The Instinct (also known as the Killer Instinct Main Theme) is the eighth song from the original 1995 Killer Cuts soundtrack. It is produced, mixed and arranged by the original KI composer, Robin Beanland, with additional credit towards co-composer Graeme Norgate. This song is the official main theme for the Killer Instinct franchise, appearing in every game (from the intros to the menus and so forth). "The Instinct" is critically revered by fans worldwide as one of the most recognizable and nostalgic themes in the fighting game community (FGC) today.
The theme overall is best described as a 90s industrial hard rock/metal track, featuring electric guitars performing the well-known melodies and synthesizers that set an almost brooding atmosphere, befitting the game's urban and gritty tone and setting. At the end of the track as it fades out, there is an almost sinister and foreboding orchestrated piece that subsequently serves as the official Character Select theme.
While not as crisp or arranged sonically as the Killer Cuts rendition, the original arcade version of "The Instinct" has received plenty of high praise.
Due to the hardware limitations of the Nintendo console, the overall soundtrack – including the main theme – was lowered in quality. The original programmers had to rearrange each track to fit into the console's 16-bit built settings.
Game Boy Version
On the (Super) Game Boy version of KI1, the game's music quality was lowered even further due to the handheld's limitations. "The Instinct" and the other songs were overall rearranged to fit the handheld's 8-bit/chiptune format.
Killer Instinct 2 Remix
When the sequel was released to arcades in 1996, a new and heavier rock version of "The Instinct" was produced, with an greater emphasis on drums and electric guitar. The Character Select rendition replaced the synthesized melodies with rock instrumentals and trumpets.
So far, this is the only game in the series in which both renditions of "The Instinct" – the Main Theme rendition and the Character Select rendition – would be separated into two tracks on the Killer Instinct Gold Cuts soundtrack, called "Title Tune" and "Select", respectively.
Though not as heavily scaled back in quality as the SNES, KI Gold, released on the Nintendo 64, had a small music quality decrease in both the Main Theme rendition and the Character Select rendition.
Killer Instinct (2013) Remix
After almost 18 years since the release of KI Gold, Killer Instinct made its return from hiatus to the Xbox One in 2013 with a new version of "The Instinct", now performed by new composer Mick Gordon. While a bit slower than the previous two versions, it makes up for the small change with a powerful heavy metal sound, befitting the reboot's darker, grittier tone and direction. It has been critically acclaimed by the original KI fans and newcomers alike to be the best version of the theme song.
The Character Select music is made even heavier with a slow metal rendition of the original tune.
- With the release of the 2013 reboot, "The Instinct" became more predominant than ever, serving as a leitmotif for some scores, including character/stage themes. For instance, the legacy characters – the ones who appeared in KI1 and 2 – had idle renditions that were essentially remixes of their original themes as seen here. But for the new characters (ex. Sadira, Kan-Ra, Mira), the idle parts of their themes are essentially a remix of "The Instinct".
- The original version of "The Instinct" would be added as part of the 2013 reboot's practice mode, where the players can choose backgrounds for the training stage along with the themes represented in Killer Cuts-style-order. The background of the Warehouse Basement from KI1 represents the main theme.