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A speedrun is a playthrough of a game with the intention of completing it in the shortest amount of time possible. Unlike the Three Heart Challenge, optional upgrades are acceptable but are generally ignored if the amount of time they save is less than the time it takes to obtain them. Most speedrunners attempt to break record times by using a variety of glitches to save time. However, cheating devices, hacks and custom game controllers are generally not allowed. A video of the gameplay is usually required to verify that a record was truly broken. Most record breaking takes place on streaming services in recent years. Sometimes, speedruns are done on emulators, which their use is sometimes allowed.
The speedrun challenge has given rise to its own community consisting of casual and world-class speedrunners and their spectators. Much of the community is hosted on the website Speed Demos Archive (SDA) as well as the live-streaming site Twitch. The SDA forums are often used to discuss route planning and new techniques in order to improve run times. Many speedrunners – especially world-class ones – will stream their runs live to spectators; most do so on Twitch using timing software. Through Twitch, spectators can support runners monetarily by donating or paying for a subscription to the runner's channel. Donors can add comments to their donations which runners will usually read aloud during lulls in the run, or after it is completed. Many speedrunners allow their donors to choose a file name for each run. Twice a year, SDA hosts charity marathons called "Awesome Games Done Quick" (peak winter event) and "Summer Games Done Quick" (off-peak summer event), where world-class speedrunners congregate and live-stream speedruns to elicit donations from viewers.
The Legend of Zelda games are highly contested and constitute some of the most popular games for speedrunning. Zelda speedrunning has its own expansive sub-community. ZeldaSpeedRuns compiles information on speedruns and hosts the series' definitive speedrun leaderboards.
- Main article: Speedrun/Glossary
Speedrunners evolve unique terminology and abbreviations for each game. It usually refers to important techniques or strategies ("strats"), most of which are exploitative glitches.
Most speedruns rely on exploitative glitches and sequence breaks to finish the game quicker. Glitches are a rallying point for the speedrunning community. The discovery of new glitches, usually a result of extensive research by members of the community, can lead to breakthroughs in a run category. This can reignite interest in a "dead" category, resulting in further competition and run improvement. A category "dies" when a strong, decisive record is made that cannot likely be beat. Competition in the category thus wanes until new "strats" or glitches are discovered.
Some Zelda games are more "broken" than others. In Ocarina of Time and Link's Awakening, massive sequence-breaking glitches exist that skip most of the game. These games can be completed in a matter of minutes – Link's Awakening can be completed in under 3 minutes; Ocarina of Time in under 20. Games such as The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword feature less drastic skips and still require several hours to complete.
Due to slight design changes between game versions, a specific version of a game will be more desirable than others for speedrunning. Japanese versions are frequently used for Zelda games because there is less text to wait through. (The Japanese writing system utilizes Chinese characters, which are logograms, as well as their own syllabaries. These amount to a smaller volume of text than an equivalent translation written with the Latin alphabet.) Additionally, many speedrunners prefer to play with the NTSC version of the game over the PAL version as it usually runs faster (60Hz versus 50Hz).
For example, the Chinese version of Ocarina of Time for the iQue Player was at one point ideal for any% speedruns. This version has the fastest text and the least lag. It is less suitable for other Ocarina of Time categories because of the iQue's slow start screen. The Japanese version is used for other Ocarina of Time categories.
Multiple speedrunning categories exist for each game. Each category sets unique conditions under which the run must be completed.
Any% is the standard speedrunning category. The goal is simply to complete the game as quickly as possible, without any conditions.
100% is the second most popular category. Full completion of the game is required in this category. All Heart Containers, songs, inventory and quest items must be obtained. 100% speedruns do not necessarily have to meet any other 100% Completion criteria.
Glitchless runs must be completed without the use of glitches.
Various categories exist that are unique to each game. For example, Majora's Mask features an "All-Masks" category. Ocarina of Time features several unique categories, including "All Dungeons", "Ganonless", "No Wrong Warp", etc.
- Main article: Speedrun Records
The following is a list of speedrun records for The Legend of Zelda games. For a complete leaderboards that includes all the major speedrun categories, see the ZeldaSpeedRuns leaderboards. All runs listed are single-segment/real-time attack, meaning the run was completed in one take from start to finish.
|The Legend of Zelda||28:30 ||lackattack24||December 30, 2017||Any% (Quest 1, No Up+A)|
|35:12 ||lackattack24||January 26, 2018||Any% (Quest 2, No Up+A, No ACE)|
|The Adventure of Link||18:07 ||opus||February 19, 2017||Any%|
|57:45 ||Simpoldood||December 18, 2017||Any% - No warps or deaths|
|1:14:49 ||Simpoldood||August 19, 2017||100% - All Keys, 1CC|
|A Link to the Past||01:31 ||Lomiig||February 1, 2017||Any%|
|1:23:19 ||Xelna||October 12, 2016||Any% - No major glitches|
|1:41:53 ||Xelna||September 12, 2016||100% - No savewarps, deaths, or out of bounds|
|Link's Awakening||01:21 ||Global-Trance||August 15, 2015||Any%|
|44:11 ||aulos||December 14, 2017||Any% - Warpless|
|Link's Awakening DX||02:14 ||SeYsEy||December 4, 2017||Any%|
|52:38 ||vlackSR||January 25, 2018||Any% - No wrong warps, no out of bounds, no save & quit|
|1:21:59 ||TGH||December 25, 2016||100%|
|Ocarina of Time||17:09 ||Torje||March 23, 2017||Any%|
|4:10:43 ||zfg||December 27, 2017||100%|
|Ocarina of Time 3D||38:28 ||arontoad99||July 19, 2017||Any%|
|4:18:41 ||benstephens56||February 19, 2017||100%|
|Majora's Mask||1:17:53 ||EnNopp112||January 9, 2018||Any%|
|4:52:18 ||EnNopp112||November 2, 2016||100%|
|Majora's Mask 3D||1:26:21 ||Iwabi74||August 21, 2017||Any%|
|5:45:08 ||TheLegendofZaheer||November 5, 2017||100%|
|Oracle of Ages||1:34:09 ||zmaster91||October 6, 2017||Any%|
|Oracle of Seasons||1:42:03 ||BambooShadow||December 18, 2017||Any%|
|Four Swords||20:42 ||legrandgrand and Baffan||July 7, 2016||Any%|
|Four Swords Anniversary Edition||24:20 ||Blazeingphoenix||January 5, 2014||Any%|
|The Wind Waker||3:55:24 ||Demon9||January 28, 2018||Any%|
|6:56:29 ||ChaoticAce||January 24, 2016||100%|
|The Wind Waker HD||1:05:01 ||gymnast86||January 28, 2018||Any%|
|5:57:33 ||gymnast86||July 9, 2017||100%|
|Four Swords Adventures|| 2:05:29 
||Zmaster91||January 23, 2018||Any%|
|The Minish Cap||1:46:29 ||ToadsWoot||July 3, 2017||Any%|
|4:07:15 ||ToadsWoot||August 1, 2017||100%|
|Twilight Princess||2:56:35 ||Adam||November 14, 2016||Any%|
|6:39:49 ||sva||July 9, 2016||100%|
|Twilight Princess HD||3:40:15 ||Pheenoh||March 27, 2017||Any%|
|7:34:25 ||sva||April 9, 2016||100%|
|Phantom Hourglass||3:20:15 ||Hornlitz||October 4, 2016||Any%|
|Spirit Tracks||4:42:29 ||pok3monrocks||September 7, 2015||Any%|
|9:29:42 ||indykenobi||August 16, 2014||100%|
|Skyward Sword||4:56:56 ||Nimzo||August 29, 2017||Any%|
|7:41:20 ||Bob||September 21, 2015||100%|
|A Link Between Worlds||1:21:20 ||ahamplan||April 29, 2017||Any%|
|3:04:59 ||romulostx||June 14, 2017||100%|
|Breath of the Wild||39:25 ||Ikkitrix||August 5, 2017||Any%|
|2:04:57 ||Zdi||January 26, 2018||All Divine Beasts|
|32:15:18 ||SpecsNStats||December 30, 2017||100%|
|The Faces of Evil||25:29 ||Authorblues||May 11, 2015||Any%|
|The Wand of Gamelon||29:35 ||Authorblues||February 7, 2017||Any%|
|Zelda's Adventure||1:12:56 ||Douggernaught||December 10, 2016||Any%|
- "This run was done on the official Chinese release of the game. I chose this version because of faster text and less lag." —Narcissa Wright, world record holder for Ocarina of Time any% as of August 1, 2014 (Zelda: Ocarina of Time Speedrun in 18:10 by Cosmo)
- The Legend of Zelda, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda - Second Quest No Up+A, Speedrun.
- [http://www.speedrun.com/Zelda_II_The_Adventure_of_Link#Any Zelda II: The Adventure of Link - Any%], Speedrun.
- [http://www.speedrun.com/Zelda_II_The_Adventure_of_Link#Any_Deathless Zelda II: The Adventure of Link - Any% Deathless], Speedrun.
- [http://www.speedrun.com/Zelda_II_The_Adventure_of_Link#100_All_Keys_1CC Zelda II: The Adventure of Link - 100% All Keys, 1CC], Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - Any%, No major glitches, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - 100%, No savewarps, deaths, or out of bounds, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening - Any%, glitched, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening - Any%, warpless, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX - Any%, glitched, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX - Any%, no wrong warps, no OoB, no S&Q, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX - 100%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - 100%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D - 100%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask - 100%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D - 100%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords: Anniversary Edition - Any% DSi Solo, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker - 100%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD - 100%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap - 100%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - 100%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD - 100%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks - 100%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - 100%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds - 100%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Any%, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - All Dungeons, Speedrun.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - 100%, Speedrun.
- Link: The Faces of Evil - Any%, Speedrun.
- Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon - Any%, Speedrun.
- Zelda's Adventure - Any%, Speedrun.