Screen Critics Duran takes a look at Mortal Kombat’s ‘Sub-Zero’ – asking what makes him such an iconic character in the series.
Every time a new Mortal Kombat game comes out, you can expect at least two characters will be a part of the roster. The ninjas Sub-Zero and Scorpion are the series’ mascots; it would be a sin not to include one in a Mortal Kombat game. Sub-Zero is actually a code-named shared between a pair of brothers, Bi-Han and Kuai Liang. Bi-Han was the original character in the very first Mortal Kombat game. He was killed by Scorpion in the Mortal Kombat Tournament; Bi-Han’s younger brother, Kuai Liang, would then take the title of Sub-Zero. It would be the younger brother that fans will become accustomed to and grow to love. The original incarnation of the character will later be reanimated as the dead specter named Noob Saibot. Both Sub-Zero’s are known for their ice abilities, and their spine-tingly finishing moves.
In contrast to his rival Scorpion, who has always been identified as being neutral in most conflicts in the games, the young Sub-Zero have always been a warrior of good. First appearing in Mortal Kombat II, he would enter the new Mortal Kombat Tournament to seek revenge for the death of his brother. He would later join Raiden and the other protectors of Earthrealm in their battles against other Realms.
During Mortal Kombat 3, Sub-Zero’s clan, the Lin Kuei, would convert all their members into soulless cyborgs.
Originally a clan of ninjas, they all became robots under the orders of the grandmaster. In an act of defiance, Sub-Zero abandons his clan and becomes a rogue ninja. Later on in the games timeline, he will eventually overthrow the cyborgs, and become the new grandmaster of the Lin Kuei. He will later find out that his ancestry stems from Outworld; he is related to an ancient race that can control ice.
Sub-Zero’s story would remain the same even in the 2011 rebooted Mortal Kombat game. One of main additions in his story is that he is actually captured by the Lin Kuei and turned into a cyborg; he would later be killed by Sindel along with almost every other Earthrealm protector. He is then reborn as a revenant under the control of sorcerer Quan Chi. Fortunately for Sub-Zero he will be one of the few heroes revived through the help of the remaining Earthrealm protectors in Mortal Kombat X. He still ends up overthrowing the Lin Kuei cyborgs and becoming grandmaster.
The two most iconic things about Sub-Zero are his ice abilities, and his fatalities. Most of his special moves revolve Cryokinesis, the ability to manipulate ice. Many of his moves involve freezing opponents, creating weapons out of ice, icing the floor, or creating ice clones of himself to freeze his opponents. Sub-Zeros special moves are what drew many gamers towards him – he provided a new variety of moves that was more than the simple punches and kicks.
However, the one other thing that most gamers remember from Sub-Zero in the original Mortal Kombat was his Spine Rip fatality. Fatalities, which are when a character kills their opponent in a very brutal fashion, are what the Mortal Kombat series is known for; it is what brought the series media attention. His fatality was probably the most infamous; he tears out his opponent’s head and spine from their body. Though the other fatalities had characters ripping out people’s hearts and turning them into skeletons, Sub-Zero’s was able to stand out as being particularly gruesome. Since then, whoever had the Sub-Zero name will have a fondness of using spines when killing their enemies.
These finishers include the Spinal Smash fatality – which is when he rips out the spine and skull from his foe, then freezes them, and proceeds to smash them into pieces with their own skull. Another spine-based fatality is the Chest Kold fatality; Chest Kold is when Sub-Zero punches a hole into his enemy’s chest but their spine is still fully intact. Sub-Zero will then grab the spine, lift the opponent over his head, and split his opponent in half. In case players are ever feeling nostalgic though, the last few games in the Mortal Kombat series still have the option of having him use the classic Spine Rip fatality.
Sub-Zero is one the most famous Kombatant in the Mortal Kombat series – with every major release, there was always someone with the Sub-Zero name. He has actually appeared in more major titles in the series than Scorpion. Scorpion was absent in the originally Mortal Kombat 3, yet was added in the upgraded Ultimate version. That means there has always been a Sub-Zero in every major Mortal Kombat game. It would appear that the franchise cannot bear to have a major title without a him in it.