- Mortal Kombat II: "After losing control of the Shaolin tournament, Tsung promises his ruler Shao Kahn to shape events that will lure the Earth warriors to compete in his own contest. Convinced of this plan, Shao Kahn restores Tsung's youth and allows him to live."
- Mortal Kombat 3: "Tsung is Shao Kahn's lead sorcerer. He once fell out of favor with his emperor after failing to win the Earth realm through tournament battle. But the ever scheming Shang Tsung is instrumental in Kahn's conquest of Earth. He has now been granted more power than ever."
- Deadly Alliance: "The sorcerer Shang Tsung was imprisoned in the depths of Shao Kahn's fortress, punished for failing to win the Mortal Kombat tournament in Earthrealm. Periodically, he was released to perform tasks for the emperor, until he eventually regained Shao Kahn's favor and was given his freedom. He remained in Outworld, risking his life to drain the souls of kombatants in order to sustain his youth. All this changed the day the sorcerer Quan Chi returned from the Netherrealm. Quan Chi proposed an alliance with Shang Tsung that will prove to be mutually beneficial. He offered Shang Tsung immortality by unlocking a portal linked to the Heavens. Shang Tsung would therefore have access to an unlimited number of souls to preserve his youth. In return, all Quan Chi required was Shang Tsung's assistance in transplanting warrior souls into the mummified remains of the Dragon King's army. Shang Tsung accepted this offer and the Deadly Alliance was formed."
- Armageddon: "In an instant, Raiden's blast destroyed us all! Our souls intertwined, we did battle in the ether. But I was drawn away by a magic more powerful than death. My essence returned to Outworld, where I found myself face to face with Shao Kahn! He was alive! Quan Chi and I had slain him in his fortress -- or so we thought. Yet here he stood. At his side was the Shokan prince, Goro! My ghostly visage startled them at first, but Shao Kahn knew what had transpired. Long ago I had pledged my soul to the emperor. That pledge was binding even beyond death. But if he were to die, so too would those who served him. At the time I believed it to be merely another empty vow, yet here I am. My soul has returned from beyond to rejoin Shao Kahn. He had need of me. But I required a host body in which my soul could reside. At the flesh pits, he forged for me a new body. It was weak and grotesque to behold, but it functioned well enough. I craved mortal souls to heal and fortify my new flesh. I found more than enough at a place all too familiar to me: the village where Li Mei was born. I consumed each peasant's life force as Shao Kahn and Goro slew them one by one. I was renewed! Shao Kahn then commanded me to aid him in an assault on occupying Edenian forces, in an effort to retake his stronghold. United once more, Shao Kahn, Goro and I laid waste to all who stood in our way! In a flurry of brute strength and magic, we forced our way up to the throne room. The door was reinforced by some magical spell, but it was no match for our combined might. With a final swing of Shao Kahn's hammer, the door was breached, and Shao Kahn was Emperor of Outworld once more. Though I am bound to him eternally, an opportunity has arisen that might give me the means to free myself. It seems Quan Chi has also survived death, and he has brought word from Shinnok of a plan to take a mighty power for the Forces of Darkness. If I claim that prize for myself, I could sever my bond with Shao Kahn! Until that time, I will continue to play my role as his servant and redirect any suspicions he may have of betrayal to others within our new dark alliance. Once I have the power and I am free of Shao Kahn, I will finish him and finally take the throne of Outworld for myself!"
- MK vs DCU: "A sorcerer who consumes the souls of his victims, Shang Tsung played host to the Mortal Kombat tournament in Earthrealm, stacking the odds in favor of the Emperor of Outworld, Shao Kahn. He was finally defeated by the Shaolin monk Liu Kang and has sought to regain the favor of his master, Shao Kahn, ever since. His hatred of Liu Kang runs deep, and he would desire nothing more than to consume the soul of the one warrior who denied him victory."
Shang Tsung's past remains shrouded in mystery, with his exact origins never specified and unclear at best. According to some sources, he was originally a human from Earthrealm. He participated in the Mortal Kombat Tournament, but he cheated in one of the battles. Breaking the sacred rules is considered treason against the represented realm and the Elder Gods, and so Shang was sentenced to death by the tournament judges. The Dark Emperor Shao Kahn took advantage of the evil in his heart and made a deal with Shang Tsung; that he would be spared if he swore allegiance to him. Tsung agreed and was taken to Outworld and was trained by the Emperor in the Black Arts.
When Tsung committed the atrocity of taking a soul, Shang Tsung was cursed by the Elder Gods not only to kill his enemies, but to take their souls as well. Only in this way would he hold off his grim fate: to age rapidly and die prematurely. As a side effect of his consuming the souls of others, Tsung was able to access their memories and knowledge, a happenstance which would greatly benefit him years later.
Tsung entered the Mortal Kombat tournament, quickly overcoming all competition and becoming Grand Champion. How long he retained the title is unclear; however the overconfident Tsung would eventually have it taken from him by the legendary Shaolin warrior monk, the Great Kung Lao.
Shang Tsung returned years later, now appearing far older, after the "mysterious" death of one of the tournament's three Grandmasters. He brought with him his greatest student: the Shokan prince Goro. He had been ordered by the ruler of Outworld, Shao Kahn, to finally bring about the winning streak in Mortal Kombat necessary to unbalance the Furies and weaken the dimensional gates, thus allowing the Outworld Emperor to conquer Earth. After a valiant but doomed fight, Kung Lao was defeated by Goro and killed. Tsung consumed his soul, and the Outworld's domination of the Mortal Kombat tournament had begun.
Shang Tsung made contact with another sorcerer, Quan Chi. He had become aware of Quan Chi's quest for Shinnok's amulet, the location of which was known only to the Shaolin Monks. As a result of consuming the Great Kung Lao's soul, Shang Tsung had learned of it. In exchange for Quan Chi's, and Shinnok's, aid in completing a task for the Emperor Shao Kahn, he gave the location of the Map of Elements – but failed to inform Quan Chi that no sorcerer could enter the Temple of Elements where it was stored.
Over the next 500 years, as Goro remained undefeated, the tournament fell further into Tsung's depraved hands. He became the sole Grandmaster, and the tournament came to be held on his private island – in reality, a zone in between Earth and the Outworld.
Near the end of this time period, Tsung learned of the swordsman Kenshi. Realizing that Kenshi's pride could easily be exploited, Tsung disguised himself as an old man named Song. He praised Kenshi for his ability, telling him that he deserved a sword worthy of his skill. He then led Kenshi through an ancient underground labyrinth, and stopped before a deep well, covered by a large stone. Tsung informed Kenshi that the sword lay within. Once Kenshi removed the lid, the souls of the swordsman's warrior king ancestors were released, blinding Kenshi. Tsung revealed his true self, proceeded to consume the souls, and left Kenshi to die, not knowing the swordsman would survive to become a bitter enemy. Tsung also sparred with Shujinko to determine whether or not he would allow him to enter the tournament. The spar ended in a draw with Tsung granting Shujinko permission to enter. Shujinko did not do so, as he was on a quest.
During the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament, the final victory that would enable Shao Kahn to conquer Earth, Liu Kang, a Shaolin Monk, defeated Goro, breaking the winning streak. Liu Kang then challenged Shang Tsung in Kombat to restore the honor of the once-sacred tournament; Liu Kang prevailed, and Shang Tsung fled to Outworld. Dragged before Shao Kahn, Shang Tsung begged for his life. He told the tyrant that if they challenged Earthrealm to Mortal Kombat in Outworld, they would have to accept or forfeit. Kahn agreed to this plan, and restored Tsung's youth. Meanwhile, the tournament served as a diversion, Shao Kahn could continue with his own scheme, after 10,000 years in the making: the restoration to life of his beloved former Queen, Sindel.
During the tournament, despite having his youth restored and after a long brutal fight, Tsung lost to Liu Kang, this time in front of Kahn. After Shao Kahn's defeat at the hands of Liu Kang, Shang Tsung finished the process of Sindel's resurrection with the aid of his cult of Shadow Priests. Thanks to the help of Quan Chi and Shinnok, her soul would indeed be resurrected – but in Earthrealm, and tainted by evil. When Queen Sindel was revived in Earthrealm, Shao Kahn could reach across the realms and reclaim her, forcefully merging Earthrealm with Outworld. Shang Tsung led one of Kahn's extermination squads to hunt down the fighters that Raiden had protected. Despite being granted more power than ever before, Tsung lost to Liu Kang again. Upon Kahn's defeat, Shang Tsung retreated with him back to Outworld, when the merger was reversed. Tsung would then be imprisoned and tortured for his failure to help his master merge Earthrealm into Outworld. He was periodically released to do Kahn's bidding, but was only released after regaining Kahn's favor.
A few years later, Shang Tsung found Quan Chi in his palace courtyard, fighting Scorpion. When Quan Chi defeated him, he gave Shang an offer: if Tsung helped him revive the lost army of the Dragon King by means of his ability to transplant souls, he would open a "Soulnado" to the Heavens, giving him an endless supply of souls to feed on. Tsung accepted, and together, they formed the Deadly Alliance. In order to carry out their scheme, however, they first needed to remove the two largest obstacles in their way: Shao Kahn and Liu Kang.
Shang Tsung introduced Quan Chi to Shao Kahn, vouched for his loyalty, and then they attacked and apparently killed him (however, Shao Kahn appears in the GameCube version of Mortal Kombat: Deception, and reveals that they merely killed a clone). After killing him and accepting Kano's offer to serve them, they traveled through a portal, known only to sorcerers and deities, to Earthrealm and headed to the Wu Shi Academy. There, Shang Tsung disguised himself as Kung Lao and approached Liu Kang. As Liu practiced his kata, Shang revealed his true form and attacked. Although Liu had the upper hand, Quan Chi struck from behind, giving Shang the opportunity to finally take his revenge on Liu Kang by breaking his neck and taking his soul.
Shang Tsung did not fully trust Quan Chi. Upon returning to Outworld, he gave the Oni Drahmin and Moloch, who had escaped from the Netherrealm, an offer: after Tsung performed his part in the plan, Quan Chi, who the two despised for abandoning them in the infernal pits after promising to free them, would be theirs to do with as they wished.
The Deadly Alliance soon commanded Kano's troops to force a small Outworld village to construct a new palace around the tomb to house the Soulnado. When one of the citizens, Li Mei, attacked Kano, they offered to free her village if she could win a tournament they would hold. About the same time, they approached Mavado, offering him a deal as well; he could earn the right to fight and kill Kano in exchange for eliminating Kenshi, who had been spying on Tsung. Mavado accomplished his mission, and the Alliance granted him his wish. Li Mei, having won the local tournament, demanded her reward, but instead Shang Tsung started transferring her soul to a mummified soldier of Onaga's army. It was at this time that the forces of Earthrealm, led by Raiden, attacked. Li Mei was rescued by Bo' Rai Cho, who escaped with her, but the remainder of the warriors assaulted the Alliance.
The duo defeated Earthrealm's champions and eventually triumphed over Raiden as well. Their victory, however, would not be savored. Shang Tsung's lust for power and Quan Chi's suspicion finally came to light. The two fought, and Quan Chi emerged the victor. But immediately after defeating Tsung, he was confronted by a reborn Onaga, who seemed to shrug off his most powerful blasts with ease. Tsung regained consciousness, and recognizing the Dragon King to be an immediate threat, assisted Quan Chi in attacking him. Bare moments later, the thunder god did as well, but their combined efforts could not stop the former Outworld ruler, who had come to reclaim Shinnok's amulet and his ancient army. In Raiden's ensuing last-ditch attempt at victory through a self-sacrificial blast, Shang Tsung was caught in the blast, killing him. The thousands of souls he had consumed over the years were released, including the soul of Liu Kang.
Tsung's own soul was magically drawn to Outworld, where he was delivered to Shao Kahn. Tsung pledged his soul to the emperor ages before; this agreement was binding, even beyond death. Kahn provided Tsung with a host body and then allied with him in taking his kingdom from Mileena. Although Tsung is bound to serve Kahn, an opportunity to free himself arises when he discovers Quan Chi is alive. Quan Chi brings word from Shinnok of a plan to take a great power for the Forces of Darkness, and Tsung realizes if he were to take the power for himself, he could sever his bond with Shao Kahn. Until his opportunity arises, Tsung continues to feign loyalty to the emperor while redirecting suspicion to other members of the alliance.
Shang Tsung is seen during Armageddon's Konquest mode. Taven spots the sorcerer forming an alliance with Onaga, Shao Kahn, and Quan Chi, so the group may prevent the Forces of Light from obtaining the power that Blaze possessed. Shang Tsung fights for the Forces of Darkness in the Battle of Armageddon.
While fighting against the Forces of Light, Shang Tsung was the one to almost reach to the top of Pyramid of Argus, only to be confronted by Liu Kang's corpse. Despite gaining the upper hand and throwing him off the pyramid, Liu Kang's corpse eventually caught up with Shang Tsung and held him in place with his hooks before he could reach Blaze. This caused Shang Tsung to revert back to his elderly form. He dies near the top of the Pyramid.
Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe
Shang Tsung is a prominent character in MK vs DCU, appearing several times and remains one of the few characters not influenced by the Kombat Rage until the very end of the game.
- Mortal Kombat II: "Shang Tsung not only turns against and defeats both Kintaro and Shao Kahn, he also takes over their rule of the Outworld. With Shao Kahn's armies in his command, he finally unbalances the furies, and weakens the dimensional gates between the Outworld and the Earth realm. Along with his elite group of sorcerers, he uses this weakness to march a never ending horde of demons into the Earth and doom its inhabitants to eternal darkness. Have a nice day."
- Mortal Kombat 3: "When Shao Kahn overtakes the Earth, he needs Shang Tsung to help locate the remaining humans. Granted new powers, he soon discovers his dark emperor's true plan: As soon as the remaining warriors are disposed of, Kahn will take Tsung's own soul. After learning of this, Tsung turns on his master. He catches Motaro off guard and then defeats Shao Kahn. But before the Earth can return to normal, Tsung takes all the souls as his own. He will forever rule Earth with his own brand of evil."
- Deadly Alliance: "The Deadly Alliance was successful in reviving the mummified remains of the Dragon King's undefeatable army. Shang Tsung, however, began to realize that his relevance in the partnership had evaporated once his talents for soul transplantation were no longer needed. The balance of power within the Deadly Alliance had seemingly been undone. Fearing betrayal, he secretly instructed Kano to steal Quan Chi's amulet in an attempt to gain control of the army. Since part of the soul-transfer spell included the command to obey 'He who possesses the amulet,' the army would obey only Shang Tsung, and not Quan Chi, once the amulet was in his possession. Amulet in hand, Shang Tsung revealed his betrayal to Quan Chi and commanded the army to destroy the sorcerer. Shang Tsung would succeed where others had failed. He would conquer the realms. He would conquer Earth."
- Armageddon: "Empowered by the godlike energy he received from Blaze, Shang Tsung found that he could alter the forms of others. Enraged that he was denied the prize, Shao Kahn charged the sorcerer. With a gesture of his hand, Shang Tsung transformed his former master into a centaur slave. Shang Tsung had become the ruler of Outworld at last."
- MK vs DCU: "Impressed with Captain Marvel's fighting ability but angered by his defeat at the hero's hands, Shang Tsung sought to create a race of super-warriors. They would have Captain Marvel's abilities, but would be a perversion of the hero's image. Through sorcery he combined blood from a torn piece of Captain Marvel's cape with the flesh of a Tarkatan corpse. Never before had his flesh pits echoed with the roar of such a monstrosity. With an army of Super-Tarkatans, Shang Tsung will be invincible!"