Super Mario Odyssey has hundreds of collectables to find; including moons, coins, and trinkets. Speedrunners who wanted to 100 per cent the game in record time had to figure out obvious things like the best possible route, while also sussing out when it's safe to take a bathroom break.
The current world record for Super Mario Odyssey's 100 per cent speedrun category is 12 hours, 57 minutes, and 4 seconds by Okikurume. The requirements are steep; players must collect 999 powers moons, gather 40 different costumes, possess 52 enemies and collect 1000 purple coins.
Arriving at those numbers wasn't straightforward: Larger games like Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey struggle to establish a clear set of rules for 100% runs. Super Mario Odyssey boasts an in-game counter which tracks some items, but not all of them. The community quickly came together and agreed to collect everything even if the game doesn't acknowledge it in the counter.
"Outfits feel extra and were up for debate," speedrunner P4ntz, who is currently fourth on the leaderboard, told Kotaku over email. Mario Odyssey has 40 costumes, and collecting all of them is a drag that requires grinding coins. Still, in the spirit of doing a true 100% run, players added the costume requirement anyway.
With a definition in place, runners could begin their attempts - but a lack of routing made early 100 per cent speedruns sloppy. 100 per cent runs suffer from two distinct drawbacks: Their length makes the runs a test of endurance for runners and it's damn hard to keep track of so many collectables. Miss one and it's nearly impossible to figure out what it was.
The first runs didn't have much finesse or focus, other than what runners knew from playing the game for fun.
"It was unexplored territory at the time," Okikurume told Kotaku via Discord. "I just ran around for 22 hours. I hadn't even 100 per cent'd casually yet."
Thankfully, livestreams add a communal component to speedrun. Okikurume's first run was a mixture of furious improvisation and teamwork, as chat guided him towards moons and secrets. Meanwhile, in a community Discord server, routers began to work their way through the game to figure out the best paths through levels. To accomplish this, they broke the game up into discrete chunks that could be stitched together into a full run.
100% runs start off looking to achieve World Peace. This means collecting every multi-moon in each level. Unlike real life, World Peace is one of the easier things to achieve. The hard part comes afterwards, when runners collect everything else.
"We laid out all the moons and divided them into sections," router Aquana told Kotaku over Discord. "We lumped the closest ones together. The first time through the worlds, we focus on World Peace and nothing else. In the second pass, we branch off and get everything else."
Some moons are a requirement for moving to the next level and opening new areas. For instance, runners can't explore all of the Sand Kingdom until defeating Harriet Broodal's boss fight and collecting the multi-moon she drops.
Outside of these required moons, routers need to determine the best order to snag the moons. Much of this comes down to how close the moons are to one another. For instance, runners defeat a large piranha plant during their first run through Wooded Kingdom but avoid a nearby nut containing a power moon. They collect that moon on their second time in the level after capturing a goomba that needs to be brought to that location for another star. 100 per cent requires that kind of tactical moon acquisition.
After these types of moons are collected, runners move onto activating "moon cubes" that add new collectibles to the map. It's all about thinking ahead and keeping track of moons.
Power moons are only one piece of the puzzle though. Every world has a collection of 50 to 100 purple coins to find. Runners also need to collect thousands of gold coins so they can purchase Mario's various costumes and other items from shops. It's a lengthy process helped by a repeatable bonus stage in one of the game's later areas.
Most outfits only cost 150 gold coins but the Skeleton Suit costs a whopping 9,999 coins.
Each run through the bonus stage grants 180 coins. It can take three to four hours to collect the 12,249 coins needed to purchase every outfit. "The coin grind is a hassle and easily my least favourite part of the run," P4ntz said. Most runners try to save their coin grinding for the end of the run. Some of them hate it while others find ways to make it more tolerable.
"The chat loves it for some reason," Okikurume said. "It's a chance to interact with them. If I just talked to myself, I'd probably go crazy."
No run is complete without a few "run killers," moments where failing a difficult task means massive time losses.
The most frustrating of these are the volleyball challenges in the Seaside Kingdom. Mario must bounce a puffed up blooper fish back and forth hitting it with Cappy 100 times to collect both of the power moons it awards. The timing is difficult and runners need to start all over again if they fail. A single missed tossed can mean a multiple minute time loss, all over a missed serve.
The biggest challenge runners face is the sheer length of the run. Even if runners are comfortable tracking all the various collectables and tackling tricky segment, a 100 per cent run is still a 13 or 14 hour investment. Runners have to watch their daily schedules carefully and stock up on supplies.
"I have to plan it around work." Okikurume said. "I'm a computer programmer and still work 40 hours weeks."
"The biggest thing is to prepare beforehand," P4ntz said. "Having drinks, food and anything else you may need before hand is very important."
That still leaves half a day's worth of playing, most of which is spent seated. There are only a few opportunities to stretch or go to the bathroom. Many of these moments come during periods with numerous text boxes.
Okikurume plans a bathroom break during his first pass through the game on the way to World Peace. He keeps a controller in a free hand to work through a section with multiple dialog prompts at the same time while using the other hand to take a piss.
Even when taking a break, speedrunners do what it takes to get the best time.
Super Mario Odyssey 100 per cent is still undergoing refinement as a small pool of runners work their way through the game and optimise the run with tricks and faster routes. It's hard to say how much time can be shaved off a run this massive but the reward of tackling such a huge challenge and finding new tricks keeps runners coming back for more.
"The beauty of longer categories like 100 per cent is that it keeps things fresh," Aquana said. "And there's always room for more optimization down the road."