Killer Instinct

Killer Instinct
Killer Instinct
Arcade flyer
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Midway/Rareware (Arcade)
Nintendo (SNES, Game Boy)
Designer(s) Chris Tilston
Kevin Bayliss
Mark Betteridge
Composer(s) Robin Beanland
Graeme Norgate
Platform(s) Arcade, SNES, Game Boy
Release date(s) Arcade
October 28,1994
August 30,1995
Game Boy
November 1995
Genre(s) Fighting
Mode(s) Up to 2 players simultaneously
Media/distribution ROM & HDD
Cabinet Upright
Arcade system Proprietary MIPS Based Hardware System
CPU R4600
Sound Midway Digital Compression System (DCS)
Display Horizontal, Raster, standard resolution (Used: 320 x 240)

Killer Instinct is a fighting game developed by Rare and published by Midway and Nintendo. Initially released in arcades in 1994, and rumored to use an "Ultra 64" hardware engine, in reality the proprietary arcade hardware was co-developed by Rare and Midway. The game received a high profile launch on the Super Nintendo, as well as on the Game Boy. Its popularity led to a sequel, Killer Instinct 2.



Killer Instinct plays like many other fighting games, in which the player controls a character in order to beat an opponent in a one-on-one encounter. The game borrows the attack set of Street Fighter and is also inspired by the finishing moves from Mortal Kombat. There are also several features that distinguish it from other franchises:

  • A double energy bar: instead of winning two rounds, each player has two bars of energy. If a character finishes with his or her opponent's first life bar, the fight stops and resumes like a round, but the winning character still keeps whatever amount of energy he or she had at that moment. The player who depletes his or her opponent's second life bar wins the bout.
  • Automatic combos: rather than press the necessary buttons in order to deliver the individual attacks that form a combo, in Killer Instinct the combos are automated and can be enabled by inputting a determined button or special move (which led to the character to deliver a string of hits).
  • Finishing moves: Bearing resemblance to Mortal Kombat's Fatalities, each character has at least two moves known as No Mercy (Danger Move in later revisions) in order to finish the opponent in a violent manner. One of these No Mercy moves can be executed at the end of a combo (which is labeled as an Ultimate combo), when the opponents life bar flashes red (when his or her second bar is going to be depleted), although it uses a different combination of movements. Another finisher is the Humiliation, that forces the opponent to dance (the dance style depends on the character), but this can only be used if the player has his or her first life bar.
  • Ultra Combo: Another finisher; it operates like an Ultimate combo, though this one allows the character to deliver a long string of hits as the combo finisher instead, usually surpassing 20 hits, and can sometimes reach upwards of 80 hits.
  • Combo Breaker: The player who is being caught in a combo may break out of it by performing a combo breaker move. The combo breaker is a designated special move of the player's character. A combo can be broken at either the auto-double or linker stage. To successfully break an auto-double, the player must use the breaker move at a strength lower than the auto-double itself (i.e. for a player to break a Medium auto-double s/he must use a Quick breaker). The combo can also be broken at the linker stage. At this stage the player can use any strength of breaker, making long combos a risky affair. Also, after performing a combo breaker, a white starburst will appear at the tip of the breaker's health bar, enabling advanced versions of some special moves that require a different command (e.g. Jago, instead of a regular green fireball, can shoot a red fireball).


Ultratech is a very powerful megacorporation (entities which, in this future setting, have replaced all governments) which organizes a tournament called Killer Instinct. Along with regular participants, experimental creatures created by Ultratech also fight in the tournament so their strength can be tested. Ultratech also discovers a technology to make bridges between dimensions, and releases a two-headed, one-eyed, satyr monster called Eyedol from this dimensional prison.




A Tibetian monk following the Tiger Spirit, which later turns out to be Gargos in the second Killer Instinct, is on the path of enlightenment to defeat the evil within him. He believes it is his destiny to destroy Ultratech. He has many of the same moves as Street Fighter's Ryu and Ken characters, including the fireball (which he calls Endokuken) and spinning uppercut. His No Mercy moves consist of stabbing the enemy with his sword and meditating to have a car fall on the opponent.


Count Von Sabrewulf is stricken by lycanthropy, and is promised a cure by Ultratech if he wins the tournament. This is a semi-cameo appearance of Sabreman, known from Rare's 1984 game Sabre Wulf. Sabrewulf fights in his inherited castle as his stage level, with biting and claw attacks, and the ability to howl and use his Flaming Bats, though sometimes they will not be flaming. He has two No Mercy moves: one where he slams the foe into the screen, and one in which he stabs the enemy with an elongated claw.

T.J. Combo

A former heavyweight boxing champion for five years. He was stripped of his title and kicked out of the circuit when it was discovered that his arms had cybernetic implants which greatly helped his boxing ability. Ultratech promises him his title will be returned if he wins the tournament. Combo has two No Mercy moves: one where he snaps the opponent's neck, and the other where he punches the opponent into the screen.

Chief Thunder

A Native American Chief, armed with twin tomahawks, who enters the tournament to find out what happened to his missing brother Eagle in the previous year's tournament. He has two No Mercy moves: in the first he calls down a bolt of lightning to strike the enemy, and in the second he knocks the opponent into the air leaving various objects behind (depending on the opponent). Chief thunder is at the bottom of the character tier due to his faulty move set, notably his special ax spin attack being completely breakable, limiting his unbreakable combo options at everything other than at direct face-to-face range.


Hired by Ultratech as a secretary, she is actually a spy working for an unknown party and, along with her brother Jago, appears to be the heroine of the video game franchise. She has two No Mercy moves: The first in which she gives her opponent an apparent heart attack by unzipping her top and flashing her breasts at them (though away from the camera) - however, if the opponent is also Orchid, the opponent Orchid will just stomp the ground in spite; and the other in which she turns the opponent into a frog and then (at the player's option) stomps on them.

Ultratech Creatures


A criminal who was promised early release by Ultratech in exchange for participating in chemical weapons research. As a result of an accident during testing, his body is composed entirely of flame. He is promised a return to his original form if he is able to defeat Glacius in the tournament. In the early development stages of the game his name was Meltdown, but this was soon changed to Cinder. He has two No Mercy moves: the first creates a pool of magma under the opponent, who melts into it; the second shoots the victim with flames to reduce him or her to ashes. Other than Eyedol, Killer Instinct's boss character, Cinder is the strongest fighter. Some of Cinder's most useful moves include turning invisible (though his shadow is visible on most levels), and becoming immune to projectile attacks (until he is damaged by a physical attack). Cinder also contains an air-based attack that is easily abused.


A genetically engineered velociraptor-human hybrid created as a prototype by Ultratech. The tournament serves to test its abilities as a killing machine. It has three No Mercy moves: one in which it spits acid on the enemy, one in which it stabs the foe with its tail, and one in which it runs at the enemy and eats them. Riptor is a high-tier character that, like Cinder, possesses a special attack that can be abused easily (breathing out a low green flame that is unblockable to any opponent attempting to lift him or herself off of the ground, with the exception of Eyedol); this is due to a hitbox bug that is common throughout the game.


An alien who was captured by Ultratech and promised freedom if he wins the tournament. He gets his nickname from his body's icy liquid composition and ability to shapeshift. He is one of the few characters that maintained his original name throughout early development. He uses three different No Mercy moves: [arcade only] one where he becomes a gel-like mass and absorbs the opponent (similar to the Blob), one in which he uses his finger as a syringe to inject the enemy with a substance that turns them to ice, and the last of which he turns into a pool of boiling water that the enemy drowns in. Glacius is a high-tier character who, like most characters in Killer Instinct, has moves that can be abused. Some of these said moves include Glacius reversing his liquidation attack at the last possible moment. This forces the opponent to have to guess on which side he will appear. Another glitch includes Glacius' fireball attack, a delayed burst of fireballs that, along with heavy damage, is extremely difficult to defend against.

Final Opponents


Spinal, an animated skeleton, is the third to last opponent in the Single Player mode and carries a sword and shield, and has the ability to teleport and physically morph himself into a grayscale version of his opponents during combos. He has an odd quirk in that, in order to perform certain moves, he must gather energy (represented by tokens shaped like skulls under his life bar in the SNES version, and by skulls floating around his person in the arcade and gold versions) by either absorbing opponents projectile energy attacks (with his shield in absorbing position), or performing combo breakers. Despite requiring these tokens, his special moves are not particularly stronger than normal special attacks. He can store up to five skull tokens, to the point of overloading if he attempts to absorb energy for the sixth time. On the sixth shield absorb, Spinal will not block the projectile and it will also cause normal damage along with knockdown; Spinal will then be left with one remaining skull. He uses two No Mercy moves: one where he repeatedly stabs the enemy with a spike on his shield, and another where he summons ghostly skeletal hands to drag his opponent underground. In the SNES version, the latter move was changed to him simply summoning a bolt of lightning to strike down his opponent.


Only a year old, Fulgore is a cyborg, part of a cybernetic project developed by Ultratech, the masterminds behind the Killer Instinct fighting tournament, and the penultimate opponent in the Single Player mode. Fulgore is always placed second on the tier before Eyedol. Fulgore was entered into the tournament to test its fighting capabilities. If successful, the Fulgore unit would be placed in mass production. He has two No Mercy moves: one in which it removes its head, revealing a large turret-like gun which shoots the enemy repeatedly; the other uses a laser beam from its eyes to reduce the opponent to ashes.


The final boss, Eyedol is a two-headed, one-eyed, ancient mystical warlord who was trapped in a dimensional prison in the distant past. Ultratech released him to be the final combatant in the tournament. It is shown in Killer Instinct 2 that the person Eyedol was trapped in combat with was Gargos, the final boss of that game. Eyedol is the only character that does not have an icon in the character select screen (but in early SNES versions of the game released only to stores, he was selectable); however, in both the arcade and SNES versions, he is a secret character that can be played as by selecting a specific character (Riptor in earlier arcade versions and Cinder in later arcade versions and in the SNES version) and pressing a combination of buttons before a round begins. He is also the only character in the game with no special finishing moves, such as No Mercy moves, Ultra Combos, or Humiliations that the other characters possess; however, he more than compensates for this lack of ability with a limited ability to heal (CPU only).

Arcade hardware

Killer Instinct was the first arcade game to use an internal hard disk drive in addition to the game's ROMs.[citation needed] This allowed it to store massive amounts of data thereby giving it the ability to have more detailed graphics than other games of this genre. The game used pre-rendered sprites for characters, created with Silicon Graphics, Inc. computers and the backgrounds were pre-rendered as a "movie," which simply adjusted frames based on the current location of the players.[1] All this data was stored on the hard drive. Killer Instinct's R4600 processor was clocked at 100 MHz.[2]



A SNES port was released. While it has many of the features the arcade version had, many features were altered, downsampled, or removed. The graphic detail was vastly reduced and the character sprites were smaller. The stages with a 3D panning camera were simplified into a 2D panning view using parallax scrolling for the background and mode 7 for the ground or arena, simulating thus, a pseudo-3D effect. Zooming and scaling were removed. Some of the stages were redesigned. The full motion videos that showed the characters after a victory were replaced by still images. Voice samples and sound effects were severely limited, whether shortened or missing altogether.

Most of the characters preserved their special moves and danger moves. However, some of the special graphical effects — notably the shadow move effect — were removed. In addition, the skulls that surround Spinal when he absorbs projectiles are shown under his energy bar instead. To make up for the loss of overall quality, some other modes were added, such as a training mode, a tournament mode (used for multi-player purposes), and other options. The SNES game was packaged in a black casing in Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada, and the United States, as instead of the standard grey shell.

Game Boy

A Game Boy port was also made, but sacrifices were necessary due to the system's limitations. As a result, neither Cinder nor Riptor appear, and the moves were heavily altered due to the more limited controls of the portable. The game supports some coloring when played in a Super Game Boy. Super Game Boy also allowed for a two player versus match to be played by inserting a second controller. Sabrewulf's moves were also altered severely.

Nintendo 64

There were no direct ports of Killer Instinct for the Nintendo 64, however, a special version of Killer Instinct 2, titled Killer Instinct Gold, was eventually released for the system.

Killer Cuts: The Soundtrack

An arranged soundtrack CD featuring original music from Killer Instinct was released as a pack-in for the Super Nintendo release of the game.


Upon release, VideoGames reviewer Tyrone Rodriguez gave it the game score of 8 (Great), stating his preference of it over Mortal Kombat 3 (the other editors' ratings were 8, 6 and 6).[3]

In retrospective, Killer Instinct was ranked as the #148 best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list in 2006.[4] In 2008, Screwattack listed it as the #5 best fighting game of all time, and as the #19 best Super Nintendo game of all time.[5][6] In 2010, the game was included in the list of "Top 25 Fighting Games of All Time" by UGO.[7]

Despite the good reviews by many, Killer Instinct is often criticized for its serious game play issues, and is regularly used as a textbook example of a brilliant game that has suffered greatly due to poor debugging and testing. The character balance is very poor due to some characters having overpowered glitches, disjointed attack ranges and hitbox errors, inequality in number of low fierce openers available to each character, among other things. The arcade version was notorious for its "ender juggle" glitch, which was incredibly easy to learn and would allow players to repeatedly juggle their opponent in the air until the fight was over. There was also a problem with holding down-back and pressing medium punch; if one intended a low medium and the opponent crouched, the fake overhead would come out instead. The Super Nintendo version corrected this and many other issues, and is generally considered to be the more refined released of the game - character balance was improved, and many game-breaking glitches were removed. Despite the improvements, the Super Nintendo release still suffers from glitches and game play errors that were never corrected when being ported over to console, as well as problems endemic to that release alone.[original research?]

Killer Instinct XBLA

In an interview with website, Rare studio manager, Mark Betteridge, revealed that Rare would like to bring Killer Instinct to Xbox LIVE Arcade.[8]


On March 16, 2010, Rare's Kenn Lobb announced that they are not working on Killer Instinct 3, but that they may bring Killer Instinct back someday.[9] On July 25, 2010, Kenn Lobb said Rare wants to make Killer Instinct 3.[10]


External links

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