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This Mario Kart shortcut took almost 13 years to pull off

Rainbow Road’s ultra shortcut has eluded players for ages

mario kart wii Image: Nintendo
Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

Mario Kart Wii is nearly 13 years old, but hardcore players are still trying to bend it to their will with “ultra shortcuts” — massive lap skips that require unreasonably high levels of skill. But years after the discovery of the Rainbow Road ultra shortcut and over a decade after the game’s release, a streamer named Arthur finally nailed the shortcut, giving him the fastest time in the world.

If you’re unfamiliar with Mario Kart Wii, the game is comically broken in terms of how it counts laps. Players can trick the game into believing they’ve completed a lap normally, despite driving out of bounds or forcing Lakitu to fish them out of the pit and back onto the road, according to a YouTube documentary from Summoning Salt. If players can manage to hit that final checkpoint before the finish line, many maps will count it as a fair lap when players cross the finish line. This has led players to try all sorts of shenanigans, like going way out of bounds to carefully nab a checkpoint, or driving over “undrivable” terrain.

These ultra shortcuts take patience to learn and serious skill to execute, and some are nearly impossible. Rainbow Road technically has two ultra shortcuts: one that requires Lakitu to drop players at a specific spot on the track, and another that players discovered nearly five years ago using tool-assisted speedrun (TAS) software.

The first Rainbow Road ultra shortcut was good, but had a few too many caveats, like needing players to be online and be at a certain place in the race — if you were too far ahead of the other racers, Lakitu would drop you in the wrong spot. The real prize was the shortcut players discovered using TAS. But without TAS’ input help, executing the shortcut was incredibly difficult.

Arthur hasn’t yet posted his own video, although a Twitch clip from a viewer is currently at the top of the Speedrun subreddit. The shortcut looks fairly simple in the footage. But as Summoning Salt describes it, players need flawless controller inputs to nail this trick — which is why it took years and thousands of attempts.

Arthur drives forward at the start of the race and quickly turns around at the end of the safety guardrail. Arthur then hops off the track and onto the very thin part of the road, on the opposite side of the guardrail. Arthur then jumps off the sliver of road and uses a mushroom to drift across a giant chasm and return to the track before crossing the finish line.

With that lap completion on Jan. 13, Arthur claimed the world record for Rainbow Road and the first non-assisted use of the Rainbow Road ultra shortcut.