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Video Game / Killer Instinct

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"Available for your home in 1995, only on Nintendo Ultra 64..."
The attract mode for the first Killer Instinct. They never fulfilled that promise. note 

The year was 1994. Nintendo were feeling the gaming equivalent of the Animation Age Ghetto. They got a lot of grief for censoring the blood and Fatalities in their otherwise-excellent port of Mortal Kombat. It was The '90s, so what else was there to do but launch a new IP which would make Mortal Kombat look tame (even hiring Midway Games to co-develop it with Rare)? Nintendo even broke their own long-established rules like allowing a player to control the undead, or putting the word "Killer" in the game.

KI-style combos are great for beginners who are inexperienced at fighting games. ("C-C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER" and "ULLLLLTRAAAAAA COMBO" seem to be running gags associated with the series.) You don't have to expertly string moves together to keep your opponent in a stunlock state. Combos in Killer Instinct are very formulaic and easy, and can lead to massive double or even triple-digit hits. A Combo Breaker occurs if the opponent is keen enough to know what works in a Rock/Paper/Scissors situation. "Autodoubles" are unique to Killer Instinct: All it means is that you press a single attack button once, and two strikes will be performed.


Although Killer Instinct 2 kept the framework, the most recent installment upped the ante with features like a Counter-Attack ("Shadow Counter"), reversals of Combo Breakers ("Counter Breakers"), and Lockouts that nail you with a counter if you botch a Combo Breaker (to discourage Button Mashing). "Instinct" mode also enables unique temporary buffs for each character.

The plot revolves around the eponymous Killer Instinct tournament held by the hugely-evil UltraTech corporation for reasons that are unclear. Among the competitors are people who were wronged by UltraTech (most notably the Corporate Samurai and fanservice character Orchid) and a few of the company's whacked-out test subjects (including the Mascot Mook Fulgore).

The first proved popular due to its eye-popping graphics (courtesy of Silicon Graphics, who did the pre-rendered sprites for Donkey Kong Country), catchy soundtrack, and signature combo-intensive gameplay. A sequel was later released which wasn't nearly as popular for several reasons: getting rid of the pre-rendered backgrounds in favor of real time polygonal backgrounds (the fighters were still sprite-based, however), the revamping of several characters, a confusing time-travel plot, and the rise of 3D Fighting Games. An updated version, titled Killer Instinct Gold, was released for the Nintendo 64 a couple months after launch. The series still had a fanbase, however, and some still hoped for a revival done by developer Rare. However, in light of certain news, it sadly seemed unlikely...


...that is, until E3 2013 when Microsoft announced a new KI game was in the works for the Xbox One, developed by Double Helix Games. It was released as a download-only launch title on November 22, 2013, though physical copies with the first eight characters were later made and released with the bonus incentive of getting T.J. Combo for free. Watch the trailer here. As of March 2014, Double Helix got bought out by Amazon, but they have handed off the role of developers to Iron Galaxy Studios, the company behind Divekick, Marvel vs. Capcom Origins, and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition.

A PC port of KI '13 was announced for Windows 10 at E3 2015; it was released alongside the game's third season of content on March 29, 2016, featuring Rash from Battletoads, the Arbiter from Halo and General RAAM from Gears of War as guest fighters. The PC port of KI '13 was released on Steam on September 27, 2017.

The story for the third season of the third game is being fleshed out via an ongoing novella, which can be read here.

The game is the Trope Namer for:

  • Combo Breaker: Combos have various 'stages' to them, some of which are immune to being broken, some of which are not.note  In the first game and the 2013 game, the breaker must be done based on the strength of the attack used in the attacker's combo. In Killer Instinct 2, the breaker must be done with Punch if the attacker is using Kick, and vice-versa. Unique to the 2013 game, the breaker itself can be broken, which allows the combo to continue and temporarily disables combo breakers.

This series has examples of:

  • 2½D: The 2013 reboot features real time 3D rendered characters and stages but 2D gameplay.
    • Also, in the old games, while the stages rotated freely, characters could only move in 2D under their own power. There was no sidestep command, and they only entered the Z-axis when being hit with certain attacks.
  • A.I. Breaker: In the original game, you can easily beat Fulgore by dashing in, stopping just out of reach, and jumping back until he tries to uppercut you, then countering over and over.
  • Allegedly Free Game: The 2013 game can be downloaded for free, but has a single playable character that rotates on a regular basis (with Jago being the free character at launch). The remaining cast can be downloaded individually, or can be bought all together in a single purchase. Buying the characters individually also discounts the cost of each individual character so that players who purchase characters individually never pay more than those who buy the full pack of characters.
    • The Steam and Definitive versions of the game drop the pretense completely, giving you all the characters, and virtually everything free. The only things that can still cost in game currency are the unlocks you get for levelling up characters.
  • All There in the Manual: The games themselves give nothing more than character backgrounds, although important character information can be pieced together from various profiles to form a vague idea about what's going on. Anything else came from the manuals to the console ports or Word of God attached to official artwork and the like. The biggest plot point ignored by the game is that Eyedol is not an Ultratech bio-weapon in testing like many of the standard characters, but a warring god from ancient times sealed in Limbo by sorcerers (the other one being Gargos, boss of the second game). Eyedol's lava-bridge stage has the portal machine that freed him as its backdrop.
  • Announcer Chatter:
    • C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!!!!!!
    • When you perform two Ultras in your finisher in the Xbox One game, you get an extended "ULTRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!" cry.
    • With the new mechanics in the Xbox One game, the announcer gets a few more screams to his repertoire - LOCKOUT!, SHADOW COUNTER!!, COUNTER BREAKER!!! - as well as a new set of "titles" for combos.
    • ULTIMATE! - New finishing moves gained by performing an ultra on your first health bar then canceling it with a throw.
  • Arcade-Perfect Port: As for the presentation: The all-black cartridge was pretty badass. (DOOM was pretty amazing as well; one of only two blood-red carts, the other being Maximum Carnage.) It was basically Mortal Kombat but with Donkey Kong Country 2½D graphics: they rendered some 3D graphics that the SNES isn't capable of producing on its own, then screenshotted them to make sprites that the SNES can draw. So, was the SNES version a good port? The models were grainer, and the cool fireball glowing effects were gone. The "3D" levels like Orchid's rooftop were flattened and the Ring Outs were changed... It was a little too ambitious for the SNES and it shows, especially 20 years later. But in the summer of '94, it was a good conversion. KI was going to be the flagship "Ultra 64" game; the tease for the imminent Nintendo 64. Nintendo were advertising CGI cutscenes for Killer Instinct that wouldn't come to fruition until the console's release two years later. (Sony pulled a similar trick with PlayStation, by the way: kids were standing in crowds three-deep to watch the intro to Final Fantasy VII playing on a loop at Gamestop, years before the game was released.) KI on SNES was Nintendo's apology for the long-overdue N64.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: Gargos, KI2's final boss' stage theme.
    • Just about every song in the Xbox One game has some form of metal undertone to it, and the ones that don't (I'm Back (To Rise), .execute, and Temperance and Vengeance being among them) take their respective genres so far past eleven that you can't help but get pumped.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Even though this is probably a byproduct of the Dark Age of Supernames (mid-Nineties, people), pretty much every character. Thunder, Cinder, Riptor, Fulgore, Tusk, you name it.
  • Blessed with Suck: Jago gets superpowers that make him one of the strongest on the entire planet and devotes his whole life to finding inner peace, only to find out he can't find it because those superpowers were bestowed upon him by a demon that wants to take over the world.
  • Blue Means Cold: Glacius is an alien with ice-based powers and his skin is blue and white.
  • Bonus Boss: The 2013 title has a special version of Shadow Jago as a secret endboss in Season One's story, available only after unlocking everyone else's endings and then completing Story Mode again on at least Medium difficulty without losing once. This guy is definitely much tougher than the original Jago.
  • Boobs of Steel: Maya and Orchid.
  • Broad Strokes: The plot of KI 2013 is a reboot, but it borrows pieces of the old continuity for use as backstory. For instance, Jago has already discovered that the Tiger Spirit was actually Gargos, but Cinder and Riptor aren't created by Ultratech until the events of Season 2.
  • Call-Back: Sabrewulf's name traces back to Rare's 1984 ZX Spectrum game, Sabre Wulf, back when they were still called Ultimate Play The Game.
  • Calling Your Attacks: ENDOKUKEN!
  • Cap:
    • In the first two games, you can do up to 80 hits in a single combo, except for Ultra Combos, which could easily break into the triple digits.
    • There is no hit cap KI 2013, as there have been several combos shown that go beyond 80 hits. However, it has "knockdown value", a bar that represents the amount of combo potential you have left before your combo will automatically stop. Depending on the move, the KV bar will rise at different speeds (Shadow Moves, for example, don't change the KV, allowing you to extend your combo). It's crucial to perform an ender before the KV fills up or risk losing out on big damage. You can reset the KV of a combo by landing a Counter Breaker or using Instinct Mode during the combo.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: For a cast of 26 strong in the 2013 reboot, each character is so wildly different in appearance, backstory, and even playstyle, that it's hard to narrow down similarities between any of them.
  • Charged Attack: Charged by performing a combo breaker. The second game had a more traditional super meter, but the easiest way to charge it was performing combo breakers.
  • Cherry Tapping: The "Humiliation" moves, which makes your opponent dance to a disco-ish beat.
  • Combos: This series is basically the Trope Codifier, as it was the second (after Super Street Fighter II) Fighting Game to count combo hits and the third to use chain combos (after Darkstalkers and X-Men: Children of the Atom, later games like Street Fighter Alpha and Mortal Kombat 3 would adopt the system.) Almost any hit can be strung into a combo, and can be interrupted with a C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER! In Killer Instinct 2, it's possible to reach 60+ hits without glitching or cheating, although this is limited to the end-of-match Ultra combos, and to players who had a full comprehension of the combo engine. Also, combos basically ARE the gameplay; you won't get far without using a few of them.
  • Comeback Mechanic:
    • The Instinct Meter in the 2013 game builds only when you take damage or successfully perform combo breakers, so you won't be able to activate Instinct mode unless you've been beaten down a few times. The exceptions to this rule are Spinal, thanks to his Shadow Skull Fireball draining the Instinct Meter, and Jago, with his Around the World combo trait giving a small amount of instinct when successfully performed.
    • T.J. Combo has another mechanic in the 2013 game in addition to the regular Instinct Mode - if he runs out of health and he has a full Instinct Meter, he'll get back up with a small amount of health and a half-duration Instinct mode for one more shot at victory.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The computer pretty much performs combo breakers at will. In the second game, it almost always counters your combo opener with the move that trumps it. One saving grace; the computer will never have magical immunity to the Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors; if you respond to the computer opponent's opener with the appropriate counter, it will work, every time. The game is also quite infamous for the computer controlled characters hit harder then human ones. Get into a mirror match with the computer and trade blows, you will lose.
    • And let's not get started on the new Arcade Mode boss, Shadow Jago...
  • Continuity Snarl: The character profiles for the second game explain that Eyedol's death sent the surviving characters 2000 years into the past, but several parts of the game's design contradict this while others reinforce it. Several characters, especially the three new ones who could only be from the past, have stages seemingly set in fantasy worlds or at least fanciful concepts of a past time. On the flipside, T.J. Combo's and Orchid's stages are set in a modern-day city (albeit a ruined one), Fulgore's stage is a robot factory, and Sabrewulf has involuntarily gained cybernetic arms courtesy of Ultratech (not to mention that, when you knock someone off the Sky Stage in the arcade version, there appears to be a modern city layout down there). Various handwaves have been proposed, some more reasonable than others, but none of them come from the actual game.
    • The third game avoids this by being a straight-up Continuity Reboot, picking and choosing pieces of the old games' continuity to incorporate into the backstory.
  • Counter-Attack: Shadow Counters in 2013 release. They can be activated when your character is blocking and use one stock of your shadow meter, but if you get hit when it's active, your character will instantly respond with one of his/her shadow moves. However, you can still get knocked out of it if the opponent is using a multi-hitting attack.
    • In addition, Hisako can perform her own, unique counter at the cost of her Wrath meter.
  • Crafted From Animals: In the last game, Chief Thunder returns from the first game with large feathers in his head and a necklace made of teeth, probably from wild animals like wolves, bears, etc. This trope becomes more literal with his alternate costumes, having helmets with heads of a bear, a wolf, a skull of an animal and even in one costume, his axes are sharped bones attached to a stone and a stick.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Sabrewulf laments the fact he is a giant, badass, super strong, super fast, sapient werewolf and never stops looking for a cure until he finally accepts the fact it has made him nothing but better, save for the fact he's a big ugly wolf now.
  • Death Cry Echo
  • Dem Bones: Spinal, complete with sword and shield.
  • Desperation Attack: If your opponent doesn't use a finishing move of some kind, it's possible to recover from no damage once, which also grants you a Charged Attack chance.
  • Digitized Sprites: At least with the SNES port of the first game and Nintendo 64 port of the second.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Maya from KI2 is a barefoot savage.
  • Downer Ending:
    • Riptor and Fulgore endings in the first game. In the former, the humanity is wiped out (even Ultratech) and the earth is ruled by Dinosaurs again. In the latter, Ultratech successfully starts to mass product a new Fulgore generation. (No wonder Fulgore was the penultimate opponent of single-player)
    • Since KI2 introduced the concept of Multiple Endings, depending on which specific character you finish off in specific ways, you may get this for your character. For example, if you have Orchid kill Jago (same if you kill Orchid with Jago) in 2, or if you have Jago finish Orchid with an Ultra in the new game.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: No one touches the original SNES/Arcade Killer Instinct games anymore. KI1 has a really wacky combo system, though: More than half the special moves hit multiple times, so you have to chain them together with regular attacks.
  • Easter Egg: In KI 2013, if both players stand still and do nothing, certain characters' new personal themes will play a remix of either one/both of the old personal themes (the characters from previous games; Omen's hidden theme is a remix of Gargos' old personal theme) or the KI main theme (most newcomers; as ARIA already uses the main theme in her personal theme, her hidden theme is instead a remix of the Character Select Theme). Rash and the Arbiter have remixes of the Battletoads pause theme and "Impend", respectively, as their hidden themes.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: In the easier difficulties in some versions, after you fought Fulgore you get... a credits screen and a message from the developers. The outright mockery is if you beat the first game in difficulty 2:
    Congratulations, you have defeated Ultratech's low end, garbage, obsolete, floor model, weak, on the verge of extinction, barely mobile, only can do a 5 hit combo, pathetic, yesterday's news boss. I hope you're happy with yourself!
  • Economy Cast: Compared to many modern fighters. Between being a series starting nearly two decades ago and having a long Sequel Gap, the cast of the series never gets very big. Both KI and KI2 have ten playable characters and one boss character, adding up to a grand total of 15 characters across both games. KI 2013 began its first season with six playable characters, only one of which was new, with more released as time passed until it eventually included the whole cast of KI1 and 2, a good chunk of new ones, and even a few guests, resulting in a roster over twice the size of either prior KI game.
  • Embedded Precursor: Opting for the top tier package of the 2013 game includes an emulated version of the original Killer Instinct (a game that, until then, had yet to get a full arcade-quality home port), this time with online play enabled. An online-available port of Killer Instinct 2 was packaged with the higher-tier bundle of Season 2.
  • Enemy Mine: In Shadow Lords, pretty much every playable character is on the side of Earth. Kan-Ra sells you materials; ARIA rallies her Ultratech mercenaries to your side and gives you information as well as transportation; Mira and her coven prioritize Gargos over their hunters as a major threat; Eyedol's only concern is beating Gargos into a fine paste for as long as their bodies will allow; even the Omen left in Jago to corrupt him has grown far too attached to his free will to allow Gargos to make him a slave again.
  • Everyone Has a Special Move: 2013 version takes it a step further than most fighting games - each character has at least one unique "combo trait", allowing them to create combos in a different way than anyone else. Instinct mode also grants different ability for every character in addition to universal bonuses.
  • Evil Laugh: SPINAL.
  • Feelies - The game was released with a soundtrack album, Killer Cuts. KI Gold also had its own soundtrack CD called Gold Cuts. The retail "Definitive Edition" of the reboot will continue the tradition by including a soundtrack disc as well.
  • Finishing Move - Each character gets at least two, plus the Humiliation moves and a match-ending "Ultra Combo". Although the third game has mostly done away with all these finishers aside from Ultra Combos, Bonus Boss Shadow Jago gets his own cinematic Ultimate Combo to finish combos in the same way as Ultras.
    • The replacement developer for Double Helix, Iron Galaxy Studios, has said they want to bring these back going forward. They're already making progress with T.J. Combo, Kan-Ra, Aganos, Hisako, ARIA and the Arbiter's stages getting Stage Ultras, but no word if the other stages will have any incorporated retroactively.
    • A series of Season 3 updates to the game will give fifteen of the characters their own Ultimate moves in addition to Shadow Jago.
  • Fire, Ice, Lightning: Cinder, Glacius, and Chief Thunder, respectively. They don't do extra damage to each other, though.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: In the original, both Cinder and Eyedol had, as the result of bugs, infinite hit combos. Cinder's however, could be done at any time during a match, completely shutting out the opponent and guaranteeing Cinder the win once the timer ran down.
  • Gorn: The game exceeded Mortal Kombat in the gallons of blood characters lost during the match, though the actual finishing moves were relatively tame (opponents still died, but in a less gruesome manner, probably to maintain the game's "T" rating).
  • Guest Fighter: Rash from Battletoads, the Arbiter from Halo and General RAAM from Gears Of War were added in Season 3.
  • Guide Dang It!: To win the second game, the final hit on Gargos must launch him into the air. If it doesn't, his health bar will hit zero but he won't go down until he's knocked off his feet, and the player will still lose if the timer runs down.
  • High-Altitude Battle: The ever-elusive Sky Stage present in the first two games. It's a flat platform somehow floating several stories above ground in-between clouds rushing at high speed. Any hit may be deadly as in, even if you're whooping your opponent's ass, if he manages to use a knockdown move while you're at the corner, you'll fall off the stage and lose (it's a pretty long fall, by the way). KI2 made it even worse: the platform is even smaller, and you can die simply by walking off.
  • Hitbox Dissonance
  • Homage:
    • B. Orchid homages Cheshire from DC Comics. For comparison, check out the pictures of B. Orchid and Cheshire here and here. Orchid may have received a homage of her own in Joystick from Marvel Comics.
    • The entire series and the characters are one huge homage to various cult classics: for example, Jago is a homage to various ninja flicks that were popular in the 80's and 90's, while Eyedol's desing references the cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.
    • KI2013's version of Cinder is a burnier Deadpool, though Cinder stops short of breaking the fourth wall and literal madness.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Ultratech in the Riptor's ending (KI1). Riptor reproduction goes out of control, killing all humans.
  • Idiosyncratic Combo Levels: In the first two games, they went in this order: Triple, Super, Hyper, Brutal, Master, Awesome, Blaster, Monster, King, Killer. Above that, there's two types: Ultimate Combos and ULTRAAAAAAAAA COOOOOOMBOOOOOOOOOS!
    • KI 2013 instead goes for the following: Basic, Triple, Quad, Solid, Hyper, Brutal, Master, Blaster, Extreme, Awesome, Monster, Insane, Beastly, King, Crazy, Killer, Godlike(with "combo" suffix indicating whether the combo was ended properly or not). And above all of them, there's the ULTRAAA COOOOOOMBOOOOOOOOO!. Perform two or more ultras, and you get an elongated ULTRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!
  • I'm Melting!: In the Arcade version, if you finish off Glacius with Riptor's Acid Spit or Chief Thunder's Lighting Bolt No Mercy moves, Glacius will melt into oblivion.
  • Kabuki Sounds: On the special limited edition Killer Cuts CD that came with the SNES port, Jago's theme "Do It Now!" features the "Yoo~ooh!" voice.
  • Large Ham: The announcer, bar none. Taken Up to Eleven in the Xbox One Reboot.
  • Like Reality Unless Noted: The novella for the 2013 game reveals that the Killer Instinct world is mostly the same as real life, with websites such as Twitch being mentioned. It's only mostly the same because real life obviously doesn't have 3500 year old sorcerers, vampires, and demon warlords wandering about.
  • Macrogame: In the 2013 game's Shadow Lords mode, your guardians and artifacts carry over between playthroughs, giving you an edge on your next run.
  • Mechanical Muscles:
    • Fulgore, with the 2013 reboot focusing on his neck and upper body.
    • TJ Combo, with the help of Ultratech, illegally implanted cybernetics in his arms, in order to win in boxing battles, said prosthetics being very muscular. Later he was discovered and kicked off. While in KI 1 it's covered with artificial skin, in KI2 it's visible with his hands peeled off showing his cybernetics.
  • Mega-Corp: ULTRATECH. They dabble in all sorts of freaky science from Mecha-Mooks to reviving the dead to cross-breeding humans and reptile genetics. They also capture aliens and force them to fight, turn convicted felons into sentient lava beings, and graft mechanical arms to werewolves.
  • Mickey Mousing: Ultras in KI 2013 are now punctuated by music, where each hit in the combo is accompanied by a note. The beat is different for each character, and the song is different for each stage. Also, even as you're cycling through the options in the pause and post-fight menus, every tick of the directional plays a note of the KI theme.
  • Multiple Endings: Depending on who you did or didn't let live (and in Glacius' case, if his ship is still intact), it can cause different ending scenes to play out at the end of the game in KI2. These came back in Season One's Arcade Mode.
  • Naked People Are Funny: One of Orchid's finishing moves has her flashing her opponent, causing a comedic overreaction.
  • Nightmare Face: Or lack thereof, in ARIA's case. Hisako's Game Face, too, is the stuff of nightmares.
  • Oh, Crap!: In the third game, some Ultimates, such as Thunder's, Hisako's, and Kilgore's, show the fighter on the receiving end making this type of face as they realize what the opponent is about to do.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Not actually Latin, but still, some character themes count:
    • Spinal's theme in KI 2013 has Ominous Swedish Chanting, taking on the form of a ritual to summon the skeletal swordsman to their side.
      "Vi ber till dig, Spinal, lämna din kropp! Bli våran hövding, ta till vapen! Skänk oss din styrka vid denna strid! Vakna, vakna, mäktiga Gud!" (Spinal, we ask you to leave your body! Become our chieftain, take up arms! Grant us your strength in this battle! Awaken, awaken, mighty god!)
    • Aganos' theme in KI 2013 has the chanting in Greek...
      "Μάχη! Πόλεμος! Νίκη! Πόνος! Δίκη! Πόλεμος! Τρόμος παντού!" (Battle! War! Victory! Pain! Trial! War! Terror everywhere!)
    • ...and Hisako's, somewhat obviously, is in Japanese.
      "Kienai Hisako, honoo-en no haka! Fukushū, fukushū no inori! Kemuri, kemuri no kioku! Kienai Hisako, kienai urami!" (Indelible Hisako, tomb of flame! Revenge! Prayer of revenge! Smoke! The smoke of memory! Indelible Hisako, indelible grudge!)
    • Arbiter's theme has Ominous Sangheili Chanting, provided by Celldweller himself.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: Ultratech. It doesn't count now that ARIA's in the game.
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: KI 2013. Any one hit results in a enough sprayed blood to make a puddle on the ground. Keep in mind that every character has the potential to make fairly long combos...
  • Perfect-Play A.I.: Very prevalent in the first game, not so much in the second. Makes a violent comeback in the third when playing under ''Kyle'' Difficulty.note 
  • Play Every Day: In the Shadow Lords mode in the 2013 game you get bonus items and resources for playing the single player and multiplayer portions each day.
  • Power Glows: Each character in KI 2013 has their own way of showing when they have full Instinct meter, many being some form of this.
  • Pre-Rendered Graphics: The original arcade version featured pre-rendered backgrounds, sprites, and ending cutscenes.
  • Prison Dimension: Both Eyedol and Gargos were trapped in one until Ultratech busted them out.
  • Recycled Title: The 2013 game is called Killer Instinct, not Killer Instinct 3, being a Continuity Reboot.
  • Revenue-Enhancing Devices: In the 2013 game, half of the purchases of the character Kilgore (worth $10USD) go towards the KI Ultra Tour prize pools.
  • Scenery Porn: Noted for its at-the-time excellent pre-rendered graphics, which made it stand out against the hand-drawn or digitized-sprite fighting games in the genre's glut of imitators.
    • KI 2013 is known for its incredibly detailed backgrounds and characters, fitting for a next gen game, with no graphical slowdown. Chief Thunder's stage (the rain, in particular) and Glacius' stage are specific things critics like to talk about when praising its graphics.
      • Aganos' stage sets the new record for Scenery Porn on a single stage. An island rising from the ocean, ancient columns and sculptures being restored and war golems coming to life, that's what makes the stage gorgeous.
      • A graphics update in Season 3 relights all the stages, further enhancing the overall visual style, such as making the fire effects in Glacius' stage more prominent.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Retroactively defied in the original game. Originally Orchid seemed like the only female character on the cast but later on it was revealed that Riptor was probably female in the original game and definitely is in the 2013 game.
  • Songs in the Key of Panic: When one of the fighters enters Danger state (i.e. is on the verge of losing), the music becomes tense and, sometimes, slightly faster paced, until the end of the fight.
  • Sprite/Polygon Mix: More noticeable in Killer Instinct Gold, and EVEN MORE noticeable when you knock your opponent off Jago's stage - the sprite will stay there as if it suddenly decided to lie down on the bridge!
  • Stage Fatality:
    • In the first game, Cinder, Orchid and Spinal's stages are buildings where the loser can be knocked off the edge. The Sky Stage can be fallen off of from either side regardless of health. Eyedol has a unique stage fatality (and a different death cinematic) if he's knocked off the lava bridge instead of punched out on his feet. A popular Urban Legend of Zelda maintained that Thunder's stage contained a a stage fatality; it didn't.
    • In the second game, Orchid and Kim Wu's stages are buildings where the loser can be knocked off the edge. The loser in Spinal's stage can be knocked off his ship into the sea on the left side. Sabrewulf's stage has a well the loser can be knocked into if one of the fighters is first knocked through the nearby wall during the bout. Tusk's stage has a flaming pit in the center, and Jago's stage is a bridge that the loser can be knocked off of at any partexcept either end. Gargos' stage can also have the loser knocked off in any spot, including Gargos himself (you can only defeat him this way; normally depleting his life bar won't cut it). The Sky Stage makes a return.
    • Gold has all of the above and adds a finisher to T.J. Combo's stage, where the loser can be knocked into train tracks on the background just before the train runs by.
    • In the third game, T.J. Combo, Kan-Ra, Aganos, Hisako, ARIA and Arbiter's stages contain environment-specific finishers triggered by ultra combos.
  • Super Mode: In the 2013 game, each character has a character-specific trait called "Instinct Mode", where they can gain different buffs that aid their playstyle (such as Thunder gaining an invincible, longer dash that allows him to rush in and grab his opponent without having to worry about being hit). It also grants the universal effects of instant cancellation and knockdown value reset if popped during a combo.
  • Surplus Damage Bonus: The 2013 game enforces this by allowing players to continue their combos even if they kill their foe, and allowing that continued combo to even gain meter. This extra meter allows such things like using one Ultra Combo, then activating Instinct Mode to reset the combo, and then gaining enough meter to make another Ultra Combo.
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors - The proper combo breaker to use depends on the strength of the combo's initial attack.
    • Complaints about the ridiculousness of this (it takes master-level knowledge of every character to recognize what button to do the breaker with) led to a simpler system in the second game, where punch breaks kick and vice-versa. Unlike in the first game, maneuvers in combos will always match the button being used as a blink-and-you-miss-it visual cue for the victim; a punch input results in the character performing a punch, even if it's not the punch that button does outside of combos.
    • Also in the second game, every character can open a combo with most basic attacks, standing or jumping in. However, every character also has three special moves that are specifically meant to open combos, often more damaging and easier to work with than the basic punches and kicks. The weakness of the special-move openers is that they function on a literal rock-paper-scissors mechanic, and no matter which two characters are facing off, one character's specific opener will always trump someone else's specific opener.
    • KI 2013 is back to the original system of strength-based combo breakers. Failing to choose the correct one results in a "lockout", preventing combo breakers for a few seconds. Like the second game, however, the visual cue for the proper breaker is recognizable regardless of the player's knowledge of the attacking character's mechanics.
  • Take That!: Eyedol's ending is clearly inspired by Blanka's ending in Street Fighter II.
  • There's No Kill Like Overkill: The 2013 release gives players the ability to chain an Ultra Combo into another combo, which in itself can lead into another Ultra Combo. Since the opponent is basically knocked out before you can perform an Ultra, this is basically just for eye candy, racking up a high hit count (skilled players can easily go over 1,000 hits), showing off and needless brutality. On the other side, more merciful players can perform the ultra combo ender early to end the opponent's suffering.
  • Three Round Deathmatch: A variant: Each character gets two life meters (except for ARIA who has three, one for each form) When the first runs out, the character stands back up, the two face off, and the battle continues.
  • Title Scream: Well, more like pronounced normally in a sinisterly low voice.
  • Training Stage: KI 2013 has a training stage which is unavailable for versus play, but to make up for that, one can make it play the entire album from the first Killer Instinct, Killer Kuts.
  • Troperiffic: The entire game's roster, who are inspired by all sorts of media, primarily American film. Jago is a McNinja, Orchid is the kick-ass Action Girl, TJ Combo is inspired by Apollo Creed and Clubber Lang, Spinal is directly inspired by the skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts, Sabrewulf is the classic Werewolf movie monster, Maya is a Jungle Princess, etc. The third game continues this in earnest, with Hisako being a Japanese Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl, Aganos being a Rock Monster, ARIA riffing off classic anime conventions, and Kan-Ra being representative of an Evil Sorcerer and the classic Mummy movie monster.
  • Variable Mix: The music in 2013 changes in accordance to what's happening in the fight. For example, if you idle, the music becomes more passive; if something exciting happens, like a counter breaker, the music becomes more intense. An example of it can be seen here. The Ultras also have Mickey Mousing.

Supreme victory!


Video Example(s):


Shadow Jago's Ultra Combo

Shadow Jago performs a unique musical beatdown to finish off his opponent. ULTRAAA COMBOOO!

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / FinishingMove

Media sources:

Main / FinishingMove