Live on Twitch, speedrunner Niftski broke the Any% world record in the original Super Mario Bros, with a time of 4:55.430, beating the previous record of 4:55.646 held by Kosmic. While a timesave of 0.216 seconds may not seem like a lot in real time, in a game as heavily optimized as Super Mario Bros, it is an absolutely massive amount of time.
During a four-hour stream of attempts, Niftski completed a speedrun of the platformer that started it all, going from the title screen to the Bowser kill-screen on 8-4 in record time, saving over a fifth of a second over the previous record set back in January. This is the first world record that Niftski has ever set in this category, and the skill he displayed throughout the rest of his stream gives high hopes of him lowering this time even more. To give some insight as to why this fifth-of-a-second world record is so huge, you must understand exactly how time can be saved in Super Mario Bros.
The game only checks to see if you have completed a level every 21 frames, or roughly 0.35 seconds. These 21-frame increments are referred to by runners as “framerules”. For any time to be saved on a given level, you must complete the level on an earlier framerule than the current world record.
Regardless of if you complete a level one frame into a framerule or 20 into a framerule, the next level will still start at the exact same time, so timesaves require players to cut down on enough time throughout the level to start the next one a framerule sooner. Many levels have already been “maxed out” in this regard, though there are still a few that could be cut down.
The level that Niftski saved a framerule in was 8-2, home to the hardest trick of the run, the Bullet Bill Glitch. This saved framerule came from not slowing down as much to jump over the third green pipe and required a frame-perfect and pixel-perfect jump. This allowed Niftski to enter 8-3 one framerule sooner than Kosmic did. 8-4 is the only level that doesn’t check for completion every 21 frames, and the timing ends as soon as Mario grabs the hammer. Niftski’s 8-4 was a bit slower than Kosmic’s, but the 21-frame head start granted him the record.
The next major timesave will likely come from 8-1. The “pl8-1” trick allows runners to make an earlier framerule with one frame to spare. Niftski is incredibly skilled with this trick, being the first person to ever hit the pl8-1 timesave on a record-pace run, which he did in this same stream.
He unfortunately lost the run in later stages, but the proof of concept has been shown. It’s only a matter of time before Super Mario Bros sees a 4:54.XX time. With a possible best time of 4:54.265, this second-break would be among the greatest speedrunning accomplishments in history.
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