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"Iji throws herself into the following in-game cutscene with great haste. No, [her brother's] life was not worth the 15 seconds to prevent that from happening. This is a speedrun, bro!"

A speedrun is a playthrough of a game with the intent of completing it as fast as possible for the purposes of competition, entertainment, or as a Self-Imposed Challenge.

Speedruns can be considered a form of Emergent Gameplay, as they look and feel very different to casual play. A speedrunner is not interested in the game's intended experience - they are instead focused on how they can optimize their gameplay to achieve the absolute fastest possible time. As such, story and exploration take a back seat; a speedrunner will skip everything they can, and will often perform actions that seem quite illogical and even impossible to a casual player.

Pulling off a successful speedrun requires a combination of good strategy and execution. Strategies ("strats" for short) are techniques which have been developed to save time. Execution refers to how well a player is able to play the game and perform the necessary strategies.

In order to compete with other players' times, speedrunners come together to create leaderboards and agree upon a set of rules for what is allowed in the speedrun. Often, the same game can be speedrun in many different ways; each way is referred to as a category, and each category has its own set of rules and leaderboard. Different categories typically require different speedrunning skills, and it's common for some runners to specialize in a particular category.

Three of the most common speedrun categories are:

  • Any%: The most common category in most games, this simply involves beating the game as quickly as possible, by any means necessary.
  • 100%: Fully completing every objective in the game in the fastest time. These runs typically require great endurance, routing skill, and a full mastery of every game mechanic and strategy.
  • Glitchless: A variant of either of the above two (usually Any%) where you play the game 'as intended', without using bugs and glitches to skip sections of the game or otherwise save time.

Many speedrunning communities also have a number of joke or meme categories which are often completely pointless or absurd, often requiring skills that have little to no application outside of that category.

In addition to human-performed speedrunning, there is a second type: the Tool-Assisted Speedrun, or TAS for short. Unlike human speedruns, TASes are created in advance using scripted inputs, and executed by a computer program. These speedruns are able to exploit the inhuman precision and execution speed of a computer to achieve feats that would be absolutely infeasible for a human player to perform. (And sometimes physically impossible, such as pressing two opposite directions at once).

TASes can be created for entertainment purposes, to show what a game would look like when played at perfect precision. However, they are also invaluable to human runners as research tools; they can be used to algorithmically find potential time-saving strategies, and can be a way to benchmark a speedrun to provide a theoretical best time.

A strategy that can only be performed by a TAS is called a "TAS-only" strat. Sometimes, with extremely good execution or when combined with other techniques and discoveries, a strategy previously thought to be TAS-only can become human-viable, and may get incorporated into top-level speedruns.

Popular speedrun archive sites include Speed Demos Archive and For tool-assisted, technically perfect runs, see TASVideos. For speedruns and speedrun races performed live for your viewing pleasure, head over to SpeedRunsLive. For rundowns of the history of some popular speedgames, see Summoning Salt's playlist.

For games with a Speedrun-based gamemode (usually called "Time Attack" or "Time Trial") see Time Trial. If a game requires you to complete an objective within a specified time limit, it's Timed Mission. For games where speedrunning is not only encouraged but also rewarded, see Speedrun Reward. If the reward is meant to be a Bragging Rights Reward, see Challenge Run.

No examples, please. This only defines the term.

Tropes associated with speedruns:

  • A.I. Breaker: Tool-Assisted speedruns practically exploit all A.I.s on a frame-perfect basis, whether by taking advantage of known flaws in the AI coding or by exploiting luck manipulation. Regular speedruns can also exploit AI patterns to do things quickly, or learn from tactics discovered in the TAS version.
  • Abstract Scale: Speedrunners sometimes create joke or niche categories which use the percentage-based format, but which describe a property that isn't quantifiable. For example, Portal has "LSD%" (play with all the wall textures replaced by a trippy rainbow effect) and "Death%" (die as quickly as possible), among others.
  • Accidental Discovery: For every glitch that came about due to trial and error, there are just as many that was stumbled upon at complete random.
    • The "Pickup Slide" trick in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was discovered by a speedrunner playing the game casually: They opened a chest to get an item, then for whatever reason stopped playing without switching the game off, leaving Link in his Item Get! pose. When they returned in the morning, they discovered that Link had glided backwards several feet, clipping right through the chest. And so the glitch that defines that game's Low% category was discovered.
    • The "Speedcripple" glitch in Fallout 3 and New Vegas. A speedrunner playing the former game was doing the "All Bobbleheads" category when at one moment he forgot to grab a particular bobblehead. Turning around, he tried to avoid a slow climb down a flight of stairs by using a trick in which quicksaving just before taking fall damage spares you from it, and through accidental perfect timing was able to cripple his legs without taking fall damage. When this happens, the game applies both the crippled and healthy movement speed to you at the same time, giving you a major speed boost that is universally helpful across both games in almost all circumstances.
    • The "Furnace Fun moves" glitch in Banjo-Kazooie is triggered by getting a game over under specific conditions during the Furnace Fun quiz, and enables all the moves Banjo and Kazooie learn to be transferred onto a new save file, so they don't have to be picked up in the next run. It was only discovered when a player new to the speedrun couldn't remember the quiz answers, and died so many times that he game-overed inside Furnace Fun.
  • Advanced Movement Technique: Tricks that can be used to speed up character movement will likely be exploited heavily.
  • Anti-Climax Boss: Most bosses turn into this. A notable extreme example is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night—runners typically use a glitch to keep their overpowered starting equipment (normally stolen from you in the prologue) and combine it with a couple of other items to reduce most of the boss fights (including the finale) to a few seconds of damage-spamming.
  • Artifact Title:
    • Percentage-based terms such as "Any%", "Low%", "Max%" and "100%" originate from Super Metroid, one of the foundation stones of the modern speedrunning community, which uses a percentage to display how many items you possess at the end of the game. The terms have stuck, even for games that don't track the completion percentage.
    • The term "Auto-scroller" has come to refer to any moment in a speedrun where progression is time-gated, so the player cannot gain or lose time while they are waiting for an event to finish. The term still applies even when the time-gating has nothing to do with an Auto-Scrolling Level.
    • The GameCube and Wii-era Zelda games are home to a glitch named "Back in Time", which is unusually named as it simply involves letting you control Link on the title screen. The name is a relic from when it was first discovered: after performing the trick in Twilight Princess' Arbiter's Grounds (a location only accessible relatively late into the game), it was discovered that saving your game on the title screen then loading it would send Link to a game state significantly earlier in the game, hence "Back in Time". The name was kept even as the nature of the glitch was better understood, even though if anything the glitch is primarily used in Twilight Princess to go forward in time early in the run, and in Skyward Sword it has nothing to do with time manipulation at all.
  • The Berserker: A non-combat variant. If a speedrunner can save time by taking damage or dying, they'll take it without fear, and likewise will liberally abuse Desperation Attacks.
  • Bladder of Steel: Some runs note  can require upwards of 20 hours or more of continuous play. That said, most games often have places that are considered bathroom breaks, such as cutscenes for RPGs.note 
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory:
    • Sometimes certain versions of games and hardware provide an advantage over others due to the presence of certain glitches, faster text, or reduced lag. When these versions are rare or difficult to obtain, this can push certain speedruns into this category. The most notorious example of this is the iQuenote  version of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which has much faster text than all other versions but is rare and difficult and expensive to import outside of China.
    • For PC speedruns, using higher-end hardware can sometimes offer an advantage. One of the biggest examples of this is the knife attack in Resident Evil 2 (Remake) where the higher the framerate is the more damage the knife will do, especially to bosses in the PC version. One way to address this is to set a framerate cap for runs, usually at 60 frames per second, as a separate speedrun catagory as to let speedrunners be able to compete without having to spend a lot of money to compete in an otherwise uncapped framerate catagory.
  • Broken Base: During the 2010s, the various fractured speedrunning factions generally grew out of their early squabbling as they matured as a community, and these days TASers and regular runners often take tricks from each others' runs to improve their routes. Nonetheless, below are the traditional conflicts:
    • Tool-Assisted Speedruns and real time. Within TAS, the divide between pro-ACE (Arbitrary Code Execution) and anti-ACE.
    • Speedrunners who want to play the game the traditional way aka "Glitchless runs", and those who love to exploit all manner of glitches. Neither side usually respects the other's viewpoint. Glitchless runners argue it's the way the game is meant to be played, and using a bug to warp straight to the end credits can feel very cheap. Those that reply upon them to achieve a faster time assert doing it legitimately is a tedious experience. In reality, both methods are usually hard and a real challenge to execute either way.
    • Whether runners playing games with lengthy unskippable cutscenes with little to no gameplay at the very start of a run should be allowed to skip that part through modding or a pre-created save file. This tends to create a divide between purists who believe that doing such a thing defeats the point of a full game speedrun, and others who think that the benefits of making a game more accessible and fun to watch outweighs the consideration of whether the entire game was technically played start to finish. Examples of games that currently allow early scenes to be skipped include Super Mario Sunshine (skipping two lengthy cutscenes and a short gameplay section, cutting out just under six minutes) and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (skipping the first cutscene, cutting out about four and a half minutes).
  • Butterfly of Doom: Some games have a Random Number God that can cause this effect in a TAS. Even the smallest changes in the early part of a run can cause many things to go different in later parts of the run, possibly requiring everything to be reworked to accommodate the change. This is less of a problem in games that don't use RNG often, or reset the RNG seed between levels.
  • Challenge Gamer: Most speedrunners have this mentality - they live for the challenge of pushing their skills as far as they can. Runners use a metric called the Personal Best, or PB, which is the fastest time they've managed to achieve in a particular game or category, and gives them a way to track their improvement or compare themselves to others.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Pretty much everything else on a speedrunner's list of necessary kills is subjected to one of these, as speedrunners will figure out the fastest way to execute a kill. Doing so is especially important during Boss Battles, as bosses often have long attack cycles with narrow windows of vulnerability - killing the boss as soon as you can may save a significant amount of time in the run. In speedrun parlance, this is usually referred to as a "quick kill".
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Because of the way speedrunners liberally exploit glitches, some strategies actually have the potential to soft-lock the game if they fail, which immediately kills the run.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Expect to see runners die a lot when dying is the fastest way to refill health or backtrack to the last Checkpoint and Video-Game Lives are no object.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect:
    • Some games add up points or other earned bonuses at the end of each level, which can waste precious time. Part of the strategy in these games is to know which bonuses should be avoided to achieve a faster overall run. The Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog games are a prominent example, giving you massive bonuses for beating levels quickly that take such a long time to tally up that it's actually faster to wait and finish the level just slow enough to avoid them. It's for this reason that runs of these games switched to using in-game time, as it would mean runners would actually have to beat the levels quickly to get a good time instead of waiting around for the smaller bonus.
    • In some boss fights, it's faster to not do as much damage as you could on the first cycle through its movement pattern, so that the second cycle beats the boss while it's still in the first phase.
  • Dungeon Bypass: If at all possible, it will be done. A famous example is The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker's Barrier Skip, which allows for two dungeons bypassed.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Is a common way for RPG runs to end. For example, in Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals's Ancient Cave, you can fail to notice the stairs and end up in a monster room, where the run dies.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Pops up occasionally in category or trick names:
  • Good Bad Bugs: May come into play, particularly in tool-assisted runs, which can make a game's protagonist look like a Reality Warper. Glitches that skip large portions of the game are sometimes made a separate category.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Often walls in video games have quirks to their hitboxes that leave them with small "holes" in, allowing speedrunners to take shortcuts by moving right through them.
  • House Rules: All speedruns have to have rules about how they are conducted, even if it's just so people know when to start and stop the clock. These rules are decided and agreed upon by the community, and a particular ruleset is referred to as a "category". Even if the game has built-in support for speedrunning, communities will nearly always impose additional rules on what's allowed.
    • Some rulesets result from the community's broad range of opinions on how speedrunning should work, particularly with regards to bugs and exploits and to what degree they should be allowed. Some players dislike using them, since they divest a game of its intended challenges. For others, half the fun is finding creative ways to break a game. Depending on the size of the speedrunning community for a particular game, there may be several subgroups with rules catering to the preferences of each.
    • Popular games often have many different speedrunning categories, such as fastest overall completion (Any%), fastest completion while collecting all items/finding all secrets (100%), and fastest times for various joke categories (getting banned from online play, going swimming, burning a pie) and other Self-Imposed Challenge runs (such as competing the game without dying).
  • Instant-Win Condition: Abused mercilessly whenever both possible and quicker. Including glitches or oversights than can warp players to the very end of a game.
  • Knockback: If a game has this, it's practically a guarantee that it will be exploited in some way, typically for Sequence Breaking.
  • Lord British Postulate: Exploits and Sequence Breaking are common speedrunning tools, so this trope comes with that territory. While in many games it might make the game Unwinnable, in others it can produce any number of unexpectedly advantageous effects.
  • Low-Level Run: Since Level Grinding tends to be slow, a good low-level strategy can save time. Even in the cases where grinding is mandatory, expect the lowest level possible, or maybe a couple levels higher for safety, to win to be used.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Some games are non-deterministic, which means that they don't play out the same way every time. This means that the length of each run may be dependent on luck to an extent, and getting a good time requires a combination of good skill and good luck. If the luck requirement is too great, this can make some games undesirable for human speedrunning.
    • A notorious example is the "hand levels" in Super Mario Bros. 3, where there are 3 hands on the level map which each have a 50% chance of allowing the player to skip the level. This means there's a 1 in 8 chance that a speedrunner will fly straight through, but also a 1 in 8 chance that the runner will be forced to play all three levels - and what's worse is that this happens right near the end of the run. It's entirely possible for a world record to die here simply due to bad luck.
    • For Tool Assisted Speedruns, setting up the run for ridiculously good luck is all part of the challenge.
    • Roguelike games, despite being inherently random, actually tend to make surprisingly good speedrun games, as their randomness is usually constrained by the generation algorithm - this means that they're not wildly unpredictable, and a sufficiently knowledgeable speedrunner can even use their knowledge of the algorithm to make predictions. It also provides a unique opportunity for speedrunners to test thinking on their feet, while still offering the tantalizing possibility of that one perfect run when everything falls into place. And if the randomness isn't desired, most roguelikes also offer a way to seed the generator to produce the same results each time, which can be used for things like competitive races.
  • Mickey Mousing: This is sometimes done just to entertain the player and/or viewer, generally during an Auto-Scrolling Level when there's nothing the player can do to go faster anyway.
  • Mind Screw: This is common in TASes with heavy glitching or data corruption (especially if it's shorter than 10 minutes or reprograms the game), although it's not unique to tool assisted speedruns.
  • Minus World: In some games it is possible to reach out-of-bounds, Dummied Out, or developer-only areas where shortcuts, unobtainable items, and other exploits can be found.
  • No-Damage Run: Usually seen in Tool-Assisted Speedruns, where the computer's precision allows it to avoid every single hit by even the narrowest margin, or to manipulate luck so that it never gets hit. Otherwise, this is rarely a speedrun category in itself - in fact, speedrunners embrace taking damage when it gives them a speed advantage (sometimes referred to as a "damage boost").
  • No Death Run: Simply avoiding death tends to be a large factor in completing Nintendo Hard games quickly. However, speedrunners will take intentional deaths if it saves them time. Sometimes, "without deaths" is given its own speedrun category.
  • Not the Intended Use: Game mechanics are often used in ways the developers probably did not intend. This goes double for TAS, which can do things that playtesters during development couldn't possibly have found, due to requiring an inhumanly precise sequence of inputs and/or a combination of inputs that would be physically impossible on a standard controller (such as pressing up and down on a d-pad at the same time).
  • One-Hit Kill: If it is possible to kill an enemy this way, speedrunners usually will. This often even includes final bosses.
  • One-Letter Name: If the game has Hello, [Insert Name Here], the player character's name will only have one letter, mostly to save time on the naming screen and text scrolling.
  • Pause Scumming: For TAS players; some games are still active when paused allowing for random number manipulation, or a meta example of rapidly pausing the emulator. Depending on the game, some realtime runs can also make use of this, such as frame-buffering techniques in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or the infamous pause damage glitch in Mega Man. The dominant rule in TAS is that the real time is what counts, whereas a better in-game time is secondary; that said, there are moments where due to in-game slow-down, the player can pause for a frame or two to make the in-game time better without affecting the real time negatively.
  • Play the Game, Skip the Story: In the interest of saving time, runners will avoid as many story elements as possible, including skipping cutscenes (whether the game normally allows them to or not), bypassing entire sections of the game, mashing through dialog, and not collecting Story Breadcrumbs. Some runners will even experiment with different language versions of the game, up to and including the Chinese-exclusive iQue Player, which is extremely rare because it had long since ceased production, to speedrun The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time due to the faster or fewer text output, or using the Italian localization of Fallout: New Vegas. Suffice to say, playing or watching a speedrun probably isn't the best way to follow a game's story if you aren't familiar with it already.
  • Rage Quit: If a player is falling behind the pace they're aiming for, and particularly if the character dies, it often makes sense to start over rather than continue and finish with a bad time.
  • Random Number God: Different games have different degrees of randomness built into them, which can present major obstacles to a successful speedrun. However, virtually all games use pseudorandom number generators which are deterministic and can potentially be exploited. This is easier in TAS, though it may also be possible in real time depending on how randomness is implemented. Oftentimes, bending the God of Randomness to one's will requires actions that seem strange or arbitrary to laypeople, so runners will sometimes joke when they make a mistake that it was actually a totally intentional "RNG manipulation".
  • Regional Bonus: Often inverted; the things that most casual players would see as regional bonuses, such as bug fixes and additional content, can be detrimental to achieving fast times, which is why many speedruns are done in the original language and versions of a game. In a straight example, playing a game in a specific language (not always the original one) can also save time.
  • Resurrection Teleportation: In some games, dying respawns the player character at the beginning of the level or previous checkpoint without losing any level progress (such as switches pressed, items collected, boss killed, etc.). Runners will exploit this whenever backtracking is required, a tactic known as a "death warp". Sometimes quitting and reloading achieves the same result, and may even be slightly faster.
  • Rule of Fun:
    • Most games have a few house rules on what is or isn't allowed, based on this trope, as speedrunning is ultimately a hobby about the community, entertainment and challenge. Exploits that make a run too easy, or rules that make it too hard, are likely to be done away with (or at least put into their own competitive category).
    • In many games, there are sequences where progression is either halted or slowed down, such as unskippable cutscenes and Auto-Scrolling Levels. To make runs more entertaining, expect to see several Player Tics (such as turning left and right rapidly or spinning around) and Good Bad Bugs if players are able to move around during these scenarios, just to kill time. Players will also joke around like this when progression is normal, but only if it doesn't disrupt their clear times.
    • Tool-assisted speedruns will occasionally skip things that could theoretically improve the time of the game if doing this would reduce entertainment value. An example was a glitch that would've resulted in a large number of warps back to 1-1 in the Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island 100% TAS, since it would've resulted in a repetitive bordering on unwatchable TAS. This run also forewent the 1/1 running trick (explained in the link), because using it would've severely curtailed the amount of egg juggling that is the hallmark of modern Yoshi's Island runs.
  • Saw "Star Wars" Twenty-Seven Times: A natural consequence of playing a game over and over until everything comes together in one perfect playthrough. TAS runs generally track the number of rerecord attempts.
  • Script Breaking: Runners like to avoid triggering unskippable cutscenes as much as possible, which may have some weird results.
  • Sequence Breaking: Skipping parts of the game can sometimes cut down on run time dramatically.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: A speedrunner will only listen to the Big Bad's speech if the game forces them to. Otherwise, they will use any way possible to bypass, fight or kill the Big Bad before they can finish, since listening to said speech wastes time.
  • Solo-Character Run: The fastest way to run many turn-based RPGs.
  • Some Dexterity Required: Many speedruns require the runner to master advanced movement techniques to go as fast as possible or clip through areas and committing muscle memory for sections that they're expected to run dozens or hundreds of times if they want to achieve record time. Some records were achieved by runners just by being able to mash buttons faster than most other runners at a critical moment.
  • Speedrun Reward: When a game encourages speedrunning by offering the player something in return for a quick enough completion time. The presence of such rewards in games such as Metroid contributed to the birth of speedrunning, as players were incentivized to figure out how to beat the game quickly and found the challenge to be so enticing that they kept trying for faster times even after achieving all of the in-game awards.
  • Sprint Shoes: Usually acquired as early as practical.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: This is basically how TASes are built. Each one is a list of what buttons to press at what time (somewhat like a player piano roll) and, since all of each game's randomness depends on what the player does and how much time has passed since the console was turned on (aspects the TAS effectively controls), every game is extremely predictable.
  • Time Keeps On Ticking: Most contemporary speedruns use real-life time instead of any timer built into the game, so anything that takes up time counts, including lag frames, cutscenes, pausing, menu navigation, and more. Load times are exempted for some games, particularly on PC where these times vary depending on hardware.
  • Timed Mission: The game itself may even encourage a speedrun playstyle, at least for a few levels or bosses. This often takes the form of extra levels that incorprate time limits on levels that did not previously have them.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Characters going through a speedrun often gain a reputation of breaking the laws of physics, and sometimes, even the universe.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: Speedrunners often do such bizarre and unexpected things in games that they can end up accidentally putting the game into a broken state from which it is impossible to continue further. This is referred to as "soft-locking" the game, and is actually a real danger that speedrunners have to take into account when using particular strategies.
  • Violation of Common Sense: Everywhere. Taking damage on purpose in one area just to set up a death warp in the next, failing challenges that would be easily winnable where success is optional to progress, skipping normally mandatory items and skills, buffing your character very early on to breeze through the rest of the game, and even setting the game to display in a language you can't read are all examples of common speedrun tactics. Watching a speedrun can be a bizarre and puzzling experience if you aren't aware of the reasons behind the runner's actions.
  • We Do the Impossible: Speedrunners have the dedication to attempt and pull off gameplay feats that seem almost unbelievable to the casual player. Most people, for example, might find it hard to complete Mike Tyson's Punch Out at all, let alone quickly. But how about completing it in under twenty minutes, whilst blindfolded?
    • In the TrackMania speedrunning community, the members of the organization "Fastest Way Only" are dedicated to finding and executing every shortcut they can, no matter how insane or ludicrous it seems.
    • Escalated even further by tool-assisted speedruns, which are capable of going beyond even what humans are capable of, and in the most extreme cases even bending the game to their control using exploits such as Arbitrary Code Execution.
  • Wins by Doing Absolutely Nothing: In TAS runs, the goal is to reach the victory screen, but the traditional timing convention is to stop the speedrun clock on the last frame of player input. If you can engineer the Final Boss to do themselves in for the last part of the battle, it can shave precious time off of the run.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Tool Assisted Speedrun, Speedrunning


Super Mario World

Using a complicated string of inputs to load and unload sprites in just the right way, speedrunner MasterJun3 makes Yoshi eat a Chargin' Chuck, forcing the console to skip directly to the end credits. In almost 42 seconds.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (23 votes)

Example of:

Main / Speedrun

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