Mortal Kombat X is right around the corner and now we finally know the full roster. Plenty of familiar faces return and a handful of brand new ones are introduced. Most people are pretty happy with the characters chosen, but obviously not everyone could make it in. This is the tenth installment and the franchise has accumulated a stable of over 60 playable characters in its run, so clearly some fans were bound to be disappointed and a lot of characters were bound to be left out. There are a lot of characters in the franchise that nobody wants to see return, and I agree when it comes to most of them but a few make me scratch my head. With that said, we are about to look back on ten of the most underrated character in Mortal Kombat history.
Kurtis Stryker is easily the least popular of all characters from the “Klassic” era (1-3), and on some level I can see why. Mortal Kombat’s roster is host to ninjas, robots, and otherworldly sorcerers and here comes Stryker…a cop. His initial incarnation got overshadowed by these more fantastical characters, but 2011’s reboot did a lot to make him more interesting. There’s something nice about seeing this average Joe being put up against the odds to defend his home. Stryker is totally outclassed by guys who can shoot fireballs or freeze people, but that’s what gives him a little bit of charm. Stryker represents the ‘every man’ and I dig that about him.
Shinnok was the boss of Mortal Kombat 4 and to most people he was a poor replacement for Shao Kahn. But this had more to do with his execution than the actual character, though. Shinnok is a fallen Elder God, invading and attempting to take over from the Netherrealm, the MK Universe equivalent of Hell. He’s a powerful character, but when it came time to design him for the game they dropped the ball. Instead of a unique and interesting move set he just became a poor man’s Shang Tsung. All he did was copy moves from other characters and didn’t get any signature moves of his own. On top of that they made him playable, something the MK games hadn’t really done before, save for a very few exceptions. Given that he is returning in Mortal Kombat X the game developers might be able to fix their mistake this time around. We’ll see how it pans out.
It’s news to approximately no one that the 3D era of Mortal Kombat games was a huge low point in the series. There were radical changes in the gameplay and a lot of the new characters were met with a negative reaction. Even to this day most of these characters are disliked. Personally, I think a lot of them have potential to be redone in a more interesting manner. Much like with Shinnok, it’s all in the execution. Li Mei has some potential mainly because she’s basically a blank slate. Her biggest crime is that she’s boring, but what interests me is that she’s a noble character from Outworld, the realm where all of the villains come from. This leads to an interesting perspective that we don’t really get anywhere else and if that were explored more she could be something really unique. As it stands she’s basically just a rejected Dead or Alive character, but with some retooling they could make her a lot more interesting.
I feel sorry for Motaro. He was doomed from the start. They took a big risk with including such an inhuman character as the sub-boss of MK3 and while that made him stand out it’s also the reason he’s been short changed ever since. The shift to 3D gameplay and graphics has made it nearly impossible to involve him in any of the more modern games without completely changing him, but if you do that then what’s the point? Just taking a look at his inclusion in MK Armageddon shows how much is lost by removing his back legs. Even in MK 2011 he’s been reduced to a background character. I’ve always liked him and his design, but I fear he’ll never make a proper return.
Introduced in MK Deception right in the middle of the 3D era, Ashrah is another one of those characters with a backstory that’s more interesting than she is. Plagued by a mediocre design and a lackluster move set, Ashrah is a demon from the Netherrealm on a quest for redemption. Not only that, but she hunts demons with a blessed sword called a Kriss. Sure, the magic sword bit was done better just one game before with Kenshi, but I love the demon angle with her. If they gave her a look that didn’t just make her seem like She-Raiden and gave her some specials that actually reflected her demonic origins then she could be a really intriguing addition.
Reiko has seen a small surge in popularity as of late due to his recent stint in the MKX comics, but aside from that he’s one that seems to be pushed to the side and forgotten about. In his debut in MK4 he was mysterious and had an ending that had many people speculating that he was Shao Kahn. That theory has since been debunked with his serving only as a warrior “who likes to wear Kahn’s helmet,” but there’s something there that could be interesting. I would love to have Reiko in a game with Kahn where he serves as the Starscream to Kahn’s Megatron. He would be his right hand man that is just waiting for a moment where he can betray him and take the throne as his own. You can see shades of this in the aforementioned MKX comics, but I’d love to see it fully fleshed out in one of the games.
Deadly Alliance dropped the ball with the final boss hard by not even including one. Instead of some big cool enemy that you defeat at the end you have to fight Quan Chi and Shang Tsung, two playable characters that have been around for a while now. Fortunately, Deception didn’t make that mistake. Instead, they gave us Onaga, the Dragon King. This was easily one of the best decisions they made with that game and the way they set him up in the previous title was brilliant. Unfortunately he came around in that dreaded 3D era and since the games themselves were bad Onaga tends to be forgotten about. Really though, I wouldn’t mind seeing him make a return. He is the original ruler of Outworld, after all.
In much the same boat as Onaga, Havik was a great character that debuted at the wrong time. Included in a thinly veiled attempt to add characters from extra realms you could explore during Deception’s Konquest mode, Havik somehow ended up with a really creative move set and look. He’s basically an anarchist zombie that breaks his own bones to attack you. What’s not to love? His backstory isn’t anything particularly special, but there’s room to improve on that. He’s already got the things a character in a fighting game needs to stand out so I would love to see where they can go with him and exactly how far they could push the idea.
Drahmin is one of creative director Ed Boon’s least favorite characters in MK history and I just don’t understand the hate. Drahmin is an oni demon with a magic mask and a club for a hand. He’s skinless and gross and has flies buzzing around him, and this design screams Mortal Kombat. There have been plenty of bland, boring, and downright awful characters in Mortal Kombat history. So many that you could begin to forget many of them as they all blur together, but at least Drahmin stands out. His story isn’t anything special, serving more as a lacky on par with the likes of Baraka and Reptile than anything fully fleshed out, but I’m alright with that. If he has an iconic design and a decent set of creative moves then I’ll be fine having him stick around. He’s not even high on this list because I think he’s a great character, I just think he doesn’t deserve the hate he gets. Drahmin is fine, but if you listened to some of the reactions you’d think he did more to ruin MK than the second movie did.
Introduced around the same time as Shinnok and Quan Chi it is absolutely baffling to me that Fujin was not included in Mortal Kombat X in more than a mere cameo. Being the only other god on the roster aside from Raiden and having a wind powered move set could lead to some really interesting stuff. Hell just watch one season of Avatar: the Last Airbender and you’ll see possible specials for days. This is a character I have always liked and it seems that Netherrealm have just forgotten about him. He makes the top spot because I just cannot understand for the life of me why he’s fallen into obscurity. He is easily the character with the most potential in a fighting game due to the nature of his powers.