Some games from my childhood stand out as iconic, hard-ass gaming experiences that tested the limits of me and my friends' skills and patience. Games that presented seemingly insurmountable challenge to a 9-year-old, creating nostalgic and almost mythical memories in adult my mind.
When I look back, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater ticks out. I remember those rails and curbs were slippery as hell and that the Hidden Tape was actually insanely hard to locate. The same goes for Resident Evil 2, its Licker zombies being excruciatingly scary and difficult.
Taking Off The Rose-Colored Glasses
One of the hardest things growing up is the constant bursting of childhood bubbles, and this is especially true as a gamer. The truth is that Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was a pretty bland game difficulty wise (that soundtrack though) and that the Licker zombies were clunky, avoidable enemies who'd be the laughing stock of any gathering of modern video game villains.
Games you might fondly remember too have found new life in the speedrunning community. Players are now comfortably blazing through the content I spent weeks or months hitting my head against almost twenty years ago. And they are doing it in less than an hour, always competing for faster times, taking a dump on every rose-tinted assumption I've carried into adulthood.
Let's have a look at some of the worst cases.
The world of Pokémon turned my world upside down for a couple of years. I was totally brainwashed, and my obsession with the cute monsters peaked with the purchase of a Game Boy Color and Pokémon Blue. My addiction was so severe that my father had to regulate how much I played, or else I'd suffer the consequences of oft-neglected homework to become an illiterate mongrel for the rest of my life.
In my mind, Pokémon Blue was an immense adventure and I spent months exploring the Kanto region to reach the Elite Four. For speedrunner Exarion it was a two hour bump in the road. Something to complete and defeat as fast as possible. I bet he'd make a terrible real life Pokémon trainer, since, as we all know, the key to being a master trainer is to love and be loved by one's Pokémon. You can't really build a strong relationship in 110 minutes.
Record holder: Exarion
Time to complete: 1 hour, 49 minutes and 48 seconds
Resident Evil 2
From the gnawing sound when Leon is bitten to the surprisingly complex story (which my 8-year-old brain couldn't understand), Resident Evil 2 has stuck with me as one of the most terrifying game experiences ever. It was truly a slow-burning horror experience, which lay the foundation for my lifelong unease regarding undead creatures.
This Norwegian speedrunner doesn't give a toot about that though. Just look at how he casually runs past the zombies, Lickers, mutated dogs and whatever else comes his way, in order to clock in a sub-49 minute playthrough. His excitement at the end is rather infectious and almost makes it okay that he just ruined everything scary about the game.
Record holder: Magn00zl
Time to complete: 48 minutes and 58 seconds
Ah, nothing was quite as wondrous and exciting as spending your afternoon solving the intriguing puzzles of Tomb Raider as a kid. To just casually leap around, pull levers and enjoy the amazing soundtrack, while sometimes unloading a couple of uzis on an ancient ape or two.
In a way, Tomb Raider was a soothing, almost meditative experience, and it worked as a great, mind-bending lesson in patience; something most children can make use of.
That's not how ActionTurnip217 plays the game though. He blazes through it at an incredible speed, never misses a step and generally jumps in all the right directions. He has memorized every piece of each puzzle in the game, and it completely destroys any sense of mystery surrounding Tomb Raider. Without that, the game is just a shitty platformer.
Record holder: ActionTurnip217
Time to complete: 1 hour, 13 minutes and 3 seconds
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and its sequels were one of the reasons I began skating in real life and spent my teenage years smashing knees, elbows and forehead into concrete and metal. It also introduced me to a lot of music and generally helped form the taste in music I have to this day. Because even though I now realize college punk stinks, my period with the genre helped me on my way to discover more well-rounded artists.
The whole skater subculture is a lot about image, music and rebellion, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater managed to capture that perfectly. Not that it matters when you're able to complete the game in less than five minutes like american speedrunner... George. At least he finishes the game as Jamie Thomas, who's an absolute badass.
Record holder: George
Time to complete: 4 minutes and 39 seconds
Super Mario 64
There is something profoundly magical about Super Mario 64. Maybe it was the whole thing about being able to see Mario in 3D on a new console, or the fact that the graphics and the gameplay were so damn good for its time. It truly captivated the joy of video games in a very innocent and timeless manner.
I remember playing the game at a friend's place when I was seven, and the sense of childish wonder the game invoked within me is something I've rarely experienced since. I was actually so mesmerized by the whole thing that I developed a very strong, ugly feeling of envy towards my friend who'd been gifted a Nintendo 64 for Christmas.
I hope cheese05 felt the same wonder about Super Mario 64 before he massacred it in this insanely well coordinated speedrun.
Record holder: cheese05
Time to complete: 1 hour, 40 minutes and 10 seconds
Out Of Love And Admiration
I know I've been a bit harsh on the speedrunners. In all honesty, they've probably played each of the games they've mastered a lot more than I have, and at some point they most likely had the same, nostalgic fondness for it.
The only difference is that they loved and admired the game so much, that they wanted to explore every exploitable facet of its mechanics. Because after all, you have to love a game very much if you decide to play it over and over again, until you literally know all there is to know about it. So hats off.
What do you think about speedruns?