Codex Gamicus
Kung Lao
Series Mortal Kombat series
First game Mortal Kombat II (1993)
Live action actor(s) Anthony "Tony" Marquez (MKII, MK3, UMK3, MKT)
Paolo Montalbán (Conquest)
Fictional information
Origin China Earthrealm
Fighting styles Mantis (MK:DA, MK:SM[1])
Shaolin Fist (MK:DA, MK:SM,[1] MK:A)
Chinese Kempo (MK:SM[1])
White Lotus (MK:SM[1])
Weapons Battle Axe (MKG)
Broadsword (MK:DA, MK:A)

Kung Lao is a fictional character in the Mortal Kombat fighting game series. Kung Lao is a former Shaolin monk and a former member of the White Lotus Society. He stands in the shadow of his great ancestor, the Great Kung Lao, but unlike his great ancestor he has no desire to be champion and would rather live a life of peace. He is close friends to the Mortal Kombat champion Liu Kang as well, he has sought counsel from master Bo' Rai Cho. He has since left the sanctuary of the White Lotus Society. Of the Earthrealm warriors, Kung Lao is the most outspoken pacifist, although he will not hesitate to severely punish those who attack him, Earthrealm, or his friends. His trademark is his razor-rimmed hat, which he can employ quite powerfully and effectively in combat.

Kung Lao's attacks are based upon wind-type moves. His most notable attack is the Hat Toss, which could be directed in Mortal Kombat 2 and Mortal Kombat 3, beginning in Mortal Kombat Gold his hat could not be directed.[2] Many of his fatalities involve the use of his hat to some extent. Kung Lao can be seen in Mortal Kombat II, 3, and Shaolin Monks wearing the Chinese character which means military/wu shu/martial arts.

Kung Lao was portrayed by Anthony Marquez in Mortal Kombat 2 and Mortal Kombat 3. He stated in Kung Lao's bio card that after the first Mortal Kombat, the creators wanted another monk character other than Liu Kang. He also stated that the wearing of his hat was like, "it's like being Clint Eastwood in an old western movie." Ed Boon even considered Anthony Marquez as, "one of the best martial artists we worked with."[3] According to Mortal Kombat co-creator John Tobias in a 1995 interview with EGM, Kung Lao's hat was inspired by the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger, in which a character named Oddjob threw his derby as a deadly weapon.[4]


Mortal Kombat II[]

Kung Lao is possibly (next to Liu Kang) the last known descendant of the Great Kung Lao, a former Champion of Mortal Kombat, who lost the title and his life to Goro 500 years previously, resulting in Kung Lao's death at Goro's hands and the start of Shang Tsung's rule over the tournament. Kung Lao was originally the one to represent the Shaolin in the Mortal Kombat tournament but he declined, knowing of the consequences of becoming champion. As a result, Liu Kang was chosen and emerged as the winner.

When the Shaolin Temples were attacked by Baraka and his Tarkatan soldiers, Liu Kang and Kung Lao resolved to travel through the portal to the Outworld and avenge their fallen Shaolin brothers. Although he joined his friend in his furious quest, Kung Lao's ultimate goal was to rebuild the White Lotus Society at the Wu Shi Academy, in order to train a new generation of warriors for the coming ages. He, along with Liu Kang, ventured into Outworld to do battle with Outworld's forces in a new tournament. Following Shao Kahn's defeat at Liu Kang's hand, the monks returned to Earth and began training the next generation of Shaolin warriors. (Kung Lao's character bio was not included in the arcade version of Mortal Kombat 3, but was later made available for the home versions.)

Mortal Kombat 3[]

When Shao Kahn invaded of Earthrealm, he had to temporarily scrap his plans for reforming the Society. Eventually, Kung Lao faced Shao Kahn. The Emperor of Outworld defeated Kung Lao and injured him so badly that he was believed to have died. Hearing of Kung Lao's apparent death enraged Liu Kang, as he challenged Shao Kahn and successfully defeated him for the second time.

Mortal Kombat 4[]

With Outworld driven back, Kung Lao decided not to return to the Shaolin Temples, instead allowing everyone to believe that he was dead and went on to live a life of peace in respect to the beliefs of his ancestors. This would not last long however, as he was drawn away from his newfound peace to help fight against Shinnok's forces, when word reached him that Goro, the Shokan warrior who had killed the Great Kung Lao centuries ago, was still alive. After Shinnok's defeat, Kung Lao attacked Goro, who had signed a peace treaty with the Centaurs under the mediation of Kitana. Instead of being an attempted assassination, however, the blow was a ceremonial strike of vengeance for the Great Kung Lao's death. With this act, the two warriors shook hands, ending their conflict.

Deadly Alliance[]

The next years were peaceful. This ended on a brutal note at the time of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, when the sorcerers Quan Chi and Shang Tsung united and murdered Liu Kang in a vicious attack. Kung Lao found his body and was told by Raiden that Tsung was the assassin, who had formed the Deadly Alliance with Quan Chi. Enraged, Kung Lao vowed revenge upon the sorcerer, and once again abandoned his pacifist Shaolin beliefs. He believed his current skills were insufficient to defeat Shang Tsung so after meeting with the other Earthrealm warriors and traveling to Outworld. Kung Lao informed Kitana of Liu Kang's death and she tagged along with Kung Lao and sought the advice of the martial arts teacher Bo' Rai Chi, who trained Kung Lao for a short time. Together, they joined the other warriors in the assault against the two sorcerers.


But the assault did not end well. With Liu Kang dead, Raiden and his companions were fighting a losing battle. Kung Lao and Kitana challenged the Deadly Alliance. Kung Lao fought Shang Tsung one on one but because of Shang Tsung's soulnado, the sorcerer was able to keep his power at its peak, making the battle very difficult. Things would get worse as Kung Lao's allies would perish in the battle, one by one. Kitana would fall against Quan Chi and Kung Lao would fall to the hands of Shang Tsung. Despite his improved skills, it wasn't enough and Kung Lao died, leaving only Raiden to battle the Deadly Alliance. However, he was revived by Onaga as a slave during the events of Deception. He and the rest of his brainwashed allies were later released from Onaga's spell by the spirit of Liu Kang after being defeated by Ermac. After being released from the spell, he and everyone else embraced Liu Kang as they celebrate their short lived defeat.


Fujin's bio for Mortal Kombat: Armageddon describes Kung Lao as having joined forces with the God of Wind to bring their former comrades Raiden and Liu Kang under control, with the God of Thunder becoming "as ruthless as Shao Kahn" and Liu Kang's corpse selectively slaying various people. Fujin then goes on to state in his bio that if no way was found to revert the two corrupted warriors back to normal, both he and Kung Lao would be forced to finish them.[5]

In his Armageddon ending, Kung Lao goes back in time after defeating Blaze. He meets his old ancestor, and with his blessing, takes his place in the Mortal Kombat tournament. He defeats Goro and becomes the Mortal Kombat champion and was a legend. As a result, Liu Kang never competed, and his and Kung Lao's rivalry never came to be.[6]

Shaolin Monks[]

In the adventure game Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, an alternate depiction of the events between the first and second Mortal Kombat games, Kung Lao's character was explored to a greater degree than had been shown in previous titles. Kung Lao is portrayed in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks as feeling almost resentful of Liu Kang's victory in the Shaolin tournament. Although he and Liu Kang are shown to be friends - much of the time - he constantly baits his fellow Shaolin monk, especially regarding Princess Kitana, and the tournament that "Raiden" (in reality, a disguised Shang Tsung) has sent them to compete in. A rivalry between the two Shaolin monks was hence established for the first time in Shaolin Monks. As the two fighters defeated Shang Tsung's warriors, they gained victories in Mortal Kombat, forming a race of sorts to become the Champion of Mortal Kombat. Kung Lao, especially, is seen gloating to Liu Kang that he will win this tournament. This rivalry escalates until the two warriors are convinced that the other has been corrupted by the Outworld.

Great Kung Lao[]

The Great Kung Lao was featured in the television show Mortal Kombat: Conquest and was portrayed by Paolo Montalbán.[7] He is the ancestor of Kung Lao and Liu Kang, who follow his teachings.

Kung Lao was raised in the Order of Light, a monastery of Shaolin monks. While he lived happily with his family and friends, Kung Lao prepared for his entire life to fight in Mortal Kombat. He was trained thoroughly under the monastery’s phenomenal martial artists, teaching him moves many would think impossible. All of Kung Lao's training made him undeniably the monastery’s best fighter. Being the first person on Earthrealm to represent the Order of Light, he would do battle with the evil sorcerer Shang Tsung, 500 years before Liu Kang would do the same.

Despite Tsung having the advantage of winning nine consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments, Kung Lao defeated him and became Grand Champion, saving Earthrealm in the process.[8] While it is common for the victor to take his opponent's life, Kung Lao spared the sorcerer. As champion, Lao could not age. Fifty years later, he was defeated in Mortal Kombat by Goro, the Shokan prince.[9] Afterwards, Kung Lao's soul was taken by Tsung, the now old man he spared half a century before. In Deception his soul is presumed freed after Shang Tsung is killed by Raiden's failed attempt to destroy the Dragon King giving his soul peace after over 5 centuries of torment.

Mortal Kombat: Conquest[]

After becoming Grand Champion, the thunder god Raiden tells him that, because he was the last defending warrior of Earthrealm, Lao is now destined to train new warriors to compete against Kahn's forces for the next Mortal Kombat. He initially rejects this responsibility because he desired to marry his girlfriend Jen, despite her father's refusal.[10]

While this took place, Shang Tsung, who was now imprisoned in the Cobalt Mines by Shao Kahn after he failed to beat Kung Lao, sought his revenge and sends the undead warrior Scorpion to kill Kung Lao.[10] Scorpion fails to defeat Kung Lao, but manages to kill Jen during the battle. After losing her, Kung Lao commits to training new warriors to defend Earthrealm and fight in Mortal Kombat when the time comes. He is joined by Jen’s bodyguard, Siro, and Taja, a thief who, with Raiden's persuasion, saved Kung Lao's life from Jen’s father.[11] Kung Lao is killed by the Shadow Priests along with Taja and Siro in the final episode of Conquest.[12]

Appearances in other media[]

Kung Lao made several appearances in Malibu's' Mortal Kombat comics. His story is slightly altered, stating he is an exile in Outworld due to the failure of his ancestor, and the fall of his lineage. During the Blood & Thunder series he has a minor participation rescuing a near-death Liu Kang after he was stabbed by Kano. In the Battlewave series, he joins with Kitana, Baraka and Sub-Zero in an attempt to ovethrow the Emperor Shao Kahn. During the comics, he shares a very close relation with Kitana, contradicting the games' official story about Liu Kang and Kitana's love relationship.

Kung Lao is also mentioned by name in the first Mortal Kombat film. When Liu Kang challenges Shang Tsung to Mortal Kombat, he calls himself a "descendant of Kung Lao."

The Great Kung Lao briefly appeared in the animated film Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins during a flashback sequence detailing his battle with Goro and ultimate defeat at the hands of the Shokan warrior.

He was featured in his own one-shot issue from Malibu Comics in the summer of 1995.[13] The comic, entitled Rising Son, showed his struggle against Shang Tsung and his shapeshifting mind tricks, using his friends' forms (Kitana, Baraka and Sub-Zero) as well as his ancestor's form to kill him. It would be the very last issue produced in Malibu's Mortal Kombat series.

Kung Lao was also the centerpiece of Jeff Rovin's novelization of the first Mortal Kombat game, but his description therein completely differed from that of the games; he was depicted as being tall, bald save for a queue of long black hair (similar to Goro's), barefoot, and wearing a long white robe.


Despite being stated as a fan favorite,[14] he has been referred to as an obscure character.[15] Along with Liu Kang, Kung Lao has been regarded as one of the fan favorites in the Mortal Kombat series.[16] In a CNET review, it was stated that Kung Lao's body dividing Fatality "...simply doesn't get old." [17] IGN listed him as a character they would like to see as downloadable content for Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, noting him to be a fan favorite character and praising his appearance and his decapitating moves made with his hat.[18] While IGN mistakenly noted Kung Lao as Liu Kang's brother and even mistakenly noted that he died early in the film, even though this character was Chan Kang, they did mention that Liu Kang and Kung Lao make the franchise at its best when they join forces.[19] GamePro listed his hat as the 9th best piece of headwear in their "Video Game Hats: The 17 Best Pieces of Headwear in Gaming" list.[20]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Mortal Kombat Shaolin Monks Instruction Booklet, Midway Amusement Game, LLC, 2005, p. 13 
  2. Template:Citeweb
  3. Kung Lao Deception Bio Card
  4. Goldman, Michael and Aaron, Richard E. (1995). "Ed Boon & John Tobias Interview". Official MK3 Kollector's Book. Electronic Gaming Monthly. 
  5. Midway. Mortal Kombat: Armageddon Premium Edition. (Midway). Level/area: Fujin bio card. (October 11, 2006)
  6. Template:Citeweb
  7. Template:Citeweb
  8. Gruson, Lindsey (1993-09-16). "Video Violence: It's Hot! It's Mortal! It's Kombat!; Teen-Agers Eagerly Await Electronic Carnage While Adults Debate Message Being Sent". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  9. Template:Citeweb
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Eternal Warrior (Part 1)". 'Mortal Kombat: Conquest'. 1998-10-03. No. 1, season 1.
  11. "Eternal Warrior (Part 2)". 'Mortal Kombat: Conquest'. 1998-10-10. No. 2, season 1.
  12. "Vengeance". 'Mortal Kombat: Conquest'. 1999-05-22. No. 22, season 1.
  13. Malibu Comics Kung Lao Cover
  14. Template:Citeweb
  15. Template:Citeweb
  16. Template:Citeweb
  17. Template:Citeweb
  18. Schedeen, Jesse (2008-09-12). DLC Player Wanted MK vs. DC. IGN. Retrieved on 2008-12-24
  19. Template:Citeweb
  20. Template:Citeweb