Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero is a Gaiden Game Beat 'em Up in the Mortal Kombat franchise, developed by Midway Games and released in 1997 for North America and in 1998 for Europe. Canonically, it is a prequel set before the events of the first game and, by proxy, Mortal Kombat 9.
As the name implies, it stars Ensemble Dark Horse Sub-Zero in his quest to stop Evil Sorcerer Quan Chi, who seeks to retrieve an amulet to revive the God of Evil Shinnok. It also provided (and retconned) origin stories for characters who would appear in later Fighting Games, such as the aforementioned Sub-Zero, Quan Chi, and Shinnok, as well as Sub-Zero's rival Scorpion, the wind god Fujin, and the demon amazons Sareena, Kia and Jataaka. Of course Raiden makes an obligatory appearance.
Framed as an opportunity to better-explore the Lin Kuei clan and Outworld, it featured (for the time) impressive visuals and cutscenes. Sub-Zero begins with a limited moveset but unlocks new ice-based attacks as you progress. The developers wanted to keep the Mortal Kombat combat system intact while shoe-horning in some other capabilities. Acclaim did a similar thing with the Batman Forever console game two years earlier, using the MK1 engine on loan from Midway. Mythologies went a long way toward inspiring the creation of the Konquest mode in Mortal Kombat: Deception.
It was followed by Mortal Kombat: Special Forces and Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. Despite being mostly-forgotten, this game plugs a few holes in the backstory to Mortal Kombat 4, and also helps explain how Sub-Zero started on the path to becoming Noob Saibot. For more, see the series' Developers' Foresight page and its Shout Out page.
The game provides examples of:
- Amazon Brigade: Quan Chi's personal assassins (Kia, Jataaka and Sareena) act as his bodyguards. Sub-Zero has to fight all three of them to obtain three keys to gain access to Quan Chi's sanctum.
- Ascended Extra: Sareena debuted here as one of Quan Chi's personal assassins, and even gained something of a Ship Tease with this Sub-Zero during a cutscene. She returns later as a playable character in both Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition (2003) and Mortal Kombat Armageddon (2006).
- Back Tracking: Every level, bar the first, is a damn warren which involves a ludicrous amount of backtracking.
- Berserk Button: Sub-Zero does not take kindly to being called a ninja by Quan Chi. Scorpion, a ninja, is his mortal enemy.
- Boss-Altering Consequence: Two instances:
- If Sub-Zero kills Scorpion with a fatality in the first stage, he will reappear as a mid-stage boss in stage 6, "Prison of Souls".
- Sub-Zero can use a fatality on Sareena after he defeats her in "Shinnok's Fortress". However, if the player spares her, Sareena will suddenly appear during the Quan Chi boss fight to deliver the final blow, uppercutting the sorcerer out of the arena.
- Captain Obvious: "Somehow you have retained your mortality, which would mean you are vulnerable to death!"
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Sub-Zero defeats not one but FOUR elemental gods in the Temple. Your fight with Shinnok counts as well, if you decide to stay after grabbing the amulet.
- Digitized Sprites: As with all early games in the series. Averted with a handful of enemies, however, such as the Rock Golem.
- Doomed by Canon: While the player can choose differently, Sareena's presence in future games and Scorpion becoming an undead revenant means that regardless of whatever happens, Sub-Zero canonically saves Sareena and kills Scorpion to preserve the timeline.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Each of the Mortal Kombat 4 characters present in the game, most notably Quan Chi, Shinnok, and Fujin (referred to in this game as simply "Wind God"). Sareena would herself become playable in later installments.
- Earth/Wind Juxtaposition: The mid-section of the game involves Sub-Zero traversing the Temple of the Elements to gain access to Shinnok's amulet deep within its walls. The second stage is "Wind Element", where Sub-Zero has to face spinning platforms and ride a hurricane to further advance in the stage and reach Fujin, the god of wind, who looks very much human. The next stage is "Earth Element", which takes place in a mine or subterranean area filled with tunnels and crevices that open and close at random. Its boss is the Earth God, a towering Golem-like creature.
- Easy-Mode Mockery: On Easy Mode, the game ends after Subbie completes the elemental temples.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: One of the many things that makes this game so hard. You would be hard-pressed to find a room where there isn't a hazard. Even when using an elevator in the final stage, you almost expect a Mook to drop in.
- Fake Difficulty: The weird control mapping makes this game much more difficult than it should be. The Mortal Kombat engine doesn't translate well to the platforming sections, obstacle courses or enemy swarms (you have to press a separate button to turn around), and Mythologies was written off as a Mulligan.
- False Innocence Trick: If Sub-Zero decides to spare Scorpion in the first level, while imprisoned in the Netherrealm, he will meet Shinnok in his prison cell, instead of Scorpion. He claims that he's an unjustly imprisoned soul like Sub-Zero and notes that he's playing Raiden's "game" for the time being. His manipulation of Sub-Zero indirectly helps his own escape from the Netherrealm several years later.
- Fire/Water Juxtaposition: The mid-section of the game involves Sub-Zero traversing the Temple of the Elements to gain access to Shinnok's amulet deep within its walls. The fourth stage is "Water Element", where Sub-Zero has to traverse a labyrinthine water reservoir and avoid drowning. The boss of the "Water Element" is the Water God, against whom Sub-Zero's freezing abilities are effective. The next stage is "Fire Element", which takes place in an underground volcanic area riddled with platforms hanging over lava and secret floor traps that spew fire streams. Its boss is the Fire God, against whom Sub-Zero cannot use his freezing attacks, since they quickly evaporate as soon as they touch the Fire God.
- Genre Mashup: It's a Sidescroller/RPG/Fighting game. Certainly a unique specimen.
- Giant Mook: Hulk Monks, which are played by Brian Glynn, who played Shao Kahn in MK2 and 3.
- Guide Dang It!:
- The post-battle against Fujin, which requires the player taking cover in a small niche.
- The final battle with Shinnok is worse, since it involves a button combination which must be timed perfectly.
- Heist Clash: Quan Chi hires Sub-Zero to steal a map leading to Shinnok's amulet from a Shaolin temple. What Sub-Zero doesn't know is that Quan Chi had hired Scorpion, another assassin from a rival clan, for the same task in case Sub-Zero failed. Neither man is aware they are both being employed by Quan Chi and the two have a fight which ends in Scorpion's death.
- Hilarious Outtakes: The cutscenes alone make the PS1 version a klassic, as well as the post-credit clips.
- Insistent Terminology: The Lin Kuei are not ninja. To explain, the ninja of Japan originated from an ex-Lin Kuei who defected and fled from China to Japan, taking their secrets with him and starting his own assassin clan, the Shirai Ryu. Needless to say the Lin Kuei despise being associated with what they consider to be a group of posers and thieves. Interestingly, Quan Chi plays this trope straight himself using the same example but in reverse: he repeatedly and insistently refers to Sub-Zero as "ninja" specifically to piss him off.
- Kill Enemies to Open: A variation: starting with stage 6, the player has to defeat mini-bosses to obtain objects that allow to advance further:
- In Stage 6, Prison of Souls, the robotic guardian holds the keycard to the third floor.
- In Stage 7, Bridge of Immortality, the player has to defeat a rider on a dinosaur and three other robotic guardians to obtain the three keys to access the last stage.
- In Stage 8, Shinnok's Fortress, Quan Chi's three personal assassins each hold a key that allows access to the last bosses of the game.
- Natural Elements: The game's mid-section occurs inside the Temple of the Elements, in the Himalayan Mountains. The temple is divided into four stages, each representing "the four elements which comprise the very existence of Earthrealm": Wind, Earth, Water and Fire. The stage bosses are also Earthrealm's elemental gods.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Its because of Sub-Zero that Quan Chi gets the amulet and must be stopped.
- Nintendo Hard: An egregious example. Even if you figure out the cheat codes for no damage/infinite lives, the game is still hard as hell, due to the bizarre control schemes and the extreme caution you need to take during some of the platforming elements. Not to mention the A.I. opponents, which will punch you into a pit if they can.
- One-Winged Angel: Shinnok after you take his amulet. Fighting this phase is optional, you can just scamper through the portal and end the game. Defeat him and you will be rewarded with a blooper reel.
- Prequel: Twofold:
- The game takes place before the first game, since Scorpion is still alive at the start of the game, but is reborn as a wraith mid-game, and old Shang Tsung appears in The Stinger, interested in hiring Sub-Zero for a tournament... Mortal Kombat.
- It also serves as distant prequel to Mortal Kombat 4, since it introduces the latter's main antagonists, fallen deity Shinnok and Evil Sorcerer Quan Chi.
- Redemption Equals Death: Sareena, except that was retconned into being a Disney Death.
- RPG Elements:
- A small inventory. Sub-Zero can carry a determinate amount of items, and if he fills it, he needs to use or drop something in order to take the new item. This includes keys.
- If you manage to do combos, Sub-Zero can level up to learn his moveset.
- Smashing Hallway Traps of Doom: Far too damn many in this game. Some come from the ceiling, others come from the floor - all of which come up with little to no telegraphing.
- Super Drowning Skills: Sub-Zero can't swim, as the water temple proves.
- Video Game Caring Potential: While most enemies just fall over and die (or explode) when defeated, you're given the option to either kill or spare two of them: Sareena and Scorpion. In both cases, choosing to show mercy has positive results later. Specifically, if you spare Sareena, she'll have a Heel–Face Turn and help Sub-Zero in the battle with Quan Chi. If you spare Scorpion at the beginning of the game, you avoid having to fight him again as a wraith in the Netherrealm.
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Huzzah! You've acquired the amulet! ...Only five levels in? Sorry, fellas, victory doesn't come that quickly.