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The cheapest Mortal Kombat characters ever

"You only won because that character is cheap!" "So OP!" "Picking ______ is basically cheating!"

We've probably all heard — and, let's face it, used — these excuses before in the world of video gaming. No genre sees these claims quite as much as fighting games. Go look at tier lists for any popular franchise; you will always find players on complete opposite sides of the spectrum regarding which characters are the best and worst in their game of choice.

For a franchise that's run as long as Mortal Kombat, there are bound to be some cases where those claims of picking cheap characters are actually true. With early games, they often could not get the playtesting or skill level needed to get the balance just right. Last minute design changes could also disrupt the entire ecosystem of a fighting game. For fighting games in the era of esports and online patches, balance changes and a shifting metagame are part of the expected features.

Today, we're checking out some times those complaints of broken characters were actually legitimate. Get over here — we're taking a look at the cheapest characters in Mortal Kombat history.

Noob Saibot - Mortal Kombat Trilogy

We're starting with one of the most infamous in Mortal Kombat history. If you picked Noob Saibot in Mortal Kombat Trilogy, you were picking one of the most broken fighting game characters of all time. It's too bad, because MKT should have been amazing.

It came out in 1996, and was supposed to be a showcase of the powerful new generation of video game consoles. Unfortunately, it was marred with several balance issues, wildly variant power levels between characters, and more infinite combos than you can shake a severed spine at. At the heart of it all was Noob Saibot, sporting some of the easiest infinites of all.

Here's one in the corner. And here's one that just involves running back and forth.

We can't forget to mention Noob had his Disabler projectile (that lasted for a massive amount of time in MKT) and that the game's AI was horribly broken. MKT was a good idea, but one that failed a bit in … execution.

Raiden - Mortal Kombat

Broken is not the right word for the god of thunder in his first outing. He was definitely beatable, especially for players who knew what they were doing.

If you were just a casual player, however, Raiden was damn near untouchable. He had an ability to control the space that not many other characters could. He had a fast projectile to keep players far away, a teleport to escape if he get stuck, and his "Superman" special move to keep opponents at bay and punish them when they got close. Essentially, he had a tool for every situation, and was incredibly frustrating to play against if you did not play the game enough to know the systems.

On top of that, Raiden had some of the best damage in the game, and a corner lockdown that was practically impossible to escape. Cheap is the perfect word for him. He could even abuse a bizarre glitch that gave him an infinite combo.

Shao Kahn - Mortal Kombat 2

All Mortal Kombat bosses are cheap. They deal massive damage, have unblockable (or close to it) abilities, and the series' artificial intelligence has always landed a bit on the "The computer is cheating again!" side. However, if we had to choose just one unplayable boss to choose as the most infuriating, it has to be Shao Kahn, the final boss of Mortal Kombat 2.

Part of this was just based on how memorable certain aspects of the character were. Since early Mortal Kombat games used digitized actors, Shao Kahn's actor was digitally altered to make him tower over every other character in the game. He was also loud; Shao Kahn would stop in the middle of fights to laugh at the player and taunt them. Many an arcade were filled with a booming "You weak, pathetic fool!" coming from the Mortal Kombat 2 cabinet.

On top of that, Shao Kahn's damage output was absolutely insane: it took only a few hits from his special moves to take the player down to zero health. The only way to reliably overcome his overpowered abilities and cheap AI was to exploit the system and hope he paused a lot to laugh at you.

Shang Tsung - Mortal Kombat 9

Mortal Kombat 9, which was technically just called Mortal Kombat, was released in 2011, and was essentially a reboot of the series. It was the first release in the series after Street Fighter 4, a game that is often credited with beginning a fighting game renaissance, and MK9 was the attempt to bring the Mortal Kombat series back to basics and make it a presence in the esports scene.

For the most part, it worked, but MK9 featured some growing pains; especially on its release, it featured a lot of broken characters. Shang Tsung had a few features that made him one of the cheapest characters in the game once the dust had settled.

He just had so many projectiles. He threw them straight at you. He threw them off the top of the screen. He pulled them through the floor to juggle you around. Just watch this. Gross.

The sorcerer is not unbeatable; there are plenty of ways to counter his strategy. But his projectile pressure and frame trap game made him an absolute nightmare to fight, and characters without mobility options may as well set their controller down when going against a strong Shang Tsung player.

Jax - Mortal Kombat 2

Remember how Shao Kahn used to taunt players from the Mortal Kombat 2 cabinet, and you could hear him cackling from across the room? Almost as infuriating was Jackson "Jax" Briggs. "Gotcha! Gotcha! Gotcha!"

Jax was Mortal Kombat's first attempt at a "grab" character — think Zangief from the Street Fighter series — and, to put it nicely, he could have used a little more work. His air grab, his (unblockable) ground pound, his suplex … basically, this guy would make Brock Lesnar proud. Some might argue that he was balanced by his lack of a ranged game, but Jax even had a solid projectile to boot. The cheapness of Jax really came from some absolutely stupid combos that could be executed without too much skill.

Here's one. Here's another.

Just look at those. Imagine plunking down a sweaty quarter at the arcade to take on the resident champ or sitting on the couch to play against your friend's big brother, and they unleash that storm of machismo on you. Get out of here, Jax.

Cyrax - Mortal Kombat 9

Remember how Mortal Kombat 9 had several problem fighters? Few were as infuriating as "Day 1" Cyrax, who had all sorts of stupid setups and resets that made him practically impossible to fight against.

Part of the nature of the problems was that much of Mortal Kombat's competitive play was online, and his resets took advantage of the slight delay we saw in 2012 online play. His combos were incredibly damaging, and few characters were able to "reset" damage like MK9's Cyrax. Using nets and bombs to juggle an opponent, then letting them drop just long enough to restart the combo, a single hit from a strong Cyrax player could essentially spell game over.

Even worse was NetherRealm's difficulty in addressing it. Cyrax was nerfed in multiple patches in a row, but his bomb traps remained a problem for months after release. He was eventually balanced down a bit, but Cyrax was a character you were almost guaranteed to face off against every time you played online because of his cheesy style.

Erron Black - Mortal Kombat X

Mortal Kombat has always had some impressive original character design (and also something like 3 billion color palette swaps of the same character), and Erron Black just looks like a badass. A gunslinging cowboy with bandoliers strapped across his chest and a severed arm of a Tarkatan he uses as a weapon? Yes, please.

However, Mortal Kombat X, for the most part, was a game about getting up close and personal with your opponent. This put Erron into a unique position: he had an incredibly effective zoning game (especially when you chose his "Gunslinger" fighting style) in a game filled with characters ill-equipped to deal with it. As such, Erron Black players were often content to stand as far away as possible, firing guns and throwing grenades.

Effective? Highly. Cheap? Of course!

There were certain characters that could basically do nothing against Erron's style. As a whole, MKX was much more balanced than its predecessor, but picking a close-quarter fighter for an online match and then seeing the gunslinger across from you meant that you were about to not have a lot of fun.

Sub-Zero - Mortal Kombat

Sub-Zero is one of the most iconic fighters ever in the Mortal Kombat series, and his freezing special moves were a big reason why. Characters in the first game had some outrageous damage potential, and Sub-Zero's ability to freeze characters in midair could lead to some very quick matches.

If you understood the properties of Sub-Zero's normal moves, you could do massive (and oftentimes 100%) damage by launching your opponent, freezing them as they fell, and relaunching them while they sat there, helpless. Here's a good example of Sub-Zero doing just that. It takes some serious precision, but watch how easy it is to set up if you understand the frame data on Sub-Zero's different moves.

It didn't always take multiple freezes, either. Since damage output was so high and did not scale down in combos, you could also get situations like this. Corner pressure was a huge issue in the first Mortal Kombat, and few fighters could exploit it like Sub-Zero. He could use a few glitches in the game to utilize all manner of corner shenanigans.

Fujin - Mortal Kombat 4

Mortal Kombat 4 was the first attempt for the series to try something totally new (we don't talk about Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero). It replaced the digitized actors with 3D models and also introduced weapons to the series. Each character had a special move that allowed them to draw their character-specific weapon and use it throughout the match.

Most of these were relatively normal, like Johnny Cage's bowie knife. Some were extremely strange, like Sonya Blade's razor pinwheel. And one weapon straight up broke things: Fujin's plasma crossbow.

If you drew this against a player and were a decent distance away, the match was over. The keepaway game with Fujin was insane; getting in on a crossbow-armed god of wind without taking significant damage was practically impossible.

That's not even considering that the game's AI had no clue how to deal with the crossbow. Fujin players could stand back and breeze their way through computer-controlled fighters with nary an issue.

Mileena - Mortal Kombat 2

Mileena had plenty of tactics and tricks in Mortal Kombat 2 to make her infuriating to fight against. Her special moves were incredibly fast: the projectile recovery on her sais beat almost every other character's projectile move, and she also had two different moves that sidestepped projectiles entirely (her drop kick and her roll), meaning she had excellent mobility and an option for nearly any scenario. Her roll move had an even more dastardly quality: it popped opponents up into the air.

Naturally, this can lead to all sorts of stupid combos, many of which involved trapping your opponent in the corner and rolling them to death. Like this.

Oh, she can also fire her projectiles in midair, giving her an even better toolkit. Matches with Mileena could be over before you even knew they had begun, and you may as well restart the match if she traps you in the corner.

Sonya Blade - Mortal Kombat

The only female fighter in the first Mortal Kombat game could also abuse a glitch in the game to give herself a frame advantage and make one of her moves unblockable. It used her Leg Grab special and a tiny, barely noticeable forward move to give her an easy kill. You can watch a video of it in action here.

In modern gaming, abuse of glitches like this would be easily patched out. If a game shipped with a glitch like this (or one of the many other infinite combos we've talked about), players basically had to live with it until the sequel was released and just play around it. House rules banning cheap tactics were the only defense against glitches like Sonya's, and there are even claims that the character was banned from tournament use because of the combo.

Of all the infinites, this was the easiest one to pull off, however, which grants Sonya Blade a special spot in our hearts.

Dairou - Mortal Kombat: Deception

Mortal Kombat: Deception is often forgotten, but this was another attempt to make the Mortal Kombat series a fully 3D fighter. It is probably best that way, as it also featured one of the most infuriating special moves in Mortal Kombat history: Dairou's Tombstone Drop. He fell down … really hard? And it hurt the other player.

This move made Dairou so cheap because of canceling. In fighting games, canceling means ending the animation of one move early by inputting another move that overrides it. This is often used for complex combos, but it was much more sinister with the Tombstone Drop.

In the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of MKD, players could cancel a sidestep (remember, this was a fully 3D fighter) into the Tombstone Drop, allowing it to come out much more rapidly than normal. Abuse of this would lead to silly situations like this.

In later versions, like the GameCube MKD, this particular cancel was patched out. Wonder why?

Kabal - Mortal Kombat 9

Kabal, the super-fast, hooksword-wielding mercenary, is widely regarded as the top tier character in the 2011 Mortal Kombat by a large margin. Check out the community-voted tier listing for MK9, where he is listed right at the top.

What makes Kabal so powerful in MK9? Well, he is considered the best rushdown character. He is also considered the best zoning character. That means that no matter what strength your opponent has, you will have a character who can do it better.

He could gain super meter almost at will, and he could dictate the pace of every match. His special moves offered very little risk, and his ability to reset the enemy fighter was borderline cheating.

Obviously, watching a professional at their craft doesn't paint a complete picture, but watch Kabal main REO dismantle another Mortal Kombat legend at EVO 2013. That right there is why Kabal is such a cheap character.