Watching players speedrun games is always fascinating. The work and dedication that it takes to find those hidden shortcuts and glitches is astonishing, and having the skill to carry those moves out under the pressure of a time limit is an impressive feat.
It's high adrenalin stuff, requiring focus and causing stress, so when I found out that one of the most relaxing games on PC, Stardew Valley, had its own speedrunning community, I was immediately intrigued. How can you speedrun a game which is, by design, is so laidback and slow?
The Stardew Valley speedrunning community has been around for years and it always has a welcome spot at events like Games Done Quick. The most popular category to run is restoring the Community Center as fast as possible (which is your farmer's main task in the game), but there are plenty of other Stardew Valley speedrunning groups. You could try completing the seasonal bundles in the quickest time, get to the bottom floor of the mines, and even try your hand at restoring the JojaMart (if you're totally heartless), but one speedrunning category I was not expecting to find was marriage speedrunning.
The goal of Stardew Valley marriage speedrunning is all in the title: you need to romance and marry an NPC as fast as possible. To win the heart of your chosen partner, you need to shower them with gifts and complete their requests to earn points and gain friendship hearts. When you've hit the ten heart mark, only then can you turn your courtship into marriage.
At first, there doesn't immediately seem like there's a way that someone could speedrun this system, but there are some characters with specific features that make them easier to romance. And, out of all of Stardew's wonderful residents, the character who happens to be the quickest is the chicken-loving soft boy Shane.
I think there's something really sweet about Shane being the top candidate for marriage speedrunning. At first, Shane is pretty frosty towards the player and is not the most enticing pick of the Pelican Town bunch, but under that prickly demeanor is a troubled young man. As you get to know him you soon discover that he suffers from depression and has a dependence on alcohol. Couple this with his shifts at the heartless corporation JojaMart, and you've got a complex guy.
If the player decides to romance Shane, it becomes a much nicer story. He begins his journey to sobriety and moves into your farmhouse, setting up a small chicken coop for his feathered BFF Charlie—which is adorable. But Shane's heartwarming story isn't the reason why speedrunners pick him. The fastest marriage speedrun is currently held by TheHaboo at 43 minutes 35 seconds, and after watching their run, Shane has certain features that make him the fastest character to marry, ones that I hadn't noticed as a regular Stardew player.
Shane works at the JojaMart which means he must leave his house a little past 7:00 am. Due to his early shifts, he gets up the earliest out of all the characters in the game, meaning you can give him his gift at the top of the day and then move on to the next in quick succession. His taste in gifts also is a great help. Like many of Pelican Town's residents, he loves parsnips, which happen to be the first freebie crop you get at the very beginning of the game.
You can also earn more friendship points early into the run by completing his quest on the community notice board. Shane really seems to love his root veggies, as his quest is for a horseradish—an easy man to please. This quest has a pretty low percentage chance of popping up, and so a bit of luck is needed here to get the perfect run.
For all your Stardew Valley uber fans out there, you'll know that Shane's birthday is also super early in the year on Spring 20, and getting him a gift will net you another bump in friendship points.
There are plenty of other clever, like animation cancelling, taking the quickest routes across Pelican Town, and doing some quick mental maths with how you handle your money. You'll also need to pray to the farming gods for a bit of luck, like having some great foraging drops and minimal rainy days.
It's nice that Stardew Valley's loneliest character is getting the love he deserves, and it's funny that it's in the form of countless speedrunners trying to gain his affection. If you wanted to check out more Stardew Valley runs, check out TheHaboo's YouTube channel and the other speedrunners listed on speedrun.com.