Recently I snagged a Raspberry Pi and a copy of Retropie, a stripped down Debian distro focused on emulating those beloved systems of our childhoods, purchased a SNES controller with a USB connector, and made myself an honest-to-goodness Super Nintendo, replete with all the games of my youth (it’s amazingly easy and cheap—with the controller I was only about $50 out of pocket).
My personal favorite SNES game of all time is Super Mario World. Maybe it’s first love, since the game came with the system. Maybe it’s just the feeling I got when entering the Special Zone for the first time. I can’t explain it, but nothing else could beat it for me—Donkey Kong Country was the only thing that came close.
Out of curiosity, I wanted to know what the world record was for beating the game, so I looked it up. I had assumed it was probably in the twenty or thirty minute range, if Star Road was used to cut down travel time. It’s not twenty minutes. It’s not even ten. The current fastest time from start to credits is one minute and 53 seconds—and it’s only accomplished by tricking the game into playing the credits via using the positions of shells read as code and activating that code via Yoshi eating something he was not intended to eat.
The best part? This record was only set on February 4th, 2015.
Welcome to the insane world of Any% Speedrunning.
How the hell did they figure this out?
First, let’s get this out of the way. There are runs on YouTube which are tagged “TAS”—this stands for tool-assisted superplay/speedrun. This means the uploader, in his quest to get a pixel-perfect speedrun completed, used tools to pause and position themselves optimally. I don’t think that counts. If it can’t be done in real-time by a human, I don’t care. Emulators are more of a gray area—you’re probably not cheating, but there’s no way to tell. Doing the speedrun on the original console with an original copy of the game is the purest method of speedrunning.
There are also different kinds of speedruns. Any% means you got to the credits—even if you used a glitch (or in some cases, several), you accomplished the mission. There are also glitch-free speedruns and 100% speedruns.
My personal preference is the any% speedrun, and the simple reason is ingenuity. Anyone who memorizes a walkthrough can 100% a game, and given time, you can optimize your timing to the point of getting close to breaking a record. Same with glitch-free. And typically those two types are discovered almost immediately after the game comes out.
But the glitches that make an any% speedrun a possibility can lay undiscovered for YEARS. Case in point—the credit warp which makes Super Mario World beatable within two minutes was first executed in July 2014, and only last month was it accomplished on a console by SethBling. Not bad for a game which hit the market in 1990.
Twenty-five years after its release, the world record is still being refined, and the explanation for the credit warp works can be found here.
Other games are also exploitable
In World 7-1, an invisible Pipe can be traveled to directly arrive at the Princess. The glitch is very complicated, and is mainly due to jumping to an unknown region containing an invisible Note Block, resulting in wrong instructions by the game. The game has to have the player stand at exactly 232-240 on the x-axis, jump to an exact spot, hold a specific shell, and have exact amount of enemies onscreen. The glitch is also made easier if the player is able to fly using a Leaf-related power-up, Tanooki Suit, or P-Wing, though it is not necessary. If the player manages to enter the invisible pipe, the player will glitch to Princess Peach‘s room. Bowser is never seen throughout the glitch, since the battle is skipped. This glitch is popular among speed runners.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, one of my favorite Nintendo DS games and the sequel to Aria of Sorrow, can be beaten in two minutes and 32 seconds, though in order to execute the glitch, you have to be in New Game + (it requires equipment you wouldn’t have otherwise). Similarly, Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (a predecessor on Game Boy Advance) can be beaten in about 45 seconds, but you have to enter the word “MAXIM” at the name screen to access the character you need to do it.
For those of you who know and love the Elder Scrolls series and have experienced some of their more creative glitches, it may not surprise you to know that a glitch were used to make The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind beatable in three minutes and 14 seconds.
And lest you think only retro games are being taken down in mere minutes, Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland (various platforms, including Xbox 360) can be put back in the case in five minutes and 16 seconds. The most amazing thing about this speedrun? It doesn’t require any glitches at all. It’s pure routing and prolonging tricks.
So glad I sunk hours of my life into that game…
Speed Demos Archive is a fantastic resource for verified non-TAS speedruns in every category (mind the Netscape Navigator-era web layout, though).
The innovation is still happening. Keep in mind, the world record for Super Mario World’s any% speedrun is only a week or so old. This is a game I was playing 25 years ago. Somewhere out there, someone is breaking your childhood game for internet glory. Go find them.
Which game did you labor over as a kid only to find it demolished in completion time? Let me know in the comments.