Matthias Rustemeyer is one of the all-time greats at Mario Kart 64. Maybe even the best. He’s certainly the most famous, having dominated the top-tier of its competitive scene for the greater part of a decade. And now he’s retiring.
“I completely lost the key value to go on: fun,” he wrote in a post announcing the decision. A fraught rivalry with the game’s new champion is a big reason why.
Most people outside of Mario Kart 64 speedrunning had never heard of Rustemeyer until YouTuber SummoningSalt posted a video last year documenting the German player’s recent quest to top the leaderboard in all of the game’s no-shortcut world record categories. The video went on to garner more than 2 million views and turned Rustemeyer into a mini-legend among even casual Mario Kart 64 players and general speedrunning enthusiasts. When SummoningSalt announced earlier this week that someone finally managed to secure all 32 world records, many assumed he was talking about Rustemeyer. But he wasn’t. That unprecedented honour instead went to Rustemeyer’s longtime rival, Daniel Burbank.
Tense competition is at the heart of any speedrunning scene. It helps spur great players to continually discover better strategies and break new records. For a long time, that’s how Rustemeyer and Burbank’s rivalry appeared to function. During his 2018 bid for the coveted 32/32 world record achievement, Rustemeyer came close, winning various records off Burbank only for the latter to work hard clawing them back. Other top-tier Mario Kart 64 players did the same, keeping the elusive goal just out of reach even as Rustemyer remained the clear overall champion.
Then everything changed last summer. While Rustemyer appeared, on paper, to still be the clear champion, in actuality, Burbank was hoarding world record times he had recorded but never officially posted. On June 11 he infamously “unhoarded” all of these times, claiming a number of new world records and shattering Rustemyer’s long reign in the process.
Burbank was the new champion. Rusteymer felt betrayed. Burbank wrote a long apology, but neither have communicated outside of live tournaments since.
“Dan unhoarded 15 WRs in June 2020 (fooled me and others for 15 months!) and completely destroyed the place I liked to visit almost daily; some players left the scene, many were upset and disappointed, I thought about retirement but kept going after receiving much support and a future hoarding ban with mandatory streaming for Dan,” Rustemeyer told Kotaku over Discord.
“It was actually 17 new WR’s,” Burbank told Kotaku over Discord. “Most of them were on tracks where I’d had WR before and the gap to first was very small. Some of them were tracks where there was already a WR tie. A couple tracks I beat the listed WR more than once while I was hoarding. In total there were 22 times that I didn’t release that I had driven.”
Hoarding isn’t against the rules, but some in the community consider it at the very least bad form.
“The hoarding did lasting damage to Matthias, and although I gave him some space last year after the unhoard, there was no way I was ever going to be able to make it completely right,” Burbank said. “I offered the community and Matthias to step away and that any playing I did I would just never report on, but they did not want that either. Although I felt, and still feel, a lot of guilt for what I have done to Matthias and the community, I love this game and wanted to continue playing and finally had time to push my abilities to as far as they could go.”
In the year since, Burbank continued to grind at an impressive pace while Rustemeyer, deflated and increasingly consumed with other parts of his life, struggled to keep up.
“The battle we had this year was easily the biggest battle in MK64 history,” Burbank told Kotaku. “There wasn’t a jovial competitive spirit to it. though. I’m sure it was personal to him after what happened last year.”
While the two furiously contested several world records early this year, by July it was clear Rustemeyer didn’t have the same fight in him to challenge Burbank’s 32/32 title that he had had years prior when he previously attempted it.
“Real life caught up in May, and I needed a break from the most intense playtime I ever had as other activities became possible again,” he said. “I came back earlier than planned in July because Dan went from a slight lead to 28 to 29 WRs with insane playtime every day. I didn’t feel the same fire to fight in the summer months. And with his hoarding history, I forced myself to play rather than fully enjoying it.”
Burbank finally securing the title earlier this week seems to have also been the final nail in the coffin of Rustemeyer’s remaining Mario Kart 64 ambitions. Rustemeyer has refused to congratulate Burbank in the days since.
“Some people will call me a bad loser when I refuse to congratulate, but Dan lost all my respect last year. And, for me: Sportsmanship > Gamesmanship,” he said. “He feared the fair battle and sneaked to the top so that I couldn’t defend properly, and although he became a very strong competitor it’s a loss.”
While the sun sets on the Mario Kart 64 competitive community for Rustemyer, the way Burbank talks about it sounds more like the dawn of a new era.
“There have been more people playing MK64 in the last year than ever,” Burbank said, though he admits his actions last summer have had a lasting negative impact. “The overall mariokart64.com community (including the other Mario Karts) have gotten way more split than ever in the last few years. The unhoard certainly played a role in that, but it has been splitting anyway for many reasons.”
Still, Burbank is optimistic about the new frontiers of competition that still have room to open up, despite the fact that racers are now battling over fractions of a second on highly optimised courses.
“There’s an upcoming new karter, Xander, that actually got Toad’s Turnpike flap WR a couple weeks ago. Then I beat it back, but he’s just going to keep getting better and better,” Burbank said.
For his part, Rustemeyer may be ready to forget, but he’s not about to forgive.
“I don’t care if some people will call me a bad loser, I’m a guy who treats fair players with much respect and who doesn’t forget the ones that go against the code of honour to lift their own ego above an entire community with such a rich history,” he wrote in his retirement message.
Regardless, no one will forget Matthias anytime soon. The forum post was littered with thanks and well wishes.
Wrote one fan, “Thanks for all that you have done for the community MR. You will be missed. Cheers to the GOAT!”