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Killer Instinct Combos and Ultra Combos Guide

Want to know how to combo in Killer Instinct for Xbox One? USgamer gives you the skinny on the basics.

This article first appeared on USgamer, a partner publication of VG247. Some content, such as this article, has been migrated to VG247 for posterity after USgamer's closure - but it has not been edited or further vetted by the VG247 team.

So you've gotten your Xbox One hooked up and you've downloaded Killer Instinct, since it's free! Even with just Jago at your disposal, you're about to take a long trip down the rabbit hole. People were worried about Double Helix bringing back a fighter loved more for its nostalgia than its technical mastery, but the studio has delivered an excellent game that should fit right into the fighting game community.

But how do you play the damn game? USgamer is here to help you with a short beginner's guide to Killer Instinct!

The Very Basics

Somehow you've gotten this far without understanding all the buttons you're hitting. Fair enough. Here's a short rundown of each button and how they correspond to the Xbox One controller:

  • Light Punch (LP) - X
  • Medium Punch (MP) - Y
  • Heavy Punch (HP) - Right Bumper
  • Light Kick (LK) - A
  • Medium Kick (MK) - B
  • Heavy Kick (HK) - Right Trigger
  • All Three Punches (3P) - Left Bumper
  • All Three Kicks (3K) - Left Trigger

If you've played Capcom's Street Fighter series, Killer Instinct's control scheme should look familiar. Blocking is the same as it is in that series: hold Back or Down+Back. This is important if you don't want to take every hit on the chin.

Like this guy

Building Your Combos

While the game may play like Street Fighter on the surface, Killer Instinct is based around combos. In fact, KI is so built around combos that there's two types of damage: Instant and Potential Damage. Instant Damage happens when you hit your opponent. Potential Damage is the part of your opponent's lifebar that flashes white while you're doing a combo. If you don't finish your combo correctly, the Potential Damage goes away. The longer your combo, the more Potential Damage you deal. That means the difference between 5 percent and 45 percent of your opponent's lifebar is properly finishing your combo!

The Killer Instinct combo path goes like this: Opener > Auto-Double> Linker > Auto-Double > Ender

Let's dive into Openers, which is how you start any combo. Specific special moves that each character has are also openers, with the full list below (all motions assume your character is facing right):


  • Wind Kick: ? ? ? + (Any Punch)
  • Laser Sword: ? ? ? + (Any Kick)


  • Ragged Edge: ?? + (Any Punch)
  • Run/Hamstring: ?? + (Any Kick), then LP or LK
  • Run/Jumping Slash: ?? + (Any Kick), then MP or MK


  • Flick Flack: ? ? ? + (Any Kick)
  • Ichi ni San Light: ? ? ? + LP, Hit LP again, Hit MP a third time
  • Ichi Ni San Medium: ? ? ? + MP, Hit MP again, Hit MP a third time
  • Blockade Runner: ? ? ? + (Any Kick)


  • Ice Lance: ? + MP
  • Cold Shoulder: ? ? ? + (Any Kick)
  • Puddle Punch: ? ? ? + (Any Kick)
  • Shatter: ? ? ? + (Any Punch)


  • Blade Demon: ? ? ? + (Any Punch)
  • Recluse: ? ? ? + (Any Kick)
  • Widow’s Bite: In the air ? ? ? + (Any Punch)


  • Triplax ? ? ? + (Any Punch)
  • Ankle Slicer ? ? ? + (Any Kick)
  • Back Throw ? + LP+LK

Your next step is throwing an Auto-Double in there. Auto-Doubles do two attacks in quick succession and are performed by hitting any attack button. They're the condiment of your combo sandwich: they're just there to transition from one shiny move to another.

You may also heard veteran Killer Instinct players talk about Manuals. These are attacks you can swap in for Auto-Doubles in a combo. Manuals differ for each character and the timing is very strict. The benefit of using a Manual is that your opponent can only break your combo when they connect, which is a much shorter time frame than an Auto-Double. But that's veteran stuff, so let's move onto Linkers.

Linkers are special moves that keep your combo string going. The list of Linkers is exactly the same as the list of Openers, but they cannot be performed with Heavy Punch (HP) or Heavy Kick (HK). Using either of those buttons will perform an Ender instead.

Linkers vary in number of hits depending on the button you use to perform them. Using a Light Punch (LP) or Light Kick (LK) for your Linker results in one hit. Using a Medium Punch (LP) or Medium Kick (LK) will give you a two-hit Linker. To get a three-hit Linker, you can use any button, but you have to hold it down instead of tapping it. Why should you switch? Because the longer your linker, the longer the chance your opponent has to break your combo.

Finally, the special moves you use to end a combo are appropriately called Enders. For most of the characters, any of their special moves performed with Heavy Punch (HP) or Heavy Kick (HK) will end a combo.

Each Ender has a special combo property, giving you more chances to hurt your opponent. 'Wall Bounce' means you opponent is shoved against the stage wall and bounces off. 'Juggle State' Enders knock your opponent in the air for further combo action. 'Max Meter Gain' adds the most energy to your Shadow Meter and 'Max Damage' does what it says on the tin: you inflict the most damage on your opponent. As you start to master Killer Instinct, you'll rely on these Enders as different tools of the trade.


  • Wind Kick: ? ? ? + HK(Wall Bounce)
  • Laser Sword: ? ? ? + HP (Juggle State)
  • Endokuken: ? ? ? + HP (Max Meter Gain)
  • Tiger Fury: ? ? ? + HP (Max Damage)


  • Ragged Edge: ?? + HP (Wall Bounce)
  • Run/Uppercut: ?? + (Any Kick), then HP or HK (Juggle State)
  • Eclipse: ? ? + HP (Max Damage)


  • Flick Flack: ? ? ? + HK (Juggle State)
  • Ichi Ni San: ? ? ? + HP, Hit HP again, Hit HP a third time (Juggle State)
  • Blockade Runner: ? ? ? + HK (Wall Bounce)
  • Air Buster: ? ? ? + HK (Max Damage)


  • Hail: ? ? ? + HP (Juggle State)
  • Cold Shoulder: ? ? ? + HK (Wall Bounce)
  • Puddle Punch: ? ? ? + HK (Max Damage)
  • Shatter: ? ? ? + HP (Max Meter Gain)


  • Blade Demon: ? ? ? + HP (Juggle State)
  • Recluse: ? ? ? + HK (Juggle State)


  • Triplax: ? ? ? + HP (Wall Bounce)
  • Call of the Earth: ? ? ? + HP (Max Damage)
  • Ankle Slicer: ? ? ? + HK (Max Meter Gain)
  • Sammamish: ? ? ? + HP (Juggle State)

The Next Level: Combo Breakers, Lock Outs, The KV Meter, and Shadow Moves

So now you know how to perform a combo. Welcome to the family! Let's dive a bit deeper into Killer Instinct now.

What happens when you're trapped in your opponent's unfair combo? You need to Combo Break that mess! Combo Breakers are performed by hitting any two attack buttons of the same strength at the same time: Light Punch (LP) + Light Kick (LK), Medium Punch (MP) + Medium Kick (MK), or Heavy Punch (HP) + Heavy Kick (HK). You have to match the strength of the Opener, Auto, Linker, or Ender being used against you. For example, if Jago is using an MP Laser Sword as a Linker against you, you can break his combo with Medium Punch (MP) + Medium Kick (MK). This is why using long Linkers or sticking with the same combos is a bad thing: once an opponent can read you, they can break your combos with ease.

If you fail a Combo Breaker input, you're subject to a Lock Out. When a Lock Out happens an X appears above your head followed by an exclamation mark, and you're prevented from doing anything for three or four seconds. This can be a learning experience though: a yellow X means you mistimed your Combo Breaker, while using the wrong strength of Combo Breaker results in a red X.

When you start a combo, the KV (Knockdown Value) Meter appears. When the meter fills, your opponent is pushed away and the combo ends automatically. Heavy Auto-Doubles build the KV Meter slower than Medium and Light attacks because they're easier to Combo Break. Faster combos that are more difficult to break fill the KV meter up faster. Using Manuals or Shadow Moves don't add to the KV meter at all! If you're nearing a full KV Meter, don't be afraid to use an Ender to finish the combo. You don't want to lose all that Potential Damage!

Next in our quick look into the basics of Killer Instinct we'll cover Shadow Moves. Down at the bottom of your screen is the Shadow Meter. This is filled by attacking your opponent: a block fills the meter more than a hit does, and 'Max Meter Gain' Enders add a great deal to the meter. The meter fills in two areas and you can spend either of these 'stocks' to do a Shadow Move.

Shadow Moves are done by performing any special move with two attack buttons. For example, Jago's Shadow Wind Kick can be performed by doing the ? ? ? motion and hitting Light Kick (LK) + Medium Kick (MK), Medium Kick (MK) + Heavy Kick (HK), or Light Kick (LK) + Heavy Kick (HK). Shadow Moves all count for five hits. They can be used as Openers and Linkers, or Enders depending on the move, so experiment! Like I said before, Shadow Moves do not add to the KV Meter, so they're great to use as Linkers to extend your combo!

Ultra Combos

We'll end our looking into the basics of Killer Instinct with the Ultra Combo. Ultra Combos are computer-performed high-hit combos used at the end of a match. When your opponent's health is at 15 percent or less, you perform each character's specific Ultra as a Combo Ender. These moves are usually one of your special moves with all three Punch or Kick buttons.


Ultra Combo: ? ? ? + 3P


Ultra Combo: ?? + 3P


Ultra Combo ? ? ? + 3K


Ultra Combo: ? ? ? + 3P


Ultra Combo ? ? ? + 3P


Ultra Combo ? ? ? + 3P

And that's only the beginning of your journey into Killer Instinct! Hope you enjoy it and maybe perform a sweet Ultra Combo on some unsuspecting fool! If you do, save it and upload your glory for all to see!

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor, USgamer

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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