A speedrun entails completing a game, or an objective within a game, as quickly as possible within a prescribed ruleset. Performing a speedrun is known as speedrunning, and someone who speedruns is called a speedrunner, or simply runner.
Although video games often track the time spent playing, many—including Pokémon—typically do not explicitly encourage the player to complete them promptly, i.e. they do not encourage, or even acknowledge, speedrunning. Nonetheless, speedrunning often is considered an interesting challenge among fans, with speedruns often recorded or played live on the internet, both for the purposes of verification and as entertainment for viewers. There are speedruns for virtually all Pokémon games, including core series, side series, and spin-off Pokémon games. Pokémon games are played at many speedrunning marathons and events, such as GDQ, as well as Pokémon game-specific events.
As RPGs, core series Pokémon games tend to have more variance throughout different speedrun attempts compared to games in other genres. This is in part due to the battle system's use of randomness to determine outcomes such as the amount of damage dealt by a move, whether or not a move inflicts an additional effect, or whether or not a move is a critical hit. Because of this, speedrunning Pokémon games is often more demanding of the runner's risk management skills than speedrunning games in other genres, as the runner must be conscious of how variance can affect the current game state and must prepare alternatives in routing to account for contingencies.
In addition to choosing a game to play, speedrunners will choose a specific category or categories for their speedrun as defined by the speedrunning community. Categories may limit the strategies available to a speedrunner, which results in different strategies employed by speedruns in disparate categories. There may be many different categories of speedrun which may or may not overlap for a single game.
- Any%: Speedruns that attempt to finish the game without achieving optional objectives. This is usually defined as reaching the game credits. In Generation II and its remakes, this entails defeating Red.
- Glitchless: Speedruns that do not use glitches. Whether an aspect of a game is considered a glitch or an intended mechanic can vary depending on the community. For example, ghost Marowak bypassing is often allowed in glitchless runs of Red and Blue.
- Manipless: Speedruns that do not use RNG abuse. RNG abuse or manipulation is not considered a glitch and manipless runs may or may not also be glitchless.
- RTA/TA: RTA is short for Real Time Attack, which refers to runs played continuously from beginning to end, with pauses counting towards the final time. TA is short for Time Attack, which refers to speedruns completed in non-contiguous segments. RTA and TA runs may be referred to as single-segment and segmented runs, respectively. TA/segmented runs were more common prior to the 2010s, while RTA/single-segment speedruns are considered the modern standard.
- TAS: TAS is short for Tool Assisted Speedrun, which is a speedrun that employs software emulation and external tools to achieve a speedrun that may be beyond human capabilities. TAS runs may manipulate the RNG to a great extent or perform glitches that would otherwise be difficult to consistently trigger.
- Category extensions: Speedruns that attempt to achieve specific optional objectives. In Pokémon, this could include an objective like capturing certain Pokémon, such as all of the Legendary Pokémon available, or defeating optional boss Trainers, such as the Pokémon League rematches.
- Alt main: In the context of Pokémon speedrunning, a "main" is a certain Pokémon used for the majority of the speedrun. Playing with an alt main means playing through the game with a less optimal Pokémon species or evolution line than those that would be typically used in the speedrun.
In the English-speaking community, discussion of Pokémon speedrunning appears on the Twin Galaxies forums in early 2004. The first recorded speedrun of a Pokémon game is considered to be a segmented run of Pokémon Red by 'Cygnus' in May of 2005, which was listed as 2:40 based on the in-game timer, counting the hours followed by the minutes played. This was followed in August by a segmented speedrun of Pokémon Yellow by 'DTaeKim,' which got a time of 2:28. Notably, this is the first recorded run to bypass ghost Marowak. In October of 2005, a tool-assisted run of Pokémon Blue was uploaded by 'Titus,' who completed the game in 1:51 without taking damage by aggressively manipulating the RNG. A segmented run of Pokémon Gold by 'Brown Bomber' was uploaded in February of 2006. In July of 2007, 'Thomaz' uploaded a segmented run of Pokémon Blue that achieved a time of 1:26 through the use of various glitches, including the Pewter Gym skip glitch, Mew glitch, Experience underflow glitch, accessing Glitch City, and walking through walls. The first recorded RTA run of a Pokémon game was done by 'Jacob91', who completed Pokémon Red in 2:39 in June of 2008.
Speedrunners will typically meticulously plan their progression throughout the game, including both overworld movement and in-battle strategies, in a practice known as "routing." A speedrun route may be highly specific to the point of dictating the exact steps a speedrunner will take while navigating the overworld and every move used during battle. Generally, speedrun routes should be able to be executed consistently, although speedrun attempts following the prescribed route may still fail as a result of either the speedrunner's inability to execute the route properly or because of bad luck.
- At the start of the game, speedrunners will usually enter the game's options to set the game's text speed to high, the battle style to set, and the battle effects off.
- Frequently used Pokémon are given nicknames of only a single character in order to reduce the amount of text displayed.
- The overworld is navigated precisely, and the speedrunner avoids talking to extraneous non-player characters or picking up unneeded items.
- Speedrunners will often use one Pokémon found early in the game and concentrate experience on that Pokémon, though they may sometimes "pivot" to using another Pokémon later in the game if a sufficiently strong one becomes available, such as a Legendary Pokémon.
- When the speedrunner must battle another Trainer, it is typically faster to approach the Trainer and interact with them than to pass the Trainer's line of sight and let the player character be approached.
- Depletion of the main Pokémon's HP and PP is carefully monitored and the use of HP-restoring items and PP-restoring items is deliberately planned to avoid using Pokémon Centers.
- When possible, opposing Pokémon may be defeated with neutrally effective moves instead of super effective moves to avoid additional text.
- While using starter Pokémon, a speedrunner may deliberately keep their main Pokémon at low health in order to take advantage of Torrent or Blaze. If a speedrunner is playing Generation I, in which Abilities do not exist, they may keep their main Pokémon at low health in order to take advantage of the red bar glitch.
- Because speedrunners often avoid battling optional Trainers, battle items are often used to strengthen Pokémon during boss fights.
- Some bosses carry HP-restoring items that they use when their Pokémon's HP is low. To avoid leaving boss Pokémon with low health, which would prompt the boss to use a healing item, speedrunners may use weaker moves to inflict damage before using a stronger move to knock out the Pokémon.
- Pokemon Speed Run, Twin Galaxies forum archives
- Speed Demos Archive - Old News, News from April through June, 2005.
- Speed Demos Archive - Old News, News from July through September, 2005.
- SGB Pokémon: Blue Version by Tilus in 1:51:06.50, TASVideos
- Speed Demos Archive - Old News, News from January through March, 2006.
- Speed Demos Archive - Old News, News from January through March, 2008.
- Pokemon Blue speedrun (old run), ThomazSDA on YouTube
- Speed Demos Archive - Old News, News from April through June, 2008.