A Look At Co-op Speedrunning

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Speedrunning is a niche aspect of hardcore gaming, but once you start to dive into it, you realize just how much depth and complexity there is to the craft. Games are thoroughly dissected in the hopes of discovering any information that can shave off milliseconds. Indeed, some games have world records that are broken by just a couple of frames.

What’s unique about speedrunning is that for the most part, it’s a solo effort; at the end of the day, it’s just you and the game. How well you do, and how much time you save is dependent on your own practice and execution (pending RNG doesn’t ruin everything.) However, some games offer co-op speedrunning categories, which add a whole new element to the craft.

What Are Co-Op Speedruns

Co-op speedrunning is when there are multiple players involved in a particular speedrun. It can be using a standard co-op mode such as one found in Portal 2, or the 2nd player option in Super Mario Odyssey where the roles are much different, but nevertheless cooperative.

How these runs are done differ greatly from traditional single-player speedruns because of the importance of communication and delegation; players are encouraged to communicate to ensure things are going smoothly as well as to try and make things faster. Also, because one player isn’t responsible for pulling off all the tricks in the speedrun, delegating who does what is important to optimizing any particular run.

A good example of this in practice is Super Mario Bros. 3. SMB3 is easily one of the most popular speedrunning platformers, so much so that many subcategories and extensions have been created to accommodate the game’s popularity. One of these is the co-op categories, which involve two players.

The interesting thing about SMB3 co-op is that players alternate who’s playing every time a level is beaten. This means Player 1 will beat Level 1, Player 2 will beat Level 2, Player 1 will resume to beat Level 3, and so on.

This gets complicated because a lot of SMB3’s levels are very precise in what power-ups and strategies are needed to complete every level as fast as possible. The end result is that in co-op, which levels and which power-ups each player needs is dependent on whether they are Player 1 and Player 2.

To make things even more difficult, these things can get thrown for a loop if one of the players dies in any level, as well as if they lose a power-up necessary to complete a level. If the game was short, it might not seem as hard…but SMB3 Warpless can take close to an hour to beat if done extremely well.

Top level co-op speedruns of SMB3 are very well thought out and have both players communicating and being ready to employ alternative strategies if problems come up. There is a general gameplan, as well as enough knowledge from both players to improvise solutions to any mishaps that happen along the way. The result is a speedrun that is incredibly fun and impressive to watch.

The current world record for SMB3 Warpless Co-op can be seen here, featuring Mitchflowerpower and TheHaxor:

Be sure to check out this article for some of the best speedruns ever!