Codex Gamicus


Game series Mortal Kombat series
First appearance Mortal Kombat
Affiliation: Good
Rank: Grandmaster
Nationality: Chinese
Species: Cryomancer-Human Hybrid
Age: 32
Height: 6' 2" (1.88m)
Gender: Male
Birthplace: Earth
Dislikes: Scorpion
Family: Noob Saibot (brother)
Home: Lin kuei palace
Power: ice ball
Fighting style: Shotokan (MK:DA, MK:D, MK:A)
Dragon (MK:DA, MK:D)
Weapon(s): Ice Scepter (MK4, MKG)
Kori Blade (MK:DA, MK:D, MK:A)
Creator(s): Ed Boon
Voice actor(s): Daniel Pesina (MKII)
John Turk (MK3, UMK3, MKT)
Keith Cooke (second film)
Ryan Watson (Live Tour)
J.J. Perry (Conquest)
Luke Perry (DotR)
Notes: There are two Sub-zero's one that appeared in mortal kombat was the original but died

Sub-zero with Scorpion's frozen head

Sub-Zero is the name given to two fictional video game characters from the Mortal Kombat series. Being brothers, both of them were born in Outworld, and are blue-garbed assassins that descended from Cryomancers, an Outworld race of gods possessing the ability to generate and control the powers of ice, which gives Sub-Zero the innate ability to control ice in many forms.

A mainstay to the series, Sub-Zero is the only character in the series to be playable in every game, with the exception of Mortal Kombat: Special Forces. The older Sub-Zero first appeared in the first Mortal Kombat game, getting replaced by his younger brother in Mortal Kombat II and the subsequent games. In Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and most versions of Mortal Kombat Trilogy, both the elder and younger Sub-Zero appear as playable characters. Sub-Zero also appears in many other Mortal Kombat media works such as the Mortal Kombat live action film series and animated series.

Character design and development[]

The original name for Sub-Zero was Tundra prior to production of the original Mortal Kombat,[1] but the name was changed after a member of the design team saw the Arnold Schwarzenegger film The Running Man, in which the first assassin fought by Schwarzenegger's character used the name, albeit not hyphenated.[citation needed]

Mortal Kombat co-creator John Tobias said in a 1995 interview with Electronic Gaming Monthly that Sub-Zero was unmasked in Mortal Kombat 3 in order to stir up fan speculation about the character's backstory.[1] An April 1995 article from VideoGames magazine, which was written while the game was still in production, included the first image of actor John Turk in costume, though Turk was purposely photographed from the rear and in shadow in order to conceal the character's identity. The new Sub-Zero made his proper debut on the cover of GamePro that same month with Turk's red outfit tinted blue (as it was for the game), but the photo used was actually mirrored, as his scar was over his left eye.[2] According to Ed Boon, Sub-Zero's Freeze was originally omitted from the game in place of the Ice Shower, but was brought back in the next revision following fan feedback at a local arcade.[1]

Since Mortal Kombat 3, Sub-Zero has had a scar running down from his forehead and across his right eye as a mark of death. The scar was originally red, and later changed to blue in Deadly Alliance as a result of Sub-Zero's enhanced powers. In Deception, his scar has faded to the point where it can no longer be seen. In Armageddon, Sub-Zero retains the scar, which is not part of his alternate costume.[citation needed]

Since Deadly Alliance, Sub-Zero is the only character who has shown considerable signs of aging. Concept art from Deadly Alliance depicted him with a graying, receding hairline, and a more pale and gaunt face, while his scar was now blue and his forearms frozen over. Although Sub-Zero originally had blue eyes, they turned white after he obtained the Dragon Medallion in the game.[citation needed] Sub-Zero's appearance in Shaolin Monks was one of the most revised one from the title. Character Lead Mark Lappin did almost 10 passes on his design while producer Shaun Himmerick notes that "we went through literally 5-6 heads and styles of head costume on him". Himmerick comments that Sub-Zero's design in Mortal Kombat was difficult to make although most people called it "simple". In the end, the staff was satisfied with his final look in the game as it reminisces them to his classic outfit.[3]

Aside from Sub-Zero's unmasked appearance in his ending in Mortal Kombat II, the character has primarily been portrayed or voiced by non-Asian actors.[4] Midway later explained Sub-Zero's rather Occidental appearance for a Chinese ninja by giving him a Caucasian mother. According to this new backstory, his father had a wife, two sons, and a daughter while he lived in America to hide his personal role as an assassin for the Lin Kuei.[5]


The name "Sub-Zero" has been given to two different characters in the Mortal Kombat universe. Sharing a similar appearance and set of abilities, the two incarnations of Sub-Zero are brothers, with the younger one coming into the storyline after the older one gets killed by Scorpion before the events of Mortal Kombat II.

First incarnation[]

Sub-Zero appears in the first Mortal Kombat tournament, in which he was ordered by the Lin Kuei to kill Shang Tsung and take his treasure.[6] He fails to accomplish his mission, and during the time lapse between the first two Mortal Kombat games, he is killed by the specter Scorpion, who sought to avenge his own death[7] and the murdering of his family and clan.

In Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy, he appears as "Classic Sub-Zero", making him one of three unlockable ninjas (alongside Mileena and Ermac).[8] His biography stated that although he was believed to have died after the first Mortal Kombat, he returned to try again and assassinate Shang Tsung.[9]

In Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, which serves as a prequel to the first Mortal Kombat, Quan Chi hires the Lin Kuei to find an ancient amulet.[10] After Sub-Zero delivers the amulet to Quan Chi, he is sent back to the Netherrealm by Raiden to retrieve it after Raiden explains to him that the amulet was the key to releasing Shinnok.[11] Sub-Zero regains the amulet while fighting Shinnok and returns it to Raiden.[12] In Mortal Kombat: Deception it is revealed that the elder Sub-Zero eventually becomes the undead Netherealm wraith Noob Saibot after Shinnok and Quan Chi take him into the Brotherhood of the Shadow.[13]

The first incarnation has been confirmed to appear in the upcoming game,[14] which is intended to be a reboot of the franchise.

Second incarnation[]

Sub-Zero's second incarnation makes his first appearance in Mortal Kombat II. Upon his brother's death in the first tournament and the survival of Shang Tsung, he is sent by the Lin Kuei to complete his brother's unfinished task, and learns of his brother's death at the hands of Scorpion.[7] In Mortal Kombat 3, Sub-Zero escapes from the Lin Kuei who wanted to transform their warriors into cyborgs.[15] The Lin Kuei programmed the three cyborg assassins to hunt and terminate Sub-Zero, who by this time had received a vision from Raiden and agreed to join the rebellion against a new threat.[16] In Mortal Kombat 4, Raiden once again summons Sub-Zero to assist in the defense of Earthrealm against the former Elder God Shinnok.[17] In the meantime, Sub-Zero fights Scorpion, who was told by Quan Chi that the Lin Kuei killed his family, but he leaves him upon discovering Quan Chi was the actual person responsible.[18]

In Deadly Alliance, Sub-Zero defeats Sektor in a fight for leadership of the Lin Kuei Clan. Sub-Zero also comes into possession of the Dragon Medallion, which enhanced his freezing powers.[19] He also makes Frost his apprentice, and takes her to fight alongside Earthrealm's warriors against the Deadly Alliance.[20] Frost attempts to steal the Dragon Medallion but, unable to control the medallion's energies, she is consumed by her own freezing abilities.[21]

By Deception, Sub-Zero joins Shujinko's group to defeat the new threat in Onaga. Sub-Zero once again ventures back into the Outworld where he meets Sareena; Sub-Zero offers her asylum within the Lin Kuei for saving his older brother years ago. Both are attacked by Sub-Zero's corrupted older brother, Noob Saibot, and his partner Smoke, but are able to defeat them.[22] In Mortal Kombat: Unchained Frost attacks the Lin Kuei to kill Sub-Zero, who freezes and hides her.[23]

In Mortal Kombat: Armageddon's Konquest mode, Sub-Zero challenges Taven to a fight, after the latter invades the Lin Kuei Palace. Both eventually decide to ally to stop the invading Noob Saibot and Smoke. Taven defeats both of them, leaving Noob Saibot with Sub-Zero.[24] In Shaolin Monks Sub-Zero first appears as a Boss, but then allies with Liu Kang and Kung Lao for a short time during the search of his older brother.[25] He is also playable in the crossover title Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe; in the storyline, Sub-Zero is involved in a war between the two titular fictional universes and is the protagonist for one chapter of the story mode.[26] Ed Boon notes that Sub-Zero's counterpart from DC Comics is Batman as both are "dark, mysterious, brooding characters."[27]


When he first appeared in the first Mortal Kombat, Sub-Zero featured only two special moves: his ice blast and sliding kick. These moves have become Sub-Zero's trademark since then, being featured in every game he has appeared in. Mortal Kombat II added his ground freeze move. In Mortal Kombat 3, Sub-Zero got his ice statue move and ice shower (the latter featuring three different variations). His first fatality, the Spine Rip, is considered by Boon to be the one that stood the most due to how it violent it was, the staff had to remove it from Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe as that game was aimed to a younger audience.[28] Boon also expressed that the Spine Rip is his favorite fatality from the first game, commenting it was "the most controversial."[29]

The Nintendo 64 port of Mortal Kombat Trilogy gives all of the younger Sub-Zero's special techniques and finishing moves to the masked version, due to the fact the Nintendo 64's cartridge format had memory restrictions that did not allow the use of both masked and unmasked characters. In Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Sub-Zero gained a teleporting move (he freezes himself and falls back to the ground, appearing behind the foe).[27]

Throughout the span of the series, Sub-Zero's powers have continued to evolve. Since the addition of the Dragon Medallion to his arsenal, Sub-Zero's powers have increased significantly, making him now able to form weapons out of ice. While his former ally, Frost, can only make ice daggers, Sub-Zero, thanks to the Dragon Medallion, is able to form a giant sword named the "Kōri-Blade", Kōri being Japanese for "ice".

Appearances in other media[]


In the first Mortal Kombat movie, the elder Sub-Zero was played by François Petit and served as one of Shang Tsung's guardians alongside Scorpion in the tournament. Although Shang Tsung does make a reference to the rivalry between Scorpion and Sub-Zero early in the film, their relationship is not explored and both are slaves under the sorcerer's command. He is killed in combat by Liu Kang.[30] Sub Zero and his brother are mentioned in Mortal Kombat: Rebirth.

In the animated film Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins, the elder Sub-Zero was once again featured alongside Scorpion as servants to Shang Tsung and their feud was explained by Raiden through flashbacks, although interpreted differently from that of the games.[31]

The younger Sub-Zero made an appearance in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and was portrayed by Keith Cooke, who had played Reptile in the first movie. After saving both Liu Kang and Kitana from an ambush by Smoke, Sub-Zero has an inconclusive fight with Scorpion, who kidnaps Kitana and escapes. He urges Liu Kang to seek out Nightwolf as instructed by Raiden before going after Kitana and leaves Liu Kang to continue on in his quest.[32]

A brief image of Sub-Zero can be seen in the short film Mortal Kombat: Rebirth. Dialogue implies a deadly rivalry between him and Hanzo Hasashi, better known as Scorpion.


Sub-Zero was one of the leading characters in the 1996 animated series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, and was voiced by Luke Perry.[33]

An ancestor of Sub-Zero featured in two episodes of Mortal Kombat: Conquest, and was played by J.J. Perry. He was a Lin Kuei assassin hired by Shang Tsung to defeat Kung Lao and retrieve a magic crystal from his home, which had the ability to transport its keeper to other dimensions.[34] Sub-Zero's rivalry with Scorpion was also featured, in which Scorpion murdered Sub-Zero's sister and Sub-Zero killed Scorpion's lover in retaliation. The two fought to a draw and Scorpion escaped when Kung Lao and his friends came to Sub-Zero's aid. Sub-Zero was subsequently berated by the Lin Kuei for his weakness, resulting in him killing the Grandmaster.[35]


In the Blood & Thunder series, the elder Sub-Zero is featured, seeking Shang Tsung's death faithful to his game's profile. Accompanied by fellow Lin Kuei member Hydro (an original character created for the comics), he confronted Scorpion and surpassed his fears for him when he realizes that's what fuels the specter's powers. Like the other characters, he pursued the powers of the Tao Te Zhan. In the Battlewave series, Sub-Zero allied himself with Kitana, Kung Lao, and Baraka to overthrow Shao Kahn. During the final Tournament Edition issue, Sub-Zero is depicted as being the victor of Shao Kahn's tournament, defeating Goro and claiming the Dragon Medallion, despite being killed by Scorpion.

The Mortal Kombat 3 version of Sub-Zero made a cameo appearance in the epilogue of Malibu Comics' 1995 Battlewave miniseries, in which he froze a group of Lin Kuei while proclaiming that the clan was corrupted and no longer worthy of his services. This subplot was never developed as the Mortal Kombat comic book series folded shortly thereafter.


Sub-Zero has received positive response from video games publications. ranked Sub-Zero ninth on their "Top 11 Mortal Kombat Characters" list, noting his ninja costume as the most iconic from the series.[36] GameSpy named him one of the "25 Extremely Rough Brawlers" in video gaming, praising his fighting style.[37] His ice-projectile technique has been noted by to be one of the best mechanics that changed video games due to how practical it is as it gives players the opportunity of making any move while the opponent is frozen.[38] Appearing as a hidden character in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, GameSpot writer Jeff Gerstmann criticized that unlocking Classic Sub-Zero in the game was "annoying" to the point player would not do it.[8] His redesign from Mortal Kombat 3 was commented by the members from ScrewAttack with one of them first not realizing that he was Sub-Zero and the other noting that it was "still badass" and that he still had his "classic moves".[39] GamePro disliked such outfit, which they deemed, "suspenders" and his scar in which they compared it to a red smear.[40] However, his appearance in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance received praise by Gaming Age's Tim Lewinson noting "Sub-Zero never looked so good, with dry ice rising from his hands and a cold, steely glare in his eyes."[41] GamesRadar featured him in their article "The Top 7... Assassins", stating that "his bloody ways and ability to freeze opponents solid enabled him to punch his way into the hearts of arcade gamers everywhere".[42] He also made it to the semifinal of GamesRadar's "Ultimate Character Battle!" losing to Hulk.[43]

GameDaily listed his appearance in Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero as one of his worst moments, citing its sloppy controls, glitchy graphics, and unsatisfying quest for this.[44] On the other hand, IGN staff liked how Sub-Zero was given his own video game, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, noting him to be one of the series' most popular characters, and that "it offers gamers a new look at Sub Zero".[45] Besides that, positive response was given to the fact that Sub-Zero's techniques from the fighting games can be used in Mythologies.[46] The fatality Sub-Zero uses in Deadly Alliance was found to be one of the most violent ones from the title as well as from the series as commented by Ace Gamez's Geoff Holland.[47] Screwattack ranked Sub Zero's original fatality as the best in the series and credited its infamy with the creation of the videogame rating system.[48] The rivalry between Sub-Zero and Batman from Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe was emphasized by IGN who noted that although both characters were extremely powerful, Sub-Zero's freezing skills were more entertaining than Batman's abilities.[49] IGN also listed Sub-Zero's first incarnation 85th in the "Top 100 Videogame Villains" article.[50]

Merchandise based on Sub-Zero's appearance has been released. This includes action figures,[51][52] and a joystick for the PlayStation 2 released along with Mortal Kombat: Deception.[53] Sub-Zero inspired the character of Glacier in World Championship Wrestling. Ray Lloyd, a Georgia native and former martial arts champion, has played the character in various wrestling promotions since 1996.[54]


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  2. Mortal Kombat 3 Cover - GamePro, April 1995[dead link]
  3. Himmerick, Shaun. Developer Diary#3: Characters. Mortal Kombat Online. Retrieved on 2008-12-26
  4. MK Characters Unmasked - Sub-Zero at The Kombat Pavilion
  5. Sub-Zero and the Lin Kuei. Midway. Retrieved on 2009-11-24
  6. Midway. Mortal Kombat. (Midway). Level/area: Sub-Zero ending. (1992)
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  10. Midway. Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. (Midway). (1997) "Sub-Zero: Fine... I get to the temple and then what? What's inside?/ Quan Chi: A small amulet... worthless to you, but... let's just say it has great sentimental value to me."
  11. Midway. Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. (Midway). (1997) "Raiden: Do you realize what you've done??/Sub-Zero: I was just earning my living./Raiden: Your clan's ignorance and greed will cost this entire realm. You must now set things straight./Sub-Zero: Quan Chi could simply be a lunatic sorcerer. I've never heard of an elder god named Shinnok or of a place called the Netherealm./Raiden: Well, you'd better start believing in both, because you're going to the Netherealm and you've going to bring the amulet back. We must act quickly. I have no dominion in the Netherealm... You are reality's only hope./Sub-Zero: I'll do it, Thunder God... but only because I have no choice."
  12. Midway. Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. (Midway). (1997) "Sub-Zero: Here... the amulet./Raiden: Impressive, Sub-Zero. Perhaps you will reconcile your reckless past after all."
  13. Midway. Mortal Kombat: Deception. (Midway). Level/area: Noob-Smoke ending. (2004) "Shujinko: Noob Saibot was surprised to see how much stronger his brother had become. If he were still Lin Kuei, still human, he would probably have shown some degree of pride. But as Raiden had revealed during the ordeal with Shinnok's amulet, his soul had been tainted when he had died at the hand of Scorpion."
  14. Mortal Kombat volta às origens: Jogamos e conversamos com os produtores. Teletext. Retrieved on 2010-08-02
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  25. Midway. Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. (Midway). Level/area: Wastelands. (2005)
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  28. Shuman, Sid (November 17, 2008). Ed Boon talks Mortal Kombat secrets, MK vs. DC, and the future of M-rated fighters. GamePro. Retrieved on December 18, 2009
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  30. Goldman, Michael and Aaron, Richard E. (1995). Mortal Kombat: The Movie. Prima Games. ISBN 0761500820. 
  31. (VHS) Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins. New Line. 1995. 
  32. (DVD) Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. New Line. 1998. 
  33. (DVD) Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm. Threshold Entertainment. 2001. 
  34. "Cold Reality". Lawrence Kasanoff. Mortal Kombat: Conquest. TNT. October 17, 1998. No. 3.
  35. "The Serpent and the Ice". Lawrence Kasanoff. Mortal Kombat: Conquest. TNT. February 27, 1999. No. 15.
  36. Top 11 Mortal Kombat characters. Retrieved on 2008-12-22
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  38. Playing with Power. Retrieved on 2009-04-11
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  42. Reparaz, Mikel. The Top 7... Assassins. GamesRadar. Retrieved on 2010-03-07
  43. Reparaz, Mikel. GamesRadar Ultimate Character Battle! - Day 4. GamesRadar. Retrieved on 2010-03-23
  44. Workman, Robert (January 27, 2009). Bad Career Move: Video Game Characters' Worst Moments. GameDaily. Retrieved on December 28, 2009
  45. Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub Zero. IGN (1997-10-11). Retrieved on 2009-11-10
  46. Gerstmann, Jeff (October 1, 1997). Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero Review. GameSpot. Retrieved on December 11, 2009
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  48. Greatest Fataliets of Mortal Combat. Screwattack. Retrieved on August 2, 2010
  49. Pirrelo, Phil (2008-04-29). Stars Thunderdome: Batman Vs. Sub-Zero. IGN. Retrieved on 2009-04-25
  50. 85. Sub Zero. IGN. Retrieved on 2010-05-28
  51. Mortal Kombat 6 Piece Action Figure Set Series 1. Retrieved on 2009-11-12
  52. Mortal Kombat Deception Exclusive Action Figure Cold Snap Sub-Zero. Retrieved on 2009-11-12
  53. PS2 Mortal Kombat Sub Zero Limited Edition Controller. Retrieved on 2009-11-12
  54. Glacier profile. OWOW. Retrieved on 2009-11-17

External links[]