One speedrunner has set a new Super Mario Bros. world record for the first time in over a year, and runners are now only 22 frames away from literal perfection.
On Wednesday, September 6, speedrunner Niftski completed Super Mario Bros. with a time of 4:54.631 - a new world record. The previous world record - also set by Niftski - stood for 395 days at 4:54.798, and while the new run represents only a .167 second improvement, it's actually a massive milestone for the whole Mario speedrunning community.
See, Super Mario Bros. is a bit of an odd duck when it comes to speedrunning because of what runners call the "frame rule." Basically, there's a hidden in-game timer that checks every 21 frames to see if you've completed a level. Even once you've jumped on the flagpole at the end of the stage, you won't actually progress to the next level until that next frame rule comes around.
You can get a broad breakdown of frame rules thanks to a video from the always excellent Summoning Salt, but in essence, this timer means there's a very specific minimum time that can be set within each level. While frame rules give runners a bit of extra wiggle room in some stages, there are extremely precise tricks that allow them to reach the end of a level before another frame rule cycle passes.
The game's final stage, 8-4, is the single exception to the frame rule system. Here, the game goes to the ending the instant you beat Bowser, with no time wasted waiting for a new 21-frame cycle. If someone were to beat every single frame rule and have a perfect run through the final level, they'd finish the game with a time of 4:54.26 - a target that has so far only been achieved by players precisely programming a set of inputs with the assistance of emulators and save states.
Niftski's new world record is so impressive because it's the very first run by a human to successfully reach the fastest frame cycle in each of the seven levels leading up to the game's final stage. Take a look at the full run above. It's less than five minutes long and Niftski's pop-off at the end is a genuine all-timer that really helps sell the significance of the accomplishment.
"This run marks the start of a new era," Niftski says in the description of the video. "There are no more frame rules left to be saved, so this is now a battle of the remaining 8-4 frames! Only 22 frames, or 0.366 seconds, separate this run from absolute perfection. As much as I've stressed how amazing this run is to me, this is not my end goal, and I will not be stopping here!"
Barring any major new discoveries that break how runners understand Super Mario Bros., the 4:54.26 time built by tool-assisted speedrunners represents literal, machine-engineered perfection. Niftski's 4:54.631 record proves that human hands are only 22 frames away from achieving that same perfection for themselves. I, for one, welcome our new human overlords.