Codex Gamicus
Shao Kahn
Series Mortal Kombat series
First game Mortal Kombat II (1993)
Voiced by Steve Ritchie (MKII, MK3, UMK3, MKT, MK:SM)
John Vernon (MK: DotR)
Patrick Seitz (MKvDC)
Live action actor(s) Brian Glynn (MKII, MK3, UMK3, MKT)
Brian Thompson (second film)
Jeffrey Meek (MK: Conquest)
Jorden Brown (MKvDC),(Motion capture sequences)
Fictional information
Origin Outworld
Fighting styles Tai Tzu (MK:D, MK:A)
Lui He(MK:D)
Weapons War Hammer (MK3, UMK3, MKT, MK:D, MK:SM, MK:A)

Shao Kahn is a boss and recurring playable character from the Mortal Kombat fighting game series. He was voiced by Steve Ritchie in the second and third Mortal Kombat games.

One of the primary villains in the Mortal Kombat series, Shao Kahn (often misspelled as Shao Khan) is the Emperor of Outworld. He is known for his godlike strength, extreme brutality, and knowledge of black magic. Like his subordinate Shang Tsung, he has the power to consume others' souls. Later in the series, his abilities are toned down to make other bosses appear superior.


Pre-Mortal Kombat[]

Shao Kahn originally served as an advisor to Onaga when the latter ruled Outworld as the Dragon King. Onaga's Empire had become the most powerful in the realms and so he began searching for a way to become immortal. Before his goal could be realized, Shao Kahn made his move by poisoning Onaga and taking his kingdom. Leading whatever troops that remained loyal to the Dragon King, Kahn continued many of the former emperor's plans. He continued to add lesser realms to Outworld, either through direct conquest or through Mortal Kombat.

A milestone in his military victories was the merging of Edenia with Outworld. After his warriors had won in Mortal Kombat, Kahn invaded the realm. On the battlefield, Kahn killed King Jerrod, and took Queen Sindel as his wife, raising their daughter, Princess Kitana, as his own. He had the young princess trained as his personal guard and as an assassin. Sindel took her own life in an attempt to escape subservience to the Emperor. Unwilling to be denied, Kahn held her soul in Outworld, stopping her transition to the afterlife. Kahn had also instructed his sorcerer Shang Tsung to create a Tarkatan based clone of Kitana (called Mileena), So as Kitana grew up, she would not remember her past, and assume that her and Mileena were his twin daughters.

Prior to Earthrealm, Kahn's greatest challenge was a Shokan village. Kahn promised to let the village remain in peace if Prince Goro represented him in the Mortal Kombat tournaments. This promise was not upheld, but it is not clear if Kahn was responsible for this. Goro would then win 9 of the 10 consecutive tournaments needed to dominate all of the realms.

Mortal Kombat II[]

In Mortal Kombat, Kahn had entrusted Shang Tsung with the task of making sure Outworld won the 10th consecutive Mortal Kombat tournament, which would allow his armies to invade and conquer Earthrealm. But when Liu Kang defeated Shang Tsung, Kahn exercised a loophole in the rules of Mortal Kombat. As Outworld had won the previous tournament, they had the right to challenge the latest winners (Earthrealm) to another tournament. This victory would overrule the previous tournament and allow Kahn to rule all of the realms.

Shao Kahn spared Tsung's life and restored his youth. Kahn concocted a plan to lure the Earthrealm champions to Outworld; if they could be killed, they would not be able to cause further damage to his plans. He captured Kano and Sonya Blade to use as bait, and enraged Liu Kang by sending Baraka and his troops to destroy the Shaolin temples. Despite Kahn's vast power, Liu Kang's determination saw him through, and he defeated the despot. Unwilling to accept defeat, Kahn called his armies to destroy the Earthrealm warriors, who fled back to Earthrealm, out of Kahn's clutches.

Mortal Kombat 3[]

By this time, Shang Tsung was able to resurrect Queen Sindel in Earthrealm, and Kahn would be able to cross the border to claim her. Kahn had Tsung proceed, and once he invaded Earthrealm, he began to merge it with his own realm of Outworld. Nearly every living being in Earthrealm had their souls ripped from their bodies by Kahn, claiming them as his own. Only a few managed to avoid this fate. Kahn's day finally seemed to have come. But not all hope was lost, as Lord Raiden had protected the souls of a handful of warriors (and some like the robots Sektor and Cyrax had no souls to take and he also couldn't detect them). Kahn sent extermination squads to hunt them down and kill the remaining survivors. It would be these chosen warriors task to try to stop Kahn, and return Earthrealm to its normal state. In the ensuing fights, Kahn was confronted by Kung Lao, another Shaolin monk and descendant of the warrior Goro defeated to become champion of Mortal Kombat, but Kahn crushed him. It was Liu Kang who again managed to defeat Kahn. Worn down from the battle, Kahn recalled his squads and retreated back to Outworld. This stopped the merge with Outworld, and restored Earthrealm to its original status. To make matters worse for Kahn, many of his loyal soldiers had abandoned him, and Kitana had succeeded in turning Sindel to her side, restoring Edenia as an independent realm.

Deadly Alliance and Deception[]

The emperor was now greatly weakened, and would remain so for a period of several years, remaining inactive during Shinnok's war against the gods. The Edenians had in the meantime made peace and military treaties with the Shokan, on whom Kahn had always heavily relied, and were ready to attack Outworld a few years later. It was only through his new commander Kano's ingenuity, and the stealth of his unreliable assassin Noob Saibot (who critically wounded Goro) was Kahn able to save the day (in a manner of speaking) and force the Edenian army into a draw. Soon afterwards, the sorcerers Quan Chi and Shang Tsung entered his throne room, and swore false allegiance to the emperor. Quan Chi and Shang Tsung caught Shao Kahn off guard and seemingly killed him. This would appear to be the demise of the mighty Kahn. In the GameCube version of Mortal Kombat: Deception it is revealed that Kahn did not die, and that it was a clone that Quan Chi and Shang Tsung killed. The real Kahn appeared to the wounded Goro and, using what little power he had left, revived him, thus gaining Goro and the Shokan as allies once again.


In the events of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, Shao Kahn is the Warlord of Outworld once again. It was revealed in the bios of Shang Tsung and Mileena that Shao Kahn had regained power after Onaga's defeat, by storming his own fortress (then under the command of Mileena who had earlier deceived and used Kitana's Edenian force to capture the fortress) with the aid of Goro and Shang Tsung. When he succeeds in using his own brute force to storm the throne room, Mileena surrenders to him and Shao Kahn becomes Outworld's ruler once more.

Later on, he would go on to form an uneasy alliance with Quan Chi, Shang Tsung, and Onaga in the hopes of defeating Blaze and seizing his godlike powers. In his ending, Shao Kahn makes his way to the top of Argus's Pyramid for the final confrontation with Blaze. Shao Kahn proved to be too powerful for Blaze and easily defeated him. Shao Kahn's armies destroyed what was left of his enemies, and with the power Shao Kahn received from defeating Blaze, he merges all the realms with Outworld. With his main goal completed and having complete control over all the realms, Shao Kahn grew insane with boredom, as he had nothing else left to conquer.

Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe[]

At the beginning of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Shao Kahn is shown after his defeat limping into a graveyard where he meets with his secret ally Quan Chi. Where they are shortly confronted by Raiden, who uses a lightning bolt on Shao Kahn, which knocks him into Quan Chi’s portal. This event, along with a similar event between Superman and Darkseid in the DC Universe, results in the creation of Dark Kahn, who serves as the main antagonist in the game. After Dark Kahn is defeated, Shao Kahn ends up in the DC Universe's Earth, where he discovers he has lost his powers. He is promptly imprisoned in the Phantom Zone, where he, like countless other criminals, would lose his powers due to the effects of the zone. In Shao Kahn's ending, the Phantom Zone, known for neutralizing it's inhabitant's powers, has no effect on him due to his magic, instead the opposite happens, and the zone returns his powers to him, whereby he frees an army of Kryptonian villains. In gratitude they swear allegiance to the Emperor, and plan to help him conquer all of the universes.[1]

Character development[]

File:Shao Kahn comic.jpg

An unmasked Shao Kahn, as depicted in the official Mortal Kombat II comic book by John Tobias

Kahn's attire for Mortal Kombat II was developed by Mark Runion, and worn by bodybuilder Brian Glynn.[2]

Kahn started out unmasked and with large gnashing teeth similar to Baraka, since everyone from Outworld was originally to be of Baraka's race. The idea of all inhabitants of Outworld being Tarkata was later dropped.

It was originally stated that Shao Kahn is a demonic character, and his monstrous visage from the official comic books, as well as Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks lends credibility to that. However, in the most recent games he appears to be more along the lines of a large, powerful human. His face has only appeared in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, in which he is hit with his war hammer and his helmet breaks.

In Mortal Kombat II, Kahn was digitally resized to a taller height to make him tower over the playable characters. Ironically, the actor who played him, bodybuilder Brian Glynn, was not nearly as imposing in comparison; a photograph published in GamePro issue of May 1994 of Glynn and Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon standing side-by-side, which was snapped during production of the game, showed that Boon was taller.

In many official depictions of Shao Kahn made by Midway, he is shown wearing a cape, though he never wore one in his original digitized appearances. Mortal Kombat: Deception was the first time in which he wore the cape in-game. In Mortal Kombat Annihilation, he once throws it at Liu Kang as a weapon. Mortal Kombat sound designer Dan Forden explained that the reason for Kahn not wearing the cape in earlier games, in addition to Kabal not being able to wear a trenchcoat in Mortal Kombat 3, was that loose flowing clothing took up memory.

Appearances in other media[]



Brian Thompson as Shao Kahn in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.

Shao Kahn appears in both Mortal Kombat films. He is referred to simply as "The Emperor" in the 1995 first movie and makes a brief appearance at the end, as a special effect and voiced by Frank Welker.

Kahn was the main villain in the 1997 sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and was played by Brian Thompson. He kills Johnny Cage in the film's opening scene, and then Raiden (later brought back to life) near the end prior to his final climactic fight with Liu Kang. In addition, Kahn and Raiden were portrayed as brothers, with Shinnok as their father, though neither of them shared any relation in the games (With the exception of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe in which Raiden's biography states that the two are brothers, although the game itself is non-canon). The only subplot taken directly from the games' storyline was his past relationship with Kitana and Sindel; a segment in the film featured Kitana, imprisoned in Kahn's fortress, mentioning the destruction of her family and Sindel's subsequent suicide under his rule.

Silver Screen Reviews commented that Thompson "[acted] his part as if he had a sore throat throughout production [...] he says a few words of dialogue, pauses, then says some more."[3]

Kahn's name, incorrectly hyphenated in the closing credits of Annihilation, was additionally misspelled as "Shoa-Kahn" on the DVD release's fight scenes menu.


Shao Kahn was played by Jeffrey Meek (who also played Raiden) in Mortal Kombat: Conquest. Despite having lost much of his physical stature from the games and movies, he has a much more threatening disposition. He served as the mediator of the Mortal Kombat matches. Meek played opposite himself in the series finale, where Kahn battled Raiden in a void seemingly between the realms. With Kung Lao dead, Shao Kahn forced Raiden into submission and commenced full military assault on Earthrealm. The series was discontinued following this event.

Shao Kahn made several appearances in the animated series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, playing his usual role of Outworld's emperor and leader of the enemy troops. He was voiced by John Vernon and Michael Des Barres in separate episodes.

Comic books[]

Shao Kahn makes his first appearance during the Battlewave series of Malibu Comics, though he already was present during the first, Blood & Thunder. Shao Kahn remained mostly faithful to his game counterpart, being the Emperor of Outworld and attempting to take Earthrealm for himself. During the two series, he never appears wielding his trademark helmet, instead always shown with his visible face and design taken from the official Mortal Kombat II comic written by John Tobias. However, in Kitana & Mileena, a comic about Kitana's past, Shao Kahn does appear wearing his helmet.

Shao Kahn appeared during Blood & Thunder while communicating with Shang Tsung by means of a big purple orb. He became disgusted by Shang Tsung's hold of the tournament, so he used his powers to bring all the kombatants into Shang Tsung's palace, triggering the big fight shown in the Tournamend Edition final issue.

In Battlewave, Shao Kahn would arrange a different plan to open the portals. He kidnaps Sonya and, by means of hypnosis and brainwashing, convinces her to marry him. The marriage would weaken the barriers between realms enough to allow Shao Kahn to seize Earth easily (and make Sonya the queen of both realms and his wife). During the wedding ceremony held, however, the wedding would be crashed and he would be stopped by the Earthrealm warriors' interruption, ending with Sonya becoming free from Kahn's influence. Shao Kahn then would devise a tournament of sort: a race to reach a Medallion high into a frozen cliff. Two teams were arranged, with the ultimate victor being Sub-Zero for Earthrealm.


  1. Midway. 'Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe'. Level/area: Shao Kahn Ending. (2008)
  2. Staff (June 1994). "The Minds Behind Mortal Kombat II". GamePro (59): 117. 
  3. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation - Silver Screen Reviews, 11/97

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