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Sub-Zero And Scorpion's Relationship Explained

"Mortal Kombat" is known for its dynamic characters and elaborate mythology. Engaged in a series of tournaments to protect the fate of Earthrealm, each Kombatant brings with them a complex backstory that ties into all the action. Every fighter has an interesting, memorable look and set of powers, but no one on the roster is quite as iconic as Sub-Zero and Scorpion.   


This famous ninja duo has been representing fire and ice since the first groundbreaking game arrived in arcades back in 1992. Ever since, they have been synonymous with the "Mortal Kombat" series, providing a rivalry that is up there with that of Batman and The Joker. You simply cannot talk about "Mortal Kombat" without taking a deep dive into the bad blood between the two deadly ninjas. If you haven't spent any time exploring the "Mortal Kombat" mythology, you may wonder what started their feud and why they have so much hatred for one another. This is Sub-Zero and Scorpion's relationship explained.

The bad blood between Scorpion and Sub-Zero

It's hard to imagine that two fighters who look so similar could hate each other so much. After all, "Mortal Kombat" co-creator John Tobias revealed that the original idea behind these mortal enemies was to make "a palette swapped character to save memory," meaning that they have plenty in common behind the scenes.


Tobias based Sub-Zero's ninja clan, the Lin Kuei, on his readings about a band of thieves in China that went by the same name. Leaning on historical context, the creators thought up a rival clan based in Japan known as the Shirai Ryu. Scorpion and Sub-Zero were given a predator/prey dynamic early in development, and the rest is history. 

However, as covered by the official Warner Bros. UK website, the two ninjas' rivalry goes beyond a simple palette swap. While the two belong to opposing clans, they are also bound by a deep desire for revenge, which was spurred on by the evil sorcerer Quan Chi. At first, Sub-Zero and Scorpion fought in a gruesome battle where the latter was killed along with his family and clan. Quan Chi brought Scorpion back as a skeletal creature, allowing the fallen warrior to seek revenge. 


Scorpion slaughtered Sub-Zero, whose brother then donned the iconic blue and black suit to avenge his slain sibling. The vicious cycle continued, but it wouldn't last forever.

Sub-Zero and Scorpion become unlikely allies

Everything changed in "Mortal Kombat X," where the two settled their differences at long last. Sub-Zero approached Scorpion with a peace offering, but the Shirai Ryu master remained skeptical. Only when Sub-Zero proved his sincerity by saving Scorpion from Frost did he earn his former rival's attention. 


They then accessed footage revealing that Quan Chi was behind their long feud, and from there a new chapter began. Sub-Zero confessed, "Had I known of my clan's complicity in the Shirai Ryu's extinction, our history would be different."

After many years, old wounds had finally healed, and the sworn enemies were able to put their differences aside. In "Mortal Kombat 11," players see Sub-Zero trying to gather intel when he is approached by an unmasked Scorpion with flesh on his skull. Indeed, he is no longer undead, and tensions rise when he pulls a blade on his old enemy

In what may be one of the most shocking moments in the series, they two do not engage in combat. In fact, they speak calmly to one another like old allies. At this point, it's clear that they have left the past behind and have started fresh as comrades.


Sub-Zero and Scorpion in the movies

One of the more peculiar aspects of Sub-Zero and Scorpion's relationship is that it was muddled in the 1995 movie. Not only did they show up as loyal (and cooperative) servants of Shang Tsung, but they appeared to have no autonomy whatsoever. It's a head-scratcher to see the two make an entrance together fighting for the same team. Their master did acknowledge that they are the "deadliest of enemies" who were put under his spell, but for all its merits, the movie missed out on a critical piece of MK mythology. 


Fortunately, it seems as though the new movie aimed to rectify this blunder, as Sub-Zero and Scorpion are throwing fists (or spears, rather) within the first seven minutes of 2021's "Mortal Kombat." In the reboot, viewers are immediately treated to the important story beats that establish their deep hatred for one another. It's a sharp contrast to the original movie, where these two staple characters are essentially glossed over and killed at the hands of Liu Kang and Johnny Cage, instead of each other.