|In Mortal Kombat|
|Affiliations|| Shao Kahn's Army|
|Allies|| Quan Chi|
|Enemies|| Liu Kang|
|Fighting Styles|| Snake|
As mentioned above, Shang Tsung was cursed by mysterious entities identified only as his gods. The curse forcibly decreases his lifespan, unless he takes the souls of others to replenish himself. Shang Tsung's primary objective is to find an infinite source of souls on which to thrive indefinitely. without souls, his body will rapidly age, wither, and eventually die.
However, due to his ability to absorb souls, he has also discovered an unforeseen side effect, granting him the ability to shapeshift into the people whose souls he has taken. The change is more than skin deep as he has access to their memories and powers as well. Shang Tsung is not required to steal a person's soul in order to morph into them, as he took on the form of Kung Lao to sneak up on Liu Kang. As a sorcerer, Shang Tsung wields incredible black magic, most of it provided by Shao Kahn though after the third and second tournaments, this is no longer the case. It would appear that he, when paired with Quan Chi, was able to defeat the Thunder God of Earth, Raiden.
Like his rival, Liu Kang, he is associated with the element of fire, able to fire flaming skull-shaped projectiles at his opponent. In addition to his projectiles, he has the ability to create a giant, flaming cobra of fire that easily defeated Raiden (as seen in Deception's opening cinematic). In Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Shang Tsung could teleport using pools of fire. He can also use his element of fire for sorcery and black magic, such as his ability to create portals as seen in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. Early concept sketches of Shang Tsung for Mortal Kombat II revealed that he had a hidden, demonic form.