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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
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 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
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 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
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 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
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 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
    Commented Sep 20, 2013 at 13:30

2 Answers 2

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I know I'm really late to answering this question, but both of the answers here are wrong. Its not actually faster to grab the bottom, its faster to grab it at the top. It turns out that mario spends as much time on the flag pole no matter where you grab it. The difference comes from the acceleration in the air versus on the ground. When you grab at the very top of the flag pole, mario doesn't hit the little block on the way down and accelerates faster than if he walks on the block. This small speed difference is enough to save a frame rule.

For proof, watch the following video.

For more information on frame rules, you can read this article http://tasvideos.org/GameResources/NES/SuperMarioBros.html#The21FrameRule A short summary of what that says is during the black out transition from one level to the next, the game actually waits up to an additional 21 frames. I'm not sure the reason the game does that, but it means that often in a level, saving a single frame from better execution won't save any time because the game will then spend an additional frame in the next loading screen. Usually only frames saved on 8-4 matter because of this.

The video also talks about using the flagpole glitch. This glitch cuts out the flag lowering animation, which makes it faster than grabbing the flagpole at the top. This glitch previously was thought to be too precise to be usable by live speedrunners. Using a new setup found recently, the glitch is now possible to perform which saves a frame rule (meaning the world record is being challenged again!)

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Mario Bros. was an arcade, and later NES, game involving the brothers knocking out enemies that keep coming into and out of pipes in single-screen levels, released in 1983; it had no flagpoles.

Super Mario Bros. (the game with the flagpoles) came out later, in 1985, and it's faster to hit the flagpole at the bottom because if Mario hits the top, he'll make it back to the bottom a few frames after the flag does, while in most positions (including the bottom), he'll make it to the bottom before the flag; Mario does not start walking toward the castle until both he and the flag have reached the bottom of the flagpole.

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