A skip that could save up to twenty minutes in the Super Mario Odyssey speedrun has finally been proven to exist. It requires switching into two-player mode, using a Goomba stack to climb up a sheer cliff, and clipping through a pot. The problem is that it doesn't really work.
Glitch hunters and speedrunners have been working for months to perfect a theoretical skip in the Super Mario Odyssey speedrun called the "Meat Skip." Put as simply as possible, the Meat Skip begins with a giant jump from a sky island accessed via an early game painting to the Luncheon Kingdom down below. However, if you attempt to make that leap, the game will rescue you and plop you back up on the sky island. Nintendo doesn't think you should be trying to jump that far it seems.
It wasn't always that way, though. On the first day of Super Mario Odyssey's launch, it had a day one patch that updated to version 1.0.1. Most games have this sort of first day bug fixing update, so that's to be expected, but last December a player named Pyorin discovered that the pre-patch version 1.0.0 had a skip in it that saved 30 seconds between the opening of the game and getting the first moon.
If that were the case, then what other speedrunning secrets might that patchless version hold?
— Syrkl (@kehzou) December 12, 2017
Enter Syrkl, a Super Mario Odyssey glitch hunter who helped guide me through the weird world of Odyssey speedruns and the massive, yet complicated, Meat Skip and why it is so interesting. As he explained in a conversation held over direct message, it was Pyorin's discovery that encouraged him to roll back his own Switch and Odyssey game to 1.0.0 to find out just what else the game might be hiding.
In the pre-patch game, for instance, there's nothing that saves Mario from falling to his death when trying to jump from the sky island to the mainland. And if there's no saving mechanism, then the jump is possible.
As you can see in the video by BeardBear, Syrkl eventually discovered that he could abuse the game's two-player mode to warp Mario over the final lip of the giant land mass. In terms of speedrunning, this is huge. Being able to make the jump means that speedrunners can get to the sky island and make a big leap that bypasses five worlds of the game. That's five worlds that they don't have to complete story content in or even walk through. It's a big discovery.
However, that leap was only the start. "There were some problems," Syrkl explained. "First, The Odyssey [Mario's floating airship that takes him from kingdom to kingdom] isn't here, so you cannot leave. Second, the Broodal boss Spewart is not there either so I cannot try and progress the story to hopefully trick the game into spawning The Odyssey."
Despite skipping a chunk of the game, the game is still looking for those specific story events to trigger somewhere in its game code, and so the next problem is making the game think that you're doing things legitimately.
Image: Mario Wiki
This put the speedrunners and glitch hunters in a bind. If Spewart isn't in the level, then the next opportunity to progress the story is by getting a Multimoon that floats above a giant cooking pot at the top of a volcano in the center of the level. Playing the game normally, you would possess a big hunk of meat with your hat and get carried into the pot by a giant bird. This is the "meat" at the heart of Meat Skip.
However, for whatever reason that meat is not possessable if you leap from the sky island; whatever prevents Spewart from spawning also prevents the meat event from happening.
Players focusing on this glitch spent the next five months trying to solve the problem of how to get the Multimoon at the top of the level. It was their hope that grabbing it would cause The Odyssey to spawn, making this skip an integral part of the speedrunning strategy for Super Mario Odyssey.
— Syrkl (@kehzou) May 8, 2018
Syrkl found the answer in Goombas. When you capture a stack of Goombas on a sloped surface, the game gives a player somewhere in the range of ten frames before they begin to slide down that surface. If the player starts spamming the run button in the middle of those ten frames, then the counter resets, preventing you from sliding. Using this knowledge and button spam skill, a player can climb a mountain using a Goomba stack. The glitch hunters were one step closer to that big ole cooking pot in the sky.
The final piece of the Meat Skip puzzle came with Syrkl's discovery that Mario is always forced upward if he is kicked out of a Goomba stack even if there is something in the way. The mountain climbing Goombas trick seamlessly integrates with the clipping Mario in such a way that Syrkl has been able to perfect travelling up the mountain, clipping through the pot, and landing on a vegetable so that he could grab the moon.
That seems like it should be it, right? Getting the Multimoon should progress the story, making months and months of labour worth it in the end because it shaves off twenty minutes from a speedrun that people are clamoring to shorten.
Getting the Multimoon doesn't progress the story. The Odyssey doesn't spawn, and the run can't continue. In fact, it opens the door for the game to soft lock on some actions. All of these months of intense speedrunning community focus have been for nothing, basically, other than the truly amazing story of how all these glitches and mechanics have fit together to make a skip that doesn't work happen.
If this, the Holy Grail of Super Mario Odyssey skips, isn't possible, then what's next for speedruns for the game? Syrkl thinks that all hope has been lost for an early Luncheon Kingdom, but that lots of smaller skips and glitches exist in the game, and that he's interested in renewing focus on some other parts of the game that have been neglected in the pursuit of the Meat Skip.
With so many months of work put into discovering skips and glitches in the game, I had to ask Syrkl how he felt about the dull thud of the Meat Skip's failure in the end. "I am quite disappointed, yes," he wrote to me. "This is mostly due to the fact that I feel I have put so much effort into it, and I had quite high hopes that this would spawn The Odyssey, but on the other-side I am quite relieved I no longer have to think about ways to solve Meat Skip and can put more time into solving other things for Odyssey."