Since Super Mario World came out for the Super Nintendo on November 21, 1990, war and famine have taken untold millions of lives, nations have risen and fallen, and some dudes in an obscure corner of the Internet have dedicated countless hours to making insane obstacle courses for Mario and then beating them. As we all know, every single conceivable thing in all possible worlds has its own Internet subculture dedicated to it, almost invariably complete with a 1999-era forum to bring enthusiasts together. No exception, Super Mario World hacking has a new hero in YouTube user PangaeaPanga, who spent three years assembling and now beating “Item Abuse 3,” a custom creation touted as “the hardest Super Mario World level in existence.” The results are oddly hypnotic:
PangaeaPanga accomplished the feat using a Super Nintendo emulator that allows for tool-assisted speedruns—video game playthroughs that let a user advance through a level frame by frame, recording only successful advancement (and omitting every character death). PangaeaPanga says it took him 78,160 total recordings to get all the way through the absurdly punishing level, all the while thrusting Mario into a hellish nightmare of eternal death, rebirth, and incremental progression. When he finally escapes the samsara of his existence, Mario does not achieve nirvana, but he does get a “Course clear!” message, so congrats for that, little buddy. This being the Internet, there is naturally also a sub-sub-sub-culture that contends that tool assistance is cheating and says some other guy’s tool-free playthrough of a similarly grueling custom level is more impressive.