Ninjas are a common character type featured in the Mortal Kombat series.
Ninja is a loosely used term in the actual sense of ninjas regarding the Mortal Kombat franchise, thus they are a very prominent group of characters. The criteria for a character to classify as a ninja by design (at least back in the earlier games) is often seen wearing a mask, a combo of a hood/cowl and a tabard for male or a leotard for female. It is not uncommon for a ninja to possess supernatural powers that gives them the edge over their opponents. From Mortal Kombat to Mortal Kombat Trilogy, ninjas were virtually identical to one another in terms of appearance, save for their color choices, poses and powers. From Mortal Kombat 4 onwards, ninjas were given a better sense of diversity with their designs.
- Noob Saibot
- Takeda Takahashi
Behind the scenes
In reality, all of the ninja characters in the first three Mortal Kombat games were all represented by a single actor. The original base costume was of a red color to avoid blending in with the blue background used when filming the characters for the sprites. This method was used because of memory limitations and an attempt to get more playable characters for the roster. The ninja actor had to perform a wider array of moves and multiple fighting stances than the others as they would be "portraying" multiple characters at once. Once the sprites were captured, they were digitally recolored, creating color values to be applied to the numerous characters. These values were programmed and coded to be treated as separate character values, having access to certain sprites and individual special moves to create their identities.
Because of this, there is a possibility to 'unlock' access to all of these sprites to any ninja, granting them different abilities by swapping movesets or give them every single special move. This would eventually be explored by the Mortal Kombat Trilogy hidden characters Chameleon and Khameleon, as well as Mortal Kombat X's DLC character Triborg, several years later.
Reiko, who was introduced in Mortal Kombat 4, was created by modifying Noob Saibot's then-unused model into a new character, creating an unmasked magenta-colored ninja. Reiko has long since abandoned this design for a look modelled after Shao Kahn, and is generally not grouped with the ninja archetype.
Unlike most other characters grouped with this archetype, Tanya, Frost, and Takeda Takahashi did not necessarily originate from a palette swap.
Before Mortal Kombat (2011) was released, it was announced that pre-ordering from certain stores would provide a code to unlock classic ninja outfits, with their Mortal Kombat (1992) outfits for the male ninjas and their Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 outfits for the females. Jade was an exception, with her classic outfit code being provided by purchasing the Blu-ray edition of the Mortal Kombat films. A DLC pack was later released which featured all of the classic outfits from pre ordering the game.
With each DLC character released, two classic outfits would be released with the compatibility packs.
With Skarlet's release, her compatibility pack provided a classic outfits for Cyrax and Sektor, based on their Mortal Kombat 3 outfits.
With Rain's release, his compatibility pack provided a classic outfit for Kitana and Jade, based on their Mortal Kombat II outfits.
With Freddy Krueger's release, his compatibility pack provided a classic outfit for Sub-Zero, based on his Mortal Kombat 3 appearance as well as an outfit based on the classic cyber ninja outfits for Cyber Sub-Zero.
In the Playstation Vita port of the game, the MK and MKII outfits were available from the outset. All of the ninjas, including Rain and Skarlet, were given UMK3 outfits, with Sub-Zero receiving a proper masked outfit to go with his maskless appearance (which is labeled as "UMK3" whereas the others are simply labeled "MK3"). Skarlet also received an MKII outfit based on her rumored appearance, though retaining her hair color. Rain's UMK3 outfit in particular is unlockable by completing the final mission in the Bonus Challenge Tower.
Mortal Kombat X continued the tradition by giving Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Ermac, and Reptile their UMK3 outfits (with Reptile being given an altered version of his mask) as free costumes with each successive update, while Kitana and Mileena's MKII costumes were available as unlocks through the mobile game. In addition, Scorpion, Ermac and Sub-Zero were given a stylized, metallic version of Scorpion's MKX appearance, with Scorpion's being exclusive as a Kollector's Edition bonus while Ermac's and Sub-Zero's can be purchased normally.
In the first three Mortal Kombat games, many characters were portayed using simple palette swaps of each other, with occasional variations to their stance.
- Mortal Kombat (original)
- Mortal Kombat 2
- Mortal Kombat 3
- Female ninjas, Mortal Kombat 2
- Female ninjas, Mortal Kombat 3
- Cyborg ninjas, Mortal Kombat 3
- Despite the word ninja is used as a popular term to classify most of the masked MK characters, Scorpion is the only character who is literally a ninja by definition, due to being born and trained in Japan, as it is the country of origin for the ninja.
- Some could argue that ninja are basically assassins and/or spies, which most of the classified characters by the term fits in that description.
- Takeda Takahashi can be officially defined as ninja as well, since being under tutelage with Scorpion and a member of the Shirai Ryu clan.
- Kuai Liang, Bi-Han, Smoke, Sektor, Cyrax, Frost, and Triborg are the Lin Kuei, which the clan is loosely based on an ancient Chinese assassin clan that are similar to the ninja.
- The Zaterran race had an exceptional group of hunters, spies, and assassins with their ability to camouflage or disguise as humans. That applies to Reptile and Khameleon's deadly fighting style.
- Chameleon is currently debatable as a Zaterran. He even shared similar attire of his female counterpart in MKA. However, his appearance in said game did not address this issue. All that is known from him is he was "one of Shao Kahn's deadliest warriors" and that he had been present at events dating all the way back to Liu Kang's victory in the first Mortal Kombat Tournament, constantly remaining hidden in the shadows and biding his time while watching the events unfold.
- Kitana, Mileena, and Jade are officially described as Shao Kahn's assassins back at MKII and UMK3.
- Tanya, while also born an Edenian, could also fit to the term, despite never wearing a mask in any of the games. However, as she was a former member of the Edenian Resistance, there isn't a clear evidence if the Resistance has assassins in their divisions.
- Rain, another Edenian, may also be up to debate officially as an assassin, since he is part of a royal heritage, raised by a key general of the Edenian Resistance and trained there as an elite member before his arrogance led himself to betray the resistance and joined Shao Kahn's forces.
- It is noted that in earlier printings of the Mortal Kombat Trilogy instruction booklet, his bio reads "Rain is an assassin working freelance. He was once a member of the Lin Kuei along with Sub-Zero, but left the clan under mysterious circumstances. Years later, Rain is found working for Shao Kahn as an assassin in the Outworld. Born a human, he finds himself questioning his loyalty towards Kahn after watching the invasion of Earth." While it could've implied that he was a Lin Kuei, but it turned out a printing error that the bio was originally meant for Tremor, who was cut in development for MKT.
- Ermac may not be officially described as an assassin by definition. His fighting abilities with telekinesis and soul energy manipulation made him act more like a mage. It's no more evident that his appearance in MKX shown that his primary costume, while inspired from his alt in MK 2011, completely omitted the mask, and seen fighting while floating off the ground.
- Skarlet's appearance in MK 2011 bears the closest resemblance to a kunoichi (female ninja). She was equipped with a pair of tanto, and four kunai strapped on her right leg, which also used in her movesets. She is also described as another of Shao Kahn's assassins in her MK 2011 bio, but also stand as his Blood Mage and Imperial Bodyguard in her Mortal Kombat 11 bio.
- Speaking of Tremor, as previously stated from Rain's erroneously bio from earlier printings of the MKT instruction booklet, he was originally planned to be a former member of the Lin Kuei. That particular backstory has not been utilized again since in his debut on Mortal Kombat: Special Forces. However, Tremor is a part of the mercenary group, the Black Dragon clan, which they are similar to assassins.