Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) begins this Sunday, live from inside the friendly confines of a banquet hall in beautiful Herndon, Virginia. The annual event, which runs this year from January 7 through January 14, brings together top speedrunners from around the world in the hopes of raising millions for charity. You can watch all of the action in AGDQ 2018’s livestream above.
The event’s beneficiary is, as always, Prevent Cancer Foundation. AGDQ has raised more than $6.6 million for the cause since 2011.
Speedrunning is the art of beating a video game as quickly as possible. But there are many ways to thread that needle. Speedruns rely on extensive planning, endless practice and obscure tricks. Players might run a level backward because it helps them go faster, squeeze themselves outside of the environments into areas game designers never intended them to see, or glitch their way past entire levels.
The marathon event will run all week, covering dozens of games over 130 hours. It will be broadcast live on Twitch, and we’ll embed the feed above once it’s live. You can find the full schedule at the AGDQ website, helpfully adjusted for your local time zone.
Here are our picks for must-watch streams. We’ve also included a brief glossary on commonly used terms within the speedrunning community.
The action kicks off Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET with a brisk pre-show. You’ll get a rundown of the week’s festivities and likely some chats with the organizers, as well as representatives of the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Then it’s on with the show by noon.
- 2:03 p.m. ET: a Splatoon 2 run by TonesBalones.
- 5:28 p.m. ET: a run of The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim in under an hour by Wall of Spain.
AGDQ goes 24 hours a day for the duration, and some of the best runs are broadcast overnight. You can also find archives of previous runs you may have missed, which are cut and loaded onto the AGDQ YouTube channel throughout the week.
- 12:30 a.m. ET: the LittleBigPlanet 2 campaign, run co-op in new game+ mode by RbdJellyfish and p-p-j.
- 7:41 a.m. ET: a Contra two-player run with TheMexicanRunner and angrylanks.
- 9:55 a.m. ET: Disney’s Aladdin in less than 20 minutes by Le Hulk.
AGDQ alsu runs long blocks of content, either back-to-back or as relay races. The first major block is Sonic the Hedgehog, and kicks off at 1:02 p.m. ET with Sonic Advance 3, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle and Sonic Mania.
Afterward, the Mega Man block kicks off at 4:44 p.m. ET with Mega Man Zero 3, Mega Man X4 and Mega Man X.
To round out the day, there’s a roughly three-hour block of Metal Gear starting at 7:30 p.m. ET with the original Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
The next morning starts early with a Castlevania block starting at 10:17 a.m. ET. It will include Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. No bosses will be harmed during the filming of these runs.
- 3:55 p.m. ET: a Super Mario 3D World run by peteyboo.
- 10:03 p.m. ET: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard by Carcinogen — likely not in virtual reality, but you never know.
- 12:03 a.m. ET: Resident Evil 3: Nemesis by Bawkbasoup and wusscake.
- 1:13 a.m. ET: Silent Hill by SuccintAndPunchy.
- 11:01 a.m. ET: Things get serious with Battletoads Arcade by PJ, a run at max difficulty. This run will also include a bidding war to raise more money for Prevent Cancer Foundation.
- 11:56 a.m. ET: Battletoads by TheMexicanRunner, whom we’ll see more of throughout the week.
Late in the week we’ll begin to see a lot more modern, three-dimensional games than in the days previous.
- 3:35 p.m. ET: See Dishonored elegantly eviscerated by DrTChops.
- 4:50 p.m. ET: DrTChops will go back-to-back with Prey, perhaps one of the strangest spectacles in all of speedrunning. The goal will be to crush it in 15 minutes or less, which is more than possible. Expect some interesting commentary to accompany this brief run.
- 5:15 p.m. ET: Duke Nukem 3D with Mr_Wiggelz.
- 9:10 p.m. ET: A race of Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition in 40 minutes by Valajin, sigma, Terra and Hydra.
- 1:40 a.m. ET: Spelunky (HD) by Jamie. The plan is to include all of the game’s shortcuts as well as an Olmec grab in solo, and under 30 minutes. It should be high-risk and frantic.
- 9:27 a.m. ET: Super Mario Galaxy in under three hours by 360Chrism.
- 6:18 p.m. ET: A Mega Man team relay. WHiteHat94, fastatcc, dxtr, coolkid, ColonelFatso, EndySWE, prisi, shoka, Streamline, Zaraki, cyghfer and cassiothird will sprint through Mega Man, Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3 while the donations pour in.
- 8:43 p.m. ET: A classic, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, completed 100 percent by ZFG. It’s a nearly five-hour run that should get finished up around 2 a.m. Saturday.
It’s the home stretch, and you can expect the most popular games and the best runners all day long. This year, the Saturday segment also includes some genuinely weird titles to see speedrun.
- 7:43 a.m. ET: The original The Legend of Zelda, beaten in 45 minutes. To amp up the drama, it’ll be a multiplayer race to complete the game 100 percent. Runners include JSR2gamers, BT and RandomEffekt.
- 8:38 a.m. ET: Mass Effect by letterswords.
- 10:38 a.m. ET: The real-time strategy classic Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos by sajiki.
- 11:40 a.m. ET: Action role-playing classic Diablo beaten in 35 minutes by Funkmastermp.
- 12:25 p.m. ET: Baldur’s Gate 2: Enhanced Edition by KowalLazy.
- 2:21 p.m. ET: Bloodborne, including all of its bosses, defiled by heZeusHeresToast in an hour and a half.
- 4:06 p.m. ET: Final Fantasy 4 by riversmccown.
- 6:44 p.m. ET: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past in two hours by Andy and ChristosOwen.
- 9:04 p.m. ET: A Super Mario World race between bjw, Calco2, SilverStar6609 and Sten. No capes allowed.
- 11:14 p.m. ET: It all comes to a close with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, including all the main quests, in under four hours.
Speedrunning is fun to watch, but it can be hard to understand. That’s what makes AGDQ such a joy. More often than not, runners are joined by an interpreter from the community. So not only are you seeing the best of the best do their favorite thing, but you’re also getting a real-time explanation of how they’re doing it.
Nevertheless, some of the vernacular can be tough to digest. Here’s a sample of some things you might hear about.
- 100%: A run with a completion requirement of collecting 100 percent of the items. In games without a percentage counter, the community decides which parts of the game are important enough to count towards 100 percent. Not all games lend themselves well toward this definition
- Any%: A run with no additional completion requirements; anything goes. The “default” category for speedrunning a game. The term comes from the old-school Metroid speedrunning community. Metroid has a percentage counter, while other games may not, but the term stuck around.
- Damage boost: Intentionally getting hit in order to gain extra speed/height, or to pass through enemies/obstacles quickly.
- Death warp: Intentionally dying to save time, usually by avoiding backtracking.
- Frame perfect: A technique in a game that you only have a one-frame window to successfully pull off.
- Low%: A run that completes the game with the bare minimum lowest percentage. This can take a lot longer than an any% run, depending on the game. This is not a worthy category for many games, and is definitely rarer than similar categories such as 100%.
- Sequence break: Doing something out of order in the intended sequence of events of a game.
- Segmented: A way of minimizing game time by redoing sections of a speedrun over and over.