The official logo for Awesome Games Done Quick 2023.

and so, another Games Done Quick draws to a close! a few late nights and over 2.5 million dollars raised for the Prevent Cancer Foundation have flown by, and now, i settle into that post-GDQ funk; not quite as long a funk as usual, though, with SGDQ 2023 set for a staggeringly early May 28th start.

before i write about my ten favorite speedruns and showcases of the week, though, i want to look at the event as a whole, and how it went. my answer: "pretty good, all things considered". it was always set to be a bit of a weird year for AGDQ, for a few obvious reasons and a few less apparent ones. the biggest, most unavoidable one would be the shift back to a remote format - as mentioned in my previous article, a move made because the organization's pre-existing contract for a venue in Florida has become so incompatible with GDQ's values over the last three years.

some people really can't get over the whole online thing, and i can't necessarily begrudge them too hard. as someone who generally bounces off of 95% of livestreams outside of GDQ's two big yearly events, i personally still find myself far more invested in a remote AGDQ than watching any of these runners on their own, but i can at least acknowledge that, yeah, it'd be great to have a crowd again. of course, there's also plenty of people who have a bone to pick, espousing that it's "weird" to care about COVID-19 safety this much in 2023, and that's a train of thought i'll gladly, full-heartedly condemn. the runners and organizers of GDQ aren't "afraid of COVID", it's that they know what tools actually work so that people can stop being afraid, and the state of Florida has leaned hard into right-wing politics that prevent events from actually using those tools.

it's easy to talk about standing for both public safety and LGBT+ rights, but the team at Games Done Quick quite literally put their money where their mouth is for this event. AGDQ 2023 raised $2.64 million for charity, a figure which is somehow "a little disappointing" for these marathons nowadays, despite being more money than i can even imagine. it's become a long-standing tradition that any money GDQ pulls in through Twitch's various secondary revenue sources, like subscriptions, gets added to the total as one final lump sum to cap off the event with a bang. this time around, that money (generally totalling somewhere around $300,000, i believe?) was set aside for paying off their contract in Orlando. i've noted to friends before that the overlap between "money tends to invite thoughts of more money" and "speedrunning is a competitive hobby based on eking out even the smallest of gains" makes for an interesting obsession with constantly escalating the total, but ultimately, GDQ was willing to take that loss for the purpose of supporting the community that makes the event happen, and i count myself lucky that this event is a big enough presence for people to make the argument that "2.6 million is kind of low".

the other big, obvious shift would be a changing of the guard, as event founder Mike Uyama steps away from the organization after 13 years of managing that constant escalation, having held the original Classic Games Done Quick in his mother's literal basement and now juggling two events a year, both of which are apparently some of the biggest fundraisers for the charities they support. Uyama wasn't constantly on-screen (although when he was, it was usually for an absolute treat of a run like Super Hydlide) in the time that i've been watching these events, and AGDQ 2023 didn't put too fine a point on his departure, but there's just a certain unavoidable vibe to the whole thing when it's one last hurrah for the guy who got this whole crazy thing going.

it was hard to really pinpoint anyone's expectations for how this event 'should' go, because of a number of factors. SGDQ 2022 marked the return of in-person events, and this marked a step back in the eyes of many, regardless of how good the reason. confounding things even more, then, is the fact that AGDQ 2022 - which was also online - is still the record-holder on donation total, by a margin of almost half a million dollars, and nobody really knows why, including the people who run these events! like i said, this was always going to be a weird year, but the team at GDQ did what they do best and put on a hell of a show even under these circumstances. obviously, running these things remotely is going to lead to an audio issue or two somewhere over the course of a week, but the whole thing still felt polished and enjoyable to watch.

if i do have a complaint to raise, it's with the role of donation incentives within the event. these little bonuses aren't a bad idea at all, in and of themselves, and i find that most of the time, they work pretty well; pool your money towards this goal to see an extra-tough boss or a silly little corner that's not quite on the optimal path, stuff like that. the issue that has become most apparent to me across the last few events, then, are the big daily 'bonus game' incentives. ostensibly, these massive targets are adding value to the marathon and extending it - raise a few tens of thousands by primetime, and we'll add this game to the schedule! - but the issue with that is that it's ultimately a bit of a front. bonus games are selected and marked out well ahead of time, and GDQ is a speedrunning marathon run by speedrunners.

so, on Tuesday, the bonus game was the recent DLC for Resident Evil Village, and when they hit that point in the schedule and the 90,000 dollars hadn't been raised... they just moved Ratchet and Clank up a slot and kept plugging the incentive harder. GDQ has everything to gain from having bonus games be hit, and, perhaps on a more interpersonal level, they're not just going to tell runners who put in the hard work to make it to the biggest stage in speedrunning that they're not going to get to play their game. we have hit the point where GDQ's bluff has been called multiple times; the exact same thing happened to the horror block's scheduling last time, actually.

i don't think GDQ is being harmful or deceitful about bonus games, necessarily. in fact, i think it's an incredibly good thing that they show such respect for the people who make the event possible! i don't mind if GDQ is an event where every game is going to be played, hell or high water. the issue, then, is that we're still dealing with the pretense that these are goals with deadlines that can actually fail, and it's starting to actively drag parts of the event down. other people much closer to the community have summed it up better than i could, but the long and short of it is that big bonus game incentives tend to pull money away from smaller, more achievable goals that actually add content to 'guaranteed' runs, and often draw the attention of commentary away from the game currently being showcased. people like to say that GDQ never misses a bonus game, but if you had to move something up on the schedule for the specific purpose of raising more money for a goal... you did actually fail that goal, and the consequence of failing that goal is that until it's met, it's going to have a lot of gravitational pull on the marathon's format, whether that's from the host's end or in terms of set-up times stalling out to buy the bonus some more time.

i don't claim to have all the answers on how you fix this issue. it's hard to even pinpoint it as an issue that needs fixing, because ostensibly, it all 'still works'; that money is still raised for charity, and for every person who's a bit worn out by this type of structure, there's plenty more who'll wholeheartedly buy in and still push as though it's a goal with an actual failure state. despite all my gripes, i still have nothing but respect for GDQ staff, given they have to set these goals essentially on the fly with only the raw live data they have about how the event's going, carefully guessing how far a goal can be pushed and, as it turns out, sometimes being off by a bit. all i can say for certain is that i can definitely envision a future where good speedruns don't have to be thought of as "one last big push before that other game", and i hope there's people striving for that type of change internally.

i wrote a lot more than i was perhaps intending to for this introduction, but hey, these things only happen twice a year, so it's best to put these thoughts down now while they're on my mind. all meta-commentary aside, AGDQ 2023 was a solid showcase of some incredible speedruns. the staff at Games Done Quick curates their schedule quite carefully to make sure they don't stagnate into just playing the big hits every time, so a lot of major franchises had a bit of an odd presence, getting to show off games that might not immediately come to mind when you think "speedruns". for some, this can be a little frustrating, but i enjoyed getting to see such an eclectic mix of games.

so, presented below, in chronological order, are ten runs i strongly recommend from Awesome Games Done Quick 2023. in some ways, this list fell into place pretty easily, and in others, it was a bit tough to find the right mix of ten titles that cover what i believe to be the best of the marathon. i hope anyone can find something to enjoy at least a little here, though!


any arcade chill race% // run by GeneralAndrews & Dospostmann vs. Benja & Paul-Knives

having dabbled in a bit of Shredder's Revenge myself, i was excited to see it make it into the marathon so relatively soon after its release. i don't claim to be a beat em' up expert by any means, but i can say that i think the game feels amazing, and people who are much, MUCH more knowledgeable about the genre seem to agree. beat em' ups in general tend to have very subtle optimization as speedgames, whether it's memorizing enemy patterns and health or in the elaborate, risky art of stunlocking a tough boss. what happens when you stack all those subtle little timesaves together, then, comes across as nothing short of complete mastery of this game's mechanics, leading one of these two teams to a world record time live on GDQ. on its surface, it might not be the most thrilling run, but when taken as a whole, it's a pretty incredible demonstration of skill.


airboat% // run by Msushi

Portal is one of the most clever games ever made, whether you're talking about the complex yet intuitive physics-bending puzzles or the hilarious world Valve crafted to justify the nature of the game. it only makes sense, then, that there are some incredibly clever ways to break it. "airboat%" might have started as just an in-joke from days of yore, but it's also an excellent showcase of just how far speedrunners are able to push the games they play for the sake of a bit. Msushi has already established himself as a long-time favorite of mine through his previous Portal runs, but this run seals the deal as a frantic, non-stop showcase of how to push Valve's classic Source engine to its actual, very literal computational limits.


any% // run by danejerus

it's only through great hesitance that i put this game on my top ten list, because all cops are bastards, but rest assured, this isn't about the vindictive and prejudiced entanglement that is United States law. this is about a higher law - the law of fashion. Fashion Police Squad is, without a shadow of a doubt, AGDQ 2023's "how have i never heard of this, and how soon can i play it" game. this run would already be an absolutely fantastic watch if it was just a pastiche of classic boomer shooters with a surprising amount of modern movement tech such as a grappling hook (which makes any video game better) or self-inflicted ice physics for momentum boosting, but danejerus elevates the whole thing from an intriguing curiosity to a full-blown showcase, both in talent and charisma. add on top of that the presence of a dev providing live commentary and wondering out loud how people have found a way to break his work, and this is one of the most pleasant surprises GDQ has ever introduced me to.


any% // run by benstephens56

Ocarina of Time is probably one of the most well-known speedrunning games of all time, thanks to its massive fanbase and the lengths to which the game has been turned inside out and broken apart over the last 25 years, but what about its... little brother? clone? the Mewtwo to its Mew? Ocarina of Time 3D is an interesting palate cleanser after years of watching how arbitrary code execution has turned top-level play of the original into less of a traditional speedrun and more of a crash course in ad hoc programming. it's still full of potential and ends in a particularly clever bit of tricking the game's values, but there's something interesting about watching a game that, on its surface, seems incredibly familiar, but has just enough differences in its structure to encourage some completely different types of approaches as a speedgame. on top of all that, i can't help but give props to the runner for seemingly gathering the entire Zelda speedrunning community to serve as a bit of an impromptu crowd, given the circumstances of this marathon.


white's heaven rush // run by Blaidan
rainbow heaven rush // run by tordana

Neon White is actually a game i picked up for myself in the weeks before AGDQ, and it is perhaps the hardest lock i've ever seen for a GDQ lineup, just barely missing the window of submissions for SGDQ last year. i might end up writing more about it on this very website once i've beaten the game, but Blaidan's run ignores all the story, which is great for me who's avoiding spoilers and great for anyone who thinks the writing of Neon White might be, perhaps, 'a bit much'. this is a game with speedrunning kept in mind at every layer of its design, and while i certainly feel a certain pride when i manage to whittle down my best time, Blaidan shows off what mastery of those mechanics can mean. if you're looking for glitches and exploits, it might not be the most entertaining run, but it more than makes up for that in sheer skill and finesse. all that stylish movement is only pushed further by the bonus run after the main event, showing off the various sidequest levels in all their strange, gimmick-y glory.


any% // run by BystanderTim

Awful Block was as stacked as ever this year, and picking out which of its many bizarre games would make the list was genuinely one of the hardest decisions of writing up this article. in the end, though, Office Race won me over, with the earnest charm of the game itself and the enthusiasm of the commentary. when a whole chunk of your event is dedicated to 'awful' games, it's easy to think the attitude is going to shift into something so much more snarky and insincere, but these runners really do have a special place in their hearts for the odd little games they get to bring to the main stage. it hardly has the flashiest skips or anything, but Office Race encapsulates the vibe of Awful Block, of getting to take some completely unknown game all the way from 'practice room in-joke' to 'mainline GDQ performance'.


european extreme all camos race // run by ApacheSmash vs. Vermillion

cards on the table: i think Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is, low-key, one of the best video games ever made. in a week that had me constantly reminded of games i need to go finish or try for the first time, one of my strongest temptations was just "man, i should go play Snake Eater again". evidently, GDQ holds the game up on a similar pedestal, seeing as their newly snazzed-up donation tracker had a special musical intro made just for this run. MGS3 is no stranger to the GDQ stage, but this is the first time i've seen it run as a race, and in the exhilirating 'all camos' category, showing off unique routing whether it comes to hunting for hidden collectibles or taking down the Cobra Unit in specific ways to earn their coveted camoflauges. in a head-to-head setting, it's easy for commentary to become somewhat disjointed, but for the entire run, through twists and turns, Dlimes13 and Spartyy keep things quick, concise, and understandable, all while making room for the oh-so-iconic ladder scene along the way. what a thrill.


technical showcase // run by dimo

i promise you, i tried as hard as i could to resist the siren call of putting another rhythm showcase into my top ten, but i can't help it. i'm an absolute sucker for these new-found additions to the GDQ rotation, and this Stepmania 'technical showcase' might be my favorite yet. if you've tuned into GDQ for the past few years, you'll have probably seen similar feats of gymnastic prowess, but when they say this showcase is going to be technical, they mean it. it's one thing to sit in stunned silence watching these charts be executed, but the expert commentary contextualizes the artform of how these charts get created, and the subtle design cues that allow top players to do what they do. more than any other rhythm showcase GDQ has highlighted before, i feel like i walked away from this Stepmania exhibition understanding more about 'the scene', as it were. don't get me wrong, though, still plenty of stunned silence, especially with the encore of sight-read, first-time, never before seen tracks. if nothing else, i had to put this on here in tribute to the pulled muscles dimo toughed his way through.


any% (no wrong warp) // run by Skybilz

this run was an absolute treat to see on the main stage, especially having seen Skybilz run it at the latest Flame Fatales (for those out of the loop: GDQ holds all kinds of smaller events between big marathons, the most major of which probably being the all-female Frame Fatales events) and being able to compare and contrast. the shuffler is a surprisingly simple bit of technology, more-or-less just firing off a 'load savestate' at semi-random intervals, and Super Mario All-Stars is an excellent way to demonstrate it. the five platformers in this collection are all similar enough to keep track of as a viewer, but different enough to make Skybilz's clean execution of each an impressive accomplishment. add in a mid-way dose of "surprise, you're gonna be doing Special World" and you have a delightful, unexpectedly cozy look into a very hectic bit of randomization fun.


any% warpless // run by Mitchflowerpower

"b-but HYPERFIXT!", i already hear all ten of my readers saying desperately at their screens. "we just watched a 2D Mario speedrun!". well, there were two really good ones in the last 24 or so hours of the marathon! Mitchflowerpower is probably the best Super Mario Bros. 3 player on the planet circa 2023, and this run is a fascinating showcase of that skill. what sticks out most to me, honestly, are the tricks he doesn't quite get, namely the 'early hammer manipulation' that he discusses extensively in his intro. this man has to essentially play at near-TAS levels of precision, constantly managing exactly how much the game is allowed to lag and how much score he has to accumulate, and he manages to pull it all off for an entire world's worth of gameplay. when that plan falls through, his backup is that he's still just the best at Super Mario Bros. 3, even without the manipulation. watching a player at this skill level switch so fluidly between these types of gameplay while still providing excellent commentary was an astounding way to wrap up AGDQ 2023, and it makes me quite happy to be able to put the final run of the event on this list, with all its heartwarming 'see you next time' and 'thank you, Mike Uyama' energy.


in making this list, there was plenty of stuff that didn't quite make the cut that i feel absolutely deserves at least a nod somewhere on this page.

two of the biggest examples that come to mind - in notoriety and in actual length of time - are Super Mario Galaxy 2 and the Metroid Prime 1 + 2 multiworld randomizer. both of these runs exceed the three-hour mark, meaning i drifted in and out a little bit when it came to focusing on watching them live, but both are absolutely highlights of the marathon. the Metroid Prime randomizer is a fascinating bit of technology, shifting items between worlds and creating an absolutely bizarre route for both runners, and the Super Mario Galaxy 2 race, while hard to keep track of at some points, features one of the most talented commentators i've ever seen at GDQ, SpikeVegeta, and results in a world record time. it's not uncommon to see a world record or two at Games Done Quick, but that usually comes in the form of "Spider-Man for the 32X", not "hotly contested mainline 3D Mario".

as mentioned earlier, i had a hard time narrowing down what game would represent Awful Block in my top ten, perhaps in part because this is the first time in years that i managed to tough it out and pull an all-nighter to catch the whole thing. my strongest two runner-ups are Salamander County Public Television and Battle of the Eras. SCPTV is run by the incredibly funny teddyras, but it simply isn't quite awful enough - i very earnestly want to go play that game, with its WarioWare-esque approach to minigames. Battle of the Eras, on the other hand, is full of that sincere love for outsider art, but lacks the odd mechanical depth i tend to look for in an Awful Block game. overall, i could recommend pretty much the entire six-hour stretch, even if might gripe about how some of these games are less 'sincerely weird' and more 'self-aware ironic Unreal Engine asset mashing'.

to wrap up my honorable mentions, i'd like to put the spotlight on some speedruns that i would describe as "very interesting", which might come across as trying to be polite about not liking them, but i really do think they're both very interesting?

Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! was run as a 2v2 'lockout bingo', a format i wholeheartedly enjoy as a way to spice up old classics. i'm not too familiar with Spyro, outside of watching it be played by other people, but even with an unfamiliar game, it's fascinating to watch these two teams break down an obtuse route through randomly generated odds and ends. if it weren't for the fact that the card wound up snowballing into a quick victory, it probably would have managed to work its way onto the main list.

the other "interesting" game worth a shout-out is Half-Life: Alyx, which should also probably come with a quick motion sickness disclaimer. the world of speedrunning games in VR is still a vast, unexplored new frontier for the hobby, and understandably so, given the financial and physical investments required. i will admit i was more intrigued by this same runner's SGDQ 2020 run, which allowed for out-of-bounds skips such as crawling under the floor, but the concept of going fast in virtual reality is still so new and novel to me that this inbounds run still has a lot of charm. when i think about what's 'new' in video games and how it relates back to speedrunning, VR is without a doubt the most exciting new technology on the market.

and my final honorable mention is... well, the entire damn schedule. i am only one person. i unfortunately have to sleep sometimes, and even when i don't have to sleep, i definitely have biases about what games i enjoy watching. i'm still making my way through speedruns i missed, and for every one i watch, there's another excellent run i'm probably overlooking entirely. if any video linked in this article interests you even a little, i encourage you to take a look at the event playlist. see if your favorite game got run and i just didn't mention it! or, hey, just put it on shuffle and see what gets dished up!

i've said it plenty in this entry already, but AGDQ 2023 was a bit of a weird one. it wasn't my favorite GDQ, but i do think that in a lot of ways, it encapsulates the things i love about these events, whether it's the variety of games being showcased or the positive vibes of love and support within the speedrunning community. as mentioned up near the top, SGDQ 2023's dates have been announced already, and they're about a month earlier than usual, leaving many curious about whether that points more towards an in-person event or another virtual marathon as the organization continues to pay off the (presumably non-disclosure agreement'd) amount of money that exiting Florida requires.

AGDQ 2023 marks the fifth year i've tuned into Games Done Quick, and even before i started watching, you could probably pinpoint distinct 'eras' in the event's history. within my own time watching it, it seemed like the big slices would be pre-COVID, and then the online events, with SGDQ 2022 marking the big return to a live venue. now, though, the answers are a little more complicated, and i imagine they'll only get more complicated with GDQ's founder taking a well-earned leave from managing these marathons. as long as they stand their ground on the core values that make GDQ work, in my eyes - the values of showcasing all kinds of talent, and being willing to stand up for their community even when it's not the easy or fun choice - i'll always be looking forward to more.