When a new game launches, speedrunners waste no time in tearing it apart. From day one, it’s a race to see who can finish a new game faster, as people begin discovering and trading tricks to shave off time. In the case of Metroid Dread, eager speedrunners had already gotten the game down to under two hours in a matter of days — for reference, it takes at least eight hours to beat casually.
It’s no surprise that the game is being deconstructed so quickly. Metroid holds a somewhat historic role in the speedrunning community. Super Metroid is something of a “marquee” game for events like Games Done Quick, which have often positioned it as a sort of “main event.” The series is ripe for fast play thanks to freeform exploration, advanced mobility techniques, and sequence breaks that turn the game inside out.
Less than two weeks after its release, it’s clear that Metroid Dread is forging a similar path in the speedrunning community. With an absurd amount of tricks already discovered and the world record completion time steadily ticking down, Metroid Dread shows just how impressive and efficient speedrunning communities are.
The race is on
Metroid Dread launched on Friday, October 8, alongside the Nintendo Switch OLED. Like many people, Dino Fernandezcano, who speedruns under the name MrDino023, couldn’t wait to tear into it. A longtime fan of the Metroid series, Fernandezcano initially became interested in speedrunning when watching runs of his all-time favorite game, Super Metroid. He eventually decided to try speedrunning for himself upon the release of AM2R, a fanmade remake of Metroid 2 that was eventually taken down by Nintendo. He was drawn to the idea of digging into a game from scratch, rather than trying to follow decades of speedrunning history.
Fernandezcano’s completed his first, casual playthrough of Metroid Dread in one sitting. He beat the game in around 10 hours and 30 minutes, which is on par with most players. Impressed by the game’s movement, he decided to start speedrunning it the next day. But he wasn’t the only one.
“When I was playing this game, I was like, ‘yeah, I’m definitely speedrunning this game,’” Fernandezcano tells Digital Trends. “But Sunday morning [October 10], I saw that someone had already beaten the game in one hour and 58 minutes. And I was like, what’s going on? The game’s been out for like two days! Why are people beating it already in under two hours? So I was like, ‘well, I’ve got things to learn.’”
Considering all the deaths and issues this run had, Im very happy with it since its sub 1:35, lets keep going!! pic.twitter.com/0aWn81kmzN
— MrDino023 (@MrDino023) October 18, 2021
He began watching runs and learning the early “route” on October 10. By Monday, october 11, he was ready to try his first actual run. An unfortunate game crash destroyed his first attempt, but his second run went smoother. He completed it in two hours and 30 minutes, shaving eight hours off his initial time. Just days later, he had beaten the game in one hour and 43 minutes. He currently holds 12th place on the game’s world record leaderboard.
The Metroid Dread scene mobilized incredibly fast. Players started trading secrets through Discord and social media as everyone worked together to break the game. When I spoke to Fernandezcano the Friday after the game launched, players had already discovered at least seven sequence breaks that turn the game inside out. In current speedruns, players skip the game’s underwater boss Drogyaga entirely. Even more impressive, players have found a way to skip the game’s tutorial E.M.M.I. encounter using a trick called “Pseudo Wave Beam,” which allows players to get shots through walls before acquiring the wave beam.
Some of the sequence breaks are intended. If players manage to get the morph ball bombs early, they can actually perform a near-instant kill on Kraid. There’s a special animation built into the game for it, so developer Mercury Steam intended for players to be able to do it. Though what’s funny is that speedrunners aren’t even using the trick.
“That’s not fast enough!” Fernandezcano says. “Going out of your way to go get bombs and then going back to defeat Kraid is not worth it, even though the kill looks pretty cool.”
A big part of why the game can break apart so easily is due to its mobility. Metroid Dread is much faster than previous games in the series thanks to abilities like sliding. But the big game changer is the game’s shinespark, a returning ability that allows players to store up momentum from a speed boost and unleash it to blast forward like lightning. The shinespark has appeared in previous Metroid games, but the tweaks here make it much easier to execute, allowing for absurd tricks.
“The way that the speed boost and spinespark work in this game, they give you a little bit of margin of error,” Fernandezcano says. “Sometimes if you bump into a wall, you still keep your speed if you recover fast enough. That kind of thing doesn’t work in other Metroids. If you walk into a wall, you lose your momentum. So that makes it a little easier to learn certain things, but fun to actually get them.”
Sharing is caring
By the time Fernandezcano and I spoke on October 15, the game’s fastest completion time was around one hour and 35 minutes. When I checked again on October 18, that time had been reduced to an hour and 29 minutes. By the time you read this, that number will probably have moved down even more.
The main reason it moved so quickly is because the community has been eager to share information with each other. While speedrunners are ultimately competing for the best time, discovering the perfect route is a collective effort. Fernandezcano has already created YouTube tutorials outlining some of the game’s biggest tricks so anyone can learn them. The more people who get into speedrunning a game, the more opportunities there will be for someone to find a new trick that shaves seconds off the final time.
There’s a lot of potential for Metroid Dread’s future as a speed game. Since the series has such a strong pedigree, it’s sure to get a prime spot during events like Games Done Quick. It could also have a lot of appeal for younger players who didn’t grow up with 2D Metroid games (its predecessor, Metroid Fusion, came out 19 years ago). It’s just always more fun to see games you’re familiar with torn apart. Dread isn’t just a big moment for Metroid; it’s a fresh era for the series’ speedrunning future.
Metroid Dread is out now on Nintendo Switch.