Killer Instinct Gold

STORY:  Eyedol's death at the hands of Orchid in the previous game accidentally set off a time warp sending everyone back 2000 years and allowed Gargos to escape from Limbo. Now, 2000 years in the past, warriors that survived Killer Instinct (1) and several new faces fight for the right to face the Demon Lord Gargos in combat. Some, like T.J. Combo, just want to get home. Others, like Tusk, want to bring an end to Gargos and his reign of evil. This time there is no tournament or prize money, just a fight to the finish with the fate of the future hanging in the balance.


Ready for a real fighting game on the N64? Yes.

Killer Instinct Gold is essentially the home version of Killer Instinct 2 ported over to the Nintendo 64, and still the only home version of KI2 ever made. While KI Gold retains most of what was found in the arcade version of KI2, it came with quite a few differences. Due to memory limitations on the Nintendo 64 hardware and cartridges (limited to 60 MBS), the pre-rendered FMV "flipbook" backgrounds have been replaced with realtime-rendered 3D backgrounds

The new backgrounds offer some cool camera angles not found in the arcade version, but the polygon count & resolution are visually inferior to the arcade version. Several stages also feature new "stage fatalities," as fighters can be knocked off of certain stages when their health bar is low. The animated endings from the arcade version sadly didn't make the cut to the home port, and the 2D characters sprites are also seen at a slightly lower resolution and are even missing a few animations (just a few). On the bright side, KI Gold still looks excellent in motion, featuring many cool projectile effects and incredibly hard-hitting combos that never seem to get old.

Gotta love Jago's bridge stage (and BGM!)


While some of the graphical effects were streamlined for the console version, Killer Instinct Gold introduces some cool exclusive modes over the arcade version, such as: Team Battle, Team Elimination Battle (introducing seamless 11 VS 11 battles), Training, Advanced Training. KI Gold actually features one of the best Training Modes ever seen in a console fighting game to date, providing a solid walkthrough of each characters moves, combos, doubles, auto-doubles, links and more. The Training Mode features a cool, exclusive soundtrack and a mysterious "dojo master" who watches on and walks you through your training. Pretty deep stuff for 1996!

There's also an unlockable Extra Options mode where you can alter the game's speed, and even make adjustments to the actual gameplay system itself (infinite super meter power FTW)! In addition to the unlockable modes & options, there are also a generous variety of character costume colors to unlock... ( hey, those were satisfying "customization" options for back in the mid 90's)! The adrenaline-oozing BGMs from the arcade version have also remixed for the N64 iteration. Following suit with the first Killer Instinct, most of KI Gold's BGMs are catchy and sound epic. My personal favorite: Jago's Stage... still badass to this day.


The Tutorial mode was GREAT. Ahead of its time!


The overall gameplay of KI Gold feels a bit smoother and "lighter" than the arcade version of Killer Instinct 2, but all of the core elements have carried over from KI2. Throws were added to the original system to remedy players who over-used blocking in the original Killer Instinct. Normal special moves no longer are judged on priority, but instead follow a three tiered  "rock, paper, scissors" system in which certain special moves will always break another special moves (although the system was considered flawed in high level play). A new super meter was added to store energy for super moves and super linkers.

In addition to the gameplay tweaks, many new moves and changes were made to the returning characters, but unfortunately Chief Thunder, Riptor and Cinder did still didn't make their return (as many old school arcade fans were hoping)... no console exclusive characters?  ...Hopes and dreams smashed.  Nonetheless, Killer Instinct Gold was a solid console fighting game at the time and easily one of the best fighting games ever released on Nintendo 64.


Page Updated: February 26th, 2021
Developer(s): Rare
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Designer(s): Chris Tilston, Kevin Bayliss, Ken Lobb, Mark Betteridge
Platform(s): Nintendo 64
Release Date(s): November 26th, 1996
Characters Orchid, Jago, Combo, Glacius, Maya, Tusk, Kim Wu, Sabrewulf, Fulgore, Spinal, Gargos

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Featured Video:

Related Games: Killer Instinct 2, Killer Instinct, Killer Instinct (2013), Samurai Shodown 4, Virtua Fighter 3, Last Bronx, Mace: The Dark Age, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Battle Arena Toshinden 2, Fighters Megamix, Street Fighter Alpha 2, Marvel Super Heroes, X-Men VS Street Fighter, Street Fighter EX, Star Gladiator, Soul Edge, Tobal No.1, Golden Axe: The Duel, WeaponLord

Gameplay Engine

 8.0 / 10

Story / Theme

 7.0 / 10

Overall Graphics

 6.5 / 10


 7.5 / 10

Music / Sound Effects

 9.5 / 10


 6.5 / 10

Art Direction

 7.5 / 10


 8.5 / 10

Options / Extras

 8.0 / 10

Intro / Presentation

 5.0 / 10

Replayability / Fun

 8.5 / 10

"Ouch" Factor

 9.0 / 10


 7.0 / 10


 7.9 / 10



Final Words:

Let's be honest, Killer Instinct Gold was the most technical and one of the only fighting games really worth playing on N64... at least among the "new" fighters introduced during the console's lifespan. There was Smash... but we all know that's not really a fighting game. KI2 is a fighting game. A real man's fighting game. Deal with it Smash kids. You won't bring that shit to my arcade in KI2. Tell your mom to meet me at TILT. lmao.

In retrospect, KI Gold was a perfect fighting game for talking trash in... a unique title... and actually something pretty special. As a big fan of the original Killer Instinct in arcades (and proud Killer Cuts owner), KI Gold was a reason for me to be happy I bought an N64. It was nice to see Nintendo improve their console port abilities since the original KI on SNES.

KI Gold satisfied my "ultra combo urge"... I had a blast extending all Ultra combos to max hits (with all characters). I used every character in thsi game. lol. Technically-speaking, KI Gold was most definitely "underrated" at the time... but real fighters recognize real. This game was good shit. Busting out 59+ hit combos on local buddies who never played or even heard of Killer Instinct? "What, your mom never let you go to the arcade, bro?" Never gets old. I had to show some of my neighborhood friends the ropes in this game... those willing to learn, that is. (And many of them did!) Old memories of couch battles. This was one of those games for me.

In particular, Team Elimination was a really fun VS mode... 11 VS 11 battles in real-time? The innovation! This mode was even fun against friends who weren't as skilled... (I'd pick 3 or 4 characters versus my friends' teams of 11 fighters, and sometimes I only needed 1 or 2 of my characters to kill off their entire team). Sorry, I'm so good, buddy. See you tomorrow after school. Real life. Good times... Team Elimination was one of the modes that made KI Gold so replayable.

Last but not least, worth mentioning... is the insane influx of console fighting games that released 1996! Take a look at the Related Games category (above). No doubt 1996-1997 was a fiercely competitive year in the fighting game genre... but KI Gold actually stood out as original, high quality, and definitely a fun arcade-to-console game for the time.
~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen  

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