Mortal Kombat’s got ninjas of all different colors. Yellow-clad Scorpion is hot like fire and green-skinned Reptile spits acid at fools. Sub-Zero may wield cryokinetic power but he’s not the coolest martial artist in the fighting game series. That title goes to Rain, because he was created as an homage to Prince.
Rain was originally created as a tease by Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon, who placed the purple-clad palette swap into 1995’s Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 at the last minute. An 2011 interview on the official PlayStation blog gives the skinny:
PSB: Speaking of Rain, he was originally hinted at in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. What was the genesis of Rain?
Rain was me being a jerk, basically. [laughs] When we were working on Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, I was thinking “what ninja color have we not done yet?” … and I’m a huge Prince fan, so I was thinking Purple Rain. I was probably still listening to the album. There was no time to actually make a character, because the game was done. So I hacked into the attract screen a quick little sequence of this purple ninja running at Shao Kahn. We didn’t even have the word “Rain” in the powerbar, so I manually built it using our font. So I included this quick glimpse just to drive people crazy. Once Mortal Kombat Trilogy came out, we gave Rain new moves and he finally became a real character. Later we brought him back for Mortal Kombat Armageddon. That’s one of the things about Mortal Kombat: many of the characters have these goofy development histories. Noob Saibot, Reptile…all of these odd origin stories.
Rain wound up being playable in the console version of UMK3 and went on to appear in subsequent games in the franchise. He comes from a royal celestial lineage, which comes across as a nod to His Purple Badness and, as his appearance evolved throughout the last decade, Rain started to look even more like Prince.
He shows up in the story mode of the franchise’s latest installment but is only playable if you hack Mortal Kombat X. [Correction: I previously wrote that Rain was a playable DLC character. That’s incorrect and I’ve changed the text to reflect that.] Chances are that he’ll be around in some form or another as long as Mortal Kombat games are being made, if only to pay tribute to one of the greatest musicians whoever lived.