Mortal Kombat is many things. It’s a very solid video game series, with some of the best fighting games ever. It is also a very beautiful reminder of the 90s, with its “extreme” cast of characters and replacing every hard ‘c’ with a ‘k’. It is also the only good video game film out there. But most importantly, Mortal Kombat is known for not being kid-friendly. From charred bones to intense attacks, the finishers of Mortal Kombat gained a reputation with how over-the-top they are.
None were as infamous as Sub-Zero’s spine-rip; his finisher alone cements Sub-Zero as one of the big icons of the arcade scene. Sub-Zero was one of two playable ninja characters in the original Mortal Kombat. The other ninja, Scorpion, was a yellow pallet-swap version of Sub-Zero. The two ninjas would become the mascots of Mortal Kombat.
Sub-Zero’s ice powers have made him a fan favorite for decades. Nonetheless, there is a lot about Sub-Zero that doesn’t make sense. For instance, he controls ice, yet chooses to end people by simply taking out their spine? That’s not even possible, and Mortal Kombat is a world where ninjas, cyborgs, and the undead co-exist.
It is not that this doesn’t make sense, it is just way too convenient. You see, the Sub-Zero in the first Mortal Kombat game isn’t the same Sub-Zero that appears in the subsequent games in the series. The original Sub-Zero perished by Scorpion’s hands in the first game, a fact that is proven canon in Mortal Kombat II. Scorpion ended the original Sub-Zero for revenge against his clan.
Good thing that the original Sub-Zero has a younger brother, who has the exact same powers as him, and would take his place soon afterward. Seriously, what were the odds that would happen?
What do NBA Jam and Mortal Kombat have in common? They were both developed by Midway Games Inc. during the nineties. NBA Jam was a series of popular basketball games around that time period. Since Midway owned both properties, the developers came up with the brilliant idea to incorporate several Mortal Kombat characters in NBA Jam Tournament Edition. Sub-Zero was among those honored to play b-ball with the best athletes of the nineties.
In case you aren’t aware, Mortal Kombat is a very violent game series. Of course, the real-life NBA would have issues with being associated with games like MK. NBA would force Midway to take out the Mortal Kombat characters in later releases of NBA Jam Tournament Edition.
Sub-Zero versus Superman? Well, there have been crazier cross-overs.
Sub-Zero would tangle against the Man of Steel in a few fighting games. They first came to blows in the Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe crossover game. Sub-Zero froze Superman in a block of ice. There is an in-game reason for how Sub-Zero can possibly go toe-to-toe with Superman, and it is well-established that Superman has a weakness towards magic. However, Sub-Zero’s abilities shouldn’t be magic-based. He inherited his powers from his ancestry, the Cyomancers of Outworld. So his powers are genetic, not mystical. So Superman should have properly pummeled the ice ninja when they first fought.
Sub-Zero didn’t really do much in the original Mortal Kombat movie. He was under the control of Shang Tsung and fought Liu Kang in the Tournament. He perishes in a pretty dumb way in the film. Sub-Zero is shown using his freezing powers several times in the movie. Usually, it is instant, yet in his fight with Liu Kang, Sub-Zero felt the need to charge up his freeze ball. This gave Liu Kang the opportunity to throw water at him. The water froze into a spear, and stabbed Sub-Zero, freezing him. Not only did Liu Kang cheat by using a bucket of water, Sub-Zero shouldn’t have left himself wide open for an attack like that.
There is some inconsistency with Sub-Zero’s backstory in the games. It was heavily suggested in the original Mortal Kombat games that Sub-Zero’s family were always a part of the Lin Kuei. In the 2011 version of Mortal Kombat, it is revealed in Sub-Zero’s arcade ending that the Lin Kuei abducted the Sub-Zero brothers and even ended their parent’s lives.
Even though the 2011 version of Mortal Kombat is considered to be a reboot, it is actually a different timeline. Whereas the events of Mortal Kombat I through III were greatly altered, the history that took place before the first game should have not changed in Mortal Kombat 2011. Meaning, Sub-Zero’s backstory should have been the same as it was in the original games.
During the course of the franchise, Sub-Zero was able to become the Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei. While Sub-Zero is undeniably a talented warrior, he is actually a bad teacher. To be fair, we only get to see Sub-Zero mentor one person. Everyone else in his clan are nameless nobodies without any distinguishable personality.
Frost, a playable character introduced in Deadly Alliance, is the only student of Sub-Zero we ever see. To be fair to Sub-Zero, Frost was an arrogant fighter long before being trained by him. Of course, Frost’s betrayal is still a poor representation of Sub-Zero as a teacher, especially considering that Frost has been his only student.
In the 2011 reboot of Mortal Kombat, Sub-Zero was turned into a Cyborg. Later on in the game, he is slain by Sindel along with most of the other main characters. He is resurrected by Quan Chi as a wraith and became a servant for the Netherrealm. Quan Chi decided to revive Sub-Zero with his flesh and organs intact.
So this is the part that doesn’t make sense to me. Quan Chi also revived Jax, and Jax had robot arms. Even though Quan Chi gave Sub-Zero his flesh back, he still let Jax keep his robotic arms. Why didn’t he just give Jax back his original arms? Furthermore, how did that random green mist in Quan Chi’s chamber somehow turn Sub-Zero, Jax, and Scorpion back into humans?
While the second Sub-Zero is undeniably a good guy, the allegiance of the first Sub-Zero is a little bit more dubious. I assume he was also a good guy, as he did prevent Shinnok from invading Earth in Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. However he only did it because he was chastised by Raiden, and he was the one who stole Shinnok’s amulet from the gods of Earth.
He later becomes Noob Saibot after perishing, and Noob is definitely a bad person. It could be because he was corrupted after turning into Noob Saibot, but he appears to have no remorse whatsoever when he confronts his brother in the 2011 version of Mortal Kombat.
Before the 2011 reboot of Mortal Kombat, it is never specified how Sub-Zero turns into Noob Saibot. When Noob first appeared in Mortal Kombat II, he was nothing more than an enigma. He was a hidden, non-playable enemy that you can fight in the game. It was suggested that he may have been a fallen warrior from the first Mortal Kombat game. It wasn’t fully revealed that he was the first Sub-Zero until Mortal Kombat Deception.
The assumption was that after Sub-Zero passed away, his soul went to the Netherrealm and he was corrupted into becoming Noob Saibot. 2011’s Mortal Kombat also suggests he was revived by Quan Chi to serve Netherrealm.
So I get the behind-the-scenes reasons of where Noob Saibot’s name comes from. Noob and Saibot are the names of Mortal Kombat creators, Boon and Tobias, spelled backward. It is a nice little Easter egg that celebrates the men who created Mortal Kombat. However, there is never an in-game reason why he is named Noob Saibot. Many of the characters don’t go by their real names; for example, Scorpion’s was born as Hanzo Hasashi. But the difference between a Noob Saibot and a Scorpion is that a scorpion is a real thing. A Noob Saibot isn’t anything, so it makes no sense for Sub-Zero to change his name when he became part of the undead.
This is one of the more unexplored plot points within the Mortal Kombat Universe. Sub-Zero’s ice powers were, for the longest time, never really explained within the games. It was established in Mortal Kombat Deception that Sub-Zero and his brother are descendants of Cyomancers.
Cyomancers are apparently humanoid beings that originate from Outworld. They had the power to control ice before they mysteriously went away. This major revelation about Sub-Zero’s past is never really brought up again after the 2011 reboot of the franchise. We still don’t really know what the Cyomancers really were. It is also never explained how Sub-Zero could be a descendant since the Cyomancers were from Outworld and Sub-Zero is an Earthling.
When Sub-Zero was given a redesign for Mortal Kombat III, he had forgone his classic ninja garbs. Instead, he went bare-chested, and for the first time ever, completely mask-less. The in-game reason given for why Sub-Zero got rid of his classic clothing is because he left the Lin Kuei. He refused to be turned into a cyborg like Cyrax and Sektor and decided to side with Earthrealm’s warriors to save Earth from Outworld’s invasion.
It is in III that we get to witness Sub-Zero’s scar over his right eye. There was no explanation given for how Sub-Zero gains his scar. The only reason why I can think of is that he looks cooler with the scar.
Speaking of Mortal Kombat and DC crossover, Sub-Zero was one of the DLC characters for Injustice 2. He again fights the heroes and villains of the DC Universe. It is never explained how he got there. During the events of Mortal Kombat X, he somehow ended up in the Injustice Universe.
He ends up siding with Batman and his allies and even becomes a mentor for the younger generation of heroes. This is a stark contrast to how he acted towards the DC characters in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. In MKvDC, he was constantly fighting against the characters from the DC Universe, including Batman.
The main duty of a ninja tends to be eliminating people. That is what the Lin Kuei was; they were hired life-takers. Now, I don’t know how well Sub-Zero did his job before the events of Mortal Kombat, yet for someone with the skill to end any man’s life, he is kind of bad in the actual taking a life part.
We do see Sub-Zero end people through Mortal Kombat’s insane finishers, but those are never canon. We never get to see Sub-Zero take a life in the video games' story modes. Every time we see him try, he fails at it. Let’s face it, Sub-Zero is a terrible ninja.
The main thing that doesn’t make sense about Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero is how bad it is. After being a big player within the arcade scene, it made sense for Mortal Kombat to branch out with spin-offs. Not every Mortal Kombat game needed to be a fighting game, right?
The next obvious choice was to have the franchise’s most popular character star in it. An action-adventure game starring the original Sub-Zero should have been a recipe for an awesome game. Instead, it was a clumsy game that didn’t need to exist. The only bright side to Mythologies: Sub-Zero is that it is somehow not as bad as Mortal Kombat: Special Forces.
The Lin Kuei is a clan of ninjas, and they specialize in taking people’s lives. When Sub-Zero took over as the grandmaster, he decided to turn the Lin Kuei into a force for good. He transforms the Lin Kuei from hired mercenaries, into one of Earthrealm’s protectors.
Here’s the thing though, it is never stated that they stop becoming life-takers. I imagine the members of the Lin Kuei still have bills to pay; if they aren’t hired mercenaries anymore, how does anyone in the clan make a living? Do they get compensated by Raiden or the Special Forces for help protecting the Earth? What does the ultimate, secret clan do once it no longer has to take lives away anymore?
Just like in the games, the Sub-Zero in the first Mortal Kombat movie, who perished in a very dumb way, is replaced by his younger brother in the sequel. In the sequel, Mortal Kombat Annihilation, the second Sub-Zero reveals himself to Liu Kang. Sub-Zero also tells him that he knows that Liu Kang ended his brother. Despite that, he still chooses to help Liu Kang and the other heroes in saving Earth.
Now, the main characters were on an island for most of the first movie. There were no internet or cell phones. So my question is how did the second Sub-Zero know that Liu Kang ended his brother? How did that information get back to the outside world, and how did Sub-Zero found out about it?
Sub-Zero has some issues with Scorpion. Not only are they on opposing clans, Scorpion also ended Sub-Zero’s brother in the first game. Their relationship has always been a complicated one, and sometimes it is inconsistent.
While Sub-Zero initially wanted to get revenge on Scorpion for ending his brother, occasionally Sub-Zero would be the one that would offer a truce. They seem to have finally buried the hatchet in Mortal Kombat X. However, they original buried the hatchet in Mortal Kombat II, when Scorpion vowed to not harm Sub-Zero as penance for ending the original Sub-Zero. It is unknown for how long the truce between Sub-Zero and Scorpion will last, or if the franchise will just forget about it and have the two be rivals again.
There is no denying that Sub-Zero is one of the biggest icons within the fighting community. His iconic look and ice powers have made him an enduring gaming star for decades. He shares the distinction with Scorpion of being Mortal Kombat’s de facto mascot.
Despite that, Sub-Zero is never a leading character in any of the main games. His role in the games is usually just him helping Earthrealm fight against any foes that threaten them. Sometimes he has a bigger role than usual, like in the 2011 version of Mortal Kombat. Other times he has a relatively small role, like in Mortal Kombat X. It is weird to have the mascot of the franchise be relegated to a supporting role.