Mortal Kombat 1 best fighter tier list: All MK1 characters ranked (September 2023)
A Mortal Kombat 1 best fighter tier list is a tricky thing to settle on, but we have done our best to identify the best of the best on the roster. Mortal Kombat 1 features a diverse roster of characters with varied strengths and weaknesses.
The best fighter in the game may be different for each player, but we have organised this list to recommend fighters that all players can have fun and win with. Here is our Mortal Kombat 1 best fighter tier list.
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How we chose the best fighters Mortal Kombat 1 tier list
A point we must stress before getting started is that there is no definitive best fighter in Mortal Kombat 1. If this was a list of the best SMGs in Warzone 2 or the best mid Champions in League of Legends, things would be different as those lists can have definitive answers.
Fighting games often have characters that are better than others in certain situations, but rarely ever have characters that are the absolute best or the absolute worst. As such, we have tailored this list around which characters are generally useful, as well as characters that have exceptional potential.
Furthermore, we have factored in approachability, meaning which characters are the easiest to pick up and start playing with. It is still early days, so players have not had much time with the game yet. As such, this factor is particularly important right now.
- For the companion to this list, check out our Mortal Kombat 1 best Kameo Fighter tier list
Mortal Kombat 1 best fighter tier list
Here is our tier list for the best fighters in Mortal Kombat 1, based on usability and potential:
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Mortal Kombat 1 S-tier fighters
The cream of the crop, the absolute best in the game, the S-tier combatants in Mortal Kombat 1 are:
- Johnny Cage
- Shang Tsung
The first S-tier character that comes to mind is Kenshi, the blind swordsman. While Kenshi is not the easiest character to learn, the damage potential of combining his moves with his spirit buddy Sento is astronomical. If you can master this character, you can dominate the game.
With a blend of high damage potential, great mix-ups, and being very approachable to learn, Johnny Cage is the ultimate all-rounder and easily a top-tier character in Mortal Kombat 1.
His unique Hype Meter gives Johnny unreal combo potential, and combined with the right Kameo Fighters, can wipe out opponents in seconds.
Raiden has always been strong in MK, and even without his godly status, he is still great in Mortal Kombat 1. Raiden has an incredible set of tools at his disposal, with a combination of low attacks and overheads, his mix-up potential is very strong.
Then you add his ranged projectiles, crossing the screen with electric fly, or just straight-up teleporting, and there really isn't much that Raiden cannot do.
If you pre-ordered Mortal Kombat 1, you have access to Shang Tsung as a playable character. Having played as the treacherous sorcerer, we can confirm that he is worth getting your hands on. Shang Tsung has powerful special moves that create all kinds of advantageous situations.
His ability to instantly transform between his young and old forms completely changes up his moveset, which in turn gives him a wealth of moves to choose from. Couple this with his ability to shapeshift into his opponent, and given the right circumstances (and knowing plenty of characters) Shang Tsung can become an unstoppable force.
One of the newest characters in the franchise, Geras returns with his time powers turned up to 11. Geras is every bit the hard-hitting brawler you might think he is given his size, but there is so much more to this character.
He has time-shifting abilities that will utterly confuse your opponents, he has command grabs that come at them from all angles, and he even has a charge-up mechanic that locks the opponent in place, allowing Geras to do massive damage that cannot be blocked or avoided.
Baraka is one of the strongest characters in Mortal Kombat 1 for one specific reason, pressure. Baraka is amazing for aggressive play, several of his special attacks are multi-hit strings that are safe on block, and with the right Kameo he can lay the damage on thick, even on a blocking opponent.
With his projectile, Baraka can sit safely at a distance, peppering the opponent and keeping them locked down. Then, he can strike with one of his several attacks that close the distance quickly and do huge damage.
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Mortal Kombat 1 A-tier characters
A-tier is where you will find a big chunk of the roster, because almost every character in the game is totally viable. While the S-tier characters might have an edge, the A-tier characters are all excellent choices.
Here are the A-tier Mortal Kombat 1 fighters:
- Liu Kang
- General Shao
- Li Mei
The god of this new universe, Liu Kang retains much of what has always made him a steady character in Mortal Kombat. He has his mid and low fireballs, his bicycle kick has a new spin to it, and his dragon kick has a new dragon to it.
Liu Kang is very fast, a great character for players who love busting out kung-fu kicks with quickness. His old reliable tools are largely improved, making him an even better well-rounded fighter.
Arguably the main character of the entire franchise, you simply cannot have Mortal Kombat without Scorpion. He has always been a solid character to choose, and this holds true for Mortal Kombat 1. Scorpion brings all his classics back and plays about how you would remember if you've played previous MK games.
Like Ryu in Street Fighter or Jin in Tekken, if you want a reliable character to learn the game, you pick Scorpion in Mortal Kombat. If you are starting out fresh in MK1, Scorpion is the place to begin.
Kitana is another great character for controlling the pace of a match. Her projectiles, stun attacks, and ability to hit an opponent from all angles are extremely powerful.
With MK1's focus on aerial combat, Kitana's many ways to launch the opponent into the air synergise well with air attacks. If you like flashy combos and dazzling your opponents, Kitana is the way to go.
Although an over-simplification, you could say that what Kitana does in the air, Mileena does on the ground. Not to say she doesn't also love her dive kicks, but Mileena loves to put her opponents down and keep them down.
By combining her teleports and dive kicks with her ball attack, Mileena can be a rapid-attacking monster. An excellent character for keeping the opponent guessing.
No longer a Khan in this timeline, General Shao is no less of a giant and a brute. He wields a massive war axe which features heavily in his moveset. As has always been the case with Shao, he excels at big hits and surprising bursts of speed and damage.
These days he tends to prefer the former over the latter, as his big damage moves hit extremely hard. Shao is a bully, and his playstyle reflects that. Just keep swinging that axe, and everything will go well.
Li-Mei is an excellent mix-up character who can also do a lot to control the stage. She has some powerful normals and quick combos that allow her to hit lows and overheads out of nowhere. She also has range with her fireball that can hit on the ground and in the air, coupled with her lantern gives her great coverage of the opponent's movements.
Her Shi Zi Lion is one of the best anti-air moves in the game, and her Flipping Heel Kick is an aerial overhead attack that hits from anywhere, a very powerful tool.
Any character who can just turn entirely invisible is always going to be strong, and Reptile sure is strong in Mortal Kombat 1. That said, his invisibility has little to do with it, as Reptile's real strength comes from his vast array of moves that come at the opponent from all sides.
He has his classics like acid spit and force ball, but throw in falling fangs, an air move that teleports and instantly drops down on the opponent with an overhead attack, and the death roll, a rapid-fire, low-hitting grapple, and Reptile has some excellent tools for taking other fighters apart.
Reiko is a grappler in a fighting game franchise that is not known for having many grapplers. This could be an issue, as grapplers need options for getting their grapples in. Thankfully, Reiko has plenty of ways to do so.
He has two main grapples, Tactical Takedown and Pale Rider. Pale Rider is your big damage grapple that you will need to catch the opponent off guard to hit. Tactical Takedown dashes from mid-range and hits low, making it a great way to close a gap. Pair that with the similar-looking Charging Pain slide kick and you can keep your enemy guessing until they run out of health.
Smoke is all about attacking from every angle and keeping the opponent guessing, and while his moves are very flashy, they are not without substance. Smoke has plenty of teleports and aerial attacks that incorporate plenty of lows and overheads to mix up your opponent.
What's more, he does these things at a break-neck speed. This can be difficult to get a hang of, but mastering Smoke's abilities turns him into a mix-up monster.
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Mortal Kombat 1 B-tier characters
B-tier is reserved for characters that are still very good, but perhaps lacking in some areas. This can be for a variety of reasons, as we will discuss.
Here are the B-tier characters of Mortal Kombat 1:
- Kung Lao
Another staple high-tier character, Sub-Zero is usually as solid as his ice. MK1 Sub-Zero will be familiar to players who have played him in previous games as his classic moves are still here. Sub-Zero excels at controlling the space and forcing the opponent to fight on his terms.
Getting the timing down on his freezing moves is key, then you can move in with ice slide or diving glacier to get in the opponent's face and take them down. Sub-Zero isn't bad at all but nerfs have brought his strength and viability down a tier.
As much as it pains me to do this to my main for so many years, Kung Lao is not as great as he once was. Still a worthy character to choose, his hat throws are a great projectile and his dive kick is as vicious as ever.
However, it seems Kung Lao's classic teleport has been sacrificed for his Kameo Fighter counterpart. The main roster version of Kung Lao does not have it, and losing one of your most useful moves is a quick and easy way to slip down a tier list.
Tanya is an interesting character, who is mostly in this category for how difficult she likely is to learn. Tanya has some unusual special moves, with very specific use cases. Seeking Guidance is a move that must be done twice to charge it up, then on the third use, she dashes up and forward.
While there could be excellent uses for the unusual moves in her arsenal, it might be more work than it is worth to find them. Still, she has other moves that are totally viable and a lot of fun, so this is not to say she is completely unusable without a mountain of research first.
Sindel is another character with highly specific use cases. With just her basic and special attacks, she has decent moves and a good bit of range with her projectiles. Her levitate ability can be good for avoiding projectiles, but more than anything exposes you to aerial attacks.
Her new moves that are unique to her are her Inspire and Queens Kommand special moves. These both involve Kameo Fighters, with the first increasing her Kameo Fighter recovery and the second only landing if the opponent's Kameo is on the screen, stopping them in their tracks. These moves are very cool and have great Kameo potential, but are so specific that they are not likely to be very useful.
If you enjoy characters that like to keep their distance and control the space, then Rain might be the character for you. Rain's abilities are all focused on one thing, locking down your opponent and limiting their options.
He has good ranged abilities so long as he is at a safe distance, and enough mix-up to keep the opponent back. His portals can be tricky to learn, but give Rain plenty of movement options. The biggest issue with Rain is learning to use all of these abilities in tandem but doing so will make him a solid zoner character.
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Mortal Kombat 1 C-tier characters
Although we have said that there is no such thing as a "bad" character, there are some that should probably be avoided. The C-tier characters do not bring as much to the table as the characters above, making them a bit more of a hindrance to play.
Here are the C-tier characters in Mortal Kombat 1:
Ashrah's moveset focuses primarily on her sword attacks. She has some useful tools, like projectiles and an easy overhead attack. However, her projectiles are not great, her damage is nothing to write home about, and her mix-up potential is nothing special.
Then you include her stance change, where she goes between light and dark stances. The stance change move is quite slow and leaves her open, and the options that stance changing gives you are not really worth the effort.
It is hard to really find a good reason to choose Nitara, she is a bit of a gimmicky fighter and not in a great way. First of all, several of her special attacks are locked behind her Dark Sacrifice ability, which takes time to do, drains a portion of your health, and only lasts for one attack. You might think that her Dark Sacrifice attacks would be particularly powerful then, but not so much.
Also, her aerial abilities are nothing special. She can perform an air dash but each one drains a bar of your super meter. Beyond that, she has a fairly ineffective anti-air special that allows her to cancel into other air specials, which is so specific it barely has a use.
Last but not least is Havik. Now, Havik may not be the most viable character in the game, but that does not stop him from being a lot of fun to play with. The trouble is he is more fun than function, his moves and his animations are wild but not necessarily useful.
His one saving grace is Blood Bath, a rapid grapple that crosses the screen quickly. The enhanced version creates a tether between Havik and the opponent, and using the ability again while the tether is there will make the opponent break their own neck, which stuns them (Mortal Kombat logic) for an easy follow-up combo.