Like the mythic serpent Ouroborus that devours its own tail; so too has the story of Mortal Kombat begun to consume itself! According to the conclusion of the last game: Earthrealm's greatest mortals have been fatally decimated! It's a grim new reality brought by a time twisting tale that rewrote the saga of the original three games -- all part of Raiden's ultimate attempt to curb the race towards Armageddon.

Love or hate it -- the story of Warner Brothers' Mortal Kombat pseudo-reboot has brought us to a moment of unique anticipation: painfully familiar, but completely uncertain. Sequel plots aren't the only uncertainty, of course. We may be officially counting down to June 2nd -- but we still don't know for certain what NetherRealm Studios' next project will be!

80.6% of the MKOmmunity currently believe a sequel is on its way. Voice actress Karen Strassman's resumé seems to agree, but mixed sequel rumours persist. On Mortal Kombat Online we've got grand designs for a revolutionary next gen compromise - aaand nobody's quite sure what Kiefer Sutherland's talking about.

What we do know is that we're hungry for that next Mortal Kombat sequel! Since the 20th Anniversary (2012), it seems the most substantial offering was Scorpion Injustice DLC. Whether its revealed in June, or not, we're thinking about what's going to happen next! With all signs pointing toward a reprisal of the plot from 1997's Mortal Kombat 4 - we eagerly anticipate the rise of fallen Elder God Shinnok, and a war between Heaven and Hell with the realms caught in between!

Shinnok confers with Quan Chi in the final moments of Mortal Kombat (2011).

In step with its arcade contemporaries; Mortal Kombat 4 attempted to move things forward by introducing a swath of new playable characters. Its roster shake-up wasn't nearly as dramatic as '97s Street Fighter III or Tekken 3 -- but it does supply several unsullied fighters ready to return to the series!

Of the characters introduced after MK3 -- only Quan Chi & Kenshi (DLC) appeared in the reboot. We think there's a good chance they'll be back, along with many others, but for now we're narrowing our focus on the Top 10 Returning Replacement Fighters! Those are characters who missed the 20th Anniversary and haven't been played since 2006's Armageddon!

#1 Fujin
First Appearance: Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero (1997)

Given everything discussed in the open: We're going to consider Shinnok a no brainer for a big boss return. Keeping him unplayable in a next gen sequel would be a great opportunity to quell one of MK4's biggest complaints - whilst also restoring some mystique to the ruler in Hell. With the fallen elder god out of the way - our inevitable #1 Replacement Killer is Fujin!

The wind god is best recognized as a disciple of Raiden, whose cause he aided in the connected stories of Mortal Kombat Mythologies and Mortal Kombat 4. When Shinnok rampaged against the Heavens, Fujin stood steadfast beside the protector of Earthrealm! He even briefly assumed Raiden's post as guardian of Earthrealm when the thunder god was promoted to Elder God status -- a role he later relinquished! As a result, Fujin had to wait until Armageddon to get his next playable appearance, where he began to develop doubts about his long time ally.

Far be it from us to judge a god, but Raiden's efforts to prevent Armageddon seemed to come at an awfully high price! Single-handedly responsible for directing the demise of most of Earthrealm's greatest fighters -- including his personal execution of Liu Kang (by mistake) -- Raiden has never invited more doubt than now! If Shinnok is again successful in laying waste to the Heavens - we expect Fujin to be there fighting the good fight. More importantly, though, we hope he'll be keeping an eye on Raiden. 'Cause, between you and me, I'm just not sure about that guy!

Better still: Fujin's mastery of wind gives him an elemental distinction from other fighters. He doesn't just replace an discarded character, but offers NetherRealm Studios a chance to create a whole new experience! With the imagination they let loose in Injustice: Gods Among Us -- this returning God is a must!

#2 Tanya
First Appearance: Mortal Kombat 4 (1997)

Truth be told, Tanya left a forgettable impression in her first entry into the series. In a game criticized for its cumbersome arrival in the Tekken dominated polygon era; Tanya felt like a missed opportunity to break away from the increasingly tired aesthetic of 2D palette swap designs. Were her character more complex, design might not have been so damning, but her treacherous role was most adequately summed up by color choice: yellow.

So, what makes Tanya our second most anticipated Replacement Killer? They say time heals all wounds. When Mortal Kombat Online talked to series co-creator John Tobias, he spoke of the price of his expanding ambitions for the MK4 story [full interview]. We have to believe an MK4 do-over is another opportunity to right the wrongs of the past.

Tanya was a crucial element of the original MK4 story, facilitating Shinnok's escape from the Netherealm through the conquest of Edenia. Her turn from Edenian Ambassador's daughter to emissary of Shinnok is reminiscent of Rain's original UMK3 plot [a character we'd like to see Tanya interact with], but with so little of that story told during the 2011 reboot, there's room for Tanya to have the floor in her own story mode chapter. [Related: Tanya: Confessions]

She was originally introduced as a counterpart replacement for Mileena and we think she could serve a similar role again. Since Mileena survived the 2011 reboot, we're looking at Tanya as a potential playable replacement for Kitana. We aren't ruling out the Princess's return just yet, but we enjoy the meta-text of tournament players being pushed to choose her polarizing opposite.

We look to Deception & Armageddon for Tanya's last and best appearances. The benchmark for design is set there -- and after the pushback of MK2011's somewhat disappointing female character design, we hope they'll aim higher, taking full advantage of the privileged position of an Ambassador's daughter.

Tanya: Confessions - Brazilian comics told her story well. [Review: Issue #1]

#3 Kai
First Appearance: Mortal Kombat 4 (1997)

Much like Tanya; newly minted White Lotus Society member Kai was an unremarkable addition to the series in 1997. As an ally to Liu Kang, he served his purpose as the next generation of heroes, but as a substitute for White Lotus warrior Kung Lao -- he paled.

Absent from the series until Armageddon; Kai received one of the less successful revamps from the 2000s, appreciated, though it was. Like Tanya, however, we're putting our faith in the ability of the team to find gold in the vast untapped potential of the character!

Like MK4; we would expect Fujin & Raiden to welcome Kai into the heroes' fold. Given that Kung Lao & Liu Kang are both numbered among the dead, that may mean Kai once again carries the burden of being a replacement for iconic heroes -- but at least this time he won't be treading on the toes of the big hero of the series (Kang). Likewise, we hope that NetherRealm Studios can tap into qualities that make Kai unique. Generic martial arts fireballs gave him little appeal, but his hand walk stance opened exciting possibilities that a next gen sequel could finally cash in on!

At the end of the original MK4; Raiden gave Kai the ultimate honor of carrying his staff as he journeyed out into the world. That was actually a very cool moment, and something we might like to see happen again, especially if Raiden falls on his crazymofotimecop sword.

Furthermore, we'd like to see Kai revamped to address one of the biggest conundrums to face the series since the beginning! If Earthrealm is in peril -- where the hell is the rest of the world? A majority of Mortal Kombat heroes hail from the United States or China. Unravelling the Lin Kuei as a multi-cultural Chinese clan was one way to go about things, but embracing Kai as an African warrior would be a natural fit. In fact, a bit of research into African warrior culture would do the character a world of good!

#4 Reiko
First Appearance: Mortal Kombat 4 (1997)

Under the right conditions, we think Reiko could be a bit of a game changer. To explain, we have to flash back to home console versions of the original Mortal Kombat 4. It was then that Reiko arguably had his greatest moment: Walking through a portal in his FMV ending sequence to don the helmet of the thought-dead Shao Kahn!

If you weren't around to experience the furore of genuine theories, you probably can't comprehend how big a deal Reiko was. Before climate change or Creationism, there were the Reiko/Khan sceptics & true believers. Each was on a downward spiral toward damnation, but having fun all the while, I'm sure.

Cutting through the conspiracies seems logical, but that needn't mean completely disassociating Reiko from Shao Kahn. Fans have clamoured for a chance to play the unplayable boss of Mortal Kombat. We're inclined to agree with the decision to resist that -- Challenge Tower & PSVita not withstanding -- but a scaled down version in a sequel could be very palatable!

Reiko was, of course, originally introduced as a member of The Brotherhood of Shadow, and a leader of Shinnok's armies. Having him reprise that role in the next game is a no brainer. We liked his Kahn-inspired straps and armor in Armageddon, but would love to see a design that's consistent with that thought, but offers something new to the Netherealm hordes.

Reiko dons the helmet of Shao Kahn in MK4.

#5 Drahmin
First Appearance: Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002)

The scope of the Mortal Kombat 4 story was a saga unto itself, but unless you read the official tie-in comic, or sought out Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, you didn't really get a sense of it.

In MK4, the fallen Elder God Shinnok only had a handful of allies in the playable cast -- and half of those were motley pick-ups from Shao Kahn! We know Reiko (#4) led the forces of darkness in Shinnok's conquest of Edenia, and war on the Heavens. The comic at least gave those forces a sense of mass through throngs of demons, but come on. We want to see other warriors!

Drahmin served as Quan Chi's special enforcer in the lead-up to (and during) Deadly Alliance, helping keep a very cranky Scorpion off the sorcerer's tail. As of the end of MK2011's story mode, Scorpion is still working for Quan Chi, but if Sub-Zero can snap out of his deadite-cyborg funk and turn on his master, Scorpion will be ready to unleash hell on Quan all over again. Which might just make Drahmin a handy guy to have around!

Of course, with a nickname like "The Oni Tormentor" -- he'll probably be just as good at giving angels grief when Shinnok attacks the Heavens! All in all, it's a nice chance to revisit an old character, who contributes just as much by being an identifiable name in the Netherealm horde! We could have coupled him with MKDA tag team buddy Moloch -- who might be a good replacement sub-boss -- but of the two, it's Drahmin who has the most to offer as a playable character. Assuming, of course, NetherRealm Studios can cook up some interesting things to do with that big bloody club!

#6 Sareena
First Appearance: Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero (1997)

Once again: Team Shinnok is in need of greater representation. Who better to call upon than Quan Chi's personal demon assassins? Sareena is the most identifiable of a trio of characters who were introduced in Mythologies -- later becoming playable in a portable version of Deadly Alliance and 2006's Armageddon. Her plot is closely tied to the Sub-Zero bros, so while we're suggesting Sareena, we're also going to submit that this could be the perfect time for Kia or Jataaka to enter the fray.

In the original timeline, Sareena's flirting with Bi-Han (Noob) and later Kuai Liang (Cyber Sub-Zero) eventually led her to be granted asylum by the latter's new Lin Kuei Clan. Prior to that, she was just a demon clinging to the hope of humanity, serving Quan Chi as one of three deadly slave assassins ["slavssassins", if you will]. The potential subversion or adaptations of these storylines are many. If Sareena remains loyal she kicks some hero butt, or joins Quan Chi in a coup against Shinnok -- as was the style of the time (in MK4). Alternatively, it could this time be Sareena who rescues Sub-Zero, last seen enslaved as an undead cyborg.

With Kitana and Jade also out of the way, there's certainly room for Sareena, Kia or Jataaka to fill the void as counterpart playable options.

#7 Ashrah
First Appearance: Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004)

We've got a bit of theme going here and there's no good reason to break it. A couple of meagre additions won't cut it. The Netherrealm forces need to beef up a their playable list and Ashrah is another established demonette who can put a name and face to the playable cast.

It can be easy to forget, but Ashrah is a charter member of The Brotherhood of Shadow. Much like Sareena and her ilk -- Ashrah is a noted servant of Quan Chi, similarly interested in acquiring her humanity and independence. We also know that Quan Chi ordered her own sisters to kill her for defying an order. That sounds like a perfect plot for the untold tales of Mortal Kombat 4!

The best thing about including Ashrah in this game would be that it predates her appearance in the original timeline. This means there's a full story arc mapped out for her if they want it, and a chance to revamp the character in an unseen demonic form. It was during Deception she began to take on a more chaste, human appearance. It would be a lot of fun to see her dark side, before she began slaying demons with the Kriss blade!

Ashrah slays Noob Saibot to be freed of the Netherrealm in Deception (Arcade).

#8 Frost
First Appearance: Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002)

Even the most staunch fan of Frost would have to acknowledge she's a tough sell in a Sub-Zero world. For any of her idiosyncratic differences in play style, she's ultimately always going to be viewed as a lesser ice wielding warrior. Of course, in a timeline where neither Sub-Zero is active, that suddenly makes Frost a whole lot cooler.

First introduced as the winner of a Lin Kuei recruitment tournament, Frost had a natural aptitude for the kori arts. As her story unfolded, we learned she also had a lust for power, which led her to a self-made downfall when attempting to wield her new master's dragon medallion. Ordinarily, this kind of taint would probably lead Raiden to breeze right past her, but with most of his go-to heroes dead, and the world going to Hell, he might be inclined to overlook a few character flaws.

It seems kind of unfathomable that Mortal Kombat would wheel out a sequel without Sub-Zero. He's an icon equal to any other mascot and one of the most frequently featured characters, missing only Special Forces if you include both incarnations. Still, maybe that means he's ripe for a vacation. When Scorpion failed to show in MK3, there were plenty of disgruntled fans. At least Frost would soften the blow, offering up all the old favourites in a new package.

#9 Tremor
First Appearance: Mortal Kombat: Special Forces (2000)

For this year's April Fool's Day, we infamously cooked up a gag about a Special Forces remake. We're glad not too many people's feelings got hurt, but it was disappointing that so many dismissed it as a prank based purely on the notorious 2000 third-person shooter.

While it's true Special Forces wasn't a high point for the series, that doesn't speak to the quality of the idea. We chose MKSF for our April Fool in the hope it would spark debate and possibly begin a rethink amongst fans, who in many cases have latched on to the myth of the game, rather than the content itself.

We don't see a remake or sequel coming any time soon, but in 2012 we did see Tremor finally return in some fashion as a non-playable opponent in the PlayStation Vita version of Mortal Kombat [feature story]. A brown classic costume palette swap might not have seemed like much, but it's one of the rare times the character, or any Special Forces detail, has been referenced by the post-Tobias staff.

Tremor may look like an overgrown palette swap, but that's the premise of a character waiting to be revamped. As a Lin Kuei brute who defected to the Black Dragon Clan, he's a more unique alternative to Jarek, who essentially served as a Kano replacement in the original Mortal Kombat 4. In this timeline Kano's still alive and kicking, making Jarek a little redundant. Tremor, on the other hand, could easily serve as an adequate replacement for Jax -- his MKSF arch-nemesis who was killed in the last game. Having Black Dragon fighters join the fight against Shinnok would certainly carry over dramatic tension for Sonya (survivor of the last game) from MK4.

Fans have gravitated to the elemental connotation of the character, who otherwise really only used his bulk as a weapon. Earth-based attacks are as fine an idea as any to give him a greater sense of identity, but we'd leave it to NetherRealm Studios to tease unique fighting out of this cult fan-favourite. The work they did with Injustice grapplers like Bane and Solomon Grundy could be an exciting development for Mortal Kombat!

#10 Shujinko
First Appearance: Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004)

There were a handful of characters we thought about making our final pick, but like Special Forces; Shujinko is a character in need of a deep rethink. We believe he deserves a second chance to be a greater hero -- or villain -- than the last time.

Deception's Konquest mode tells Shujinko's life story, putting him in co-existence with major events from the Mortal Kombat timeline. We considered Blaze for a similar reason -- particularly given his importance to the Armageddon plot Raiden is trying to stop -- but Blaze would theoretically be a much more obtuse presence, given his ties to The Dragon King and Armageddon.

Of course, we've almost exclusively talked about a Mortal Kombat (2011) sequel in terms of the MK4 plot. It's worth remembering that the previous game condensed three whole games worth of saga into a single, simplified story mode. For all we know, the events of the next game could also take into account elements of Deadly Alliance, Deception, or even Armageddon itself -- the event that prompted this journey into a divergent timeline!

What ever the circumstances - Shujinko is there, or somewhere beyond. As a powerful fighter who believes he's serving as Champion of the Elder Gods -- it wouldn't be a stretch for him to wander his way into an actual fight against the enemies of the Elder Gods! Alternatively, we know he journeyed to the Netherrealm late in life, involving himself with the deceptive fallen Elder God: Shinnok. If he's destined to be a fool in any timeline, we could just as easily see Shujinko serving Shinnok! An especially delicious concept if he retained his Konquest-style borrowed move set -- a potentially sly reference to Shinnok's MK4 origins as a composite character.

Those borrowed moves could also play into his role as a Replacement Killer. Granted, very few of the characters he trained with, before or after the MK4 timeline, are dead. New timeline, new moves?

Shujinko absorbs the fighting techniques of other fighters.

It was tough to narrow it down to ten. Did we miss your favourite? Register to comment on the Top 10, share your own list, and join the speculation on the forums! Be sure to join us as we continue to countdown to June for the mystery reveal!