This article is about the original 1994 arcade game. For the 2013 remake, see Killer Instinct (2013 video game).

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 moves (Danger Moves 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 which 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 (i.e. Jago can shoot a red fireball instead of a regular green one).



The original Ultratech logo

Do You Have The Instinct?

Prologue: A wind-swept battlefield of the distant past, littered with the debris of war. Above the moans and cries of the defeated can still be heard the clashing sounds of a single titanic confrontation. Two great warlords, leaders of their now smashed armies, are locked in battle, with the world itself as the prize. But this epic battle is not to have a conclusion. Suddenly, the warlords were engulfed in a nimbus of light, and vanished from the face of the earth, banished to the realm of Limbo. The battle-weary heroes whose spell had trapped the warlords heaved a sigh of relief. Armageddon had been averted, for now.

Future: The world has seen much progress in the centuries since the warlords were banished, not all of it for good. Pollution has weakened the environment. Governments have fallen. Chaos rules, with huge mega-corporations battling and destroying each other for shares of the world’s wealth.

In this bleak world, a single corporation, Ultratech, rises above the others. Rather than joining in direct battles with their competitors, Ultratech has profited from their suffering by selling them the very weapons they use against each other. Sales of weaponry are not the only source of profit for Ultratech, however. Their entertainment division produces the top rated television broadcast of the future, the Killer Instinct tournament, which also serves as a testing ground for Ultratech’s weapons. The winners of the tournament are promised whatever they desire. The losers suffer a significantly poorer fate.

It is into this bloody contest that our heroes have been drawn. T. J. Combo, disgraced heavyweight champion of the world who seeks redemption. Glacius, a captured alien fighting for his life and a chance to escape. And the deadly robot Fulgore, programmed by Ultratech with a Killer Instinct and the freedom to use it. Each fights for his or her own reasons, but each has the same goal: win the tournament and destroy all opponents.

It will take more than radical moves and deadly special attacks to win this tournament. It will take a will, a desire; it will take a Killer Instinct.[1]


Black Orchid KI1 Profile Black Orchid, also known as B. Orchid (or just Orchid), is a female fighter who uses her legs to do spinning kicks and can transform to a fire cat. She is a government agent sent to sabotage the Killer Instinct tournament and shed light on Ultratech's corruption.
Cheif Thunder KI1 Profile Chief Thunder, a mystical defender of Native Americans, enters the contest in order to uncover the mystery surrounding his brother's disappearance in the previous year's tournament.
Cinder KI1 Profile Cinder, also known as Ben Ferris when he was nothing more than a criminal, mostly known for crimes such as assaults or arsons, has joined the Killer Instinct tournament in an attempt to gain his freedom with the advancements given to him by Ultratech.
Eyedol KI1 Profile Eyedol is the bicephalous boss. One of the two demonic warlords who clashed in the past, he was brought out of limbo by Ultratech to become the tournament's final challenge.
Fulgore KI Profile Fulgore is an prototype cybernetic soldier developed by Ultratech company. This cyborg entered into the Killer Instinct tournament as a final test of its combat capabilities.
Glacius KI1 Profile Glacius is an ice-like being from a planet far away from Earth. His reason for coming to Earth are also connected to Ultratech.
Jago KI1 Profile Jago is a Tibetan monk, following the Tiger Spirit, who is on a path of enlightenment to defeat the evil within him.
Sabrewulf KI1 Profile Sabrewulf is a European patrician afflicted with the rare disease, Lycanthropy. Although the werewolf has spent most of his life as a recluse, he enters the Killer Instinct tournament on the promises of being given a cure by Ultratech if he emerges victorious.
Spinal KI1 Profile Spinal is a fighting skeleton. He carries a curved sword (possibly a saber) and a buckler shield. He is able to teleport in a flash of smoke. He is able to absorb energy and return it as fireballs. Through the use of cell regeneration technology, Ultratech was able to revive the fallen soldier who would come to be known as Spinal, who now fights in the Killer Instinct tournament.
TJ Combo KI1 Profile T.J. Combo was once the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world for five years straight. He was stripped of his title after it was discovered that he used illegal cybernetically enhanced arms. He now fights to regain his fame and fortune, seeking to prove he can still be a champion without the enhancements.
Riptor KI1 Profile Riptor is a crossbreed of human and reptilian DNA, made by Ultratech. Should Riptor succeed in winning, then more like her will be created.




Killer Instinct Arcade Intro

The arcade hardware have several features:

  • Killer Instinct was the first arcade game to use an internal hard disk drive in addition to the game's ROMs. 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.

Super Nintendo

Killer Instinct

Killer Instinct SNES Logo

A Super Nintendo port was released. While many arcade features were kept, sprites 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 shortened.

Killer Instinct Snes Screenshot 1

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 Super Nintendo version was packaged with a sixteen track audio compact disc soundtrack album entitled Killer Cuts featuring arrangements of music from the game. Killer Cuts was later sold through Nintendo Power's Super Power Supplies mail order service in both CD and cassette form.

The Super NES 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

Killer Instinct Game Boy Cover
Killer Instinct Game Boy Screenshot 1

A Game Boy port was also made, but sacrifices were necessary due to the system's limitations. As a result, neither Cinder or Riptor appear, and the moves were heavily altered, especially Sabrewulf's, 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.

Xbox One

A digital port of the arcade version was made for the Xbox One, released under the title Killer Instinct Classic. It is only available as part of the "Ultra Edition" of the 2013 Killer Instinct. The game features both the original 1.4 and revised 1.5D builds, an all-new training mode, unlockable character sprite and cutscene galleries, and several visual filters. Microsoft is also exploring the possibility of implementing online multiplayer into this version at a later date.


Killer Instinct Comics

Seven comics based on the game have been published by Acclaim Comics.

Killer Cuts

An arranged soundtrack disc featuring 16 tracks from the game was released with the Super Nintendo version.

Killer Instinct: Promotional Cards

Several Promotional Cards based on Killer Instinct were published.


It was rated the 148th best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list.[2] Screwattack listed it as the 5th best fighting game of all time, and as the 19th best Super Nintendo game of all time.


  • Killer Instinct (Xbox One): On June 10, 2013, at Microsoft's E3 Press conference, a new sequel to Killer Instinct, was announced as an exclusive digital-only title for the new Xbox One. A playable version of the original Killer Instinct arcade game, titled "Killer Instinct Classic", is available as part of the game's "Ultra Edition".



Title Screen




Beta Video


  • Killer Instinct originally went by the title of "Brute Force" when it was first pitched, and focused mainly on human characters in a modern city environment.
    • Interestingly, in the data of the arcade game there is an alternate title screen with the title "Thriller Instinct", which was possibly another working title for the game.
    • In early versions, Orchid was originally absent from the roster, with two additional characters in her place: an acrobat named "Wanda" and a wizard named "Midas". There was also a bonus boss, a thunder god named "Tremor".
    • The game was originally meant to have a character customization feature, with players able to set their Power, Speed, and Defense stats, change their default color, and select finishers. A barcode would then be printed by the arcade machine, which could be scanned by the machine to retrieve a player's custom character data. This feature proved too complicated, however, and was cut due to time constraints.
  • Many character had their names changed during development:
    • Thunder went by "King Thunder" rather than "Chief Thunder".
    • Cinder went by the names of "Pyrotech", "Heatshade", "Meltdown", "Magma", and "Afterburner".
    • Sabrewulf was "Newton", and then simply "Werewolf".
    • TJ Combo was called "Mr. Fist", but his name was changed explicitly due to its pure cheesiness.
    • Spinal was "Argo", a named based on his inspiration material Jason and the Argonauts.
    • Riptor was "Toxin".
  • Several of the people who worked on Killer Instinct slipped their names into different places in the game. For example, programmer Martin Hollis has a stone with "M. Hollis was 'ere" scrawled into it in Interior Castle. Similarly, Chris Seavor has a bar named after him in Chicago Alley.

External links


  1. Killer Instinct ~ Super Nintendo manual, p.5
  2. "NP Top 200", Nintendo Power 200: 58–66, February 2006
Killer Instinct Universe
Playable Characters
Killer Instinct Logo HD Jago ·Orchid ·TJ Combo ·Glacius ·Thunder ·Sabrewulf

 ·Spinal ·Riptor ·Cinder ·Fulgore ·Eyedol

Killer Instinct 2 Kim Wu ·Maya ·Tusk ·Gargos
Killer Logo copy Season 1 Sadira ·Shadow Jago
Season 2 Kan-Ra ·Omen ·Aganos ·Hisako ·ARIA
Season 3 Mira ·Rash ·Arbiter ·General RAAM
Season 3+ Kilgore ·Shin Hisako ·Eagle
Non-Playable Characters and Organizations
Minor Characters The Chairman ·Ryat Adams ·Babylonian King ·The Master ·Yeouiju ·True Tsar
Enemies Mimics
Organizations Ultratech ·Red Eyes of Rylai ·Disavowed ·Night Guard ·The Coven ·The Alliance
Extended Stories The Secrets of the Tiger ·The Lycanthrope's Tale ·The Ice-man Cometh ·Murder of Crows ·The Widow's Bite ·The Firecat's Summoning ·The Quest of the Searing Skull ·Fulgore Mark 03 Field Manual-L ·Glory Days ·Temperance and Vengeance ·Death is no Obstacle ·You and Your Riptor Unit ·The Herald of Gargos ·Peacemaker ·The Everlasting Child ·The Third Degree ·Evolve or Die ·The Dragon Spirit ·The Watchman Of The Gods ·Blood For My Blood ·Flayer Of Souls ·The Reawakened ·Rash's Extended Story ·Arbiter's Extended Story ·For The Queen
Killer Instinct Novella The Road to Ravensburg ·The Watchman Awakes ·Dragon's Choice ·Conflux ·ARIA for Noömorph ·Shadows at Dawn
Gameplay Combo & Counter Breaker ·Ultra Combo ·Ultimate Combo ·Humiliation ·Combo System ·Instinct Mode ·Shadow Meter ·Shadow Moves ·Shadow Counter ·Knockdown Value ·Lock out ·Frame Data ·Character Accessories ·Arcade Mode ·Rivals Mode ·Shadow Lords Mode
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