Shang Tsung is the real puppetmaster and final boss — but not the Shang Tsung from MK1’s new timeline.
Okay, but who’s even Shang Tsung?
My apologies. From here on I’ll try to sound less confusing than the plot of this game. Shang Tsung is a very powerful sorcerer who’s all about deception and stealing souls. He’s been a part of Mortal Kombat lore since the original Mortal Kombat, where he also served as the final boss.
*It’s not this one, either.
So which Shang Tsung is it?
Much like in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Shang Tsung and another villain named Quan Chi form a, ugh, killer alliance to take over the new timeline. The only difference here is that they now have the help of a mysterious third party they call “benefactor”.
We later learn that this benefactor is the Shang Tsung who emerged victorious in the bad ending of Mortal Kombat 11 Aftermath. The twist is that the good ending in Aftermath is canon, but not the only canonical ending.
At the same time that Liu Kang created this new timeline, Shang Tsung became the godly ruler of a different one. He could’ve just stayed there and enjoyed his undisputed godhood, but Shang Tsung is an ’80s villain. One measly entire universe wouldn’t be enough to satisfy him, so he set out to conquer every universe.
And it’s a bit confusing
Mortal Kombat 1 might confuse even die-hard fans, and that’s not just due to the game’s convoluted storyline. This is what the regularly evil Shang Tsung from the new MK1 timeline looks like:
This version looks great with his yellowish attire reminiscent of his outfit in Mortal Kombat 3. Still, this Shang Tsung is just a fool and thus not the one you’ll be fighting in the end.
The actual MK1 final boss is the timeline-hopping Shang Tsung. This one:
He also looks great, donning a red outfit that features a badass golden dragon, but there are two problems here. The first one is that this outfit resembles his Deadly Alliance look. That’s weird because it’s a reference to a different Shang Tsung. The second problem is that his face doesn’t match, either.
For Aftermath, NetherRealm Studios cast Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa to play Shang Tsung. That’s the actor behind the character’s legendary portrayal in the original Mortal Kombat movie adaptation. His return in Aftermath ruled, naturally, but Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa sadly didn’t come back in MK1. NetherRealm went with a completely different look for the ultimate Shang Tsung in MK1, and it just feels a bit off. Remember to fall for no wacky sorcerer tricks! This is the guy you’re fighting in the end:
Or, at the very least, that guy’s soul.
You can now kill most iterations of Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat 1 on PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.