Ed Boon liked to keep secrets. During the development of the original Mortal Kombat, he quietly snuck into a hidden figure called Reptile – a green-colored pallet swap from Scorpion – without telling anyone.
“It was kind of an experiment to see how long it would naturally be discovered,” Boon told me of his hidden character who needed special circumstances to summon in the game.
Boon programmed the early Mortal Kombat games himself, so he had carte blanche to include whatever he wanted. This was the man who created the series’ first Fatality as a hidden finishing move. (It was Johnny Cage who beheaded himself because Cage was the only character in Mortal Kombat back then. The move shocked the actor who played Cage but wowed Boon’s fellow developers.)
The discovery of the reptile took a while. Not even his Midway employees, including Mortal Kombat Co-creator John Tobias knew the green ninja was in the game until players found him in the wild.
“I vaguely remember confronting Ed about this and asking him to let me know if he adds a secret character or something mysterious to the games.” Tobias said in a Twitter thread
But Boon liked the trick. So he did it again for the sequel. This time Tobias and his Midway artist Tony Goskie were involved in the creation of Mortal Kombat 2‘s secret characters. They made special graphics for Jade and Smoke, two hidden combatants based on Kitana and Scorpion. The developers specifically teased Jade and Smoke in one of the phases of the game, the Living Forest. But Ed wanted to take in another secret.
That character was Noob Saibot, an all-black version of Scorpion. Noob’s unusual name comes from the creators’ last names, Boon and Tobias, written backwards, of course. Knowing this, you might think that the other half of the creative team is involved in creating the character. But Noob Saibot was a total surprise for Tobias, who didn’t find out about the character until the studio was well into development Mortal Kombat 3.
“Many months later MK2When it was published in the arcades, rumors were circulating about a third secret character, ”said Tobias. “In fact, we were deep in MK3 Evolution and neither of us knew about a third secret character in MK2 … except Ed. “
“Ed didn’t just sneak in a third secret character MK2 behind our backs it felt like he was making fun of me by calling it noob saibot. It was like … ‘Hey John, I have your secret character here.’ ”
There actually are Video evidence by Tobias (and other developers at Mortal Kombat) who luckily were unaware of the existence of Noob Saibot in the game they were working on. Footage from Josh Tsui’s Midway Games documentary Insert a coin shows Tobias, Goskie, Steve Beran, John Vogel and Dave Michicich trying to find names for new characters MK3. Vogel suggests reversing the developers’ names and jokingly suggests “Legov”. Tobias seems to be making fun of the idea, but says: “I think Saibot is cool.”
“Saibot is cool! “says Goskie and notices that it is Tobias backwards. Michicich suggests using Saibot for” the robot “- which means Mortal Kombat 3Cyber ninjas Cyrax and Sector. Vogel quickly regrets his own idea when he realizes: “Then we have to have noob, and that sounds stupid.”
Apparently Vogel didn’t know at the time that it was already too late.
“I suspect that we were unaware of Noob Saibot’s existence and that we just happened to discuss using names backwards,” Tobias said in an email to Polygon. “The funny thing is, if we had shared the noob or saibot idea with Ed, he would have been forced to reveal the hidden character to us.”
“To the [Mortal Kombat 2]John gave me several color ninja palettes so I can hide more things in the game, ”Boon said in a message on Twitter. “I thought I had told him about everyone except Noob Saibot. I might want to keep this to myself – one more time to see how long it would of course be discovered.
“I remember making up this (stupid) backward-looking name as another level for players to discover. That could also explain why it’s only made up of black pixels [because] If John had made his palette it would have looked a lot better. […] There is certainly a possibility that the other guys’ meeting took place before Noob Saibot was discovered, and they happened upon the same secret backward names. “
It’s easy to see why Tobias and other members of the development team hadn’t seen Noob Saibot in action, even months later Mortal Kombat 2Publication in amusement arcades. Finding Noob was tough: players had to score 50 straight wins in the game’s Versus mode to fight him.
Tobias would create a backstory for Noob Saibot for Mortal Kombat trilogy, the console and PC-exclusive update for MK3 Noob has been described as a member of the Brotherhood of Shadows and a servant of the magician Quan Chi. Later on, the developers would expand Noob’s genesis story further, revealing that it was indeed the original Sub-Zero of Mortal Kombat and was succeeded in subsequent games by his younger brother as an ice ninja. Noob Saibot was later given a new canonical name, Bi-Han. This is the Sub-Zero that Joe Taslim plays in the new game Mortal Kombat Film that opens the door to Noob Saibot, possibly to appear in future films. (Noob also briefly appeared in the 1997 film Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, a movie many Mortal Kombat fans might prefer to forget.)
In other words, the secret Mortal Kombat character with the “stupid” name is now deeply woven into the lore of the game. Players love him, despite the silliness of a character named Noob, three decades later. It wasn’t and won’t be the first Mortal Kombat Easter egg.
“To this day, when I am asked if all of MK’s early secrets have been found … I will answer with a semi-conscious ‘yes’,” said Tobias. “Only Ed really knows.”