The Art of Breaking It
Speedruns are as much about breaking games as they are about setting records. Half the fun of watching speedrunning marathons like Awesome Games Done Quick comes from listening to runners discuss the glitches, exploits, and frame-perfect tricks (as in, timed with a single frame of animation) they need to rely on to shave a few milliseconds off their fastest times. And while it's exciting to watch the best of the best set new world records, some speedrunners are more interested in wowing viewers with bizarre, dramatic performances.
With that in mind, I've unearthed some of the most interesting speedruns out there. Most of these arent world record runs--but I guarantee that theyre some of the most intense, weird, glitch-laden, and funny speedruns youve ever seen. Let's get started with
Sinister1 attempts to finish Punch-Out!! while blindfolded
Back in the day, beating Mike Tysons Punch-Out!! was a big deal for a lot of kids; doing so might have even gained you some street cred. But finishing the whole thing while blindfolded? Such a feat transforms one into legend. The fact that runner Sinister1 almost beat the game with his eyes closed shows just how much this NES classic relies on pattern recognition and sound cues. Most of the tricks employed in this run require exact, practiced timing, and once you work your way up to the likes of Bald Bull and Super Macho Man, theres not much room for error.
A big part of what makes this run so tense is the crowd. With most live speedruns, theres audience chatter and explanation about how exploits work. For this one, the room is dead silent, because the runner needs to work off sound cues--but also because the viewers are rendered speechless by his ambition to nail such a crazy feat.
Cosmo completes Ocarina of Time in less than twenty minutes
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has been ripped apart over the years as players continually attempt the fastest possible run. But its most game-breaking glitch, which allows Child Link to warp directly from the first boss of the game to the last boss, was discovered a mere two years ago, allowing players to finish the game in under 20 minutes.
Though that particular glitch in Gohmas chamber shaves the most time off the run, this particular attempt features even more impressive and demanding tricks. Getting underneath the Kokiri gatekeeper in the forest is not as easy as it looks, nor is getting the falling rock to land on Link from the right side (which is what sends him flying down the tower at around the run's 14-minute mark). This run is a great collection of glitches that are both difficult to pull off and fun to watch time and again.
Player agwawaf beats Megaman X1, 2, and 3 with the same input sequence
Tool-Assisted Speedruns (TAS) get a bad rap for not being real. Instead of playing the game yourself, you make a tool that enters inputs for you in order to do things that humans would find incredibly difficult or impossible to do. Rather than being about performance or timing, think of a TAS as a puzzle (what are the most efficient inputs for beating this game?) that takes several hours to solve, and several more to execute via programming.
TAS programs can lead to spectacles like beating three games at the same time, with the exact same inputs. The extraordinary thing about this run isnt clutch timing or exceptional memorization, but that one person figured out that you could beat three games simultaneously in 44 minutes.
Tri-Hex's insane Yoshis Island 100 percent run
In terms of sheer mind-boggling execution, its hard to beat this nearly three-hour run of Yoshis Island. Runner Tri-Hex mentions that he doesnt have to press as many buttons as he does in order to do some of the things hes doing here, but considering the staggering number of jumps, egg tosses, and fluttering going on, it's hard to believe. The exact timing on the egg shots, the constant leg-kicking, the furious tapping of buttons on a controller--Tri-Hex might have the reflexes and dexterity to cut it as a professional StarCraft 2 player.
A couple of factors that make this run even more impressive are time and audience. You could practice some of these things for hours on end and maybe be able to pull them off with some consistency--but Tri-Hex does so in front of a cheering crowd for nearly three hours straight. Good God.
Azorae finishes Portal 2's co-op campaign solo
GLaDOS wouldve likely frowned upon a machine subverting her intentions for the Perpetual Testing Initiative. But even she would have to admit that solving puzzles designed for two people by yourself is pretty dang impressive--even more so if youre aiming for world-record times.
Now, its been shown that you dont really need a second player to finish Portal 2's co-op campaign, but that requires a "-noclip" cheat. Besides, its much more impressive to take control of both of Portal 2's co-op characters, keeping their situations and placements in mind while setting up some of the timing-based sequences needed for completing the run. If you can beat the whole campaign in under an hour, be sure you've got that camera rolling. Bonus points for playing a piano during cut-scenes.
FunilaSM64's 0-star Super Mario 64 run
I never really understood why the doors in Peachs castle required magical stars to open in the first place, but I'm glad someone eventually found a way around all of that nonsense. Seriously--why launch yourself from cannons, race against enormous penguins, or get anywhere near a Thwomp when you could just fly backwards up a set of infinite stairs to get where youre going in a fraction of the time?
This 0-star run in particular shows off just what you can do in a game like Super Mario 64, where every glitch, exploit, and shortcut has been found. Really, that wealth of knowledge highlights just how collaborative (and downright obsessive) the speedrunning community can be. Fine by me--it sure makes for some enjoyable entertainment.
Mister K and Hurlbat demonstrate Contra 3 with two guys, one controller
Thought the solo speedrun of Portal 2's co-op campaign was pretty cool? Awesome Games Done Quick 2013 featured two players running Contra 3 on the same controller, making for one of the most impressive gaming bromances of all time. Mister K and Hurlbat display an incredible amount of synergy during the run, with one player handling movement and the other controlling most other functions.
If you didnt know the conditions of the run, you wouldnt even know there are actually two people holding the controller. You would, however, think they play a lot of Contra 3. Theres also the fact that they beat a notoriously difficult game without ever dying or straying from the default weapon. Yeah, thats pretty impressive too.
CGN completes F-Zero GX on the very hard difficulty
F-Zero GX runs epitomize some of the most impressive aspects of speedrunning: relying on split-second timing, using exploits to circumvent developer intentions, and going really, really fast. By their nature, racing games are great for speedrunning, but the blistering speeds attainable in GX, and the skill it takes to reach and maintain them, are about the closest parallel to the intensity of real-life F1 or Nascar racing that one could possibly get in video games.
Most of the tricks that make GX so exciting to watch are about testing your luck for the sake of going faster. "Boost shifting" means playing chicken with the edges of the track, temporarily gliding off it then back on a few frames later for a speed boost. One course has you detonating all the mines youre supposed to avoid so you can go faster than intended, all while managing your health in healing zones between detonations. Even someone as practiced as CGN can't do this run perfectly in front of the cameras--but when you think about the tricks he has to pull off, its hard to blame him.
CAVEMANDCJ politely asks some dude to shut the hell up during his Tomba 2 excursion
An impressive feat of speed and skill? Maybe. It's hard to tell if speedrunner CAVEMANDCJ is blowing through Tomba 2 with unparalleled quickness, or if he's just doing it for the lols. In any case, what makes this run a must-see event is the very, very uncomfortable exchanges between the speedrunner and a random stranger sitting on the couch next to him while he plays.
Watch, reader, and cringe.
Need More Speed?
Once speedrunners get good enough at running games at breakneck speeds, it looks like things tend to get weird as they find other ways to have some more fun with their favorites. So what are some other weird runs weve missed? Have any of you done cool stuff like this? Let us know!
And if youre still looking for weird, check out the Top 7 Strangest crossovers fans never expected, and 6 bizarre pairs of games you never knew were made by the same developer.