Top 8(+2) NES Speedruns and Why I Could Never Do Them

Let’s begin with the definition of a speedrun first.

A speedrun is a play-through, or recording thereof, of a video game performed with the intent of completing it as quickly as possible, optionally under certain prerequisites, mainly for the purposes of entertainment and competition.


Throughout my 25+ years of gaming I have tried a number of speedruns, but have succeeded in exactly zero of them. To accomplish a speedrun not only do you need patience and a thorough understanding of the game’s mechanics, but you also need a bit of memorization and actually be GOOD at video games. Now we are all good at games, but this kind of good is taking things to a whole new level as you will soon see.

The NES era of games is a great test area for speedruns because many of the games were short platformers. Okay they weren’t short when I played them, but these players make quick work of each game. While you may be taking a ten minute break to plant your crops in Farmville, some person is zipping through Batman with ease.

Many of these runs are done with emulators so that they could be recorded. In no way should this take away the achievements that each of these players have accomplished.

1. Contra

There are a number of reasons why I wouldn’t be able to pull this one off and of course the first revolves around not being able to use the Konami code. The second means I would have to beat the game in single player mode. I don’t think I ever tried, but I am pretty sure I never even came close in beating the game without the aid of a partner.

I tend to think that the game was easy only because I had 30 lives and another person had 30 also, but I definitely died more than three times during my runs so the game wasn’t as easy as I remember it to be. I’m not sure if this run is done on memorization or instinct, but the player in it is good. Damn good.

2. Batman

One of my favorite NES games of all time. It was challenging, but not to the point you wanted to throw the controller at the screen. I actually beat this game and I remember feeling like the greatest video game pimp in the whole wide world. Unfortunately this player makes me feel like I should go back to lincoln logs and leave the real gaming to the pros. I didn’t even know you could hit an enemy and just run right through them while they were flashing. I probably took at least 5x as long to beat the game as this guy.

As I mentioned, the game was challenging so I could never pull this off because I was guaranteed a couple of deaths from time to time. My jumping wasn’t as accurate as I would have liked it to be. He must’ve been the true Batman.

3. X-Men

This game was crap. It was easily one of the worst games on the NES and if you know the NES games catalog you know that means a lot. It hurt even more that the X-Men were my favorite superheroes and there was a time where I would do anything to make enough money to buy the new comic book editions that came out each month.

The fact that this person was able to even get through the game without smashing his head through the TV is nothing short of amazing and reason #1 why I would never have been able to finish the game. The fact the this person doesn’t even switch toons in midlevel is another amazing feat.

If you watch the video you will see that it’s almost impossible to even tell what is going on and you aren’t even playing it. Man this game blew.

4. Marble Madness

This game was hard enough to control with a trackball, it was even more difficult to control with the rigid NES gamepad. The run shown above unfortunately isn’t the NES run, which doesn’t let you embed, but it is the exact same game.

I first played this game on my Grandmother’s Amiga computer and don’t remember how far I got, but I definitely never beat it. Each level took me forever because I felt you had to be super precise when apparently you could just fly through corners if you wanted to. I’ll have to keep this in mind next time I decide to give the game a shot. Of course I will need to put down Plants vs. Zombies first. Hm, maybe Marble Madness would be a good iPhone game. Someone get on it.

5. Mega Man 2

My second favorite NES game of all time. It might be weird calling this a speedrun considering the video is over 39 minutes long, but if you played the game then you know there are just delays in it that you can’t speed through. There are definitely two specific parts in this game that would trip me up. I did beat the game, however these two parts always took me a couple tries. The first one is the Quick Man stage, the second level the player in the video runs through. The second one is the Dragon in Dr. Wily’s castle. Of course I would die many more times in other parts, but I know if I had a perfect run going, those two parts would be my downfall.

Instead of Marble Madness give me Mega Man on my iPod Touch.

6. Super Mario Bros. 2

Of course I am referring to the American version of Super Mario Bros. 2. The only reason I wouldn’t be able to accomplish the speed run as this player has done is because he uses Luigi and makes him look godly. Seriously, has Luigi ever looked so good before? Then he moves to Toad and you would think he was Arnie in Predator. Excuse me while I just run through everyone to the end of the board.

Although this game was fun it was my least favorite of the trilogy. Super Mario Bros. 3 being my all-time favorite and the original just being a classic. I guess I didn’t like stopping to pick up some radish to throw at some weird looking bird hopping my way. Stupid enough we had to kill Bowser each level in the original, now you give us Birdo to throw eggs at every 30 seconds? I pass.

7. Super Mario Bros.

This run just leaves me speechless. The amount of close calls and exploits performed by this player go to show I would never even come close to perfecting a run like this. Every jump is well-timed and executed to perfection. Rarely do you see the player do a full jump and apparently there is no need when you can just hop and skip over every bad guy. Some claim that this was run using cheats, but I can see it happening like this due to it being one of the first Nintendo games around so glitches are bound to be part of it.

8. Double Dragon 1, 2 & 3

You read that right. This is a speed run of all three games run back to back. Solo. No restarts. Under an hour including endings. I shouldn’t even have to explain why I wouldn’t be able to pull this one off, but I know I never beat any of these games without a partner. Maybe I just like playing video games with others or maybe I wasn’t as skilled a gamer as I thought as a 10 year old.

There you have it, my top 8(+2) speedruns of games from the NES era. Did you ever try a speedrun and succeed?

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