Liu Kang (Chinese: 劉康; pinyin: Liúkāng) is a video game character from the Mortal Kombat series. First appearing in the series' first title, Liu Kang is portrayed as a Shaolin monk who enters the Mortal Kombat tournament to save his world, Earthrealm, from being destroyed due to having lost nine consecutive tournaments. Since his victory in the tournament, Liu Kang acts as defender from the Earthrealms along with the Earth's warriors and his mentor, the thunder god Raiden.
Liu Kang appears in most games as a playable character, including as the lead character from Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks along with Kung Lao, and has also appeared in the live-action films from the series and the comic adaptations. His character was created to be the hero of the series, with most of his moves being less violent and easier to perform than the ones from other characters. His critical reception was mixed, with some of them criticizing his gameplay while others noted him to be entertaining.
Introduced in the first Mortal Kombat game as a Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu fighting monk, Liu Kang enters the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament in order to protect Earthrealm from being destroyed for having lost several tournaments. During the tournament, Liu Kang defeats Grand Champion Goro and the host Shang Tsung, emerging as the new champion of Mortal Kombat. In the sequel, Mortal Kombat II, Liu Kang finds many of his Shaolin killed in a vicious attack by a horde of nomadic mutants under orders from Emperor Shao Kahn, Shang Tsung's master. Enraged, Liu Kang decides to travel to Outworld, backed by his friend Kung Lao to seek revenge. At the tournament, Liu Kang fights Shao Kahn, eventually overpowering the emperor. In Mortal Kombat 3, Liu Kang and his friends fight against Shao Khan's extermination squad which invaded Earthrealm. Liu Kang once again defeats Shao Kahn, causing him and his forces to retreat back to Outworld. By the time of Mortal Kombat 4 Liu Kang discovers that Kitana has been captured by the Elder God Shinnok's forces and begins gathering Earth's warriors to defeat Shinnok. Eventually, Liu Kang confronts Shinnok and once again emerges victorious with Kitana and her people having survived to the attack. However, he is unable to commit himself to a relationship due to his duty while Kitana has to stay in Outworld as reigning princess.
In Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, the sorcerers Shang Tsung and Quan Chi join forces to kill Liu Kang, who is unplayable in the game. By the time of Mortal Kombat: Deception, his mentor, Raiden, reanimates Liu Kang's body and sends it on a rampage, causing his soul to attempt to control it. The undead Liu Kang appears as a secret character that can only be unlocked through the Konquest Mode. In the PlayStation Portable version of Deception, Mortal Kombat: Unchained, he is directly playable as the staff noted that it was very difficult to unlock him in Deception. From there, Liu Kang enlists with the ninja Ermac to try to save his friends from Onaga who has been controlling them. He accomplishes this task in Deception but by Mortal Kombat: Armageddon he is still unable to fully control his body.
Along with Kung Lao, Liu Kang is the lead character in the spin-off action game Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. The game is a retelling from the storyline of Mortal Kombat II and features the two Shaolin Monks traveling to Outworld to find and defeat Shang Tsung, later ending in a fight with Shao Khan. Liu Kang also stars in the crossover Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, which features fights between characters from the Mortal Kombat and the DC Comics universe. In this game, Liu Kang appears as the protagonist from the first chapter of the Mortal Kombat story mode. Tobias said that the fight he expected to see in the game was between Liu Kang and Batman as he noted their back-stories to be very similar.
In the 2011 Mortal Kombat video game, Liu Kang reprises his role from the first two tournaments as Raiden who has visions from the future in which Shao Kahn remained as the last warrior believes him to be the warrior which his future self chose as the saviour. When Shao Kahn is preparing to invade Earthrealm, Raiden electrocutes Liu Kang before he could face him as he realized Shao Kahn had to win and merge the realms in order to avoid the events of the future.