Most insane blindfolded speedruns

For most of us, video games are a nice way to relax, or a fun way to pass the time when we've got a few free hours. Not so for speedrunners. In order to finish a game from start to finish as fast as humanly possible, speedrunners need to know a game by heart. That means knowing every nook and cranny of every level, and making use of every quirk, bug, and glitch that they can.

In fact, some speedrunners know their targets so well that they can reach the end with their eyes closed. It's one thing to watch a talented speedrunner completely demolish a game by using a pixel-perfect memorization and countless hours of practice. It's another to watch them do it blindfolded. Blindfolded speedruns might be stressful for the competitor, but for viewers, there's little more thrilling than watching these talented players perform some of the most difficult tasks in video game history.

Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!

Luke Miller—better known to the speedrunning community as Sinister1—probably isn't the first gamer to try rushing through a video game with his or her eyes covered, but Miller's attempt to bring down Mike Tyson sight unseen is inarguably one of the most important blindfolded speedruns of all time.

At 2014's Awesome Games Done Quick charity speedrunning event, Miller took the stage and attempted to beat the Nintendo Entertainment System classic Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! as quickly as possible—while wearing a blindfold, of course. In Punch-Out, every opponent follows a couple of set patterns, meaning that savvy players know exactly when they should defend and attack. In his speedrun, Miller listens to the game's sound cues so he knows exactly what's coming, and then successfully counters enemy blows again and again. Miller ultimately loses to Tyson, the game's final boss—as Miller explains, the "delays between when [Tyson] throws his punches are completely random," meaning that simple pattern recognition won't get the job done—but that last-minute stumble hardly undercuts his accomplishment. Just listen to the crowd applaud.

As impressive as Miller's gameplay is, however, this speedrun is more than just a showcase for his skills. Sinister1's performance at AGDQ catapulted blindfolded speedruns into the mainstream, and his efforts encouraged others to finish Punch-Out!! and its sequel, Super Punch-Out!! while wearing blindfolds and inspired many of the other entries on this list.

Super Mario Bros.

YouTuber きらめきでどーだい (which, according to Google Translate, loosely means "With Glittering") may not hold the Super Mario Bros. speedrun record—that would be Darbian, who finished Nintendo's classic platformer in a blistering 4:57.260 last April. However, きらめきでどーだい did manage to beat Super Mario Bros. in 14:46 with his eyes covered—and he did so by playing like, well, a bat.

In order to compensate for their lousy eyesight, bats navigate using what scientists call echolocation. Essentially, they emit sounds and then use the time it takes to for the echoes to return to measure the distance between themselves and other objects. きらめきでどーだい used the same approach in his blindfolded Mario run, swapping out bats' vocal chords for Super Mario's fire flower. By shooting fireballs and listening to their impacts, きらめきでどーだい determined the location of obstacles and enemies. Obviously, there's a lot of memorization involved as well—らめきでどーだい reportedly practiced for three months before embarking on his record-setting run—but the addition of pseudo-science to the proceedings transforms きらめきでどーだい's performance from a cool novelty into something that's uniquely fascinating to watch.

Super Mario World

きらめきでどーだい ("With Glittering") doesn't just hold the world record for a Super Mario Bros. blindfolded speedrun, he's also an utter beast when it comes to Mario's 16-bit follow-up, Super Mario World. In July, 2016, きらめきでどーだい trounced the previous blindfolded Super Mario World speedrun record by nearly five minutes.

But きらめきでどーだい learned from the best. On YouTube, きらめきでどーだい credits previous record holder, Super Mario World prodigy PangaeaPanga, with his success. But Panga didn't take defeat sitting down. After all, in addition to holding a number of speedrun records, PangeaPanga is also known as the author of some of the hardest Super Mario levels ever created, including "Pit of Panga," a Super Mario Maker monstrosity that took Panga himself over nine hours to finish. Shortly after きらめきでどーだい beat the record, PangeaPanga went back to work to reclaim his throne.

It didn't take long. On August 8, 2016, just a few weeks after きらめきでどーだい's triumph, PangeaPanga completed a blindfolded Super Mario World run in a mere 15:59. Even crazier? Panga died once in Yoshi's Island 3, the game's third level, and lost his cape power-up later in the game, forcing him to use up precious time getting a new one. In other words, there's still room for improvement: Panga estimates that, with more practice, he should be able to beat his time by at least two minutes.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Games Done Quick, the organization that hosts the speedrunning marathons Awesome Games Done Quick and Summer Games Done Quick, is responsible for many of the most popular and impressive speedruns, blindfolded and otherwise, but there's more to the organization than just a good show. Every Games Done Quick event doubles as a charity fundraiser, allowing viewers to donate money in order to get specific challenges added to the schedules.

For example, in 2016, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night speedrunner romscout added a charity incentive to his previously scheduled Summer Games Done Quick showcase: if viewers donated over $15,000, romscout would treat the audience to a blindfolded run through SotN, trying to beat the 53:41 record he set in January, 2016. The money came in just under the wire, and while Romscout's second attempt at a blindfolded Castlevania playthrough took him a comparatively lengthy 1:08:36, there weren't any real losers—especially not Games Done Quick, which raised over $1,300,000 for Doctors Without Borders at the annual summer event.

Guitar Hero 3

Guitar Hero might be the ultimate party game—but for some, it's way more than that. Take Danny Johnson, for example. In May 2009, Johnson set the Guitar Hero 3 world record by hitting all 3,722 notes in DragonForce's "The Fire and the Flames," the hardest song in the series' history, and racking up 985,206 points in the process.

YouTuber and Twitch streamer Jeremy Durand may not be quite as good as Johnson, but that didn't stop him from getting 772,000 points and hitting 96% of the notes in "The Fire and the Flames" while wearing a blindfold. According to Durand, that's the result of playing the song "thousands" of times, practicing with a blindfold on for almost a year, and a little bit of luck. And while this isn't a traditional speedrun—Guitar Hero levels last for the duration of the song, which is always the same—but given the speed with which Durand's fingers fly up and down the plastic frets, we're willing to give it a soft pass.

The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time

Memorization is a crucial skill for any blindfolded speedrun: after all, it's impossible to beat a game if you don't already know where each item, obstacle, and enemy is located. That's one reason why many blindfolded speedrunners stick to older games: there's a lot less to keep track of when you're confined to two dimensions and the camera angle never changes.

Don't tell that to Runnerguy2489, however. On June 20, 2008, Runnerguy2489 started playing the Nintendo 64 classic (and Metacritic's best game of all time) The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time with a blanket over his head. On November 23, 2014, over six years later, Runnerguy2489 finished the game—and best of all, he uploaded the entire ordeal for fans to watch.

But Runnerguy2489 didn't stop there. In September 2014, just as the original blindfolded run was winding down, Runnerguy started a new project: beating The Ocarina of Time with a blindfold while also achieving 100% completion, or doing everything that there is to do in the game. Just over a year and 103 hours of playtime later, Runnerguy2489 achieved his goal. In fact, Runnerguy2489 is so good at Ocarina of Time that, in a special challenge at Awesome Games Done Quick 2015, he finished the game's first three dungeons in a paltry hour and a half—and this time, he wore a proper blindfold, too.

Dark Souls 3

While the Souls games are known for their detailed and clever levels, mysterious backstories, and fluid and addictive combat, the series is most famous for its brutal and unrelenting difficulty. In other words, there's a reason why the PC edition of the first Dark Souls title carries a subtitle that says "Prepare to Die": it's really, really hard.

For most of us, anyway. For Erika Willis, the game is so easy that she can play it with her eyes closed. While Willis (also known as SayviTV) doesn't always wear an actual blindfold, we'll let it slide. After all, Dark Souls 3 is difficult enough when you can see the action onscreen. Relying on sound cues alone while battling it out with Souls' fearsome bosses? That's practically the definition of insanity.

And yet, on her live stream, Willis takes down many of Dark Souls 3's most difficult enemies while blind faster than many of us can beat them with all of our senses intact. And yes, while Willis needs a little help every now and then—when the game's audio doesn't deliver enough information, an assistant describes the action out loud while Willis handles the controller—there's no question that Willis is an expert Dark Souls player. Need more proof? With her eyes wide open, Willis ranks among the top-ten best speedrunners in various Dark Souls 3 categories, including "All Bosses" and "Any% No TearDrop," which requires competitors to beat the game while forbidding them from using the popular, game-breaking teardrop glitch.

Pokemon Blue

Most popular speed-run subjects are fairly consistent—after all, memorizing all the ins and outs of a given game is a big factor in a speed-runner's success. Pokémon, however, is different. Which Pokémon pop up as players wander through the tall grass? That's random. So are a captured Pokémon's starting stats, the nature of a hatched Pokémon, or whether or not a move results in a status effect or a critical hit.

But that hasn't stopped speedrunners from turning Pokémon inside out, thanks to a handful of glitches and two decades' worth of practice. At 2015's Summer Games Done Quick, Pokémon speedrunner Shenanagans demolished Pokémon Blue, capturing all 151 original Pokémon in a brisk 1:58:56. Next, Shenanagans invited fellow Pokémon enthusiast Keizaron to join him for a good-natured race from the beginning of the game to the end—while blindfolded, of course.

Despite getting lost about halfway through, Shenanagans ended up victorious, finishing Pokémon Blue in 25:53. Keizaron finally finished at 34:05, thanks to some difficulty catching a Pidgey, one of the most basic Pokémon in the game. The results don't really matter, however—the real winners here were the audience, who gave both competitors a round of well-deserved applause after the race ended.

"That's blindfolded," Keizaron said, signing off. "Don't ever do it."

Recommended