Remember Mortal Kombat? I'm not referring to the many Mortal Kombat games, but the actual Mortal Kombat tournaments within the games. I'm sure you remember the lore; every fifty years Outworld challenges the Earthrealm to the Mortal Kombat tournament as part of a bid to invade and conquer our tranquil planet. Earth's best combatants fight for the honor and glory of our realm against horrible monsters and beasts. If Outworld wins the tournament ten times in a row, its emperor Shao Khan can launch his invasion. So, with all of these Mortal Kombat tournaments happening in the various Mortal Kombat games, who actually wins each one? In terms of the overall arcing storyline, who is the triumphant Mortal Kombatant? Dan Ryckert over at Game Informer has braved sequels worth of continuity lockout to determine the winners.
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.
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.
It gets a little murky after that as new characters pass in and out of the overall Mortal Kombat storyline and the backstories of key characters are rewritten to suit new plot events. Personally, I lost track of who was doing what after Mortal Kombat 3. A year or so ago I read up on Wikipedia to see what had happened in later games such as Mortal Kombat 4, Mortal Kombat: Deception, and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon and found that even with footnotes, I had no earthly idea what the hell was going on in the world of Mortal Kombat. I would say that this is what happens when one steps away from a franchise for a decade, but considering that the most recent Mortal Kombat title for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 purposefully reset and rebooted the saga with time travel, I'd say that the creative time behind it all knew just how convoluted and confusing things had become and decided to cut bait and start fresh with the familiar and well-known elements in place.