Mortal Kombat 1 has a diverse roster of fighters that can be difficult for beginners to understand when trying to select the best character to take into the game’s notoriously bloody battles. Ranging from ice-cold ninjas to sand-bound keepers of time, there are plenty of combatants that have their own unique fighting styles. For those with little to no fighting game experience, there are some characters that are far easier to understand.
Keep in mind that the best character to pick is the one that resonates with you the most, no matter what challenges are connected to the fighter. Mortal Kombat 1 has many Tutorial and Practice modes that will help you learn without the stress of taking on a human opponent. Take your time and maybe go into the Story Mode to get a feel for the basic mechanics and unlock the hidden character Havik.
The green-clad ninja returns to Mortal Kombat 1 with attacks that shift between an agile human form and a lethal reptilian form tied to Reptile’s Outworld species, the Zaterran. This character has a little bit of everything, including long-reaching normal strikes and special moves that can catch your opponent off guard. Despite having lower damage, stand-out moves like Death Roll and Force Ball allow for quick and reliable combos.
The lieutenant to General Shao, Reiko, comes equipped with disjointed strikes that hit from a far greater distance than you might expect, allowing you to fight at many distances. A slow character designed to grapple opponents, Reiko may struggle against certain characters that throw a lot of projectiles. Thankfully, special moves such as Charging Pain allow you to close the distance, sliding across the ground to tackle your foe into the dirt.
The princess of Outworld returns to Mortal Kombat 1 with her iconic razor-sharp fans, which are some of the best tools in the game for fighting at mid-range. Many of Kitana’s attacks advance her forward, which pairs well with the projectile attacks from her fans that will convince opponents to get closer. Capable of knocking characters up into the air for simple combos, Kitana only lacks in good damage when compared to others.
7 Li Mei
Li Mei, an obscure 3D-era character from the Mortal Kombat series, comes equipped with tricky kicks and punches that can hit your rival either low or overhead. These attacks in fighting games can be incredibly powerful since they can be challenging to block correctly. Li Mei also excels in the air, with some of the most aerial attacks out of any character, combined with projectile special moves that make her dominant anywhere on the screen.
Li Mei struggles against opponents who predict her offense and block, with special moves that often leave her in a state that could lead to an enemy performing a full combo on her.
6 Kung Lao
Nobody gets more straightforward than the Shaolin warrior Kung Lao, whose blade hat pairs with excellent martial arts to create a fast, fluid fighting style. Speed at close range leaves you consistently on the offensive, with quick strikes that leave you at an advantage. An aerial Dive Kick special move is great for surprising your enemies, but be careful of moves that use Kung Lao’s hat since the unusual headgear takes some time to return after being thrown.
The iconic ice ninja Sub-Zero is a well-rounded character that pairs well with almost any Kameo fighter in Mortal Kombat 1. Special moves that freeze the opponent are always useful, allowing you to perform whatever combo you want when landing attacks like Ice Ball or Deadly Vapors. The Ice Klone and Ice Slide moves also make Sub-Zero a solid defensive fighter, letting your opponent make mistakes you can take advantage of.
The New Era sees the lightning wielder Raiden return, not as a god but as another Shaolin trained to fight alongside Earthrealm’s champions. Raiden deals ridiculously high damage with moves that cover a lot of space, making them dangerous to fight against. Many normal attack strings from the former thunder god knock enemies into the air, allowing you to connect special moves like Razzle Dazzle for a basic combo structure.
3 Johnny Cage
The A-List actor Johnny Cage has new and exciting gameplay systems in Mortal Kombat 1 that make him a strong character through his Hollywood Star meter. As Johnny taunts his opponent, he can build a star meter right above his other metered resource. When full, Johnny can perform a special move to enter a unique state where the spotlight shines on him, allowing you to chain special moves together for astonishing attacks.
Johnny Cage has far-reaching normal attacks that make them effective at mid-range, with moves like the classic Nut Punch serving to suddenly hit your opponent where it hurts. Only some characters have a bit of everything, like Johnny, whose easiest combos do above-average damage. However, with the lack of Johnny’s energy-focused projectiles from the past, he can struggle when far from his rivals.
2 Liu Kang
The new God of Lightning and Fire, Liu Kang, has perhaps the perfect blend of chained martial art attacks and supernatural powers that many beginners will be drawn to. Beyond just having some of the best Fatalities in Mortal Kombat 1, Liu Kang has deceptively quick projectiles from special moves that allow them to operate from long range. While this would be the end of a fighting style for most characters, Liu Kang happens to have much more.
One of Liu Kang’s fireball attacks, a red dragon, follows up with a flying kick that advances you all the way across the screen. Excellent mid-striking normal strikes allow Liu Kang to operate pretty much anywhere they want. While you may have to go into Training mode to put all the pieces of this character together, the foundation set by Liu Kang’s move list makes them easy to pick up when you’re getting started.
By far, the most reliable character to pick first in Mortal Kombat 1 is Baraka, the former merchant now afflicted with the Tarkat disease, trying desperately to suppress his bloodlust. Baraka wields arm blades that give the character some of the longest-reaching normal attacks in the game. One string, in particular, sees Baraka swing their blades almost ten times in quick succession, which can be a great move to continue offensive pressure.
Baraka has tricky mix-ups, from an overhead kick that strikes low to a leaping jump leg attack that may go over your opponent’s moves. These options launch your enemy into the air, allowing you to drive them into the corner. The best fighters for beginners in Mortal Kombat 1 are those who can contend with anyone, which Baraka can do with multi-hitting special moves and an above-average projectile.
Mortal Kombat 1
- Mortal Kombat
- Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S
- NetherRealm Studios
- Warner Bros. Games
- Fighting, Horror
- Mortal Kombat 11, Mortal Kombat X, Mortal Kombat (2011), Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, Mortal Kombat: Deception, Mortal Kombat 4, Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat 2, Mortal Kombat