How Did Johnny Cage Die?



You ever wonder how Johnny Cage died? Or, more to the point, how often Johnny Cage has died? Of course! We all do! Well, that’s exactly what we’ll be discussing today as we explore Mortal Kombat’s high points and the low points to discuss what really happened to Johnny Cage during the events of Mortal Kombat.

Recently, Game Informer sat down with Ed Boon to ask him, “How many times has Johnny Cage died?”

His response: “About two or three million if you consider how many games we’ve sold.”

Well, that’s a given. But from a storyline perspective, a lot of Mortal Kombat fans are wondering how many times has Johnny Cage been killed and brought back to life?

You know, it’s kind of funny considering that in Mortal Kombat: The Album, one of the first things we’re told about him is that, “Johnny Cage is not afraid to die!”

And yet, more than any other character, what does he do?

In Mortal Kombat II, when the MK team decided to leave a character out of the game, you could still see those characters in certain backgrounds. In Kahn’s Arena, you can clearly see Kano, tied up in chains, wiggling around. Same thing for Sonya. She’s also there with him, tied up and struggling to hold on to life. You can see both of them wiggling around. Well, this gave the Mortal Kombat team some “wiggle room” to bring them back in later installments.

But that’s not the case in the next Mortal Kombat game. In Mortal Kombat 3, there’s a cemetery background. And you can clearly see the name “Cage” written on one of the tombstones. They’re letting you know he’s dead, he’s passed on, he’s no more, he has ceased to be, he’s expired and gone to meet his maker, he’s a stiff, bereft of life, he rests in peace, he’s pushing up daisies, he kicked the bucket, he’s shuffled off this mortal coil. I guess what I’m trying to say is: he’s not in this game.

That didn’t stop the fans from making up rumors, though. There were all kinds of fake codes and fake pictures floating around on the Internet. People swore up and down that if you did the code exactly right, you could unlock Johnny Cage’s ghost, and fight on as the spirit of Johnny Cage. This rumor spread like wildfire. Even strategy guides that were published at the time were putting those rumors in print, just in case they turned out to be true!

And of course, the Mortal Kombat development team helped fuel a lot of those rumors. In Mortal Kombat 3’s audit screen, you can clearly see an entry for “Johnny Cage Transformations.” Of course, there’s no way to actually do such a thing, but they would put stuff like that in the games to keep people talking about it, and to keep the players coming back.

But as for what actually put Johnny six feet under, well that’s a question I first saw answered back in the ’90s, on one of the coolest Mortal Kombat websites ever: Rat’s Mortal Kombat Information Page. There was a sound file of Johnny Cage’s funeral. And it went a little something like this:


Dearly beloved,

We are gathered here today to mourn the death of Johnny Cage. Killed at the hands of Kintaro during the second Mortal Kombat. He was only 29 years old when he fought.

MK3. It’s not over. Not even close.

But was this a legit source? Or was this just another fan-created fake?

A text file that accompanies the audio says,

This sound was _supposedly_ some promotional for MK3 from Ed Boon. Up to you if you want to believe it.

Well, the world may never know. But we do know this: In Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Johnny Cage was killed in a battle with an Outworld Extermination Squad. He manages to cheat death when his path to the afterlife is blocked by the merger of Earth and the Outworld. His soul takes possession of its body once again and enables Cage to rejoin his friends to battle for Earth’s survival.

And in his ending, it’s mentioned that Johnny Cage seeks revenge against the Extermination Squad that took his life. But there’s a little problem: Once the good guys win against Shao Kahn, his soul will again be deceased when Earth returns to normal. After going on a one way mission to destroy Shao Kahn, the realms go back to their normal state. Johnny Cage has one last chance to say goodbye before his soul moves on to a higher place.

Well, let’s change tracks for a bit and talk about the movie. In the first Mortal Kombat movie, Johnny Cage survived. The only thing of his that died is a pair of expensive shades.

Johnny Cage: “Those were $500 sunglasses, asshole!”

He was alive and well by the end of the film. Except a lot of fans wonder, how did he get out of Scorpion’s Lair? When Johnny Cage fought with Scorpion, they started out in a forest. In the middle of the fight, Scorpion actually teleported him away from there and into Hell. I mean, that’s Scorpion’s Lair, right? That is supposed to be the Netherrealm, isn’t it? And Johnny won that fight, which ended with Scorpion exploding. So, how did he make it out of there? Could this be another instance of Johnny Cage dying, and coming back from the dead? It’s a theory... a game theory!

In Mortal Kombat: The Live Tour, which was kind of spiritual sequel to the movie, the opening scene features the demon sorcerer Shang Tsung, methodically stealing all the chosen souls of earth. As he’s confronted by all the good guys, Shang Tsung quickly gets Raiden out of the way, and attacks Johnny Cage, stealing his soul. While the rest of the Earthrealm warriors helplessly look on. He turns out okay, though. By the end of the show, not only to the heroes save the day, but Johnny’s soul also ends up back in its body.

The next kinda-sorta sequel was an animated series called Defenders of the Realm. And on this show, Johnny Cage isn’t even mentioned. This show referenced other events that happened in the first film, like Liu Kang’s fight with Sub-Zero. And Kano’s fight with Sonya. But they never showed Johnny Cage. They don’t even talk about him. Not even once.

Well let’s fast-forward to the actual sequel: Mortal Kombat Annihilation. The film everyone loves to hate. And for good reason. In the very first scene, we see that Johnny Cage’s sunglasses have come back, and get destroyed... again. After attempting to do his Shadow Kick against Shao Kahn, he’s easily captured. Shao Kahn makes Raiden a fair trade:

Shao Kahn: “Surrender, Raiden, or this one dies!”

Raiden: “Then I will take your generals! Because Earth does not bend to the will of tyrants.”

Shao Kahn: “You, who would never let one of your precious humans die.”

Raiden: “Trade me for Johnny Cage.”

Shao Kahn: “Come bow. At my feet!”

And then kills him anyway, snapping his neck.

Shao Kahn: “Fool!”

Sonya: “Johnny!”

Yes, well, enough of that. Let’s go back to the games. Mortal Kombat 4 picks up right form where Mortal Kombat Trilogy left off. Johnny Cage’s soul had moved on to a higher place. The problem is, the heavens themselves are under attack, from the former Elder God Shinnok. While in heaven, Johnny Cage sought out Raiden and asked to be restored to life so that he could join his friends and defend Earthrealm.

The Midway team also created a render of Goro, holding up the disembodied head of Johnny Cage, clearly the victim of a Fatality. This render was given to magazines and used to promote Mortal Kombat 4’s release on the home consoles. But that could hardly be considered canon. No, by the end of Mortal Kombat 4, Johnny Cage is alive and well. Yeah, that’s right. Unlike Mortal Kombat Trilogy, where he had to say goodbye at the end, in Mortal Kombat 4, Johnny Cage is stayin’ alive.

Johnny Cage: “Well that’s enough of the mushy stuff. I mean, let’s get real here, huh? When am I gonna get some real competition? Come on, don’t get silent now! Where are all the cheers? Hey, wait a minute! I’m your number one guy! I’m gonna remember this. Ow! Okay, now I’m mad! Hey, c’mon! Quit it! Ow! I saw that, Arnold!”

Going back to movies universe one last time. Let’s take a look at Mortal Kombat: Federation of Martial Arts. This web series is like a follow-up to both movies, and allowed viewers to place bets on the fights’ outcomes. Since Johnny had already been killed in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, he was nowhere to be seen in FOMA. Instead, we’re introduced to his brother, Jimmy Cage. Jimmy Cage is even more cocky and arrogant than his brother was, and has more expensive tastes.

Jimmy Cage: “Those were $650 sunglasses!”

He had fallen in with the wrong crowd, though, and was secretly a member of the Black Dragon. But that’s alright. He got what was coming to him.

Jumping back to the games, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance completely rewrote Johnny Cage’s story. Turns out ,all those bits about him repeatedly dying and being resurrected was all just lame writing for his current movie, “Mortal Kombat: The Death of Johnny Cage.” His real-life adventures were much more sensational... he kicked butt! Hehe, they said “butt.” But the studio felt that the hero needed to take a fall for dramatic purposes. This was a pretty major retcon for Johnny Cage’s story. He basically never died. He was alive the whole time. Too bad he wouldn’t survive this game.

In the next installment, Mortal Kombat: Deception, pretty much all the good guys are dead. None of the good guys seem to have survived. And right there, laying among the dead, is Johnny Cage. Fortunately for him, we’re introduced to Onaga, the Dragon King, who’s returned from the dead. His whole deal is that he has an undefeatable army because he has the power to bring back the dead. So even though he’s not playable, technically, Johnny Cage is alive in this game:

Johnny Cage: “Yeah! Woo! C’mon!”

As a slave.

Johnny Cage: “Aw, forget it!”

However, as seen in Ermac’s ending, Ermac and Liu Kang work together to free all the enslaved heroes. Including not only Johnny Cage, but also Sony, Jax, Kitana, and Kung Lao.

The next game in the series, Mortal Kombat: Armgaeddon, was the first that didn’t include bios for the characters. The team did write bios for a couple of the characters and released them online. In his bio, Johnny expressed concern for the fact that Liu Kang—or “Spirit Liu,” as his fans have come to refer to him—was destined to move on soon. Good thing nothing like that’s ever happened to you, Johnny. He was the one to discover Shinnok and Quan Chi’s next plan. And went to contact the rest of the heroes so they could all band together. As the battle of Armageddon commences, Johnny was clearly involved in some of the fights, but we don’t know exactly what happened to him. We know that Johnny Cage doesn’t make it. There goes his head. But nobody can tell us who was responsible.

The next game in the franchise is Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Being a crossover, it doesn’t continue the story of the games. Instead, it plays out more like a “What If?” scenario. And in this one, Johnny is gone, but not forgotten. As “Worlds Kollide,” Shao Kahn and Darkseid fuse together in a single entity—Dark Kahn. The comic book that’s included in this game shows that Dark Kahn’s very nature rips certain characters right out of the fabric of existence. And one of those characters just happens to be Johnny Cage. And yet, when you play in the Graveyard stage, you can clearly see a tombstone marked “Cage.” Does this imply that some time has passed between Johnny Cage’s death and the time that the realms are colliding? That the Mortal Kombat characters all had a chance to process the loss of Johnny Cage, and have a proper funeral and a burial service and everything? Or is this just an easter egg, and maybe I’m looking too much into it? I don’t know.

But I do know this. Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, a trailer for a dark and gritty webseries, focused on the Deacon City Police Department, and their attempt to apprehend criminals. Some of the characters, like Baraka, had stories that were completely changed around.

Jax: “He pierced his face, sharpened his teeth into fangs, and he even surgically attached a part of 10-inch blades into his forearms. Codename: Baraka.”

Johnny Cage was depicted as an out-of-work actor, who was working for the police department in order to pay his bills.

Jax: “Cage. Yeah, that’s right, the old action hero. After his movie career died, he needed work. We had him working for us undercover.”

Too bad for him, this new line of work would put him face-to-face with Baraka. That’s one sucka dead, L.A. Times front page.

The next Mortal Kombat game would change history—literally. The opening sequence of Mortal Kombat 9 begins with the aftermath of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. Realizing that everything’s gone wrong, Raiden comes up with a desperate plan to undo it all.

Shao Kahn: “Ages wasted in foolish resistance. Now is the dawn of my rule.”

Raiden: [Mystical language]

Shao Kahn: [laughter] “Yes. Pray to the worms.”

Sending a message back in time to himself, we’re shown a series of flashbacks, which—from the younger Raiden’s point-of-view—are actually visions of the future. And of the events that these flashbacks portrays is the death of Johnny Cage. Here, we can clearly see him being impaled by Motaro. So that means they just retconned MK: Deadly Alliance’s retcon. Johnny Cage had died after all! Not that it matters anyway, because things are going to be different this time. As the game revisits the events of Mortal Kombat 3, such as Shao Kahn’s invasion of Earth, Raiden shows up at the right place at the right time. Realizing that Johnny was only minutes away from death, Raiden preemptively retaliates, killing Motaro before he ever has the chance.

Stryker: “Johnny Cage fighting a giant monster? What is this, Time Smashers?”

Raiden: [gibberish as he destroys Motaro]

Kabal: “That guy just shot lightning from his hands. How’d he do that?”

Stryker: “No idea.”

This game also provides—for the first time—an explanation for Johnny Cage’s powers. Turns out, he’s descended from an ancient Mediterranean cult who bred warriors for the gods. This does explain his special moves, but can it also explain his ability to come back from the dead? Probably not.

Mortal Kombat: Rebirth soon gave rise to Mortal Kombat: Legacy. The only thing that of Johnny’s that’s dying this time around is his career.

Lance: “I’m not lovin’ it.”

Emile: “Me neither. Sorry, Johnny.”

Johnny Cage: “What are you guys talking about? This is exactly what you asked for.”

Lance: “Well, to be frank, I was bored off my ass 10 seconds into the thing. I was literally getting more and more pissed the longer it went on.”

Actually, although he wasn’t being literal, Johnny did mention that he’d been reborn.

Johnny Cage: “Growing up, I was shy, I was weak, I actually got my ass kicked a lot. But martial arts changed all that. And I was reborn. And that gave the world Johnny Cage.”

In this dark and gritty retelling of the Mortal Kombat story, Johnny is nearly assassinated by Kitana and Mileena.

Mileena: [growls and throws a sai at Johnny’s face]

Johnny Cage: “Fuck that!” [runs away screaming]

Fortunately for him, their storylines are beginning to converge.

Mileena: “Finish him.”

Kitana’s beginning to gain a sense of who she really is...

Mileena: “Finish him!”

...and that she’s not one of the bad guys after all.

Kitana: [shaking her head] “This isn’t my fight any more. I’m done. No more killing in Shao Kahn’s name.”

Mileena: “He is our father and we do as he commands!”

Kitana: “He is not my father. And you are not my sister.”

Kitana turns on her “sister,” saving Johnny Cage’s life in the process.

Mileena: [screams, as Johnny stabbed her foot with one of her sais]

Johnny: “That’s for my sunglasses, bitch!”

Kitana: [decapitates Mileena with her fan]

Also, in this version of the story, Earth’s main champion Liu Kang is manipulated by Shang Tsung into working for the bad guys. That pits him and Johnny Cage against one another. Johnny Cage nearly dies again until he’s saved at the last minute by Stryker of all people. It’ll be interesting to see where they go from here. Will Johnny Cage die? And if so, will he come back? Season 3 hasn’t been released, but it has finished filming. So time will tell.

Let’s switch back to the games and look at the most recent installment—Mortal Kombat X. Ever since Raiden changed the flow of time, giving Johnny Cage a second lease on life, Johnny hasn’t just survived—he’s thrived. During Shinnok’s invasion (a retelling of the events from Mortal Kombat 4), Johnny stepped in saving Sonya’s life.

Shinnok: “She will be the first to join me.”

Johnny: “No!” [glows green and jumps in front of Shinnok’s blast] “I’m not sure what just happened to me. But I am sure of this. You don’t even think of hurting her!”

That event brought he and Sonya closer together. They got married, had a kid—Cassie Cage.

And, even though they got divorced, Johnny joined Sonya in the U.S. Special Forces. And together, with their daughter Cassie, they’re keeping the Earthrealm safe. Throughout the events of Mortal Kombat X, Johnny’s had a couple of close calls. Like when Quan Chi attempted to create a revenant version of him.

Jax: [stabs Johnny] “You won’t be dead for long.”

Sonya: [grabs Jax, slamming him down to the ground] “I’m sorry, Jax.”

Sonya: [to Johnny] “I’ll get you out of here. You’ll be fine!”

Johnny: “Dunno... blood’s supposed to be on the inside...”

Raiden materializes.

Sonya: “Raiden!”

Raiden: “I must reverse his spell.” [chanting]

Sonya: “It’s working!”

Quan Chi: “You cannot save him. You’re weak, Thunder God. Johnny Cage is mine.”

Sonya: “No. He’s mine. [to Raiden] Save him! I’ve got this son of a bitch. [after defeating Quan Chi in Kombat] That wasn’t even close to what you deserve.”

Raiden: “Sonya Blade! The link with Quan Chi is not completely severed.”

Sonya: “Not a problem.”

[Quan Chi is defeated, allowing Raiden to reverse the spell that created revenant Cage, along with Quan Chi’s hold over other Kombatants]

That proved to be pretty important plot point, because not only was Johnny Cage saved, but Quan Chi also lost his hold on other characters, like Scorpion and Jax.

Raiden: “The others are restored to the living. By coupling Quan Chi’s dark magics to my own, I was able to restore their souls.”

Sonya: “Is he going to make it?”

Johnny: “Haven’t I told you? He’s a god!”

Sonya: “You scared the shit out of me!”

Johnny: “And they said I couldn’t do horror films.”

And there was the time the insect lady, D’Vorah, laid her insect eggs inside his body.

Johnny Cage: “Hey, Pumpkin...”

Cassie Cage: “I’m a little old for ‘Pumpkin’!”

Johnny Cage: “No... get Shinnok...”

Cassie Cage: “But...!”

Johnny Cage: “I love you.”

Cassie Cage: “Dad?”

Shinnok: “So you are the issue of Johnny Cage. Fitting that I exterminate his entire line.”

Cassie Cage: “You want him, you’re gonna go through me.”

Shinnok: [after smacking Cassie down to the ground] “Yes, that’s better. Watch, Miss Cage, as I rend your father’s flesh.” [attacking Johnny with a projectile] “This is what awaits those who defy me. Excruciating exquisite death.” [resumes the attack]

Cassie Cage: “You son of a bitch!” [glows green and intercepts the attack] “Holy shit, it does run in the family!”

Shinnok: “Your father’s power will not save you. You cannot hope to survive.”

[Cassie Cage defeats Shinnok!]

Johnny Cage: “That you? Nice!”

But despite all that, Johnny turned out okay in the end.

Johnny Cage: “And to think I was worried when you started dating.”

Cassie Cage: “Afraid I’d come home with someone like you?”

Johnny Cage: “Funny. Beautiful. Saves the world! My work here is done.”

[Sonya and other U.S. Special Forces agents enter the room]

Sonya Blade: “This way. In here. Isolate Shinnok and D’Vorah. And get the medic.” [runs toward Johnny] “We’ll fix you up. Help is on the way.”

Johnny Cage: “You should’ve seen Cass. Wiped the floor with Shinnok!”

Sonya Blade: “I believe it. And you... You did a great job with your team, Johnny.”

Johnny Cage: “You hear that, Cass? She called me Johnny!”

Cassie Cage: “I thought she might.”

So now, we’ve explored every Johnny Cage death in the Mortal Kombat universe. Both in the games and beyond. Now we can finally answer the question, “Who killed Johnny Cage?” We’ve heard how we was killed at the hands of Kintaro in MKII. We’ve seen him killed by Motaro and his extermination squads. We’ve seen Goro holding up his severed head and spinal cord. We’ve seen how the rage of Dark Kahn caused him to blink out of existence. Or, put him six feet under. We’ve seen Shang Tsung take possession of his soul. We’ve seen Shao Kahn snap his neck. We’ve even seen Baraka—even though it’s not the same Baraka we’re familiar with—decapitate him.

And no matter what happens to him going forward, something tells me it won’t be the last we’ve seen of Johnny Cage. Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.