I enjoy this format of presenting complete biographies for each fighter in (roughly) chronologically introduced order, but it does have its drawbacks. For instance, Scorpion’s biography explains his complete history through every single Mortal Kombat tournament… but fails to note the fairly significant (at the time) issue of Scorpion not appearing in Mortal Kombat 3 proper. Yes, there was a game without Scorpion! Scorpion, Reptile, Kitana, Jade, and Mileena all were left on the cutting room floor between MK2 and MK3, and only returned for MK3’s upgrade, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. You would think the easily color swapped ninja would be first on the roster, but, maybe in an effort to make way for robots, they were all benched until the MK3 revision. And when those ninja came back? They came back with a vengeance.
Mortal Kombat 3 featured Sub-Zero out of his traditional uniform. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 added Scorpion and Reptile to the regular roster. And then it added two duplicate hidden kharacters (“klassic” Sub-Zero and “human” Smoke), one sprite-modified hidden fighter (Noob Saibot was a shadow of Kano for vanilla MK3, but was now back to being a ninja), and one completely new, secret ninja. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the one and only Ermac, Mortal Kombat’s greatest lie.
Please tell your cousin Jimmy this simple truth: Ermac does not appear in Mortal Kombat 1. He’s not there. Period. End of story. I don’t care what you read in that one issue of EGM you found in a South Carolina convenience store, he’s not in there at all. However! There is a stat screen on the backend of the arcade version of Mortal Kombat 1, and, just below the statistic for how many times players have fought Reptile, there is an entry for “ErMAC”. This was merely a way to note how many times the game had glitched! It theoretically stood for “Error Macro” (or at least something “error” related), and was not a secret count of how many times a player fought “Ermac”. Ermac is not a red color swap of Scorpion, and there isn’t some secret way to fight him on the home ports.
But! The folks behind Mortal Kombat are complete dicks whacky jokesters. Since people combed over Mortal Kombat 1 to find “ErMAC” in the first place, the producers of Mortal Kombat decided to run with that complete nonsense. In obvious commentary on the situation, defeating Shao Kahn in MK2 could unlock a phrase that, when unscrambled, would read “Ermac does not exist”. Additionally, Jade, the hidden female ninja of MK2, would occasionally pop up and state “Ermac who?” On a more “private” joke level, MK coders would deliberately include statistics in future games meant to mislead enterprising players. “Kano Transformations” was a stat in MK2, a game severely lacking Kano, and Johnny Cage received the same treatment in MK3. And that’s why you can’t trust any code in a Mortal Kombat game to reveal future DLC…
But, eventually, someone decided it was time to introduce the “real” Ermac, so (unlockable through a secret code that could be entered after every Game Over) Ermie made the scene. And… well… at least he had his own moveset… err… sorta. A lot of his powers were based on “telekinesis”, which is just a cost-cutting measure for everything from TV shows to videogames that allows you to use special effects without having to add an ounce of visual flair (I think Houdini pioneered that trick). Who needs a fireball when you can just say “I’m hitting you now” with invisible force? And, similarly, Ermac’s backstory was another trick of the eye: he’s a collection of souls merged into one being, and… that’s it. That’s pretty effective for a hidden kharacter, as it allows him to be literally anyone, personality or backstory wise, but it’s also a big, glowing “we’ll figure out his real story later” sign. Amusingly enough, his MK3 ending noted that he would return for MK4… which never happened. Ermac already had plans! He had to go to his sister’s wedding!
Ermac then faded into the background of the MK universe. He was referenced in MK: Deadly Alliance as the friendly fellow that taught Kenshi how to use telekinetic powers (which was likely just an answer for anyone complaining about Kenshi using another fighter’s special moves), but then returned as a playable fighter in Mortal Kombat: Deception. It was at this point that it was noted that Ermac was enslaved by Shao Kahn, but was free upon Kenshi cutting the cord (likely literally). Ermac was now a being made up of a bunch of random souls with a whole lot of opportunities available to them (also, this is where they started using more inclusive pronouns, so I may as well honor that going forward). And they chose to fight for good! The “usual” heroes were all kinda-dead and completely-enslaved by the Dragon King, so Ermac used his magical soul abilities to kick all their asses, and then transfer their (good) souls back into their (bad) bodies. Thus, Ermac basically became the second good wizard in the MK kast, and wound up best friends with Liu Kang’s wandering soul. They’re soul pals!
Then they died during Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. It was the popular thing to do.
Ermac gets to actually be a presence in the rebooted version of Mortal Kombat 1. For the record, they are introduced as “Shao Kahn’s latest creation”, so this version, like Mileena, is effectively a very pissed-off child. But who gives a damn, because, like every other Kahn flunky, they mostly exist for the good guys to have someone to clobber every other round. However, they did get a chance to prove their power when telekinetically obliterating Jax’s arms during Mortal Kombat 2. Aside from that, though, Ermac only got a bit of interesting backstory during their (non-kanon) ending that revealed Ermac contained the soul of King Jerrod, Sindel’s deceased husband (and king). Unfortunately, that never comes up, and Kitana has no idea her deadbeat/dead dad is actually that wizard in the tournament tele-slamming her twin sister.
So, fun timeline divergence: Ermac was freed from malevolent control in the original universe, but Shao Kahn just plain dies in the reboot, so Ermac winds up sticking to Team Baddy. Ermac initially serves Shao Kahn’s apparent heir, Mileena, but leaves her employ when Reptile (of all people!) reveals that Mileena was just some monster from the flesh pits. As a walking soulnado, you’d think Ermac would find that endearing, but, no, they defect and join team Kotal Kahn for the remainder of the adventure. Unfortunately, this doesn’t lead to any remarkable adventures for Ermac, and they just wind up (yet again) as a lackluster minion. But! Ermac’s ending reveals their soul situation could be a portal for the return of Shang Tsung, and apparently one of Ermac’s “collected” souls is Shao Kahn, so Ermac is basically a walking, talking plot device for reviving notable villains. That could have been really relevant if Mortal Kombat 11 didn’t decide to just use time travel to explain literally everything. Oh well!
Ermac pretty much petered out as a ninja, but did wind up with a complicated life despite starting as nothing more than a joke. That reminds me of another joke…
Rain was created with the invasion of other Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 ninja. Kinda. Like Ermac, Rain was another stupid joke from the good folks at Mortal Kombat Enterprises (“We go through more blood before 10 AM than most people do all day”). Rain was a purple ninja that appeared during the attract sequence of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. And that’s the only place he appeared. He was not a real playable or fightable kharacter, he was just there to get your quarters as you desperately searched for how to unlock that one dude from the intro. Not that I’m bitter about this or anything, but this does influence my statement that Mortal Kombat creators are history’s greatest monsters.
Oh, and the name? He’s a purple ninja named “Rain”. Purple. Rain.
And when he finally got a backstory, it was revealed he was a prince.
There isn’t very much to Rain. He was not a “real” kharacter in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3: Arcade, but did become a real boy in time for the console ports. Sheeva was dropped from the roster on the 16-bit editions, but Rain got his own history and special moves. Rain was noted as an Edenian (like Kitana), but he defected and joined Shao Kahn’s army. MK: Armageddon (four games later) was his next appearance, and that revealed that he was the bastard son of an Edenian god (thus explaining Rain’s ability to summon lightning and, uh, rain), and that was actually relevant, as the twin protagonists of that adventure were Edenian godlings, too. Of course, none of those kharacters actually impacted a damn thing, so Rain was left with little to do in the grand scheme of the MK Universe.
Rain did return as DLC for Mortal Kombat 9, though, thus rounding out the roster of “everybody from Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3”. Once again, it was confirmed that Rain was a Prince, a demi-god, and a general jerk to everyone in his immediate area. That’s about it! Mortal Kombat 10 actually features Rain in the main plot… Well, that might be a bit of a stretch. Rain.. uh… participates in Story Mode. He’s one of Mileena’s flunkies (probably because they have similar taste in outfits), and “reveals” that he was going to betray Mileena and steal the throne for himself… but literally everyone working for Mileena already had that plan. He doesn’t succeed, naturally, and fades back into the rich tapestry that is the Mortal Kombat mythos.
Speaking of which, it’s time for a song!
You know Scorpion and Noob and Rain and Reptile
Smoke and Ermac and Sub-Zero for a little while
But do you recall
The least famous ninja of all?
Chameleon the multi-colored ninja
Was responsible for a lot of gore
But if you never saw him
You were playing on the N64
All of the other ninja
Had very particular moves
Chameleon had to steal all of ‘em
Even though Scorpion disapproves
But one foggy October Eve
Ed Boon came to say
“Chameleon with your powers so immense
Your ending is going to make zero sense”
So that’s how his creators left him
Without a solid backstory
Chameleon, the multicolored ninja
You’re the worst in history
Where was I?
Oh yeah, Chameleon was a male ninja that appeared in Mortal Kombat Trilogy, but only on the Playstation 1/Saturn/PC version. Chameleon has never had a backstory past “Chameleon: he exists”. Khameleon, meanwhile appeared in Mortal Kombat Trilogy for the N64, and she got the tiniest smidgen of a backstory. She apparently is the last remaining female Zaterran, but is not giving Reptile her number, because he is a mess, and she’s not dating anybody without a driver’s license. In fact, Khameleon’s whole deal is that she seems to be the last dinosaur person that has her s$%^ together, as she apparently knows her whole race’s history. … And that’s probably why she rarely participates in Mortal Kombat. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of all the ways her people have been roundhoused into oblivion over the years…
Khameleon made her only other appearance in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, but exclusively in the Nintendo Wii version. Once again, she confirmed her status as the last living lizard with a brain, and she… died at the end with everyone else. At least both of the Zaterrans went out together. She’s theoretically palling around somewhere in the rebooted Mortal Kombat universe, but she’s only ever been referenced by Bo Rai Cho telling Reptile “there is another…” This is equal parts kanon and a Star Wars gag.
And that’s it! We’re done with all the ninja from the first three Mortal Kombat titles! Finally!
Next time: A ninja’s mythology. … OH GOD DAMN IT!