The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is well-known for impressive speedruns, even among casual players. Every time it seems there are no improvements left to make, a new glitch or intense session of play shaves seconds off the best time. Last week, the fastest completion time slipped under 17 minutes, marking the culmination of countless hours of hard work and optimization. I got stuck in the Water Temple for a week as a kid. Speedrunners beat the entire game faster than my morning commute takes.
Norwegian speedrunner Torje Amundsen is the first to complete Ocarina of Time in under 17 minutes. His Any% run, a type of playthrough that requires beating the game as fast as possible by whatever means, is a master class in precision movement and highly specific glitches. Since Narcissa Wright’s historic 18-minute, 10-second run five years ago, runners like Torje, jodenstone, and skater82297 have pushed Any% times lower and lower but could not break through the barrier into “sub-17” minutes. According to leaderboards, the first “sub-18” record was a 17-minute, 55-second run by Swedish runner Jodenstone four years ago. Before Amundsen’s run last week, he held the previous word record with a time of 17 minutes and one second. Amundsen’s new run clocks in at 16 minutes and 58 seconds.
Update 2:30PM - An earlier headline stated a two year gap between the first sub-18 run and Amundsen’s new record. Amundsen contacted Kotaku to clarify that the first sub 18 record was a 17:55 by Jodenstone, set four years ago. Thanks, Torje!
“This is by far the greatest achievement in my speedrunning career so far,” Torje said in his official run commentary on Speedrun.com’s leaderboards. “If nothing new is found, this may be the very last minute milestone Ocarina of Time Any% will see.”
One of the tricks that has made it possible for runners to improve the time so greatly over the last few years is a trick called “Get Item Manipulation.” It’s a complex trick that consists of two parts: one where you delay the picking up of an item and another where you trick the game into giving you what you want. Any% runners delay picking up a Deku Nut. The game still intends to give Link something, but runners manipulate the game into giving them a bottle of magic potion. The bottle is key to performing a trick later on at the end of the Deku Tree dungeon, which allows players to warp to the end of the game and fight Ganon while still playing as Child Link. Older versions of an Any% run involved getting a bottle in Kakariko Village and required much more travel time. Torje doesn’t leave the Kokiri Forest at all, moving optimally to collect all the rupees and items needed to complete the run.
In some ways, this route will feel familiar to fans of Ocarina of Time speedruns. Some tricks, like the warp from the Deku Tree to Ganon’s Castle, are tried and true staples that have been in runs for years. It’s Torje’s incredibly optimal play that turns the run into something truly special. Throughout it all, they wear a heartbeat monitor, and half the fun comes from watching the calm precision of the early run give way to heightened heart rates as it becomes clear that a new milestone is only moments away.
Amundsen’s run has pushed Ocarina of Time into a highly optimized period where only seconds might be saved. The prospect of seeing something under 16:30 or down toward 15 minutes is low for the moment. But Zelda games have a habit of yielding new secrets over time, be they something silly like the recently discovered infinite jump glitch in Breath of the Wild, the recent discovery of a GameCube-viable version of Wind Waker’s holy grail “barrier skip” trick, or a more complicated sequence-breaking trick in Skyward Sword. Ocarina of Time is being pushed to the absolute limit now, but given how skilled and persistent speedrunners are, who knows what might come next?