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The biggest solo esport: Speedrunning beginner's guide

The biggest solo esport: Speedrunning beginner's guide

Here's everything you need to know about speedrunning, including categories, games, and popular websites.

The biggest solo esport: Speedrunning beginner's guide

There are plenty of places for like-minded players to find each other whether the community is nostalgia-based, centered around competition, or simply a group that loves a specific title.

One of the more robust communities is speedrunning. It's widespread and growing because you can speedrun any game. But what exactly is speedrunning and how does it work?

What is Speedrunning?

Speedrunning is simple. Complete a game as fast as possible from start to finish. While some games are better suited for running like Mega Man or Super Mario 64, others with long narratives like The Witcher, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Ghost of Tsushima, are not as popular.

Older games tend to have the biggest communities. Thousands of player race to reach the top spot in classics like the aforementioned Super Mario 64, Super Metroid, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the original Super Mario Bros., and Portal.

Speedrunning feeds on itself. Players share tips and strategies, and once a record is set, others will use that same method to try to improve on it. This is called routing.

What is routing?

Routing is when players go through a game repeatedly to figure out the fastest way to the end. It's trial and error to discover what works best.

A record for an older game might not change as often as a newer one. For example, the record for the original Super Mario Bros. doesn't change as often as the record for Super Mario: Odyssey. Runners will often get new records following an old route, and then find something new or achieve a new peak level of skill to top the leaderboards. Non-routed records are rare. There are also a number of different categories in speedrunning.

What are the categories?

Speedrunning categories are stipulations to complete a game. There are so many. The most common category is Any%, which means that all you have to do is finish a game as quickly as possible.

Another category is 100%, where a player has to finish a game completely, by either collecting all special items or defeating all the game's bosses.

There are a multitude of other categories. In Super Mario 64, there's a 70 star category, a 16 star category, and a 120 star category.

Other favorites include randomizers, where you complete sections of a game in a random order, and glitchless runs. Glitches are integral to speedruns. Players capitalize on tricks for skipping frames and take advantage of bugs. Glitchless runs meanwhile force people to play the game as intended.

Game specific variations keep communities engaged. Most Super Mario World runs require players to get all 96 exits, while others don't even allow the cape. The best way to learn what is allowed is to research it.

As an example of what a speedrun looks like, here's the current world record run for Super Mario Bros., by speedrunner Kosmic.

What are some Speedrunning Communities?

There are a few notable sites to dig into and get involved. features games, leaderboards, rules, and categories for the most popular games. Every run has an accompanying video, so it's the de facto source for world records.

Speed Demos Archive has a bunch of videos as well as guides created by the runners. It's a good place to go when you want to learn routes for specific games.

Speedruns Live lists all speedrunners that are currently streaming on Twitch. There are also ways to sort by the number of viewers or specific titles.

Another fun speedrunning community event is Games Done Quick, which features speedrunners playing for charity at different times throughout the year.

Tips for getting into Speedrunning

Pick a game you really enjoy because a huge part of speedrunning is repetition.

Patience and dedication are very important. Some speedrunners spend months just to shave a few seconds off their time. That's serious dedication. Decide if it's something you really want to do.

Once a player picks a game, study. Watch the route, take notes, and prepare. Reach out to other speedrunners and don't be afraid to ask for help. These communities exist for a reason. Then, it's time to practice. That's the hardest part, yet simultaneously the best.

Have Fun!

Regardless of whether you want to break a world record or are just looking for a new hobby, speedrunning is supposed to be fun. Don't forget to enjoy yourself.

Image Source: formerly, CosmoSpeedruns

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Jon Silman
Jon Silman

Jon SIlman is a freelance writer based in Florida. His favorite Zelda game is A Link To The Past.

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