Sub-Zero (Mortal Kombat)
Sub-Zero is the name of two fictional characters in the Mortal Kombat video game series, both depicted as formidable fighters possessing the innate ability to control ice in many forms. The identity of Sub-Zero is primarily assumed by playable character Kuai Liang, Grandmaster (of the Lin Kuei), in the series, who debuted in Mortal Kombat II (1993) and has appeared under the alias in all but two of the franchise's games. Prior to Kuai Lang, the alias is utilized by his older brother Bi-Han in the original 1992 game, who appears in subsequent installments as Noob Saibot. The character has been well-received by gaming media and is regarded as one of the most popular fighters of the franchise.
|Mortal Kombat character|
Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat 11 (2019)
|First appearance||Mortal Kombat (Bi-Han) (1992) / Mortal Kombat II (Kuai Liang) (1993)|
|Created by||John Tobias |
|Designed by||John Tobias (early games)|
Allan Ditzig (Deadly Alliance)
Luis Mangubat (Deception)
|Portrayed by||Daniel Pesina (MK, MKII)|
John Turk (MK3, UMK3, MKT, MKM:S-Z)
Keith Cooke (second film)
Harry Shum Jr. (Legacy)
Joe Taslim (2021 film)
|Voiced by||John Tobias (MK4)|
Rom Barkhordar (2005-2006)
Jim Miller (2008-2011)
Steve Blum (2015-present)
Luke Perry (MK:DotR)
Dimitri Vegas (MK11 DLC)
|Motion capture||Jordan Brun (MKvs.DCU)|
Lawrence Kern (MK9)
Tony Chung (Face Model, MK11)
|Weapon||Ice Scepter (MK4, MKG)|
Kori Blade (MK:DA, MK:D, MK:U, MK:A, MKvs.DCU, MK9, MKX, Injustice 2)
Cybernetic Weapons (MK9, MKX)
Ice Daggers (MKX, Injustice 2)
Ice Hammer (MKX, Injustice 2)
|Family||Noob Saibot (Brother)|
|Fighting styles||Shotokan (MK:DA, MK:D, MK:U, MK:A)|
Dragon Kung Fu (MK:DA, MK:D, MK:U)
The elder of the two men who take the name Sub-Zero, called Bi-Han was introduced in the first Mortal Kombat game where he participates in the eponymous tournament as he was ordered by the Lin Kuei to kill the host Shang Tsung and take his treasure. He fails to accomplish his mission, and is killed by the specter Scorpion, who sought to avenge his own death. Bi-Han then becomes the undead Noob Saibot. In Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, which serves as a prequel to the first Mortal Kombat, sorcerer Quan Chi hires the Lin Kuei to find an ancient amulet. After the first Sub-Zero delivers the amulet to Quan Chi, he is sent back to the Netherrealm by Raiden upon learning it is the key to releasing the god Shinnok. Sub-Zero regains the amulet while fighting Shinnok and returns it to Raiden.
In the direct sequel Mortal Kombat II, Bi-Han's place is taken by his brother Kuai Liang, who was originally known by his codename Tundra prior to assuming his elder brother's codename to honor him. Upon his brother's death in the first tournament and the survival of Shang Tsung, Kuai Liang is sent by the Lin Kuei to complete his brother's unfinished task. Scorpion eventually discovers that Liang is not the Sub-Zero he previously held accountable and in return for taking Bi-Han's life, vows to protect him forever. In Mortal Kombat 3, the younger Sub-Zero escapes from the Lin Kuei who want to transform their warriors into cyborgs. They program three cyborg assassins, including his old friend Smoke, 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. In Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, which reprises the events from Mortal Kombat II, Sub-Zero first appears as a boss character, but then allies with the protagonists Liu Kang and Kung Lao for a short time during the search for his older brother. He is last seen pursuing Noob Saibot in Netherrealm.
In addition to the current Sub-Zero, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy include a playable character known as "Classic Sub-Zero". His biography states that although he was believed to have died after the first Mortal Kombat, he returned to try again and assassinate Shang Tsung. However, his ending states that he is not Sub-Zero, but an unidentified warrior who was missing from the previous tournament.
In Mortal Kombat 4, Raiden once again summons Sub-Zero to assist in the defense of Earthrealm against the former Elder God Shinnok. In the meantime, Sub-Zero fights Scorpion, whom Quan Chi has tricked into believing the Lin Kuei killed his family. In Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Sub-Zero defeats Sektor in a fight for the leadership of the Lin Kuei Clan. He meets his apprentice Frost and takes her to fight alongside Earthrealm's warriors against the alliance of Shang Tsung and Quan Chi.
In Mortal Kombat: Deception, Sub-Zero joins Shujinko's group to defeat the new threat in Onaga. He confronts his corrupted older brother, now the undead Noob Saibot, throughout the game. In both Deadly Alliance and Mortal Kombat: Unchained, Sub-Zero battles Frost for the Lin Kuei's leadership, remaining victorious. In Mortal Kombat: Armageddon's Konquest mode, Sub-Zero faces the warrior Taven, who invades the Lin Kuei Palace. Both eventually decide to ally to stop the invading Noob Saibot and Smoke. After the invaders' defeat, Sub-Zero stays with the unconscious Noob Saibot to find a way to save him.
Both incarnations of Sub-Zero appear in the 2011 Mortal Kombat game. While Bi-Han is still killed by Scorpion and becomes Noob Saibot, Kuai Liang's fate changes in the second tournament due to Raiden's interference; the timeline is altered and, after he has defeated Scorpion, Sub-Zero is captured and turned into a cyborg instead of Smoke and forced to serve the Outworld. He is able to regain his mind and joins Raiden's warriors to stop Shao Kahn. His reunion on seeing Bi-Han as Noob Saibot comes much earlier, when Nightwolf takes Sub-Zero's place and tells him to fall back, in which he succeeded freeing Earthrealmer's souls by throwing Noob.[clarification needed] However, Kahn's wife, Sindel, electrocutes him by overloading his circuits. He is then "resurrected" and enslaved by Quan Chi in Netherrealm. Sub-Zero's background is further clarified during this installment as well, as it is revealed that the two brothers were in fact abducted by the Lin Kuei as infants, after the Lin Kuei murdered their parents.
In Mortal Kombat X, Sub-Zero's soul is enslaved by Quan Chi, as revenant servant for the upcoming Netherrealm War. It is explained in the comics that Quan Chi remade his original body with magic, making him no longer a cyborg. During the war, as Quan Chi suffers a defeat, he loses control over the souls of Sub Zero, Scorpion and Jax, effectively resurrecting them. 25 years later and after the comic book prequel, Kuai Liang becomes the new grandmaster of the Lin Kuei, thanks to Kung Jin's help whom he and Bo' Rai Cho hired to steal a data stick containing a computer virus. He later uses this virus to free Cyrax and other human Lin Kuei warriors turned cyborgs from Sektor's enslavement. He would also make amends with Scorpion by revealing that Sektor and Quan Chi were involved in the murder of Hanzo's family and clan, as well as Bi-Han's downfall. Five years later, he helps Johnny Cage's team of recruited warriors by testing them at the Lin Kuei temple. Sub-Zero eventually witnesses the Jinsei's corruption by Shinnok. He later finds Cassie Cage's team ambushed by Kotal Kahn's Outworld army, and alongside his clan, drives Kotal's army back to Outworld, allowing Cassie's team to reach a now compromised Shaolin Temple to stop Shinnok. Sub-Zero's cybernetic form is reused in Mortal Kombat X as a DLC and hidden variation for Triborg who can also take the form of Cyrax, Sektor and Cyber Smoke.
When the time anomaly caused by Kronika occurs in Mortal Kombat 11, Sub-Zero survived the kidnapping and massacre by the advanced time-displaced Cyber Lin Kuei, but Frost is missing after abandoning Lin Kuei, so he alerted Scorpion of the Cyber Lin Kuei's return. Though they were too late to save his clansmen, Sub-Zero and Scorpion infiltrate the factory to shut it down once again, with the past Cyrax's help. They soon found out Frost became the first ever female cyborg, and Sektor's most-trusted second in-command and successor by will, much to their disgust of her betrayal by her own pride and envy for joining the likes of Kronika. Once they freed Cyrax, as well as defeating Frost, Noob Saibot and Sektor, Sub-Zero promises Cyrax to find a way to restore him, no matter what forms but retain his humanity, before the freed cyborg uses his life to shut down the factory. Due to the destruction of his Lin Kuei base, including Shaolin Sky Temple and Special Force HQ, Sub-Zero and the surviving allied forces shelters in Shirai-Ryu Fire Garden where they learned from Raiden about Kronika's connection to both Shinnok and Cetrion, her schemes, and Elder Gods' perish by her and her daughter's hands, leaving Raiden as the sole survivor. Sub-Zero and Scorpion later scout out the home of the Netherrealm's guardian Kharon, where Scorpion tells Sub-Zero to return to Shirai-Ryu Fire Garden while he saves Kharon. The younger, revenant Scorpion returns after D'Vorah kills his older counterpart, leading to a brief fight between him and Sub-Zero as he, as well as Raiden did not trust Hanzo's younger counterpart, though Liu Kang soon realize shortly that Scorpion really want to redeem himself on his late-future human-self's behalf, eventually forgives him once Raiden unlocks the visions of the previously defunct timelines caused by Kronika's machinations. Later, he and the younger Scorpion team up to aid Earthrealm's forces in the attack on Kronika's Keep.
Kuai Liang is playable in the crossover title Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, involved in a war between the eponymous fictional universes and is the protagonist for one chapter of the story mode. In Sub-Zero's ending, he realizes he is no longer the assassin he once was and leaves the Lin Kuei. Inspired by Batman, he becomes a superhero donning a new costume with a cape; unknown to him, the Lin Kuei are on his trail because they do not tolerate desertion. Sub-Zero makes a cameo appearance in Injustice: Gods Among Us during Scorpion's intro, in which Scorpion is about to perform a fatality on the downed Sub-Zero before being pulled into the DC Universe. Sub-Zero appears as a playable character alongside Raiden via downloadable content in the game's sequel, Injustice 2. Despite having some references from his crossover appearance in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Sub-Zero's ending is revealed to have taken place while he was forcing Kotal's army back to Outworld in Mortal Kombat X, when suddenly Sub-Zero was transported into DC's Injustice universe. In his ending, after he defeats Brainiac, Batman offers to help him return to his universe. Sub-Zero becomes a teacher to the three youngest members of Batman's Justice League (Supergirl, Blue Beetle, and Firestorm) in the process, while waiting for Batman to develop a portal to the Mortal Kombat universe, which accidentally frees Superman as well as Superman's new Kryptonian allies General Zod, Ursa, and Non from the Phantom Zone instead. Blaming himself for their release, Sub-Zero decides to delay getting home in order to assist the Justice League in re-imprisoning Superman and the escaped Kryptonian criminals, bound by duty. Additionally, in a pre-battle dialogue with himself, Kuai Liang asks the other Sub-Zero if he is Bi-Han who confirms this by saying he has been freed from Quan Chi's control, though Kuai Liang asks his brother to prove his identity in a test of Kombat.
Sub-Zero is also a guest character in The Grid. In the indie-game Punch Club, a ninja named Sub-273 serves as the game's final boss, with his character design based on the first Mortal Kombat film; the "-273" is a reference to the Celsius representation of 0 kelvins, considered absolute zero. Mortal Kombat: Fire & Ice, which would star Scorpion and Sub-Zero in co-operative gameplay, was cancelled when Paradox Development, creators of Shaolin Monks, "couldn’t do it in time and under budget."
Design, portrayal and gameplayEdit
Sub-Zero was first conceived by Mortal Kombat co-creator John Tobias as a mysterious character named simply "Ninja". According to Richard Divizio, the Lin Kuei idea was his input back at the very beginning of the development, in the project that had been cancelled by Midway Games before being restarted later, and in which "originally John [Tobias] had Japanese ninjas". Tobias wrote this inspiration came from the controversial book The Chinese Ninja Connection by Li Hsing, which "posits historical evidence for the existence of the Lin Kuei and their influence on the Japanese ninja. I was aware of there being some controversy about the author’s claims. So when we split the character in two for palette swaps, I thought it would be fitting that one was of Chinese origin and the other Japanese to kind of embody the argument." According to Tobias, the original "Hunter&Hunted concept was going [to be] about a ninja escaping from his clan and hunted by another member. We used that later for SZ in MK3." Daniel Pesina recalled Tobias' idea involved two ninja brothers, one of whom "wants to lead the clan, so he kills the father who is their teacher". Sub-Zero's early name had been Tundra, but it was changed after a member of the design team saw the 1987 film The Running Man in which the first assassin fought by Arnold Schwarzenegger's character used the name (albeit not hyphenated).
The character has primarily been portrayed or voiced by non-Asian actors. Midway Games later explained Sub-Zero's rather occidental appearance for a Chinese assassin by giving him a white 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. Sub-Zero was originally portrayed by Daniel Pesina, who also first came up with the Lin Kuei idea. At first, Pesina was using a cheap story-bought ninja costume, purchased by him because of budget reasons, that was a size too small and thus caused problems during the filming session. Midway Games programmer Josh Tsui portrayed the unmasked younger Sub-Zero in the character's Mortal Kombat II ending. His voice actors have included Tom Taylor, Jim Miller, and Steven Blum.
Sub-Zero's early costumes have been very simple due to technical limitations. Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon noted that Kuai Liang's counterpart from DC Comics is Batman as both are "dark, mysterious, brooding characters". Tobias said that Sub-Zero was unmasked in Mortal Kombat 3 in order to stir up fan speculation about the character's backstory. The new Sub-Zero made his official debut on the cover of GamePro April 1995 issue, with Turk's red outfit tinted blue (as it was for the game), but the photo used was a reversed negative, as his scar was over his left eye. 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 Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance as a result of Sub-Zero's enhanced powers. In Mortal Kombat: Deception, his scar has faded to the point where it can no longer be seen. He now wore an armored uniform heavily inspired by Dynastic era Chinese battle armor, though it was often criticized by fans as being too reminiscent of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles villain, the Shredder. However, Sub-Zero's alternate uniform was very reminiscent of Chinese culture, even featuring Sub-Zero without a cowl and a Qing Dynasty-era hairstyle. In Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, Sub-Zero reverts to his masked costume from Deadly Alliance, retaining the scar, which is not part of his alternate costume (which is the primary one from Deception). 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. Sub-Zero's appearance in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks was one of the most revised ones from the title. Character lead Mark Lappin did almost ten passes on his design; producer Shaun Himmerick noted that "we went through literally 5-6 heads and styles of head costume on him" and commented 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. His appearance in Injustice 2 was redesigned by Jim Lee.
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 that Sub-Zero has appeared in (Mortal Kombat II and subsequent games feature the younger Sub-Zero). Mortal Kombat II added his ground freeze move, and two new Fatalities including the now-famous one where he would freeze and shatter the victim. According to 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. Sub-Zero's Predator-inspired Fatality, the "Spine Rip," is considered by Boon to be his favorite Fatality from the first game as well as the most controversial. Some home versions of the first game replaced the "Spine Rip" with another finishing move due to its violent content. Unlike other returning characters whose moves remained intact, this Fatality was not carried over to Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3, but was brought back in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 as one of Classic Sub-Zero's finishers. However, the move was intentionally censored by Midway; right after he grabbed onto his opponent, the screen went black and only the resulting sound effects were heard. This was due to the development team choosing not to animate the spine rip fatality for each of the updated character sprites in the game. The Nintendo 64 port of Mortal Kombat Trilogy gives all of the younger Sub-Zero's special techniques and finishing moves to the classic masked version, due to the fact the N64's cartridge format had memory restrictions that did not allow the use of both masked and unmasked characters. The developers had to remove the "Spine Rip" from Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe as that game was aimed at a younger audience. Sub-Zero also gained a teleporting move in the game in which he freezes himself and falls back to the ground, appearing behind the foe.
In the Blood & Thunder series, the elder Sub-Zero is featured, seeking Shang Tsung's death faithful to his game profile. Accompanied by fellow Lin Kuei member Hydro (an original character created for the comics), he confronted Scorpion and surpassed his fear of him when he realized that was what fuelled 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 mortally wounded 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.
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 when he is impaled and frozen. In the animated film Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins, a prequel to live-action film, 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 in the games.
The younger Sub-Zero made an appearance in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, where he 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, then leaves Liu Kang to continue on his quest.
Sub-Zero is one of the leading characters in the animated series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, where he is voiced by Luke Perry. There, Sub-Zero is a member of a good group of warriors assembled by Raiden to defend Earthrealm from invaders who entered through portals from various other dimensions, alongside Jax, Kitana, Liu Kang, Nightwolf, Sonya and Stryker.
An ancestor of Sub-Zero is featured in two episodes of the live-action series Mortal Kombat: Konquest, and was played by J.J. Perry. He was a Lin Kuei assassin hired by Shang Tsung to defeat Great Kung Lao and retrieve a magic crystal from his home, which had the ability to transport its keeper to other dimensions. 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.
Bi-Han, the elder Sub-Zero, appears in the seventh episode of the live-action series Mortal Kombat: Legacy portrayed by Kevan Ohtsji, assassinating a shogun whom Hanzo Hasashi was supposed to protect and fought against him at the end of part one. In the next episode it is revealed that Quan Chi impersonated him in order to deceive Scorpion into believing that Sub-Zero murdered his family and clan to enact a false sense of vengeance in him against Bi-Han and gain his allegiance for the upcoming Mortal Kombat tournament. In season two of Legacy, Eric Steinberg portrayed Bi-Han while his brother Kuai Liang was played by Harry Shum. The relationship between Bi-Han and Hanzo is further explored, as they were childhood friends driven apart by the existing rivalry between their two clans, as well as the jealousy of Kuai Liang. When they become adults, Kuai Liang threatens Hanzo and his family while out for a walk and Hanzo is forced to kill Kuai Liang. Bi-Han, believing Hanzo was protecting his family, decides to end the feud between their two clans out of respect for his friend. He becomes saddened and enraged by the fact that his clan had supposedly killed Hanzo, his family, and his clan. He then discovers that Quan Chi had impersonated him. Having been chosen to fight for Earthrealm in Mortal Kombat, he encounters Hanzo on the battlefield. Bi-Han's efforts to explain himself to Hanzo are fruitless, as Hanzo is now an undead specter only responding to the name Scorpion, who then kills Bi-Han by ripping out his spine.
A brief image of Sub-Zero can be seen in the short film Mortal Kombat: Rebirth where dialogue implies a deadly rivalry between him and Hanzo Hasashi. He appears with Mileena in an Animation Domination High-Def sketch video. Merchandise items of the character include action figures, statues, and a joystick released along with Mortal Kombat: Deception for the PlayStation 2.
Deemed as one of the most popular and recognizable characters in the Mortal Kombat franchise, as well as in the fighting-genre as a whole, Sub-Zero is regarded as the franchise's most iconic character along with Scorpion. He was given the award of the best fighter of 1997 by SuperGamePower (readers vote). His redesign in Mortal Kombat 3 was disliked by GamePro, which they deemed "suspenders" and compared his scar to a red smear. However, his appearance in Deadly Alliance received praise by Gaming Age's Tim Lewinson noting that "Sub-Zero never looked so good." GameDaily listed his appearance in Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero as one of his worst moments. On the other hand, IGN staff liked how Sub-Zero was given his own video game, noting him to be one of the series' most popular characters, and that "it offers gamers a new look at Sub Zero." A GamesRadar article from 2011 discussed his and Scorpion's evolution across the Mortal Kombat series, citing them as its two most popular characters. The rivalry between Sub-Zero and Batman in 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. Den of Geek listed the first Sub-Zero as the eighth best Mortal Kombat character, praising his role in Mythologies Sub-Zero whereas the second Sub-Zero was listed as the top Mortal Kombat based on many of his actions such as his rivalry with Batman, as well as his role in the series such as his relationship with the Lin Kuei. Conversely, Hyper's John Dewhurst opined that what contributed to the failure of Mythologies Sub-Zero is that Sub-Zero's character alone "isn't that interesting without Johnny Cage and Kitana to bounce off."
In 2010, UGO ranked Sub-Zero ninth on their top list of Mortal Kombat characters, noting his ninja costume as the most iconic from the series. That same year, GamePlayBook ranked him as the best Mortal Kombat character, praising his freeze attacks and "Head Rip" Fatality, but the unmasked version of Sub-Zero was ranked as the third worst Mortal Kombat character. In 2011, ScrewAttack ranked Sub-Zero second in their Top 10 list of Mortal Kombat "kharacters" while Anthony Severino of Game Revolution tied him with Scorpion at the top of their list of the best "old school" Mortal Kombat fighters, noting both of them as the most popular characters from the franchise. In 2012, Sub-Zero placed third in UGO's list of top Mortal Kombat characters. That same year, IGN's Brian Altano and Ryan Clements chose him as the most iconic character of Mortal Kombat to represent the series against Jin Kazama of Tekken and Ryu of Street Fighter.
IGN included Sub-Zero's first incarnation at 85th place in their list of 100 video game villains. He made it to the semifinals of GamesRadar's 2008 "Ultimate Character Battle!" poll, losing to Hulk. In 2009, GameSpy named him one of the 25 "extremely rough brawlers" in gaming, praising his fighting style. In 2012, WatchMojo.com tied him with Scorpion for second spot on their list of the most iconic fighting game characters. Complex ranked Sub-Zero as the fifth "most dominant" fighting game character in 2012, as well as the 24th "most badass" video game character of all time in 2013. The readers of Dorkly voted him the series' fourth (the elder Sub-Zero) and second (the younger) greatest character in a 2013 poll. Together, Scorpion and Sub-Zero were voted the fifth most iconic characters in the two decades of the PlayStation by readers of PlayStation Official Magazine – UK in 2015. Sub-Zero alone, ahead of Scorpion, placed third in a 2016 readers poll by Hobby Consolas for the most popular character in all fighting games.
Sub-Zero was featured on numerous lists of the best video game ninja characters, including in these by CrunchGear (at number ten) in 2008, by Unreality (at number four) in 2009, and ScrewAttack (at number five) in 2010. Scorpion and Sub-zero shared the fifth place on the top video game ninja list by PC World in 2009 and the fourth place on the top playable game ninja list by WatchMojo.com in 2013. Virgin Media too featured him on their list of "top ten ninjas", while GamesRadar featured him in their 2008 article discussing the top video game 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." In 2012, BBC News mentioned Sub-Zero as a prominent example of "Western ninja-inspired nonsense" in popular culture.
His ice-projectile technique has been noted by 1UP.com 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. Prima Games listed the same move as the 23rd in fighting games due to how it paralyses enemies, allowing the player to attack the enemy. Additionally, the same site ranked his "Spinal Rip Fatality" 12th due to how Sub-Zero holds the enemy's head after decapitating him. According to GameSpot's Jeff Gerstmann, the unlocking of the hidden character Classic Sub-Zero in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 was "annoying" to the point that players would not do it. In 2010, ScrewAttack ranked Sub-Zero's original Fatality as the best in the series and credited its infamy with the creation of the ESRB video game ratings system.
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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.
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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.
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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.
- Midway (1997). Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. Midway.
Sub-Zero: Here... the amulet. / Raiden: Impressive, Sub-Zero. Perhaps you will reconcile your reckless past after all.
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