Here’s a brief, non-exhaustive list of things that take less than four minutes and 55 seconds. Me devouring a plate of loaded nachos. Me eating an entire bowl of pasta (maybe a carbonara?). Me writing a lede while preoccupied with lunch. And a speedrunner blitzing through Super Mario Bros., setting a new time to beat in Nintendo’s all-time-classic side-scroller.
Yes, the preeminent Mario speedrunner Niftski clocked a sub-five-minute run this weekend, shattering the existing world record by less than a second. The “any%” playthrough—that term means it’s totally cool to skip sections of the game—came in at an impressive 4:54.798.
Niftski, who streams on Twitch and YouTube, has picked up a following for completing all sorts of speedrunning feats in Super Mario Bros., and is also responsible for the game’s previous world record of 4:54.881, set last winter. (Here’s a video of that run.) This latest run shaves a grand total of five frames off Niftski’s previous run—that’s the level of precision we’re talking about here. It is truly bonkers. See for yourself:
Throughout the run, Niftski makes use of warp zones—hidden areas that allow you to skip ahead to the game’s later worlds—and is careful to land directly at the bottom of the flag at the end of each stage. (Every Super Mario Bros. level ends when you jump onto the flagpole at the end; Mario slides down the pole before moving onto the next stage, which eats up precious seconds.) You’ll note, too, that Niftski plays with a keyboard, not a gamepad.
“Emulation for this game is 100% accurate, which means that anything that can be done on an NES is possible on [an] emulator,” Niftski said in the description for the YouTube video. “[Using a] keyboard offers no advantage, and it is actually debatably worse for speedrunning this game. I use [a] keyboard over [a] controller for personal preference reasons.”
This run edges Super Mario Bros. speedrunning closer and closer to the precipice of a “perfect run,” or a sprint through the game that literally could not be improved upon at all. The tool-assisted SMB record is 4:54:265, which shows human players are still a little over half a second behind. If a perfect run is ever going to happen, my money’s on either Niftski or the Mario speedrunner Miniland, who held the world record before Niftski with 4:54.914.
“With this run being done, we are currently 0.533 seconds away from the TAS,” one commenter noted on YouTube. “All of these 0.1 second barriers will happen one day, and then, we will reach perfection.”