Mortal Kombat didn't rely on just good looks and gore for its success. Although the intense gore was a great way to attract attention, Mortal Kombat offered another side - an often-overlooked side - that kept people coming back for more: its storyline. The storyline of Mortal Kombat was one of the most elaborate ever seen in a video game. The following is the MK saga in its entirety, based on the storylines appearing in the Mortal Kombat fighting games (MK, MKII, MK3, UMK3, MKT, MK4) as well as Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero.
Before we start, one thing you must be aware of to understand the MK story correctly is that there has not been a real "winner" since MK1, so don't expect a specific answer to "who won which tournament?" The original MK was a tournament. MKII was not formally a tournament, but rather a plot to lure Earth's warriors to fight in Kahn's own tournament. MK3 was an invasion of Earth. And the beginning of MK Trilogy explained the origins of the MK tournament, how it worked and why it happened, rather than advancing the storyline (MKT took place during the MK3 invasion).
The story endings in Mortal Kombat 4 were "What if?" scenarios depicting the immediate events that would take place if the character were to win this war. The endings in the 2D Mortal Kombat games (MK1, II, 3, Ultimate, and Trilogy) generally gave you two things: a recap of the character's recent and/or distant past and a description of a "What if?" scenario for the character if he or she were to win. For example, the agreement in MKII between Scorpion and the young Sub-Zero never took place because it would only have happened if one of them had defeated Shao Kahn in the Outworld - neither of them did.
Because of Mortal Kombat's "What if?" scenarios, many people were confused about what really happened in the story. Because there was so much extra information that didn't apply to the true storyline, people developed numerous misconceptions, which lead to many debates on the matter. What we have compiled here is a focus on everything that we can deduce happened, given the storylines of consecutive sequels.
In the Mortal Kombat storyline, reality consists of many planes. Free-roaming sorcerers are able to travel these planes of reality without the elder gods detecting them. These elder gods exist in the heavens, watching as worlds are created and destroyed, governing them with eons of untold wisdom. On the living planet called Earth, there are many gods existing quietly without interfering with the everyday lives of Earth's inhabitants. And other gods are appointed by their elders to perform certain tasks.
A dead world called the Netherealm is used to contain unwanted spirits. It has been interpreted in many ways, and the inhabitants of Earth refer to it by many names, including Hell, Hades, Gehenna, and Pluto. The Netherealm has had many rulers in the course of its existence, most born within its fiery pits, eventually overthrowing their masters mercilessly.