Welcome to Super Mario Bros. 3, a game released in 1988 by Nintendo, played and enjoyed by millions from its release to this day.
SMB3 has a long history in speedrunning, as many people remember, because of the pre-Youtube "11-Minute Mario" video that went viral sometime between 2002-2003. This run, which was discovered to be a TAS (a game played using emulator software to "wind back" and redo inputs in order to employ superhuman reaction times and strategies), still inspired many to take up the hobby of speedrunning, and a handful of human players were even able to finish under the video's playing time.
The first step to speedrunning any game is to play it casually to find out if you enjoy it. At the same time, you'll be familiarizing yourself with the controls, maps, level layouts, and mechanics.
The conventional entry point into SMB3 speedrunning is the Any% No Wrong Warp category. This gives you between 13 and 16 stages to complete, including the random and infamous "hands" that may grab you. This is a difficult entry point but gives you a minimal set of stages and tech to learn in order to post a time.
The second-most popular category is Any% Warpless, which challenges you to beat the game in the shortest time possible without using warp whistles or the wrong warp glitch. This will give you a fairly complete picture of SMB3 as a game, along with involving the highest amount of item acquisition strategy and RNG of any category.
The third-most popular category is Any%. This is the shortest run on the SRC leaderboards and involves the least amount of stages (5). It is also very execution-heavy, involving precise positioning and timing in order to warp to the credits. This is also the only category where following along with a guide is required for completion.
The least-popular category is 100%. This requires you to beat all 90 levels, every hammer brother, and all hands. On the bright side, the influence of RNG is vastly reduced compared to the Warpless and No Wrong Warp categories.
What times should you aim for? That's entirely up to you. Some people have no aspirations other than to post a Wrong Warp time. Others want to be competitive with the grandmasters of the game. Join a Weekly Warpless race, a Randomizer race, or hang out with us on Discord. You decide your own level of involvement.
Regardless, we're happy to help. Good luck!