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.
Your first speedrun should be a game that you enjoy playing, have access to, and feel comfortable playing. Beginner speedruns to consider are Super Meat Boy, Super Mario Bros., and Strider for the NES.
Let’s break that down!
How To Pick Your First Speedrun
- Choose a game you enjoy
- Pick a style you enjoy (side-scroll, 2D, 3D, shooters)
- Decide PC or a console you feel comfortable with
- Consider if your accessibility to the game
These are the major factors in getting you started. I’ll break this down in detail below, so you can really consider which game is best for you to start speedrunning as your first speedrun.
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!
Though it doesn’t always work out, this is still the first consideration you should make. Consider the games you enjoy spending time with. You have probably done at least one playthrough already. I truly believe, if you skip a casual 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. With that said, you definitely should speedrun a game that you enjoy spending time with. Speedrunning a game solely because it’s popular be fun at all if you don’t enjoy it yourself.
And in case you’re still a little unsure, you can check out our guide on what “speedrun” means.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is my favorite game casually. Alas, the speedrun of it just doesn’t fit my speedrun personality. So what to consider next?
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. The full tile movements often found in RPGs just don’t work for me. I love to feel like every frame of my inputs matters. First-person shooters, while fun for me, always take me some time to adjust. I’m not a natural in regards to FPS games.
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 cause 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. Even if it’s not the most popular game, who cares? Just go for it!
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!
Pick Up And Play Speedruns
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 over 2D. Perhaps you feel more comfortable moving in a side-scrolling game than you do in top-down shoot ’em ups. Maybe even racing games are you’re calling if you’ve always loved drifting around corners.
Heck, it could even be card games! Just remember that it will be easiest if you pick a speedrun not just which you enjoy, but also one which feels natural for you to control.
While playing side-scroll platformers, I always have an urge to replay sections a little cleaner than my previous attempt. 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 you can pretty much just pick up a controller and go, that’s a good starting point! That’s the type of game you should consider as your first speedrun.
The keywords there, for me, are “pick up a controller”. What do I mean? Well, let’s take a look at the next consideration!
3. Physical Comfort
For me, playing a game with a controller just feels right! 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 unfortunately, I am not as good at it.
And I especially can’t 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 no chance I would enjoy speedrunning it. A few hours here is fine for casual play. But speedrunning for tens, hundreds, or thousands of hours is too much for me! My hands would ache, my arms wouldn’t be resting comfortably. It would cause physical discomfort, and extra mental strain while speedrunning.
To be clear, I am not advocating against speedrunning a keyboard and mouse game! I am suggesting that you start off with something that is physically most comfortable for you! Whether that’s a dance pad, wiimote, Xbox One controller, or keyboard, that’s up to you to decide!
If you want to try speedrunning a game that is outside of your comfort zone, go for it! But understand that it may be a rough first speedrun experience.
There’s one more consideration to make while picking your first speedrun. Let’s take a look!
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. This is because, to them, it truly 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.
But truthfully, other games may serve better as someone’s very first speedrun.
Many people say to start with something like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Ocarina Of Time As A First Speedrun
They’ll suggest this because it has many different categories all offering a variety of different preferences. There are categories for more or less glitches, collection, various lengths, etc.
Additionally, OoT has a massive, supportive community. A supportive community can certainly make it easier when you take your first dive into speedrunning. However, there are 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. Maybe you would need a working cartridge of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Even if you have a cartridge, you would be better off getting a CRT TV! Well, you may be thinking you can play on an emulator, which is true, but the official leaderboards for Ocarina of Time do have limitations for emulator use in speedrunning.
These are the rules from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time leaderboard over at Speedrun.com. These rules apply as of the time this article was written.
Though OoT is often suggested, the tricks can be quite difficult! It is certainly not the easiest first speedrun. This is a good example of why you need to be wary of random Reddit suggestions for which game to speedrun first. An approach as shown in this article can give you a more clear image of which game would be an ideal first speedrun.
Can You Speedrun on Emulator?
For your first run, you may want to pick a game up that you have readily available! Emulation is one way to achieve this.
In short, yes. You can emulate speedruns, so long as it complies with the speedrun rules established on the game’s leaderboard.
This will get you started speedrunning as soon as possible. Nintendo 64 games tend to emulate poorly. You will often find that N64 speedruns have strict emulator restrictions. Some consoles and games are significantly less strict, however. Some examples would be Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Sega Genesis, Sega Master System, and Atari 2600.
Many of the older games and consoles you may have grown up with can be easily emulated without too much restriction. Furthermore, emulation is a great way to practice tough speedrunning tricks!
Speedrunning on Real Hardware
Most PC games have easy speedrun access as well. If you play a lot of Steam games, that’d be a good starting point!
You can easily just window capture the game in OBS and voilà!
If you’ve got the hardware (see also ‘Best Cross Platform Games‘) for any game that interests you, that’s another great option as well! Just keep in mind, that you’re looking for easy access! Which games can you startup in the next minute? Those are the games to pick!
Speedrun your first game!
Okay, you’ve now chosen a game that you like to play. You could enjoy playing through it many times without causing you physical discomfort or strain. You’re ready!
Now go ahead and start your first speedrun! If you want to know which timer to use while speedrunning, I have a whole speedrun timer guide available for you.
As a side note, consider is finding a game with a decent community base to help you ease into things. This isn’t a requirement, and this isn’t even how I started. But doing so may prove incredibly advantageous. Most speedruns which exist have Discord channels available. The channels are filled with knowledgeable people who are thrilled to help you get started in any way they can.
With all of this said, don’t take it too seriously. Pick a game that 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. Alternatively, if it turns out that you do not like speedrunning the game you’ve selected, you can reconsider. Pinpoint what it is which bothers you about speedrunning this specific game. Based on that, find another game that 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!