Super Mario 64 Bit Flip

How Did A Cosmic Ray Affect A 'Super Mario 64' Speedrun In 2013? The Meme Explained

Most online communities have inside jokes not apparent to a random outsider, but hardly any can reach the degree of obscurity that speedrunning memes have to offer. One particular reference that has been drawing public attention recently: an extremely rare glitch likely caused by an ionized particle from a gamma ray from outer space that happened during a Super Mario 64 livestream in 2013.

A mystery that enthralled the SM64 speedrunning community for years, the glitch eventually was recognized as a result of a single-event upset, and later turned into something to make a witty reference about. Here's what actually happened.

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What Happened During DOTA_TeaBag's Super Mario 64 Speedrun?

On September 13th, 2013, Super Mario 64 speedrunner DOTA_TeaBag was streaming his attempts to beat the game in record time. At one point during the speedrun, on the Tick Tock Clock level, Mario unexpectedly jumped much higher into the air than normally possible without any apparent reason, which helped DOTA_TeaBag save time on his run.

Neither DOTA_TeaBag nor any other speedrunners have been able to perform the jump ever since. Two years after it happened, on August 4th, 2015, YouTuber and Super Mario 64 analyst pannenkoek2012 launched a community challenge, promising to pay a $1000 bounty to anyone able to recreate it.

As time passed and nobody managed to replicate the glitch, a curious theory arose: what if some external force was in play? Today, almost ten years after the viral moment, it's now a generally accepted theory that the glitch was caused by an extremely rare occurrence: a high-energy particle from a cosmic ray hitting the Nintendo 64 memory at the exact time of the jump and flipping a single bit from 1 to 0, leading to Mario jumping impossibly high and "warping" to a higher platform.

This theory is partially confirmed by an experiment performed by pannenkoek2012 in 2015, where the first byte of Mario's height is artificially changed at the moment of the jump, leading to an extremely similar result.

Super Mario 64 Cosmic Ray Flip Bit In Memes

The Super Mario 64 cosmic ray flip bit got its share of attention from popular YouTubers: first, in 2017, late speedrunning YouTuber Apollo Legend included it into his "Top 10 Weirdest Moments in Speedrunning" video. Later, in 2021, popular science channel Veritasium had it in its "The Universe is Hostile to Computers" video about single-event upsets.

Veritasium's video helped the little-known factoid gain popularity as a reference in memes. Since then, memes referencing the Super Mario 64 bit flip have been occasionally posted on Twitter, iFunny and TikTok alike, entertaining those in-the-know and confusing everybody else.

Trey the Explainer @Trey Explainer That one solar particle on its way to flip a single bit on a N64 playing Mario on September 21, 2013 10:58 AM • Mar 1, 2023 4.8M Views

And now you know how a rare speedrunning glitch caused by forces of cosmic scale turned into a meme.

For the full history of the Super Mario 64 cosmic ray bit flip, be sure to check out our entry on the meme here for even more information.

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