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I am an amateur speed runner of the original Mario Bros for NES. I have heard it said that the end level cutscene of mario walking into the castle is slightly faster if you hit the flagpole at the very top (where it gives you 5000 points) as compared to the bottom of the pole. Others have said it doesn't matter.

Is there a difference?

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All I've found thus far seems to be heresay, but according to the about section of this video, it does make a difference and he does move faster to the castle when he hits the top so it is believed to be faster to hit the 5000 points. I don't have anything more authoritative or explanatory at the moment to formulate a complete answer with, but I hope this helps to confirm your suspicions. –  skovacs1 Sep 16 '13 at 1:14
    
Just making some assumptions, as it's been too long, but surely it's quicker to hit the bottom for 3 reasons... 1) You don't have to jump so high/far (running to the pole with a mini-jump should be quicker). 2) You don't have to view the whole "sliding down the pole" animation. 3) You don't have to wait for the 5000 points to be added to your total score –  musefan Sep 16 '13 at 10:27
    
@musefan, addressing your points: 1) It appears that vertical speed is completely independent of horizontal speed, so jumping doesn't appear to get you to the pole itself faster. 2) The flag at least appears to lower at the same speed that Mario does if you hit the top, and if you hit the pole at the bottom, Mario waits for the flag to fall, so the time at least appears to be the same. 3) I just checked and the bonus is added immediately to your score, while the time is what is slowly added, so this doesn't make a difference. –  dvcolgan Sep 16 '13 at 12:57
    
If there is a difference, it is a very slight one, on the order of a few frames. But when speed running this game, at least in any%, a speed run is so optimized that it does make a difference. –  dvcolgan Sep 16 '13 at 12:58
    
I imagine that one way to definitively answer the question is to go frame by frame in an emulator. I may try to do that at some point. –  dvcolgan Sep 20 '13 at 13:30
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