After three long years, we've got Mortal Kombat sequel fever! At the behest of series director [Ed Boon]: we're counting down to June 2nd -- that's next Monday (if you haven't noticed)! It's also right around the time we've seen the unveiling of pre-E3 launch trailers for Mortal Kombat (2010) & Injustice: Gods Among Us (2012)!

Over 80% of the MKOmmunity is convinced the June 2 countdown will fulfil our desires. There are other theories and some new ideas, but with reported leaks and the general timing, we've got good reason to talk MK sequels!

As speculation about sequel content starts to mount; one of the leading queries is exactly which characters will make it back for another go around. By the end of the time distorting Mortal Kombat reboot plot -- a majority of Earthrealm's greatest champions were left for dead in the bowels of Netherealm! Last week, we looked at the Top 10 Replacement Kombatants Ready for a Comeback who could fill that void! This week; the Mortal Kombat Online Kountdown is turning an informed eye toward the survivors who could carry over into a next gen sequel!

With the previous game retelling a simplified and slightly altered version of the original trilogy: all signs are pointing toward a reprisal of the plot from 1997's Mortal Kombat 4. We eagerly anticipate the rise of fallen Elder God Shinnok -- whose evil plan appears to be going very well! Who will help or hinder the villain in this hypothetical sequel? Here are our Top 10 Returning Fighters from Mortal Kombat (2011):

Some kombatants didn't make it out of Mortal Kombat (2011) alive!

#1 Quan Chi

With Mortal Kombat 4 providing our strongest point of reference for a probable Mortal Kombat (2011) sequel -- Quan Chi can almost be considered the same calibre of no brainer as his master: Shinnok. Maybe more so, when you take into account his extensive presence throughout the plot of the last game!

Quan Chi was insinuated into the plot of each of the first three games -- all of which predate the creation of the character, and his game debut(s) in the intertwined MK4 & MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero. Back in those days: Quan Chi's ultimate goal was his own power play under the guise of servitude - leading to the infamous retrieval and exchange of an ancient, powerful amulet. The artefact was possessed by Onaga in later backstory, but is more ironically the source of power for: Shinnok. The ol' switcheroo for a duplicate would eventually allow Quan Chi to seize power in the original story, but not without some bumps along the way.

After pulling the strings throughout 2011, it would be preposterous to leave Quan Chi out of the action in a sequel. As Shinnok's man in the field, he's responsible for laying all groundwork for the imminent invasion from the Netherrealm! His omnipresence rubbed some fans up the wrong way, but it's fair to say it also secured him as one of the most recognizable characters introduced after the original trilogy. In that respect, he services an expectation of returning characters quite well. Even if that's only so you have an immediate go-to choice to beat the snot out of!

#2 Raiden

Raideeeen! You gotta lotta 'splainin' t'doooo! It's fair to say Earthrealm's protector came out looking worse for wear at the end of Mortal Kombat (2011). Having had the visions of Armageddon that prompted our time-twisting reboot - Raiden has struggled to orchestrate a better outcome for the universe. Shao Kahn's conquest of all things may have been averted, but the price has come at the expense of some of the worlds' greatest defenders. The thunder god can personally claim the accidental murder of Liu Kang among the many whose lives were lost as a result of his altered reality.

The original MK4 opened with Raiden feeling remorseful for the slaughter of his fellow gods, and his past failings that led to the death of a forgotten realm. He's got plenty to feel morose about in a sequel, and we can't shake the thought that he's probably on the same path to darkness that saw him using a zombie Liu Kang as a puppet during his alliance with the villains in Armageddon. That's reason enough to expect Raiden to stick around in the playable list, but we think he'll probably serve to rally a new crop of defenders before things get that dire.

The new timeline really positions Raiden at the centre of the plot. With some heavyhitting favourites down for the count (ie; Sub-Zero), we also expect iconic stalwarts like Raiden to bolster the playable list with a quotient of the familiar. There's every chance the fighters who died will find their way back in, but if they don't, we certainly believe characters like Raiden can provide a tournament-level throughline that satisfies a demand for consistency. If the next game goes beyond MK4 to reach Deception or even Armageddon the arc of the story only demands Raiden's presence even more!

#3 Scorpion

Love or hate him - Scorpion remains one of the most instantly recognized characters associated with the series. According to Ed Boon, Scorpion was even the highest selling downloadable content in Injustice: Gods Among Us. No mean feat when matched against DC fan favourites and feature film characters!

The ninja's plot of damnation and revenge is one of the best known stories in the MK canon, owing its extended life to a crucial development in Mortal Kombat 4 that revealed his true enemy: Quan Chi! That reveal remains pending in the new timeline, thanks to a significantly simplified version of his saga that kept him an ignorant servant of Quan Chi from tournament 1. It was a pared down version that couldn't owe its in-fiction context to Raiden's time manipulations -- but seemingly used the opportunity to smooth his story arc out. Erratic entry points into the action were ironed out, and the MK4 twist seems ready made to be a ticking bomb within the ranks of Quan Chi & Shinnok's Neathrrealm army. Sub-Zero may be dead, but this time around, we may see another component of the Scorpion rivalry be on-hand.

Mascot status alone is reason to expect Scorpion to be front and centre when the sequel arrives. He connects with a wide variety of players and fans, who've rebelled in the past when the character was absent (MK3), If Sub-Zero doesn't make it to the dance, then it's smooth sailing for the deadman. A character not nearly as stagnant as some would like to believe.

#4 Sonya Blade

When it comes to the heroes who starred in Mortal Kombat (2011), there's slim pickings for returning characters without some serious shenanigans. Only two of Earthrealm's chosen warriors were left standing when Raiden finished off Shao Kahn -- Lt. Sonya Blade of the US Special Forces was the more compelling of the two! We wouldn't discount the value of Johnny Cage as an MK original, but of the pair, it's Sonya who has the connections to make for the more noteworthy return.

In the original MK4; Sonya (and Jax) were forced to partner with Black Dragon nemesis Jarek in the name of the greater good. This invariably led to a trifecta of betrayals in alternate arcade endings that threatened the lives of one or more in the triangle of death. With arch-nemesis Kano still kicking around, as well as the various Black Dragon clansmen yet to be seen in this timeline -- we think that will be a very interesting dynamic to revisit and flesh out.

If the dead heroes find their way back into the plot, then we'll be interested to see Sonya provide a human perspective. The death of Jax is just the latest tragedy in Sonya's life, which could propel the story forward in interesting ways. In the event Kitana doesn't find her way back into the plot -- it will be Sonya who represents the fairer sex as the first lady of kombat. That in itself makes her a compelling choice for a return. The chance to install her as a senior presence amongst a new crop of chosen recruits -- also an interesting thought. One of the few 2011 story mode locks -- a must. (Fingers crossed we get a better design to go with that.)

#5 Noob Saibot

A prevailing theme in our previous Top 10 Kountdown was the desire to embellish Shinnok's army with more name value. Noob Saibot may have found his way into MK4 as a memorable hidden character, but his integration into the plot suffered as a result. A servant of Shinnok and The Brotherhood of Shadow since UMK3 -- Noob is a natural choice to join the other members of his Netherrealm clan when they wage their war against Edenia, The Heavens and anybody else who might be in their sights.

As a faceless, all black palette swap first seen as a powerful secret character in MKII -- Noob Saibot had a certain mystique and charm. When Deception dropped the bombshell of his true identity -- that of deceased Sub-Zero and Scorpion's arch-nemesis: Bi-Han -- the character had finally arrived. He received an update in 2011 - one of the best. It's easy to understand why Noob Saibot has been on the steady rise as one of fandom's cult favourite characters!

Refining what was already done very well would make Noob Saibot a welcome return to a sequel. With his allegiance to Quan Chi putting him directly beside arch-nemesis and revenge killer Scorpion -- he could be the component that completes one of MK4's most memorable plotlines in his brother's absence. Deadliest of enemies and slaves under Quan Chi's power -- but for how long?

#6 Rain

By popular demand, Rain found his way into Mortal Kombat (2011)'s first generation DLC program as the third of four characters in their Season Pass. If MK4 plotlines are to play out as originally depicted - Shinnok will be launching his campaign through the conquest of the realm of Edenia!

While it's Tanya who should arguably have the responsibility of inviting the devil into their realm -- it would be wonderful to see more Edenians involved in this plot. It wasn't until the Sega exclusive MK Gold that the heavily involved Kitana was instated as a playable character in the MK4 line-up. If that same predicament is reprised, this is another one of MK4's failings that can be a priority focus in the new version. Kitana, Sindel & Jade were all killed off in the last game. Shinnok's plot may ultimately circumvent the Edenian component -- but if it doesn't, Rain could once again be the recipient of some much needed character development.

Revealed to be a power hungry demigod in Armageddon -- Rain could further have a unique perspective if Shinnok is successful in launching an onslaught on the Heavens -- a major plot point in MK4. If Argus appears to offer name-gods as sacrificial lambs, then Rain has multiple personal stakes in the sequel conflict. A character who adds a unique gimmick to the playable roster.

#7 Cyrax

In the 2011 story mode, Cyrax appeared in his original iconic role as an automated killing machine programmed by the Lin Kuei clan. In one of the expanded plotlines of the mode -- Cyrax appeared in human form, revealing his reluctance to be a part of the cyber initiative. This plants the seeds for the story that unfolded in MK4 update - MK Gold - where Cyrax was famously recovered from the desert by the US Special Forces and freed of his programming!

With Jax among the dead, we'd love to see the Special Forces ranks replenished with this enjoyable storyline. In both timelines, the development has the benefit of diversifying both groups - Lin Kuei & Special Forces. It was a plot line cribbed from the original cyborg Smoke, but as we know of 2011 - Smoke never became a cyborg. Which really only makes it all the more available to be Cyrax' arc.

Cyrax's stock has been on the rise since his return in 2002's Deadly Alliance. Strong performances by tournament players gave Cyrax some solid competitive credentials. Live-action web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy upped his profile in one of the most broadly appealing episodes: the final of the first series. As a returning character, he's earning his place in the pantheon of classics. A unique playable option to bolster whatever sequel mix comes.

#8 Mileena

We don't really know what Shao Kahn's defeat means for the fate of Edenia. The paradise realm was conquered and merged with Outworld, but became separated as a result of Liu Kang's victory in the original timeline. Whatever the case, the royal lineage appears to favour Mileena.

As long as Kitana & Sindel remain dead -- Mileena has the genetics to claim Shao Kahn's throne, and the deceptive appearance to claim Edenia's. We weren't particularly fond of the 2011 reboot's retooling of the Tarkatan-clone daughter of Shao Kahn -- which included an infants personality -- but we'll assume that wouldn't stand in the way of this new take on Mileena's classic story.

Prolonged plot relevance could be an issue, but that goes hand-in-hand with voice actress Karen Strassman's resume update [full story] - which included a "Supporting" role for "Mortal Kombat 2". In the scheme of things, that could very well mean a playable appearance that features only a brief role in any story mode -- perhaps as an unlikely ally in the fight against Shinnok.

#9 Kenshi

The blind sword saint Kenshi was the second character included in Mortal Kombat (2011)'s downloadable content cycle. Introduced in 2002's Deadly Alliance, he has proved to be one of the most enduring characters introduced after MK3! The minimal nature of his involvement as a DLC extra only fuels the desire to see him playable and ready to go from launch!

If Raiden is recruiting heroes to replace the deceased chosen warriors, then you'd have to assume Kenshi is a natural. His stakes in the conflict may not be the most personal, but we don't know what to expect in terms of new characters, or new additions. In the original timeline, Kenshi found himself among the ranks of the Special Forces. We'd be happy to see that happen again, but also quietly hope more tailored rivals can be created to challenge him. If Kenshi does make a return, we could speculate Ermac won't be too far behind. It was the soul warrior who educated blind Kenshi in the art of telekinesis in the original timeline.

We liked what they did with Kenshi, but getting him into the main roster is a fine opportunity to play around with this character. With samurai warriors a trope unvisited by the Asian infused series, we might like to see something in that vein incorporated into main, or alternate designs.

#10 Shang Tsung

MK4 remains the basis of much of our speculation, but as noted at the end of the last kountdown -- there's every chance events from Deadly Alliance, Deception & Armageddon are incorporated into the sequel. We saw a playful "deadly alliance" reference during the story mode of MK2011, when Shao Kahn employed the combo of Shang Tsung & Quan Chi during his Outworld tournament. Could they reunite in an upcoming sequel to further the betrayal of Shinnok?

Impressions leave most believing Shao Kahn killed his sorcerer when empowering the resurrected Queen Sindel -- but Shang Tsung's mastery of souls is legendary. Was Tsung truly killed? Perhaps merely aged by the sapping of souls he'd consumed? If we're already considering the possibility of dead characters returning, you can bet we're investing in any shred of ambiguity that circumvents the need for resurrections.

Shang Tsung has been a favourite villain for the series throughout its long history. The kung fu sorcere of the original MK was a welcome presence in Mortal Kombat (2011), and could be a fun way to play with his appearances in the original sequels -- which saw him get younger with each outing. As a returning fighter, we'd be pleased to see him.

Narrowing the returning list to just ten was very difficult! We know we missed some very legitimate choices. Register to comment on the Top 10, share your own list, and join the speculation on the forums! There's just 1 week to go until the June 2nd countdown ends! Be with us as we anticipate the next big game from NetherRealm Studios!