After more than two decades of absence, the Nintendo World Championships returned on June 14, 2015, and a new champion was crowned.

Sixteen players met onstage to see who would come out on top. Eight were winners of the Best Buy qualifying rounds, while the other eight were invited by Nintendo. Sometimes these players worked together, such as in the first stage’s Splatoon rounds. But ultimately, it came down to one against one: Cosmo Wright versus John Numbers.

From retro games such as The Legend of Zelda and Balloon Fight, to newer games like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, the contestants were whittled down to this last pair. The final challenge was a set of four custom stages built in Super Mario Maker by Nintendo Treehouse employees. These stages were not for the faint of heart, even challenging (or perhaps surpassing) the difficulty of the earlier Super Metroid round.

To keep the last round fair, one player played alone while the other sat blindfolded on a chair with music piped into his ears. Each stage was built in a different Super Mario game: the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and finally New Super Mario Bros. U. A successful clear of each stage granted the player a fifteen second head start in the final stage; a possible total of a 45-second head start.

These stages were not for the faint of heart

But the Treehouse employees behind the Super Mario Maker stages were not as kind as that. What started out as a familiar opening to World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. quickly turned sinister when Mario was met with a wall of fire bars too high to pass over, leaving only a Warp Pipe as a means forward. Unexpected enemies, layouts, and dangers met each player with every step forward. Question Blocks were rarely the players’ friends, more often than not releasing giant or multiple enemies when struck.

Both Cosmo and John Numbers were forced to think on their feet, abandoning muscle memory for quick reflexes. By the fourth stage, John had managed to earn a 15-second head start over Cosmo, and he used them well, blazing through the final stage while Cosmo struggled with the first set of wall jumps for most of the time.

John’s victory was secured at the end of the last stage, when he dropped the axe on Bowser after a tense firefight. In recognition for his win, he was granted the Nintendo World Championships trophy. Additionally, both John and Cosmo received a New Nintendo 3DS XL, signed and presented by Shigeru Miyamoto onstage, who went on to thank everyone for their passion for Nintendo games.

Nintendo World Championships NWC John Numbers Miyamoto 3DS