and spends his days as a depressed snake oil salesman. Perhaps this is Lord Liu Kang being petty. Perhaps this is Shang’s refusal to embrace humility. Either way, a woman looking very much like Kronika has appeared to him, explaining that Shang is meant to be ruling the realms. Following her lead, Shang Tsung threatens to unravel Liu Kang’s whole reality and stand above everyone else.

Beyond Outworld

Previous Mortal Kombat Timelines

Nitara was a vampire from the realm Vaeternus. Vaeternus was one of the various realms that Shao Kahn had merged with Outworld, and Nitara was dedicated to freeing it from his grasp. While Nitara was not active in the games all that much, she did succeed in manipulating Cyrax and Reptile into helping her succeed in her goal.

Havik, the Cleric of Chaos, hailed from Chaosrealm. Backed up with an insane healing factor, Havik lived to sow carnage throughout the realms. Naturally, Chaosrealm was constantly at war with Seido, otherwise known as Orderrealm. Rarely getting involved himself, Havik was usually more interested in pushing the various heroes and villains in the right direction to make things more interesting.

What Mortal Kombat 1’s Timeline Changes

Vaeternus was never absorbed into Outworld, but left to their own devices, the vampire race started to run low on food. Nitara is intent on delivering her people from starvation by any means necessary.

Havik, on the other hand, is a civilian of Seido in this reality. This world of order was filled with corrupt fascism and it drove Havik mad. Angry at the injustices around him, Havik has become an anarchist bent on burning it all to the ground.

Those Unchanged

While Mortal Kombat 1 alters quite a few previously established ideas, some things appear to be roughly the same as they were before.

Ashrah only appeared briefly in previous games and never got to do much with her interesting backstory. A demon from the Netherrealm, Ashrah came across a mystical and holy blade called Datusha. By using Datusha to slay evil creatures, Ashrah’s soul becomes increasingly purified. Over time, she has transformed into something almost angelic, though still very dangerous.

And then there is Geras: the protector of time itself. Initially, Geras was Kronika’s main underling, unkillable with the experience of countless lifetimes. Geras now works under Lord Liu Kang. At least he feels more like a friend to Liu Kang instead of being a simple pawn to Kronika. It’s Geras’ job to protect his master’s vision and snuff out those who would oppose him, but despite Geras’ fantastic power, it does not look like he will be all that successful.

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