The story mode of Mortal Kombat (2011) contains 16 chapters total, telling a cohesive story retelling the events of the first three Mortal Kombat games, with both major and minor changes. Each chapter focuses on a single character from the series (except Chapter 11, with Liu Kang taking the final fight), and contains a combination of fights and extended cut-scenes.
Below is a list that shows the chapters in order:
- Johnny Cage
- Sonya Blade
- Cyrax (human)
- Liu Kang
- Kung Lao (the final fight of this chapter is fought as Liu Kang)
- Cyber Sub-Zero
The story begins in the aftermath of the Battle of Armageddon, where nearly all of the kombatants have been killed. Only two kombatants are shown to have survived: the Thunder God, Raiden, and the Emperor of Outworld, Shao Kahn. Kahn had his powers increased by killing Blaze, and is currently engaged in a fight with Raiden where he easily gains the upper hand and taunts the Thunder God, destroying his medallion in the process. Realizing the battle is lost, Raiden gathers up the shattered pieces of his medallion and sends a cryptic message to his past self, including the words "He must win", moments before Shao Kahn delivers a killing blow on him.
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The message, along with a series of mental images, travel back in time to the events of the first Mortal Kombat tournament covered in the series. The Raiden from the past not only senses these visions, but also notices that his amulet is cracked. He thinks nothing of it at first as the tournament begins. Johnny Cage, after insulting Shang Tsung behind his back, is called forward by Tsung to fight Reptile and Baraka, both of whom Cage believes to be mere actors in costume. Cage defeats both opponents and is ordered to "finish" Baraka, but does not comply. Immediately afterwards, Cage is congratulated on his victories by Raiden who, along with Liu Kang, warns him that Earthrealm is in grave danger, but he does not take their warnings seriously. Instead, he leaves to try and ask Sonya Blade out on a date. Sonya initially refuses any attention from Cage, leading to violence between them. Kano takes advantage of this by throwing Johnny off a bridge and moving to finish off Sonya, but Johnny manages to fling himself on the bridge and defeat Kano. Sonya thanks him and reveals who Kano is.
She then reveals she is looking for her superior, Jax Briggs, who has been taken prisoner. She separates from Johnny to look for him, and finds Jax locked in a prison cell in Goro's Lair. As she tries to free him, Shang Tsung reveals himself and tells Sonya that he has been expecting her. She tries to tell him that she is not part of his plans and demands that he frees Jax, to which Tsung responds that Sonya is indeed a kontestant and that she will face Sub-Zero. After Sonya defeats the Lin Kuei assassin, Raiden appears and receives yet another vision, this time of Liu Kang defeating Shang Tsung. Believing this means something, he tries to prevent Sonya from attacking Shang Tsung, only to have Sonya attack him instead. After ordering Sonya to stop, Raiden assists her in freeing Jax by creating a blinding flash of light. As Sonya and Jax flee, they are confronted by Kitana and Jade, but Sonya manages to defeat them both. A helicopter arrives shortly afterwards, only to be blasted out of the air by Shang Tsung. He reveals that Kano is challenging her to kombat, and Kano mocks her for not having Johnny around to protect her. Sonya, however, easily defeats Kano and tries to take him into custody, but Shang Tsung intervenes. Kano then leaves with the sorcerer. Raiden, Liu Kang, and Johnny Cage show up, with the Thunder God using his magic to heal an injured Jax. Raiden tells the group that he has been receiving visions from the future, about Armageddon, and believes they must work to avert this tragedy, starting by winning the tournament. Johnny, Sonya, and Jax all agree to work with Raiden.
The next day, the revenant Scorpion is summoned from the Netherrealm to fight in the tournament. He expresses a desire to battle Sub-Zero, but is instead challenged by Kung Lao, who posed as a Masked Guard. After humbling Kung Lao in combat, Scorpion once again demands to fight Sub-Zero, but is forced to fight Nightwolf instead. Nightwolf tells Scorpion that his aggression is misplaced and that he should look for other ways to find peace instead of seeking revenge. However, Scorpion simply accuses Nightwolf of dishonoring his own kind and defeats him. Later, Raiden senses a vision that, if Scorpion kills Sub-Zero, a more dangerous threat will emerge. Raiden speaks to Scorpion and pleads with him to spare Sub-Zero's life on the condition that he will ask the Elder Gods to resurrect the Shirai Ryu if he does. Scorpion reluctantly accepts this agreement. The next day, Scorpion is taunted and harassed by Cyrax and Sektor, leading to Shang Tsung declaring that to be a challenge. Scorpion soundly defeats both in a 2-on-1 fight. Immediately afterwards, Sub-Zero shows up and taunts Scorpion, who responds by dragging him to the Netherrealm where they engage in combat. Sub-Zero is defeated, but Scorpion honors his agreement with Raiden and spares his life. Quan Chi, however, shows him images of the Lin Kuei's destruction of the Shirai Ryu, including one of Sub-Zero murdering his wife and child. Sub-Zero pleads with Scorpion and tells him the visions are fake, but Scorpion removes his mask with anger, and kills Sub-Zero.
A distraught Scorpion later returns with Sub-Zero's charred skull and spine, and leaves soon afterward. Raiden then speaks to Sub-Zero's former friend, Cyrax, who vows to make Scorpion pay. In the discussion, Raiden asks about the Cyber Initative, as well as questioning why the Lin Kuei participate in the tournament to kill Earthrealm warriors. Unfortunately, this conversation leads Cyrax to be ambushed later on by Baraka and Sheeva, who have been sent to kill him by Shang Tsung. Cyrax is victorious over both warriors, and confronts Shang Tsung as he is conversing with Sektor. Tsung scolds Cyrax for having jeopardized his plans by speaking with Raiden. Sektor nevertheless explains that Cyrax will continue his mission, which is to kill Johnny Cage. Immediately afterwards, Cyrax fights and defeats Cage, but refuses to kill him, leading him to rebel from his clan. Sektor confronts him over his disobedience, but Cyrax defeats him in the process and declares that he is done with the Lin Kuei.
Liu Kang emerges as the only Earthrealm warrior left in the tournament. Shang Tsung summons Ermac and has him fight Liu Kang, but Kang emerges victorious. Watching the fight, Kitana tells Tsung she will ensure Liu Kang doesn't reach the next match. While training for the next fight in the courtyard, Liu Kang and Raiden discuss the god's visions more, especially the sentence of "He must win!" Believing that "he" refers to Kang, he further encourages him. Later, Kang is ambushed by Kitana, but when he defeats her, he spares her life, even though Kitana asks him to kill her. Instead, he remarks that they truly had no encounter, and expresses a desire to meet her under more favorable circumstances. Kang later fights Scorpion and Quan Chi, defeating them both. He is then sent to Goro's Lair to challenge the reigning champion, Goro. After a long, hard fought battle, Kang defeats the Shokan prince. With this victory, Kang faces off against his last opponent: Shang Tsung himself. As Raiden foresaw, Kang bests the sorcerer, who concedes defeat, handing victory to Earthrealm. The Outworld warriors, along with Kano, leave through a portal, with Kitana taking a last lingering look before departing. Raiden and the other Earthrealm forces congratulate Kang on his victory, but to Raiden's surprise, his amulet cracks further.
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Back in Outworld, Shang Tsung is brought before the emperor. Shao Kahn is angry and orders Kitana to execute him. In order to save himself from being executed, the sorcerer quickly makes a new proposition to Shao Kahn.
Liu Kang is presented in a ceremony as the new champion of the Mortal Kombat tournament, with Kung Lao, Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, and Jax in attendance. At the celebrations afterwards, Jax is having a victory cigar while Raiden is confused as to why his amulet is still cracked. Raiden then takes notice of a revitalized Shang Tsung, where the sorcerer proposes an offer from the emperor: He proposes a single tournament, replacing the original system of ten, and tells Raiden if Earthrealm wins the torunament, Kahn will forever have to abandon his claim to Earthrealm. However, should Outworld win, Kahn will be allowed to merge Earthrealm with Outworld.
Raiden dismisses the offer, which results in the Wu Shi Academy being overrun by Tarkatan warriors. In the chaos, Sonya and the Shaolin Masters are kidnapped and brought to Outworld. Raiden receives another image, showing Liu Kang winning the new tournament. He decides to accept the challenge, but concludes that he must change the outcome of this tournament, as Kang's victory over Tsung had no effect. In Outworld, Raiden sends Liu Kang and Kung Lao to tend to their masters whilst he, Jax, and Johnny Cage begin the tournament. Jax steps forward to find Sonya, only for Shang Tsung to declare this as Jax volunteering for first kombat. The first round of the new tournament sees Jax defeating Baraka, but the tournament is briefly postponed after Reptile informs Shang Tsung of some "pressing matters". Raiden then teleports himself and the other Earthrealm warriors to the Armory after one of Raiden's visions reveals that Sonya was to be executed. Johnny Cage questions Jax about his relationship with her, to which Jax states that he is her commanding officer, nothing else. Jax becomes increasingly annoyed by Cage's gloating and they get into a fight, which is put to an end by Raiden. Jade appears soon afterwards, and demands that the three leave. Jax fights Jade and defeats her. After rendering Jade unconscious, Cage and Jax patch things up and the three continue their quest to find Sonya.
They eventually find Sonya tied to a stake by the Dead Pool, guarded by Sheeva and her minions. After killing one of the attacking guards and jumping over the rest of them, Jax fights and defeats Sheeva while Johnny and Raiden deal with the reamining guards. He then frees Sonya. Her wrist communicator picks up two tech readings from Outworld's shores. Since Outworld doesn't possess high technology, Raiden concludes that they might be helpful to look into, and goes with Johnny Cage to investigate one of the signals while Sonya and Jax take the other.
These two readings turn out to be the Lin Kuei warriors Smoke and the younger brother of Sub-Zero, Tundra, now taking up the mantel of his older brother. The two split up, and Smoke is accosted by Kitana, who orders him to leave Outworld. Smoke responds by fighting Kitana and defeating her. Afterwards, he makes his way to the Living Forest, where Kano is selling advanced weaponry to Shang Tsung. Smoke confronts Tsung and demands the whereabouts of the original Sub-Zero. Kano volunteers to take care of the Lin Kuei for free, but is quickly defeated. Smoke then confronts Shang Tsung again (who uses his magic to morph into Sub-Zero) and Reptile and subdues them both, only to be ambushed by Sektor, who is now a cyborg. He attempts to bring Smoke back to the Lin Kuei temple to undergo the same procedure. Smoke manages to defeat Sektor, but is overwhelmed by a swarm of Lin Kuei cyborgs, who show up to his place to take him back by force. Raiden, who received a vision of Smoke being turned into a cyborg, intervenes and takes the cyborgs out with a blast of lightning. A grateful Smoke agrees to join him and Johnny Cage in their quest, expressing fears that Sub-Zero may be in danger as well.
The younger Sub-Zero is ambushed by a cybernetic Cyrax, but manages to defeat him just as Jax and Sonya arrive. Initially believing him to be the original Sub-Zero, they eventually explain his death at the hands of Scorpion. The three then encounter Ermac and, in the resulting confrontation, Jax has both his arms telekinetically ripped off his body. Sub-Zero then engages Ermac in combat while Sonya tends to Jax. After winning, Sub-Zero tells Sonya and Jax a way out to Earthrealm while he goes to the Coliseum in the hopes of exacting revenge against Scorpion. Sub-Zero eventually reaches Shao Kahn's Coliseum and wants to face Scorpion, but is given a duel with Reptile instead. Emerging the victor, Sub-Zero once again demands Scorpion as his next opponent, to which Shao Kahn agrees. Quan Chi summons Scorpion from the Netherrealm and the battle begins. Sub-Zero wins the match, but before he can finish Scorpion off, he is attacked by numerous cybernetic Lin Kuei warriors, who offered their allegiance to Shao Kahn in exchange for Sub-Zero. Kahn allows this.
Since Kitana has been ordered to eliminate any Earthrealm intruders, she is scolded by Shao Kahn for failing to do her duty. As she leaves, the Earthrealm warriors follow her. After arguing with Jade, Kitana is confronted by Raiden and his allies. Determined to redeem herself to her father, Kitana fights and defeats both Smoke and Johnny Cage. Before she can finish them, Raiden stops Kitana and has a talk with her to help her understand her true nature, discussing her deceased mother, Sindel. To this end, he encourages her to go to Shang Tsung's Flesh Pits, a place she is forbidden to enter. As Kitana makes her way through the Living Forest towards the Flesh Pits, Jade reveals herself and pleads to Kitana to turn back by order of the Emperor. Kitana refuses and fights her, knocking her unconscious and then moving on. When Kitana finally arrives at the Flesh Pits, she discovers a series of clones designed in her image, but also sporting Tarkatan features. One of these clones, who looks exactly like Kitana, except for her eyes and mouth, wakes up. Believing it to be a monster, Kitana attacks it.
Shang Tsung then confronts Kitana and tells her that he made the clones in an attempt to "perfect" her. She then fights Shang Tsung, defeating him and informing Shao Kahn of his actions. However, the emperor not only praises Tsung, but reveals to her that he is not her biological father. Instead, she is the daughter of an Edenian king whose realm was conquered by Shao Kahn long ago, adopting Kitana as his own personal assassin after killing her real father. He then orders his minions to capture Kitana and take her to be executed, while demanding that his new daughter, whom he names "Mileena", be brought to him. Jade, overhearing Shao Kahn's confession, decides that to side with Kitana and free her.
On her way to the Tower where Kitana is being held, Jade knocks both Baraka and Sheeva unconscious and attempts to rescue her friend. However, Kitana urges her to find Raiden and request help. Jade escapes the tower, but Mileena teleports in, leading Jade to fight her. The Earthrealm warriors show up and Smoke, who mistakenly thinks she attacked Kitana, tries to defeat her, but fails to do so.
After Jade informs Raiden of Kitana's capture, Liu Kang and Kung Lao go to the Tower to rescue her, leaving the others to go to the Coliseum to take part in the tournament. At the Tower, they defeat Sheeva, Noob Saibot, and a vengeful Goro. Liu Kang and Kung Lao interrogate Goro, who tells them that Kitana is being held at the Coliseum where she is to be executed. With this information, they make their way to the Coliseum.
As they arrive, they find that things are going badly for the Earthrealm warriors. Smoke and Johnny Cage have been defeated, and Sonya and Jax have left Outworld. Shao Kahn demands that Raiden send in a champion, but Liu Kang, believing that he is not "He [who] must win", refuses to compete and goes to free Kitana instead. Raiden selects Kung Lao in his place. Lao manages to defeat Shang Tsung, Quan Chi, and even Kintaro, but is then killed by Shao Kahn by snapping his neck. An enraged Liu Kang, having already freed Kitana, challenges the Emperor and defeats him by punching straight through his chest, seemingly killing him. Kang is declared the winner of the tournament and, as they mourn Kung Lao, Raiden concludes that Liu Kang was meant to win after all, and that Shao Kahn was the one he was supposed to defeat. Despite this, Raiden's medallion cracks even further.
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Back in Shao Kahn's throne room, his minions discuss who should take his place. With the aid of Quan Chi's sorcery, however, Shao Kahn survives his injuries. Quan Chi also makes a new proposal to him - direct invasion of Earthrealm. This by itself is not possible due to the wards that the Queen of Edenia, Sindel, put upon Earthrealm when she committed suicide. Quan Chi is able to overcome this by resurrecting her, imbuing her with full loyalty to the Emperor. With the wards broken, Outworld begins a full-scale invasion of Earthrealm, overwhelming the conventional military forces of Earthrealm.
During the invasion, police officers Kurtis Stryker and Kabal are among those fighting a losing battle against Outworld's forces. Reptile attacks them on the rooftops, but Stryker manages to fight him off. Both men make their way to street level, where they encounter and defeat Mileena. Stryker and Kabal then watch a fight between Johnny Cage and Motaro from afar, which is interrupted by Raiden, who proceeds to kill Motaro to prevent Cage's foreseen death. Kintaro then appears and seriously burns Kabal with a blast of fire. After defeating Kintaro, Ermac appears and uses his powers to throw Stryker into a nearby Subway. Stryker defeats Ermac, and reluctantly agrees to join Raiden and the other Earthrealm warriors after Nightwolf finds him and informs him of the situation. When he returns to where Kabal was, Stryker finds him gone.
Kabal awakens in the Outworld, where Kano has revived him using Shang Tsung's magic and a respirator he created by himself. Kano tells him that with his new upgrades, Kabal can serve the Black Dragon again. Kano also confesses to selling weapons to Shang Tsung, leading Kabal to blame Kano for the Outworld attack. Kabal further insists that he has renounced crime and, after besting Kano in combat, demands that Kano take him to Shao Kahn. There, they witness Shao Kahn promoting Sindel to general of his army after Motaro's death after she volunteers for the position. Kahn drains Shang Tsung of all his souls, thereby killing him, and channels them into Sindel in order to give her more power. Kabal knocks out Kano using the hilt of his knife, but is then spotted by Mileena. She challenges him, with Noob Saibot joining her in the fight. After defeating both Mileena and Noob, Kabal makes an escape through the Earthrealm portal, where he encounters a now-cybernetic Sub-Zero. Kabal defeats the newly transformed Sub-Zero and knocks him unconscious. Afterwards, Sheeva appears and mistakes Kabal for a turncoat Lin Kuei cyborg. She attacks him, but is defeated. Then, Raiden arrives to invite him to join the other Earthrealm warriors, who have taken refuge in a nearby church.
At Smoke's insistence, Cyber Sub-Zero is brought to the Earthrealm warriors, after which Jax restores his free will by reprogramming him. Sub-Zero awakens and expresses guilt over what he had unintentionally done for Shao Kahn. Stryker suggests that Sub-Zero should return to Outworld undercover, to which Sub-Zero agrees. Sektor, however, immediately notices that Sub-Zero has been reprogrammed and takes him back to Earthrealm. After a fight, Sub-Zero subdues Sektor, hacking into his database and learning that Kano, Goro, and Kintaro have captured some soldiers at the clock tower, and goes to investigate. There, he freezes Kano and defeats the two Shokan along with Ermac, before freeing the soldiers. They inform him that they were to be taken to a cemetery, and Sub-Zero makes his way there. He then discovers Quan Chi preparing a spell to create a soulnado. He is soon confronted by Noob Saibot, who reveals to him that he is, in fact, his late brother Bi-Han, the original Sub-Zero resurrected by Quan Chi, but promptly relinquishes all former family ties.
Sub-Zero manages to defeat his brother, but is unable to prevent Quan Chi from completing his spell in time. Nightwolf arrives to help, defeats Quan Chi, and knocks Noob Saibot into the soulnado, seemingly killing him in the process and destroying the soulnado as well. Nightwolf returns to the church and informs the others that Earthrealm's souls are now safe. To Raiden's frustration, his amulet cracks further. In response, he and Liu Kang decide to appeal to the Elder Gods. As they leave, however, the rest of the Earthrealm warriors are ambushed by Sindel and the Lin Kuei. Although they are able to defeat the Lin Kuei cyborgs (Cyrax and Sektor among them) with relative ease, they are overwhelmed by a newly empowered Sindel. She single-handedly kills Kabal, Stryker, Sub-Zero, Jax, Smoke, and Jade, and severely injures Nightwolf, Johnny Cage, Sonya, and Kitana. Before Sindel can finish off her own daughter, Nightwolf engages her in a fight.
Meanwhile, Raiden and Liu Kang try to convince the Elder Gods to intervene, but the Elder Gods refuse, stating that Shao Kahn has not broken any rules and that invasion of another realm by itself is not a violation. Having achieved nothing, Raiden and Liu Kang return to Earthrealm just in time to witness Nightwolf sacrificing himself to kill Sindel. Sonya and Johnny manage to recover, but Kitana succumbs to her injuries and dies in Liu Kang's arms.
The now desperate Raiden decides to form an alliance with Quan Chi, but is forced to go alone after a grieving Liu Kang, who is disillusioned with Raiden and believes him to have gone mad, refuses to come along. As Liu Kang tends to Cage and Sonya, Raiden travels to the Netherrealm and, after fighting off Scorpion, confronts Quan Chi, offering him the souls of all the fallen warriors, including his own, in exchange for his co-operation. However, Raiden soon reveals that Quan Chi has already obtained all the souls of the Earthrealm casualties (Kung Lao, Smoke, Sub-Zero, Jax, Kitana, Nightwolf, Jade, Kabal, Sindel, and Stryker) as part of his deal with Shao Kahn, and sets them on Raiden. During the encounter, however, Quan Chi indirectly reveals to Raiden that "He must win" in fact refers to Shao Kahn - if he is allowed to merge Earthrealm and Outworld without ten consecutive victories in Mortal Kombat, he will have violated the rules set by the Elder Gods and be punished.
Raiden quickly returns to Earthrealm to find that the merger is nearly complete. He explains to Liu Kang that they must allow Shao Kahn to merge the realms, but Liu Kang does not believe this and tries to attack Shao Kahn prematurely, forcing Raiden to fight him. Liu Kang, infuriated by Raiden's actions, attempts to kill him, but Raiden creates a shield of electricity in defense. Unfortunately, when Liu Kang's fiery fist makes contact, it accidentally causes a backlash, burning and electrifying Liu Kang, much to Raiden's horror. Raiden begs Liu Kang to forgive him, only for him to say "you...have killed us...all..." before dying. Cage and Sonya show up and attempt to defeat Shao Kahn together, but are quickly incapacitated. Raiden, realizing there is nothing more he can do to stop Shao Kahn, surrenders himself. Shao Kahn beats Raiden into submission in the same way his future self did, but before he can land the killing blow, the Elder Gods possess Raiden's body.
Infused with their power, Raiden battles and defeats Shao Kahn. The Elder Gods then attack Kahn and destroy him as punishment for breaking the rules of Mortal Kombat before returning to the heavens. Earthrealm is returned to normal and the cracks in Raiden's amulet disappear, signaling that he has, at long last, prevented Armageddon. After grieving over the massive casualties in the aftermath, Raiden decides to help restore Earthrealm and teleports himself, Cage, Sonya, and Liu Kang's body away. Quan Chi is then revealed to have been acting on the orders of his master, the fallen Elder God Shinnok, the whole time. With both Earthrealm and Outworld severely weakened, Shinnok declares that he will soon be free and that both realms will soon be theirs.