The gaming industry is no stranger to convoluted storylines, with series like Metal Gear Solid and Xenosaga leaving many fans scratching their heads. If there’s one corner of gaming with more incomprehensible story arcs than all the others, it’s the fighting genre. They often feature a roster of dozens, each with their own motives, origins, endings, and relationships with other characters. Mortal Kombat can be one of the most confusing, with its numerous realms, powers, alternate storylines, and return appearances of seemingly dead characters. Even though I’m a lifelong fan of the long-running series, I wasn’t even sure who actually won the various Mortal Kombat tournaments in the canon. After doing some internet scrounging consisting of YouTube videos, fan forums, wiki entries, and more, I'm closer to understanding who the victors of Mortal Kombat’s many games are. Here’s what I found.

Note: I didn’t include MK vs. DC Universe, as it isn’t canon. Also, some of the games didn’t feature the typical “tournament” format. In these cases, I just listed whoever killed the evil sorcerer/emperor/necromancer/dragon guy/god at the end.

Mortal Kombat 1 - Liu Kang

At the outset of the first Mortal Kombat title, Goro was standing as the reigning Mortal Kombat champion for 500 straight years (after defeating the Great Kung Lao). Shang Tsung was basically the Bobby "The Brain" Heenan to Goro's Andre the Giant, and was using the big guy to create enough chaos on Earthrealm for Outworld to conquer it. The Shaolin monk Liu Kang recognized this threat, and entered the tournament in an effort to thwart Shang's plan. Kang successfully defeated the four-armed beast, and went on to take down Shang Tsung himself. Afterwards, he rode off into the sunset to hang out back at the Shaolin temples, presumably to never again worry about having his spine ripped out of his body.

Mortal Kombat II - Liu Kang

Surprisingly enough, Liu's attempt at a peaceful retirement didn't go as planned. You see, Outworld's emperor Shao Kahn was none too pleased with Shang Tsung's failed takeover of Earthrealm, and sentenced him to death. In desperation, Tsung begged Kahn to let him lure Earthrealm's warriors to Outworld for the next Mortal Kombat tournament. The emperor accepted, and restored Shang Tsung's youth. The Thunder God Raiden is informed of the next tournament, and he gathers the kombatants in preparation for the tournament in Outworld. Despite his wishes for peace, Liu Kang finds his Shaolin brothers slain by a horde of Tarkatan (the spiky-toothed race that Baraka belongs to). Now on a quest for revenge, Liu Kang convinces his fellow monk Kung Lao and actor buddy Johnny Cage to travel to Outworld with Raiden and the rest. There, Kang wins his second consecutive tournament by defeating Shao Kahn and his Shokan bodyguard Kintaro.