It's almost hard to believe that this is the year Mortal Kombat celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary!
From humble beginnings of seven playable digitized fighters, two legendary bosses, and one secret character -- the franchise now boasts more than seventy main characters appearing in games, comics, film and television!
For almost twenty of those years, Mortal Kombat Online has bared witness as the internet's most visited MK fan destination of all time! As a supplier of information and digital record; we've watched and documented the many changing phases of the games -- as well as the reactions of fans across the globe!
MK Online was here in 1999 when you wondered if Reiko could really be Shao Kahn. In 2002, Hsu Hao became one of your most talked about new characters. In 2006, you wondered who could possibly survive Armageddon when Blaze returned. 2008 provoked your rage when the DC Universe invaded for the first time. In 2011, it all began again as Warner Brothers took control of the franchise, and the klassic trilogy was reborn.
The unshakeable constant that's excited fans throughout all these many years has been the characters!
Every one has their favourite fighter and they're eternally evolving with every appearance. They look different, play different, and have new goals in almost every game. This endless sense of change has always given fans ammunition to fiercely debate which character is the best. That's why, on the 20th anniversary of the series, MK Online finally set out to ask the question: Who is the Supreme Mortal Kombat Champion?
As an annual tradition, the tournament now invites every fan to vote in what has become a living document of the series, and a Kombat census. Opinions evolve as we go through a cycle of: Year of speculation, year of release, year of new content, year of reflection. These perspectives change how we view the series and its characters, but the question that tests them remains the same. Here are some of the things we've learned so far in the reboot era...
2012 Supreme Mortal Kombat Champion
Finalists: Sub-Zero (c), Ermac (2nd), Noob Saibot (3rd), Raiden (4th)
For the 20th anniversary, MK Online put the call out to fans far and wide. It was time to determine not just a champion - but the greatest character of all time! This was the introduction of the Supreme Tournament format, which features regularly updating vote-off polls between two characters. The response was massive and sincere!
To determine the sixteen top seeds that appeared at the ends of each bracket, an internal staff vote of the most iconic characters was held before the tournament. This marked the first and only time Scorpion would figure prominently into the top ranks, seeded #2. Fans and staff agreed more closely on the character who would be crowned the greatest of all-time: Sub-Zero cooly endured cult opposition to go from #1 seed to Supreme Champion!
Ermac was the underdog runner-up, having gone from cult hero, to bona fide fan-favourite after being fleshed out in Deadly Alliance, and fully reintroduced in Deception. His initial reveal in 2010 had provoked mixed reactions, but by the next year, fans had fully embraced his new style.
Ermac's rise stalled MKII cult favourite Smoke in a final eight that consisted entirely of first gen characters -- all of whom had developed in popularity. Kung Lao, Kitana and Noob Saibot enjoyed strong runs to the finish. Raiden endured to the Semi Final despite a strong backlash against his portrayal in the 2011 reboot. His role as a catalyst for the new timeline left him looking the fool in many fans eyes, but the all-time context of the vote helped some put that aside.
The arrival of Skarlet as a new DLC character who featured in that year's Komplete Edition, as well as the surprise reference of Tremor in the portable Vita version, meant a wildcard vote was held before the tournament.
Given a choice between omitted Trilogy characters Chameleon and Khameleon, fans narrowly chose the Nintendo exclusive feminine version. In the tournament proper, she was no match for Baraka in the First Round. Khameleon fared even worse than Tremor, despite the noted controversy of his selection. Tremor would not be the last surprise entrant into the tournament that fans would question.
2013 Supreme Mortal Kombat Champion
Finalists: Smoke (c), Raiden (2nd), Scorpion (3rd), Ermac (4th)
Three years before the United State Presidential election would make Russian electoral scandals the talk of the town; the scruples of European voters came under scrutiny in one of the most controversial Supreme Champion results of them all!
NetherRealm Studios had recently released their first exclusive DC Comics fighting game [Injustice: Gods Among Us], and fans weren't necessarily expecting to see the tournament return again for another year. This meant voting saw a decline, and opportunistic fans saw the perfect opportunity to elevate Smoke: now classified a European Enenra courtesy of retcons introduced in the 2011 reboot.
Smoke was very nearly eliminated in the final eight, scraping past popular shadow wraith Noob Saibot with less than 1% advantage! Scorpion was a minor challenge in his only Semi Final appearance, bolstered briefly by the disappointment of his Round 2 elimination the previous year. He was a narrow winner against Sub-Zero in a Round 3 upset! Kitana had an even closer shave in the Quarters, bowing out with Kung Lao the same time as last year. Sonya Blade rounded out the list with the help of a good draw.
Time had also helped heal the damage done to Raiden by the 2011 reboot. A strong traditionalist sentiment maintained during the Injustice year helped Raiden scrape through some difficult lies. Rejection of Ermac's success the prior year helped lead Raiden to a surprise Semi Final victory, but the European contingent supporting Smoke proved too strong.
A smaller, but similar movement from South American fans helped push Jade into the Top 16 ranks. Kabal broke through to the seeds as well. The two new seeds bumped out the previous year's staff voted choices of Mileena and Jax.
No longer topical, Tremor was dropped from the tournament in favour of Chameleon. He was a shock victor over the fading star of Deception boss Onaga, but suffered a brutal defeat at the hands of Shao Kahn! In her second year, Khameleon performed even worse than before, crushed by Kitana. The decline wouldn't come anywhere near the indignity of Daegon's defeat - a record low 9.3% against Noob! These numbers were set to become more important in the coming year...
2014 Supreme Mortal Kombat Champion
Finalists: Ermac (c), Sub-Zero (2nd), Noob Saibot (3rd), Shang Tsung (4th)
A Jim Lee designed Scorpion had given fans something new to talk about while Injustice ruled the news channels, but they were more than ready to speculate about a new Mortal Kombat in 2014!
Sequel speculation influenced this year's tournament selection enormously, with the 2011 reboot putting heavy emphasis on Mortal Kombat 4 as its likely follow-up. MK Online staff kept bracket options fluid in anticipation of an announcement at that year's E3, even delaying the tournament until the final day of May!
D'Vorah, Ferra/Torr and Cassie Cage were controversially incorporated into the First Round to reflect their E3 reveal with Mortal Kombat X! This was the first time the Supreme Champion tournament would capture early reactions, and enthusiasm for the new characters was immediately evident, if appropriately measured. Visually dynamic insect queen D'Vorah toppled Sindel, while mystique helped Ferra/Torr take out Moloch. With less instant appeal, and a tough draw, Cassie Cage couldn't topple Johnny -- the man later revealed to be her papi!
Because of the ambiguity surrounding his unconfirmed identity, Kotal Kahn was the only reveal omitted. Theories that the teal skinned Aztec warrior might be a reincarnation for Shao Kahn proved false, introducing the concept of "Kahn" as a title, once clarified. No more new characters were revealed during the First Round, leaving the rest of the tournament to be tinged by reaction and excited anticipation.
Kenshi had joined the Top 16 seeds after a strong performance the prior year, but found himself swept away in the first gust of Fujin fandom that was sponsored by belief MKX would retell MK4. The Wind God made it to the final eight, bested by eventual tournament winner Ermac! The 2012 Runner-Up was spurred to the championship by hopes he could have a bigger role now that Shao Kahn had died, and he no longer needed to play enforcer. It was his development as a sage-like influence on Kenshi that had led to his elevation as a fan-favourite, and that's what many were counting on!
Shang Tsung was the big surprise finalist, with some hoping the ambiguity of his demise in the 2011 reboot left the door open for a big return. Sub-Zero reached the final as one of the few confirmed returning characters. He suffered the indignity of being killed by Scorpion in the announcement trailer. Kitana became the instrument of elimination for intense anti-mascot sentiments, executing Scorpion in the third round. Noob Saibot remained strong as a Semi Finalist, helped along by fervent speculation about the identity of the Sub-Zero in the initial trailer.
Unbelievably, the First Round claimed Mileena, Kabal, Kano, Liu Kang, Jax and Goro. Some were victims of a difficult draw, positioned against other fan-favourite characters. Others were swept up by the wave of enthusiasm for what new and extreme changes awaited in Mortal Kombat X. The game's April release the following year would shape the next tournament...
2015 Supreme Mortal Kombat Champion
Finalists: Fujin (c), Kenshi (2nd), Sub-Zero (3rd), Mileena (4th)
The release of Mortal Kombat X generated record sales numbers, and pushed MK Online to a site traffic record well beyond 2 million hits in one day! The new game introduced a whole new style to the series, with some of the best new characters since Deadly Alliance!
Improvements to existing character designs, plot and gameplay helped bring fresh perspective. Evergreen characters like Sub-Zero, Kitana and Raiden maintained their strong positioning. Mileena was thrust all the way to the Semi Finals, boosted by her prominence as heir to Shao Kahn's throne. She was eliminated by Kenshi, who was successfully elevated from downloadable content to main playable roster. Some may even say he was the rightful champion of this year.
For some fans, it was absence that became the focus. The speculation phase that dominated the previous year carried through to Mortal Kombat X's release, boldly announcing the DLC era. Fujin was widely expected based on the retelling of MK4, but the Wind God was only found in Story Mode cameos. This fueled a highly motivated, organized effort to push him to the championship in a year we hoped to see an MKX character on top.
Most of the new characters fared well. Enthusiasm for D'Vorah and Ferra/Torr was challenged after their debut the previous year, but the arrival of Kotal Kahn confirmed one of the strongest new entries into the series. Round 3 saw Kotal only narrowly defeated by Shao Kahn. Returning seed Sonya Blade also narrowly exited in the Third Round, beaten by newcomer Erron Black!
Comic books had an influence on this year's tournament, too. The Mortal Kombat X tie-in series expanded the backstory to include a wide array of omitted characters. Topical comic book references helped characters like Reiko, Havik, Shujinko, Hsu Hao and Jarek maintain a presence. With Tremor now making his fighting series debut as downloadable content, the comics also fueled Special Forces character Tasia to make a controversial tournament debut. Khameleon was granted a reprieve by an easter egg appearance in Mortal Kombat X Mobile, while Chameleon made an unimpressive return against Sub-Zero. The threat of relegation now becomes a permanent part of the Supreme Champion tournament...
2016 Supreme Mortal Kombat Champion
Finalists: Noob Saibot (c), Fujin (2nd), Ermac (3rd), Sub-Zero (4th)
Kombat Pack 2 and Mortal Kombat XL made the game of the past year even bigger, adding Bo' Rai Cho and newcomer Triborg to the massive roster.
Sub-Zero and Raiden were the top two ranked and seeded characters in the fifth year. Despite an upstart win in 2015, Fujin's past record kept him anchored in the lower portion of the Top 16. Despite the final pressing of the komplete game, fans who'd eagerly watched for cryptic signs in pre-release began seeing messages that simply weren't there. Thus, the wide-eyed hopes of DLC optimists maintained fervent response for a character who would never become playable.
Mileena, Kenshi, Johnny Cage and Sub-Zero continued to ride their MKXL glow, while Ermac bounced back from his shocking First Round defeat to DLC hotshot Goro the previous year!
None of the MKXL stand-outs from the actual game could compete with the hopes and dreams of Noob Saibot fans. The frequent finalist of past years finally became a Supreme Champion despite little to no real follow-up of his demise in the 2011 reboot. His Chaosrealm shadow Havik, who played a significant role in MKX comics, had one of the big runs of the year, as well. Disproportionately so, earning big wins in the First Round elimination of Scorpion and Second Round exit for newcomer Takeda.
Results from the past year's tournament saw Erron Black replace fallen klassic boss Shao Kahn in the Top 16 ranks. With the year hinging on the announcement of Injustice 2, his exit from seeding allowed for the controversial introduction of Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe hybrid Dark Kahn into the Supreme Champion rankings. Technically a Mortal Kombat character; the boss was the fusion of Shao Kahn and Darkseid - a nod to NetherRealm's renewed DC Comics focus. Tasia returned to the tournament for a second year as well, easily defeated by newly minted DLC Bo' Rai Cho. A character who may receive more support when the next Mortal Kombat game comes around.
2017 Supreme Mortal Kombat Champion
Finalists: To be decided by your votes!
The next Supreme Champion tournament is nearly upon us!
Injustice 2 has dominated the headlines for the year thus far, but the 25th anniversary of Mortal Kombat should lend a nostalgic perspective to the entire event, and yet bring surprising news.
This year the tournament bracket will be roughly divided into four sections reflecting different periods in the twenty-five year span of the series timeline! Drawing inspiration from Mortal Kombat, MKII-MK3, Deadly Alliance - Armageddon, and Mortal Kombat X, we'll see an eclectic mix of characters from all eras return to battle it out for fan supremacy!
Results from the previous years have once again changed the Top 16 ranks! These are the only fighters guaranteed entry into this year's draw, positioned at the ends of each bracket. For their results in recent years, Noob Saibot and Fujin will be our top two seeds despite being ranked #2 and #5, respectively.
We've already seen Sub-Zero revealed as an Injustice 2 guest fighter in Fighter Pack 1, with Raiden teased in the same trailer. As our most contemporary reference, how will the ripples of this new invention effect the fighters surrounding? Will speculation and wishful thinking once again overwhelm the legacy of Mortal Kombat X as downloadable content dominates the conversation?
To date, there have been no repeat winners of the tournament. Will the milestone of a quarter century of Mortal Kombat bring special renown to a chosen warrior? Times change! The only way to know what happens is to be in the Fan Koliseum this month when we ask the annual question: Who is the Supreme Mortal Kombat Champion? Vote and comment on regular polls to keep the flame of kombat burning!