Mortal Kombat: The History of Scorpion and Sub-Zero

When Mortal Kombat releases in theaters and on HBO Max later this week, the film will put the rivalry between Sub-Zero and Scorpion in the spotlight. The two ninjas have been around since the first game in the series where they debuted as hated enemies. The relationship between the two Kombatants has captivated fans since 1992, but the first film failed to touch on their history. Thankfully, it seems that will be rectified in the new film, but newcomers to the series might want to know exactly why these two dislike one another. The story is one of the most compelling parts of the Mortal Kombat saga.

As creators Ed Boon and John Tobias first came up with the concept for Mortal Kombat, they made an early decision that the game would feature two palette-swapped fighters to conserve space. As a result, Scorpion and Sub-Zero were born. In order to make all the characters stand out, Tobias and Boon wanted each one to fit into a specific archetype. For Scorpion and Sub-Zero, those archetypes would be "hunter" and "hunted," respectively.

Scorpion may have been selected as the hunter, but the character was given a sympathetic storyline. Scorpion (Hanzo Hasashi) was part of Japan's Shirai Ryu ninjas, while Sub-Zero (Bi-Han) was part of China's Lin Kuei assassins. The cruel Sub-Zero murdered Scorpion, and the latter ninja's soul ended up in the Netherrealm. There, Scorpion was given the opportunity to return to the land of the living by the manipulations of Quan Chi. Two years after his death, Scorpion returned to haunt Sub-Zero, the human face of Hasashi replaced by a burning skull. In the game's comic prequel, Scorpion has the opportunity to murder Sub-Zero, but decides to wait. Instead, he doesn't exact revenge until the two face one another in the Mortal Kombat tournament. There, Scorpion kills his opponent.

The story of these characters did not end there, however. Bi-Han's younger brother Kuai Liang would later assume the mantle of Sub-Zero. After discovering Liang lacked Bi-Han's cruelty, Scorpion became a guardian for the new Sub-Zero. Scorpion would come to regret the murder, eventually becoming one of the lead heroes of the Mortal Kombat franchise. The soul of Bi-Han would return in a manner similar to Scorpion, but it cost the elder Sub-Zero any trace of his humanity. As Noob Saibot, Bi-Han would become a far greater threat.

The rich history between these two characters has provided the Mortal Kombat franchise with one of its most intriguing narratives. While that history has been criminally underrepresented on the big screen, Scorpion and Sub-Zero are finally ready to jump into the spotlight thanks to the new film. Fans will have to wait until the movie releases to see how faithfully the storyline is presented, but the characters will clearly play a much bigger role than they have in previous Mortal Kombat films. For that, longtime fans of the series should be quite thankful!


The Mortal Kombat film reboot will release in theaters and on HBO Max April 23rd. Readers can find out more by checking out the rest of's coverage of the Mortal Kombat reboot right here.

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