A special orange bar is located under the combatant's health bar. This meter builds primarily through taking damage and through successful Combo Breakers. Once it's full, a combatant can activate it by pressing (HP+HK) while in a neutral state, or in the middle of a combo to reset the Knockdown Value. If used to cancel a combo, it resets the Knockdown Value Gauge to zero, allowing the combatant to stack even more damage to their combo. It can also cancel an Ultra Combo to extend the Ultra Combo even further, even into another Ultra. Each Instinct Mode is different for each character and gives them a unique mechanic, property, or new move while their Instinct is active.
List of Instinct Modes
Information in italics denotes information not provided in the in-game command list.
- Jago - Tiger's Focus: Jago summons an aura unleashed by the true Tiger Spirit as his tiger tattoo glows. Endokuken is replaced with a Double Endokuken. During Tiger’s Focus, each Endokuken hit (including Shadow Endokuken hits) that connects heals Jago 1.75% health. Jago also earns extra frames of hit advantage on all moves.
- Sabrewulf - Feral Rage: Sabrewulf gains muscles. All attacks deal more damage. Chip damage is substantially increased and normals do chip damage too, not just specials.
- Feral Cancel: With (HP+HK), Sabrewulf can cancel out of any ground move into a neutral, ready state. Has a short cooldown time.
- Glacius - Crystalize: Glacius coats himself in a thick layer of ice armor that absorbs one hit. If it gets hit, new ice armor will form after about three seconds. He also gains a universal defense buff and Liquidize can move much faster and further while Crystalize is active.
- Homing Puddle Punch: A Puddle Punch that tracks the opponent's location can be used with (HP+HK).
- Cross-Up Puddle Punch: A tracking Puddle Punch that hits from behind can be used with (F+HP+HK).
- Thunder - Murder of Crows: Thunder calls upon lightning to create a force field. Forward dash is greatly sped up and fully invulnerable, giving him mobility through both attacks and the attackers themselves. Triplax can also be canceled into a dash on hit or block.
- Sadira - Widow's Edge: Sadira transforms into a spider-like humanoid. She gains the ability to jump-cancel all her normals and specials on hit or block, not just enders and throws. Can be activated while midair.
- Web Trap: Sadira can place Web Traps (HP+HK) that hold the opponent in place upon contact. These Web Traps disappear when the opponent runs into them or after a set period of time. Has a short cooldown time.
- Orchid - Cat's Call: Orchid summons a Firecat assist that charges across the battlefield and explodes on impact. She can call in another Firecat to assist her (HP+HK) at any time, which runs from off-screen behind Orchid and towards the opponent. Firecats can be called even in the middle of combos and explodes on hit or block.
- Spinal - Agent of Chaos: Spinal unleashes an accursed aura around him, summoning three skulls upon activation, and gathering skulls from attacks nets you twice as many as before. When the special move Spectral Skull is used, the projectiles do not disappear on block and continue to bounce around the stage until they land a hit or a fifth projectile is created. Spinal can also Power Devour his own projectiles in order to recycle skull stocks.
- Fulgore - Blast Core: Fulgore can cancel moves into other moves using reactor pips.
- Reactor Charge: Pressing (HP+HK) during Blast Core will allow Fulgore to manually generate reactor pips, similarly to his Season One incarnation.
- Shadow Jago - Dark Gift: Like his normal self, Shadow Jago summons an aura fueled by Gargos. By dashing through his opponent or hitting them with a Shendokuken, Shadow Jago attaches a Dark Tether. When the Dark Tether is attached, all Shadow and Surge moves cost him half the usual amount, draining the remaining half from his opponent’s meter. Upon taking damage the Dark Tether will disconnect. Shadow Jago also gains extra frames of advantage on all moves.
- Annihilation: Pressing (QCF+LP+LK) will have Shadow Jago perform Annihilation, a powerful dashing attack that deals damage if it catches the opponent. Consumes all Instinct meter when used. Deals more damage with more meter, less damage with less meter.
- TJ Combo - Glory Days: Due to his DNA alteration by the cyber implants, Combo earns a speed boost to all aspects of his ground movement and frame data; all moves have faster startup and recover and his dashes are faster.
- Last Breath: If Combo is fully KO’d with a full Instinct Meter remaining, Last Breath will be activated - he will use half his Instinct Meter to resurrect with 20% life and Instinct Mode activated. Pushes the opponent back slightly upon activation.
- Maya - Possession Rite: Upon activation Maya’s daggers, Temperance and Vengeance, immediately return to her hands, regardless of where they are on the screen. Each dagger thrown will then return to Maya after it lands on the ground.
- Kan-Ra - Curse of Drought: Kan-Ra can fight as if he always has a Sand Trap under his feet. This gives him accesses to Sacrifice, Sand Jump, Sand Dash, and Whirl’s tornado projectile without having to place Sand Traps first. Kan-Ra can also now cancel all normals into Sand Jumps and Sand Dashes.
- Riptor - Rage: All Riptor’s fire breath and tail attacks are amplified; fire attacks do more damage and have more range, and tail attacks extend for much more range. Primal Run also gains a speed boost.
- Omen - Shadow Gathering: Omen does the same as Jago, when he unleashes an aura fueled by Gargos, as he did with Jago's shadow self. Rashakukens fire one extra projectile at each strength, and Shadow Rashakuken and Shadow Orda Shield spawn five projectiles instead of three. For every Rashakuken that hits an opponent (including during enders), one stock on their Shadow Meter is locked out for ten seconds.
- Aganos - Peace Time: Aganos is given a regenerating Peacekeeper club (uprooted wall) for a short time. This Peacekeeper doesn't require a wall to be created beforehand.
- Hisako - Tousoushin: The Wrath Meter remains permanently full for the duration of Instinct Mode, giving her access to all of the Wrath Meter abilities without it draining. Vengeance counters also lose their high/low limitations and can catch all attacks.
- Cinder - Pyromania: Cinder is permanently in the Fired Up state for the duration of Instinct Mode, giving him unlimited access to powered up special moves. Can be activated midair.
- ARIA - Combat Symphony No. 9: ARIA equips herself with all operational Drones at once, giving her access to the abilities of every available Drone without having to switch. Damage taken is cut and distributed evenly among them, but if all Drones’ life are depleted they are all destroyed at once.
- Fanfare Drones: ARIA can also call in Fanfare Drones (Back+HP) to fire small homing blasts at the opponent. For every Drone lost, ARIA calls in a temporary extra Fanfare Drone as a replacement for more firepower, summoning up to three Fanfare Drones at once with two Drone bodies defeated.
- Kim Wu - Dragon Spirit: Kim Wu summons the Dragon Spirit. She automatically generates dragon stocks over time.
- Dragon Cannon: Kim Wu has full access to her Firecracker counter-projectile attack with (HP+HK), at the cost of one dragon spirit each.
- Tusk - 10,000 Years of Training: Tusk's tattoos glow red. He can cancel any special move into another special move. Each time a cancel is used, a small piece of the Instinct meter is drained (in addition to the regular depletion that occurs when activated).
- Mira - Vicious Metamorphosis: Mira begins to automatically summon Blood Seeker bats over time, spawning a new one as each is destroyed. Additionally, she can Air Dash an unlimited number of times, and the recoverable damage gained from Air Dashing is greatly reduced.
- Shroud: Mira releases a cloud of mist with (HP+HK), which sticks to her opponent and transfers Mira's recoverable damage to the opponent as potential damage, effectively healing Mira.
- Gargos - Stoneskin: Gargos coats his body with an armor of rock that can absorb any hit lighter than a Hard attack without interrupting him. As a penalty, he cannot jump more than once, dash, block, and general movement speed is reduced.
- Eruption: Gargos bursts out of the stone armor with (3P) at the cost of half his Instinct meter. This can be used to either deal direct damage or break out of a combo without risk of being locked out or counter broken.
- Resurrection: If Gargos is fully KO’d with at least 50% of his Instinct Meter, Resurrection will be activated - he will transformed into a thick stone armor then shatters it and gives him full health. This cost 50% of his Instinct Meter. This is only available in Shadow Lords mode while fighting against Gargos.
- Eyedol - Awakening: Eyedol's heads merge, restoring the full extent of his former power and giving the player full access to the ablities of both heads simultaneously. Using Wake Up! while Instinct Mode is active will cause Eyedol's Instinct Meter to refill, though it does still drain health.
- Kilgore - Quality Assurance: Kilgore gets all the benefits of Overheat mode while maintaining the use of his ranged Chain Gun attacks.
- Shin Hisako - Eternal Descent: Similar to her original counterpart's Stage Ultra, Shin Hisako summons a mass of ghostly arms that follows the opponent and when caught standing, the opponent is dragged into the depths and disappears; afterwards popping back onto the ground with significant damage.
- Resurgence: Pressing (HP+HK) will reset summoning the ghostly hands at the location Shin Hisako is currently standing in.
- Eagle - ???: ???
- Arbiter - Judge and Executioner: Arbiter activates a personal energy shield that extends his health meter slightly and gives him unlimited armor against projectiles. The shield automatically regenerates after a short time if destroyed.
- Parry: Pressing (HP+HK) will have Arbiter enter a defensive stance momentarily. If timed correctly, he can use it to completely block oncoming attacks including projectiles and reset into a neutral stance, allowing him to quickly fight back against an enemy's onslaught.
- Rash - Turbo Tunnel: Rash mounts a Speeder Bike and charges headlong forwards. While Instinct Mode is active, new Speeder Bikes can be summoned using (HP+HK) for ramming attacks. Additionally, all of Rash's attacks make 8-bit sound effects similar to those present in the original Battletoads on NES.
- General RAAM - Kryll Storm: General RAAM summons the Kryll to blanket the battlefield, which provides camouflage. The opponent also takes Potential Damage for the duration of Instinct Mode, unless General RAAM is being hit.
Previous Instinct Modes
Throughout the updates of Killer Instinct, the game is rebalanced in many ways. One of these ways is changing Instinct Modes, and some characters have had their Instinct Modes vastly changed.
- Spinal - Skull Summon: Spinal begins to steadily regenerate skull stocks over time. Removed in Season Three.
- Fulgore - Blast Core: Fulgore’s reactor immediately reaches max spin speed and generates continuous reactor pips, regardless of how aggressively the player fights. Removed in the 3.6 update.
- Shadow Jago - Gargos Focus: Shadow Jago's Endokuken is replaced with a Double Endokuken. Each Endokuken hit (including Shadow Endokuken hits) that connects heals 1.75% health, and Shadow Jago also earns extra frames of hit advantage on all moves. Only present in the playable version until the Real Boy Edition release.
- Shadow Jago - Gargos' Fury: Shadow Jago gradually drains Shadow Meter from his opponent and adds it to his own for the duration of Instinct Mode. Only present in the boss version until the Real Boy Edition release.