Gotta Go Fast — the Month of March in Speedruns

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 upon, 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. Please consider this introduction your SPOILER WARNING, too. Now: time to go fast!

March saw some great achievements in speedrunning. World Records continue to be traded on Celeste, while Mario 3 randomiser races on Twitch have been gathering viewers, with the final round aiming to grace the front page. And although it's not classed as a speedrun per se, fans of the Dark Souls trilogy were rocked when The Happy Hob finally completed his 'no-hit' run of all three games back to back. There were a few stand out moments from the month of March, each for different reasons.

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth

The Binding of Isaac is a game that is perfectly pitched for speedrunners, due to the nature of its randomisation and the combination of items. The number of characters and completion routes allow for many different categories, which is helpful as the Any% time is likely to never be beaten due to the combo of Isaac's Heart and Blood Rights – spamming the second item kills enemies in hardly any time, while the damage that should be done to the player character is cancelled out by the passive immunity of having your heart outside your body. Hey, I don't make the rules! One of the hardest characters to use is The Keeper, because despite having Triple Shot to start, he doesn't use hearts for health; he uses coins and can never have more than two. This mostly means two hits and it's game over.

Runner Niko Bellic [he finally left Liberty City then — ed] managed to find the ideal seed for their run. They start out by collecting Epic Fetus and Ipecac which make for triple explosions at high power; this is followed by finding a shop which holds the Piggy Bank and Nun's Habit. Both of these items meant that, if Niko took a hit, his character would drop a coin or the habit would charge the active item – Wooden Nickel – and he could spawn one. With this combination unlocked, it was simply a matter of hitting the sacrifice room and trading health for battles with the angels, thereby giving him the keys and teleporting to Mega Satan.

The beauty of this run comes from the items. Any one of those could be removed and the run wouldn't have happened. The key to success was being able to constantly replenish health alongside the sheer amount of damage dealt by each of the missiles being dropped. You can see how few hits the last phase of Mega Satan requires, a fitting climax for a unique speedrun.

Super Mario Bros. 3

I highly doubt that a month will pass without the inclusion of a Mario game in these highlights. With so many different titles and categories, Mario is constantly being used by speedrunners to test their skill. MitchFlowerPower is one of the top few players in the world at speedrunning Mario 3 on the NES. He knows the game inside out; the intricacies that come with pixel-perfect timing, overworld selection of levels and the map movements of Hammer Bros, which is key to a fast playthrough. If Mitch doesn't know it, it's either not worth knowing or hasn't been found yet.

This run was a success because of Mitch's ability to rely on his muscle memory in tight situations, but not only that. Mario 3 is very RNG (Random Number Generation) heavy; the Hammer Bros, in particular, can ruin a run if they don't move into the correct areas of the overworld map. If they stand in the player's way, it results in a fight which, of course, takes more time. Even then, you can have an ideal run playing out and reach the last world where hands reach out of the lava to trigger extra fights on the way to Bowser. These are all completely random and can kill a run with ease.

I think Mitch would admit that some RNG luck was on his side for this run. Many of the movements from Hammer Bros were ideal, leaving him to pass through areas and save time. However, let's not doubt the skill on display; skip to 30:04 and watch as Mitch clips through the wall at the start of 7-1 on his first try. That's pixel perfect.

There are so many highlights in this run, but to see skill and memory teamed up, the fort at 33:24 is inspiring. Mitch shaved just two seconds from the previous world record, so just one hand popping up from the lava could have killed this spectacular run. You can see from the moment he breezes through to the final world, his nerves are jangling and it only heightens the excitement until the moment where he questions “did I do it?” and relief washes over him as he hits the final split and walks off camera elated.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

MetroidVania titles are another style of game that attracts speedrunners, usually due to the number of technical movements, plethora of items and, often, skips that remove large chunks of gameplay. Many of these are featured in Talic Zealot's world record run of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. After obtaining the Soul of Bat at 11:20, he proceeds to clip through a staircase while manipulating the map, skipping several screens. This is after he has shown off some extreme menuing while in the shop.

Castlevania: SotN is very much based on movement tech, ensuring a continual backdash for the fastest movement through sections. Displaying the keystrokes on screen, you can see how furiously Talic's fingers are tapping in order to pull off the ideal movement. The run is short, but full of action; enemies are slain in the blink of an eye and it all culminates in Dracula being humiliated in a matter of seconds.

Tomb Raider

Lara Croft is back in cinemas, shooting faces and jumping over things. Of course, the movie is missing some key ingredients of the original game: dinosaurs and rampaging Gorillas. A few of these give Becky some trouble in moments of this run, but it doesn't stop her from completing the game in just over an hour using glitches. Her goal is sub 1:07, for now, but she has her eyes on the world record, “my sum of best is sub 1:07 now. The WR holder (an awesome guy from Finland named Footi) recently beat his PB too with a 1:02:42”

Becky started out running Tomb Raider glitchless and learned a lot of strategies for the game there, however, she found playing the Glitch category a lot more fun. After her decision to move over it took her around a week to learn the extra tricks needed for the category. Her video and stream are incredibly relaxed and she shows little pressure when playing, often talking to her chat room while maintaining focus. However, there are parts of this run that push her, even if the nerves don't show: “There are a couple of levels that are very technical and can lose you a lot of time in the run — Colosseum has a flicker glitch that has to be really precise and I always kinda dread it, and Tomb of Tihocan has a water glitch which is probably one of the trickiest to perform in the game (personally).”

There's hope that Tomb Raider will find its way into the next GDQ, and when combined with the release of the film, we should hopefully see a few more runners picking up this title and aiming for that world record. Could we see a sub one hour in the future? Becky is optimistic, “Since January there have been a couple of skips found — the save/load bug that stops the water current in Sanctuary and saves 15-20 seconds — so it's possible it could get close to sub hour if any new skips are found - but with current strats a 1:01 would probably be the limit.”

Getting Over It

This is downright ludicrous. So many people have tried to conquer this surreal title that popped up out of nowhere earlier this year. Frustrations were had and players gave up as they attempted to navigate an obstacle course of jumbled objects. Playing Getting Over It with speed is a show of incredible precision and Mohida managed to finish the game in just 1:37:970 and that was achieved with mistakes – missing the wall bracket at 0:35 and a small skid on the ice at 1:27 - it's obvious that this time could drop by another handful of seconds.

Relying on the minute movements needed for the stair skip (see below) and the speed in which they climb the ice-encrusted mountain, boosting off of the hanging bucket, it's clear that Mohida has burned sweeping mouse movements into their muscle memory. While this run doesn't have any stand out moments, aside from the occasional slip which could keep you on the edge of your seat, it's a spectacle to watch.

Upcoming speedrun events for April are looking exciting, with two major themed marathons, Calithon back for four days, and a huge Retro game extravaganza:

Grand Theft Auto marathon runs 4-8th April

Calithon kicks off on April 12th and runs until April 15th

A Zelda marathon runs April 13th - 15th

And finally, Retrothon will showcase over 200 retro titles, April 22nd - 29th