Taking tenth position, we have the ‘cooler’ Shaolin Monk, Kung Lao. Kung Lao can be said to have been the coolest new characters when it came to Mortal Kombat 2. Everything about him was just right, the hat, his moves and his fatalities, he was an instant hit. His story in Mortal Kombat 2 and 3 remain largely the same, helping his brother monk, Liu Kang, in stopping Shao Kahn from taking over. Kung Lao was meant to be given a grand death at the hands of Shao Kahn, but, in possibly one of the best retcons, they brought him back in Mortal Kombat Gold, where he buried the hatchet with Goro for killing his ancestor. Kung Lao was then meant to be the main character in Deadly Alliance after Liu Kang’s death and his ending seemed to show that as well. But, that was not to be, as the bad guys won and he was seemingly killed at Shang Tsung’s hand. He was then resurrected to serve Onaga and was freed by Ermac and Liu Kang.
Then, there is what some people say to be the biggest mistake Midway have ever made, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. When they totally retconned Kung Lao’s character, turning him from the pacifist monk who didn’t want to fight but did when it was necessary, to the typical arrogant and brooding sidekick friend of the main character. Unfortunately, Boon decided to go with that storyline and have Kung Laos ending in Armageddon be that he went back in time and defeated Goro himself instead of his ancestor to never have his rivalry with Liu Kang. Horrible, just horrible.
Kung Lao is one of the few characters I am unsure whether they would return or not. Before the MK: SM retcon, I would have said yes, however, now, I am not sure. Only time will tell.
Oh, look what we have here, if it isn’t little Sloppy Jalopy himself at number 10. The flaming hat fury. Those who know me are well aware of my feelings on this guy. I will speak no more of him until he’s ridden of my presence.
I’m not sure who the designers were during MK2 but man did they hit the jackpot with this guy. Sorta like a more pissed off version of Liu Kang only he throws a massive bladed hat – what more could you want! I think this is a case of “less is more” when it comes to his look. Give him one identifiable feature and keep the rest simple. Add in a dash of brooding attitude and a link to the games hero and whalla – one of the best characters in the series. So I simply couldn’t understand it when he was left out of subsequent games like MK4 and Deception. If there was ever anyone to take over the mantle from Liu Kang after his death, it was always gonna be the man in the black hat. But then again, maybe that’s precisely why he didn’t. (See: Shujinko) His demeanor always appealed to me – a semi-loner who liked to go about things his own way and looked damn slick while doing it. Like to Scorpion, Kung Lao has benefited from a great physical makeover in recent times. I also loved his moves: simple yet effective and very much in keeping with his Shaolin heritage. I’d love to say he’ll be back in the next MK however I get the impression that he’s kinda fallen out of favor with the powers that be. Why this is, I’ll never know.
I think we all know why we love Kung Lao so much. It’s that awesome but deadly razor sharp hat of his! Not only does it make him appear dark and mysterious, he really knows how to make use of it to his advantage by severing heads and splitting opponents directly in half. Although the TV series “Mortal Kombat Conquest” set 500 years ago focusing on the first “Great Kung Lao” didn’t air until 1998 (years after Kung’s first video game appearances), this time period likely helped elevate Kung’s present day appeal as one of the top MK characters of all time.