The following is a complete list of every speedrunning documentary that has ever been produced with a brief description of each (and in some cases, a brief review). There are currently 7 speedrunning documentaries on this list with 6 having reviews and recommendations. This is the most complete list of speedrunning documentaries on the internet. If you know of any speedrunning documentaries, informative videos (not just random speedruns on YouTube or things like that), or series that I am missing on this list, feel free to let me know in the comments section (or contact us) and I will make sure to add it to the list. This list will be updated whenever there is a new title to add or I have watched and reviewed another speedrunning documentary on the list. For more comprehensive lists of films, check out our list of lists.
For those of you wondering what the heck speedrunning even is, it is a niche in video gaming where players (often referred to as runners) attempt to beat games in as little time as possible. Most of the time, this involves runners using bugs and other exploitable quirks in the game’s programming to their advantage. This often allows them to beat games that should take hours to complete in a fraction of that time (some games can be beat in a few minutes). Unfortunately, no major documentaries about speedrunning have been released so far but there are a few quality YouTube videos and series that are worth watching.
Awesome Games Done Quick/Summer Games Done Quick (2014-Present Web Series, 5 Minutes-Hours Per Video)
Synopsis: Unfortunately there haven’t been any documentaries made about what are easily the most well-known speedrunning events in the world (outside of one entry later on this list that does visit the 2017 Summer Games Done Quick event for a few minutes). However, even though I definitely wouldn’t consider this series to be a documentary, I am including it on the list because the videos are some of the most informative pieces on speedrunning out there. This entry is about the entirety of the Games Done Quick YouTube channel, where they have been posting entire runs from their events from Summer Games Done Quick 2014 to the present. For each run (out of the 100+ each event has), the runner and a team of experts on the game currently being played describe the techniques the runner is using, neat little secrets and stories about the game, and so much else. Videos range from just a few minutes long to multiple hours, depending on how long the category takes to complete.
Review: Outside of Summoning Salt’s World Record Progression series, I would consider this video series to be the best entry on this list even though it clearly isn’t a documentary. Like World Record Progression, the videos are extremely informative and can be used as a primer on how to run each category. Obviously the formatting is quite different though as these videos are actual runs with techniques and tidbits being talked about while the run goes on while World Record Progression is mostly about the history of the category (and the discoveries that allowed runners to push the time lower). I will say that I personally prefer (by a slight margin) Summoning Salt’s format but of course this way allows for many more games to be covered. If you like Summoning Salt’s videos but are interested in a game he hasn’t covered yet, I would definitely recommend watching the Games Done Quick run of the title as most of them are almost as good. Since there are videos from eight different events on the channel (and each event has over 100 runs), there is a huge backlog of over 1,000 runs to watch. Most likely the game you are interested in has been run at least once.
While I would say most runs are entertaining and informative, since the runners and panelists change for each run these videos are obviously a bit more hit or miss than usual. Most of the runs I’ve watched have been very entertaining and I learned a lot from them but there are also a few here or there that were pretty boring or didn’t do a great job of explaining the category’s strategies and techniques. One type of run that is almost always entertaining is the “race” category. These are almost like sporting events with lively competition, the crowd going crazy when awesome skips are performed, and occasionally a very close and tense race. Due to the chaotic nature of these runs (since you have multiple runners to watch and talk about), they aren’t quite as informative but they extremely entertaining.
Recommendation: While Summoning Salt’s World Record Progression is a bit more informative, the sheer volume of runs and the entertainment factor of some of the videos make this series every bit as good. No matter what game you are interested in, there is probably a Games Done Quick run video for it which can teach you the basics of the category while also entertaining you. Highly recommended.
Rating: 4/5 (Highly Recommended)
How You Can Watch It: YouTube
Frame Perfect (2016, 8 Minutes)
Synopsis: Frame Perfect is a small little 8-minute documentary that basically just works as a general overview of the speedrunning niche.
Review: I didn’t know whether or not to include this on the list due to its extremely short length but I decided to do so since it is one of the only things on this list that I would actually consider to be a documentary. A short one, but a documentary nonetheless. While I found this mini-documentary to be acceptable it doesn’t really cover anything substantial or go anywhere you haven’t seen before. It also feels kind of more like a student film (it might actually be one) with pretty poor video and audio quality. Basically, the documentary just talks to a few speedrunners asking basic questions you’ve already heard the answers to a hundred times. That’s pretty much all this mini-documentary has to offer.
Recommendation: If Frame Perfect had went into a bit more depth or asked more interesting questions, it might have been worth watching. Outside of the bad video and audio quality, it’s a competent mini-documentary but a boring one that doesn’t really go anywhere interesting. I would probably pass on watching Frame Perfect.
Rating: 1.5/5 (Not Recommended)
How You Can Watch It: YouTube
Halfcoordinated, the Max-Agility Speedrunner Gaming with One Hand (2017, 18 Minutes)
Synopsis: This VICE/Waypoint mini-documentary is about Clinton “Halfcoordinated” Lexa, a speedrunner and streamer who only has full use of one of his hands due to having hemiparesis. The documentary is about him practicing NieR: Automata and eventually performing a speedrun of the game at the 2017 Summer Games Done Quick event.
Review: While this documentary could have benefited from being a bit longer (I would have loved to spend a bit more time with Halfcoordinated and I think there is more they could have covered), this is still a very good YouTube documentary. On top of being the closest we have to an Awesome Games Done Quick/Summer Games Done Quick documentary so far (I really wish they would produce a documentary at one of their events), this is also the only speedrunning documentary I know of that features a specific speedrunner. All of the other documentaries on this list focus on games, not the runners themselves, so this is pretty unique. Thankfully, it is also quite good. Halfcoordinated is a great choice for a documentary subject as he seems like a super sweet and awesome person. He had me smiling often throughout this documentary thanks to his upbeat personality (and the adorable and pretty funny home videos of him as a young kid certainly helped). I also loved how this documentary spent a bit of time showing how awesome the speedrunning community is. Finally, this is a pretty well-shot documentary especially considering it is just about speedrunning and could have just been shot in Halfcoordinated’s bedroom. However, they included plenty of scenes at Summer Game Done Quick, including a few bits of behind-the-scenes footage.
Recommendation: Halfcoordinated is a nice and short speedrunning documentary that should definitely be watched. I wouldn’t really say it is anything groundbreaking (though it is the only documentary about a specific speedrunner on this list) or amazing, but it is very solid. It is also a short watch at just 18 minutes and is available for free on YouTube. Recommended.
Rating: 3.5/5 (Recommended)
How You Can Watch It: YouTube
Speedrunning: Playing Games and Saving Frames (2017, 19 Minutes)
Synopsis: Like almost everything on this list, Speedrunning: Playing Games and Saving Frames is yet another YouTube mini-documentary/video essay. This one is under twenty minutes long and is an overview of speedrunning in general, covering the history of the niche and even things like TASing (tool-assisted speedrunning) that aren’t covered in other entries on this list.
Review: This video is more of a video essay about speedrunning than an actual documentary, but it is still a pretty good video that I would recommend watching. It is notable as being the best general speedrunning video on this list. Most of the other things on this list are about the histories of specific games or categories, this one attempts to cover everything (and in general, does a good job of it). Since it is only 19 minutes long, it doesn’t go super in-depth into anything in particular but it works great as a general overview of speedrunning. Speedrunning: Playing Games and Saving Frames also is surprisingly funny since the video maker makes a lot of attempts to add humor. Some attempts don’t work but others are hilarious. Specifically, when they parodied Games Done Quick’s donation shoutouts (making fun of the memes the donators constantly use) and their ASPCA-like “ad” advocating for saving the frames. This is a very lighthearted video with a surprising amount of humor.
Recommendation: For a general overview of the world of speedrunning, this is the best video to watch on this list. It covers everything important to know about the community in just 19 minutes and also entertains you as you watch. It obviously isn’t as in-depth or informative as the single-game videos on this list but I would definitely recommend giving it a watch.
Rating: 3.5 (Recommended)
How You Can Watch It: YouTube
Summoning Salt’s World Record Progression Series (2017, 15-30 Minutes Per Episode)
Synopsis: Probably the best “documentary” on this list, World Record Progression covers a different speedrunning category in every episode. Summoning Salt goes into the history of categories like Super Mario 64 120 Star and Super Mario Bros. 3 Any% from the earliest recorded runs to the latest world records (using actual video of the record runs) while also pointing out some of the strategies and techniques that are used in these runs (and also occasionally where things could be improved in the future). This series is great for both people interested in the history of speedrunning and for those looking for tips on how to speedrun these various titles.
Review: As I wrote in the synopsis portion, if you for some reason only have time to watch one title on this list, this is probably the one you should watch. While technically not documentaries, these videos feel very similar to them as the major focus of each episode is charting the history of the category that is being covered. All of the episodes are very informative and in-depth (covering basically every important development in each category’s history). The only problem is that due to the ever-changing strategies (new bug discoveries and more efficient paths), these episodes do tend to get out of date pretty quickly (even though World Record Progression began in 2017). For example, Super Mario World has recently had several new developments in the 0 Exit category since it was covered in the series and is now down to a time of under a minute. Of course, there is nothing Summoning Salt can do about that (other than possibly releasing update videos in the future) so I don’t even consider this a negative.
The first couple episodes were extremely informative but not always super entertaining. However, it didn’t take long for Summoning Salt to get comfortable with the format and the series gets more entertaining (and truly great) after just a few episodes (I would say the third episode about the Super Mario 64 120 Star category was already the first great episode). History “documentaries” aren’t always the most exciting things ever, but Summoning Salt finds a way to make these videos entertaining and certainly very informative. It is also entertaining to watch the closing seconds of the actual videos of the run and especially cool to see how excited the runners get when they break the record after months if not years of work. You might think 15-30 minutes per episode for just one game might be a bit too long but you would be surprised by how many new strategies and tricks have been found in the history of these games to push the times lower and lower. There is way more history to cover than you would imagine so that average episode length is very reasonable.
Overall, World Record Progression is a very informative series that I definitely recommend watching. However, there are a few small problems I have (nothing major but I do have to point them out). First of all, since the series uses other runners’ videos, some of the video is grainy and the audio can be subpar at times. Obviously, there is nothing Summoning Salt can do about this since most of the early runs in these categories date back to 2004 and used VHS tapes, not streaming services like Twitch. Also, due to the research and editing required to make these episodes, usually only one or two come out per month (there were only 17 episodes total at the time this post was written). Finally, outside of a somewhat funny April Fools Day video, this series only covers well-known categories like Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda (almost all of which are Nintendo games as well). While this isn’t surprising and it makes good business sense to focus on these popular categories, I do hope that Summoning Salt eventually covers some more obscure and unusual categories as well. These are all very minor nitpicks though and shouldn’t dissuade you from watching this web series.
Recommendation: Whether you are interested in the history of speedrunning, are looking to learn how to speedrun a new game, or just want some inspiration to push through and try to get your own personal best time, World Record Progression is definitely worth watching and is my pick for the best speedrunning documentary on this list. Highly recommended.
Rating: 4/5 (Highly Recommended)
How You Can Watch It: YouTube
This Is the Run (Upcoming)
Synopsis: This is the Run is an upcoming speedrunning documentary that features four runners over the course of two years of filming. This is a great concept for a documentary and based on the great trailer, this looks like it could have been the premiere documentary about speedrunning. Unfortunately, it seems likely that This Is the Run will never be completed. While it is unknown whether the documentary is still in production or if the idea has been abandoned, signs point to it never being completed. Years have passed since any news about the film has come out. The trailer was released back in July of 2015 and the last update on the documentary’s Twitter page is from December 2015. However, until I know for sure that this project is never going to happen, I will keep it on this list (hoping for its eventual release).
How You Can Watch It: Not Yet Available (and may never be)
The World Record History of Super Mario Sunshine Any% (2017, 65 Minutes)
Synopsis: This YouTube video is pretty much a longer version of the World Record Progression videos (the maker of the video even says at the end that it was heavily inspired by Summoning Salt), on a category that hasn’t been covered yet by that series (Super Mario Sunshine Any%). The video covers the entire history of the category from the first run in 2004, to the game becoming a more popular category to run (around 2009), to all the different strategies and skips that allowed the record to drop significantly in the last few years.
Review: The World Record History of Super Mario Sunshine Any% is a solid YouTube documentary but unfortunately, I think the added length winds up hurting the video. If this was more of a 20-30 minute video, I would have given it just as high of a score as World Record Progression got (a 4/5) because it would be every bit as good. Making this a 65-minute video (almost as long as it takes the best speedrunners to complete this game) allows every important run and new skip to be covered but while that makes it more informative, it also hurts the entertainment factor. The category does have an interesting history that could easily warrant a 30-minute run time but anything longer makes it a bit boring (and this is over double that recommended length). I think the biggest thing I would have cut would have been some of the lesser important runs (ones that were quickly surpassed). By showing the end of every world record run which has a video available, it adds so much repetition and unnecessary padding to the documentary. I’m glad the video maker pointed out all of the different discoveries that allowed this game’s completion time to go from 2 hours to 1:14, he just should have left some of the runs out of it to keep the length of the video reasonable.
Recommendation: While this video is worth watching if you are interested in the Super Mario Sunshine Any% category, unfortunately due to its length I can’t recommend it to everybody. It is very similar to the World Record Progression but not quite as good due to being 2-4 times the length of an average episode of that series. Due to that added length, it just doesn’t hold your interest as well as that more streamlined series.
Rating: 3/5 (Average)
How You Can Watch It: YouTube