Speedrunners Helped Me To Better Understand The Weird Games Of My Childhood

Summer Games Done Quick starts this Sunday at 11:30AM CDT and will be livestreamed on GamesDoneQuick’s Twitch Channel here. The event runs from June 23rd to the 30th and is raising money for Doctors Without Borders.

I’m honestly in awe of speedrunners. The dedication, skill, and stamina they show in their playthroughs is impressive. There’s so many games that mystified me as a kid or totally defeated me. Speedrunners put my retrogaming skills to shame and fortunately, there’s a fantastic lineup of retro and modern games for the week.

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I’m looking forward to Blaster Master, a platformer with metroidvania style gameplay where new weapons and equipment will power your armored tank, allowing you to reach new locations that were previously inaccessible. This game kicked my ass as a kid so I’m looking forward to watching Blaster Master get its comeuppance on the 24th.

Also on the same day are Rygar, Jackal, and Solomon’s Key, all old school NES games that I found incredibly weird and cool at the same time (Rygar in particular falls into my list of favorite NES games alongside The Battle of Olympus, Zelda II, Faxanadu and Goonies II).

What I most appreciate is in a lot of these walkthroughs, someone will narrate or give commentary on the different ways the speedrunner is using features/bugs within the game to earn precious seconds on their playthrough. These explanations will often give more insight into the way the programmers designed the game and why certain things worked the way they did.

On Tuesday, there’s a Silent Hill 3 UFO ending run that looks really intriguing. Heather Mason’s revisit to Silent Hill is about to get extraterrestrial. Also, I love Katamari and it looks like We Love Katamari is getting an any % speedrun.

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I have a confession to make. The Last Action Hero is one of my favorite films and so I’m kind of excited, but also wary, what a game based on the movie will be like. I’ll find out Wednesday on an any % speedrun.

The whole event will wrap with Chrono Trigger which is arguably one of the greatest games of all time. Appropriate, isn’t it? A time-based event on a time-based game.

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Over the past few years, my admiration for speedrunners has grown. I was blown away watching ERROR72 beat Ghosts N’ Goblins in just under 24 minutes when I have yet to beat the game in its entirety all these years later. NESCardinality manipulated the RNG within Dragon Warrior perfectly to somehow beat the game in under 30 minutes. I learned so much about Dragon Warrior through the commentary and was really impressed by the speedrunner’s cool confidence (I would have been sweating bullets, even without an audience watching).

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Whenever I need to decompress, I watch speedruns of games I felt frustrated with as a kid like Athena, Cobra Triangle, and others. One of the bane’s of my NES days was Karnov and I’m appreciative to Dragondarch for showing me how to beat it under 10 minutes. At least the developers spelled “Congratulations” right!

Kotaku freelancer Ben Bertoli wrote about what it takes to be a speedrunner. It’s a lot of work and dedication. I love how it’s not so much about beating records as it is playing a game that you’re passionate about and understanding every inch of the game. When you can combine that love with a charitable cause, it seems like the perfect combination.

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About the author

Peter Tieryas

Peter Tieryas is the author of Mecha Samurai Empire (Ace Penguin RH) & United States of Japan. He's written for Kotaku & Tor. He was also an artist at Sony Pictures & Technical Writer for LucasArts.