Nick DeMarco

TURN TO CHANNEL 3: ‘Killer Instinct’ fights on as a cult classic on the SNES

TURN TO CHANNEL 3: ‘Killer Instinct’ fights on as a cult classic on the SNES
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Welcome to 2015, Turn to Channel 3 readers! I hope your holidays were grand and full of wonder, as well as video games, of course! I feel there’s no greater way to start off a new year than with a game that’s full of impact, full of such fond memories for so many gamers – one that will lead the charge here for this column as we journey on through 2015.

Today, we take a look at one of Rare’s greatest achievements on the SNES – a game known as “Killer Instinct.” That’s right – just marvel at the deep black cartridge and the awesome box art as we pop the game into our trusty Super Nintendo and travel back to the 1990s, when fighting games were all the rage! Fight on!

“Killer Instinct” (SNES)


Rare is a company well-known in the annals of video game history for having some great soundtracks, and while their work on such classics as “Battletoads” as well as the “Donkey Kong Country” and “Banjo-Kazooie” series is certainly superb, what makes the soundtrack for “Killer Instinct” so special is what they were going up against, which was more established fighting game franchises like “Mortal Kombat” and “Street Fighter.” But to this writer and video game enthusiast, I’d put what’s found in “Killer Instinct” up against any tune found in those other two games.

There’s some fine composing there, and it really shows, with the Glacius, Sabrewulf, and Cinder stages being among the more prominent ones, but the whole soundtrack is very diverse and suits the fighters and their stages really well. If you have any doubts that the soundtrack to this game is something special, consider this – in the 1990s, when fighting games reigned supreme, there was only one soundtrack good enough to be packaged with the game on its own CD, and that was “Killer Kuts,” the soundtrack to “Killer Instinct.” I mean, even the title music is among the most covered tunes in all of video game cover bands!


“Killer Instinct” is no slouch in this department either. The stages and characters really pop and have almost this quasi-3D or CGI look to them, which was pretty common by Rare at the time; jaws dropped when “Donkey Kong Country” first took over our TVs with its unique and stunning graphics. The character still shots were also really well done and could fit into any Saturday morning cartoon if there was ever one made. While the close up “falling into an abyss” clips were a bit too grainy and pixelated for my tastes, you didn’t see these all the time, so it really didn’t take away from the overall brilliant work that was being done here.


“Killer Instinct” may be one of the most fun fighting games to not feature super well-known fighters or a franchise label, and I think one of the reasons for this is it definitely appears to be a game that was designed with hardcore fans of fighting games in mind. The emphasis on combos cannot be overstated, as the addition of an announcer’s yell for each combo length made it something special, something to go after rather than just simply defeating your opponent. Obviously the ability to break these combos was a nice addition as well, because I’m sure we’ve all been the victim of a friend or family member who would use the same combos over and over again in other fighting games.

The game’s difficulty increases as the game progresses, and despite a rather cheap and annoying (and rather bland) final boss in Eyedol, “Killer Instinct” is one of those fighting games that even when you get knocked down, you get back up and try again. I will say, to this day, I still can’t remember how to do finishers that well, but I do not-so-fondly remember not having enough time to pull them off. Moves are still easy to pull off with simple and responsive controls, though.


I could voice my opinion about the follow-up, “Killer Instinct Gold” on the N64, and the Xbox One reboot, but that’s not what this review is about. I will say, however, that neither of those games captured what the original “Killer Instinct” was able to do, and I think it’s because, at the time, it was such a bold and fresh concept for the genre. It also helps when the company, Rare, is working independently and not under the mighty thumb of the giant known as Microsoft.

Still, there’s something to say about a game that, in every way, including that iconic deep black cartridge, did all it could to stand out from the pack, and it has built quite the cult following in doing so. “Killer Instinct” most certainly belongs in the same ranks as its rivals, and it can be picked up at a reasonable price for any SNES lover’s collection.

Join me next time when we delve into the Sega Genesis library to take a look at an RPG classic.

Until then, take care, and remember to game on!

Note: All ratings for Turn to Channel 3 are based on a scale of 1-10.

Tune in to NEPA Scene’s gaming column, Turn to Channel 3, every Tuesday for new perspectives on retro gaming as well as fresh twists on the classics.