With Super Mario Bros., Where There's a Frame, There's a Way

Jason Bennett,

April 27, 2021 9:38 PM

April Achievements in Review: In pursuit of the fastest time to complete Super Mario Bros., Niftski breaks the elusive 4:55 barrier and shows the gaming world that Nintendo's plucky mascot isn't ready to slow down

After making his debut in Nintendo's 1981 arcade release Donkey Kong, Mario has become the face of the company, appearing in everything from breakfast cereal to Universal Studios Japan's latest attraction. But in the speedrunning world, the September 1985 release of Super Maro Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System is nearly a world unto itself.

With over 1400 submissions tracked on speedrun.com's Any% leaderboard with gamers vying to finish the title by rescuing Princess Toadstool in the fastest time possible, the game is one of the most played 8-bit classic titles in the speedrunning community.

After 17 years of speedruns, Super Mario Bros. is a highly optimized title where the accumulated knowledge of the game's mechanics pushes gamers to the very limits of human ability. This expertise prompted the community to embrace new ways of competing, shifting from the model of Twin Galaxies that banned exploits in the early 2000s to one that permitted their use at Speed Demo Archives and later speedrun.com. Today, world record contenders need to execute frame-perfect moves such as the flagpole glitch to shave precious milliseconds off the clock, where Mililand's time of 4:55.230 served as the high water mark in February 2021.

But on April 7, Niftski became the first speedrunner to break the 54 second barrier by completing his run with a time of 4:54.948. In doing so, Niftski's milestone achievement came two years after Kosmic first breached the 55 second barrier with a time of 4:55.913.

"It just feels insane that I have this good of a time in [Super Mario Bros.]," Niftski told Eurogamer.net shortly after his run. In the same interview, Niftski stressed that as pleased as he is with his record, it was not the end of the road for Super Mario. With other SMB contenders like Miniland, LeKukie, Thelxinoe, jscarbo, Tree_05, and AldynSpeedruns on the cusp of 4:54 times, he believed that it wouldn't be long before the speedrun community was treated to new achievements.

And you can be sure that Niftski will be looking to offer up some himself.

For a detailed and insightful retrospective video highlighting the history of Super Mario speedrunning achievements, check out the latest offering from speedrun guru Karl Jobst.

You can also settle in and catch Niftski in action for the full Twitch VOD of his run.


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