Speedrunning is the act of completing a video game as fast as possible. Speedrunning is seen as a competitive sport in which players compete for the fastest time on levels, complete playthroughs or specific scenarios.
Speedruns are typically live streamed or recorded as video evidence where they can then be submitted for official verification to achieve ‘records’.
Speedrunning can get complicated, especially in the competitive scene where every game has different categories and set rules, but we’ll cover all that in this article.
When did speedrunning begin?
Speedrunning has been around for as long as video games have been around, however in the early days of video games in the 70s you would have to ‘compete’ in person and there was usually a better or easier way to record a good playthrough through high scores.
There are some examples of speedrunning dotted around the 16 bit generation as an example of its appeal. In in the UK a video game related program Gamesmaster regularly had people speedrunning in the studio. In 1994 The Nintendo World Championships saw players from all over the world complete to complete 4 Super Mario Bros. 3 levels as fast as possible for a prize and a coveted award.
Speedrunning video games as a structured ‘sport’ started in earnest with the creation of Nightmare Speed Demos in 1996 – a platform to share and create playthroughs of popular first person shooter game, Quake. In 1998 Nightmare Speed Demos become Speed Demos Archive (SDA) and in 2002 a game which wasn’t Quake was uploaded – Metroid Prime.
Although people will have been playing games fast for decades, it wasn’t until SDA and later Speedrun.com that it had a solid structure with a set of rules and judges.
Speed Demos Archive tag line is to complete games “quickly, skillfully and legitimately.” The legitimacy is where SDA/SR.come in.
From there, it began to grow and grow with millions of searches for speedruns every single day. It started to wane a little from 2007 to 2012 but with the introduction of faster internet speeds, retro game emulation, better software Speedrun.com in 2014/15 and of course ultra popular streaming platforms such as Twitch speedrunning is well and truly here to stay.
Why do people speed run?
People speedrun games because it’s exciting, fun, competitive and there are so many games out there for anyone to find their own niche. There is also the opportunity to be recognised for your achievements and even make a name for yourself and earn some money whilst doing it.
However, it remains to be said that the attraction of being the best in your niche is enough for people to want to do it and stream to viewers.
Speedrunning also attracts a lot of viewers who stream their attempts, especially for players who regularly post times at the top of the leaderboard – there is always a chance you could be witnessing a world record.
Are speedruns good to stream?
Speedruns are some of the most popular streams to watch, regardless of the game. However, it is certainly not the most popular steam type out there, they will still be the likes of Fortnite, Grand Theft Auto, Minecraft, Apex Legends, sports games like FIFA and of course Call of Duty.
That doesn’t mean that speedrunning isn’t good to stream but they are unlikely to crack the serious numbers that other niches do.
Practically any game can be speed ran – just take a look on Speedrun.com to see just how many games are listed on there and how active they are. The only type of streams more popular are competitive streams such as Call of Duty and Street Fighter.
General Rules of speedrunning
Anyone can speed run any game and follow their own rules, however to get notoriety and popularity there are a set of rules for each game that need to be followed to have ‘official’ scores on the leaderboard for Speedrun.com or the Speed Demos Archive. There are set rules on each game, but here is a run down of what the most common are and what they mean.
- If you stream live then make sure to capture the whole run before you start and a small time after the end. The recording must be of decent quality and in full screen. To do this on original hardware that isn’t a PC game you’ll need a good capture card.
- While recording the clip, never leave the game (alt tab etc) and do the whole run in one single segment – no saving and then coming back. This rule stands even for long RPGs such as Final Fantasy.
- Original audio must be used.
As we’ve previously mentioned, speedrunning is simply completing a game as fast as possible, and you don’t necessarily need to follow any set rules or categories. But, if you want to make it big as a speedrunning streamer then it’s best to play with the categories set out by Speedrun.com or SDA so that your scores can be official and viewers understand what they’re going to see.
Examples of categories are:
Mario 64: 120 star, 70 star, 16 star, 1 star and 0 star. This means in the run you need to get a set number of stars and then finish the game as fast as possible.
Sonic 2: You have Sonic, Knuckles and then inside those you have Beat the Game, Glitchless, and All Emeralds.
Resident Evil 2: New Game, New Game+, Any%
You can play around with these categories to find the one that fits, but also take an interest in which categories are most popular and which are not. However, the more competitive a category the harder it will be to get decent scores in the early days.
In game rules
Lastly, in game rules. These are the rules set out by Speedrun.com of what needs to be done or NOT done in a category in order to have a run approved and on the scoreboard.
Some examples of run is a strict FPS setting, not using cheats, not pausing, starting the run from a particular point, not exiting the window, not using emulation.
The list goes on.
Basically, every category will have set rules to follow and if they are not the times will be void.
The most popular category for almost all games is “any%” which generally speaking is completing the game by any means necessary. This includes glitches or abusing broken game mechanics.
To counter any%, many glitched games also have “glitchless” which is like the above except you can’t use certain or all exploits.
For example, Sonic 2 any% record is 18 minutes, glitchless however takes 22 minutes. A difference of 4 minutes.
Even if you get a world record at a game, if it is void it won’t count and many in the community will take a dislike to you doing this – see our guides on starting twitch when you have no friends to see why being a positive member of the community is so important.
Types of speed run
At the end of the day, it’s about getting from start to finish as fast as possible. But, there are some different kinds of speedrunning to consider:
Simple – play a game from start to finish as fast as possible. This is whether it’s any%, glitchless, all bosses or whatever category you choose.
Many games which have multiple levels, such as Super Mario or Metal Gear Solid V, can be done level by level and you can simply aim to speed run specific sections.
Marathon speedrunning is playing games back to back – this is often seen with series with several games in the series such as Sonic, Resident Evil, Legend of Zelda and the like or games which are in the same niche such as survival horror, sports or stealth. Marathon speedruns typically go on for hours and sometimes for charity events or special events.
Popular games to speedrun
Currently, the games with the most speed running players are:
- Super Mario 64
- Super Mario Odyssey
- Mario KArt
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- The Legend of Zelda
- Resident Evil
- Dead by Daylight
Twitch’s most popular speedrunners
A supremely talented speed runner who specialises in Pokemon games and arguably the driving force behind what the community is today.
An expert at Metal Gear Solid and a very technical streamer.
The kind of Dark Souls – one of the most popular speedrunning series.
Spikevegeta is the voice of Games Done Quick. He may not be the fastest at the game but he is at the very heart of the speedrunning community as a whole.
A legend of Zelda powerhouse.
Canadian former chef Bawkbasoup is a survival horror streamer with multiple records. He may not be the absolute fastest and you won’t be sitting over and over again looking at resets. A great host with lots of charisma.
Lots of Mario, lots of world records.
Speedrunning has a great community with plenty of special events. The most notable are Awesome Games Done Quick and Summer Games Done Quick. These events have various speed runners taking part in a live event to raise money for charity. They raise millions for causes such as Doctor Without Borders and cancer research.
Not only is a worthy cause each time but it is an absolute blast to watch with a stellar cast of speed running and members of the community on the couch commentating. Well worth a watch every year.