Fancy graphics are fine, but all gamers know in their hearts that nothing will ever top the drama of Final Fantasy VII or the pure physicality of Super Mario Bros. 3. Playboy’s Retro Gaming articles look at why we love the classics and give you your nostalgia fix.
Glitches are amazing things. Where games try to erect walls to keep you in, glitches will always be there to let you skip past them. They can let you do anything from exploring brave new worlds to raising the dead to completing games far faster than anyone should logically be able to.
I should warn you that you’re probably not going to be able to perform some of these glitches. The precision they require exceeds human limitations. Just because you can’t execute a glitch doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate its effects or the reasons that glitch exists in the first place. Case in point:
8. BEATING ‘SUPER MARIO WORLD’ IN ABOUT A MINUTE
For some of these glitches, you’re going to need to know how video game consoles work in general. For anything that happens on the screen, the console has to read and then execute instructions it reads from certain parts of its memory. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), poor memory management in older consoles meant the player could sometimes gain access to code they shouldn’t be anywhere near.
You don’t need to know the technical details, but suffice it to say that if you know how to exploit a game and when (assuming you get an opportunity), then you can get the game to do whatever you want. That’s exactly what speedrunners (people whose mission in life is to complete games as fast as possible) have done to Super Mario World. Long story short, they perform an elaborate series of tricks to trick the game into skipping right to the credits. You can watch the whole process above.
7. SAME WITH ‘KIRBY’S ADVENTURE’
Don’t worry, though. This one isn’t nearly as complicated as Super Mario World was. It’s similar to the last one—you’re still exploiting an oversight in the game to make it run code it shouldn’t—but the set-up is much easier.
It exploits a funny property slopes have in the game: usually, they act like floors, but in one very specific spot (where the slope meets flat ground), it acts like a wall instead. That may sound insignificant, but if Kirby jumps in the right spot, then this oversight lets him get beneath the ground. After all, without any ground beneath him, there’s nothing to stop Kirby’s descent. From there, Kirby’s free to activate the Stone ability in a way the game doesn’t know how to handle and jump straight to the credits.
6. ’THE FINAL FANTASY LEGEND’ IS BROKEN BEYOND REPAIR
If you’ve heard of the SaGa series of games (which The Final Fantasy Legend is actually part of), then there’s a chance you know how notoriously glitchy these games are. Clearly, The Final Fantasy Legend is no exception.
What’s going on here? A lot of things; I’ll try to explain to the best of my abilities (though there’s a more detailed explanation here). This one’s similar to the Super Mario World glitch in that you’re writing code to get the game to do what you want. But where the previous glitch reads data based on where certain objects are on the screen, this one instead looks at what buttons you press on the menu screen and when you press them. Using a series of incredibly precise inputs, this speedrunner zooms to the end of the game so they can pull off a classic Final Fantasy Legend move: driving a chainsaw through God.
5. PLAY THE TITLE SCREEN OF ‘ZELDA: SKYWARD SWORD’
I think that’s enough memory corruption glitches for now. What we need is a glitch that leaves most of the game intact. And what better place to look than The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword’s Back in Time Glitch?
Instead of telling the game to perform an action it doesn’t know how to perform, you’re telling the game to perform two actions it does know at the same time. What’s more, you do it twice in a row: first by choosing to continue and resetting the game at the same time, and then again by loading a saved game and starting a new one simultaneously. Of course, that save game has to have been completed already. If that sounds like cheating, keep in mind that the Skyward Sword fan community considers this a valid strategy in their speedruns.
4. TRAVEL FASTER THAN LIGHT IN ‘SUPER MARIO 64’
By the time video games switched to 3D, console manufacturers closed off a lot of the loopholes that existed on previous systems, so there was no more Super Mario World-esque trickery. However, that doesn’t mean they’d patched up all the loopholes.
Take Super Mario 64, for instance. Normally, the game places a limit on how fast Mario can move, but there are a few situations where that limit doesn’t exist. By far the most useful is when Mario’s moving backwards, because it allows him to perform a Backwards Long Jump. Originally, it was used to skip the star doors and the endless stairs. Over time, though, speedrunners found out how to use the backward long jump to complete the game without collecting a single star—that’s the video above. Even that proved too blasé for some players, who cut out the jumping altogether so they can shoot Mario into parallel universes.
3. BEAT ‘OCARINA OF TIME’ AFTER ONE DUNGEON
The glitch I’m going to tell you about is considered a Holy Grail among speedrunners: elegant, uncomplicated, and able to skip large swaths of the game. It all has to do with how the game stores data relating to locations and cinematics. There are two tables storing every location and cinematic, respectively, and when the game has to load in a certain one, it checks the table to see which one it loads.
All we’re doing here is telling the game to read from the location table when it should be reading from the cinematic table. Fortunately, the value the game uses to reach the cinematic that follows beating Gohma, the boss of the first dungeon, just so happens to warp Link from the end of the first dungeon to Ganon’s Tower as it’s collapsing, ie it shoots him from the beginning of the game to as close to the end as you can get.
2. CRACK ‘POKEMON GOLD’ RIGHT OPEN
Like the SaGa games, Pokemon Red and Blue were notoriously glitchy games. Knowing this, Nintendo tightened up the programming in Gold and Silver and included a number of failsafes to ensure glitches wouldn’t be nearly as rampant as they were before.
Yet somehow, they introduced a glitch with the Coin Case when they translated the game for non-Japanese players. A line of code that originally told the game to stop running the Coin Case program no longer worked that way, meaning that like Super Mario World/The Final Fantasy Legend, savvy players could use any code that came after it to do whatever they wanted. Still, that’s nothing compared to what you can do with in the game’s predecessors…
1. CATCH ALL 151 POKEMON IN A COUPLE OF HOURS
…Just watch the video. It’s best to experience this magic for yourself.
Brian Crimmins is a freelance game writer who critically analyzes older Japanese titles.
RELATED: Gamer Next Door Asks the Tough Questions at the Cannabis Cup