Kung Lao
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Kung Lao
Kung Lao
Mortal Kombat character
Kung Lao Mk11.png
Kung Lao in Mortal Kombat 11 (2019)
First gameMortal Kombat II (1993)
Created byJohn Tobias
Designed byJohn Tobias (early games)
Luis Mangubat (Deadly Alliance, MK:D, MK:A)
Portrayed byAnthony Marquez (MKII, MK3, UMK3, MKT)
Paolo Montalbán (Konquest)
Mark Dacascos (Legacy)
Max Huang (2021 film)
Voiced byJoshua Y. Tsui (MKG)
Joe Yau (MK:SM)
Jin Hyong (MK2011)
Will Yun Lee (MKX)
Sunil Malhotra (MK11)
FamilyKung Jin (Nephew/Cousin)
Great Kung Lao (Ancestor)
Liu Kang (Brother/Cousin) weapon = Razor-rimmed Hat
Battle Axe (MKG)
Broadsword (MK:DA, MK:A)
OriginChina (Earthrealm)
Fighting stylesMantis (MK:DA, MK:SM[1])
Shaolin Fist (MK:DA, MK:SM,[1]MK:A)
Chinese Kenpo (MK:SM[1])
Wing Chun (MK:SM)

Kung Lao (Chinese: ; pinyin: G?ngl?o)[2] is a fictional character in the media franchise Mortal Kombat. A major hero in the Mortal Kombat series, introduced as a player character in the fighting game Mortal Kombat II in 1993. He is a former Shaolin monk and a former member of the White Lotus Society who stands in the shadow of his ancestor, the Great Kung Lao. Kung Lao is the best friend of the series' male protagonist named Liu Kang and together they were the main characters and heroes of the spin-off game Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. He gained considerable popularity and favorable critical reception, in large part because of his famous hat, which doubles as a weapon.


Video games

Kung Lao is possibly (next to Liu Kang) the last known descendant of the Great Kung Lao, a Champion of Mortal Kombat, who lost the title and his life to Goro 500 years previously, resulting in 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 temple was 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. Kung Lao's ultimate goal was, however, to rebuild the White Lotus Society at the Wu Shi Academy in order to train a new generation of warriors for the coming ages. Following Shao Kahn's defeat at Liu Kang's hand in Mortal Kombat II, 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.)

When Shao Kahn invaded Earthrealm during Mortal Kombat 3, Kung Lao had to temporarily scrap his plans for reforming the White Lotus Society. Eventually, he 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, who challenged Shao Kahn and defeated him for the second time.

With Outworld driven back during Mortal Kombat Gold, Kung Lao decided not to return to Shaolin, instead of 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 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.

The next years were peaceful. This ended on a brutal note at the time of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, when the two sorcerers named Quan Chi and Shang Tsung united and murdered Liu Kang in a vicious attack. Kung Lao found his corpse and was told by Raiden that Shang Tsung was the killer, 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 Cho, 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 and, with Liu Kang dead, Raiden and his companions were fighting a losing battle. Kung Lao and Kitana challenged the Deadly Alliance. Kitana would fall against Quan Chi and Kung Lao would fall to the hands of Shang Tsung, leaving only Raiden to battle the Deadly Alliance. However, Kung Lao was then revived by Onaga, the Dragon King, as a slave during the events of Mortal Kombat: 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.

The God of Wind Fujin's bio for Mortal Kombat: Armageddon describes Kung Lao as having joined forces with him 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.[3] During the course of the game, Kung Lao kills Baraka in battle, but is eventually slain by Shinnok's clone.

In the action-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 this game 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.

During the in-game story of Mortal Kombat (2011), Raiden has been given foreboding visions from his future self and begins to try and change the events that will lead to Armageddon. He allows Kung Lao to fight in the second tournament, believing that he may be the one who must win. Lao defeats Shang Tsung, Quan Chi, and Kintaro, but is then killed by Shao Kahn. This enrages Liu Kang, who avenges his friend's death, apparently killing Kahn. Kung Lao's non-canonical ending after defeating Shao Kahn shows him at his ancestor's burial site with Raiden, where he is given a vision of the past. Because of this vision, it is discovered that Kung Lao is, in fact, the reincarnation of the Great Kung Lao.

Kung Lao returns in Mortal Kombat X.[4] In story mode, he serves the Netherrealm as one of Quan Chi's revenants and is angered at Raiden for not doing anything about Shao Kahn murdering him. His younger cousin, Kung Jin, makes his debut as a playable character and is one of the story's main heroes. It is mentioned that Kung Jin became a thief because his family fell on hard times after Kung Lao's death, and held hard feelings toward Raiden as a result.

Kung Lao return in Mortal Kombat 11. In the story mode, the past iteration of Kung Lao is one of the past Mortal Kombat warriors brought into the future by Kronika. In Kung Lao's case, this narrowly spared him from death, as the merger occurred immediately after he defeated Shang Tsung and Quan Chi, but before Shao Kahn could kill him. The past Kung Lao and Liu Kang are often seen together during their quest to atone for their future-selves' sins and hopefully avoid their fate. Due to the destruction of the Shaolin Sky Temple, Sub-Zero's Lin Kuei Temple and Special Force HQ by Kronika's forces, Kung Lao and the other surviving Earthrealm heroes seek shelter in the present-day Scorpion's Shirai-Ryu Fire Garden, where they learn about the Elder God's tragic fate, and Kronika's connection to both Shinnok and Cetrion from Raiden. Kung Lao and Liu Kang ask Raiden to return the them to Outworld, hoping to aid Kitana against Shao Kahn. In doing so, they rescue both Kotal Kahn and their fellow time-displaced warrior Jade, as well as uniting Outworld (redeeming Baraka in the process), with Kitana being declared the new Kahn by the now-crippled Kotal. Kung Lao participates with the allied Earthrealm and Outworld armies against Kronika's remaining forces, leading the surviving Shaolin monks, until Kronika resets time to the beginning, leaving Liu Kang (now a Fire Thunder God fusion between two iterations of himself and Raiden) as the only one standing against her. For his Tower Ending, Kung Lao uses the hourglass to save the Great Kung Lao from his defeat at Goro's hands. Within years, the Great Kung Lao is the undisputed Mortal Kombat champion. Millions later join the White Lotus Society and inspire rebels to mutiny against Shao Kahn, bringing peace to the realms. By the time Onaga awakens, he is no match for Kung Lao's power.

Design and gameplay

As stated in Kung Lao's bio card that after the first Mortal Kombat game, the creators wanted a monk character other than Liu Kang. According to Mortal Kombat co-creator John Tobias, Kung Lao's hat was inspired by the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger, in which a villain Oddjob threw his special derby hat as a deadly weapon.[5] Kung Lao was portrayed by Anthony Marquez in Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3; Ed Boon said Marquez was as "one of the best martial artists we worked with."[6]

Kung Lao can be seen in Mortal Kombat II, Mortal Kombat 3, and Shaolin Monks wearing the Chinese character ? which means military/wu shu/martial arts. However, when asked about this character, John Tobias stated that it is Chinese for "war".[7]

Kung Lao's attacks are based on wind-type moves. His most notable attack is the Hat Toss, which could be directed in Mortal Kombat II, but could not be directed since Mortal Kombat Gold,[8] until Mortal Kombat (2011). Many of his Fatalities involve the use of his hat to some extent, such as slicing the body in half and decapitation.

According to Prima Games, Kung Lao is one of the cheapest Mortal Kombat characters, where they observe "He can combo almost any jumping attack into his Dive Kick. He even has multiple projectile attacks, one of which he can aim up or down, meaning you can't reliably crouch under or jump over it. In Mortal Kombat 3, he even had one of the longest dial-a-combos, because his damage clearly wasn't high enough already."[9]

In other media

Kung Lao made several appearances in Malibu's' Mortal Kombat comic series. 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 comics, he shares a very close relation with Kitana. During the Blood & Thunder miniseries he has a minor participation rescuing a near-death Liu Kang after he was stabbed by Kano. In the Battlewave miniseries, he joins with Kitana, Baraka and Sub-Zero in an attempt to overthrow the Emperor Shao Kahn. He was also featured in his own one-shot issue from Malibu in the summer of 1995. 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.

Kung Lao is 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 film's animated prequel Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins during a flashback sequence detailing his battle with Goro and ultimate defeat at the hands of the Shokan warrior.

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. In the novel, he is depicted as being tall, bald save for a queue of long black hair (similar to Goro's), barefoot, and wearing a long white robe.

Kung Lao appears in Mortal Kombat: Legacy as of season 2, portrayed by Mark Dacascos.

Max Huang, a member of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team, will portray Kung Lao in the upcoming Mortal Kombat film reboot, which is set to be released March 5, 2021.[10]

Great Kung Lao

Great 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.[11] 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.[12] 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 more than five centuries of torment.

The Great Kung Lao was featured in the television show Mortal Kombat: Konquest as the main protagonist and was portrayed by Paolo Montalbán.[13] He is the great great great grandfather of Kung Lao and Liu Kang, who follow his teachings. 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.[14] 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.[14] 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 by Taja, a thief who (with Raiden's persuasion) saved Kung Lao's life from Jen's father.[15] Kung Lao is killed by the Shadow Priests along with Taja and Siro in the final episode of Konquest.[16]


Despite being stated as a fan favorite by CNET in 2006,[17] he has been referred to as an "obscure" character by CBS that same year.[18] In 2008, 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.[19] In 2010, IGN mistakenly noted Kung Lao as Liu Kang's brother and died early in the film (this character was actually Chan Kang) and said that Liu Kang and Kung Lao make the franchise "at its best" when they join forces.[20] In UGO's 2012 list of the top Mortal Kombat characters, Kung Lao placed fifth.[21] The readers of Dorkly voted him the series' eighth greatest character in a 2013 poll.[22] The character was parodied by Iron Galaxy Studios with 2013's Divekick female character Kung Pao.[23]

Much of reception regarded his Fatality moves and his famous hat. In a CNET review of Shaolin Monks, it was stated that Kung Lao's body-dividing Fatality "simply doesn't get old."[24] This Fatality was the only death move from the Mortal Kombat series added to the "Top 10 Death Moves" segment of the GamesMaster Gore Special episode and was voted at number four with a comment that no such list "will be complete without a death move from Mortal Kombat, but with so many to choose from, we ended up with a split decision."[25] In 2009, GamePro listed Kung Lao's hat as the ninth best piece of headwear in gaming.[26] His "Bunny Beatdown" from the same game was ranked as the 43rd craziest finishing move in the gaming by Complex.com in 2010, while the hat slice was ranked fifth.[27] That same year, Kung Lao's hat splice Fatality ranked as 35th most gruesome finishing move ever by UGO.com.[28]Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon commented that Kung Lao's MK2011 'buzzsaw-on-the-ground' was "probably the most painful-looking Fatality ever made;"[29] it was included by FHM on their list of nine most brutal Fatalities in the game.[30] In 2012, Cheat Code Central's Shelby Reiches included the "Jewel Splitter" Fatality among the four worst cinematic scenes in games, commenting: "Every time he does this to a male fighter, I can hardly watch. I try not to fight against Kung Lao anymore."[31] That same year, IGN ranked his hat as 79th top weapon in video game history.[32]


  1. ^ a b c Mortal Kombat Shaolin Monks Instruction Booklet, Midway Amusement Game, LLC, 2005, p. 13
  2. ^ Japanese manual of SNES version Mortal Kombat II)
  3. ^ Midway (October 11, 2006). Mortal Kombat: Armageddon Premium Edition. Midway. Level/area: Fujin bio card.
  4. ^ Dyce, Andrew (January 5, 2015). "Kung Lao Confirmed For 'Mortal Kombat X'". Game Rant. Retrieved 2015.
  5. ^ Goldman, Michael; Aaron, Richard E. (1995). "Ed Boon & John Tobias Interview". Official MK3 Kollector's Book. Electronic Gaming Monthly.
  6. ^ Kung Lao Deception Bio Card.
  7. ^ "Shirt Sense". GamePro. No. 76. IDG. January 1995. p. 14.
  8. ^ "Mortal Kombat Gold review". Retrieved .
  9. ^ "Cheapest Characters in Mortal Kombat History: Part 2". Prima Games. Retrieved 2015.
  10. ^ Golden III, Lee B. (September 16, 2019). "MORTAL KOMBAT: Max Huang To Play Kung Lao As Cameras Roll In South Australia". Film Combat Syndicate. Retrieved 2019.
  11. ^ 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 .
  12. ^ "Insider Gaming: Brad and James put on their fighting gloves and play Mortal Kombat for Sega Genesis". Archived from the original on 2017-08-07. Retrieved .
  13. ^ "'Cinderella' opens March 20 at Fox Theatre in Atlanta". Archived from the original on 2012-07-14. Retrieved .
  14. ^ a b "Eternal Warrior (Part 1)". Mortal Kombat: Conquest. Season 1. Episode 1. 1998-10-03.
  15. ^ "Eternal Warrior (Part 2)". Mortal Kombat: Conquest. Season 1. Episode 2. 1998-10-10.
  16. ^ "Vengeance". Mortal Kombat: Conquest. Season 1. Episode 22. 1999-05-22.
  17. ^ "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (Xbox)". Retrieved .
  18. ^ "Fall Releases For PS2 And PSP". CBS News. 2006-11-03. Retrieved .
  19. ^ Schedeen, Jesse (2008-09-12). "DLC Player Wanted MK vs. DC". IGN. Retrieved .
  20. ^ Pirrello, Phil; Schedeen, Jesse (2010-01-29). "Rebooting the Mortal Kombat Franchise". p. 2. Retrieved .
  21. ^ UGO Team (2012-02-28). "Top 50 Mortal Kombat Characters - Mortal Kombat". UGO.com. Archived from the original on 2012-09-29. Retrieved .
  22. ^ "The Greatest Mortal Kombat Character of All-Time (Vote Now!) - Dorkly Toplist". Dorkly.com. Retrieved .
  23. ^ "Divekick Preview for PS Vita - Cheat Code Central". Cheatcc.com. 2013-04-29. Retrieved .
  24. ^ "Mortal Kombat II (PlayStation 3)". Retrieved .
  25. ^ GamesMaster Gore Special episode, "Top 10 Death Moves".
  26. ^ Koehn, Aaron (2009-02-19). "Video Game Hats: The 17 Best Pieces of Headwear in Gaming". GamePro. Archived from the original on 2011-06-07. Retrieved .
  27. ^ The 50 Craziest Video Game Fatalities | Complex Archived 2012-08-28 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ K. Thor Jensen (2011-02-11). "Hat Slice - The Most Gruesome Finishing Moves Ever". UGO.com. Archived from the original on 2011-02-17. Retrieved .
  29. ^ Xbox World 360 (6 Jan 2011). "The secrets of gaming". Xbox World 360. ComputerAndVideoGames.
  30. ^ FHM Philippines (2011-04-28). "9 Most Brutal Fatalities in Mortal Kombat 9". Fhm.com.ph. Retrieved .
  31. ^ Shelby Reiches, Best & Worst Cinematic Moments, Cheat Code Central, October 23, 2012
  32. ^ "#79: Kung Lao's Hat (Mortal Kombat) - IGN's Top 100 Video Game Weapons". Uk.ign.com. 2012-03-27. Retrieved .

External links

Media related to Kung Lao at Wikimedia Commons

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