Summer Games Done Quick, an annual video gaming charity drive that raises money while people play video games very quickly, is not an event that runs like clockwork. The people that make it happen work tirelessly to get everything going on a schedule and the speedrunners who perform the feats that raise money are generally experts in their games, but there’s always a human element. Sometimes things run behind. Sometimes a trick doesn’t work the first two, three, four times the runner tries it.
Sometimes they get a game-over one hour into a three-hour run.
That was the unfortunate place that SB_Runs, or simply SB, found himself with his SGDQ Super Mario Sunshine run. SB is the current world-record holder for the “120 Shines” category of Super Mario Sunshine speedruns, which means that SB has the fastest time in the world for getting all 120 Shines in the game and then finishing the final boss. This means not only knowing where every Shine in the game is, but also collecting every Blue Coin hidden around Isle Delfino. Ten Blue Coins can be exchanged for one shine, so to get the game’s last 24 Shines, SB needed all 240 Blue Coins, too.
While SB’s world record time for this is 2:53:57, the marathon estimate was just over three hours. It’s very unlikely to hit World Record pace in a marathon setting and there’s little harm in ending a run a few minutes early, as it gives the GDQ producers time to set up the next segment, so most runners build in some extra padding. The schedule was already running a bit behind, pushing SB’s segment from primetime in Minnesota where the event was taking place to later in the night.
When it came time for the actual run, things were continuing fine for a while. SB was making a good go of it, losing the occasional life, but nothing too dramatic. When he got to Pinna Park’s Secret Level, however, things suddenly turned south. Secret levels strip Mario of FLUDD, meaning there’s no safety net if you miss a jump. Pinna Park’s Secret Level is a cacophony of floating platforms that move on a timer, so not taking an opportunity means a time loss, and not making a jump means death.
It was there that SB lost his final life.
“Being flustered and nervous, I forgot to check my life count,” SB told Fanbyte, explaining that the unfamiliar setup, stage, and nerves were affecting him during his run. “When it happened, I was beside myself and didn’t know what to do.”
There was no safety save for Super Mario Sunshine speedruns. Every time you get a Shine or one of those Blue Coins, the GameCube would want to try and save, wasting about three seconds for each one. Even if the player said no, constant pestering across 120 shines and 240 coins could add upwards of twenty minutes to a run, which is kind of antithetical to getting through a game quickly. So most Sunshine runners just don’t have a memory card inserted at all.
In the clip, SB’s couch — commentators that are usually also experts in the game and friends of the runner — were a little concerned. The somewhat ironically named 1UpsForLife immediately piped up, “Do you–you have no lives. Have you saved?”
“No,” SB replied.
“So what are you going to do about that?” 1UpsForLife said, trying to find a solution.
“…Uh-oh,” SB said.
That realization further dawned on SB as he checked the file load screen before becoming cognizant of the fact that there was no memory card and thus no save file. Nearly an hour into the run, there was no immediate good solution. The world record is just shy of three hours and they couldn’t just end the segment and bring in the next game, it would throw the schedule off even more. But they couldn’t do another 120-Shine run, there wasn’t enough time.
“Luckily the GDQ tech team suggested a challenge run and my amazing commentary team picked up the slack, since I was unable to speak for quite a bit after that,” SB says. The new challenge designed by the GDQ producers for SB was to get as many shines possible as he could and then beat the game before the timer runs out. SB agreed, though was clearly despondent.
Luckily, the commentators with him — Labmemb3r, Electricmiles, and the aforementioned 1UpsForLife — tried to keep the conversation going, talking about various ins-and-outs of Super Mario Sunshine that you might not notice as a casual player. They talked about the paths not taken, how speedrunners got to the strategies that are currently employed, and generally tried to spur SB on as he played and quietly contemplated the last hour in his head.
“Mostly [I thought] that I’d just made a fool of myself in front of 70,000 people,” SB says.
These feelings were short-lived, however, as the GDQ audience quickly donated and wrote in to support the clearly disheartened runner. Donations came pouring in telling SB they support him and that they were proud he picked himself up and just started again. It came to a head when the Super Mario Sunshine speedrunning community pooled their donations together and told SB they support him on air. SB says that’s when the mood changed for him.
After this turning point, SB was racking up Shines left and right. He stopped at 83 Shines at roughly 2:57:09, eight minutes before the cutoff, by trading in 170 blue coins for a final 17 Shines. After defeating Bowser at the end, that made 84 shines total, a feat he accomplished to a roaring ovation at the first in-person Games Done Quick event since the pandemic began.
All told, GDQ raised about $20,000 for Doctors Without Borders during SB’s run just from donations, something not very common in the dead of the night. That’s a lot to feel good about, but SB is still kind of processing the whole thing.
“It was pretty traumatic to be honest,” he says. “I am just now starting to feel better about it,” answering our questions over Discord as he was traveling home from the event. “I don’t have anything profound, just I guess do the best you can do and have a good team. Maybe recognizing that not everything will go according to plan in life, and to make the best of what you’ve got.”