I started writing about Killer Instinct Gold, which led to this…

I have this funny thing about skeletons.  I find them simultaneously scary and delightful.  I’m pretty sure this stemmed from seeing the classic Jason and the Argonauts at a young age.  Ray Harryhaussen’s stop-motion skeletons in that movie were simply fascinating, if evil and angry.

From YouTube user Joe Giardino, with added audio

The way they climbed out of the earth, fought, hissed, and seemed to interact with the live actors was intense.  So real, yet so unreal!  Their supernatural ability to move with muscle or skin was mesmerizing.  I was also down with cartoon animated skeletons in just about any form (Skeletor, Disney skeletons, Bugs Bunny Halloween stuff, etc.). And don’t even get me started on dinosaur skeletons.

Still, human and human-esque skeletons are the one and only movie monster that sends shivers down my spine.  Tarman from Return of the Living Dead?  OMFG. Scary. (It’s a classic great/terrible movie, but still.)  The dying master of the Skeksis race in the Dark Crystal? Death and disintegration! Spooky.

As might be expected, my thing with skeletons spilled over into gaming.  Any skeletal stuff in the DOOM games, like those Lost Souls, sufficiently creeped me out.

This is so not good. (source)

And those awful Hollow Men from the Fable games…oh man oh man.  Some lumbering and some chased, but they all had weapons and those horrible, horrible glowing eyes.

Haha, fooled you!
But you should be just as scared of this movie. (source)

If you couldn’t care less at this point, you may be asking, “So what is all this ridiculousness about skeletons is leading to??” Well, it’s all about one game:

Killer Instinct Gold cover art © Rare, Nintendo (source)

And one character:

SPINAL! (source)

Now, this guy, Spinal, he was something else.  Of all the characters in Rare’s 1996 N64 gem, my most favorite and most played turned out to be Spinal, a skeleton that bore a striking resemblance to those Jason and the Argonauts skeletons from so many years ago.  He even had a sword and a shield and a super-cool bandana.  I loved playing as him.  And he did not scare me; he scared others with his especially insane augh.

Spinal’s story was your typical reanimation-through-experimentation-by-an-evil-agency sort of thing.  He could kick and punch with the best of them, had a series of special moves, and most importantly, he could teleport.  Er, “skeleport.”  Oh, I sucked at teleporting Dhalsim on Street Fighter alright, but I was a master of the Spinal’s skeleport.  He could skeleport in front of you, behind you, and in mid-air.  There was nothing better that surprising an opponent with the skeleport and then dealing the damning final blow.

Don’t get me wrong here, I love me some Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom, but KI Gold, this was the fighting game for me.  I became legitimately good at it.  And I took my time playing through with each character, learning their moves, strengths, and weaknesses.  I really liked the control scheme, which was similar to Street Fighter, but, oddly enough, I also really liked using the N64 controller, which I’d never used before for a fighting game.  My hands didn’t get as tired as they did when grasping an SNES or Playstation controller.  And I loved watching the characters move in Rare’s trademark “3D” graphics and environments. And oh those characters!  I loved that they ranged from human to animal to supernatural.  While some folks cooed over the anatomically impossible female fighters such as Maya and B. Orchid, others joined the cybernetic ranks with Fulgore, and still others preferred the beasts such as Riptor and Sabrewulf.  But my guy?  Yep, Spinal.  Skeletal radicalness.

KI Gold was a really great fighting game for a console that was known for just about anything but.  Spinal didn’t exactly get me over my feelings towards movie skeletons, but I’m glad Rare didn’t give him eyes. Big, round, scary human eyes like Tarman….  Oh crap!  I shouldn’t have brought him up again. It’s almost bedtime and now I can’t unseen him. His boney, skinless face, his ooey gooey texture, his jagged open mouth, and those eyes…those wide, chilling, soul crushing eyes…

From YouTube user adamv2.  I’m sorry.  It’s unpleasant, and you shouldn’t watch it.  There’s also a very brief NSFW moment, but it doesn’t matter.  Don’t watch it, like I said.


  1. Bwaha, skeleport! Never played that game, so no comment there. But, as far as skeletons go, I don’t think I’m as afraid of them myself. I would be if one chased me, but I’m not as afraid of them in movies or games. I’m more freaked out by zombies and mummies. They’re like, pre-skeletons. And dolls are scary. But, the Blue Bubbles from the N64 “Zelda” games freaked me out so much. Y’know, the skeleton heads with the little wings and the blue flames around them. Scared me so much in the past, when I first saw them. And I remember the scene where the Skeksis emperor dies. I first saw the movie 15 years ago, then a second time recently, and that’s the main scene that stuck with me all these years.


    1. I do remember those Blue Bubbles, and what freaky things they were! Zombies and mummies don’t bug me as much as one might think. I think my first introduction to scary (human) skeletons was through books called Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I have no idea how they got into my house, but I loved scary stuff as a kid, and the drawings of skeletal characters in those books were super creepy. But then I started having terrible nightmares about those creatures and I avoided the books like the plague. It’s been 20+ years and I still get a little nervous when I see those illustrations.


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