The Streamer Who's Nearly Finished Beating All 714 NES Games


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The Streamer Who's Nearly Finished Beating All 714 NES Games

After slogging through games like 'Ikari Warriors' and 'Ghostbusters,' a three-year journey is almost complete.

In June 2014, 29-year-old Piotr Delgado Kusielczuk booted up Whomp 'Em, an obscure NES platformer mostly notable for starring a Native American protagonist, thus kicking off his journey to beat every NES game. Nearly three years and 713 games later, the quest is almost over. Tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, Kusielczuk will beat Super Mario Bros 3. and finally declare victory.

"I'm not nervous," laughed Kusielczuk, as we spoke earlier this week.


The challenge to beat every NES game, later dubbed NESMania, wasn't his idea. Kusielczuk, who goes by the name "TheMexicanRunner" online—he used to live in Mexico, but now lives in Poland—picked up speedrunning a few years back, nabbing world records in games like Contra (any% with two players), Battletoads (100% completion), Bubble Bobble Part 2 (any%), and others. He doesn't like to play games "casually," as he puts it, seeking bigger challenges. He stumbled into the concept of NES Mania while chatting with a friend online, who mentioned how another streamer, Big John, had the idea of playing games alphabetically.

Kusielczuk's friend pitched him on beating every NES game, but it was that: a joke.

"I'm thinking to myself 'challenge accepted,'" he said.

And though you might be thinking to yourself "Look, as much as I love a lot of those old NES games, they're hard as hell," Kusielczuk had had reason to be confident: he'd previously completed 30 incredibly hard NES games, based on a list by the blog The Electric Frankfurter. The audacity of it all was enticing.

The prospect of more deeply exploring the NES library was attractive to Kusielczuk because it'd been the only console he'd owned in his youth.

"While my older friend were having SNES, N64, PlayStation," he said, "I still had NES at home. I didn't play as much [as I got older], but I was attached to the NES, and the difficulty of the games is something I've really liked from the NES. I was really proud, as an NES player."


As for how he ended up at counting 714 games, there's a specific explanation.

"There are 679 NTSC-US released games and 35 PAL exclusive games, totaling 714 games," he said on his website. "When the project started, I referenced the Wikipedia list of licensed NES games and it had 708 games, but the viewers of my project uncovered some missing games over the course of the project. The total eventually ended up at 714."

Unlike other streamers, Kusielczuk doesn't play games via emulation; he loads actual NES cartridges into an actual NES. (At one point, he swapped his original NES for a modified console with better video output for a better-looking stream. He still has the NES.) In the beginning, he only had a handful of cartridges; Kusielczuk wasn't a collector. But over time, as his stream gained in popularity and people were inspired by his mission, people would send (or buy) him games.

Kusielczuk's relationship with streaming has changed over the years. His mother has long dealt with a kidney disease, prompting Kusielczuk to leverage his savings to stay home and help take care of his mother, as her condition worsened.

"It started to be bad—really bad," he said, "and I was like 'I'm willing to spend two years to take care of my mom.'"

In his speedrunning days, Kusielczuk gained some notoriety. This eventually lead to a Twitch partnership, which started bringing in some other money. To supplement his gaming, he'd team up with is brother to stream online concerts.


"As my stream was growing," he said, "the health of my mom was going down, and eventually, she started on dialysis. When I started NESMania, she started on dialysis the day after. It was very tough for me to experience all that. To see my mom very sick and getting worse, it was really tough for me. I started losing weight. Nobody teaches you how to be ready for that."

Because Kusielczuk was streaming from home, he could build an audience and be available to help. It's around this time streaming became a full-time gig.

Nearly every game that Kusielczuk has played over the last two-and-half years has been determined by a lottery system in his Twitch chat. It's made for an interesting and often random odyssey, especially after he worked through the best games the system had to offer. Yes, the NES had an incredible lineup, but not every one of its 714 games was worth playing. Some were bad, others were awful, and a handful had Kusielczuk wondering whether this ridiculous endeavor was even worth it.

"Ghostbusters," he said, pausing. "It just doesn't feel right."

But when he glided through some notoriously difficult games—Silver Surfer, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde—he felt good. But his fans chuckled when a very specific game came up: Ultima III.

"I'm a guy who doesn't do much research," he said. "[laughs] The funny thing was my viewers were saying 'Oh, man, I'm looking forward to this game! I don't think you will be able to beat this game!'"


What's important about NESMania are the rules governing it. Kusielczuk isn't allowed to use save states (a common tool in emulators that allow you to save and load at will), outside hints, or cheat codes that aren't explicitly listed in the game manual. Consequently, Kusielczuk spent more than 20 hours aimlessly wandering around the world of Ultima III before he threw up his arms, and asked chat to point him in the right direction. With a nudge, he finally found his footing.

"I'm a guy who doesn't do much research. [laughs] The funny thing was my viewers were saying 'Oh, man, I'm looking forward to this game! I don't think you will be able to beat this game!'"

The biggest wall was Ikari Warriors, a repetitive and absurdly tough action game.

"[sigh] I spent a long time grinding the game," he said.

It took Kusielczuk hours to simply finish the first level, but every time he'd make progress into the next area, he'd immediately die. Because Ikari Warriors does not have a password or continue system, you're sent right back to the start. Kusielczuk would claw back to the second stage and die—rinse, repeat.

Desperate times called for desperate measures, so Kusielczuk booted up an emulated Ikari Warriors and applied his speedrunning skills to the game—breaking down how it works and using save states, in order to spend time with later areas.

"I practiced for 16 hours," he said. "I routed the game myself. In fact, I discovered a glitch that now, speedrunners use! Then, I started out to grind out real attempts—no save states, no cheating, nothing. Eventually, after another 14 hours, so a total of 32 [or] 33, I beat the game."


Image courtesy of TheMexicanRunner

The game he plays on Saturday, the last game for NESMania, won't come down to chance. A few months into his gaming safari, a viewer suggested NESMania should end on a high note. Though his favorite video game of all-time, Battletoads, had already been beaten ("Every single level in Battletoads is art, a game itself"), a solid backup remained: Super Mario Bros 3. He's thankful for that random fan.

"I don't remember who he was, but man, he was wise!" he said.

Kusielczuk said he hasn't given much thought to life after NESMania, despite being asked repeatedly by fans. He'll keep playing games, keep streaming, and…

"Pursue love, or something like that?" he said. "As much as I have met many great people and everything, there's another human part of me that wants to find their soul mate."

Good luck, Piotr. You can watch Kusielczuk finish his NESMania challenge on Twitch on Sunday at 12:00 p.m. EST.

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