Awesome Games Done Quick is a bi-annual charity livestream in which some of the world’s best video game speedrunners — people who beat video games with blazing speed and precision — stream on Twitch to raise money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. This winter’s event began on January 4 and concluded on January 10 with a run of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on Nintendo 64. Just shy of 30,000 people donated more than $1.5 million over the course of the week.
The list of games played during the marathon range from classics like Ninja Gaiden and Battletoads on the NES to recent hits such as Transistor and Shovel Knight. On the shorter side, many older games are bested in just a matter of minutes — the recently-broken world record for Super Mario Bros. took less than five. At the other end of the spectrum you have people plowing through RPGs such as Final Fantasy VII or Super Mario RPG in marathon sessions of just three or four hours.
This year, AGDQ has teamed up with Humble Bundle to sell a bundle of games with profits also going to Prevent Cancer. It was a fun week of masterful gameplay. In case you missed it, we’ve compiled a few highlights from this year’s stream. And even though it’s over, you can still donate at the AGDQ website.
If you’ve ever played Tetris (and, let’s face it, if you’re here reading Digital Trends, you’ve almost certainly played Tetris at some point) it’s immediately apparent that KevinDDR is superhuman. In the above run of Tetris: The Grand Master 3 he plays with machine-like precision, often while amiably chatting about the game. He’s not even playing at full speed here (to see him cut loose, watch this), in order to meet certain requirements to achieve the game’s highest rank and unlock a bonus level during the credits, which is the real feat: Invisible Tetris.
After each block is placed, it becomes invisible, leaving it up to the player to remember where it is. Kevin clearly has a pretty precise picture in his mind of what he’s building, as evidenced by a moment when he cries out about making a bad move, apparent to no one but himself.
Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels
GameJ06 (aka “Big John) plays through Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels (or simply Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan (it was deemed too difficult for Western gamers on first release) in about half an hour. Charming and extremely skillful, Big John does a great job of explaining what he’s doing as he goes, making this an excellent intro for speedrun neophytes.
The run is extremely impressive, particularly toward the end, and he even gets to the secret, post-credits level for not using any warps.
TASbot hacks circles around the stream
TASbot (short for “Tool-Assisted Speedrun Robot”) made waves last year when it used nothing but controller inputs to hack Super Mario World and get it to run simple versions of Snake and Pong. This year the programmers took it to a whole new level.
TASbot’s team set up Pokemon Red on a Super Game Boy cartridge converter plugged into a Super Nintendo. Then, using nothing but standard button inputs within the game, TASbot managed to take control of the game by rapidly moving and deleting objects in order to selectively re-write its memory. From there it hijacked the Super Game Boy, and then on to the Super Nintendo itself.
Finally, as a coup de grace to demonstrate its mastery over the whole system, TASbot ran the live Twitch comment stream through the controller cable to display through the console, closing the loop and collapsing the whole livestream into a singularity of awesome.
Blindfolded dungeons in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
For many, childhood favorite games are a matter of deep-set, mechanical memory. Intimate knowledge of a game with one’s hands, rather than one’s head, is essential to unassisted speedrunning, as opposed to using emulation tools to cheat, which is a whole other branch of the hobby–more science than art, pushing the theoretical limits of efficiency within a game.
Runnerguy2489 literally backs up the boast of knowing a game so well that he could play it blindfolded by doing just that with the child dungeons of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for Nintendo 64 on the final day of the stream. He relies extensively on sound to provide the necessary feedback in order to navigate the the environment and enemies, using his sword like a blind person’s cane to feel his way through the game, often along the walls. The Z-trigger targeting feature, which was particularly necessary back in the day without a second joystick to control the camera, is also critical in hitting certain enemies and switches. It was not the fastest run of the week, but it was easily one of the most demanding and impressive overall.
In the end, it’s about the love
During a run of the N64 platformer Mischief Makers, runner Jackafur takes the opportunity of a lengthy cutscene to give a heartfelt thank you to the AGDQ community for supporting him last year during a difficult time, and then propose marriage to his fellow runner Kittyrawr. It’s a beautiful reminder of the ways in which games and the communities that form around them can bring people together.
The best part, though, is the earnestly surprised and excited reaction of the guy sitting right behind them (fellow runner Striker) as he realizes what is happening, captured here in gif form by Reddit.