David “GrandPOOBear” Hunt has made a career out of playing Super Mario Bros. He’s famous for playing the classic platformer in the hardest way possible, making him an expert at “Kaizo” Mario games. And on Feb. 5, after a year of attempts, Hunt completed his most ambitious challenge yet. The livestreamer has now beaten 1,000 expert-rated Super Mario Maker 2 levels consecutively without skipping a single one or getting a game over.
These levels are picked at random by the game, meaning that every level is a surprise. During the challenge, Hunt is allowed to die, but he can’t use up his entire stock of lives. He starts with 15 lives and then if he’s good enough, he will build his reservoir of lives up by finding 1-UPs in each level. Sometimes, something as simple as an enemy flying out of nowhere can throw a run into jeopardy.
“This might sound weird, but the hardest part is not losing your mind from some of these user-created levels,” he told Polygon. “Sometimes you run into weird tech you haven’t seen before, or troll levels designed to eat away your lives with pick-a-door, or a level that’s just a half-pixel jump.”
The “pick-a-door” level he refers to is one in which he had to pick a door at random. If he doesn’t pick the right one, then he dies. The “half-pixel jump” levels required him to play with the utmost precision and perfectly land a jump within a pixel-length distance. Another troll level included one in which he spent thirty minutes searching for one hidden block.
In another level, he has to manage on and off switches, using jumps and shells. When the switch is turned on, all the red panels are activated and can be used as walls and floors. When the switch is turned off, all the red panels disappear and the blue boxes become walls. It sounds pretty simple, but while playing it, Hunt has to think quickly and manage all the switches and hazards while running through the level at maximum speed in an attempt to outpace the timer. It’s the kind of level that would take most people years of practice to beat.
Each level was unique, meaning that Hunt didn’t get to practice any of the levels beforehand — unlike typical speedrunning.
On top of all of that, the marathon-like nature of the challenge means that it takes a ridiculous amount of patience and time. At one point he made it through 621 levels only to lose a course that required a jump between two pillars of spikes sandwiching the finishing pole. The supercut of him attempting to line up the jump correctly over and over is heartbreaking. He said on the stream, “This has been five, six, seven months of my life, and I’m about to lose it all to this one dumb ass fucking thing.”
So, after beating more than 600 levels, Hunt had to start over.
He told Polygon that loss was “devastating.” Still, he picked himself immediately and returned to the challenge the next day. He called it “season two” and started to work his way through 1,000 levels again.
Given the length of time that Hunt attempted this challenge, it was entirely possible for him to run into levels made specifically to defy him. After all, anybody can upload a level to the game — including trolls.
“The best part was when people would put little nods to me in level titles hoping to see them make the challenge, and some of them have,” he said.
His community supported him consistently throughout and, according to Hunt, his viewership grew significantly during the challenge.
“This challenge in particular has led to some of my biggest viewership numbers on Twitch,” he said, “and you can tell people are super invested in it.”
Given the unique nature of the challenge, it’s only natural that Hunt’s persistence through it would endear him to new fans. As for his next challenge, he hasn’t announced anything yet, but he said if any readers of Polygon have a good idea, they should reach out.