The week-long Summer Games Done Quick gaming marathon concluded on Saturday after raising $2.1 million for charity. That may very well lead outsiders to ask: What kind of gaming event can raise so much money for a global nonprofit like Doctors Without Borders?
Fans of the Games Done Quick organization, which runs two charity marathons a year, might answer that question by pointing to a slew of “speedruns”—attempts to beat a video game as quickly as possible—for classic and modern titles alike. Or they might start shouting a bunch of inside jokes and catch phrases, which are abundant at such a tight-knit, community-driven gathering of some of gaming’s biggest nerds.
Either way, while the event has since concluded, its most impressive and silliest moments live on thanks to a complete YouTube video dump. Hours upon hours of speedruns, both quick and lengthy, live on at the Games Done Quick channel. So we thought we’d take this American holiday opportunity to help outsiders catch up on the craziness with a few of our favorite full-game clips.
Super Mario Bros. 3: There were no shortage of Mario-related speedruns at this year’s SGDQ, and a few of them were danged impressive. The original Super Mario Bros. saw a “warpless” race, which forced every runner to scramble after making mistakes, and a nail-biting three-on-three Super Mario Maker relay race had so many bonkers levels that the players couldn’t even beat all of them. (Both of those links include awesome follow-up demonstrations of incredible tech. For example, FF to 31:40 on the original SMB video for a one-handed run.)
But man. There’s really no beating the drama and insanity and surprises of the Super Mario Bros. 3 “all forts” race. This category required both runners to make every single fortress in the game crumble, and they otherwise exploited and warped their way through anything else they wanted. One “exploit” emerges near the end of the race that I won’t spoil for you, but needless to say, this unexpected cap to the hour-long romp will be talked about for some time.
Celeste: A much newer game got the SGDQ “race” treatment, as well, and while this one lacks the nostalgia of something like Mario 3 above, this speedrun has an arguably cooler angle: the game’s creators showing up.
Developers Matt Thorson and Noel Berry act as the primary couch commentators for this run, offering explanations about exactly how the runners are pulling off their crazy moves, how the game was developed with speedrunning in mind, and even admitting to a few glitches being left in the game intentionally. (One of those, which results in a strange sound glitch repeating over and over, was left specifically for speedrunners to find, Thorson admits.) Additionally, the speed tech displayed by these runners for such a new game is absolutely impressive. The devs point out how much of the game’s designed challenge is obliterated by their techniques, but they don’t seem too bothered by that fact.
F-Zero GX: Most Games Done Quick events include a presentation from TASBot, which is essentially a combination of console exploits and rapid-fire button punches (often combined with Nintendo’s classic, cute ROB toy) to write and execute remote code. This year’s was no different.
After viewers saw a few tool-assisted speedruns, which spliced together frame-perfect gameplay to pull off amazing, inhuman gaming feats, the TASBot team used a replay exploit in the GameCube’s F-Zero GX to execute an interesting trick: the “very first console verification of any disc-based system, ever.” This version of F-Zero was controlled entirely by a Game Boy Advance that had received code from this F-Zero hack. It’s quite bizarre, and you’ll want to fast-forward to approximately 7:30 to see what happens and how it works.
Pokemon Blue and Pokemon Yellow: Yes, that’s two games listed for one run. Games Done Quick has hosted a few of these before, where one controller’s output is fed into two consoles simultaneously, which is already a crazy enough feat to juggle.
But as this video’s commentary crew points out, Pokemon Blue and Yellow are particularly interesting because they run at different speeds. The Yellow upgrade to the series added more color information and proved more demanding to the original Game Boy, so its menus, battle animations, and other basic systems run at slightly different timings. All of those frames add up, and this means the runner must constantly calculate for the differences and play catch-up to correct any desyncs. No other JRPG run at this year’s SGDQ proved more harrowing.
Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa: Every Games Done Quick event has at least one WTF game that emerges as a watchable delight. I once wrote about a revealing speedrun of the NES curio Kabuki Quantum Fighter, and this year, similar honors should be given to this summer’s run of an odd, Japan-only platformer from Konami.
This bizarre baby-platformer, with its mix of precise platforming and nonsensical visuals, is hard to compare to any other NES/Famicom game, though it bears the teensiest, tiniest resemblance to Super Mario Bros. 2 (mostly because of one repeating Birdo-like boss). But if you’re ever going to watch someone play this game, let this world-record speedrun stand as a lovely one-and-done case of this Bio Miracle.
Metroid: Samus Returns: The latest Metroid side-scroller (and first for the Nintendo 3DS) is built on exactly the kind of 3D-geometry, climb-and-clamber engine that speedrunners love to exploit. As a result, Samus Returns offers a particularly rare speedrun opportunity for this traditionally pixel-built adventure series, and this speedrun delivers with plenty of interesting tech.
The wildest part of this SGDQ run, however, comes when the speedrunner paints himself into a logistical corner (having skipped key items) and must concentrate on a frame-perfect glitch to keep the run going. A potentially embarrassing disruption follows, yet the runner still manages to beat the game well under his quoted estimate time. That’s a testament to how many maneuvers and glitches he pulls off on his way to blazing through the game.
All of the hits (and Pepsiman, too)
Should these six embedded speedruns (and those two extra Marios) not do the trick, SGDQ 2018 has so many more for you. Zelda “bingo.” Mega Man ROM hacks. Janky official mascot games for the likes of Pepsiman. Janky unofficial mascot games for the likes of the Domino’s Noid.
All of these and more can be yours to watch with a trip to the official Games Done Quick YouTube channel. These should keep you occupied all the way until the next Awesome Games Done Quick event in January 2019.