As we have all properly got stuck into 2021, the yearly cycle of awesome charity-based speedrun marathons resets. Every year the European Speedrunner Assembly (usually abbreviated to ESA) puts on several exceptional events that bring our community together to bond, showcase amazing talent, and raise money to support fantastic causes. ESA has two main events, that fall in both the summer and the winter times. Their winter event begins February 12th on their Twitch channel, so we thought it would be nice to put together a list of awesome runs (in no particular order) you absolutely should not miss. Whether you are a speedrunning marathon veteran or somebody completely new, this event will have something for everyone to enjoy.
Honorable Mention - Skies of Arcadia: Legends — 100% by Pengy
February 12 - 4 p.m. CET / 10 a.m. EST
Before we get into the main list, it would only make sense to talk about the fact that ESA is planning a giant 20-hour long pre-show before the main event starts. What makes it even more mad is that this 20-hour block is a single speedrun! Skies of Arcadia: Legends is a GameCube port of the original Skies of Arcadia on the Dreamcast.
This critically acclaimed title is notorious in the speedrun world for its length and complexity, as the Any% category (beating the game as quickly as possible) is already around 11 hours and 100% pushes most runners way over 20 hours. These types of games with such length are huge challenges to overcome due to the amount of planning involved both inside the game and outside in order to pull off a run like this. Pengy has a Google Document with his notes for 100% speedruns and it is a staggering 45 pages of deep knowledge of the game’s mechanics. There’s even a tiny little 24 page guide for beginners to get into speedrunning this game; so simple stuff, really.
Dark Souls: Remastered — All Bosses by catalystz
February 13: 2 p.m. CET / 8 a.m. EST
We’ve all heard about the Souls series by now, whether it be the first entry Demon’s Souls destroying controllers on the Playstation 3 or from unoriginal critics calling every game the Dark Souls of X and Y. These games are rock hard, and a regular playthrough usually takes runners anywhere from 60-100 hours due to the extreme difficulty and steep learning curve. Truly not a series for the faint of heart. This is what makes speedruns of such a difficult game so damn impressive.
I’ve been familiar with the Souls community for a number of years now, and Cata has blown the world away several times with how absurdly good he is at Dark Souls. Being able to tackle every single boss (including the DLC) in just over an hour is no easy task. Showcasing nifty out of bounds skips, early boss kills, frame-perfect wrong warps, and doing a majority of bosses while one hit away from death is even harder; but I’m sure cata will be up to the challenge.
Super Mario 64 — 16 Star (Blindfolded) by Bubzia
February 13: 10 p.m. CET / 4 p.m. EST
Gimmick speedruns are always a joy to watch, but right now no gimmick is greater than playing an extremely movement-focused game like Super Mario 64 without ever seeing the screen. Super Mario 64 has always been one of the most popular games to speedrun, and the elite few who speedrun the game blindfolded are on a whole other level of incredible. Even if you are familiar with SM64 speedruns, this run will blow you away. The run makes use of what we call "normalized" strategies which essentially means methods of knowing where you are in each stage without any sort of visual reference. This means that blindfolded runs look entirely different to even a standard speedrun, and there will be exceptional commentary provided to make sure you’re in the loop every step of the run.
Fallout 3 — 100% by Jabo
February 18: 7 p.m. CET / 1 p.m. EST
When you think of Fallout, you usually think of the abomination that is Fallout 76, the chess club video, or extremely short and busted speedruns. Completing 100% of what these games have to offer is a gargantuan task, and tracking all the content is near impossible. This particular 100% run involves completing all quests, all DLCs, and collecting all 20 bobbleheads in the game. Considering the amount of quests there are in the Fallout games, getting them all done in a few hours is extremely impressive. Of course, no Bethesda title would be complete without a ridiculous amount of glitches and exploits, so allow Jabo to take you through each one on his way to 100% completion.
Honorable Mention — Super Metroid - GT Classic by kekumanshoyu
February 19: 4 a.m. CET / 10 p.m. EST
Fredrik “Edenal” Lidholt is one of the main organizers at ESA, and I reached out to him in order to seek what run he is most looking forward to for the upcoming event: "I'm super excited about Super Metroid! Keku (kekumanshoyu) is a very solid runner with a lot of other SNES games under his belt. Super Metroid encapsulates so much of what speedrunning is to me. Skill, sequence breaks, and the category is damn cool for ESA!"
To those unfamiliar with what GT Classic is, it is a speedrun that utilizes the Golden Torizo (GT) code which provides runners with many items such as:
20 Super Missiles
20 Power Bombs
7 Energy Tanks
3 Reserve Tanks
All major items except Screw Attack
Having all these items at your disposal means that runners can take the game to heights never seen before. If you’re a fan of Metroid or really pushing games to their limits, join Edenal in watching this timeless classic.
Cyberpunk 2077 — Any% by nicnacnic
February 20: 1:30 a.m. CET / February 19, 7:30 p.m. EST
Every run we’ve mentioned so far in this list has been all about putting a new spin on classic games. What happens when you switch gears to a game released only a matter of months ago? You get Cyberpunk 2077. Arguably the biggest disappointment from gaming in 2020, the release was riddled with bugs and glitches that made the game unplayable for a lot of angry users. However, as they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and a growing community of Cyberpunk speedrunners was born. Many insane tricks were discovered very quickly including a way to gain so much momentum via bunny hopping that you can jump around faster than most vehicles. Seeing a modern game become so broken so quickly is something very unusual, so this run will definitely be worth a watch (if you don’t mind the spoilers)!
Halo: Reach — Legendary by Two_EEzy
February 19: 9:30 a.m. CET / 3:30 a.m. EST
Your enemies outnumber you greatly and are hunting you down. Can you survive their onslaught?
This is the message you receive when selecting to play on legendary difficulty in Halo: Reach. It is clear that this difficulty is not something that should ever be tackled unless you want one hell of a challenging fight. As someone who has completed every Halo on legendary, I can safely say that this is no lie; an onslaught is a perfect way of describing what awaits.
Since the early days of speedrunning, there have always been two common ways to speedrun. The fastest difficulty for speed, and the hardest difficulty for bragging rights. This is no different in Halo, as the difficulty between easy and legendary is absolutely colossal, but that will not stop Two_EEzy blasting his way through Reach. AI Manipulation, sequence breaks, and exceptionally skilled combat await those who want to see Noble Six get to work.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories — Any% by Joshimuz
February 21: 12:45 a.m. CET / February 20: 6:45 p.m. EST
The Grand Theft Auto (GTA) games have always been a staple at ESA and have one of the largest speedrunning communities around. The community brings with it a lot of notorious runners, but Joshimuz is likely a name known well by both veterans and newbies. Going all the way back to ESA 2013 where Josh broke the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas world record live and fast-forwarding to the present day where he is a fundraising team leader, Josh has contributed an astonishing amount to both ESA and their respective charities.
This year will be no different as he tackles Vice City Stories, a spinoff title that was originally released as a PSP exclusive back in 2006. Vice City Stories is well known to be one of the hardest GTA runs, but a recent discovery smashed the run into a million pieces and shaved around an hour off of the current world record. As the glitch is quite technically complex, we’ll let Josh do the honors on February 20th.
Where can I watch?
ESA’s winter event will be taking place from February 12-20 over at twitch.tv/esamarathon, and will be running around the clock during those dates to bring you only the best of what speedrunning has to offer.
What we have mentioned in this list is not all you will be seeing at ESA, and you can find the entire event schedule on their website. The event will be supporting Alzheimerfonden, which is a Swedish organization supporting research into Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases. You can also find ESA on these platforms:
We hope to see you there!
Header image credit to ThisIsProx.