How to pick your first speedgame

Want to get started with speedrunning, but aren't sure what game to try first? We've got some advice to get you started!

By Cam "Meta" Enright

Filed Under: advice, opinion

So, you’ve decided to pick up speedrunning. Welcome to the wonderful world of routing, glitch hunting, running, or whatever else it is that has attracted you to this side of the internet.

Where do I start?

Well, the reality is that it comes down to personal preference, but that would be a rather silly article wouldn’t it? “Play what you want lul.” Instead, I’ll guide you through the process of finding a game that you actually like rather than telling you what you should like.

There are all kinds of categories, for all kinds of games, that suit all kinds of different players. You should find out what sort of games you like, as well as how you like to play them and go from there.

It’s worth noting that leaderboards on Speedrun.com will often support multiple categories for runners to choose from that allow for different styles of play. For instance, the most common category you’ll see on SR.C is “Any%”.

Any% generally means that you must go from the start of the game to the end, but you’re allowed to skip however much of the content in the middle as is possible within the limits of the game (eg. glitches/exploits and not straight up just hacking the game)

Any% is fantastic, and it usually shows the true potential of how fast a game could be beaten when the gloves are off. With that said, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and if it isn’t yours, that’s completely okay!

Many leaderboards will support categories like “Glitchless” or “No Major Glitches” (sometimes shortened to NMG). These categories are typically created with the goal to keep the speedrun similar to what could be considered an “intended” playthrough, but with routing and optimizations to speed it up significantly. The existence of categories means you can play a single title in many different ways. This allows for a lot of freedom even within a single game.

What game do I pick to speedrun?

Now then, back to the original question. What game should you pick to speedrun? In my own personal experience, I got into speedrunning after finishing a casual playthrough of Prey (2017). After completing it, I wanted more. However, I didn’t want to just start another regular playthrough and so I decided to pick up the speedrun since it seemed interesting, short, and easily accessible.

This would be my first suggestion to you, as a budding frame saver. Think of a few of your all-time favorite games, and from that list check out the associated runs for each game. If you’re like me, you’ll be absolutely fascinated to see a whole new take on a cherished game. This is really one of the great things about speedrunning in my opinion, which is replayability. Taking a game, and setting goals within that game gives you so much more to do. You get to enjoy the game for longer, and you get more bang for your buck.

With the above said, I would offer a warning from my personal experience. If your desired speedgame is one that you really enjoyed casually, make sure you’ve really gone through and gotten absolutely everything you can out of a casual playthrough. Once you start speedrunning a game, it starts to look a lot different, and it’s hard to go back to the “casual mindset” after starting your speedy journey.

What happens if I don’t want to speedrun a game I’ve played before?

Well, then I don’t blame you. Sometimes, it’s nice to preserve that relaxed enjoyment that comes from a casual playthrough. So what then? Well, there are still multiple avenues to pursue. I highly recommend using Speedrun.com’s own games page to check out some of the most active leaderboards on the site, because activity means at the very least the game appeals to some chunk of the internet. As well as the tools available here on SR.C, Twitch has its own filter for broadcasts that fall under the tag “Speedrun”. Through this, you can watch live attempts, immerse yourself within the Speedrunning community, and maybe find yourself a game to speedrun.

It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.

So, you’ve explored all previous avenues and still don’t know what to run? That’s okay, I’ve got you covered. As of the time that I am writing this, Speedrun.com has over 22,000 games with leaderboards and more being created every day. A lot of these games are really incredible, and I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that I don’t know everything about every single game that’s ever been speedrun. With that said though, I think I have a decent list of recommendations depending on your interests.

Retro/Classic Runs

Do any of these really need an introduction?

The Legend of Zelda Series
The Legend of Zelda series is full of all kinds of different games, ranging from entirely busted to relatively faithful to the “intended” experience.
The Metroid Series
Metroid is a true classic, boasting satisfying movement and combat across 2D and 3D installments.
The Mario Kart Series
Across all the games, tracks, and categories, chances are fairly high there’s a speedrun for you in here.

Movement-based Runs

Super Mario 64 - 16/70 Star
A movement classic with years of player experience and community resources for easy learning.
Super Meat Boy - Any%
Easy to pick up, hard to master. A great choice for a first speedgame.
Super Mario Odyssey - Any%
Modern Mario movement goodness, with a low barrier to entry and an incredibly high skill ceiling.
Celeste - Any%
Incredibly challenging, beautiful, and chock full of that sweet movement.
Titanfall 2 - Any%
An underrated first-person shooter built on a modified version of the Source engine, with high octane combat and ultra-smooth movement

”Broken-in-the-Best-Way” Runs

LoZ: Ocarina of Time // Defeat Ganon - No SRM
Until recently, this category was known as Any%. Defeat Ganon was created once Arbitrary Code Execution was found, allowing runners to warp to the credits through a complex process of memory manipulation. Defeat Ganon is masterfully broken in all kinds of ways and makes for a unique watching experience. This is by no means an easy run if you wish to learn it, but the community has a ton of resources to learn from.
Portal - Out of Bounds
Abusing Portal collisions to walk through anything? Sign me up.
The Dishonored Series
Elevators, leaps, and lots of OOB goodness.
DOOM 2016 - Any%
Ever looked at a railing and thought to yourself, “Damn, I sure do wish that would send me 1000 feet into the air at Mach 7” because me too, reader. Me too.
Fallout: New Vegas // Main Quest - Yes Man
Ever wanted to become a plane before?

Puzzle Runs

Portal - Inbounds No SLA
A hybrid category akin to “No Major Glitches” that blends the classic source movement with some clever routing.
Superliminal - Glitchless
A mind-boggling game with tight optimization and very satisfying puzzles.

By no means is this a comprehensive list, not even close. I tried to limit each category to just a few options, and I’m sure I have some personal bias inside my decisions. As such, I encourage you to do your own research and use this article and list as a stepping stone into speedrunning, rather than a direct guide.

There are so many amazing speedgames out there, with even better communities behind them. I could never hope to create a fully comprehensive list of amazing speedgames, simply because it seems there’s always more to be discovered or even developed. Speedrunning truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

What are your favorite games to run and/or watch? Tell us about them by sending us a tweet @speedruncom with the hashtag #FavSpeedgame!

Header photo credit to the PHD Gamer via Unsplash.

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