The 5 best speedruns at AGDQ 2021

These runs showed what AGDQ is all about.

Image via Games Done Quick

This year’s Awesome Games Done Quick event has come to a close, bringing in 2021 with new competitors, world records, and $2,760,886 in donations for the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

Despite the continuation of the virtual setting for the event, AGDQ showcased some of the world’s best professional speedrunners, as well as highlighted fierce new competitors that will no doubt be returning to the stage in the future. 

At this AGDQ alone, multiple world records were broken for games in popular speedrunning series such as Sonic and Diablo, while newer games like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice saw new strategies used in attempts to break into the leaderboards.

It also showcased numerous fan-games and modded titles that have become popular among speedrunners, putting collaborative community efforts on full-display throughout the week-long event.

These games encapsulated the fun and intensity of AGDQ 2021 and will be remembered as key examples of speedrunning prowess in the organization’s 11-year history.

Pokémon Platinum by Etchy

Pokémon runs are no stranger to Games Done Quick, and for good reason. From the pure nostalgia of the creatures and music to the notorious RNG that has bought so many runners to their downfalls, Pokémon blocks of GDQs are always full of fun and uncertainty, and this year was no different.

Etchy kicked off his run of 2008’s Pokémon Platinum with the Penguin Pokémon, Piplup, as he attempted to secure a record run within the Sinnoh Region. Like many other runners, he used much of his run to explain his decisions in regards to Pokémon, move choice, and game plans, but often acknowledged how much of it was best-case-scenario.

The first portion of the run started off rather slow. But after beating the first Gym Leader, the Rock-type user Roark, Etchy and Piplup flew through the gym challenge, leading him to defeat Champion Cynthia in exactly four hours.

At times, Etchy’s run was interrupted by unforeseen status conditions, critical hits, and NPC trainers using strange tactics, which set him back a few minutes in his overall time. But together with a team of Empoleon, a level three Bidoof and a level two Starly, there were no obstacles that they couldn’t overcome.

Although not a new world record, Etchy’s ride through Pokémon Platinum was not only fun to watch, but it also showed us how harsh Pokémon games can be at times.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order by Pnash

One of the most anticipated runs of AGDQ 2021 was Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, a 2019 title that has only seen a bit of light in the speedrunning scene.

Runner Pnash showcased the power of the Force through an excellent display of lightsaber combat and the game’s various exploits. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is known for its various Force-controlled mechanics, including dashing and pushing, which in many spots throughout the game allows the player to get through solid walls, past cutscenes, and sometimes even entire boss fights.

His run should have culminated in an epic battle against Trilla, but it was entirely skipped through Force-pushing into the out-of-bounds area using a technique he had discovered just a few days ago. This saved him more than 10 minutes and got him past all of her planned tricks unscathed.

Pnash only started running the game back in March 2020, but this exceptional run on the AGDQ 2021 stage shows how much time and research he put into learning about every miniscule feature the game has to offer. This run resulted in a third-place finish on the “any percent no PBC leaderboard,” meaning “pause-buffer clipping” that some runners use to get through loading screens quicker.

Seeing Pnash run through various iconic Star Wars locations with ease made us question our original playthroughs of the game and the hours it took to solve all of those puzzles.

Halo 3 by SasquatchSensei

To the delight of many speedrunning fans, viewers helped reach the Halo 3 incentive during AGDQ 2021, adding the classic game to the lineup.

SasquatchSensei’s run of Halo 3’s recently released PC port showed that this game is still full of fun and surprises years after its original release.

Although it was hard to see him run past the Covenant without blowing their heads off with some of the Halo series’ most explosive weapons, focusing on progressing through the areas despite the aliens as quickly as possible worked out in his favor, ending with a time of one hour and 14 minutes.

The Gravity Hammer and grenade skips made this run even more amusing. SasquatchSensei showed that Halo physics to this day can’t be questioned and should just be accepted for their weirdness. 

And, of course, the cinematic escape in the Warhog at the end of the game was done seamlessly, showcasing skips parts of the level that would normally result in the player driving through large groups of pesky aliens, topped off by a risky double barrel roll for style points.

Like all Halo 3 runs, it was interesting to see just how SasquatchSensei would go about traversing the futuristic expanses of the game, and if he would be willing to make some difficult decisions that could result in the end of his run. Despite his assertions that the run had some mistakes and was just for fun, SasquatchSensei delivered a run of Halo 3 that truly entertained fans and non-fans alike.

Beat Saber by Kungfufruitcup

Yes, there was Beat Saber at AGDQ 2021, and yes, it was fantastic.

Kungfufruitcup’s showcase of the Expert+ mode of Beat Saber may not have been a speedrun, but it was so popular and unexpected that it quickly started trending on Twitter, with many fans of the game noting how difficult the songs were that she progressed through with ease.

She used a third-person mixed reality software to allow the viewers to see her and everything that she sees, as well as some mods that brought new songs and graphics into the game—which was very helpful to avoid DMCA issues on Twitch.

Through these mods, Kungfufruitcup brought out iconic video game songs not available in the original Beat Saber, starting with the Banjo-Kazooie theme that she described as being “pretty simple” as rows and rows of blocks approaching her in different directions at top speed were destroyed with ease. By using these songs, she also highlighted the talent of many of the modders in the Beat Saber community that turned the assets of the base game into works of art.

VR games aren’t common on the GDQ stage and are relatively new to the speedrunning community as well, making this run of Beat Saber and the praise that it received all the more beneficial for the future of speedrunning on the platform.

Although Kungfufruitcup might have shouted out the “true Beat Saber pros,” her love and dedication to playing and running this game was clear throughout.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2013 by Flying Fox and Sonic 3: Angel Island Revisited by Zaxon96

For the first time in all of Games Done Quick history, two consecutive world records were made—ironically in games featuring the world’s fastest hedgehog.

Fans thought that Flying Fox’s world record run of 20 minutes and three seconds as Tails in Sonic the Hedgehog’s 2013 mobile port was incredible enough. But immediately after her historic run, Zaxon96 ran through fan-made game Sonic 3:Angel Island Revisited in 34 minutes and 34 seconds, establishing the world record for that game as well.

Both runners were capable of performing maneuvers that would get them through their runs quickly with ease, including taking advantage of Tails’ quicker flight against ceilings in Sonic 2013 and glitching all around Factory Zone in Sonic 3: AIR.

Tails was a major factor in both runs, helping lead both runners to their world records—but in very different ways. For Flying Fox, who played through her run as Tails, his access to flight made Sonic’s infamous platforming completely unnecessary. On the other hand, Tail’s use as a body shield and extra source of damage in Zaxon96’s run allowed him to speed through Eggman battles.

The only thing better than the runs themselves were the reactions by the runners and the casters, who all had to sit back and take in the shock of the historic moments that had occurred live on stream. Both Flying Fox and Zaxon96, as well as their world record performances at AGDQ 2021, will forever be staples in speedrunning history.