So you want to start speedrunning, but you don’t know which game to start with. Nearly everyone who speedruns had to, at some point, ask themselves this one question: “Which game should I speedrun first?”. To help you along, consider this a helpful and insightful guide for choosing the game which is right for you to start your speedrunning journey.
1. Choose a game you love
The most common answer is “Just speedrun the game you enjoy playing the most!”, but this isn’t always the best option. I certainly agree, the most important factor when choosing your first speedrun game will be choosing a game you love and can enjoy playing over and over. My favorite game has always been The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (DX to be specific). However, I quickly learned that this is not my style of game to speedrun… although I could watch speedruns of it all day long!
The most common answer is not always the best answer
Even though The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a wonderful game casually, the speedrun of it just doesn’t fit my speedrun personality. And this leads us into the second most important aspect of which video game to choose as your first speedrun.
2. Establish your speedrunning personality
There are so many games I love, but there’s one particular style of game which I find most comfortable. Side-scrolling platformers have always felt very natural for me to jump into and start playing. When it comes to turn-based RPG’s, I usually just feel like I’m working an unpaid data input job — navigating menus, selecting often the same options over and over. That, mixed with the full tile movements often found in RPGs, doesn’t work for me. I love to feel like every frame of my inputs matters. My goal while playing turn-based RPGs always becomes just finish the game and be done with it forever. First person shooters, while fun for me, always take me some time to adjust. I was raised on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) with two buttons aside from “start” and “select”. One too many bumpers on a controller sometimes causes me to lose track of my fingers or stumble over my inputs. Point and click games, though they require very precise movement, just don’t give me that same movement optimization itch. Look for that itch. Which types of games give you that feeling of satisfaction when you improve your speed or do something better the second time you play a section?
It will be different for everyone!
These are all obviously personal opinions and experiences, but while playing side-scroll platformers, I always have an urge to replay sections a little faster or cleaner. This gaming environment wakes up my inner speedrunner. That’s exactly what you’re looking for. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never touched the game in your life, if it falls under your preferred categories of video games and character control — if you can pretty much just pick up a controller and go, that’s the type of game you should definitely consider for speedrunning. The key words there, for me, are “pick up a controller”…
3. Look for games which are physically comfortable for you to play
Perhaps you are like me, and playing a game with a controller just feels right, but this certainly doesn’t apply to everyone. Some of you, I am sure, feel more relaxed and ‘plugged-in’ while playing games with a keyboard and mouse. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been playing keyboard and mouse games since the early ’90s, but it just never feels right for me… and I am certainly no good at it.Trying to move with arrow keys and/or mouse looks slightly less impressive than me trying to run a 10 mile marathon on a floor coated in olive oil while I’m wearing rubber shoes and getting sprayed with a firehouse at a close proximity. Now imagine me trying to use my non-dominant hand with W, A, S, D. There’s absolutely no way. Even though I love casually playing a game with these, or any controls, there’s a zero percent chance I would enjoy speedrunning it. You may be able to adjust, and if you want to try speedrunning a game which is far outside of your comfort zone, go for it — but understand that it may be a rough first speedrun experience.
4. Choose a game you have easy access to
So, which game specifically should you choose as your first speedrun? When you ask this question online, you will get all sorts of suggestions of games to speedrun. Most of the answers will be for games which those answering are currently speedrunning — because of course, to them, it is the best game to speedrun at that given moment. I get it though. Believe me, I would love to see someone speedrun Batman: The Animated Series, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX 100% [No Restrictions], or The Adventures of MicroMan: Crazy Computers.
Some people say to start with something like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, because it has many different categories all offering a variety of different preferences. Additionally, it has a massive, supportive community. A supportive community can certainly make it easier when you take your first dive into speedrunning. However, there are too many factors involved in gaming and especially speedrunning to just direct a person to a single video game as the absolute best starting point for all speedrunners and/or gamers.
Taking Ocarina of Time as one example of many, let’s just see how that plays out
Perhaps you don’t have access to an N64 or a working cartridge of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Or maybe you do, but you don’t have a CRT TV, so you may experience input delay — too much to nail the tougher tricks (which Ocarina of Time is full of). Well, you may be thinking you can play on emulator, which is true, but the official leaderboards for Ocarina of Time do have limitations for emulator use in speedrunning.
- Emulator is banned for all times that are within 10% of the existing record.
- You must use Project64 1.6 or 1.7. All other emulators and versions (such as Mupen64/Bizhawk/Project64 2.0+) are banned
- You must use the default settings for emulation. (eg. Changing the graphics plugin to do GIM is not allowed)
- Tricks and glitches exclusive to 1.0/1.1 cannot be used on emulator to save time
- 1.0/1.1 Virtual Console or GameCube injects are banned
(These are the rules from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time leaderboard over at Speedrun.com)
Maybe for your first run, you want to just pick a game up which you have readily available and start running it as soon as possible. Nintendo 64 games tend to emulate poorly, and so you will often find that N64 speedruns have strict emulator restrictions. Some consoles and games are significantly less strict however, such as Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Atari 2600, and many older games and consoles you may have grown up with. Of course, most PC games have easy speedrun access as well. If you’ve got the hardware for any game (plus recording or streaming) that interests you, you’re good to go!
5. Speedrun your first game!
Okay, you’ve got a game that you like to play, and you could enjoy playing it through many times without causing you physical discomfort or strain. You’re ready! Start speedrunning your first game!
Here’s the TL;DR: There are 5 main elements which you should consider, in my opinion, when picking up a first game to speedrun:
1. First, consider the games which you enjoy spending time with, and have probably done at least one playthrough already. I truly believe, if you skip a casual or blind playthrough and jump right into speedrunning a game, you will miss out on the heart and soul of the game. You may not fall in love with the speedrun of a game as much, if you haven’t first fallen in love with the game itself. That is just my opinion, so take that with a grain of salt — but you definitely should speedrun a game that you enjoy spending time with.
2. Next, decide what your ideal game style is — what feels most natural for you? What makes you want to play faster, better, or more optimally? Maybe you game best on platformers, or maybe you prefer 3D, 2D, or 4D. Maybe you feel more comfortable moving in a side-scrolling game than you do in top-down shoot ’em ups. Perhaps racing games just make sense to you, and you’re a master at drifting around corners. If first person shooters work well enough for you to just pick up a controller and go (or keyboard — but don’t pick it up, that’s weird), then maybe that’s the best fit for your speedrun personality. Heck, it could even be card games, or something like Mario’s Game Gallery, or maybe a classic point and click adventure. Remember, it will be easiest if you pick a speedrun not just which you enjoy, but also one which feels natural for you to control.
3. Then, choose the type of gaming environment you feel most comfortable playing in. If I had to speedrun a keyboard and mouse game for hundreds or thousands of hours, I could not do it. Remember, you will be spending a ton of time with your first speedrun game, so you don’t want to choose something which strains out your hands, eyes, or other body parts (World Class Track Meet on the NES Power Pad?). I advise that you speedrun a game which you physically feel comfortable playing for long periods of time.
4. And the last important thing to consider is picking a speed game which you have easy access to. I’d suggest starting with a game you currently own or can easily emulate (emulation is also great for practice!).
5. Now go ahead and start your first speedrun! If you want to know which timer to use while speedrunning, I have a whole guide available for you.
One additional thing to consider is finding a game with a decent community base to help you ease into things. This may prove incredibly advantageous. Most speedruns which exist have Discord channels available, filled with knowledgeable people who are thrilled to help you get started in any way they can.
However, with all of this said, don’t take it too seriously. Pick a game which you want to try out, and give it a go. If you like it, keep going so you can get your speedrun time up on the leaderboards, or at least get that warm, fuzzy feeling of accomplishment when you get a sick personal best. And, if it turns out that you do not like speedrunning the game you selected, pinpoint what it is which bothers you about speedrunning this specific game, and find another game which better suits your interests.
No matter which game you choose, just have fun with it. With some practice and determination, you can achieve great things. Goodluck, and godspeed!