God Mode is a series from Decrypt‘s GG that provides an authoritative look at hot topics in gaming—whether it’s the best games in a certain genre, the top examples of buzzy trends, or other things you need to know to get the most out of your games.
There’s no wrong way to play a video game—as long as you’re not ruining it for others, of course. Play it like a marathon or take it in piece by piece. Use a strategy guide and look up plot spoilers, if you please. Ignore every trailer and news story to stay fresh.
Or just play the same game over and over until you literally can’t play it any faster. This is the art of speedrunning—or recording, timing, and publishing optimized runs of video games.
Even in speedrunning, though, there are a whole bunch of ways to play. Some speedruns approach the game as it was meant to be played, without glitches or cheats. Others will use any glitch available to turn 20 hours of typical gameplay into just 20 seconds.
Regardless of how a speedrunner handles their game of choice, though, the end result is often exciting. Games we know front to back and have played over and over again can look completely different in the hands of a skilled and determined speedrunner.
Collected below are some of the most mind-blowing, exciting speedruns around—but we’re only grazing the surface, picking on some of the most popular games around. But it’s a great starting point if you’re new to speedrunning or want to get a taste of the different approaches, and there’s plenty more to explore out there.
Sure, clicking a mouse to take down your enemy is cool, but have you ever tried just throwing something at them? Surreal sci-fi “John Wick” simulator Superhot made the jump to virtual reality, and so of course someone had to jack in and show us how it’s really done.
Superhot VR offers us pistols and shotguns, swords and throwing stars, and just lots of throwable objects to turn on our enemies. Speedrunner trickster00 conquers the VR version of Superhot in just 6:38 (not counting loading times)—and while they do fire a few shots throughout the sequence, they mostly just throw the guns at enemies, shattering the red raiders with the butt of their pistol rather than take all the time to pull a trigger.
Portal is a tough puzzle game that requires outside-the-Companion Cube thinking and a good grasp of the kind of timing it can take to get through the game’s complex later puzzles.
Or you can completely shatter the game and step outside the bounds of its reality, like the best Portal speedrunners do. In this “out of bounds” run, Sarahspeedrun ignores the confines of Portal entirely to beat this typically three-hour game in just under six minutes.
If you’re curious about how these game-breaking speedruns work, Portal is a great place to start thanks not only to just how short the game is, but also how much speedrunners talk about it. In a 2021 video with IGN, a speedrunner named CantEven sat down with developers from Valve Software to talk about how he breaks their game. In the process, he kind of breaks their minds too—but in the best way possible.
Super Mario 64
Despite Super Mario 64 coming out in 1996, it remains one of the most popular games to speedrun. It’s one of the earliest fully-3D games, but it holds up well enough mechanically to make this kind of play appealing while also having the kinds of glitch-ability to make hacking it to pieces tons of fun.
Super Mario 64 is one of the most competitive speedrun game communities around. Current record holder Weegee, shown below, nabbed the top spot for a run that gathers all 120 stars on November 18, 2022—less than a year ago. In the last couple months, however, three other speedrunners have come within 10 seconds of meeting or surpassing his 1:37:35 record.
In other words, Weegee can’t rest on his laurels if he wants to stay at the top. People are still looking and finding new ways to save time, too, with a so-called “carpetless” run of the level “The Big House in the Sky” being consistently demonstrated in tool-assisted runs—that is, speedruns that use outside software to help—just a couple months ago.
Minesweeper was included from Windows 3.11 in 1993 up through Windows 8 in 2012. Like its frequent partner Solitaire, rumor has it that Minesweeper was included in Windows 3.11 to teach you how to use the then-new computer mouse. Solitaire was all about dragging and dropping, and Minesweeper was your first teacher for clicking the correct mouse button. Left click to expose a square on the grid, and right click to identify a spot as having a (potential) mine.
A speedrun in a semi-random game is always tricky, but this one is still fun to watch. Speedrunner Sheen Simpson goes through a practiced click-and-restart pattern here, looking for a board that has the potential to be a one-click board. The skill here isn’t in how fast they click, but in identifying that this board is “the one” in a split second—and then clicking the mouse that one time to finish.
Dark Souls and the games that followed it—like Bloodborne, Sekiro, and others—are all about tough game bosses that demand precision and patience to overcome. While there are Any% runs that go down around the 20-minute mark, we’re much more interested in what Kahmul accomplished here, beating all of the bosses in Dark Souls in just 58:39.
A run like this requires you to store all of the precision and memorization required of each of Dark Souls’ many bosses in your head and to be able to replicate it every time.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
What’s more authentically in the spirit of a game than speedrunning Sonic the Hedgehog 2? That little guy is all about going fast. Russian speedrunner Eandis is the current world record holder as we write this, having taken first just a month ago.
But this is a tough one. Just outside the top 10 runners, there’s a record from over six years ago. Eandis stands at the top at 12:43, but SegaJunkie just barely passed the 15-minute mark with a 14:58 time back in June 2017. In other words, the 2:15 that players have gained in between SegaJunkie’s win and Eandis’ second world record—he managed 12:19 before this last fall—have been very hard won.
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
Perhaps the most impressive speedrun on this list, though, comes from the game Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, the 1986 NES classic. This game was notoriously difficult for us kids playing it at the time, with Tyson himself seeming unbeatable. But speedrunners like SummoningSalt, shown below, have shown us that not only is Tyson maybe not that hard, but that it’s possible to understand the game so well that you can beat it blindfolded.
In this 18:03 run, SummoningSalt sits in front of his Nintendo Entertainment System with a shopping bag over his head and clears the game basically flawlessly. All Mike can do is swing helplessly as Little Mac pummels him anytime he gives an opening. Punch-Out gives you tons of signals about when it’s safe to punch and when you should dodge. Victory is all about pattern recognition using only memory and sound cues, giving you an idea of just how much thought the developers put into the different signals Punch-Out sends the player.
Edited by Andrew Hayward