Speedrunning is as popular as it's ever been. No longer relegated to a small corner of a convention game room, the speedrunning community has exploded in recent years and brought the concept of beating a video game as fast as possible to the mainstream. It's not just the wonderful Awesome Games Done Quick events every year-- there are countless new games (Undertale and Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, to name a few) that specifically reward players who choose to speedrun them.
So with Summer Games Done Quick right around the corner on July 3rd, it's a great time to pay tribute to the games that speedrunners always seem to come back to.
The speedrunning community owes a lot to this game. Super Metroid was and remains one of the most popular games to speedrun because it was one of the first to allow players to "sequence-break". Since Super Metroid is such an open game and power-ups are scattered all across the map, progression is linked to when and in what order these power-ups are collected. Sequence-breaking occurs when a player, either using glitches or pure skill, is able to skip a "required" power-up or sequence in order to complete the game faster.
Because there are so many power-ups in Super Metroid, and so many different paths to take, going for a speedrun at any completion level offers huge potential for creativity in how to tackle obstacles.
And that's not even mentioning the ridiculous 100% completion speedruns. There are so many different ways to speedrun Super Metroid, and so many different viable ways to attack each speedrun, it's really no surprise that it's still a mainstay for the community.
Whereas Super Metroid sticks around in the speedrunning scene because of its open nature, Super Mario Bros. sticks around for the exact opposite reason. Speedrunning Super Mario Bros. is a fairly linear experience. The best path through the game has been mapped out many times. The challenge this game offers speedrunners is the pursuit of perfection.
It's almost like an Olympic sprint in that fractions of a second often make the difference between a record-breaking run and one that does not, so speedrunners shave those precious moments off of their time whenever they can, keeping their momentum, making pixel-perfect jumps, and generally entering a supreme state of concentration and flow. It's cathartic to watch as well, especially since speedruns of the game generally hover around 5 minutes due to all of the warps.
Of course, a big reason that The Legend Of Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time is on this list is that it is often hailed as the best game ever made. But Link's debut on the Nintendo 64 has so much more to offer to speedrunners apart from nostalgia and great gameplay.
Like Super Metroid, speedrunners of Ocarina of Time must be creative and sequence-break in order to post a quick time. However, what sets Ocarina of Time apart is the plethora of glitches and techniques that players can use to increase move speed and fly across the map. Many Nintendo 64 games, and other games from the first generation of 3D gaming, are favorites of the speedrunning community for this reason. Since the technology was not perfected yet, there are plenty of exploits for speedrunners to find. This not only makes for good times, it also means you can finally skip that damn water temple.
Now, if we're talking about sequence-breaking and games that have countless glitches and exploits that allow for insanely fast completion, Super Mario 64 needs to enter the conversation at some point. As you can see above, sequence-breaking can allow a skilled player to beat this game in under 6 minutes. And if you've been paying attention, you know that those times are only about a minute slower than the fastest times for the original Super Mario Bros. on NES.
In addition to these "sprint" runs of Super Mario 64, the variety the game offers in terms of levels and objectives makes 100% speedruns unique as well. In particular, the fact that each stage features a star that can only be earned after 100 coins are collected means that players must plan their paths through each stage in creative ways, using all of the movement options that Super Mario 64 has to offer.
Spelunky is an odd case. Since it is procedurally generated, there will always be an element of luck to any Spelunky speedrun. Having said that, however, this randomness means that speedrunners need to constantly be on their toes. They cannot rely on rote memorization, and must use their general knowledge of the game and how level seeds are usually assembled to set new records.
Though Spelunky is not as popular as the previous games on this list, its following in the speedrunning community is surprisingly loyal, and that's due to the fact that, quite literally, speedrunning the game is a completely unique experience, mixing luck and raw skill.
And now for something completely different. I Wanna Be The Guy is notorious for its difficulty -- and that, of course, enticed the hardcore speedrunning community. Whereas Spelunky trades on its uniqueness and random level generation, I Wanna Be The Guy's cache in the speedrunning world comes from the fact that the game, at heart, is all about pattern recognition.
For speedrunners, this game is everything they love about speedrunning Super Mario Bros., just dialed up to 11. Yes, the game is insanely difficult, but the paths through and around each obstacle are decently clear, so it's a matter of stringing together that one perfect run and entering that zen-like flow state. Plus, at the end of the day, it's just insanely satisfying for viewers to see a game like this taken down that fast.
What's your favorite game to speedrun? Let us know in the comments! And hey, if you can't get enough speedrunning, make sure to check out our guide on how to speedily run through Dashes in Mirror's Edge Catalyst!