Main series: MK1 (Part 1 | Part 2) | MK2 | MK3 | MK4 | Deadly Alliance | Deception | Armageddon | MK vs. DC Universe | MK9 | MKX | MK11
Spinoffs: Mythologies: Sub-Zero | Special Forces
Non-videogame: The Movie | Conquest | Defenders of the Realm
Individual Characters: Scorpion | Johnny Cage | Liu Kang | Raiden | Shang Tsung | Sub-Zero II | Shao Kahn
Spinoffs: Mythologies: Sub-Zero | Special Forces
Non-videogame: The Movie | Conquest | Defenders of the Realm
Individual Characters: Scorpion | Johnny Cage | Liu Kang | Raiden | Shang Tsung | Sub-Zero II | Shao Kahn
Spoilers for Mythologies will be unmarked
Tundra/Sub-Zero (Kuai Liang)
The sixth member of his family to bear the mantle of Sub-Zero, the warrior has become an active defender of Earthrealm from the forces of Outworld. A powerful Cryomancer able to create and manipulate ice at will, Sub-Zero became the Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei, aiming to rebuild it as a force for good in the world. His real name is Kuai Liang. Taking the name Sub-Zero after the death of his elder brother Bi-Han, the Lin Kuei sent him and fellow warrior Smoke into to Outworld during the second tournament. Their mission was the same as his fallen elder brother's, to assassinate Shang Tsung. He soon learned of Scorpion's grudge against the recently "revived" Sub-Zero. But when he showed mercy to a defeated foe, Scorpion eventually realized he was in fact his younger brother and spared him his elder's fate. Unable to kill their target but aiding the Earthrealm warriors against Shao Kahn, the duo returned home empty handed.
Unfortunately, the Lin Kuei had acquired technology to enhance their warriors and desired Sub-Zero and Smoke to become cyborg assassins. The two refused and fled for their lives. Sub-Zero managed to escape, but Smoke was captured. He was marked for death whilst his friend was turned into a machine against his will. Smoke, Cyrax and Sektor were sent to eliminate him. When Shao Kahn suddenly invaded Earthrealm and claimed the souls of countless millions, as a chosen warrior he found himself one of the lucky few spared and joined Earthrealm's defense against Kahn. Convincing Smoke he had retained his soul and restoring his humanity the two defeated Cyrax and Sektor. Sub-Zero reprogrammed Cyrax to assassinate Kahn (a task he failed in) but Smoke was captured shortly before Outworld's defeat. Convincing an enraged Scorpion during Shinnok's war that he had no role in the murder of his clan or family, and with Quan Chi revealed as the true culprit, the Lin Kuei was finally freed from the specter's vengeance. In the events prior to Deadly Alliance Sub-Zero returned to the Lin Kuei and defeated Sektor for the leadership of the clan, claiming the power-enhancing Dragon Medallion in the process, vowing to reform the group into a force for good. When the Deadly Alliance struck he saw it as an opportunity to show the clan in a new light. Taking his new apprentice Frost with him, he aimed to aid Raiden's forces against the new threat. However, Frost's ambitions caused her to betray Sub-Zero, attempting to steal the Dragon Medallion from her master. Unable to handle its raw power, Frost was consumed by ice, with Sub-Zero blaming her failings on himself.
In Deception within a tomb in Outworld, he discovered his origins were that of a forgotten race known as Cryomancers. Laying Frost's body to rest and forgiving her treachery he donned an ancient suit of armor within the ruin and headed for an Earthrealm portal. He offered asylum to Sareena for aiding his brother in the past. Sub-Zero then found himself in direct conflict with his fallen sibling Noob Saibot and a reprogrammed Smoke during the events of Armageddon.
In Mortal Kombat 9, the younger Sub-Zero is actively seeking Scorpion for his brother's death, and so heads to Outworld with Smoke to seek him. He is also on the run with Smoke from the Lin Kuei, as they were trying to avoid being turned into cyborg ninja like Cyrax and Sektor before them. He eventually defeats Scorpion in the Outworld tournament, but as he is about to deliver the finishing blow, he is captured by the Lin Kuei to be cyberized. As a cyborg, he serves Shao Kahns forces for a while before being reprogrammed by Jax, thus having his free will back. He joins the Earthrealm defenders afterwards, and along with most of them, is killed by a powered-up Sindel. Sub-Zero is then resurrected by Quan Chi as a mindless revenant, regaining his human form in the process. He fights for the Netherrealm during the subsequent Earthrealm invasion as depicted in the beginning of Mortal Kombat X. In the aftermath of the war, he is restored to life by Raiden. As with the original timeline, he takes control of the Lin Kuei from Sektor, turning the clan into a benevolent force that aids Earthrealm in both MKX and 11. He also reveals the true murderer of the Shirai Ryu clan to Scorpion, ending their feud and forming a partnership.
- The Ace: Generally presented as ludicrously competent in whatever he does. His X chapter is basically "hey, look how awesome Sub-Zero is!".
- A Father to His Men: As Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei, Sub-Zero greatly values the lives of those part of his clan. In 11, he's visibly distraught over seeing the remains of Lin Kuei warriors in the Cyber Lin Kuei factory.
- Always Second Best: To his brother, as a killer. Shang Tsung tells Kuai Liang does not produce results like Bi-Han, to which he doesn't deny, but boasts how he maintains his integrity.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: How he becomes leader of the Lin Kuei in the original continuity, as of MKX eventually becomes the leader in the current continuity too, when freed.
- Amazing Technicolor Population: In Deception and Armageddon, his skin exhibits a gray shade while wearing his Cryomancer armor.
- Amplifier Artifact: The Dragon Medallion increases Sub-Zero's freezing powers. It's also the symbol of his status as the new Lin Kuei Grandmaster, and may have been responsible for his apparent age jump in Deadly Alliance. His ancestral Cryomancer armor further boosts his powers.
- An Axe to Grind: He utilizes ice axes in 11 that can be customized via gear.
- And This Is for...:
"For my brother!"
- The aftermath of his battle with Scorpion in 9's Story Mode.
- One intro between him and D'Vorah in 11 has him declaring the fight is for Hanzo.
- Back-to-Back Badasses: In his MK9 Arcade ending, Raiden tells him the truth about what happened to his and Scorpion's families due to the Lin Kuei. He manages to convince Scorpion of this and they go forth to take on entire armies for vengeance.
- Badass Baritone: Courtesy of Steve Blum since MKX, his voice even having an echo in his masked costumes in that game. His MK9 voice is higher, but it makes sense - nearly 30 years have passed in the intervening time.
- Badass Beard: Sports a rocking one in MKX, in his MK3-inspired unmasked form. His is actually the fullest in the game, too.
- Badass Boast: Picked up some downright sinister ones for MKX."I will freeze your very soul.""I destroy whom I please!""You will know the sting of winter.
Smoke: Be as stealthful as the night...Sub-Zero: And as deadly as the dawn.
- And of course, who could forget the Lin Kuei's badass creed?
- Badass in Charge: Of the Lin Kuei. Doubly so as the lore states that only the best of the best are allowed to join that organisation.
- Badass Teacher: In MKX he essentially serves in this role to the Kombat Kids. His position as Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei could also make him this for the order as a whole. Hilariously, much of his combat banter involves him offering pearls of wisdom and constructive criticism to his opponent. Yes, even when he's killing someone he still takes the time to teach them. Taken to absolutely ridiculous levels when these people can include Shinnok.
- Back from the Dead: As of Mortal Kombat X, he's alive and organic once again.
- Bald of Awesome: His alt. in Deception. Though he does have a Cossack-style topknot.
- Bears Are Bad News: His Animality.
- Berserk Button:
- He's gets really pissed when his brother mentions how his friend Smoke is still burning in the Neatherrealm.
- Deities giving him cryptic answers also makes him lose his cool a bit.
- Big Brother Instinct: Inverted, since he's the younger brother of Bi-Han. Even though his relationship with his brother is now hostile, Kuai Liang says his reasons for fighting Bi-Han were that so he could free his soul. Furthermore, in his arcade ending in 11, the first thing he does as the Keeper of Time is change history so that Bi-Han doesn't become evil. This results in the two of them becoming Bash Brothers and joint Grandmasters of the Lin Kuei, who work to defend Earthrealm.
- Big Brother Worship: Implied to have had this towards Bi-Han before he became a Broken Pedastal. An example of this is taking up the mantle of Sub-Zero to honor him.
- BFS: The Kori Blade, his weapon style in Deadly Alliance, Deception, and Armageddon, is a large sword made of ice. In the reboot, he occasionally pulls out an ice sword for combos, but it's much smaller and less intricate.
- Big Damn Heroes: He and his Lin Kuei arrive just in time to save Cassie's group and repel Kotal Kahn's forces back to Outworld while they make it to the Sky Temple.
- Blue Means Cold: He has inherited ice powers and usually dresses in blue.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: While he's one of the few heroes to have completely avoided this fate in the original timeline, in the current timeline he's gone through this a record number of three times: first in 9 as a Lin Kuei cyborg, then in 9 and the flashbacks of X as one of Quan Chi's revenants, and then finally in the X comics under the influence of the Kamidogu.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: If he wins a match in 9 without performing a Fatality, he shoots ice towards the players, freezing the screen.
- Breakout Character: To a perhaps even greater degree than his rival Scorpion, considering how he (well actually his brother) got a spin-off game.
- But Not Too Foreign: Like his brother, American on his mother's side, Chinese-Cryomancer on his father's. Mortal Kombat 9 has retconned this, since Sub-Zero's trailer shows both Kuai Liang and Bi-Han being abducted as children in what is clearly East Asia, contradicting the the backstory of the brothers being born to an American and later taken by their father to China.
- Butt-Monkey: Because of Ed Boon's favoritism to Scorpion, fans have kind of joked that Sub-Zero's role in trailers is always "to get his ass kicked by Scorpion."
- 9's title screen always had Scorpion uppercut Sub-Zero.
- In Scorpion's intro in Injustice: Gods Among Us he's about to pull a Fatality on Sub-Zero.
- In both 9 and X's trailers, Scorpion pulled a Fatality on him.
- Astoundingly, this was actually inverted during the 3D era games, where if Scorpion and Sub-Zero were ever in a fight, the former would inevitably be humiliated by some incarnation of the latter. For instance, in the Shaolin Monks intro the Elder Sub-Zero thrashes Scorpion about before finally knocking him out-cold with a torn-out spine. In the Armageddon intro, Kuai Liang and Scorpion got into a sword-fight where he more or less smacked Scorpion off-screen.
- When all is said and done, Sub-Zero will always have the last laugh over Scorpion due to having finally killed him mano-y-mano in the original timeline. The fact that Sub-Zero was later killed by Baraka of all people only makes his triumph all the more complete.
- A final point, while Sub-Zero often defeated Scorpion in trailers for games set in the original time-line, he was almost always canonically defeated by Scorpion in those games' storylines. In the new timeline he actually defeats Scorpion fairly conclusively in the storymode for MK9, and got the upper-hand over him in the comic books. Maybe getting beaten up in trailers by him is just Scorpion's consolation for that fact.
- Cain and Abel: Upon discovering Noob Saibot's identity as his elder brother reincarnated, Noob has been trying to kill him.
- Carpet of Virility: In MKX he exhibits quite a bit of chest hair in his alternate costume. Seeing where he lives, it's pretty much justified.
- Celibate Hero: One of his banters with Cetrion reflects this.Cetrion: Is there room for love in your heart?
Sub-Zero: Love gets in the way.
Cetrion: Love leads the way, Kuai Liang.
- Character Development: He started out as a silent assassin in II/9, but when the Lin Kuei becomes interested in cybernetics in 3/9, he splits because he disagrees with the methodology. From 4/X his character evolves greatly and becomes one of the most morally aware characters of the series, even taking over his former clan to lead them in a more righteous direction.
- Comic-Book Fantasy Casting / Ink-Suit Actor: One skin for Sub-Zero in 11 uses the likeness of DJ Dimitri Vegas, who helped compose the remix of the Mortal Kombat theme from the movie used in the game's launch trailer.
- The Comically Serious: X and 11's pre-fight banter lines reveal that he has very little in the way of a sense of humor, which is why it's doubly funny when he has to put up with snarkier people like Johnny Cage or Cassie Cage. Part of the fun is watching his continued deadpan exasperation with the flippancy of others.
- Contrasting Replacement Character: While Bi-Han was a Punch-Clock Villain, Kuai Liang is an unambiguous hero albeit not a very sociable one.
- Cool Mask: In II, 4, Deadly Alliance (as an alt.), and 9. In Deception, he upgrades to a Cool Helmet as part of the armor of a long-lost Cryomancer. Very literal in X, where his Unbreakable variation gives him a battle mask reminiscent of his previous armored masks in the series, albeit conspicuously made of ice. His mask can be customized with gear in 11.
- Cool Old Guy: As of MKX and 11, Kuai Lang is roughly in his 50's, but he's still a cool dude.
- Cool Sword: His Kori Blade from Deadly Alliance onward is literally this; it's a sword made out of ice. Kori is even the Japanese word for ice. Even though he's Chinese-American. The Netherrealm entries have him frequently forge disposable swords out of ice in his moveset.
- Cultured Warrior: Can kick ass and perform a traditional Japanese tea ceremony with no trouble whatsoever.
- A Day in the Limelight:
- Deadpan Snarker: Very rarely, especially considering he's one of the most respectful people in a universe that grazes World of Snark, but he does have his moments (especially when he's talking to Johnny Cage). Of note, however, is this dialogue from 11...Sub-Zero: The Lin-Kuei are restored, Shang Tsung.Shang Tsung: I sense this is no amicable visit.Sub-Zero: How perceptive, sorcerer.
- Death Seeker: Possibly; when hit with certain brutalities in 11, Sub-Zero's response before the killing blow is simply...
- Sub-Zero: Finally...!
- Defector from Decadence: When the cyber-initiative goes down, he gets the Netherealm out of there.
- Disappointed in You: An intro dialogue with Noob Saibot in 11 has him phrasing this word for word toward Kuai. Kuai holds the same feelings.
- Downloadable Content: In 9, his Klassic skin from MK1/2, his maskless costume from 3, and his classic "Spine Rip" Fatality.
- Dragon Rider: In his MKX ending, he essentially becomes the Father of (Frost) Dragons.
- Drop the Hammer: In MKX. His swords got a little smaller in the new timeline, but he made up for it by crushing his enemies with massive hammers that would make Shao Kahn shed a manly tear of pride.
- Even Evil Can Be Loved: His MK 11 ending shows that despite his mutual hatred for Noob Saibot, he would restore Bi-Han back to normal and by his side if he could, implying that he still cares about him to some extent.
- Every Scar Has a Story: Averted in the original timeline. While it's presumably gained during his escape from the Lin Kuei prior to 3, it's never been officially explained and apparently fades after donning the Cryomancer armor. However, Shaolin Monks instead shows Sub-Zero being mistaken for his brother and attacked by Kung Lao (miraculously keeping his eye in the process), but this is most likely non-canon. The MKX comics had it caused by Kano scarring him with a Kamidogu, which are now daggers in the alternate continuity.
- Famed in Story: Sub-Zero seems to have become something of a legend in X, with many of the next generation of fighters remarking on his reputation as a fearsome warrior. In Injustice 2, his reputation precedes him across multiverses.Kung Jin: They say Sub-Zero's tough.Sub-Zero: They say correctly.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Forms a genuine bond with his Arch-Enemy Scorpion in the events of X and 11.
- Friend to All Children: He's the only one in X that shows reluctance in fighting Ferra/Tor due to the fact that the former is a child.Sub-Zero: Release the girl, beast.
Ferra: We both fight Snow Man.
Sub-Zero: I will show you mercy.
Sub-Zero: What is your age, child?
Ferra: We no remember.
Sub-Zero: Old enough to know your place.
- Good Is Not Soft: He's more heroic than his elder brother, but is pragmatic and not afraid to get his hands a little dirty if it means protecting Earthrealm or the Lin Kuei.
- Grievous Harm with a Body: His Grandmaster variation in X lets him throw his ice clones around as projectiles and use them as shields.
- Grim Up North: The Lin Kuei are said to be based in the "northernmost parts of Asia". Of course, it's never really specified where exactly. Some sources put that as being in China, but China isn't the northernmost country in Asia by a long shot (those would be Kazakhstan, Mongolia and, depending on how you define "Asia", Siberia). Wherever they are based, it does certainly match up to the description of this trope, though. Upon assuming command as Grandmaster, he relocated them to the Arctic circle.
- Guest Fighter: He joins the roster of DC heroes and villains in Injustice 2, after featuring as a cameo in Scorpion's intro in the prequel.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners:
- With Smoke. It should be noted that it was Sub-Zero's actions that helped his buddy regain his humanity after undergoing cyborgification.
- According to his plot progression in DA and Deception, his short-term alliance with Kenshi quickly escalated into this.
- Hunk: John Turk really solidified this in MK3. His Kuai Liang skin in MKX is borderline Mr. Fanservice.
- Hypocritical Heartwarming: Sub-Zero does not like being called "Grandmaster Blueberry Ice", Johnny Cage's nickname for him, and even more when someone like the Joker calls him that. Given that Cage is one of the good guys, however, it seems that Sub-Zero lets it slide.Sub-Zero: Only Johnny Cage may use that name and live.
- An Ice Person: He's even seen in a few costumes with malleable sheets of ice on his forearms (and sometimes his legs) and has the chilled breath to go with it. In 4 and Deadly Alliance, his body additionally emanates an icy mist.
- Ice Breaker: This is a MASSIVE component of his fighting style.
- An Ice Suit: Same deal as his brother.
- Iconic Sequel Character: Given his popularity and position as the main Sub-Zero for most of the games, it can be easy to forget that Kuai Liang didn't appear until the second game.
- Icy Blue Eyes: A literal sense as his are often a glowing shade of blue, which are likely an aspect of his Cryomancer background given Frost also has them. Played straight in MKvs.DCU, Mortal Kombat 9 and Mortal Kombat X, where his eyes are seemingly a natural shade of blue. Averted in 11 where his eyes are a more natural dark brown.
- Identical Grandson: According to John Vogel, the Sub-Zero who teaches Shujinko in Deception's Konquest Mode is neither Bi-Han nor Kuai Liang, but their ancestor (most likely their father or grandfather given the chronology).
- Invoked in 11. In a mirror match the other Sub-Zero will be Kuai's grandfather and challenges him to earn the mantle of Sub-Zero.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Kills Scorpion in this manner during Armageddon, as seen in the intro of 9 via Freeze-Frame Bonus. He gets the same fate at the hands of Baraka.
- In-Series Nickname: Johnny Cage calls Sub-Zero "Grandmaster Blueberry Ice" in 11.
- Informed Flaw: According to Spawn's ending in 11, he and Scorpion constantly argue with each other, but this flaw is never shown in the story mode whenever they work together.
- Interspecies Romance: Has some Ship Tease with Sareena. He's mostly human, she's a demon in human guise.
- Irony: One of the promos for Deception shows Sub-Zero killing Baraka. In the aftermath of Armageddon Baraka is the one who kills him.
Scorpion: You are not Sub-Zero...Sub-Zero: I am his family and clan! I fight for his honour!
- In another way, he was essentially to Scorpion in MK9 as Scorpion was to Bi-Han - a vengeance driven warrior brimming with Unstoppable Rage. His first words to Scorpion when Shao Kahn brought him forth to face him were basically a retooled version of Scorpion's usual "I must avenge the deaths of my family and clan!"
- Kill It with Ice: His preferred method of killing, natch.
- Legacy Character: The heroic Sub-Zero that has been around for the majority of the series is actually him, the younger brother of the Sub-Zero from MK1, and Sub-Zero has been the family codename in the Lin Kuei since their great-great grandfather.
- Literally Shattered Lives: Some of his Fatalities, such as his Ice Shatter, Snowball Grenade and Frosty!.
- Literal-Minded: At some point in the rebooted timeline before 11, Johnny Cage told Sub-Zero that Sonya is an Ice Queen. Cue Sub-Zero later approaching Sonya in order to train her Cryomancer skills.
- Locked into Strangeness: After gaining the Dragon Medallion, Subby's eyes turn occult blue, as well as his scar. Once he dons the ancient Cryomancer armor, his scar fades, but his skin becomes incredibly pale and his eyes instead turn milky white. If his alt. in Deception is any indication, his hair also goes completely white, as opposed to just graying in DA and is reduced to a ponytail at the back of his head.
- Master Swordsman: He can perform some rather impressive flourishes with his kori-blades, and can pull off some improbably complicated techniques flawlessly. Best exhibited in his sword-fight with Scorpion in the Armageddon opening cinematic, where he manages to parry Scorpion's sword-blow from behind, across his back, and then drive Scorpion back, gaining the upper hand. He definitely gives Mr. Blind Swordsman Kenshi a run for his money.Kenshi: Care to test me?Sub-Zero: I, too, wield a sword.Kenshi: Yes... made of ice.
- Meaningful Name: His real name, Kuai Liang, can translate into "fast ice," or more prosaically, "quick freeze." Considering his abilities and the fact that he's a Chinese Cryomancer, this is likely intentional even in-universe.
- Morality Pet: For Sareena, if her Armageddon bio is anything to go by. Not only did she tail Sub-Zero to protect him from harm while he was following Noob and Smoke, but her feelings for him were so strong that even when driven mad and forced to revert back to her demon form, Sareena fleed rather than fought him.
- Mukokuseki: A Western example. In his ending in the second game,◊ he indeed looks Chinese. In 3, however, he looks vey much like a Caucasian person. This was likely due to limitations in finding an actor, since in his downloadable unmasked costume in 9, he can be seen to properly have a mix of Caucasian and Asian facial features. And in MKX, between the pale colour of his skin and facial features in his unmasked alt he practically looks like he's from Northern Europe.
- Come Mortal Kombat 11 he looks significantly more Asian than in X
- My Greatest Failure: Frost fills this role in both timelines. He blames himself for her arrogance and betrayal.
- In the new timeline, while Sub-Zero saw Frost as a talented student with great potential, he does acknowledge her anger issues this time. However, Frost still harbored her resentment against her mentor in 11, something which went south to the point she betrays him for Kronika. When Sub-Zero and Scorpion confront her for turning her former Lin Kuei comrades into robot ninjas, they are visibly angered by what Frost had turned into.
- Though more apparent in the original timeline, his inability to save his elder brother Bi-Han (Sub-Zero I / Noob Saibot), nor his best friend Tomas Vrbada (Smoke) also counts as this. Though he does manage to save the later at the very end of the original timeline. In the reboot, his relationship with Bi-Han is much more bitter, though he does still wish to save him.
- Mighty Glacier: Borderline example. He's not exactly ponderously slow, but he's not quite as quick as say, Scorpion or Reptile, but makes up for it by generally dealing a lot more damage with his dial-up and enhanced combos.
- Nay-Theist: While he trusts Raiden as a leader for the most part, he still has some doubts and expresses such in several intro dialogues between the two. He does not share this sentiment with Cetrion, which is justified given how much the Elder Gods had screwed them over for the rebooted timeline.
- No Sense of Humor: Notable for having next to no levity in his Pre-Battle Banter. Kuai Liang's seriousness makes him the perfect Straight Man to the goofier members of the cast, which clearly frustrates him on a regular basis.Sub-Zero: Must everything be a joke?
Johnny Cage: Yeah. It does.
- Oblivious Younger Sibling: Kuai Liang is a noticeably more morally-grounded character than his brother and frequently has to reiterate this to those who knew Bi-Han, but he seems to idolize his elder sibling a bit too much (which is more evident in 9) in spite of a tie-in comic for 4 revealing that Bi-Han, at some point in the past, told him about his adventures during Mythologies, a retelling that likely included his unwarranted killing of Hanzo when the ninja was defenseless and had surrendered, begging for his life. Family Honor and the simple fact that he lost his only known relative play a part, but Kuai, who has an adversity to lethal force unless absolutely necessary, was one untimely intervention by the Cyber Lin Kuei away from ending Scorpion's (un)life in 9, knowing full well that'd only perpetuate the Vicious Cycle built up to that point. Bi-Han, now Noob Saibot, disowning and attempting to kill him caused Kuai to ultimately shake off this rosy image.
- Oh, Crap!: He gets this reaction (one of his least stoic expressions) when he sees the corrupted Jinsei spreading throughout Earthrealm.
- Older and Wiser: Most notable in Deadly Alliance (and to a lesser extent, in 4).Mortal Kombat X also goes this route without having to make him look too old.
- Older Than They Look: In a reverse of what happened in the original timeline, Mortal Kombat X has Sub-Zero in his fifties and yet he looks like he could be two decades younger.
- One-Man Army: His Deception ending in the original timeline basically had him taking on a horde of Tarkatans and winning.
- The One Thing I Don't Hate About You: Kuai Liang does not like Johnny Cage's childlike banter, but he accepts the maturity and good will he otherwise demonstrates. Thus he is frustrated at most with Johnny's comical routine; when the Joker, someone more villainous yet no more mature, uses Johnny's "Grandmaster Blueberry Ice" nickname, however, Kuai Liang is prepared to kill him for it.Joker: Grandmaster Blueberry Ice, hmm?
Sub-Zero: Only Johnny Cage may use that nickname and live.
- Our Ancestors Are Superheroes: Kuai Liang is descended from a race of Outworlders (later retconned into being Edenians) who mastered control over cold.
- Potty Failure: His Babality in Mortal Kombat 9.
- Power Echoes: His voice in X has a noticeable echo in it unless he's wearing his unmasked costume.
- Pretty in Mink: His Cryomancer armor comes complete with fur ruffles around the collar.
- Prophet Eyes: Sports a very light blue variation of these in MKX, and for a time when he was under Quan Chi's control in the same sense as Scorpion he had a fiery-colored variant.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Unlike his brother and Sektor, however, Kuai Liang knew where to draw the line. However, since having restored the clan's honour in both continuities, his devotion to the Lin Kuei seems stronger than ever.Sub-Zero: For the Lin Kuei!Scorpion: For the Shirai-Ryu!Sub-Zero: To the death!
- Pun: His first Fatality in 9 is called "Have an Ice Day."
- Punched Across the Room: He's had a variant of this as a move since Deadly Alliance. His throw attacks in Armageddon and X puts his own particular spin on it by freezing the opponent first before he punches them. Many of his combos in 9 and X also tend to cap off with a massive punch and tend to be quite damaging as a result. Of course, they also have the added utility of putting some distance between him and his opponent, thus setting them up for an ice blast.
- Raised by Orcs: The Lin Kuei kidnapped him and his brother during childhood and then raised them to be cold-hearted assassins. Sub-Zero still eventually shows his conscience, compassion and didn't let his upbringing dictate his life direction, eventually becoming a bonafide good guy.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: As the Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei. Particularly, in Mortal Kombat X, he assists the new Special Forces in a training exercise. He also extends an olive branch to his long-time nemesis Scorpion after having learned of how Quan Chi manipulated the Lin Kuei into killing him and wiping out the Shirai Ryu, even after Scorpion loses his cool following a sneak attack from an upstart Lin Kuei named Frost.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: He's the blue to virtually everyone else he encounters (especially Scorpion), fitting given that he's a Cryomancer. This is easily apparent when he invites Hanzo (his brother's murderer) over to his temple to make peace with the former wraith and start off fresh with the Shirai Ryu. He retained his cool throughout the entire ordeal even when Frost nearly ruins things and when Hanzo almost killed him.
- Redeeming Replacement: At his best, Bi-Han was a dark Anti-Hero, with interpretation of his various deeds arguably placing him as worse. Kuai Liang, on the other hand, is a compassionate (if not realistically pragmatic) hero who spends a great deal of his early appearances trying to prove that he is not his brother.
- Reforged into a Minion: He was brainwashed to serve Quan Chi and Shinnok in 9, but he's brought Back from the Dead in X.
- The Rival: Was this on-again, off-again for a while to Scorpion in the original timeline, depending on who was saying what about him to Scorpion. In 4, they make peace, and future duels are usually just Rule of Cool. It's implied they still don't like each other, though. This is no longer the case anymore when Kuai Liang reveals the truth behind the first Shirai Ryu's demise in X.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: After obtaining the Hourglass in his MK11 Arcade ending, he travels back in time and prevents Bi-Han's turn to evil. The two brothers ultimately become joint Grandmasters of the Lin Kuei and defend Earthrealm together.
- Ship Tease: With Sareena, particularly in Armageddon, though the teasing was directed at his elder brother. She may not know that Bi-Han is dead.
- Scars Are Forever: Oddly enough, it seems to have a bit faded and change colors in Deception and Armageddon. And it doesn't appear in 9 until he retain it again in X, but caused by Kano, due to history being changed.
- Sins of Our Fathers: Scorpion seems to have shifted the blame he originally placed on Bi-Han for his supposed murder of the Shirai-Ryu onto him, much to Kuai Liang's annoyance. It doesn't really help matters that Scorpion was essentially wrong to blame him or his brother in the first place.Scorpion: Murderer.Sub-Zero: I tire of maintaining our innocence.
- Snark-to-Snark Combat: He gets this gem of a conversation with Kung Jin in X.Kung Jin: (after getting knocked down by Sub-Zero) A feint. Bravo.Sub-Zero: You should rally your companions rather than mock your superiors.Kung Jin: I'll keep that in mind if I ever meet 'em.
- Sixth Ranger: He is one of the last warriors to join Raiden's forces.
- Slide Attack: Simply named "Slide", this is one attack he's always had.
- Spontaneous Weapon Creation: His aforementioned Kori Blade is created by flash-freezing moisture in the air. He learns to make more improvised weaponry in the WB Games canon, such as smaller swords in 9 and hammers in X. Customization options in 11 include a water bottle at his hip presumably for this purpose.
- Stance System:
- Shotokan Karate and Dragon-style Kung Fu for both Deadly Alliance and Deception. Keeps the former for the final battle, while Jarek inherits the Dragon style.
- In X his variations are Cryomancer, Unbreakable and Grandmaster.
- Cryomancer gives Sub-Zero the (Air) Frost Hammer/Crushing Hammer - allowing him to bash his opponents over the head, and combo strings unavailable in his other variations which extends his attacking range and gives him more damage. The visual indicator is the thin aura of ice that decorates his arms and face (more noticeable around the arms a la 4, DA, A, and vs. DCU) and a crossed sword-and-hammer icon.
- Unbreakable gives Sub-Zero the Barrier of Frost/Barrier of Ice which stops all attacks cold in their tracks (including freezing opponents directly striking the barrier), and the Frozen Aura/Ice Aura - which outright eliminates chip damage. The visual indicator is the mask of ice over his face (reminiscent of the DA, A, vs. DCU, and 9 mask) and a shield icon.
- Grandmaster gives Sub-Zero his iconic Ice Klone/Ice Statue - which he can place in any location he desires, and the Klone Toss - which lets him toss the sculpture across the screen dealing direct damage. The visual indicator is the glowing light blue medallion placed over his right breast (most likely the newest iteration of the Dragon Medallion) and a snowflake icon.
- Status Quo Is God: Quan Chi restores his human body when he raises him as a revenant in the MKX prequel comics, which he retains when he is freed from Quan Chi's control and returned to life in MKX.
- The Stoic: Easily the least vocal and most ruthless of the main heroes.
- Not So Stoic: Understandably, but after finding the mutilated remains of his clan at the hands of the Tekunin in 11, he almost breaks down before Hanzo manages to calm him down.
- Stone Wall: Doesn't fully conform to this template, but this is a viable applicable of his freezing powers (especially his Ice Clones). The only time Subby has strictly adhered to this was in 4, where most of his other tactics were nerfed, but his turtling game was not. His Unbreakable variation in X also counts.
- Superior Successor: In the opinion of just about everyone in 11, he is a better Sub-Zero than Bi-Han was.
- Super Strength: Possibly the single most physically strong character in the franchise, barring the outright monstrous ones like Shao Kahn, Goro, Onaga, Torr, etc. How else do you describe someone who can rip out spines? Something even machines have difficulty doing. His Spine Rip Fatality in MKX can involve him lifting even the largest characters up into the air, then tearing them apart with his bare hands.
- Tall, Dark, and Handsome: As one can see from his unmasked appearances, and canonically 6'2" tall.
- Technical Pacifist: Pinballs between this and Reluctant Warrior, but usually stays rooted in the former. He has an aversion to killing, as seen by his story in II (this is also how Scorpion was able to piece together that he was not the same Sub-Zero he killed in the previous tournament, thus beginning his vow to protect the younger Sub-Zero). He even made peace with Scorpion (his brother's killer), froze Frost out of mercy instead of outright killing her, and tries to purify his brother's soul. All bets are off if you're an irredeemable villain, though.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: By 11, Sub-Zero has grown tired of Johnny Cage's lax attitude, and treats him with open contempt. However, he also tolerates more from Johnny than he does anyone else - one of his fight intros has the Joker call him "Grandmaster Blueberry Ice", which Kuai responds only Cage can call him and live.
- Uneven Hybrid: Descended from an ancient Outworld race known as Cryomancers, inheriting ice powers as a result.
- Unstoppable Rage: Unleashed some on Scorpion during his chapter in MK9.
- Undeathly Pallor: A grayish-white skin after being revived as a brainwashed minion.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Revealed to Hanzo that Quan Chi was the one who killed the Shirai Ryu as well as his wife and son. This leads Hanzo to lead the new Shirai Ryu in a raid at a Special Forces base to kill the captive Quan Chi in revenge before being able to revert the revenants back into human, dooming them in that state.
- Video Game Sliding: Along with his ice powers, Sub-Zero series has a sliding kick among his arsenal of moves. It debuted in the first Mortal Kombat and appears across many other entries in the series.
- Volcanic Veins: He gains these upon being revived as a brainwashed minion of Quan Chi.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: In his non-ninja outfit.
- Weapon of Choice: An Ice Scepter in 4, and the aforementioned Kori Blade in Deadly Alliance through Armageddon. 11 features him using an Ice Axe.
- Worf Had the Flu: He lost to Scorpion in the MKX comic, but Hanzo openly admitted the only reason he won was because Sub-Zero was weakened by the kamidogu. Also, he more or less initially dominated their fight until the demon possessing decided to expend his powers to stop Takeda from running away.
- Worthy Opponent: In one intro dialogue with D'Vorah where he confronts her for killing Hanzo, Sub-Zero tells her that he considered Scorpion his equal.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: We know that the Sub-Zero bros. were kidnapped by their father and taken to China, leaving behind their mother and a younger sister in America. However, no mention of their family was ever made afterward (aside from a cameo in Kuai Liang's vignette for 9, which detailed said abduction), and their current status (such as whether or not they survived Shao Kahn's invasion) remains unknown. It was widely believed that Frost was this long-lost sister of his, but this was Jossed.
- Noob mentions their mother in one of their intros in 11 and it remains to be seen if he knows anything else.
- Younger Than They Look: The whitening of his hair and hardening of his features in Deadly Alliance made him look older, but he's in his early 40s at most (he was 32 in II). Ironically enough, the reverse happens in the rebooted timeline. He's pushing mid-to-late 50s as of the current era, but looks permanently frozen in his 30s.