Nintendo Nostalgic: ‘Killer Instinct’ Is Still a Combo Breakin’ Classic
Life as a fighting game fan was pretty sweet if you grew up with a Super Nintendo. For sure, it sucked that the SNES version of Mortal Kombat didn’t have blood, but getting the best Street Fighter conversions of any console more than made up for it. Plus there was also Killer Instinct — a combo-chaining, ass-kicking, 16-bit monster of a game that remains one of the most underrated beat ‘em ups ever unleashed. In this Nintendo Nostalgic, we look back on the things that made it such a “killer” app of its time.
Play on, player: RANKED! The 20 Best Video Games of the Last 20 Years
The Black Cartridge
The ‘90s were a great era for ridiculous buzzwords. And what was more ridiculous than the need to always be extreme? Everything was extreme, even Nintendo, which chose quite rightly to release their all-new extreme fighting game on an equally extreme black cartridge!
While most of the SNES’ library got shipped on those boring gray carts, you knew you were getting something special when you opened the Killer Instinct box for the first time. And to be honest, it still looks great as a collectors' item, gimmicky marketing be damned.
In the '90s, the 16-bit fighting game market was every bit as chaotic as the on-screen mayhem they dished out. Street Fighter got ahead with its graphics and unforgettable special moves. Meanwhile, Mortal Kombat had the blood and guts. For your game to get noticed, you had to have a niche -- critically, one that didn’t suck. After all, no self-respecting game should ever aspire to be Clayfighter.
The big way in which Killer Instinct stood out was with its insane speed, and its incredible combo system. If they were good enough, players could dish out 30- to 40-hit combos to smack an opponent down to the ground. And if they were more than good enough (and your opponent was too useless to break the combo), you could jump that number up to 80. Winding up on the receiving end of one of those was enough to quit fighting games forever. And possibly society.
Another major plus point for Killer Instinct was its roster of fighters. Sure, by the looks of it, they weren’t much -- there’s a ninja, a boxer, a dude made of fire and a dude made of ice. There’s a raptor, too, which is pretty cool, but it’s not enough to veil just how uninspiring those brainstorming sessions must have been.
So how did the developers make these characters engaging? By making them all just a little bit deranged. Any time these guys and gals went to battle, their sound and voice effects made every bout thing completely demented. And the fatalities -- which included one character summoning a Cadillac from thin air to crush their hopeless victims under -- definitely stood out from Mortal Kombat’s with their sheer hilarity.
And Finally...That Voice-Over Guy
Of course, the main reason we’re here wasn’t to just pay tribute to any of the above. We also need to talk about that guy who did all the voice-overs for the game.
Chris Sutherland was his name, and he was (and still is) one hell of an orator. The way he introduced characters was phenomenal — they weren’t just funny names like Spinal and Sabrewulf, they were epic titles worthy of respect. And if they had hired someone else to announce every "ultra combo" and "c-c-c-combo breaker" that sprung up each fight, it just wouldn’t have been the same. Sometimes you just gotta give it to a guy with a great voice to cement your game’s place in Nintendo history.