Mortal Kombat 1 took place on Shang Tsung’s magical karate island, a wonderland of fists that you would likely see in any “kung-fu movie” from Kentucky Fried Movie to at least seventeen Bruce Lee features. Mortal Kombat 2, however, was meant to showcase Outworld, the realm of Shao Kahn, Shang Tsung and, most importantly, Goro. Outworld had to be a fantastic land to feature such fantastic creatures, so, naturally, the architects of the Mortal Kombat franchise quickly defined the realm as one giant toilet.
Outworld features fabulous purple, barren landscapes. It contains acid pits and flesh pits. There are deserts aplenty, pointed mountains, and forests full of freaky-faced trees. While it has never been confirmed in-game, it is naturally assumed that Outworld smells like the ass end of an ass. People ride giant bugs through the sky. There is, like, one Waffle House, and it’s been closed for “repairs” since 1997. You do not want to spend any time in Outworld.
However, a lot of different races live in Outworld. Shao Kahn may have been trying to conquer Earth for (at least) the last 500 years, but he was actually successful in conquering other dimensions. As a result, Outworld has become a veritable melting pot of eclectic cultures and people (all trying to kill each other). Residents of Outworld include:
· Outworlders – Your basic human-esque race, but extremely long-lived, and with a greater affinity for magic. Basically elves without the ears.
· Edenians- Same, but they’re officially the conquered race of Outworld.
· Wizards- Fuggin’ wizards are their own race in Outworld, and it’s illegal to not hire a wizard just because they’re a filthy wizard.
· Shokan – Goro’s race of four-armed people that have not yet mastered the ability to produce shirts. They are occasionally described as half-dragon or half-tiger, but are all into ponytails.
· Centaurians- Motaro’s race of centaurs. Sometimes they’re satyrs, because they’re going through some stuff.
· Zaterrans- Reptile’s race of… uh… reptiles. They’re mostly extinct, but Reptile is right there, so I think they count.
· Vampires- You’re damn skippy this franchise has vampires running around. Apparently Mortal Kombat vampires are only allergic to Earth’s sun. It seems relevant at this point to ask if ol’ Purple Outworld even has a sun. That arena stage might just have really good lighting…
· Osh-Tekk- Oh, wait, they must have a sun, because they have kinda sun gods running around. The Osh-Tekks are basically the gods of the Aztec culture, and they gain power from the sun (apparently any sun) and blood (conveniently found all over in this universe).
· Sub-Zeros- Sub-Zero and Frost’s ancestors come from Outworld. They’re not around anymore, but they’ll probably pop back up in MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero 2: The Next Day.
· Kytinn- Insect people that work pretty much like the xenomorphs of Alien, but are, like, bugs. This is my worst nightmare, and if it is not yours, I don’t want to know what’s going on in your head.
· Naknada- Like the Shokan, but six arms, and a lot more scrawny. Though we’ve only ever seen one Naknada. It’s possible the other Naknada are buff as hell, and Kollector is just the runt of the litter.
· Dragons- Onaga the Dragon King was the ruler of Outworld before Shao Kahn, so dragons are official denizens of the realm for tax purposes.
· Whatever the hell Ferra and Torr Are- A symbiotic race where a lil’ dude rides a bigger dude and together they fight crime. Or make it.
And then we have the Tarkatans, the race introduced in Mortal Kombat 2 to further cement the “Outworld is not a vacation destination” thesis of the title. Tarkatans are all over the place on the ol’ “what’s this race’s deal” map. On one hand, they’re generally portrayed as blood-thirsty monsters that are animalistic enough to be driven into murderous rages over bottled pheromones or a Black Friday sale on knife sharpeners. On the other hand, they have their own language, are capable of using “Earth weapons”, and are widely regarded as the absolute best soldiers in Shao Kahn’s army. And their origins are equally confusing: they’re either the result of human/demon breeding, or they’re their own thing from a realm Shao Kahn conquered long ago. Meh, let’s face it: the Tarkatans are whatever the plot needs right now.
And, true to his Tarkatan heritage, Baraka is equally mutable. Baraka appeared in Mortal Kombat 2 as a fine representation of Shao Kahn and his less-than-photogenic army… but didn’t really accomplish much. He killed some monks in the prologue, and apparently there were some rumors of Baraka attempting to overthrow Shao Kahn with Milenna, but Mileena wound up dead before that plan could go anywhere. Baraka then returned for Mortal Kombat (4) Gold (not coincidentally only being proto-retro-dlc in the final game that required a motion capture actor to don a skin-tight face mask), and did the exact same thing: worked for Shinnok, and planned to betray him, but never got around to it.
Baraka then started working for the Dragon King in Mortal Kombat: Deception (once again, Baraka took a game off to wax his arm blades), and teamed up with Mileena (now alive again) to actually be a faithful minion for once. The duo attempted to deceive and exterminate Kitana’s forces on behalf of the Dragon King, but Liu Kang’s ghost and Liu Kang’s master beat back the Tarkatan hordes. Thanks to the overwhelming boredom of not betraying anyone for a solid thirty seconds, Milenna then attempted to kill Baraka, but Baraka sent another Tarkatan in his place, and Milenna is kind of racist anyway, so it all worked out (for Baraka, the other guy got gutted).
Baraka was officially killed during MK: Armageddon, as Kung Lao finally avenged his fallen monk buddies from Mortal Kombat 2 by slicing Baraka in twain.
Mortal Kombat 9 retkonned Baraka into being a Mortal Kombat 1 participant… but he was defeated by Johnny Cage almost immediately. Then he got beat up by the (still human) Cyrax. Then he was trounced by an old lady wielding a basket full of kittens. He got to kill those monks again, though! And then he got jobbed a few more times before not even bothering to show up for the rehash of Mortal Kombat 3. He went out for a pack of cigs while the other Tarkatans ran around with the centaur dude. Better use of his time.
In Mortal Kombat X, Baraka is a loyal servant to… am I reading this right? Oh, wow, Milenna actually finally got somewhere with her whole power lust thing, and she’s ruling Outworld with Baraka by her side. And then he gets killed by the bug lady. But it’s okay! He was replaced by a xenomorph with all his powers, so Baraka is still with us in spirit.
Baraka The Younger and Less Dead returns through a time-hole in Mortal Kombat 11. He learns that, since Mortal Kombat X, Kotal Kahn, the new ruler of Outworld, committed outright genocide, and every last Tarkatan is dead because Baraka supported Milenna. Ouch. Luckily (for Baraka), the Time Baddie of MK11 decides to timeport the Tarkatans back to the future, and Baraka has some buddies to hang out with between battles. And, recognizing a ruler he could almost certainly betray later, Baraka decides to join up with (time-displaced) Kitana to overthrow (time-displaced) Shao Kahn. Together, Baraka and his people join the final siege on the Time Boss that is the only reason his race even exists at all. Luckily, there is no reckoning, as the universe reboots yet again about seven seconds after Baraka gets off the boat.
In conclusion, if you need someone for your heroes to beat up, please remember the Tarkatan race. Baraka is here to help.
Next time: Mortal Kombat 2 means 2 playable ladies.