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Super Mario Bros.: Racing Against Machines for Perfection

Ladies and gentlemen, gather 'round for a tale of speed, skill, and a quest for perfection! The world of Super Mario Bros. speedrunning is ablaze with...

D. Hardawar

Jan 30, 2024

Super Mario Bros.: Racing Against Machines for Perfection

Ladies and gentlemen, gather 'round for a tale of speed, skill, and a quest for perfection! The world of Super Mario Bros. speedrunning is ablaze with excitement as human runners inch closer to machine-level perfection. Brace yourselves for the latest world record that pushes the boundaries of what seemed possible for mere mortals.

Let's wind back the clock to September, when a runner by the name of Niftski shattered records in the any% category of Super Mario Bros. with a mind-boggling time of 4:54:631. This achievement brought him just 22 frames away from the realm of tool-assisted speedruns (TAS), where runners program precise inputs to create theoretically perfect runs. In other words, Niftski's world record was tantalizingly close to achieving literal perfection.

But dear readers, Niftski's quest for glory does not end there. He has also ventured into the glitchless category, where various exploits, including object-clipping tricks, are strictly prohibited. Since 2022, Niftski held the glitchless world record with a time of 5:02:785. Now, two years later, almost to the day, he has shattered his own record once again, achieving a remarkable time of 5:02:685. Most astonishingly, this is a mere 12 frames away from the glitchless TAS time.

In the description of his world record video, Niftski declares, "I do not plan on just stopping here." He dreams of reaching a lower 5:02.6xx in the future, knowing that there are three easily savable frames in the first room. He even hints at the tantalizing possibility of a 5:02.5xx by performing the treacherously tricky fast acceleration trick multiple times in the game's final level. However, he acknowledges that if he were to achieve this feat, it would be his ultimate stopping point. The TAS time of 5:02:485 stands as an elusive goal just beyond his reach.

Super Mario Bros. is a speedrunning anomaly, my dear readers, due to the infamous "frame rule." Hidden behind the scenes, a timer constantly checks if you've completed a level, disregarding fractional improvements unless you reach a new frame rule. It's like chasing after a bus, only to find that it hasn't even reached the stop yet. Combine this with the game's short runtime, and you have a recipe for a fiercely competitive speedrunning scene, where humans dare to challenge the perfection of machines.

Ah, but here's the twist! The one level exempt from the frame rule is 8-4, the grand finale of Super Mario Bros. To conquer this ultimate stage, runners must harness the power of the fast acceleration trick, executing three frame-perfect inputs in succession. Once upon a time, this seemed possible only in the realm of TAS, but now, human runners are turning this dream into reality. Will someone achieve flawless execution of this trick in every single full run? I cannot say for certain, but I dare not question the skills of runners like Niftski.

In the world of Super Mario Bros. speedrunning, perfection is within reach. Human runners are defying the odds, closing the gap between their mortal selves and the mechanical precision of TAS. The thrill of the race, the pursuit of that elusive frame rule, and the quest for perfection drive these incredible athletes. So, my fellow adventurers, let us marvel at their dedication and cheer them on as they continue to rewrite the record books. The journey has just begun, and the possibilities are infinite.

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