Speedrunning Terminology Glossary
Did you tune in to AGDQ this year, only to get completely lost when the runners started talking? Do you want to try your hand at speedrunning but can’t decipher the guides and forums that aid you in completing your first run?
Don’t worry, we’re here to translate.
The following is a glossary of common speedrunning terms. Check it out if you are a new speedrunner, or if you want your marathon experience to be just a little bit more enjoyable.
A 100% speedrun usually involves completing every challenge the game has to offer before finishing it. For example, a 100% run of Super Metroid involves collecting every power-up and upgrade before finishing the game.
An Any% speedrun only requires the speedrunner to get to the end of the game. They can complete as much or as little of the game as they like while doing so. Any% speedruns usually make use of glitches and sequence breaks to play as little of the game as possible.
Arbitrary Code Execution
This involves making use of a glitch to run code that a runner somehow programs into the game. For example, Super Mario World’s Any% run makes use of a glitch to run code that warps the player directly to the end credits.
A portion of a game that proceeds at a pre-determined pace. Cannot be sped up by skill or technique and are thusly considered the most boring parts of a run.
Any speedrun attempted without playing a game first. The runner is “going in blind” and has no idea what to expect. Super Mario Maker was famous for its blind run races.
Not to be confused with a blind run, a blindfolded run is any run where the runner is literally blindfolded. You can find blindfolded runs of games ranging from Punch-Out! to Super Mario World to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Inputting an action while another is still going on. This usually causes the inputted action to execute on the first frame possible. Useful for executing frame perfect tricks.
Different rulesets for different runs. Typical categories include 100% and Any% but many games have more specific restrictions such as warpless, deathless, glitchless, and so forth.
Clipping is the act of going through something that should be solid, usually as a result of a glitch. Clipping through walls or floors can cause a character to go out of bounds, letting a runner bypass large sections of a game.
The Collision Box determines how “solid” an object is in a game world. When the collision boxes of two game objects come in contact, they stop moving. By finding gaps in collision boxes, objects can pass through each other, and this can be a useful exploit.
Skipping cutscenes that are otherwise unskippable. Usually done by resetting a level while a cutscene plays.
When fighting a boss, this term is used to refer to one iteration of that bosses behavior. This can refer to how the boss attacks or moves. For example, in Mega Man X when Chill Penguin slides across the floor to attack, that is one cycle. If he performs another attack, that would be the second cycle. Speedrunners usually attempt to defeat bosses in as few cycles as possible.
Purposefully getting hit to traverse a level quicker. Sometimes damage boosts involve using the momentum from a character’s knockback to move faster or to get to areas they couldn’t otherwise. Other times, damage boosting is just a faster alternative to fighting an enemy positioned as an obstacle.
Dying in a speedrun specifically to get some sort of advantage. The most common is the death warp, but death abuse can be used to gain extra XP in an RPG, quickly end unlosable battles, or even trigger game breaking glitches.
The most common form of death abuse. Purposely dying to warp back to a check point because it is faster than traveling there normally.
Any run that requires the runner to avoid dying. Often used as a category when death abuse is too powerful or when imposing an extra challenge on already difficult runs.
Any program used to mimic a game console. Many speedrunners practice on emulators because of their ability to save and load game states.
The skill and muscle memory needed to complete a speedrun as fast as possible.
A speedrun is execution heavy if it focuses more on playing the game well rather than breaking it through various glitches.
A series of inputs that have to be executed on an exact frame of gameplay. Tricks requiring frame perfect inputs are notoriously difficult to pull off.
Most modern video games run at 60 frames per second. Older video games run at 30 frames, and retro games run at even slower frame rates. Many speedrunning tricks are measured in frames.
Anything that causes a game to act in a manner other than intended.
Any speedrun that requires the runner to avoid using glitches. Used as a category when glitches are powerful enough as to make a run uninteresting.
When a runner beats their best time on any particular segment of a run.
A portion of a character or enemy’s attacking animation that is capable of doing damage.
Stands for “individual level.” IL speedruns only feature specific parts of a game instead of a whole game. For example, most Sonic speedrunners do IL runs of each act and zone.
In Game Time
A speedrun measured by an in-game timer. Usually does not count things such as cutscenes or menu time.
Anything that causes a character’s action to lag behind a player’s inputs. Most often caused by monitors but retro games can cause input lag when too many objects are on the screen at once.
Speedrunning a game as the designers intended it to be played, without the use of glitches, skips, or sequence breaks.
Frames in which a player character or enemy cannot be damaged. Usually occurs after getting hit. Can be abused to bypass dangerous parts of a level via damage boosting.
Purposefully reducing the amount of objects on screen in a retro game to avoid slowdown.
A run without a focus on speed. Many runners will stream their first longplay of a game before attempting a real speedrun.
Any speedrun where the runner is required to do as little as possible before finishing a game. Low% runs are sometimes longer than Any% runs, because the runner cannot make use of power-ups or upgrades that would otherwise make their run faster.
Influencing aspects of the game through player action. For example, bosses can usually be manipulated to execute certain attacks by positioning the player character in the right area.
A speedrunning event in which many runners get together to run many games one after another. Usually done for charity. Runners only get one shot at completing a run in a marathon.
A safer but slower strat used in marathon settings due to the inability to reset a run.
Tapping buttons as fast as possible, usually to get through dialogue boxes or menus.
New Game Plus. Any speedrun completed using bonuses carried over after another playthrough of a game.
Out of Bounds
Moving outside the normal boundaries of a level. Usually caused by glitches and used to bypass portions of a game.
Overflow and Underflow
Breaking a game by exploiting the way it handles variables. For example, by causing a game to have less than 0 items in an inventory, you can trick it into having 255 of an item instead.
Buffering a command out of a paused game. Runners can repeatedly pause a game to find the exact frame they want to execute an input on for frame perfect tricks.
Personal best. The best time a runner has ever managed to get in a specific run category.
A trick that has to be done from an exact position, usually exact down to the pixel.
Quick kill. A strategy that kills a boss before they can take any action.
Two or more speedrunners running at the same time to see who finishes first. Usually an attraction at marathons.
Starting a run over after a mistake prevents a runner from achieving a respectable time.
Reverse Boss Order
Any run that specifically requires the runner to defeat a game’s bosses in reverse order. Popular in the Metroidvania genre.
Random Number Generation. Any part of a run that is unpredictable, meaning it essentially relies on luck, and not the skill of the runner. For example, random item spawns or randomized boss attacks.
Manipulating a game’s random number generating algorithm to make what should be unpredictable predictable. Certain RPGs can be manipulated to the extent that runners know exactly when and where they will encounter random enemies, level up, and so on.
A planned path of actions for completing a speedrun. Runners sometimes follow their route down to precise, timed button presses.
Real-Time Attack. Any speedrun whose time is measured in real seconds instead of an in-game timer.
A slower but less risky strat. Used when a runner is close to their PB and they are afraid of making a mistake that would ruin the run.
An emulator’s ability to save the game at any point in time and revert back to it instantly. Save states are frequently used when practicing specific run segments.
Reloading a game to restart at a save point because it is faster than traveling there normally.
Completing portions of a game out of their intended order. Usually used to get powerful end-game abilities early.
A run that never saves, loads, or otherwise manages the game state. It is completed from start to finish.
Any technique that bypasses a portion of a game that would normally need to be completed.
A series of events that prevents a game from being completed. Usually caused by glitches. Soft-locks can be anything from getting stuck out of bounds to causing the game to freeze.
The location and time where an object or game character appears. Understanding spawn locations is key to routing a speedrun.
Recorded time for a single segment of a speedrun.
General strategy for tackling specific portions of a game during a speed run. Riskier strats can yield greater reductions in time, but have a greater chance of ruining a run if they fail.
Certain games track position to a degree more accurate than pixel perfect. In these circumstances, knowledge of the “sub-pixel” your character is on can help you perform certain tricks.
When a run is sub a certain time, it usually means it is respectable. When a runner says he is going for Sub-20 minutes it usually means that any time under 20 minutes is a decent run.
Tool Assisted Speedrun. Speedruns created by advancing a game frame by frame in an emulator to ensure frame perfect inputs at all times. This essentially allows for the most efficient possible run.
Any strat that is usable in a TAS but is unable to be executed reliably by a human in real time.
Strategies that involve knowing how a game operates in order to break it somehow.
Tied World Record. When two speedrunners have both managed to achieve the fastest run.
Clipping through a wall, usually to get out of bounds.
Any action that takes you from one area of a game to another without traveling there.
A category that forbids warps, usually because using them would make a speedrun too easy or not entertaining. For example, Super Mario Bros. can be completed in just under five minutes with warps, but a warpless run takes 20.
World record. The current fastest speedrun for a game.
Performing a glitch that causes a normal warp to take you to the wrong place. Usually caused by making a game load an area incorrectly. Can allow a speedrunner to bypass huge portions of a game.
Taking advantage of a game’s collision detection to move quickly. Some games attempt to keep a character in-bounds by pushing them out of a wall as quickly as possible if they clip through it. By taking advantage of this, runners can have a game push them through a stage’s walls at high speeds.
Did we miss any speedrunning terms? Let us know in the comments!