Before the announcement of Mortal Kombat X, minds were understandably narrowed on the events of Mortal Kombat 4. The plot of the first three games was retold by Mortal Kombat (2011) -- heavily implying the next in sequence with a story mode cliff-hanger schemed by MK4 antagonists: Quan Chi and Shinnok.

Much remains a mystery about the plot of the 2015 sequel, or how the new history of MK2011 will play-out across MKX's 25 year timeline. The grim predicament left by a slaughter of heroic mainstays could force some surprising twists, but this isn't exactly unchartered territory. The worst outcome has always been a presented option for MK - as forewarned by a tradition of hypothetical arcade endings.

From sequel to sequel, it's typically been the heroes whose possible outcome is made canon. Over the course of Deadly Alliance and the sequels that followed, we learned it was mostly the MK4 heroes' endings that had a role to play in shaping the on-going saga. Liu Kang was victorious for a fourth consecutive event - defeating fallen Elder God Shinnok; Raiden was briefly appointed Elder God; Lt. Sonya Blade survived Jarek's aggressions, and Scorpion discovered the truth behind his spectre's curse - plunging Quan Chi into a dogged pursuit through the Netherrealm.

As Mortal Kombat Online continues to shift some of its extensive video archive to YouTube, we revisit the past of MK4 to ponder what would've happened if it all went horribly wrong. At a glance, MK4 proposes two realities -- the one we've experienced, and a darker alternative where heroes perished and evil won. Could this alternate ending influence the course of MKX? We'll find out April 14, 2015.

MK4 Primer
The purpose of this feature is obviously to look at the flipside of Mortal Kombat 4, but a few basic introductory elements are worth noting. The plot is easily summarized as a fight between Shinnok's forces of darkness, and Raiden's forces of light.

Shinnok was once an Elder God, but his turn towards evil led Raiden to banish him to the Netherrealm. There he took the throne from Lucifer, but was unable to escape until aided by Quan Chi and the naïve daughter of an Edenian ambassador to other realms - Tanya. This allowed Shinnok to conquer the newly restored Edenia, and wage war on the Heavens themselves. Raiden and Fujin were among the few surviving gods. They rallied Mortal Kombat champion Liu Kang and the other heroes of Earthrealm to take the fight to the Netherrealm army.

Lacklustre mechanics left the playable boss widely regarded as a poor choice, but long before games like Tekken 5 gave defeat an equal outcome - MK4 allowed players to choose victory for the big bad! The result of this overlooked virtue: pretty much the king of the "bad" endings!

In Shinnok's arcade victory, he's got Raiden by the lightning balls, and is having a jolly good time savouring his long sought revenge. The end result is the end of Raiden. With the Elder Gods already destroyed, that pretty much means it's Shinnok's world and we're just living in it. As they say in the MK Klassics - "Have a nice day!"

In the years that followed MK4, we've come to regard death as a pretty temporary state. Raiden himself pulled what might've been the quickest life & death turn around in the intro to Deception - sacrificing himself against Onaga, only to stand right back up moments later. Even the devs at NetherRealm have tempered us to expect the resurrection of fan favourites who died in MK2011. That said, here's a juicy morsel to consider...

Back in July, IGN reported Raiden will be "a key figure, but not nearly as central to the overall plot as he was in [MK2011]" looking an awful lot like a revamped version of his MK4 version. Dying would certainly provide a key role for Raiden, without making him central to the plot. Could Shinnok be the one to do the deed if the deed is indeed done? After MK2011, some fans might now see this as a good ending!

The prospect of an MK4 do-over had us rethinking Tanya in a big way, prior to MKX. With very little subsequent air time [see; Deception], it has been Tanya's MK4 ending that stands to inform the most vivid impression of her character. It all plays out just a little too dim witted in her ending to be fondly remembered, but it's a vital piece of the MK4 parallel universe puzzle.

With Raiden already out of the way - Shinnok & Quan Chi wait patiently as Earthrealm's defending champion is led into their death trap by a delighted Edenian traitor: Tanya. The result is the grim, uncompromising demise of MK's then big hero.

Taken as part of a cohesive MK4 alternate outcome, it's a devastating companion to Shinnok's defeat of Raiden. Interestingly, it also casts Tanya in the light of Liu Kang's mirror counterpart - the mortal advocate who delivers a victory. The only snag in an MKX context -- killing Liu Kang has become a common pastime. No longer the chosen hero, he was burnt within an inch of his life by a clumsily insistent Raiden at the end of MK2011. We were led to believe he'd died.

Promised a reunion out of time with the rest of his extinct species - Reptile appears in MK4 in what would be the first of a string of menial roles.

If he thought serving an evil fallen Elder God was going to deliver him guaranteed results - he chose unwisely. In the dark version of MK4, villains are as susceptible to destruction as heroes! For his request, Shinnok exercises his godly powers to blow Reptile's mind!

Given its isolated nature, it's an outcome that's fairly inconsequential to the bigger picture. If this alternate MK4 were the basis of MKX, however, it would mean eliminating one of the most talked about fan requests of them all. Of course, with a Khameleon running around, and some soft speculation about emblems, who knows what the next generation could bring.

Jarek appeared in MK4 depicted as a possible sole survivor of the Black Dragon Clan. We already know Kano is back for MKX, but we also know he was actually still kicking puppies in spite of his rumored death, after MK4. So the net result is moot. None of that has any effect on Jarek's role - an unlikely ally to OIA Special Forces agent Sonya Blade in the war against a common enemy.

Like all good crooks, Jarek turns on his ally. Sonya is sent plummeting to her doom off the edge of a cliff. At the time, this infamous sequence had many fans wondering if it would actually be revealed as the true demise of MK's first lady of fighting. Just as with MK4, Sonya survived MK2011 -- but with daughter Cassie Cage kicking around -- Mama Blade is officially expendable.

Lending itself quite nicely to the idea of a cohesive alternate MK4 outcome - Jax' ending acts as a direct sequel to Jarek's! As you might imagine - Major Briggs doesn't take too kindly to the callous murder of his partner. Not one to let the grass grow beneath his standard issue boots, Jax drops Jarek off the same cliff.

2002's Deadly Alliance put any rumor of Sonya's death to bed with her triumphant return, but interestingly enough, aspects of the Jax ending actually made their way into canon! In an Armageddon character bio released after-the-fact, Jarek's story is revealed: "Jax dropped me into a ravine, assuming that would be the end of me. It would have been if I hadn't thrust my weapon into the cliff wall to slow my descent. I was badly injured, so I went into hiding. My rumored death would be the ultimate camouflage as I regained my strength."

Jax was one of the heroes killed off in MK2011 and sent to the Netherrealm, but there are always those resurrections we're expecting. If he did find his way back to life -- especially after being controlled by Quan Chi and/or Shinnok -- it could be interesting to see how Jax grapples with a grim future, and the death of his partner. Jax as mentor to Cassie has its charms, but so does a Jax who is facing a world without laws and the challenge to his own morality.

Quan Chi
The plot surrounding Shinnok's amulet of power has twisted around on itself over time, but the general gist of it is: Sub-Zero (Bi-Han) steals the amulet, Quan Chi delivers a duplicate to Shinnok, Onaga comes to claim it sometime later. It all played into the cross-promotional backstory told in Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero.

When Shinnok disregards his arch-sorcerer's worth, Quan Chi arrogantly reveals himself to be the true possessor of ultimate power. Quan Chi uses the genuine amulet to destroy his master.

On the surface, this ending may seem like a harsh right angle turn for any cohesive vision of an MK4-based backstory for MKX. Under scrutiny, it actually suits speculative purposes rather well. Back at E3, Ed Boon revealed the boss will be "a fun surprise returning character" who "[not] a lot of people will see it coming". Shinnok would be an obvious pick, but Quan Chi a little less so. Shinnok's rise - and the destruction of the gods - would also suit the rise of a character like Kotal Kahn. Speaking of which...

It was the ending that sparked a thousand debates and theories! Reiko never quite overcame the impact of his flippant ending, which sees him saunter through a portal to claim the helmet and throne of the thought-deceased Shao Kahn!

This infamous sequence has drifted somewhere between joke and parody. We now know Kotal Kahn will become ruler of Outworld and that the story mode will tell the story of his rise and fall. Some clues suggest he won't be the only one to claim the throne. What if circumstances see to it that the throne of Outworld is contested intensely over the 25 years, with Reiko being one of the early warriors to attempt to claim the mantle?

Rounding out our vision for a parallel version of MK4's events is Sub-Zero's ending. It sits opposite the more significant Scorpion ending, which established [Kuai Liang]'s innocence and Quan Chi's role in the spectre's curse of Shirai Ryu ninja.

In Sub-Zero's ending, no such revelation is revealed. Quan Chi is still exposed as a devious manipulator, and Scorpion sees about executing a fatality on the sorcerer -- a handy outcome, if the post-Shinnok focus were to be on the contested throne of Outworld. What's even more intriguing about this, however, is that it invites resumed tensions between Scorpion and anyone answering to the Sub-Zero name.

The exact identity of the Sub-Zero of Mortal Kombat X has been kept a seemingly deliberate mystery. We know his identity will be revealed during story mode. We also know he's "tired of maintaining our innocence". Interesting.

MK4 sub-boss Goro is confirmed DLC for MKX.

Register to enter the world of fan speculation on the Mortal Kombat X forum. Or if MK4 nostalgia is more your fancy hit the 3D Kombat Klassics forum. Support Mortal Kombat Online in other realms by liking & sharing via @MK_Online, Facebook & YouTube.