You hop on the YouTube, maybe to see some footage of a newly released game, or to take a trip down memory lane by watching some old classic, and you see some videos in the search results that have “speedrun” in the title. Sometimes they’ll have “any%” or some other ungodly symbol tacked onto it. What is going on, you ask? Well, we’re here to answer all your questions.
What Is Speedrunning?
The name itself makes it self-evident – a speedrun is completing a game in the fastest time possible. Of course, this answer just creates more questions. Most of us, even playing through games that we consider ourselves experts at, can’t come close to some of the times that you’ll see with just a quick YouTube search. Take this run of world record run of Super Mario Bros. for example:
Watching this, people will be quick to cry foul: how is he not getting hit by piranhas? How is he making certain jumps? How is he doing certain warps that, when I try them, I end up in a different location? It must be hacks! He busted out the GameShark! It’s CHEATING!!!
Believe it or not, everything in that video is considered perfectly fair and “legal” by speedrunning rules. In fact, everything can be explained by the game’s engine and how to use it – and abuse it.
The Rules Of Speedrunning
The rules of speedrunning are quite simple – if you can do something in the game’s engine, it’s considered fair play. Any glitches, skips, or tricks that you can pull of by manipulating game mechanics are at your disposal to get the fastest run time. While this might seem like a cheap tactic, many glitches are insanely difficult to pull off, requiring frame-perfect inputs just to pull off one trick. With games running at 60 frames per second, these moves are very easy to mess up, meaning more time is added to your speedrun. For those attempting world record runs, missing those one-frame inputs is the difference between victory and defeat.
Things that are not considered legal in speedrunning are the use of any cheats, mods, or any tampering with the console or game itself.
Of course, using glitches and tricks to abuse the game’s engine and get an absurdly low runtime might seem stagnant for some, and it might only test one aspect of a player’s skillset towards a particular game. This is why games generally have at least two categories – ”Any%” and “100%” – as well as categories specific to whatever game is being played.
If you see “any%” in the title of a speedrun, you know you’re in for a quick treat. The goal of these types of run is simple: beat the game as quickly as possible, using any glitches and tricks at your disposal.
With some games, you’ll see some incredibly fast gameplay along with some mechanic abusing that most people won’t be aware of. Remember – if it can be done in the game, it’s available for use. While this can make for a great viewing experience for some games, such as Super Mario Bros. where the difference between world records is deep in the decimals, there are certain games where this leads to…questionable enjoyment.
This looks crazy the first time you see it, but it’s hard to really grow on it. On top of that, it’s not necessarily challenging to do. Part of the appeal of a good Any% speedrun is seeing people pull off frame-perfect moves and difficult tricks under pressure to complete games in absurd times.
This requires a plethora of impressive maneuvers that command respect. It also serves as a great way to introduce people to speedrunning, as it makes people wonder “How the Hell do you do THAT?!”
Any speedrun with “100%” in the title will be a longer viewing experience, but it might be more enjoyable for those who want to see their favorite game get played by a master. While certain glitches and exploits might still be in play for some games, most 100% speedruns focus on whatever is quick and efficient rather than solely game-skipping tricks, since the game must be completed in its entirety. For a game like Super Mario 64, this means getting all 120 stars before finishing the game.
While this is noticeably longer than the 0-star run, this time is absurdly low considering how long it might take the average person to cheese through the game. In a 100% speedrun, you will see every part of the game dissected down to the frame, and the end result is an incredible treat to watch.
Depending on the game and how it can be played, different rules and handicaps can be put in place to create a unique challenge for the speedrunners. This usually results in a speedrun that’s not only impressive due to the runtime, but also because it incorporates factors that were previously thought to be impossible. A couple examples include:
It’s quite common for Legend of Zelda speedrunners to do a “swordless” speedrun, where they never pick up a sword for Link to use. Being the go-to weapon for fighting and solving puzzles, this presents a very different approach to the game – and yet people have still figured out how to complete various Zelda games without the blade.
For role-playing games, a common type of speedrun is the “no levelling up” run (or low-level run). The general goal across the board is that you have to avoid, whenever possible, gathering any experience or participating in any fights/missions that will level your character up, while still going through and beating the game. While the idea of running away from every possible fight and avoiding side/key missions might seem more boring than riveting, watching people defeat incredibly tough bosses with entry-level characters is a sight to behold.
Speedrunning is a wonderful aspect of competitive gaming. Our favorite games are picked apart and completed with such a degree of skill and polish that you can’t help but be in awe. Start out your speedrunning binge by googling any game of your choice and seeing what speedruns are available – you’re bound to stumble upon something great.