Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos [Undead Campaign Normal] by CovertMuffin
Though they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I find RTS runs fascinating. I love seeing tactical AI manipulated by clever positioning, exact movement, and specific units. I also love CovertMuffin. CovertMuffin commentated the AGDQ 2018 Warcraft III run and infused it with a manic positivity that he also brings as the runner for this marathon’s run. His narration is both informative and exciting, and it’s clear that he adores streaming a game he’s mastered. Much like an RTS speedrun, this kind of rampant positivity may not be for everyone, but I think it’s a great way to start a GDQ marathon.
Celeste [Any% Race] by TGH, yoshipro
As soon as I played Celeste, I wanted to see it speed run. There's nothing like watching a speedrunner turn brutal platformer into a walking simulator with pure skill. TGH and yoshipro put on an incredible show, keeping the race impressively close throughout the challenging game. You’d expect nothing less from the runner continually pushing this game’s World Record lower and lower and one of his closest competitors. The only knock against a run like this is that you get to enjoy so little of Celeste's phenomenal aesthetics. Celeste is one of my favorite games of this year and one of the best runs at SGDQ 2018.
Super Mario Maker [3v3 Blind Level Race] by Carl Sagan, grandpoobear, GlitchCat7, failstream, jaku, Cliffy
The most exciting race of GDQ finally returns. Super Mario Maker is consistently excellent because it demonstrates two wildly different measures of 2D Mario skill. The first is the skill of the creator, the ability to understand the conventions of Mario so completely and use them to create challenges and subvert expectations. The second the skill of the runner, the talent to translate the on-screen language of Mario quickly enough to follow its complex commands. Mix that up with some fantastic commentary, an excellent rule set, and some wonderful senses of humor, and you’ve got an incredible run.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time [Bingo] by Runnerguy2489
If you’ve watched any speedruns, you’ve probably seen an Ocarina of Time run. The game is so popular and its runs are so entertaining that they tend to be a great overall introduction to speedrunning. On the other hand, this ubiquity might mean that you think you’ve outgrown Ocarina of Time runs. If that’s the case, you should check out this year’s “Bingo” run (also, if it’s not the case). “Bingo” turns Ocarina of Time on its head in the same way that AGDQ 2018’s Link to the Past Randomizer run did for well-trodden classic. When the game’s objectives are subject to the runner’s choice, intuition, and improvisational skill, this run transforms from an understood set of optimizations into a wholly unique experience.
Cuphead [All Flags (Regular, Legacy)] by TheMexicanRunner
Sometimes all you need is a classic speedrun. An exploitable, version 1.0 bug. A series of levels that awards perfect execution with incredible results. An amusing and highly capable runner. A game that’s a joy to watch, even in fast-forward. This year’s Cuphead run checks all these boxes. TheMexicanRunner is one of the most charismatic streamers in the speedrunning community and his breakdown of Cuphead is a master class in how to make a gorgeous game go fast.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMix (KH1FM) (Any% [Level 1 Proud Mode]) by mistmaster1
Even as a fan of both Kingdom Hearts and speedrunning, I’ve never watched a Kingdom Hearts run that I really loved. Until now. As impressive as it is to complete Kingdom Hearts in a few hours, it’s even more impressive to do so at level one AND at the hardest difficulty. The routing and expertise required to make this run work is absolutely astounding, and it’s only improved by the commentary that describes the run's challenges in detail. Throw in a few nail-biting moments and a couple of genuinely impressive vocal performances and you’ve finally got the Kingdom Hearts run I’ve always wanted.
Super Mario Bros. 3 [All Forts Race] by mitchflowerpower, grandpoobear
There are runs that are great because of the performance, and there are runs that are great because they show the spirit of the speedrunning community. If you aren’t aware, mitchflowerpower and grandpoobear are both incredible at Super Mario Bros. 3, as they’ve shown in runs of the game itself and with various Kaizo levels and ROM hacks they perfect. This SGDQ, there was no perfect run. Instead, grandpoobear changed the race with a surprising mistake. I’m not going to spoil what the mistake was, but it could have ruined the whole run. Instead, mitch, grandpoobear, and the whole crowd took the opportunity (and subsequent ones) to show off the love and graciousness of the speedrunning community, as well as some truly fantastic improvisational play. Come for the Super Mario Bros. 3 experts, stay for the feels.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD [Any%] by Linkus7
I might not have included another 3D Zelda run on my list, but this year’s Wind Waker run was special. At other GDQs, this category required multiple hours, during which every runner remarked at least once about the one skip they hoped would be found: Barrier Skip. It would break the game wide open, they said. It would reduce the time-to-play by half… or more. This year, they found it. This run of The Wind Waker is worth seeing both because Barrier Skip is a fascinating glitch, and also because its existence is a testament to the ever-evolving state of speedrunning. Seeing the direct results of a community’s dogged dedication is always appealing.
Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 (Any%) by PJ
If you’ve watched a GDQ event before, you may know PJ as an amusing runner of amusing games. If you don't, then be prepared for your new favorite runner. Either way, the sheer silliness of PJ’s Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 run makes it one of the highlights of the marathon. I definitely don’t want to spoil too much, so just check it out. AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!
Super Mario Odyssey [Any%] by nicroveda
Every Mario game is a good speed game. It’s one of the many reasons to look forward to a new Mario release. In 2018, GDQ can once again show us why. Super Mario Odyssey was an end-of-the-marathon donation incentive with a substantive goal. It was worth every penny. The movement in Odyssey is incredible, especially considering how many forms are available to Mario throughout the game. The game is both goofy and clever, and both traits are on full display for the whole run. Plus, Odyssey is simply gorgeous, which is truly a feat on the comparatively underpowered Switch. The couch and commentators for this run pulled out all the stops (including a lot of rehearsal, apparently) and did a phenomenal job. If you could only watch one run from this marathon, Super Mario Odyssey might be the one to pick.