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If you want to take your video gaming to the next level, speedruns are a great way to do so. The hobby is just like it sounds; the idea being to complete a game as quickly as you possibly can.
Even if you don’t want to try speedrunning yourself, you can watch other people’s speedruns. You’ll not only enjoy the experience, but also learn essential tips from the world’s best speedrunners. We’ve picked out seven of the best speedruns for you to watch.
A Brief Introduction to Speedrunning
Before you get started, you should know a bit about speedrunning and its lingo so you don’t feel lost while watching these runs.
For more information, including the history of the craft, check out our complete overview of speedrunning culture.
As mentioned above, the goal of a speedrun is to complete a game as quickly as possible. What this entails depends on the run’s category. The two most common are Any% and 100%:
- Any% is straightforward: complete the game using any means necessary. Thanks to major glitches, you can finish longer games in under an hour.
- 100% requires the runner to complete the game in its entirety, including optional missions, secrets, and the like. The exact meaning of 100% depends on the game.
Other categories exist for specific games. For instance, there might be an All Levels category that’s similar to Any%, but you must beat every level. These can drastically change the route of a run, so keep an eye out for them.
During the videos below, you’ll hear a few terms thrown around. These include:
- RNG: Random number generator. This refers to parts of a game that aren’t consistent and are thus based on luck.
- Damage boost: Intentionally getting hit to reach a platform or pass another obstacle.
- Frame: One image out of many that makes up video. Most games run at 30 or 60 frames per second (FPS). Thus, frame-perfect refers to a manuever that you only have one frame (1/30 or 1/60 of a second) to pull off.
- Autoscroller: A part of a game that moves at a set pace; the runner cannot speed it up.
- Lag: Slowdown in the game, usually caused by having too many items on screen at once.
- PB: Personal best. A runner’s best time for a segment or run.
- IL: Individual level. Can refer to a strategy that is optimal for one stage but too risky to attempt in a full run.
- RTA: Real-time attack. Refers to a speedrun done live, like the ones below.
- TAS: Tool-assisted speedrun. This is when runners use an emulator to create a perfect run. It often uses tricks impossible for humans to pull off.
- Wrong warp: A glitch that causes a legitimate warp to send you somewhere else.
Check out the SpeedRunsLive glossary for more terms.
Games Done Quick
Speedrunning has grown from a niche community to one with many participants and fans. The most famous speedrunning event occurs twice a year, with Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) in the winter and Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ) during summer.
Each of these events is a week-long 24-hour marathon of speedruns to raise money for charity. While you’ll rarely see world records set at a GDQ event, we’ve chosen to link to GDQ runs here. This is because they usually contain excellent commentary, either from the runner or the fellow speedrunners on the couch behind them.
You’ll notice the hosts reading donations during downtime in the games, which is normal. If any of these runs strike a chord with you, check out their dedicated communities to get started with speedrunning yourself.
1. Super Monkey Ball Deluxe (Geoff, 1:20:19)
We start off with a great all-around speedrun. Super Monkey Ball is a platformer where you guide a monkey in a ball to the end of a perilous stage by tilting your controller. It’s a great speedrun game thanks to its low RNG.
It’s also an excellent first run to watch. Monkey Ball is fast-paced and the strategies for clearing some of the levels in mere seconds are amazing. Geoff is pleasant and provides interesting commentary throughout, so there’s little dead air.
2. Shovel Knight (Capndrake, 47:13)
Shovel Knight is a retro-styled 2D platformer built with modern conventions. It’s one of the best success stories from Kickstarter, a top-tier platformer, and a fantastic indie game to boot.
What makes this run special is that the developers of Shovel Knight connect via Skype to comment on the run. Hearing their reactions to the runner’s tricks is a treat, and they also provide behind-the-scenes commentary.
It’s also relatively free of glitches, so if you enjoy more skill-based runs, this is one to check out.
3. Cuphead (TheMexicanRunner, 50:14)
The newest game represented here, Cuphead is a run-and-gun boss rush inspired by 1930s animation. Using a glitch in an earlier version of the game, you can defeat the bosses much faster than intended, making for an interesting speedrun.
The standout of this one is TheMexicanRunner himself. He’s full of energy throughout the run, going so far as to provide silly voices for some of the dialog. It’s great to see a runner so comfortable in front of a crowd.
4. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (George, 08:55)
Are the above speedruns too long for you? Check out this one from the classic skateboarding series. George completes all the goals in the game’s main mode, plus earns gold medals in every competition, in under nine minutes. A new player would probably take longer than that to complete the first level!
His movement optimization is amazing to see, and this run even set a world record at the time.
5. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Cosmo, 22:38)
Ocarina of Time is one of the most beloved games of all time, and it’s also a popular speedrun game with various categories. If you’re a Zelda fan but have never seen a speedrun before, you’ll be amazed to see this game completed so quickly.
While the world record time has dropped significantly since this run was recorded, this is a must-watch thanks to Cosmo’s commentary. Cosmo is arguably one of the best speedrunners to grace the scene, and got into speedrunning around the time that many major Ocarina of Time tricks were discovered.
This run is consequently filled with the history of Ocarina of Time’s speedrun development, making it fascinating to hear how much this game evolved over the years. Anyone interested in the culture of speedrunning should watch this one.
6. Super Mario 64 (Siglemic, 1:48:57)
Super Mario 64 was a revolutionary title that paved the way for 3D game design as we know it today. Its open-ended nature with the multiple stars in each level makes it great for optimizing routes, so it’s no surprise that it’s popular for speedruns.
Along with Cosmo, Siglemic is one of the most prolific speedrunners of all time. He introduced many people to speedrunning, though he’s since retired from the scene. His 120 star run (100%) here is astounding, with his movement so precise that you’d swear it was a TAS at times.
Per his style, it doesn’t have much commentary, so we don’t recommend it for your first speedrun. But it shows how an expert can optimize a game to extreme levels, and is incredibly entertaining.
7. Punch-Out!! + Super Punch-Out!! (zallard1, 23:56)
Punch-Out!! is a classic Nintendo franchise where you control underdog boxer Little Mac as he fights through a series of fierce opponents on his way to become the champion. Rather than an outright boxing game, it also has some puzzle elements as you learn the weak points of each fighter.
Upon seeing this video’s title, you might think that it contains two runs in succession. But you’d be wrong. This run actually has Zallard playing both games at the same time using a custom-modded controller.
If regular speedruns don’t excite you, this one will. Zallard has to juggle two games that share inputs while still trying to clear them as quickly as possible. Coupled with solid commentary from the couch, this is a wild ride.
Bonus: If you like this run, check out Sinister1’s blindfolded run of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
Gotta Go Fast: Try Speedrunning Yourself
Speedrunning certainly isn’t for everyone. But even if you don’t want to speedrun yourself, you can get a lot out of watching these (and many more) runs.
Whether you get entertainment out of seeing what the best players in the world are capable of, want to watch your favorite childhood games get utterly destroyed, or learn strategies to improve your own play, speedruns are a blast. We’d love to hear about your favorites below.
Have you decided you’re not interested in speedruns? Why not check out some of the best video game music for studying instead?