Mortal Kombat X: The Strange History of Reptile

Before you test your might in Mortal Kombat X, take a look at the strange history of Reptile!

Mortal Kombat X arrives on Tuesday, and we’re celebrating by taking a look back at many of the great characters from across the franchise. Today, we’re taking a look at Reptile, a character whose had his ups and down throughout the series.

Reptile has recently been announced for Mortal Kombat X, and it isn’t so surprising. The series owes a lot to the green, scaly, slobbering ninja. He started out as THE character to fight in the first game. Then, as the years passed, that novelty wore off, and he became just another lizard in the background. A regular to the series, sure, but still the ever-so-beatable henchman character. A jobber, if you will. That made it all the more ironic when in a roundabout sort of way, he became one of the series’ big villains.

I’ve discussed his debut at length in my article on Mortal Kombat secret characters, but here’s the gist of it. Reptile was the very first hidden character in fighting game history, an idea inspired by Electronic Gaming Monthly‘s April Fool’s Joke article that claimed that Street Fighter II had a secret final boss named Sheng Long. Reptile appeared in an updated version of Mortal Kombat where he would pop in before random matches to announce some cryptic clue. Here’s the list of all of his clues with their meaning in parenthesis:

– YOU MUST FIND ME TO BEAT ME (You won’t just randomly fight him. You need to complete tasks first)- ALONE IS HOW TO FIND ME (You can only earn your shot against him in one-player mode)- TIP EHT FO MOTTOB (You fight him at the bottom of the Pit stage)- LOOK TO LA LUNA (You not only have to be at the Pit, but it has to be when some silhouette is flying past the moon)- PERFECTION IS THE KEY (You need to get two flawless victories)- FATALITY IS THE KEY (You need to finish off your opponent with a Fatality)- BLOCKING WILL GET YOU NOWHERE (You cannot block at all during the match)- YOU CANNOT MATCH MY SPEED (Reptile’s mad fast, yo)- 10,000,000 POINTS IF YOU DESTROY ME (You get bonus points for killing him with a Fatality)

Ad – content continues below

By fitting all the difficult requirements, you’d get the message, “YOU HAVE FOUND ME NOW PROVE YOURSELF!!” From there, you’d fight a green ninja that had both Scorpion’s spear and Sub-Zero’s ice ball. In early versions, he had Scorpion’s name on his health bar, but in later iterations, he was known as Reptile. Of the ten characters in that game, he was the only one without anything resembling a story. Who was he? What was he? Was he part of Sub-Zero’s ninja clan? Scorpion’s? Someone else’s?

Reptile finally got a story when he was tossed into Mortal Kombat II as a regular character. He appeared in Mortal Kombat II: Collector’s Edition, the prologue comic that you could order via the arcade machine. During a big fight between the Earthrealm heroes and Shang Tsung’s posse, Reptile didn’t show up until the final few pages. Sub-Zero went after Shang Tsung and got knocked back by an unseen enemy. Reptile revealed that he’d been there all along, albeit invisible. Then Scorpion showed up to kick his ass because Scorpion’s totally on Sub-Zero’s side now.

As explained in Reptile’s bio and ending, he’s Shang Tsung’s bodyguard and was around during the first tournament in a “low-profile” capacity (Is that an intended pun? Kudos if it is). Reptile’s race –  known as Saurians, Raptors, or Zaterrans – was nearly extinct. Without his mask, Reptile was revealed to be a lizard man. That raised a few questions that were quietly ignored by the developers, such as, “Why does Reptile have a human face when his mask is on?” and, “Why is Reptile dressed like Sub-Zero and Scorpion when he not only has nothing to do with them, but he lives in another dimension entirely?”

Rather than be a hybrid of the two original ninjas, Reptile had his own unique set of special moves. He could secrete a force ball that would knock his opponent into the air. He could spit acid. He could turn invisible, which was pretty much worthless. One Fatality featured him turning invisible and then cutting his opponent in half. Not sure why he had to be invisible for that to work, but sure, why not. The other one had him remove his mask completely and tear his opponent’s head off with his tongue, Yoshi-style, before eating it. This proved to be the beginning of one of the least diverse sets of Fatalities of any of the long-running Mortal Kombat cast members. Seriously, almost all of Reptile’s Fatalities throughout the series have been based on eating his opponent and/or killing his opponent with his acid loogies.

In his ending, he discovered that the remainder of his race was being used as slaves by Kahn, causing him to turn against his bosses, kill them all, and then return his people to glory. But things only got worse for Reptile. 

By the time he returned in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, he was still Kahn’s lackey. That meant either he didn’t know about his race’s peril or he simply didn’t act on it. The Saurians were all wiped out, and he was promised that they would be brought back if he killed Kitana. In that ending, he accomplished the mission, but Kahn wouldn’t give him the time of day, so Reptile killed him and…just had to deal with being the last of his kind.

Ad – content continues below

When they upgraded the game to Mortal Kombat Trilogy, they introduced Khameleon, who turned out to be a female Saurian. It was later established in the canon that she outright told Reptile that Kahn wiped out their race in hopes that they could kill Kahn together and become the Adam and Eve of reptilian ninjas with inexplicably smooth, human skin. Reptile weighed his options and decided to betray her for the nigh-unbeatable skull-faced barbarian. That didn’t work out for him either. As time passed, he would become more and more of a tremendous loser.

Though that game did give him that sweet winning pose.

I don’t know. I always thought that looked especially cool.

Reptile was in Malibu Comics’ Mortal Kombat series, but he didn’t do anything of note other than be the easily-defeated henchman. He did have a bigger role in the Mortal Kombat movie, where…well, he looked terrible. There was this time in the mid-90s when CGI was such a new toy that it didn’t matter how unpolished and unrealistic it looked. It was CGI! It was so cool and cutting edge! For maybe a six-month window, bad movies could get by just for having a couple instances of CGI to throw at you. It didn’t matter that it looked so fake. It was a novelty.

Reptile was entirely CGI, and he did not age well at all. A tiny, little raptor creature, Reptile would appear a few times in the shadows, using his invisibility to fade into the background. When Liu Kang got too close, he spat acid into his eyes. It didn’t really do anything permanent, but it was a nice shout out to the games. Late in the movie, Liu Kang grabbed the little guy and threw him at a statue…which…um…absorbed him and transformed into a guy in a ninja costume. This was in no way questioned or explained as a fight scene broke out. Reptile lost, reverted to his salamander form, and Liu Kang stomped on him.

Coincidentally, Reptile’s race appeared in the Defenders of the Realm cartoon. The group’s leader was basically Reptile, but had a different name. Jax even namedropped Reptile, and it took me forever to even remember that technically, Defenders of the Realm was supposed to be a sequel to the first Mortal Kombat movie. All things considered, it was probably the better sequel, if only because the episode where Shang Tsung was resurrected was genuinely good.

Ad – content continues below

Reptile started appearing in the live-action Mortal Kombat: Conquest TV show late in the series, as played by Jon Valera. Everything about him and his race was beyond cheesy. As the leader of his people (who are just called “Reptiles” and are all dressed exactly the same), Reptile turns on Shao Kahn to shack up with villainess Kreeya. While Reptile and his people are just dudes in green ninja costumes, their true forms are still reptilian monsters, and the CGI makes the effects from the Mortal Kombat movie look like Jurassic Park. Reptile was later killed by Kahn’s Shadow Priests.

Reptile’s finest moment was the time he ate a giant bowl of worms while somehow never removing his mask.

Back to the games…

Reptile would return in Mortal Kombat 4. Since they did away with 2D sprites and went with computer-generated models, it no longer meant Reptile had to be a recolored Sub-Zero/Scorpion. Reptile was unmasked in his main costume, and even though his alternate costume was his classic ninja outfit, he at least had scales on his entire body. He appeared in the promotional comic for the game, where he was put on trial before Queen Sindel for his horrible war crimes under Kahn’s orders. Reptile showed no remorse for all the lives he took and, while it was never shown, decided to work with the invading Shinnok.

Once again, Reptile’s ending doesn’t exactly make him look like a million bucks. He begged Quan Chi to have Shinnok send him back in time so he could live with his Saurian people. Quan Chi and Shinnok were both horribly offended that he would dare ask for anything in return for helping them kill Raiden, and Shinnok blew up his head in an act of anger.

Reptile returned in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, where it was decided that Shao Kahn wasn’t dead after all, meaning Reptile could go back to being his lackey. Then the game’s intro movie showed Shao Kahn getting killed off. Only we’d find out later he still wasn’t really dead. Confused? Welcome to Mortal Kombat. Anyway, Reptile’s look emphasized his lizard-like nature and made him look more like a walking crocodile. It was explained in-story that he was devolving, which presumably was making him a bit dumber.

Ad – content continues below

He became a pawn in a subplot involving Nitara, a vampire woman obsessed with freeing her realm from Outworld’s clutches. Nitara used trickery to play Reptile and Cyrax against each other and use them towards her goal. Reptile caught on too late and unsuccessfully attempted to hunt them down. As all this was going on, the game made plenty of references to Onaga the Dragon King, the overlord who ruled Outworld before Kahn did. While long dead, it was apparent that he’d be making a grand return to be the series’ new villain. Reptile, after years as the ultimate follower, would end up serving Onaga as an underling. Just not in the way he would have liked.

Reptile’s hunt for Nitara led him to the location where a magical egg was being kept. It cracked open and an energy poured forth, enveloping Reptile. Onaga’s soul took over his body, mutating it into something bigger and more powerful. The Dragon King had returned, ironically in the form of one of the series’ weakest characters.

In Mortal Kombat: Deception, Reptile made a strange non-Onaga cameo. Sindel’s ending involved her being able to magically remove Onaga from Reptile’s body. Despite having taken a more dinosaur-esque form in the past several games, the freed Reptile looked like his original human ninja self for some reason. Regardless, the game saw Onaga defeated, and he was split from Reptile’s body.

Reptile appeared as a boss in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, an alternate take on the Mortal Kombat II storyline. It was notable for giving Reptile a new design that best merged together his reptilian form with his old ninja outfit. Rather than wear a mask, he wore a series of black straps over his face, making him look more shabby and makeshift. It was a good look for him. It was such a popular design that they used it for Reptile’s next in-game appearance, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.

The Mortal Kombat franchise kept it on the down low for the next few years, but then a short film Mortal Kombat: Rebirth hit the internet. More of a proof-of-concept for what would become the Mortal Kombat: Legacy web-series, the short was based on the idea of retelling Mortal Kombat as a grittier, relatively more realistic set of events. There was no Outworld or magic. Just freaks and serial killers fighting to the death in the criminal underworld. For instance, Baraka was not a Tarkatan beast, but a crazy guy who had a bunch of metal surgically attached to his body. Similarly, Reptile – a cannibal – was not actually reptilian, but was a man suffering from Harlequin type ichthyosis, a very real disease that gives you deformed skin and eyes. Reptile didn’t do much outside of exist for shock value.

As expected, Reptile returned in Mortal Kombat 9. In the rebooted version of the first game, Reptile was quickly eliminated from the tournament by Johnny Cage. Kind of sad considering how in the original version of the game, Reptile was such a legendary challenger. Since Reptile wasn’t playable in Story Mode, he proceeded to lose every fight. He also didn’t get any dialogue for whatever reason. Mostly, he whispered news into Shang Tsung’s ear.

Ad – content continues below

At least he got to stand tall in his non-canon ending for once. After killing Shao Kahn, Reptile demanded Shang Tsung genetically engineer the return of his Saurian people. Tsung did so, and Reptile used them to basically bully the other creatures in Outworld and slaughter anyone who opposed them. So yay Reptile, I guess.

Best of all, you could fight Reptile in his original Mortal Kombat 1 form. Another secret fight, you could not only fight Reptile at the bottom of the Pit again, but he’d wear his original duds and have his original moves. Glorious nostalgia.

Reptile’s back again for the new game. So far, he’s appeared in one panel of the Mortal Kombat X prequel comic, where he’s working for the current ruler of Outworld, Kotal Kahn. Ah, Reptile. Ever the follower.

Gavin Jasper figures Reptile would have been a huge fan of the TV miniseries V. Follow him on Twitter!