Gotta Go Fast!

By Daniel Lipscombe on at

As is the nature of speedruns, there's a slight chance that runs showcased here may have already been improved, especially on newer titles. It's also worth noting that any and all videos should be considered NSFW due to strong language and topics of discussion, and contain spoilers for the games involved. Now, time to go fast.

Speedrunning is bigger than ever. Discord servers flourish with discussion. The communities behind running the games keep growing thanks to events like Games Done Quick and every week there are great runs being featured on Twitch and YouTube. Speedrunning is about variety; while some players will stick to one title but cycle through different ways to play, others will hop from game to game. There's so much to explore within this corner of video games, but let's start with some great recent world record runs.

Considering Celeste is on the minds of most people at the moment because of scoring incredibly well in reviews, it would be remiss not to include it here. Cosmicsense's run is the current world record and a wonder to watch. Celeste running is in constant improvement; Cosmicsense at one point broke the world record twice in one session of play. Due to the twitchy nature of the platforming, the difficulty and the precision needed for movement, it's easy to drop crucial seconds.

The beauty of this particular run is that the first three levels feature mistakes and yet he still secured an improvement on the world record. It's safe to say that should the perfect run occur, we could easily see another fifteen seconds stripped from this time.

The developers knew Celeste would become a big title for speedrunners – this is not only shown in the inclusion of an in-game clock, but the devs themselves spent a lot of time running the game to throw down a gauntlet for the community. The tech on show in each run is an incredible show of finger moving speed, as runners juggle grabbing walls, dashing through the air and boost dashing to bypass sections. Cosmic is one of the cleanest runners on Celeste right now, and it shows in his movement tech and also how hard he is on himself when things don't work out.

Mario is a staple in the community of speedrunning, it's easily picked up by anyone due to the simple controls, but it's one of the harder games to master. There are many ways to run with the Nintendo mascot, through the many iterations of the games and the categories available, but this video focuses on the SNES classic, Super Mario World. Katun24 was not happy with just running any% or a standard 11 Exit strategy, he decided that he would do the latter in the dark. Blindfold at the ready and all the strats in mind, Katun24 took a deep breath, covered his eyes and ran.

“I like challenges in gaming that go beyond just playing them casually. Visual speedrunning would seem the obvious answer, but what I like most about blindfolded runs is the excitement of having to do the whole project from scratch.” says Katun24 about why he loves to run while blind. When we asked him why he enjoyed the challenge he said “it's a matter of treating the game like a puzzle, trying to find consistent strats for every part of the run and figuring out optimal routes, which might be very different from those in visual speedruns too. Secondly, long blindfolded runs can be very relaxing - it's like a form of self-hypnosis.”

Of course, when he's running he can't see what he's doing right and what has gone wrong, so it's only afterwards, when he watches back his run, that he can rate his performance. “Usually the mistakes I make in runs are because the strats are not accurate enough, so then it's a matter of tweaking them. For example, I'd use the rhythm of the background music often to time movement correctly. If this one jump after 6.5 beats of walking sends me down into a pit, I'd try 6.25 beats.” Katun24 believes there is still time to find in this run, but thinks “Having a time below 12:10 would require a number of very risky strats and then being lucky enough to pull them all off in a single run.” Not content with making Mario look easy, his next challenges are Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Metroid Prime and Portal 2.

Spelunky speedruns are an art form. There are few games that combine tight jumps, precise movement and heart-in-mouth moments like a Spelunky run. When it comes to these, you need to be watching Kinnijup. Twice featured at Awesome Games Done Quick, Kinni recently broke the world record for one of the hardest categories, a Hell run. Kinni never knows what category he's going to run when he hits start – it's decided as he moves and scans the levels; “Most Spelunky runs start off Low% (starting items and health only). The almost guaranteed shop in 1-2 sometimes allows for an Any% run, though. In addition to a nice shop, the leaves of the secret Black Market entrance sticking out in 2-3 allowed me to turn this specific seed into a fast Hell run.”

For this run, Kinni was lucky to find that early shop on 1-2 with both a jetpack and a teleporter. This enabled him to move through levels with astonishing speed, relying on his instincts to dodge enemies and obstacles that would put fear into any casual player. “A big reason Spelunky appeals to me is it is based more on reactions and instinct than it is on muscle memory or rote gameplay. This is because of the massive amount of RNG. You get many familiar layouts so you can use a good bit of muscle memory too - Spelunky does a fantastic job at integrating the two.”

It's made even faster when he reaches the black market and finds the compass, which points out the exit. With hairy moments in 4-1 as he takes a hit from an angry shopkeeper and in 5-1, with another hit taking him down to just one point of energy. “I knew I needed some super fast Hell levels and a fast Yama fight to beat my old 3:36 from 2016, so I didn't let getting to 1 HP hinder my play.” It makes for an exciting display.

Human: Fall Flat is a ludicrous game of button combinations and out of the box thinking when played casually. It's an unforgiving title; if you miss a button press, huge amounts of progress can be lost. Retr0virus11_ has managed to master the movement in a game where the avatar moves like a drunken child. This makes for a run that is both impressive and amusing. There's no way you can watch this game without smirking.

The most interesting factor here is that to exit each level, there's no need to actually open the door at the end of the maps. As you'll see, Retr0virus11_ takes advantage of this, exiting each level by moving around the scenery and jumping into the next map, cutting out practically every puzzle. There's some great movement here, too – the limbo under a door, squeezing through bars and jump-climbing walls with perfect button timing.

A lot of people may already know of Halfcoordinated from his tear-jerking showing of Momodora at SGDQ 2016. Sometimes called “The Mr Rogers of Speedrunning” - a reference to a much-loved American TV host and personality - his streams and videos are always full of love and a passion for speedrunning. This run of HOB isn't notable for new skips or clutch tech moments, it's notable for Halfcoordinated's enthusiasm and skill level. On top of that, HOB is generally a very pretty game with a moveset that is smooth and fluid, which makes it interesting to watch.

“The speedrun itself tends to apply a small subset of techniques to a wide variety of situations, so there isn't an overwhelming amount of different abilities to learn; but mastering the precision of them becomes an enjoyable challenge.” The precision is always on display and you can hear when a tight move is pulled off – when Halfcoordinated jumps down to a cog midway through the run and his voice tightens – it shows how minimal movement can alter a run.

There is another reason behind why this kind of tech is impressive. Halfcoordinated is an inspiration for many potential speedrunners and the community as a whole, because he has a disability called Hemiparesis which lowers the co-ordination and sensation in his right side - so he plays the majority of games one handed, hence the moniker. Halfcoordinated says “I speedrun for two main reasons: to have fun and challenge myself.” That's always clear in his choices for games to play and why he continues to push himself, “In a greater sense, speedrunning is a wonderful excuse to play games I love more and to understand them in new ways.”

Speedrunning is very much about determination and consistent striving for the best. “I enjoy the very practice of improving at a skill, the effort and repetition itself that goes into that growth, and the feeling of accomplishment with that improvement along a well-defined metric: time.”