If you make a purchase after following a link on our site, we may earn a small commission. Learn more.

After 30 years, Killer Instinct’s Orchid still has the moves on Nintendo Switch Online

Killer Instinct Nintendo Switch Online
Screenshot: GameSpew

Imagine my surprise last week when I booted up the Nintendo Switch Online’s SNES catalog to find a familiar face glaring back at me. It was that old cyborg soldier Fulgore from the original Killer Instinct, complete with his red-eyes and ponytail.

Overjoyed and immediately nostalgic, I quickly scrolled through the roster and replaced Falgore’s metal mug with that of the alluring yet ass-crushing spy Orchid, and proceeded to re-ignite the fire after so many years. This femme-fatale has been my fighter of choice for decades, when we first became acquainted at a Putt-Putt Golf and Games 30 years ago. 

Ahh, the ol’ arcade: that dark, dank sanctuary filled to the brim with geeky teens and a cacophony of bleeps, bloops and button mashing. It feels like only yesterday that I was awkwardly wandering the stained carpets with a sweaty palm full of quarters in 1994. Classics like The Simpsons, TMNT: Turtles in Time, and Street Fighter constantly jockeyed for my attention. But despite never spending more than a full dollar on, the one that always won my attention was the ever-popular Killer Instinct cabinet, stuck deep in the back of the building.

Killer Instinct Nintendo Switch Online
Screenshot: GameSpew

It was always Orchid. Perhaps it was because I’d seen older teens seamlessly pummel their enemies with her endless string of combos, like witnessing a Greek god take out a mortal army. Her opponents never stood a chance, especially when she’d whip out — quite literally — her finishing move, which was in fact, quite, er… impactful to a nine-year old me at the time.

Related: The Best SNES Games on Nintendo Switch Online You Really Must Play

Fast forward to 1995 and Killer Instinct was ported from arcade to the Super Nintendo, which may have in fact been the console’s swan song. Nintendo 64 was released the following year, bringing state-of-the-art graphics to the table. However, for the time being, Killer Instinct’s SNES release was a big deal: it managed to squeeze in the bulk of arcade thrills, stellar graphics that stretched the limits of its hardware and, more importantly, allowed my relationship with Orchid to bloom in the comfort of my own room. 

Understand, it’s not like I was simply obsessing over Killer Instinct. On the contrary, I was juggling a plethora of fighting game franchises: Street Fighter 2 Turbo, Tekken and Mortal Kombat. Naturally, Killer Instinct borrowed heavily from Mortal Kombat’s gory Fatalities and Street Fighter’s ability to choose your fighter out of a bevy of warriors, but certain elements stood out from the crowd. 

There’s a thread of humour and lightness that exists. For one, the “Humiliation” move at the end of a successful match forces your rival to dance to some up-tempo music, which just looks ridiculous (except for Combo, who can actually get down).  Moreover, the Finisher moves weren’t bloody enough to be traumatic, and occasionally slipped into the realm of slapstick, including Orchid’s.

Killer Instinct Nintendo Switch Online
Screenshot: GameSpew

As she’s apparently endowed with magical powers, Orchid has the ability to turn her adversary into a frog that looks suspiciously like Winky from Donkey Kong Country. Additionally, when engaging in her infamous “flash” move, the act will occasionally force the recipient’s eyes to bulge like an animated salacious wolf in a Tex Avery cartoon. Pure comedy gold. 

While the begrudging inclusion of a single female character in games may feel obligatory and even sexist at times, Orchid’s place into an all-male universe is augmented by her objectively superior moves. In fact, her skill set is such that I recommend greenhorns start with her to gain confidence, and seasoned vets utilise her to see how many combos they can rack up – like in this insane clip.

Now playable on Switch thanks to Nintendo Switch Online, Killer Instinct may feel dated and out of place at first, but after a few playthroughs, I slipped back into the groove. I’ve been in my element dealing out beatings to Sabrewulf, Riptor, Spinal and any other human or robot that gets in my way. 

After a lifetime of Killer Instinct’s kick-punch-block gameplay, I’m still sticking with Orchid not for old times sake, but because I want to win. 

Guest contributor // Joshua Furr's problematic obsessions with video games and pop culture have hounded him since the early 90s. A fierce disciple of Nintendo, his tastes bounce around from AAA games like Tears of the Kingdom to indie darlings like Hollow Knight, Stardew Valley and Cuphead. When he's not clacking away, you can find him in the kitchen, playing Mario Wonder with his kiddos or doing some light jogging.