Mario Kart 64: Controversial Perfection

Mario Kart 64 released in 1996 and inspires intense competition among players to this day.


Mario Kart 64 released in 1996 and inspires intense competition among players to this day.

Sunny Li, Staff Writer

On August 8th, 2021, Mario Kart 64 (MK64) speedrunner, Daniel Burbank achieved absolute perfection, attaining all 32 non-shortcut world records (WRs). However, the way in which he claimed such perfection involved a controversial strategy, and left mixed emotions that still linger within the MK64 community.

Speedrunning has been around probably as long as video games themselves have. The term “speedrunning” is a bit of a loose umbrella term, but generally, it is seen as the act of completing a video game–or a specific task within a game–as quickly as possible. 

Mario Kart 64 is widely considered as one of the “founding fathers” of speedrunning games. It contains an in-game timer that tracks down a player’s time for each course, and players have been competing against each other ever since the late 90s.

The Map Select screen for the game.                    Image Source: The Cutting Room Floor

The game contains a total of sixteen tracks, each of which have the player drive around the entire course three separate times. However, speedrunners also compete to see how fast they can complete just a single lap of the course, so in total, there are 32 different possible world records that can be claimed. (Note that this is only accounting for the non-shortcut side of the game, as Mario Kart 64 has a plethora of shortcuts–or large skips probably not intended by the developers–that can be used to complete each course much faster.)

A picture of Matthias Rustemeyer featured on the official leaderboards.    Image Source:

The story behind the controversy of Burbank’s claim to fame was rooted from a fierce competition that started way back in 2013–an extraordinary rivalry between the top players of the MK64 community, and one of the all-time greats: Matthias Rustemeyer.

Rustemeyer was a legend. He was once the champion of non-shortcut world records, holding more world records than any other player for seven years. Just like Burbank later on, Rustameyer’s ultimate goal was to attain all thirty-two world records. 

There were many close calls–with him reaching 31/32 records a total of eight times–but the alliance between the rest of the community was just strong enough to stop him at the last moment. Finally, on November 26th, 2018, after the final failed attempt at perfection, Rustemeyer’s grind would come to an end.

The epic battle between Rustemeyer and the rest of the community would result in one of the most compelling tales to ever emerge from the entire speedrunning community (even being documented by YouTuber, Summoning Salt, with his video, Mario Kart 64: The Quest for World Record Perfection). 

After the end of Rustemeyer’s quest, things in the MK64 community seemed to calm down a bit. Rustemeyer continued to speedrun the game, and he remained at the top of the leaderboard for the most part (just not anywhere close to having all 32 records). But little did he know, another player was secretly surpassing his best times under the radar.

Rustemeyer’s closest competitor was none other than Daniel Burbank himself. During Rustemeyer’s journey, the two rapidly traded records on various courses. However, one factor would remain constant.

Whenever Rustemeyer beat Burbank (or any other competitor for that matter), he would immediately submit his new WR to the leaderboards, giving his rival(s) the maximum amount of time to fire back. This strong sense of sportsmanship was one of the most fundamental contributors in Rustemeyer’s ultimate failure in ever achieving world record perfection because it led to an inevitable back-and-forth competition between Rustemeyer and the rest of the community.

A picture of Daniel Burbank featured on the official leaderboards.  Image Source:

However, on June 11th, 2020, Burbank unloaded a shocking surprise attack–seventeen WRs that he had been secretly hoarding for over fifteen months. For the first time in years, someone had beaten Rustemeyer in total records. But the community, Rustemeyer included, had a very mixed response to this event–which is now sometimes referred to as “the unhoarding.”

Hoarding was not explicitly against the rules, but Rustemeyer, to put it lightly, was not pleased with Burbank’s deceptiveness. In an interview with Kotaku, he stated, “Dan unhoarded 15 [though it was actually seventeen] WRs in June 2020 and completely destroyed the place I liked to visit almost daily.”

Rustemeyer also claimed that Burbank “feared the fair battle and sneaked to the top,” by catching Rustameyer off guard, so that he “couldn’t defend properly.”

Finally, Rustemeyer reported that in response to the unhoarding, “some players left the scene, many were upset and disappointed,” and that he might have even retired right then and there if it weren’t for the support he gained from fans, and the “hoarding ban with mandatory streaming for Dan.”

After three days of silence, on June 14th, Burbank posted an apology on the  forums. He expressed regret for the unhoarding, and explained that he went about his actions the way he did because he believed that he “would never be champion any other way.” 

Burbank claimed no ill intentions against the community and stated, “I never intended to hurt the community and didn’t think that what I was doing would hurt the community, because I was selfish and never stopped to consider it.”

In addition to his apologies, Burbank offered to step away from the game for as long as the community felt was necessary, and even stated that he wouldn’t try to defend himself against any potential punishments (including a possible ban). 

Despite his offer, the community would eventually decide on keeping his records on the leaderboard, and allowing him to continue playing under the condition that he would stream all future world record attempts live.

With Burbank being put in the clear to keep playing, and Rustameyer’s fans encouraging him to return, a new struggle for world records began in 2021. It was, as Burbank described, “the biggest battle in MK64 history.” However, it wouldn’t last long.

During the interview with Kotaku, Rustemeyer stated, “I didn’t feel the same fire to fight in the summer months. And with his hoarding history, I forced myself to play rather than fully enjoying it.” 

It would only be a matter of time before Burbank reached perfection, and he did exactly that on August 8th–where he tied the 3-lap WR on Sherbet Land.

However, four days after Burbank’s victory, his rival made a post on the forums. Matthias Rustemeyer announced his retirement from the game.

In recent months, the controversy has died down, but the memory of Burbank’s disputed victory still lingers among many members, fans, and speedrunners of the MK64 community, for better and(or) for worse. History was made…but the details between the lines remain bittersweet.



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