The Top 10 Most Entertaining Speedruns
There are games that are downright fun to play, and then there are games that are downright fun to play fast! Now not many of us have the patience, time, skill and resources to play like a real pro. Luckily for us folk, there are those who do. Speedrunning has quickly turned into a popular gaming ’sport’. It’s simple: beat a game, or part thereof, in as fast a time as possible. With something like Solitaire it’s not really all that interesting, but whizzing past the Mushroom Kingdom as a plumber who thinks he’s some sort of speedy hedgehog… now that’s entertainment! Among a wide, diverse and ever increasing number of speedruns, here are my top 10 that you just have to see to believe; they are all in a single word: unreal.
10: GoldenEye 007 (N64) - Precision Control (TAS)
What is TAS?According to Wikipedia, a tool-assisted speedrun (commonly abbreviated TAS) is a speedrun movie or performance produced with the use of tools such as slow motion and re-recording. The basic premise of these runs is that a “tool” (such as an emulator that provides the author with features that are unavailable in regular playing) is used in order to overcome human limitations such as skill and reflex.Now we all know that Mr. Bond is extremely fast with the ladies, but Henrik Norgren’s Tool-Assisted Speedrun (TAS - see info box to the right) proves that he’s also no slouch when it comes down to forepl- er… gunplay. GoldenEye is undoubtedly one of my favourite all-time games, and the Cuban Control Center is easily one of the most challenging missions the N64 classic has to offer. That is, unless you’re able to headshot every single Rareware soldier (and gun turret) the moment they step into your line of sight. If Bond was as psychic and precise as this TAS makes him out to be, his films would be shorter than the (generally) hopeless accompanying theme songs. Henrik’s running time was 4:06, but that’s beside the point: he managed to net a 96% head shot score, and he left me shaken, not stirred.
9: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA) - Rushing the Boss Rush
Aria of Sorrow is a fantastic game - one the best in the Castlevania franchise. The customisable soul system made it even more of an RPG than ever before. It also featured a boss rush mode and my God - I never dreamed anyone would accomplish a sub-2 minute time, let alone 1:21:28 by Jason Hochreiter. It’s not a TAS, but it sure looks like one. If the equipping screen didn’t have to be brought up so often (to carefully prepare Soma for each individual confrontation) the bulk of the run would literally be Soma flying through at lightspeed. A key point to note is that the Red Minotaur soul (i.e. the humongous axe) is the friggin’ bomb!
8: Shadow of the Colossus (PS2) - What would you do to save your true love?
It’s a well-known fact that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. I’d like to add in that the quicker they fall, the lower my jaw will likely drop. Yours, too. The first time I tackled each of the 16 colossi, I dedicated hours into figuring out their weakspot and in planning a strategy to mount them to inflict massive damage. Now there are many ways to topple a colossus - the more insane the approach, the better the results. Most of the time. One of the more enjoyable battles is with the the towering sorcerer, Malus, who also happens to be the final boss. And the best speedrun I’ve seen of it is by Jarrod Mitchell. He followed the optimised strategy of firing an arrow into Malus’ left shoulder, mounting its lowered hand, and then using the colossus’ arm lifting momentum to help him jump across to the bracer around its neck - later moving to the head for the kill. Wait a minute! Did I say “jump”? More like he FLUNG himself skywards like a rubber band with gravity pulling him back down at precisely the right time to nail a perfect landing. This is quite possibly the single most jaw-dropping launch I have ever seen. In the words of Neo: “Whoa!”
7: Super Metroid (SNES) - Sequence Breaking
Speedrunning really took off when Super Metroid landed on Earth. The game was purposely designed to be non-linear; exploration was emphasised. However, thanks to a loose physics engine which could be easily manipulated in skilful hands, Planet Zebes turned into a world of infinite possibilities: you could skip far-out-of-reach key items, access paths that are normally off-limits before a certain point in time, tackle the bosses in a backwards hierarchy - the art of doing what technically should’nt be possible was termed “sequence breaking”. You absolutely have to watch (and play) a Super Metroid speedrun and see it for yourself. The current record holder is Satoru Suzuki who blitzed through Zebes and annihilated Mother Brain in a single 32 minute sitting. It’s all skill baby.
6: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64) - The Hero of Glitches
Arguably the greatest game ever made is home to one of the most interesting speedruns in existence. They said it couldn’t be done in under 5 hours, but then 2005 saw Mike ‘TSA’ Damiani prove them all wrong with an incredible sub-5 hour speedrunning achievement. Now a decade old, Ocarina of Time’s new record holder is Lloyd ‘Manocheese’ Palmer with an astounding running time of 2:26:56. Numerous sequence breaking glitches were employed in this run, though, but that’s what makes it so enjoyable to watch. Thorough memorisation was required to make it work - aids like the Lens of Truth had to be skipped meaning otherwise invisible platforms had to be navigated with great care . Tricks like Bombchu hovering, entering Jabu-Jabu’s Belly without giving him any fish, supersliding, and tackling the temples in an unorthodox manner were crucial. Many so-called key quest items were an expensive opportunity cost time-wise; Manocheese had to find some other way to coerce the sages into conjuring a path into Ganondorf’s Tower, other than by fetching all of the medallions for them. And he had to make prudent use of the classic speedrunning technique, save warping. The result is not an action-packed video; the speedrun appears to be relatively slow paced compared to others. But resourceful management and the brilliant execution of some truly awesome glitches makes this a must-see, especially if you have played/finished this masterpiece before. See, Zelda games really aren’t all that time-consuming!
5: Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) - The Original TAS
If God played video games, his name would be Morimoto. Or so that’s what we all thought back in 2003. I still remember setting my eyes upon this jaw-dropping production: Super Mario Bros. 3 in 11:04 - by the way, that’s eleven MINUTES, not hours. Bouncing through like plumber with a rocket stuck up his ass, Morimoto’s Mario nailed one of the most challenging Nintendo-developed titles with startling precision; the final few stages were simply insane (he scored 99 bonus lives by messing around with dangerous cannonballs!) However, when the community found out that this was a “fake” - a tool-assisted speedrun - many quickly turned sour. Sure, it wasn’t a humanly possible feat, and this did dampen some of its wow factor, but it was, and still is, quality entertainment - seeing one of the games that once kicked my childhood butt being molested in such a light-hearted way brings tears of joy to my eyes! This run has since been superseded by another TAS, but it will forever remain in the annals of speedrunning. Infamously, of course.
4: Super Mario 64 (N64) - 0 Stars (TAS)
This was one of the very first 3D games to be ripped apart by TAS enthusiasts. Back in 1996, critics hailed Super Mario 64 as the finest video game ever made. Now, over a decade later, we have come to realise how glitchy this “perfect” game really is (not that it’s a bad thing). MIPS the rabbit and the backwards long jump glitch made it possible to complete Mario 64 with a fraction of the required power stars. Since that discovery, many more sequence breaking tricks have been found - most which are tough as nails to pull off consistently. But that’s why we have TAS. And now the record is … (wait for it) … a whopping 0 star speedrun! (By Swordless Link.) The old runs are still very entertaining, though, as Mario covers more ground than he does in the newer, more glitchy runs, but the complete ownage of the mandatory Bowser in the Fire Sea level is still here and it speaks for itself: Super Mario? How about NINJA MARIO!
3: Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition (PS2) - True Style
It’s a no-brainer that I’m extremely fond of Devil May Cry 3, but there’s a very good reason why. Played on the higher difficulty settings, enemies will “Devil Trigger” and instantly become a gigantic bigger pain in the ass if you don’t take them out as quickly as possible. But what is the best way to demolish a horde of demons? It’s really up to you, your chosen fighting style and your weapon selection. That said, give them everything you’ve got! The True Style Tournament (TST) is home to some to the most legendary Devil May Cry players (and gamers in general), ever. It’s not just about finishing the job quickly, but in style - utilising a myriad range of advanced movements, honed jump-cancelling techniques and a calculated, yet relentless flurry of crazy combos. My current favourites are Top Breeder’s sick Dark Slayer raping of Geryon; ViewtifulMoe’s crazy ass Tricking in the Love Planet club; Brea’s latest SwordMaster and Free Style entries, and last, but definitely not least, her unbelievably Trick-filled, Dragonball Z-esque aerial battle with The Fallen. All videos are from the recent 2008 TST3 (see YouTube) and all videos come highly, HIGHLY recommended.
2: Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES) - Pacifist
“A real man need not prove himself. Only those who are still uncertain of their manliness will be driven by the desire to prove that they are real men. So they engage in brawls and fights. But a real man need not assume a combatant stance. He has the ability to discipline himself and to let go of hostilities that can cause not only conflicts but harm and injury on others.” (Amy L. Chaves, 1996.) Sorry about the lengthy quote, but it sums up what this incredible speedrun is all about: pacifism. It’s one man versus an entire army of hostile alien scum, but there’s always a chance of collateral damage. As such, Bill Rizer (AKA speedrunner Tatsuhiko) takes it upon himself to eradicate the menace with as few shots as possible, and only when absolutely necessary. What this means is that he has to avoid a motherload of charging marauders and dodge hundreds of bullets, all in the name of peace. He still blows them up good, though!
1:Mega Man X AND Mega Man X2 (SNES) - 2-in-1
How many times can my jaw drop in a single Top 10 list? Well, how about 10 times? Because it just dropped again. And I don’t think I’ll be able to pick it up anytime soon. In 2005, DeHackEd sped through both Mega Man X and its sequel. Simultaneously. One player, one controller, two games. Yes, he tore apart Wire Sponge while he was hitting the slopes of Chill Penguin’s arctic tundra. The complete run is only a TAS at this stage, but DeHackEd has proven himself to be a talented, natural multitasker with genuinely mind-boggling snippets showing him as but “a mere mortal”. X and X2 are two of my most favourite games ever; I wish I could play them both at once, too!
How was it? Have I set your gamer’s heart ablaze? I love playing video games - I don’t have as much time for it these days, but I try to keep an eye on the more entertaining ones. However, sometimes just watching a game being played is entertainment enough. Wouldn’t you agree? You’ve read about them, now go and watch them!
You may notice a tendency towards Nintendo titles in my list; the undeniable truth is that this company has churned out some of the most creative, and hence entertaining games out there. I would’ve liked to have mentioned some other notable speedruns: the set of Metal Slug and Mega Man X runs by the legendary Mike Uyama; the Grand Theft Auto and Final Fantasy franchises - both epic in scope, both utterly blown apart in mere single digit hours; a couple of time trial racing and puzzle genre games such as the F-Zero series and Trauma Center (the record-holder really ought to consider being a surgeon); the first-person shooters that started the ball rolling - Doom and Quake; and lastly, every game where skilful sequence breaking is an option - the numerous Metroid and Metroidvania games spring to mind. Of course, there are also some impressive 100%+ runs out there, but I don’t have the attention span for such things. You see, I live on the fast lane - just like a true speedrunner!