Super Mario Bros. is one of the most storied games in the history of video game speedrunning, and an incredible new compilation shows just how far players’ mastery has come. Why watch just one world record run when you could watch all of them at the same time, in just 11 minutes?
GTAce’s latest YouTube video lets you do just that. The veteran Mario speedrunner took every new record breaking run since 1999, and put them side-by-side, timing them to make sure they all finish at the exact same moment. The visual history shows how the gains between game-defining runs were huge in the beginning, and also how different speedrunners dominated the scene at various points in the timeline.
“I starting working on this video around my 5-year anniversary from when I discovered speedrunning,” GTAce told Kotaku in an interview. “I’ve been a top-level Super Mario Bros. speedrunner for a few years now and the community has been a big part of my life during this time, so I wanted to give something back that I knew a lot of people would enjoy watching.”
It begins with a player called Casion who established the first record of sorts with a time of 9:51 in April 1999. It was the kind of run reminiscent of the best kid on your block growing up showing off in the basement. A month later, a player who went by Xox shaved over three minutes off. “The first two runs were emulator movies posted to ‘High Level Challenge’ in 1999,” GTAce said. “I don’t think they were intended to be ‘speedruns,’ but are the earliest known videos of Super Mario Bros. being beaten on the internet.
In April 2004, Scott Kessler cut down the known records by another minute. It was the last time more than a few seconds would be saved in a single run. Kessler and a speedrunner named Trevor Seguin traded records throughout the early 2000s. Then AndrewG dominated between 2007 and 2014. Next Darbian came onto the scene, followed by Kosmic. More recently, a runner named Niftski has been leading the pack using a keyboard rather than an NES controller. And then of course there’s the tool-assisted speedrun (TAS) by Maru370, currently setting the benchmark for the best possible theoretical time at 4:54.265. The entire tribute ends with each runner celebrating their achievement.
“I replayed the ending reaction so many times during the creation of this video, and it was heartwarming every single time,” GTAce said. “I consider a lot of the runners in this video good friends now, and it’s fun to watch them get excited when their hard work pays off. It also takes me back to when I saw a few of these world records live, and I get to relive the excitement and joy I felt with them back when they achieved that record.”
Even now, speedrunners are managing to pull off new tricks once thought impossible for anyone but the TAS. Just this month, the speedrunner Tole managed a block glitch on world 4-2 to save another precious few frames. And the newest world record was set just a couple days earlier—Niftski managed a time of 4:54.798 on August 7. It’s within spitting distance of the TAS time, though if GTAce’s visual history lesson teaches us anything, it’s that Super Mario Bros. speedrunners will always find a way to push the boundary of what’s possible.
Update 08/18/2022 2:52 p.m. ET: Some typos corrected.