The best speedrunners in the world can beat the Nintendo Switch game Super Mario Odyssey in under an hour. On Monday, it took speedrunner Katun24 just over five. It would have been a pretty bad performance if not for the fact that he was wearing a blindfold.
His final time, now a world record for beating the game while blindfolded, was 5:24:18, and were it not for some mistakes and bad luck, it might have even been substantially less. But the work that Katun24 put in to lay the groundwork for the speedrun is in many ways just as impressive as the final product.
When the Dutch speedrunner set out to complete the game blindfolded, he wanted it to count as an authentic Any% run, the game’s most common speedrunning category, which simply requires beating the game as quickly as possible in one sitting. Assist mode, which gives Mario extra health and prevents him from dying if he falls off a level, is also banned. The most pivotal rule was that he couldn’t take off his blindfold at any point during the speedrun, which meant completing the whole game without seeing a thing.
Before Katun24 could even get to practicing, he had to come up with a plan for navigating each level and boss fight using only his knowledge of the game and its various sound cues. That process resulted in a mini-walkthrough of the game with every button press mapped out.
For instance in Cap Kingdom where the game starts and Mario first meets his hat companion Cappie, Katun24 does the following (he plays using a GameCube controller):
- Skip cutscene (Press start button, X button twice, A button)
- Move camera up as far as possible (Hold C-stick down)
- Jump (Press A button)
- Move forward-right eight steps (Move analog stick forward-right eight times)
- Move forward as far as possible (Hold forward analog stick)
- Skip custence (Press Start button, X button twice, A button)
And that’s only the first minute of the game. Katun24’s performance was basically like memorizing the script for a play—if the play was several hours long, he was the only actor, and the whole show would only be finished when he got every line right. He couldn’t simply go on autopilot either. When he messed up or needed to deal with randomly generated aspects of the game, he needed to be able to adjust. This involved knowing precisely where Mario would spawn on each level whenever he died, and making clever use of backwards flips and other maneuvers to reorient the plumber if he ended up getting stuck on a wall or running into other problems.
On Reddit, Katun24 said the end of the game was by far the hardest to plan out. “Escape, simply because it takes like 3 minutes to get to the end there every time, so experimenting with different timed movements in the pillar section was very tedious (I time walk/jump angles with the music there),” he said. “I’d say it took about 6 hours to strat, but it paid off since it was first try in this run.”
It also helps that Katun24 is experienced with trying to play games this way. He’s also perfected speedrunning The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, Super Mario World, and Super Mario 64. Traditionally, he’s focused on retro games, many of which aren’t 3D or as expansive as Mario Odyssey. Even with this latest feather in his cap, he’s still got work to do. He reckons his boss fight against Harriet took him 20 minutes longer than it should have, and why settle for the current world record when a sub-five hour blindfold speedrun is potentially just around the corner?