Forget your Hadokens and dragon punches. For me, nothing says “fighting game” like two identical muscle-bound guys who differ only in the color of their gi pounding on each other until one says uncle. Immaculate character balance, a deep roster, rock-solid netcode — sure, those are nice to have. But as we all know, the true measure of a fighting game’s quality is how many different palette swaps they can wring out of a single character model. That’s why we hardcore Mortal Kombat fans are still waiting for NetherRealm Studios to return to the franchise’s high water mark, the epoch-defining Mortal Kombat Trilogy, which featured no less than eight kombatants in the same male ninja gear that Scorpion and Sub-Zero have shared since the saga’s opening chapter.
Since then, the eight-piece koolwave band known as the Ninja Boys have all embarked on solo careers, changing their kostumes to suit a different era of fashion (and kombat, of kourse). But since it’s not at all clear that we can count on a reunion tour anytime soon — to perform klassics from Trilogy such as “The Street” and the harrowing “Fatality Theme 1” — here’s a definitive ranking of each member, what they bring to the table, and a bit about what they’ve done in their solo careers.
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#1 with a bullet: Scorpion
The spear-toting band-leader has had a rough go of it ever since Ed Boon picked him out of a line-up of Netherrealm wraiths in the summer of ‘91. Well-known for his commanding vocal performances, hostile demeanor towards fans, and affinity for mustard, Scorpion has served as the flaming face of the Ninja Boys since their pounding techno debut electrified audiences back in 1995. As MK fever began to break in the late ‘90s, the pressure became too much for Scorpion, and he tragically passed away at the age of 27 in a El Segundo, CA parking lot when he accidentally self-immolated while trying to siphon gas out of a nearby car. Fortunately, because he’s an undead assassin, this has had no effect on his ability to continue representing the band on VH1 to this very day.
Style: As one of the original Ninja Boys, Scorpion sticks close to the original style the group pioneered, complete with extremely exposed armpits during his devastating uppercuts. The addition of a splash of red to his signature yellow gear brings some much-needed depth to the equation, however.
Ninjaness: He has gauntlets for blocking and a hood for hiding his face. Yep, that’s a ninja, all right. Also, the fact that he offsets the “here I am, please shoot me” yellow with some sneaky black really helps with his visibility. Sub-Zero won’t be able to freeze him in place from a hundred paces back anymore.
Thematics: Yellow and red equals fire. Scorpion’s head is a flaming skull. Enough said.
A close #2: Sub-Zero
While we all know and love the classic blue getup, a few different beat assassins have gone by the Sub-Zero moniker over the years. Fun fact: after Scorpion burned the original SZ (the current and only Noob Saibot) to cinders on the set of MK I, Midway made sure that there was always a fire extinguisher on set. (Also, band manager Quan-Chi beat Scorpion to death with his own leg for his insolence.) This game’s Grandmaster was briefly converted into a cyber-synthesizer at Quan-Chi’s request, but he’s now he’s back in the flesh. Here’s the latest and greatest:
Style: Like Scorpion, this new guy is keeping it klassic with the scar and the light blue gear. That said, the addition of triangular-clasps and some curlicues on his shoulder-armor add a hint of icy freshness. Plus, it looks like his mask has some better air-flow now, which he needs since he’s, you know, ostensibly mortal. Always wondered how that worked.
Ninjaness: He literally has shurikens bulging out of his belt. This whole outfit screams “ice ninja.” We approve!
Thematics: Alright, we all know that ice isn’t really blue (right guys?), but we’re not really sure if Ed Boon knows that. Maybe his mom was really into experimenting with food dye. Perhaps my eyes don’t work correctly. Is it just me? Come on, somebody get back to me on this. Otherwise, A-plus.
A distant #3: Reptile
Known for skulking in the shadows during autograph signings and accidentally destroying recording equipment with his rancid breath, the Boys’ bassist has polarized critics ever since Scorpion found him feasting on mysterious meat at the bottom of a spike pit. His no-drama personality and extremely low body temperature allow him to lay down those cold-blooded grooves. Over the years, rumors have swirled that Reptile is actually a leathery subhuman who feeds on errant fans, but there’s no truth to that — at least according to NetherRealm PR.
Unfortunately, according to a spokeswoman, Reptile will miss the entirety of the MK11 tour, as he’s recovering from a particularly bad head cold. We’ve managed to capture a recent image of him, though, so here’s a quick look:
Style: Well, our man in green has certainly seen better days. That’s some nasty phlegm, too.
Ninjaness: Hard to be stealthy with fluorescent green ooze issuing from your face. Still, he’s rocking the gear, so you have to applaud that.
Thematics: He looks the part of a reptile, that’s for sure! Can’t help but wonder if the rumors are true.
Steady on at #4: Noob Saibot
Noob serves an invaluable role within the group, as he provides the shadow roadies that move all their equipment while they’re on tour. He briefly served as the primary lyricist during their ill-advised pivot to black metal back in the early 2000’s. Since then, he’s played the most invisible role of all: the drummer. Here in MK11, though, he’s ready to fill the seats of anyone who can’t quite make it, which means that the band is currently 3/7ths Grim Reaper-types. Oh well, it’s never too late for the emo revival.
Style: You have to give a wraith credit for consistency: he’s the only member of the group who’s kept essentially the same outfit for two decades now. You have to wonder if Quan Chi’s got some sort of weird Netherrealm policy about this, but he won’t return my phone calls, not after I wrote that his skin has an “unhealthy pallor” back in 2012. Quan, you gotta let it go, man, you’re basically a ghost.
Ninjaness: He’s a literal shadow that shoots shadows that suck out your soul and make you a shadow. I think he wins in this department.
Thematics: If you want to know how committed this guy is to his edgy grimdark brand, just look at his default walk-up animation. He pulls one of those savage sickles of his out of his chest, talking about how he’s about to poison his opponents soul with darkness, or some other line from a Disturbed deep cut.
#5, by default: Ermac
Ever since the band turned away from its brief swing revival phase in 1998, trombone player Ermac hasn’t really been seen in many of the band’s performances. Thankfully, his telekinesis allows him to serve as auxiliary percussionist in a pinch, but here’s hoping we’re going to see a bold new outfit this time around.
Hm. Well. This is very awkward. Our telekinetic pal has seen better days, that’s for sure.Let’s get to it, I suppose.
Style: Look on the bright side: the red hides the copious blood from the gaping chest wound. The head-to-toe look isn’t as in this season, but we’re welcoming it.
Ninjaness: When you can fly, falling to your death isn’t very on-brand for a ninja. As such, we’re gonna have to dock points on this one.
Thematics: His eyes keep glowing green, even in death. That’s something, I suppose.
Coming in at barely a ninja, #6: Rain
Despite making a name for himself as the Ninja Boys’ eccentric lead guitarist thanks to his power of subtle electrical manipulation and/or giant lightning strikes, Rain remains one of the group’s least-known contributors. Its Inspectah Deck, if you will. Believe it or not, in a rare interview, the prince of Edenia confirmed that despite his purple gear and punning name, he actually hates the musician Prince, so stop asking him about it. Since embarking on a solo career, the reclusive auteur has moved away from his ninja origins, so he might not make it very high on this list, but he’s definitely one to watch.
Style: Well, it’s a bold move to wear even less protective clothing when people are going to be swinging swords and axes in your direction, so points for that. Plus, gemstones in the gauntlets is always a power move. Just ask Thanos.
Ninjaness: Purple is not a subtle color, and princes are generally the ones sending the ninja, rather than putting on the cowls themselves. Still, when you can throw lightning bolts from a hundred feet away, who needs subtlety?
Thematics: Again, the purple is really throwing Rain off here. It doesn’t exactly scream “rain/clouds/weather” to me. Maybe things are a little different on Edenia. For us, it’s just not working.
And dead last, because he sucks, #7: Smoke
Look, we all loved when Smoke made a fun little cameo back in the group’s heyday, with MK2: Songs from the Living Forest. But now it’s 2019, and we’re supposed to accept this guy as a core member of the group? Yes, it was very tragic that Chameleon died when a golf cart ran him over when he was disguised as Reptile as part of the photo shoot for MK4, but there’s nothing that says that the Ninja Boys have to have seven members. I don’t care how many times you call me Ed, this guy’s a poser. Is he a robot? Is he not a robot? Somebody needs to figure out the canon on this, then call me back.
Style: Okay, I get that he’s the embodiment of smoke, but it’s impossible to breathe around this guy. I tried to interview him and it gave me an asthma attack. Plus, he smells absolutely horrible. Has somebody checked that armor?
Ninjaness: Yeah, the ability to turn invisible at whim and sneak through tiny crevices seems sneaky at first, but trust me, you can smell this guy a mile off.
Thematics: He’s too committed, if anything. But you have to give him credit for sticking to it, even as a robot.