Super Mario Odyssey speedrunners often use glitches to grab tricky power moons or skip through major portions of the game. A new patch implemented alongside the new Luigi's Balloon World mode last week blocked some of those crucial tricks, slowing any runner who upgraded their game. Now, the community is trying to figure out what to allow in their runs and how to keep their leaderboards fair.
Super Mario Odyssey's most popular speedrunning category is Any%, which challenges players to beat the game as quickly as possible using whichever methods are available. It is currently one of the most active speedrunning categories, with over 1700 individual runners posting times within the game's first four months. The current world's best time is one hour, four minutes and 20 seconds by NicroVeda. While there were minor variations among early versions of the game and changes depending on whether or not you were using a physical or digital copy, until this new patch, none of these differences were significant enough to divide that speedrunning community. All were racing through versions of Super Mario Odyssey that were essentially the same.
The game's latest patch, 1.2.0, has a few changes that impact Any% runs. The most major is the removal of two tricks: Sphinx Clip and Turnip Clip. The former allows players to burst through a wall in Sand Kingdom to grab a hidden Power Moon while the latter lets them reach a Power Moon stuck inside a locked cage, bypassing a few cutscenes. Together, these tricks save roughly 15 seconds.
Nintendo has not explained why it has made these changes. Kotaku has reached out to Nintendo but did not receive comment in time for publication.
A major difficulty surrounding patches on the Nintendo Switch is that, unlike PC games where patches can be downloaded individually by players, Switch users can only download the most recent patch. A player who wants to perform the old tricks must never update their game. New players can never access the old version unless they obtain a physical copy of the game that doesn't include the patches and then refrain from letting their console connect to the internet. Anyone buying the game digitally would get the patch pushed to them immediately.
Players of each of Mario Odyssey's speedrunning categories are deciding if they will allow players to use older versions of the game and if they will make any changes to how their leaderboard are organised. Some games, such a The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, use filters on their leaderboards to show when players use items such as amiibos. For now, Odyssey's Any% community has opted to leave the leaderboard untouched. Players can run any version they want, even if other runners don't have access to the same benefits. Some worry that this Wild West approach will make it difficult for runners to compete on equal footing or otherwise alienate new players looking to start speedruns of their own.
"If I'm a new person coming into the game, it sucks to be told right off the bat that I'm at a disadvantage," Super Mario Odyssey speedrunner SpikeVegeta told Kotaku via Discord call. "You bought this game and you automatically lose 15 seconds just because you weren't here within the first four months."
One of the larger tricks in Super Mario Odyssey was the "Frog Skip". Landing on a frog's head while also possessing it allowed players to hover and swim indefinitely in the air. It was most prominently used in the game's "Darker Side" speedrun, where players collect extra Power Moons and clears a tricky bonus dungeon. Using Frog Skip, runners could skip the entire dungeon and float across a massive canyon where the end of the game was waiting for them. It saved around three minutes of time. The latest patch has removed it.
"It was a lame way to end the run but it was the fastest way," Darker Side speedrunner Samura1man told Kotaku via Discord call.
Unlike the Any% community, Darker Side runners have agreed to use filters on the leaderboards to differentiate between runs set using the 1.0 patch and the 1.2.0 patch. While this allows runners to play through the variation of the run that they prefer, it also fragments the leaderboard into sections that some runners don't support.
Complicating matters is the fact that Darker Side loses further time in 1.2.0 due to increased difficulty on a string of minor clips throughout the dungeon. This makes options such as only banning the Frog Skip less practical. The relative difficulty between tricks in each version means that some runners will still have advantages.
"The category is in limbo," SpikeVegeta said of Darker Side. "And it feels like we don't have control over our ruleset. I don't want ... speedruns to be about who has what version or who jumped through the most hoops instead of who is the most skilled."
As new game patches are released and speedrunners look for new tricks, the shape of each category could change dramatically at any moment. Community members are already speculating on what else could change. These changes came at the same time Odyssey added the Luigi's Balloon World mini-game, leading some speedrunners to think the glitches were patched to stop tricky players from hiding balloons in hard to reach places. This is already happening, and it's possible that Nintendo will release newer patches to fight off cheaters. Kotaku reached out to Nintendo but did not receive reply in time for publication.
"Nintendo has us by the balls," SpikeVegeta said. "They're probably going to release another patch and remove these tricks completely."
But if one thing's true, it's that speedrunners will always find new ways to break games and get better times.
"Odyssey is only a few months old," Samura1man said. "A big community is running the game. Something is coming up, maybe a big skip. We're a young game and something will happen eventually."