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The Mario Game That Takes The Shortest To Beat

It's practically impossible to count how many games Mario has appeared in, but the list of games centered on the plumber and his exploits is a bit shorter. When it comes to "Super Mario" games, their quantity doesn't sacrifice on quality, though some are looked back on more fondly — and played more often — than others. Over the last few years, some of these oft-forgotten titles have gained more attention as Nintendo re-released most classic "Mario" games on its Nintendo Switch Online service.

But despite their friendly design, "Mario" levels can be brutally tough, and it can take some time to finish the particularly challenging ones. But luckily, many of the games in the franchise don't take that long to beat. Though not without challenging parts, some "Super Mario" games can take only a couple of hours to beat, even for non-completionists and first-timers. The "Mario" game that takes the shortest amount of time to beat can be finished in even less time. 

Depending on how one views it, there are two contenders for the shortest "Mario" game: "Super Mario Land" and "Super Mario World." For most players, "Super Mario Land" is the fastest "Mario" game to beat. However, particularly skilled speedrunners who know how to break classic "Mario" games have figured out how to beat "Super Mario" world in a nigh-impossibly short amount of time. Whether one is looking for the time most players can get, or the shortest possible time only pros can muster, there are two different answers.

Super Mario Land can easily be beaten in under an hour by most players

The original GameBoy title, "Super Mario Land," is considered one of the weirdest early games in the series, not just the shortest. A review from 1989 in Computer and Video Games called it a "scaled-down replica" of the original game. However, it doesn't mention its new designs and the strangeness of Mario rescuing Princess Daisy instead of Princess Peach. These differences are partially caused by the lack of involvement from series creator Shigeru Miyamoto, leading to less conformity with the established "Super Mario" designs. But that doesn't explain why "Super Mario Land" is so short.

Whereas the first "Super Mario Bros." had 32 levels in eight worlds, "Super Mario Land" had a meager 12 total levels, split into four worlds. Each of its four worlds ends with a boss, but even with this considered, there's half the number of worlds and far less than half the total number of levels.

Despite this shortness, "Super Mario Land" is worth pulling out the GameBoy (or Nintendo Switch Online emulator), but it's more complex than it first looks. That said, the lack of levels means that struggling on one or two of its 12 courses really doesn't hinder completion that much. Especially with the rewind systems available in the Nintendo Switch Online version, one could sit down with a hot drink and roll credits on "Super Mario Land" before it gets cold. But that's only true for the average player.

Speedrunners can beat Super Mario World in under one minute

The "Super Mario" franchise has a long and storied history with speedrunning, going back long before these players started to track and verify runs in the early 2000's. One of the most revered titles in the series is the Super Nintendo's "Super Mario World," and naturally its categories see some of the most engagement in the speedrunning community. The category titled "0 Exit" allows exploits and doesn't require anything aside from getting to the final screen, and currently the top record of this category is the fastest run in any of the classic "Super Mario" games.

The record was set by Brazil-based "Super Mario World" speedrunner FURiOUS, who took just a hair over 41 seconds to complete the game — SethBling with the silver record is just a frame or two behind. This can be accomplished through a series of expertly executed glitches that cause "Super Mario World" to think the player has completed the game. This glitch sequence can be performed in the very first level of the game, and thus with perfect precision, a player can technically beat this game in less than a minute.

But that is a level of skill far removed from the average player's abilities. These speedrunners set nigh-unbreakable records by dedicating months and even years of their lives in pursuit of perfection. Ultimately, the shortest "Mario" game is realistically "Super Mario Land," but seeing how far players can push the human limit is inspiring.