SMS speedrunners play in 5 main disciplines.
Beat the final boss starting from a fresh file, timed in real time. The requirement for unlocking the final boss is beating episode 7 in all 7 worlds (excluding the hub world). This usually involves collecting 44 shines.
The shines can be done in the intended order, except for 5 skips that are usually used:
- Bianco 1 Skip
This shine is easily accessible in episode 1, so the Bianco 1 shine is always skipped.
- Gelato Beach Skip (GBS)
Collecting the Gelato 8 shine during Episode 1 lets you access episode 7 right after, and so swaps episodes 1–7 in Gelato Beach with episodes 7–8, saving ~12 minutes. Alternatively, you can play episodes 1–7 as normal.
- Pianta Early
Pianta Village can be accessed at any time using a couple of methods to climb to its entrance without rocket or Yoshi. This is usually done in Any%; alternatively, you can visit this world later, after unlocking either the rocket (requires 30 shines) or Yoshi (requires Pinna 4 shine).
- Yoshi Skip
Pianta 5 as intended requires Yoshi to complete, but is usually done without Yoshi using this technique. Alternatively, do Pianta after unlocking Yoshi (requires Pinna 4 shine).
- Early Yoshi-Go-Round (EYG)
Pinna 5 is usually skipped by accessing Pinna 6 secret from an earlier episode (usually 3 or 5). Yoshi is used so this must be done after Pinna 4, which unlocks it. Alternatively, do Pinna 5–6 as intended.
The usual Any% routes all start with Airstrip, end with Corona, and do the 7 non-hub worlds one-at-a-time except for splitting Bianco into two segments (I and II). The only required skips are Pianta Early and Yoshi Skip. The shines obtained in each world are (ordered within each world):
- Bianco I: 2–5 (unlock Ricco between episodes 3 and 4)
- Bianco II: 6–7
- Ricco: 1–7
- Gelato: 8,7
- Pinna: 1–4,6,7
- Sirena: 1–7
- Noki: 1–7
- Pianta: 1–7
There are a few different routes used, distinguished by world ordering:
- Normal Route (RBSN)
Bianco I, Pianta, Pinna, Ricco, Bianco II, Sirena, Noki.
- Ricco-Late (BSNR)
Bianco I, Pianta, Pinna, Bianco II, Sirena, Noki, Ricco. Requires savewarp out of Pinna to be fast; loses ~1.6s to normal route.
- Ricco-Late (SNBR)
Bianco I, Pianta, Pinna, Sirena, Noki, Bianco II, Ricco. Requires savewarp out of Pinna to be fast; loses ~2.7s to normal route.
Any% with the additional requirement of collecting 120 shines (= 96 physical shines + 240 blue coins) and beating the final boss as the final shine.
Complete an individual level (single shine), timed using an in-game timer. The full guide for these is here.
The other popular real-time categories are:
A group of categories that extend Any% by requiring a specific set of additional physical shines:
- All Episodes
Every episode from 1–8 in all 7 non-hub worlds, amounting to (2 + 7 × 8 = 58 shines).
- 79 Shines
Every shine from all 7 non-hub worlds, meaning 8 episodes, 2 hidden shines and 1 100-coin shine, amounting to (2 + 7 × 11 = 79 shines).
- 96 Shines
Every physical shine, meaning each one from 79 shines plus the additional 17 Delfino (hub-world) shines.
Categories starting from after Airstrip with the goal of collecting shines (physical or from blue coins) as quickly as possible.
- 10 Shines
Collect 10 shines.
- 20 Shines
Collect 20 shines.
Collect the sunglasses (requires 30 shines).
- 60 Shines
Collect 60 shines.
Categories requiring collecting blue coins as fast as possible.
- 10 Shines (No Shines)
Starting from after Airstrip, collect 90 blue coins and trade them all for a total of 10 shines (including Airstrip); collecting physical shines is forbidden.
- All Blues (NG)
Starting from a fresh file, collect all 240 blue coins, trade them all in, then beat the final boss.
- All Blues (NG+)
Starting from a completed Any% file, collect 240 blue coins and trade them all in.
Any% with using the hover nozzle banned.
There are many more real-time categories on the Category Extensions leaderboard.