Like previous games in the series, Metroid Dread has quickly proven to be a darling of the speedrunning community. Being quick on your feet is explicitly encouraged by the game itself, with special bits of artwork available for players to complete the game in under 4 hours. But if that seems like a tall order considering how long the game usually takes to finish, these tips will have you blasting your way through ZDR in no time.
1. Know when the clock is ticking
It can be easy to lose track of time as you battle your way through the hostile fauna and flora of ZDR. There’s no in-game timer, so the only way to check your current playtime is to exit the main menu and look at your save file. However, there are still a few things worth keeping in mind that will help set your mind at ease as you explore.
First of all, Reloading a save or a checkpoint resets the timer to that point, as one would expect. So if you can’t quite get your E.M.M.I. counters down, don’t fret — dying is but a momentary setback. You can also use this to your advantage by heading into the System menu and manually reloading from a save point or checkpoint if a particular section is taking a little too long and you want a do-over.
The game timer also pauses whenever you’re in the map or options screens. As such, if you need to take a moment to think about your next move, hit the + or – button. Also of note is that while cutscenes can be skipped, their duration is added to your timer whether or not you watch the cinematic. So if you want to take a beat to enjoy a bit of the story, you can feel free. However, scenes with conventional dialogue (like checking in with ADAM in a Network Station) count towards the timer, so mash your way through those.
2. Don’t bother killing every enemy
Metroid Dread features some satisfying combat, especially with Samus’ melee-counter ability, but a key element of any good speedrun is picking your battles. ZDR is filled with plenty of enemies who have a bone to pick with you, but ignoring them and continuing on your merry way is going to get you to your destination much more quickly than taking out every mook in your way. For bonus points, you can use Flash Shift to dash effortlessly over their heads. Speaking of which…
3. Use Flash Shift and Speed Booster liberally
This one might seem obvious to anyone who’s played the game already, but Flash Shift and Speed Booster are going to be your best friends in a sub-4-hour run of Metroid Dread. From the moment you pick up Flash Shift in Burenia, you should be using it at every available opportunity to dash your way to victory swiftly. Once you defeat the Yellow E.M.M.I. for the Speed Booster you can use it to decimate entire screens full of enemies en route to your next objective.
The Speed Booster can be even more useful than it might at first appear. Cunning use of the Shinespark ability, which sees Samus store the energy from the Speed Booster for a few seconds to take off like a rocket in any direction, can end some of the game’s boss fights in seconds. Experiment Z-57, for example, will crumble at the beginning of its second phase if you can pull off this tricky manoeuver, shaving minutes off your play time.
4. Try a few sequence breaks
Sequence breaking is a staple of the Metroid series, and Dread is no different. The bread and butter of the speedrunning community, sequence breaking is one of the main reasons some players clocked in with runs of under 90 minutes. They can be tricky to pull off, but successful skilled players can circumvent whole sections of the game.
You won’t need to learn every single trick unless you’re going for a record, but a few of them can be very useful for a sub-4-hour run. One particularly effective one is getting the Gravity Suit early, which will make the underwater areas of zones like Burenia a breeze. That one can also set you on the path to attaining the Screw Attack early, which will also help.
However, not all sequence breaks are created equal. For example, it’s possible to get Bombs and the Grapple Beam before fighting Kraid in Cataris, which will even open up a unique way of killing him when you do cross paths. However, the time it takes to do this tends not to make it worth seeking them out as long as you’re reasonably proficient at fighting Kraid, so speedrunners are better off taking him out first.
5. Don’t panic
If you’re going for a world record speedrun attempt, every second counts. But if you’re primarily aiming for a run of under 4 hours to get the ending bonuses, there’s plenty of time with a bit of preparation and a cool head. Don’t worry if you mess something up along the way — there’s likely still some wiggle room, and if you’re worried, you can always reload a checkpoint and give it another go. And remember to take a breath during cutscenes and in the pause menu if you need it. You’ve got this.