Sub-Zero is a video game character from the Mortal Kombat series and one of the original characters in the first Mortal Kombat game. The character made a return appearance in Mortal Kombat II, in which it was revealed that the original Sub-Zero had died during the events of the first game and was replaced by his younger brother. In Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and most versions of Mortal Kombat Trilogy, both the elder and younger Sub-Zero appear as playable characters. A mainstay of the series, the character has appeared in every Mortal Kombat fighting game. Sub-Zero also appears in many other Mortal Kombat media works such as the Mortal Kombat live action film series and animated series.
The backstory of the Sub-Zero character has been explored in various Mortal Kombat games and other media. The character has been described as descending from the Cryomancers, an ancient race of people possessing the ability to generate and control the powers of ice, which gives Sub-Zero the innate ability to control ice in many forms. Sub-Zero has received positive reception and was featured on multiple lists of the best video game ninja characters.
The original name for Sub-Zero was Tundra prior to production of the original Mortal Kombat, but the name was changed after a member of the design team saw the film The Running Man, in which the first assassin fought by Arnold Schwarzenegger's character used the name, albeit not hyphenated. Sub-Zero appeared in the first two games as a blue palette swap of Scorpion.
Mortal Kombat co-creator John Tobias said in a 1995 interview with EGM that Sub-Zero was unmasked in Mortal Kombat 3 in order to stir up fan speculation about the character's backstory. 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. 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
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. In Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, Sub-Zero retains the scar, which is not part of his alternate costume.