Killer Instinct Tips and Tricks Guide – Combos, Ultras, Breakers, Counters

Killer Instinct tips and strategy to do combos, execute ultras, break the combos and counter different attacks. Learn all the game mechanics!

The Xbox One has just been unleashed upon the hapless masses by Microsoft, and people are scrambling to get their machine. One of the games that is featured by the console is Killer Instinct, an arcade-style fighting game in the same vein as Street Fighter and Tekken.

Older gamers will recognize the title from the 1994 and 1996 games of the same name and yes, it’s the same series.

Killer Instinct Tips and Strategy

Few modern gamers will have played the original Killer Instinct games, although if they’re experiences with Street Fighter, they’ll find many of the mechanics to be quite similar.

However, to smoothen their transition, we have decided to write up this mechanics guide to familiarize players with the way this game works and how it’s meant to be played.

The controls of Killer Instinct are almost identical to Street Fighter. There are light, medium and heavy punches tied to the X, Y and RB buttons and light, medium and heavy kicks tied to the A, B and RT buttons.

Getting to Know Killer Instinct
The first thing that you need to know about Killer Instincts is that there is only one round per match. However, each character has two health bars. The first health bar is green, and the second is red.


When the green bar of a character is depleted, they are knocked to the ground for a few seconds.

When he gets back up with the second bar, there will be a short ‘pause time’ during which both characters will be able to move around and reposition. You can use this to get out of a corner in case that’s where you were beaten or simply gain some breathing room.

Combo System and How To Do Combos
While there’s some more room to work with, combos in Killer Instinct have a very specific flow. It’s goes kind of like this:

Opener > Auto-Double / Manual > Linker / Shadow Linker > Auto-Double / Manual > Ender

Let me explain some of these terms that you see above. Opener is any basic attack, which is used to begin a combo and is pretty evident, so I’ll skip that. An Auto-Double is useable directly after an Opener or a Linker move. It basically allows you to land two consecutive hits very quickly.

You can use any button to land these, but keep in mind that they’re very easy to Combo-Break, as the opponent can do so at any point between the first frame of the first hit and the last frame of the last hit.

Manuals are similar to Auto-Double but are much harder to both execute and Combo-Break.

To execute a Manual, you must input the command at the end of the previous attack. The window to input the command is much smaller than that of an Auto-Double, and if you mistime the input, you’ll more than likely either drop the combo or get an Auto-Double instead of a Manual.

A Medium special move used in a combo is called a Linker. In basic combos, Linkers bridge the gap between Manuals or Auto-Doubles. You can perform both regular Linkers or Shadow Linkers. Basically, you want to use it to extend your combos.

Finally, we have Enders, which are powerful, Heavy special moved used to end a combo. It’s very important to end a combo with an Ender, or you’ll miss out on a lot of damage that you could have possibly dealt.

One more move that you should be aware of are throws.

These are grapple moves just like the ones you see in games like Street Fighter. They are executed by pressing LP + LK. There are two other kinds of throws as well, which are called Back Throws and Air Throws, and do exactly what those names imply.

Combo Gauge and Knockout Value Meter
When you start to hit an enemy there will be a small bar called the Knockout Value meter (KV Meter) that appears underneath the combo counter. This bar fills up each time you hit the opponent and once it’s full the opponent will be knocked away.

You are encouraged to get it as high as possible without filling it all the way and then using and Ender move to top it off. This does the maximum amount of damage that you can do in a single combo.

Suppose that you combo together 13 hits and fill out the KV bar all the way.

You might do about 15% of his health in damage. However, if you used an Ender at the 10th or 11th hit and finished the combo, you would probably have done about 20% of his health in damage.

How To Do Ultra Combos
Ultra Combos can only be performed when your opponent is at 15% or lower health on their second life bar.

Each character’s Ultra Combo is unique so you’ll have to learn them individually, but it is generally a special move with all three attack buttons (LK + MK + HK or LP + MP + HP). As soon as an Ultra Combo is initiated, it depletes the opponent’s remaining health and the game is essentially over.

Shadow Meter and Shadow Attacks
Take a look at the bright blue bar at the bottom of the screen. This represents the Shadow Meter, and is what fuels your Shadow attacks, which are Shadow versions of your special moves. Each Shadow move uses up half of your Shadow Meter.

They’re executed with two Punch or Kick buttons instead of one, and can be used as Linkers.

Keep in mind that Shadow Linkers are extremely difficult to Combo-Break, but because of their nature you can only use two of them at a time before your shadow meter runs out. They also tend to deal a lot more damage than regular Linkers.

Combo Breakers, Counter Breakers and Shadow Breakers
There are a total of three kinds of Breakers in Killer Instinct; Combo-Breakers, Counter-Breakers and Shadow-Breakers.

A Combo-Breaker is when you press the punch and kick buttons which are equal in strength to the attack that the opponent is using in the middle of a combo. For example, if the opponent is hitting you with a Light Kick Double Auto, you need to press the Light Kick and Light Punch buttons in order to Break it.

A Counter-Breaker is essentially a Combo-Breaker-Breaker. Also sometimes called a Bluff, you can press MP + MK during a combo at any time to stop yourself and perform a special animation.

If your opponent tries to perform a Combo-Breaker during this animation, he will get Counter-Broken and will be unable to use Combo-Breakers for four seconds, during which time you can wail on him while he’s helpless.

Lastly, we have Shadow-Breakers, which are the only way to block Shadow Linkers. Basically, a Shadow Linkers consists of a total of five hits.

You can press MP + MK to block these hits, and if you can block three of them, you’ve broken the combo. However, notice that the announcer keeps track. He says ‘One’ when you block the first hit and ‘Two’ when you block the second.

Your opponent will take notice of this and can perform a Counter-Breaker or Bluff to beat you out.

Shadow Counters and How To Stop Attacks
Shadow Counters are similar to Combo-Breakers, in that you can use them to interrupt attacks. However, they have the added bonus of performing a Shadow Attack as retaliation after the block which serves as an opener for a combo of your own.

You can perform one if you have at least half of your Shadow Bar filled and by pressing MK + MP.

Instinct Meter, Instinct Mode and How To Cancel Ultra Combo
The Instinct meter is a new feature in Killer Instinct. It’s a small bar near the top of the screen next to your character portrait and health bar. It fills up as you take damage or perform a successful Combo-breaker.

When it fills up you have the option of entering Instinct Mode, which provides your character with unique bonuses. It also has the effect of clearing out your KV Meter if you were in the middle of a combo. This allows you to extend out the combo much longer by delaying the point at which you need to use an Ender.

You can also use the Instinct Mode activation to cancel an Ultra Combo for a longer Ultra, and even continued into a 2nd Ultra by pressing HK+HP.

Don’t forget to share your own tips and tricks with us by commenting below!

Yet another one of our many staff and a long-time contributor (We need all the staff, how do you think we keep it so busy around here?), Salman is one of our many news writers. ...