The Ultimate Mortal Kombat Rivalries Tier List
Ranking the most intriguing Mortal Kombat rivalries
You cannot have a story as enduring as Mortal Kombat and not have a few rivalries here and there. There are rivalries in almost every story, but due to the nature of Mortal Kombat, each rivalry is pretty deadly, and the characters involved more or less want each other dead.
However, not all Mortal Kombat rivalries are created equal, and while we have some pretty sick rivalries from the Mortal Kombat universe, there are others that aren't quite as feisty. Therefore, we'll take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Rank- Why do you even exist (F)
Look, I get that Kitana has had a difficult time of things and Sindel is no angel especially with how devoted she is to Shao Kahn and also how indifferent she is to the fate of her daughter, but in the grand scheme of things, this is a pretty tame rivalry that the story could well do without. Of course, this is simply an opinion but a Sindel/Kitana fight has never really appealed to me.
Rank- Pretty Awesome (A)
Fighting games have never really been known for their storytelling prowess, but with the advent of Mortal Kombat 9, that changed for the Netherrealm title. Apart from resetting the timeline and delivering some decent storytelling, we were also introduced to one of the most intriguing Mortal Kombat rivalries—Mileena vs Kotal Kahn. The former is a clone of Kitana and is essentially Shao Kahn's daughter. The latter is an Osh-Tekk warrior who is seeking to take control of Outworld after the death of Shao Kahn. He is known as a benevolent ruler who believes in honor and is respectful towards his opponents. Meanwhile, Mileena's claim to the throne is being the daughter of the former emperor which makes sense when you think about it. Their struggle for the throne made up a chunk of the Mortal Kombat X story and as a pair of rivals, they are pretty awesome since their story contains all the intrigue and drama you would expect from a royal rumble.
Liu Kang/Kung Lao
Rank- Meh (C)
I'm an anime fan. Therefore, I am no stranger to friendly rivalries. They are quite common in shonen anime and they can be pretty cool when they are well written. For Liu Kang and Kung Lao, their rivalry is based on their relationship as friends and the normal motivation to be better than the other. Considering the stakes in the world, you can understand how much more pressure is put on them to become stronger. That said, their chemistry was never really one of my favorite things and they were a tad too nice to one another for me to seriously consider their rivalry. So, while I think their friendly competition is necessary to the story, it doesn't move me either way.
Rank-Decent, but could use some sauce (B)
If Liu Kang and Kung Lao possess a friendly rivalry, Sonya Blade and Kano are sworn enemies. A member of the special forces, Sonya makes it her business to chase bad guys and make sure they are duly punished. On the other hand, Kano is the leader of the Black Dragon, a criminal organization with ruthless members. On the face of it, this seems like the typical good guy vs bad guy schtick, but there is a reason Sonya really, really hates Kano and this is because the latter caused the death of her former partner. This is one of the oldest Mortal Kombat rivalries as it started in the first game and has endured through the years. It didn't help that the two of them were imprisoned by Shao Kahn for the entirety of the second MK game. When they met in MKX, it took the intervention of Johnny Cage to stop Sonya from killing her sworn enemy. At this point, you might be wondering why I have my rating at a B. Well, the reason is simple: Sonya Blade vs Kano just isn't intriguing enough to really get people excited about it. In fact, the reason the two were left out of Mortal Kombat II is that they were the least liked fighters at the time.
Liu Kang/Shang Tsung
Rank- Decent, but could use some sauce (B)
Liu Kang vs Shang Tsung was the most difficult match-up in the first Mortal Kombat game. Shang Tsung took an interest in Liu Kang after seeing the latter's skill, but soon came to hate his guts and suffering defeat at his hands. The truth is, if not for Liu Kang's triumph, Shang Tsung would have succeeded in his mission to conquer earthrealm. However, after the Liu Kang vs Shang Tsung match, this became impossible. This is a pretty decent rivalry, but it is also pretty generic. For the most part, it is simply the main protagonist going up against the main antagonist of a story.
Rank- Pretty Awesome (A)
These two took sibling rivalry to the next level. While we all know that Kitana isn't Shao Kahn's daughter, this wasn't revealed till later and at the beginning of the story, it was believed that Kitana just had a really crappy family. Mileena is also not the daughter of Shao Kahn, but she and Kitana are similar in many respects. The truth is, Mileena was created to be just like Kitana and because both struggled for affection, it was only natural that they hated each other. What makes this rivalry pretty awesome is that it was never used to define them. Sure they hated each other, but they were so much more than squabbling siblings, and this merits extra points in my books.
Rank- Pretty Awesome (A)
This is the quintessential battle between good and evil. Raiden is a thunder god who yearns to do good (he screws up A LOT) while Shao Kahn is a tyrannical ruler who just loves power. The two are naturally at odds and seek to end each other. This is a pretty awesome rivalry based on the caliber of the characters and the strength both possess. Sure, Shao Kahn got his ass handed to him by Liu Kang, but that's simply because Liu Kang was running on protagonist juice.
Rank- Decent, but needs some sauce (B)
Johnny Cage vs Goro is probably the most memorable fight from the abysmal Mortal Kombat movie and while the games haven't really gone into it, it's still one of the more entertaining Mortal Kombat rivalries. Goro broke Johnny Cage's iconic sunglasses and this did not go well with the actor at all. This is a rivalry that requires more sauce simply because we have seen so little of it. It'll be interesting to see how it can be continued if the characters appear in the same game again.
Rank- Meh (C)
Sub-Zero vs Frost is the classic student vs teacher trope we see in so many stories. Sub-Zero is now the leader of the Lin Kuei while Frost was his faithful if overly ambitious sidekick. As time went on, Frost became dissatisfied with her master's penchant for doing good and decided to ditch him. Frost isn't the most compelling character and her petulance doesn't add much to the rivalry, hence the somewhat low score.
Rank- god-tier Rivalry (S)
Is there even a Mortal Kombat franchise without this great rivalry? this is easily the greatest of all Mortal Kombat rivalries. Sub-Zero and Scorpion are from rival ninja clans, and Scorpion bore a grudge against our iceman here due to the erroneous belief that the blue ninja was responsible for the death of his clan. In truth, Scorpion was manipulated by Quan Chi to sow discord between the two ninjas. It worked. Scorpion eventually killed the first Sub-Zero, Bi-Han. This then led to the second Sub-Zero, Kuai Liang to go after Scorpion in the second Mortal Kombat game. The beef has since been squashed ever since it was discovered that Quan Chi was the real culprit, and this created another rivalry between Scorpion and Quan Chi. However, even after all this time, people will always talk about Sub-Zero vs. Scorpion as the craziest battle in Mortal Kombat.