Twice a year, video game speedrunners come together at Games Done Quick marathon events to raise money for charity; at Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) in January, supporting the Prevent Cancer Foundation, and at Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ) to fundraise for Doctors Without Borders. 2019’s SGDQ has been going all week, and as the gathered runners approach the final 24 hours of the event they’ve already raised over $1.1 million for Doctors Without Borders.
If you haven’t tuned in for this year’s summer marathon or are generally unfamiliar with speedrunning, here are five runs from earlier this week at SGDQ 2019 that showcase the deep knowledge, skills, glitching and player camaraderie that make speedrunning and Games Done Quick events so darn entertaining. You can find links to each speedrunner’s Twitch channel by clicking their name in the section headers.
‘Titanfall 2’ by Bryonato
Even if you’ve never watched a speedrun or heard of Respawn Entertainment’s “Titanfall” series, this run of “Titanfall 2” is downright mesmerizing. The player movement in “Titanfall 2” is fast and fluid to begin with, but the route Bryonato’s carved through the game strings sprinting, double jumping, sliding, wallrunning and the occasional grenade-aided leap into astoundingly smooth sequences that make it look as though he’s simply flying through the level. Bryonato, who currently holds the world records for “Titanfall 2” speedruns across several different categories, is also incredibly good at explaining the techniques and strategies he’s employing as he plays. Watching a player blaze through the game’s inventive levels and giant robot battles might not be the best introduction to the “Titanfall” series, but if this run doesn’t make you want to buy the game yourself, “Apex Legends” (a battle royale game set in the same universe) is 100% free.
Highlight: At around 26 minutes into the run, Bryonato has a little fun pitting two enemy AI characters against one another while waiting for a moving platform he needs to catch in order to advance through the level. Even the downtime in this run presents opportunities to show off.
‘Metroid Prime 2: Echoes’ by Claris
I remember playing this game on summer break not long after it came out — I’m pretty sure I never finished it, because at any given point I was either horribly lost or incredibly frustrated by some tough boss fight. Here, Claris and her commentary companions on the couch have a ton of fun with the game, and the mood is infectious. This speedrun relies heavily on out of bounds glitches, where Claris pushes herself outside of the game’s map and bypasses whole areas by navigating through the void surrounding it, hopping on invisible geometry with expert precision. There’s something incredibly satisfying about seeing a game that flummoxed you years ago expertly dissected in this way: I needed a map screen and a strategy guide and still had trouble, but Claris is always surefooted and moving forwards on ground the game doesn’t even render.
‘Tony Hawk’s Underground 2’ by Plumato
The two “Tony Hawk’s Underground” games are either the last good ones in the series or where the games seriously started to go astray. The original “Pro Skater” games artfully combined simple goals, savvy level design and a super responsive control scheme to produce run-based, arcade-y skating bliss, while the “Underground” campaigns instead grafted those core elements onto story-centric missions bookended by cutscenes with maybe a little bit too much Bam Margera. Here, Plumato plays through the classic mode added to “Underground 2,” which not only returns the game to the 2-minute, get all the goals flow of “Pro Skater” but also sees the return of several classic “Pro Skater” levels. A donation incentive was set during the marathon to pick which character Plumato would play the run as, and Shrek (yup, the special character in this game is Shrek) won.
Highlight: Again, Plumato plays as Shrek the whole time. The whole damn run is a highlight.
‘Outland’ by Vulajin
Vulajin has done several Games Done Quick runs and used to be a staffer for the organization — his runs are reliably a good mix of entertaining and illuminating. This run of “Outland,” a 2D Metroidvania-style game released in 2014 by Housemarque, is no exception. The game, which also takes inspiration from the “Ikaruga” series’ polarity mechanic (red attacks hurt blue characters, blue attacks hurt red, and the player can swap their color back and forth) is as gorgeous as it is punishing. This run’s route through the game doesn’t make room for expanding his health, so Vulajin is basically right on the verge of death throughout the entire run as he’s maneuvering around enemies and past trickily timed polarity obstacles. As a big fan of 2D Metroidvania games, I was sad to hear that “Outland” is currently not for sale on any platforms. I’m sure I’m not the only person whose interest was piqued by this great showing at SGDQ, so hopefully “Outland” will find its way back into online storefronts soon.
‘Punch-Out!!’ (Wii) by zallard1, blindfolded
The Wii version of “Punch-Out!!” doesn’t deviate much from the formula of the classic games, but as zallard1 warns at the start of his run, in certain situations a single wrong move can make a fight impossible to win while blindfolded. This isn’t zallard1’s first blindfolded run of a “Punch-Out!!” title at a Games Done Quick event, and there have been several blindfolded runs of other classic games at marathon events in the past, but it’s a little hard to talk about what sets this run apart from its peers without spoiling it. All I’ll say is, even having seen the whole run already, as I’m typing this up I’m having a hard time taking my eyes off of it. The “Punch-Out!!” games may be going for a “Rocky” vibe, but I think zallard1’s performance here is closer to Neo’s.
Highlight: Once the regular speedrun’s over, zallard1 takes on the game’s secret fighter: Donkey Kong. Does he take the blindfold off? Of course not.
If you’re reading this on Friday or early Saturday, then there’s still plenty of fantastic runs coming up that you can watch live. I’m particularly looking forward to Saturday’s “Link to the Past” + “Super Metroid” Combo Randomizer, where players Andy and Ivan will cooperatively tackle a hacked together version of the classic Super Nintendo “Zelda” and “Metroid” titles that can flip back and forth between both games while also randomly distributing vital game items within and across both game worlds (for a more in-depth explanation, Kotaku has you covered).
Once the marathon’s over, you can always look for your favorite game in the archives for past Games Done Quick events, watch the runs from last month’s inaugural Frame Fatales all-women speedrunning event, or dig through “GDQ VODs” for specific types of marathon speedruns, like competitive races and live world records. Watch, donate, enjoy.