Nintendo has some of the most legendary video game characters of all time. What gamer hasn’t heard of Mario or Pikachu? Closely following these icons is the powerful and mysterious Samus Aran, the heroine of the classic Metroid series. The third game in the series, Super Metroid, is considered a spectacular entry, if not the best Metroid game ever made. The non-linear exploration elements, self-drawing map and hidden features were groundbreaking for the time, helping to give birth to what is known as the “Metroidvania” genre (a style of games heavily influenced by the Metroid and Castlevania series.) A Super Metroid speedrun doesn’t seem like the most intuitive challenge, but calmly making your way through the levels doesn’t quite cut it for all players.
Super Metroid quickly made its way into the speedrunning arena and is seen as an immensely fun and extremely challenging playthrough. The many platforms placed throughout can be awkward to navigate, and precise yet speedy movements are necessary to be successful. What’s more, the collection of glitches and somewhat hidden maneuvers are difficult to execute and make for some impressive tricks. Come with us as we dive into one of the most spectacular Super Metroid speedruns ever completed, the current world record by Zoast.
Why Are Speedruns So Popular?
Speedruns aren’t for the fainthearted, but that’s part of what makes them so magical to take part in, whether you’re doing one yourself or watching along. An insane level of expertise and dedication is needed to speedrun competitively. Memorizing every inch of the game is essential, along with practicing the controls for each section meticulously. A sense of personal achievement is a major reason speedrunners do what they do, but competing with others for good fun is what helps bring the speedrunning community to life. Viewers love to cheer on their favorite runners as well, and observing a run can be an equally exhilarating and oddly relaxing experience.
How Do Speedruns Work?
There are usually some restrictions placed on a speedrun so that they can be compared fairly, as well as giving the players some unique challenges to contend with. A brief definition of speedrunning terms is shown in the table below.
|Any%||Any level of completion is allowed, as well as exploiting glitches to gain an advantage|
|Low%||The lowest level of completion must be obtained, usually requiring skipping as many optional levels and upgrades as you can|
|100%||Everything must be completed, including map exploration and any sidequests|
|Glitchless||Use of glitches is forbidden|
|Deathless||Dying during the game forfeits the run|
|Blindfolded||The player must be blindfolded during the entire run|
|ETA||Real Time Attack, where time is counted in real-time|
|RTA||In Game Time, where the game’s built-in timer is used to record the final time|
|TAS/ non-TAS||Tool-assisted or non-tool-assisted. This usually includes emulators, to allow unlimited saves as well as frame rate manipulation|
The History of Super Metroid Speedruns
Since the game was released a while back in 1994, it’s not possible to view the very first speedruns completed. Recording software had yet to become widespread. Some of the first recorded runs were completed on an emulator as early as 2001. But most of these are no longer available due to the hosting websites being shut down. 2008 is roughly the time when Super Metroid speedruns became more common, finding their home on YouTube.
Since then, speedruns are being done all the time, with new records being achieved frequently. A notable change to the speedrunning rules has occurred in recent years, with the switch to real-time being used. This was largely because it leads to a smoother run without several pauses to the gameplay, as well as the fact the in-game timer doesn’t record seconds. Understandably, this wasn’t desirable for speedrunners, since every second counts when trying to achieve a world record.
Zoast has actually been speedrunning the game for over 10 years. He’s also achieved the low% world record in 2020 as well as 2nd place in the 100% category in 2021. We’ll see if he manages to add another world record to his list of accomplishments.
Super Metroid: Zoast’s Speedrun
It’s time to delve into Zoast’s speedrun, taking a look at what he did well, where he can improve and examining exactly what makes this run so incredible.
Super Metroid Speedrun Highlights
First, here are some of the most important stats about this run:
- It’s a new world record, beating his previous by a tiny third of a second
- He skipped collecting the screw attack and spring ball upgrades, which are usually considered essential for completion
- He took three rounds to defeat the Phantoon boss rather than the recommended one, and he still made the world record
- He had an almost perfect run of the Ridley boss fight
- There is still some room for improvement
Overall, this is an outstanding effort from one of Super Metroid‘s most talented players. At first, it didn’t seem like a record-beating run, but Zoast proved everyone wrong. The time seems a little ambiguous, since the recording software clocks it at 40 minutes and 46 seconds. However, the explanation given is that the game runs at an ever-so-slightly higher frame rate than the recording software, meaning that the time is a fraction of a second shorter in reality. This leads to an overall time of 40 minutes, 45.988 seconds, just beating Zoast’s previous time of 40 minutes and 46.08 seconds. This is great news for him, as it’s been accepted by the community and leaderboards.
A great achievement of the run is skipping the spring ball and screw attack upgrades. While these are optional, having them makes the game substantially easier, so avoiding them is impressive.
While taking longer than is desirable to beat the teleporting Phantoon boss, this isn’t the biggest mistake ever. A round is defined as the time between which Phantoon starts an attack pattern, and when he disappears temporarily. As such, taking one round can save you a lot of time, around 10 seconds. This arguably makes this world-beating record even more amazing, as most other players rely on this to shave seconds off their time.
Zoast didn’t pull any punches when it came to the Ridley boss fight, however. There were only two shots that missed the dragon-like creature, which is a very hard feat to pull off. Ridley tends to bounce around on his tail in a random sequence, leading to a tricky battle where quick thinking is essential for a fast fight. All in all, this fight is a standout moment in the speedrun and is extremely difficult to beat.
What Tricks Were Used?
Naturally, many tricks common to Super Metroid speedruns were utilized here, the main ones being:
- Wall jumping: This is an essential skill for skipping sections of gameplay as well as avoiding awkwardly placed platforms to reach higher levels quickly
- Preemptive shooting: Firing a projectile at a door just before it appears on screen saves precious time, which adds up quickly considering the number of doors in the game
- Shinespark: This is a technique where, by executing some tricky controls, Samus can dash ahead at superspeed until she hits an obstacle
- Intro skip: If you immediately save your file after the introductory cutscene and copy the data to a new slot, you can start the game at 00:00 time without the introduction
- Backflip: By pressing the directional pad in the backward direction and holding the jump button whilst taking a hit, Samus can perform a speedy backflip to move a lot quicker than normal
- Metroid skip: Through a series of well-timed jumps, Samus can avoid being attacked by the large Metroid, saving time. This can be seen at 35:17
- Zebetite skip: By tricking the game into thinking you’re trying to hop onto a frozen enemy, the Zebetite gates before the final boss can be passed through entirely. Can be seen at 35:47.
Overall, this is a marvelous example of a speedrun by Zoast, who is well-deserving of a world record in this category. Even more incredible is the fact he also holds the world record for the low% run, and that there are multiple opportunities for improvement here. These include the Phantoon fight, and a few examples of colliding with platforms while jumping, such as at 4:30. Time will tell if anyone can possibly beat him, including himself, but it’s looking promising.
Zoast is an outstanding gamer and holds several world records for Super Metroid. The much-loved title still attracts a lot of competitive players to this day. This is due to its replay value, precise controls, and ultimately fun gameplay. Gamers keep on trying, but Zoast seems to just keep on returning to retain his world-beating title. Will anyone be able to knock him off the top spot? We don’t know for sure, but we do know he’ll give them a good (speed)run for their money.
The image featured at the top of this post is © Michel Ngilen/Flickr.