Rogue Flying Fish Cancels Super Mario Bros. World Record

Darbian is one of the premier Super Mario Bros. speedrunners, and this is him getting wrecked by a Cheep Cheep.


Currently tied with Kosmic for first place in the game with a shared world record of 4:56:878, Darbian was on his way to make history having already shaved off another .3 seconds during world 8-3. Super Mario Bros. is one of those games that’s been practiced so often and explored so thoroughly that new records only ever come in at fractions of a second less than those they replace.

That’s why the smallest error in timing will instantly kill any new world record attempt. The Cheep Cheep usually doesn’t spawn until Darbian is already going down the pipe but on this occasion is came in right on the tail end of the first two, leaving the speedrunner only the smallest of windows to avoid it. Even though he struck it on the head and thus didn’t die, the jump-killing physics of making contact with an enemy meant he failed to clear the pipe, contributing to what in the end would be a King Koopa run time .7 seconds above his best.

“Why man?! Why?” he says, just moments before someone watching his stream types “fuck that fish” into the chat.

Last year around this time is when Darbian set his existing record. Since then, it’s been slow going to knock another .35 seconds off (the shortest increment of time that can be captured in each frame of the game). And with only a few frames left that runners believe are theoretically possible for humans to shave off, any run of this quality is a big deal, or at least it would have been if the Cheep Cheeps didn’t have other plans.

Darbian has currently run Super Mario Bros. just North of 26,600 times. 

Kotaku staff writer. You can reach him at



THE STATE OF THE ART (for clarification)

Foreword: the game checks if a level is cleared only once every 21 frames, so the time it takes to clear a level is always a multiple 21 frames (such a unit of time is called a ‘frame rule’), so saving a couple frames here and there does nothing for you if you do not manage to reach a lower multiple of 21 (or, to us the official analogy, to catch an earlier bus). This is true for all levels but the last one.

1-1: mastered with good underground and flag pole glitch (catching the flag pole through the base block, which skips the flag going down animation).

1-2: mastered

4-1: mastered with flag pole glitch

4-2: there are a couple ways to get what is called “fast 4-2" to save a frame rule. Currently, runners only go for it to save attempts where they are a frame rule late as it is highly unreliable (also, see 8-2).

8-1: mastered through hitting a specific block containing a star at the first possible pixel. That ensures the star leaves the screen at a certain height. Since the game uses the same variable to store the sub pixel position of items such as that star and the position of the flag at the end of the level, it just slightly lowers the flag, so it takes slightly less time to bring it down at the end of the level allowing to catch the earliest bus.

8-2: mastered (at least for the time being). To catch the earliest bus in this level, a glitch called Bullet Bill Glitch is used. It involves bouncing on a bullet bill just as (just before?) you hit the block at the base of the flag pole. For this to actually help you, you need the bullet bill launcher to shoot at the right time a bullet bill that goes fast enough. Speedrunners have recently understood what to do to ensure that happens: they manipulate the fake randomness of the game by starting their attempts a specific amount of time after powering/reseting the console and by reaching 8-2 on the right bus. My understanding is that it is why people do not currently go for “fast 4-2": there is no way to currently ensure an optimal bullet bill if you arrive in 8-2 with an earlier bus.

8-3: recently mastered. The optimal strategy used to be to not go as fast as possible (usually doing a slight bump on a platform before the flag at the end of the level) to not finish the stage with a game timer ending by 3, which would result in time wasting fire works. Now, a setup has been found to end the level with a flag pole glitch and no fire works, allowing to catch an earlier bus.

8-4: more or less mastered. Since the end of the run is measured when Mario touches the axe behind Bowser, this is the only stage where every single frame counts. A super optimized play can shave maybe a couple frames here or there, but as it stands, the way to get a new World Record is to arrive in the level with an earlier bus and go through the level cleanly (and not have the misfortune to get bumped by a wild Cheep Cheep... or to crash in a low Potobo... or to have Bowser throw real hammers).

It is expected the record will be broken soonish by about a frame rule in light of the new understandings and setups. In a more distant future one can expect a record saving another frame rule by having ‘fast 4-2'. But from there my understanding is that a major breakthrough will be needed to go lower.

Ok that was longer than expected...