Killer Instinct: Rare’s Arcade & SNES Colossus is a Tough SOB

Killer Instinct on the Super Nintendo
It’s a killer deal.

As we’ve pointed out many a time, we don’t like fighting games. Except for Street Fighter II Turbo, plus dollops of Smash Bros. 64. Indeed.

However, Killer Instinct was something of a mighty bastard in late 1994. And when it hit the SNES in 1995, it went and changed things.

The History of Killer Instinct

Game designer Ken Lobb came up with the idea in 1993. At the time, the American was working with Namco. It turned down his concept.

Instead, he took the idea to Nintendo of America and got the all clear. He was also hired as head developer, with the gaming giant sending him off to England to work with Rare.

The developer (located in the tiny village of Twycross) got to work on the project, using Midway to publish it in the arcades in October 1994.

Rare was a busy bunny at the time, as Donkey Kong Country launched on the SNES in time for Christmas.

Killer Instinct received rave reviews in the arcades, so Rare ported it over to the SNES and bagged Game of the Year 1995 several times in doing so.

Even as gamers not fond of fighting games, Killer Instinct was a little different. It was extra special on every level.

Obviously, its influences came heavily from Mortal Kombat. But it took that concept and rejigged it most favourably.

And that started with its incredible appearance and atmosphere, right down to its intricacies and commitment to gameplay carnage.

And it all began with an almightily epic intro. Behold!

After this, you have a fairly standard ’90s fighting game setup. You pick your character, head into different arenas, and beat the other character up.

You had plenty of amazeballs individuals to pick from.

This included Riptor, Fulgore, Cinder, Jago, Orchid, and others. And these are seriously badass sorts who’d rip your head off if you so much as looked at them funny.

We seem to remember Fulgore and Cinder were our favourites, with a soft spot for Riptor (due to the raptors in Jurassic Park the film).

Where Killer Instinct really stood out was with the combo system. As you can see in action below, with proper good button pressing you could kick some serious butt.

It was actually pretty bloody exhilarating to play, moving at a furious pace.

For those not in the know, arcade units were more powerful than home consoles at the time.

So, gamers would head to the arcades to see cutting edge graphics. For a port to the SNES in 1995, many graphical features and gameplay options were removed and downgraded.

However, this didn’t stop the success of the title. It was a total banger and found commercial and critical acclaim.

As a port to the SNES it was, in fact, about as advanced and you could get. Rare got a lot of praise for the incredible job it did.

It looks the part with those pre-rendered sprites and was oozing style.

Frankly, it looked a PlayStation game (Sony’s console is famous for its fighting games), but no! It proved just how bloody cool the SNES was, even at 16 bits. Hell yeah!

And that pelting soundtrack added to its allure. Rare’s secret weapon (David Wise) was busy with various Donkey Kong soundtracks.

So Robin Beanland and Graeme Norgate took care of the excellent soundtrack (those two would also manage the Goldeneye 007 music in 1997).

But all these components added together to deliver one of the SNES’ great surprising swansongs, shortly before the Nintendo 64 launched in 1996.

Killer Instinct’s Ports and Sequels

When you have a hit on your hands, it’s time to milk that SOB. And so Rare got to work on various new ideas for the series. Starting with…

Killer Instinct on the Game Boy

As was customary at the time, the title also got lugged over to Nintendo’s handheld console with a massively downgraded port.

We actually owned this one and it was decent enough for the time. The soundtrack works well using the primitive technology of the day!

But, shockingly, we had no Cinder or Riptor in this version! Proper WTF, we know.

And to add insult the injury, the Game Boy version just wasn’t particularly great. So, it received mediocre reviews. Boo!

Killer Instinct 2

Ken Lobb also oversaw this project, which hit the arcades in 1996.

The sequel follows on from the originals loosely developed plot and just ramps up the action with fancy new features.

However, it proved difficult to advance sufficiently on the original and the result was Rare didn’t get the same level of acclaim for this outing.

Undeterred, with Nintendo’s 64 bit console on the hitting the gaming scene in 1996 the thing had to be part of the early launch games.

Killer Instinct Gold Flops on the N64

It was only natural for Rare to ramp things up on the Nintendo 64. The developer would go onto become legendary for its creative input on the console.

However, Killer Instinct Gold looked like a bit of a major blunder when it launched.

The hype was real and gamers expected something of a classic, but the it ended up with only mediocre reviews.

As a result, it rapidly went from a much-hyped early N64 release to a muted affair. And it quietly fell into obscurity as the console’s main releases rolled out.

One of which involved Rare’s very own Goldeneye 007.

In fact, by the time the N64 ended its life cycle in 2002 Killer Instinct Gold was forgotten and buried amongst Rare’s other landmark achievements after 1996.

The Modern Killer Instinct!

The series is now pretty much relegated to retro gaming history. The last official release was in 2013.

Titles Killer Instinct, the developers involved were Double Helix Games (season 1), Iron Galaxy (seasons 2–3), and Rare.

Microsoft owned the British developer by that point, so Nintendo wasn’t involved in the slightest.

The game was released in seasons, with the last update being in 2016. Since then not much else has happened.

We’ve not played this one so can’t comment, but its chaotic nature doesn’t really appeal to us.

However, there were over 10 million players at one point. So it seemed pretty popular! And continues the legacy of the series… should there be a new season.

7 comments

  1. I have such a werid history with fighting games. I played a LOT of fighting games in my youth. Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, Clay Fighters, Tekken, Soul Caliber, and Killer Instict, too. Was I good at them? No…no I was not. I think I just got caught in the gravity of them because my brother played them and I’d often be his sparring partner. I always ended up mostly button mashing even though I tried my hardest to learn the moves. Now I have Smash Brothers for…reasons. I suppose I should give it a try at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

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