This guide gives you everything you need to start speedrunning Mario 64. In addition, it delivers information on efficient ways to practice and ideas on how to stick with speedrunning. The goal is to set you up for success and give you the resources you need to achieve a speedrun time in under 20 minutes. If you’re new to speedrunning or Mario 64, you should check out the Glossary.
There’s a saying in the Mario 64 community. It goes “Techniques save you seconds but movement saves you minutes.” In other words, you should avoid using the advanced strategies used by top players. It’s best to learn the beginner strategies and focus on your movement, or else you’ll be the dope that can do owless but can’t break a 30 minute time.
Now, join the Mario 64 Discord. This place has a ton of useful resources, and the community is very helpful. It has been invaluable to me for finding resources and advice.
Below are the essential tools needed to start speedrunning Mario 64 and the guides on setting them up.
The Controller Guide ranks the controllers for speedrunning Mario 64, tells you what to look for in a controller and where to buy it.
The Emulator Setup Guide was written by @GiBoss#1587 for the Mario 64 Discord. The guide covers how to set up your emulator, so it’s leaderboard legal and has the least amount of input lag. It is very comprehensive, and I would essentially be ripping the guide off if I tried to write it myself.
The Livesplit Setup Guide gives you the basics of setting up Livesplit, a timer used by most speedrunners to track the time in their runs.
The Usamune Setup Guide gives you the basics of installing the Usamune patch to a Mario 64 ROM. The Usamune practice ROM is a modified ROM of Mario 64 with many useful features, such as in-game savestates and timers.
Practice spreadsheet – A Google sheet made to assist you in planning your practice sessions and tracking your times. Check out how to use it here.
Dolphin practice savestates – If you insist on using Dolphin, you’re going to need these. As far as I know, Usamune does not work on Dolphin, and there are no provided Action Replay practice codes.
Gameshark practice codes – If you do not want to use the Usamune ROM for whatever reason.
Road Map for Practice
- Learn the route.
- Focus on your movement and the required tricks (listed below) to get through a run.
- If you have trouble learning a section, modify the strategy to something you can do right now. Find the sweet spot in challenging but not discouraging.
- Phase-out your modifications through practice.
- Focus on getting your times tight and close to the videos linked below.
- Shoot for sub 20 minutes with this route.
- Learn harder strategies and techniques once you get sub 20 minutes.
- Cannonless on Star 2
- Mips Clip
- Backward Long Jump – BLJ
Okay, Cannonless on Star 2 isn’t really required, but it’s something that’s highly recommended to learn. It may seem intimidating, but it’s pretty easy to pick up if you take it slow.
Mips clip and BLJ are the tricks you need to learn to complete a 16 star run.
The best way to learn this game is to keep it fun. If practice isn’t super entertaining for you, then use full speedruns of the game as a reward for practicing. However, don’t fall into the trap of grinding out runs without practicing. Next, don’t burn yourself out, which can happen if you endlessly practice single stars without doing any full runs. Find a balance that works for you. You may also want to check out this article on building practice habits.
Know what you want to practice before you go into your practice session. I’ve found if I don’t have a plan, I have trouble thinking of what to practice in the moment, then I gravitate towards doing things I’m already good at, which is a waste of a practice session. Remember to use the practice spreadsheet.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the camera! It can make setups more consistent and/or make a trick significantly easier to perform.
Linked above is a full 16 star run with a very good time, and it’s pretty much the same run that you will be doing. Further, this video demonstrates that movement is more important than advanced tricks to get a low time.
Note: This video is a great reference for castle movement.
Things to look for in the videos below:
You need to pay attention to the controller inputs in each of the tutorial videos. Look at the button presses, control stick angles, and the camera!
These videos have lots of valuable information, so make sure to give them a watch. If you need to reference any of the material in these videos, here are some notes on them.