You know what's funny about Mortal Kombat? The supposed protagonist of the franchise Liu Kang is not the most popular character. I mean, he isn't on the bottom tier of popularity polls or anything like that, but no matter how many tournaments he wins and no matter how many bicycle kicks he throws he never reaches the top. No, the most popular character is a toss-up between the ninja specter from the Netherrealm, Scorpion, and the subject of my list here today, the Cryomancer warrior Sub-Zero. God knows those two have been fighting for the crown of top dog for decades now.
Making his first appearance in the original Mortal Kombat back in 1992, he was an instant hit with players for his ability to freeze his enemies in place with ice blasts and his signature fatality. Both versions of Sub-Zero (the elder being Bi-Han and the younger brother being Kuai Liang) have made their impact on the series felt and fans have taken note. Of all the characters in the franchise Sub-Zero seems to be the one that people think they know the most but in reality, there are still plenty of facts about the character that remain a mystery to this day. From how he affected our real-life legal system to how his various endings throughout the games spell out an odd tapestry of potential lives for him, there are things about this Lin Kuei warrior that most don't know.
15 He Is Only Half Chinese
While fans may not think about it too much (probably because he was portrayed by a 100% white guy in the first game where he was unmasked), but Sub-Zero is supposed to be Chinese. He does, after all, come from a clan of martial arts who live secluded from society to practice their deadly arts. But he is actually only one-half Chinese.
Sub-Zero's Chinese father came to America as a part of a Lin Kuei mission and married an American woman. The two had two children but when his task was complete their father returned home and against his wife's wishes he took his sons with him. So if you think about it, Sub-Zero might have accidentally frozen some kid while playing in a school yard in the United States. Fanfic writers, have at it!
14 His Scar Was A Point Of Contention
The younger Sub-Zero Kuai Liang has had a scar on his face ever since the third entry in the series. For many years fans were confused by how he got his scar as the developers were always unclear in their answers.
Are Ed Boon and his team being coy about answers? Colour me shocked.
In his Mortal Kombat 3 biography, it is stated that Sub-Zero was marked by the Lin Kuei so fans for a long time assumed that it was a Lin Kuei member gave him his scar. But the game Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks muddied the waters by having Kung Lao scar Sub Zero with his razor sharp hat. When the timeline of the series was altered because of Mortal Kombat (2011) it was shown in the MKX comics that Kano was the one to scar Sub Zero. That's a lot of explanation for something so minor.
13 He Has A Winning Record Against Scorpion
Rivalries are common across basically all fiction. Mortal Kombat itself has several but obviously, the most popular one is Scorpion and Sub-Zero. These two martial artists have had billions of matches against each other on the consoles of gamers for decades, but in continuity, their encounters can be counted on one hand.
Ice most definitely defeats hellfire in this match-up.
Their first encounter has Sub-Zero defeat the yellow ninja in a Shaolin temple. Scorpion loses yet again in their second battle in the Netherrealm. The Shirai-Ryu specter would bounce back with two wins over Sub-Zero in MK 1 and 4 but would lose their final battle in Mortal Kombat Armageddon. Even if you account their fights in the new timeline Sub-Zero still comes out on top since I'm not counting in the comics when a possessed Sub-Zero fought Scorpion.
12 He Became Batman
By far the most controversial game in the franchise to players (ironically for the very same reason why it probably didn't upset anybody in politics or the media), Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is the only game in the franchise not to earn an M rating. While the fighting wasn't too bad, the game is generally considered to be one of the weaker titles in the franchise. But at least it gave some cool endings for the arcade mode.
In Sub-Zero's ending, he gets inspired by his encounter with Batman in the game's story mode. Since he doesn't feel right siding with the rest of Earth's defenders due to his history as a Lin Kuei, he defends the world under his own terms. His former clan will hunt him down for his treason nonetheless. League of Shadows crossed with the Lin Kuei, anyone?
11 He Has Appeared In Every Fighting Game
The cast of the Mortal Kombat franchise has ballooned up past a hundred by this point but even with all the new faces, Netherrealm Studios have kept their classic characters pretty close to their hearts the whole time. If you were in the first game, there's a pretty good chance you'll end up in a ton of future games.
Global warming may have melted a ton of ice in the Arctic, but it has done nothing to stop Sub-Zero's dominance.
It's not true that Sub-Zero has appeared in every single MK game as he was absent from the disastrous Mortal Kombat: Special Forces. But aside from that, he's been in all the titles. Not even the series' protagonist Liu Kang can claim that honor as he was absent from Deadly Alliance save for the intro.
10 He Currently Isn't At Full Power
Like most of the fighters in the Mortal Kombat franchise, Sub-Zero is an extremely powerful combatant capable of incredible feats. The scariest thing about him though is that he isn't even at full power in the post-MK9 timeline.
With the help of jewelry, Sub-Zero can reach a new level.
In the original timeline which concluded in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, Sub-Zero had discovered an ancient artifact known as the Dragon Medallion. This medallion came into his possession after he took back his clan from its villainous headmaster Sektor. The medallion pushed his powers to levels never before imaginable for the Cryomancer. It requires a powerful warrior to wield it as another character named Frost was destroyed by it when she tried to steal it.
9 He Has A Football Play Named After Him
When Midway was still alive and kicking, they not only published the Mortal Kombat games but also a litany of sports games which have stayed classic to this day. One of the most popular of these was NFL Blitz 2000. This fast-paced over the top arcade classic was also ported to all home consoles at the time and of course, the team behind the game made references to Mortal Kombat. Not only was Raiden a playable character, but there was a play named after Sub-Zero!
Would a play named after Scorpion involve a shattered family?
The play is quite unique. It features an out route on the left which turns into a slant, a hook in the center-right and a wheel on the right side. Not many playbooks would carry this in the NFL, but that's because they're not good enough for Sub-Zero.
8 He Is Not A Ninja
For those who want a good laugh, search up the cutscenes from the PS1 title Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. These live action scenes feature some of the hammiest acting you will ever see and makes it such a product of 90s video gaming that it's simply tubular.
Sub-Zero cares about what you call him damn it, get it right!
In a cutscene after the first level where you retrieve a map from a Shaolin temple, Sub-Zero meets Quan Chi who mistakenly calls Sub-Zero a ninja. This gets Frosty The Murder Man all riled up because he IS NOT a ninja like Scorpion. While he is correct as ninja hail from Japan and not China, his over the top reaction to it is what makes the line belly laugh worthy.
7 The Movie Got Him All Wrong
As big of a fan favorite as he is, you would think that when the filmmakers were creating the first Mortal Kombat in 1995 they would take extra care to make sure Sub-Zero would be accurate to the games. They cannot get his character wrong, can they? Oh yes, they can.
The portrayal of Sub Zero in the first film is anything but a flawless victory.
Outside of his fight scene with Liu Kang which is a decent fight, Sub-Zero is completely stripped of his character in the movie. Not only is he mind-controlled to obey Shang Tsung, but he is tossed around by Raiden and loses to Liu Kang by being harpooned by a giant icicle. Mortal Kombat Annihilation is a worse movie, but even they got Sub Zero better than this one.
6 He Has No Love Interest
While there isn't a ton of romance inside the Mortal Kombat franchise, there are enough couples to let you know that you can find love among all the guts. Sonya and Johnny Cage got married in the new timeline (they also got divorced, who could have seen that coming), Liu Kang and Kitana have always been heavily hinted at and Jacqui Briggs and Takeda Takahashi are an item as of MKX. But Sub-Zero? Nada.
This Cryomancer not only has freezing powers but a cold heart for romance.
Both Cryomancer brothers Bi-Han and Kuai Liang have never been in a couple for the entire franchise. While Bi-Han at least hinted at one in MK Mythologies with the character Sareena, Kuai Liang hasn't even tried mortal dating. Somebody get this popsicle a lover now!
5 His Fatality Was Featured In Congress
It's known to most people that the original Mortal Kombat and the lesser known Night Trap on the Sega Genesis were the primary games that caused the ESRB rating system to come into effect. Their (at the time) realistic violence prompted politicians and parents to clutch their pearls and demand these games be regulated by the U.S government.
I wonder why they didn't show Liu Kang's pathetic finisher as an example of violence...
In reality, half of the finishers from the first Mortal Kombat aren't really that violent. One of them that was ultra violent would be Sub Zero's classic spine removal. It was this and Kano's heart rip that was demonstrated in a Congressional hearing as examples of the game's violence and subsequently lead to the creation of the letters you see on every video game's box art nowadays.
4 He Has A Ton Of Close Friends
While the defenders of Earthrealm all seem to be a tightly knit group, Sub-Zero has always chosen to be an arms-length away from them instead of being a fully fledged member. However, that doesn't mean that both Sub-Zeros haven't forged alliances along their journeys.
In the original timeline, the Sub-Zero brothers had at some point made alliances with Smoke, Kenshi, and Cyrax. Smoke would be Liang's closest friend before he was turned into an undead remnant at the control of Quan Chi. Kenshi and Sub-Zero would form a bond near the end of the original timeline after Sub-Zero saved him from oblivion. Finally, Cyrax was saved from a life of evil by Sub-Zero who restored him as a force of good. Who wouldn't want to be friends with a Cryomancer, eh?
3 We Know His Fighting Styles
Oftentimes in comic books and video games, we see characters busting out incredible martial arts feats. But we remain in the dark about what exactly their style is. The Mortal Kombat series has actually answered these questions about most of their characters, as in MK Deadly Alliance, Deception, and Armageddon we know exactly which fighting styles the characters use.
In Sub-Zero's case, he actually combines a Japanese martial art with a Chinese one. From Japan comes Shotokan karate, a style of karate based on counter attacks and reacting to enemy movement.. Dragon is a variant of Kung Fu with little kicking, but instead hard strikes with the hands. Now, you go train like Sub-Zero too!
2 He Almost Became Shao Kahn
Most fighting games feature an arcade mode where you compete against a series of opponents before taking on the final boss of the game. Then you'll get a special ending telling what happens to your character. But these endings are rarely canon. This allows developers to make some insane futures for their characters, including Sub-Zero.
In Mortal Kombat 9, you could play as either human Sub-Zero or Cyber Sub-Zero. In Cyber Sub-Zero's ending, you see a specter of the defeated final boss Shao Kahn seemingly possessing the ice warrior and taking over his body. Kahn then upgrades the machinery in his body and becomes a warlord once more from the afterlife. Some fans speculated/hoped that this would be followed up in the sequel, but alas it was not to be, and we instead battled the fallen Elder God Shinnok.
1 His Armageddon Ending Was Dark
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon was a ridiculous task for the developers of the game. With a roster of 62 characters, endings have got to be written for all the characters in the Arcade mode. With Sub-Zero being arguably the series' most popular character, you would think that they would give him an amazing ending. In truth, he gets a dark fate.
In defeating the game's final boss, Blaze, Sub-Zero becomes a god of ice. However, since the Elder Gods did not consent to this, they send champions of theirs to track down Sub-Zero and destroy him. It's left unknown in the wording of the ending whether or not he survived their attacks, but I'm rooting for Sub-Zero, considering the Elder Gods are a bunch of useless hacks who've done nothing but caused Earthrealm problems.