My latest Nintendo addiction, in the absence of the ability to afford a switch, has been watching speed runs of Nintendo games online. Something fascinates me about why people feel the need to time trial Paper Mario like it’s Rainbow Road over and over again. It was during my time watching that I noticed something that set Nintendo games apart from most of the other speed running staples.
Nintendo makes challenging games (insert Dark Souls meme here) that somehow consistently manage to strike a balance where good players can finish a game but great players can finish it plus all the secrets and in half the time. Of course, speed running isn’t all skill, the famous Zelda barrier skip is a prime example of the many glitches required to achieve that world record time.
However, even outside of glitch-less runs, the majority of a players time in speed runs is spent showing off their talents. And nothing feels better than blitzing through a level of SMB2 or Metroid. The release of Odyssey has only reinvigorated the passion for Nintendo speed runs.
Let’s get to the important question of ‘Why?’ though… right after the break
Previously mentioned reasons of challenge and enjoyment aside, I think it has to come down to reputation. Nintendo has a reputation for high quality games and are one of the few companies that even your 45-year-old step-dad might recognise, so holding a Mario or Zelda world record is meaningful to most of the global population.
Speedrun.com, which holds many of these records, shows that Nintendo games dominate in all factors. Eight out of the top ten games for number of runs, number of total players, active players, and full game runs are Nintendo games. Many of these are “retro” games like Super Metroid, leading to many runners to use emulators.
Emulators attract controversy in the speed running community, just as it does in the general gaming community. However, the debate is less about money not going to developers and more about potential time gains running on a PC rather than the original system as intended. The majority of world records are set on emulators, but most of these runs are at least done with the original controllers.
But an emulator controversy here, an edited speed run video there, will not detract from this thriving community. It could be said that this community keeps a lot of the passion for these older Nintendo games alive, and long may they continue!
Let’s face it, no one is speed running the latest Call of Duty campaign, speed runners are romantic and no company carries more romance than Nintendo. Oh! By the way, the world record for the original Super Mario Bros. for the NES is 4:56.245 so get practicing!