Lin Kuei

The Lin Kuei logo
The Lin Kuei logo

Place of OriginEarthrealm
Current statusActive
Known membersCurrent:
Noob Saibot
Unknown Status:
Protecting Earth
Shirai Ryu

The Lin Kuei is a fictional faction from the Mortal Kombat fighting game series.

About the Lin Kuei[]

The Lin Kuei are based loosely on the ancient Chinese clan of the same name, much like the infamous Black Dragon Society (Kokuryūkai) of Japan was used for Kano's Black Dragon clan. They have become one of the most prominent and well-known factions within the Mortal Kombat universe, and they have played a major role throughout the history of the series. Though it has gradually shifted from being a sinister force into a friendly power, it has always remained very reclusive. To gamers, its history has always been intertwined with the adventures of both Sub-Zero brothers.

They were known rivals of a smaller assassin clan in the icy lands of Arctika who were known as the Tengu clan.


The defeat of the Shirai Ryu[]

It is unknown when the Lin Kuei were founded, but their earliest chronological appearance in the Mortal Kombat games begins with Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, where the elder Sub-Zero, a Lin Kuei clansman, was its title character. In the game bearing his name, the sorcerer Quan Chi hired the Lin Kuei to find an ancient amulet, and Sub-Zero was sent to find the map leading to its location. He did not know that Quan Chi had hired a Japanese ninja, Hanzo Hasashi, for the same task in case Sub-Zero would fail. Hasashi and Sub-Zero encountered each other in the map room, where Sub-Zero killed him in cold blood. After Sub-Zero delivered the map, Quan Chi made good on a promise to the Lin Kuei Grandmaster; the rival clan, the Shirai Ryu, was wiped out. The Shirai Ryu was a clan founded by a breakaway member of the Lin Kuei years earlier.

Shinnok's amulet[]

The Lin Kuei demonstrated their mercenary nature here when they inadvertently placed the Earthrealm in danger for personal gain. After retrieving the map, Sub-Zero is hired again for another mission. This time, he was to follow the directions on the map to a hidden Temple of the Elements, wherein an amulet (supposedly Quan Chi's) was kept. Defeating the four elemental god-guardians in the temple, he found the amulet. Quan Chi took the amulet, revealing that it is actually Shinnok's amulet, capable of freeing the fallen Elder God from the Netherealm and allowing him to take over all realms. Raiden, who had placed the amulet in the temple in the first place to protect it from the likes of Quan Chi, appeared and ordered Sub-Zero to rectify his mistake. Sub-Zero reluctantly agreed and was transported to the Netherealm. There, he tracked down Quan Chi, and, with the help of the demon Sareena, he was able to steal the amulet back from Shinnok before he could use it. He then escaped to Earth via Raiden's portal. It is later revealed that Quan Chi had never given the amulet to Shinnok; instead, he had crafted a fake and kept the original for himself. This was crucial to the events of Mortal Kombat 4 and its sequels.

The elder Sub-Zero's last mission[]

Immediately after returning from his mission, Sub-Zero was hired by Shang Tsung to compete in his Mortal Kombat tournament. This takes place during the first game. Though the Lin Kuei agreed to this, someone else paid the Lin Kuei to assassinate Shang Tsung, to which they also agreed. Sub-Zero was unsuccessful as evidenced by Liu Kang's victory in the tournament for Earthrealm, and Tsung's survival. In this tournament, he was incinerated by Scorpion, the spectre of Hanzo Hasashi. Sub-Zero's soul descended into the Netherealm, where he was stripped of his humanity and became Noob Saibot. This was only revealed years later in Mortal Kombat: Deception.

The younger Sub-Zero and Smoke[]

Despite losing, Shang Tsung survived the first tournament and organized a second tournament on Outworld as a trap for the Earthrealm warriors. Once again, Sub-Zero was sent to kill him, but this time, it was actually Sub-Zero's younger brother who was sent as a replacement and assumed the same code-name. Presumably, this also explains Smoke's presence in the tournament. He was a friend and close ally of the younger Sub-Zero. Shang Tsung survived again, and Sub-Zero returned home empty-handed.

In Mortal Kombat 3 and its follow-ups, the Lin Kuei have a much greater role. In the events leading up to Shao Kahn's invasion of Earthrealm, the Lin Kuei have begun a program of turning their clansmen into cyborgs. The first to volunteer for this program was Sektor, also referred to as LK-9T9. He is notable for being the only one of the cyborgs to be consistently described as soulless for the rest of the series. Second was Cyrax, also known as unit LK-4D4. The younger Sub-Zero and Smoke were in-line as well to be converted. Likely considering this a fate worse than death, the two fled their clan, an act equivalent to treason. Sektor and Cyrax were sent to capture them and return them to headquarters. While Sub-Zero escaped, Smoke was recaptured and transformed into the third (and last) cybernetic warrior: Unit LK-7T2.


Shortly thereafter, Shao Kahn began his invasion of Earthrealm. Sub-Zero and Smoke had been previously marked as chosen warriors of Raiden, and their souls were spared. Sektor had no soul to take and generally stays true to his original mission of killing Sub-Zero, but fails. Cyrax ends the game trapped in the Gobi Desert. Smoke is later shown to have been captured by Shao Kahn at some point, later revealed in Mortal Kombat: Deception. Noob Saibot also appears on Shao Kahn's side, at least initially. In Mortal Kombat Trilogy, he is mentioned as serving under Shinnok in the Netherealm for the first time. The rest of the Lin Kuei are assumed to have their souls taken by Shao Kahn, but later restored along with the rest of the world's souls when Kahn is defeated.

Most likely due to Sub-Zero's successful escape from the clan following the events of Mortal Kombat Trilogy, the Lin Kuei lost many of its members before Mortal Kombat 4, and is initially even described as "disbanded". Perhaps it explains their attempts to have Sub-Zero killed, because they blamed him for their troubles. Cyrax, whose soul had begun to reassert itself, was recovered from the desert by the Outer World Investigation Agency and sought out the help Sonya Blade and Jax Briggs, who helped restore his memories and former self.

Sub-Zero was confronted by Scorpion. Scorpion's ending, confirmed by the background of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, shows that, after finally defeating Sub-Zero, Quan Chi reveals that he was the one truly responsible for the death of Scorpion's family and clan, while also indirectly responsible for Scorpion's own death. Scorpion responded by taking Quan Chi with him to the Netherealm.



Sub-Zero in possession of the Dragon Medallion

The storyline of MK4/Deadly Alliance revealed some significant changes to the Lin Kuei and their history. During the events of Mortal Kombat Gold, Sektor's programming became corrupt and he attacked and killed the Lin Kuei Grandmaster. Sektor attempted to turn himself Grandmaster by taking possession of a hitherto unmentioned Dragon Medallion, whose possession determines the leadership of the Lin Kuei, as well as increase its wearer's powers. However, Sektor was prevented from taking the Medallion by a returning Sub-Zero, who fought him over the clan's leadership and won. Sektor fled to Japan, and Sub-Zero assumed the title of Grandmaster himself.

Sub-Zero implemented a number of changes to the clan. He moved the Lin Kuei headquarters from its original secretive location in China to an ancient temple he had discovered buried in the ice of the Himalayas. He also changed the mission of the Lin Kuei, making it a force for the side of good for the first time. He began recruiting new warriors to replenish the Lin Kuei's depleted ranks. Among these efforts was a tournament, the winner of which would be introduced into the clan. The winner was Frost, a brash young woman with powers remarkably similar to Sub-Zero's own ice-controlling abilities. Frost becomes Sub-Zero's personal student, another exceptional event. He was able to teach her new ways to use her powers, but failed to quell her sense of arrogance and ambition. Around this time, Sonya Blade attempted to contact the Lin Kuei at some point, perhaps in an effort to open relations between the Outer World Investigation Agency and the Lin Kuei. However, she was prevented from doing so by an overzealous Frost.

Journey into Outworld[]

Sub-Zero realized he was unpopular with the majority of the Lin Kuei. Therefore, he attempted to prove himself by leaving to help Raiden fight the Deadly Alliance. The Earthrealm warriors ultimately lost against the Deadly Alliance. While in Outworld, Frost turned against Sub-Zero and attempted to steal the Dragon Medallion from him. Though initially successful, she was consumed by her own freezing ability. His troubles with Frost saved him from a worse fate, as the four other Earthrealm warriors and Kitana died at the hands of the Deadly Alliance.

After Frost's apparent death, Sub-Zero searched for a place to bury her and found the ruins of an extinct civilization: the Cryomancers. They were a people who could control the powers of ice and cold. Sub-Zero inferred that he and Frost both were descendants of this race. He also found an ancient armor in the tomb, and donned it. Sub-Zero decided it would be best to head back to Earth after the Deadly Alliance was defeated by the even more sinister Onaga. On his way to a portal, he encountered Kenshi, who was badly wounded. The two decided to travel together. Along his travelling path, Sub-Zero had killed many Tarkatan warriors, drawing attention from Onaga and his zealous enforcer, Hotaru. Once again, the Grandmaster found himself tailed and marked for death. In Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition, it was revealed that Sub-Zero also encountered Sareena in Outworld. He offered her asylum within the Lin Kuei for helping his older brother in the Netherealm many years before.

As described in Mortal Kombat: Unchained, upon his return to the clan's temple in Earthrealm, Sub-Zero found that Frost had awakened and returned to slay him. However, in her delirium, she saw Sub-Zero everywhere, and had already killed many members of the Lin Kuei. Sub-Zero froze her and placed her body on an alter, sealing off the room with a wall of ice until she can one day recover.

Temple invasion[]

The temple of the Lin Kuei coincidentally happened to contain a gift that was left behind for Taven by his mother Delia. In the events of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, Taven traveled to the temple in order to acquire this artifact for his quest, but he was immediately attacked by Lin Kuei warriors perceiving him as an intruder. During his explorations inside, Taven encountered the tomb where Frost's body was lain. He shattered the ice containing Frost and she unexpectedly came back to life. Delirious, Frost attacked Taven, thinking he was Sub-Zero, but she soon realized her mistake and left.

Taven eventually encountered Sub-Zero himself, who told him he was trespassing and also attacked. After a quick brawl, Sub-Zero recognized the mark on Taven's face to be similar to a carving on an unopened door that was in the temple. Taven explains that it contained something left for him. Opening the door using his hand as a key, he took and donned the armor inside. Taven then asked Sub-Zero about the dragon symbol worn by the people that were hunting him down. Sub-Zero claimed that he might know who these people are, but before he could tell Taven, the temple came under attack by mysterious shadow warriors. Sub-Zero demanded that Taven choose a side to fight on, and Taven reluctantly decided to help the Lin Kuei.

After battling more of the new intruders, Taven discovers that they were being created by Smoke who was now under the control of Noob Saibot. Taven defeated Smoke, who retreated to inform his master. Eventually, Taven encountered Noob, holding an unconscious Sub-Zero. Angered by Taven's meddling, Noob challenged him, but was defeated. Sub-Zero revived and thanked Taven for saving his life. In return, he revealed to Taven that the people with the dragon symbol were members of the Red Dragon clan and also told him where they could be found. After Taven left, Sub-Zero decided to take the opportunity to try to bring his brother back to the light. Whether he was successful or not is unknown.


  • Through his repeated protests to Quan Chi, the elder Sub-Zero demonstrated an interesting fact. The Lin Kuei are not ninja. He preferred the term "Lin Kuei warrior". In addition to that, referring to himself as Lin Kuei demonstrated his loyalty to the clan as he tries to separate the Lin Kuei ninja from the other "ordinary" ninjas. The younger Sub-Zero made nearly the reverse protest in Mortal Kombat 4.
  • Despite Sub-Zero's claims to the contrary, in the Mortal Kombat Album, Sub-Zero's song is titled Chinese Ninja Warrior. It should be noted that this Album was released several years before the game Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero was released.
  • Rain, in one of his earliest appearances (at least in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3) is described as being a former member of the Lin Kuei. However, in later versions, in the same game on the Sega Genesis, and in both versions of Mortal Kombat Trilogy, his storyline is replaced in favor of Edenian ancestry.
  • Shujinko is revealed to have trained with Sub-Zero and apparently joined the ranks of the Lin Kuei years ago, though his true allegiance is to the Elder Gods. Shujinko was never an active member of the group, briefly aligning himself with the organization for the purpose of gaining Sub-Zero's knowledge of fighting.
  • The Lin Kuei's insignia as of late has shown to be that of a dragon claw mark, seen on Smoke's mask in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, and Robot Smoke's chest in Mortal Kombat Deception. However, this emblem is also built into the helmet of Sub-Zero's ancestral armor found in Deception, which could possible indicate the Cryomancers had a hand in the founding of the Lin Kuei.
  • Mavado, after killing Kano in his ending, is shown focus his energies on the Lin Kuei clan. Because of this, his clan, the Red Dragon, become the next rival of the Lin Kuei. However, Mortal Kombat: Deception has little on this subject, instead having Kabal killing Mavado and reforming the Black Dragon clan.
  • "Lin Kuei" or formally "lin gui" means "forest demons" in Mandarin Chinese.
  • In Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero the first chronological grandmaster of the Lin Kuei is seen, he wears the tranditional ninja mask, but has a more elaborate uniform as compared to the typical ninja, his uniform is red, it is presumed the grandmaster that Sektor killed was this one.
  • In the Mortal Kombat movies (as well as Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins and Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, the Lin Kuei clan is said to be from Outworld, not China. However, in Mortal Kombat: Conquest, the Lin Kuei clan is said to be from China, while occasionally doing the bidding of the Outworld forces out of fear.
  • In Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, the Lin Kuei Grandmaster is named Oniro and looks radically different from the Lin Kuei Grandmaster shown later in Mortal Kombat: Mythologies. Oniro can shapeshift into animals and shares a catchphrase with Shang Tsung: "Your soul is mine", referring to the automation process whereby he will have complete control over his Lin Kuei warriors' actions as they become cyber-ninjas.


  • Mortal Kombat, Midway Games, 1992.
  • Mortal Kombat II, Midway Games, 1993.
  • Mortal Kombat 3, Midway Games, 1995.
  • Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Midway Games, 1996.
  • Mortal Kombat 4, Midway Games, 1997.
  • Mortal Kombat Gold, Eurocom, 1999.
  • Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Midway Games, 2002.
  • Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition, Midway Games, 2003.
  • Mortal Kombat: Deception, Midway Games, 2004.
  • Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, Midway Games, 2006.
  • Mortal Kombat: Unchained, Midway Games, 2006.
Mortal Kombat series
Fighting games Mortal Kombat • MKII • MK3 / Ultimate MK3 / MK Trilogy • MK4 / MK Gold • Deadly Alliance / Tournament Edition • Deception / Unchained • Armageddon
Adventure games Mythologies: Sub-Zero • Special Forces • Shaolin Monks
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