This article originally appeared on VICE US.
2,600 hours is a lot of hours. It’s the equivalent of 108 days, 15 weeks or 3.5 months. It’s also the incredible amount of time Braden “ChainChompBraden” Moor has spent trying to beat Trials of Death, a Mario Maker monstrosity of his own making, a towering journey into the heart of gaming darkness. Moor's journey started in December of 2015, more than three years before Nintendo announced Mario Maker 2, and he still hasn’t finished Trials of Death.
In Mario Maker, you cannot share a level with the world without proving it’s beatable. It’s easy enough to create a hard level, but Nintendo also asks you, the player, to finish it. (When I made my first level in Mario Maker 2, it only took 30 minutes to build but nearly two hours to complete.) After seeing Trials of Death, you might not be surprised at why it’s taking so long:
Now, try to imagine something like this going on for nearly 10 minutes.
It’s not until you watch Trials of Death that you truly understand why it’s gone undefeated, requiring players to be at the top of their game for a whopping eight minutes. That’s just an astonishingly long time for anyone to weave through a web of madness without any room for error.
“Kaizo” is the term that’s usually applied to levels like this, and while Trials of Death is certainly influenced by kaizo design, Trials of Death exists in its own category. It should not exist, and technically, since Moor has yet to beat Trials of Death, it doesn’t. Nobody can play the level but him.
Here's how Moor describes his level:
Imagine 2 different kaizo levels. Kaizo A, and B. For the sake of this analogy, let's just assume that both levels are exactly the same difficulty and are each about a minute in length. Let's also say that by themselves, each level takes about an hour of attempts to beat. Now what would happen if the 2 levels were combined into 1 (without a checkpoint). So it would take about 2 hours to complete then? No, of course not. You would need to spend one hour just to get a single chance at playing the second. Presumably you would improve, and you would be able to have a chance at the "second level" in shorter time spans, but the point still stands. Extending the length of a level by larger amounts does not add difficulty, it multiplies it.
I’ve written about Moor several times before. (Here, here, and here.) There’s a reminder on my phone to check in every six months—unless he pings me first, flagging a moment of progress, a suggestion the end may be in sight. His own predictions have been laughably off; he originally thought it’d take 500 hours to beat Trials of Death, and early in 2018, he was hoping for “a new era of good attempts, progress, and hopefully even victory.” Not quite.
It seemed ludicrous this odyssey would not only take years, but Trials of Death remains unfinished, and Mario Maker 2 launched more than a week ago. But he’s not concerned.
“A lot of people wanted me to get the clear before Mario Maker 2, but it was never a real deadline,” Moor told me recently. “Trials of Death is, and has always been my own project. It may as well be completely disassociated from the games.”
Of course, Moor has no choice in the matter; he hasn’t beaten the level yet, and Nintendo has not indicated that there will be a way to port levels from Mario Maker into Mario Maker 2. Even if that was possible, though, Moor isn’t sure he’d even take Nintendo up on the offer.
“One of the most obvious questions I get these days is ‘Why not just remake the level in Super Mario Maker 2?’” he said. “I was always reluctant to the idea of that, simply because the thought of suddenly playing my level with a completely different kind of controller just didn't seem like a pleasant idea to me. While most people are packing away their Wii Us, mine won't be collecting dust just yet.”
He’s spent 2,600 hours learning the ins and outs of Trials of Death while playing on the Wii U GamePad, which isn’t exactly compatible with a Switch. The way those buttons feel on his fingers, the way his hand grips the plastic—all of that would be lost in picking up a Switch.
(I can sympathize with Moor on this point. Having spent hundreds of hours playing Mario Maker on the underrated Wii U GamePad, I’ve been struggling to land on the best way to play Mario Maker 2. The Joycons are okay but don’t feel great. Most people pointed me towards an 8Bitdo SN30, which I’ve since ordered but haven’t had a chance to use just yet.)
Moor isn’t ignoring Mario Maker 2, though. He’s already doing monstrous things with it:
Why? Because. Because.
What frustrates Moor the most, perhaps, is the way his exhaustive hourcount suggests the only thing happening in his life is endless runs at Trials of Death and nothing else. It’s part of his life, yes, and certainly what’s defined him online, but Moor's also a college student who was studying journalism before spending the last few years with an esports program. (Good call.) His group’s recent semester-ending assignment was to organize a tournament—and they did. Moor is hoping the program eventually leads to a job in esports production.
Unfortunately, nothing in his college program will help his attempts at Trials of Death.
Moor's most recent run at Trials of Death was two days ago. He’ll stream again soon, and he’s fully confident one day, on one stream, this will all be over. The level will be defeated.
“One day it's just going to happen,” he wrote in January, “and that's still crazy to imagine.”
Follow Patrick on Twitter. If you've noticed anything cool happening in Mario Maker, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. He's also available privately on Signal.