And that’s a fact. Ever since Sonic came along and started handing out 50,000 point bonuses for finishing a level in under 30 seconds, speedrunning has been a staple of videogame competitions. There's one simple rule: Be fast. You don't need to collect anything else, or kill any enemies. It may sound strange, but it's a whole new way of looking at games you may otherwise have exhausted months ago. I’ve got three speed-based Guinness World Records (I'll link to them at the end) but speedrunning is no elite club. Anyone can have a go. So let me show you how to get started...
1. Choose your game
By all means choose a game that means something to you personally, but DON'T choose your all-time favourite, at least not to begin with. Playing anything too much could make you hate it. So start with a game you like and think you’re pretty good at. Then consider its suitability. Does your chosen game have online leaderboards to prove your times and compare with rivals? Is it a game anyone else actually cares about? If you're stuck for ideas, the first level from the latest Sonic game is always a good default.
2. Know your game
It may sound obvious, but this is the most important thing, without question. You might be amazing at Super Mario 64, but if you don’t know there's a special control input for a faster-than-running long-jump (or even the fact this itself can be glitched backwards for even more speed), you’re never going to win in a speedrun competition. In multi-character games, experiment to find out which character is fastest, or check the existing leaderboards to see which character is favoured by the fastest players. You'll usually notice a theme. Learn this character's moves so they’re as natural as blinking. Now you're ready to start your practice.
3. Check out the competition
Other people will probably be speedrunning the same game as you, so run a search on YouTube to see what tactics the competition have to offer. You’re not necessarily 'stealing' tactics, instead think of it as standing on the shoulders of giants to reach your goal. Look at what works and then look at how it could be improved. And be sure to watch out for ‘Tool Assisted Speedruns’ (TAS) and glitches. The former may be near-impossible to replicate with human hands, but you can still learn from them. And if a machine can do it, so could you... in theory.
4. Try some 'unusual' techniques
True originality comes from mistakes, although most levels are designed to make missed jumps slow you down. But just sometimes you’ll find you’re perfecting a route that’s way slower than another one you hadn’t considered. So experiment. Again, sometimes trying something that should be impossible or logically slower can yield surprising success. For instance, look up there at how that 'drift' move in Sonic Generations has gained a full second over the non-drifting run before you're even 10 seconds into the level. Any second gained is massive in a speedrun, but over the full run, this technique will give you several.
5. Remember: If it's in the game, it's in the game
The old EA Sports motto is still super-relevant when it comes to speedrunning. A glitch may not be pretty, but it is part of the game's program, so it's fine to exploit it. That said, zero-second speedruns like the one above don't impress anyone, and you'll get way more kudos for playing something imaginatively and with skill than just breaking the game. To get the best times (or scores), you'll still need to be great at the other 'non-glitchy' parts too.
6. Don't hit 'retry' as soon as you fluff something
This is incredibly important. It’s really tempting to hit ‘Pause, Retry, Yes’ and then get ready for the next attempt. But all you’re doing is getting really good at the first few seconds of the level. What happens when you’re suddenly a clear second up on your previous best but you’ve got hardly any experience of what lurks in the level’s final third? Keep going every time (at least to begin with), perfect your route and know your run. That elusive perfect run will come eventually, but it'll come sooner if you've learned exactly what to do at every stage of the level.
7. Stay calm when you're 'up'
This is so much easier said than done, but it’s imperative you remain calm. If you’re actually challenging for a world record in front of a crowd of people (and only given a finite number of attempts to get it right), it’s pretty much impossible to stay calm, but in that case you’ll just have to use the adrenaline to make you super-sharp. But in regular, ‘pressure-off’ speedrunning where only Xbox Live or PSN is watching you, it’s best to approach each session with a ‘I don’t even care’ attitude. Nerves will make you screw up even the easiest jump, corner or whatever. Be calm, stay focused. There’s always next time.
8. Remember Yoda
Getting flustered won’t help, but focus most certainly will. This is probably a stupid thing to say, but I do believe Yoda from Star Wars got it right when he said “Do, or do not… there is no ‘try’”. If you’re only *trying* to succeed, you probably won’t. You’ve got to know what you want and damn well take it.
9. Take regular breaks!
This is mega-important. It’s really hard to put the pad down when you know you’re ridiculously close to claiming the title of world's fastest Frogger player (or whatever), but you will make yourself ill if you don’t rest properly. Any aches and pains mean you’re too tense, so if you feel them, take a day or more’s break. Seriously. Don’t worry, it will still be there when you return. Even one hour of speedrunning is a mammoth stint of ultra-concentration. So keeping that up for hours at a time will make you tired, irritable... and crap at speedrunning.
10. Enjoy it
It can be hard to still enjoy a game when you’re playing the same level and hearing the same music for the 5,000th time. That doesn't mean you should branch out into speedrunning while you speedrun (pictured). But do celebrate your achivements. Look for milestones to beat, like ‘the 1 minute mark’ or each full second you shave from your time.
What's your best speedrun time?
Let us know in the comments why you chose a particular game to speedrun and what your best time is.
GamesRadar is the premiere source for everything that matters in the world of video games. Casual or core, console or handheld - whatever systems you own or whatever genres you love, GamesRadar is there to filter out what's worth your time and to help you get even more from your games. We deliver the best advice, the most in-depth features, expert reviews, and the essential guides for all the top games.