Nintendo is normally a reliable hand when it comes to whimsical takes on sports. Mario has been moonlighting as a multiple sport athlete for many years and some of his best outings has been as a golfer. That's why fans were excited to see the latest installment of his golf series, Mario Golf: Super Rush. Unfortunately, this new entry in the franchise ultimately gets bogged down by gimmicks and lacks a lot of what made the past games feel special.
Joining the (country) club
If there's anything I can say for Nintendo and developer Camelot, it's that they're at their best when they stick to the fundamentals. At its core, Mario Golf is not a bad golf game. There are enough intricacies in the game's mechanics that Super Rush is a strong competitive golf title. If there's a weakness to be found in Standard Golf, it's that the game doesn't do a good enough job teaching players how to utilize them. There are tutorials and loading screen tips, but the explanations end up being so poor that anything they try to teach still winds up feeling confusing.
If there's a place to learn fundamental golf, it's through Super Rush's new single-player Golf Adventure mode. This is where players can take their Mii Characters and learn the basics of the game's various mechanics. This is all set along the backdrop of learning to become a professional golfer on the same level as the playable Mario Golf cast. Golf Adventure provides a decent narrative, integrating a lot of the Mario series' supporting cast members. It's an even better tool for learning Super Rush's various game modes or for squeezing in practice along the world's various practice courses.
If there's a problem with Golf Adventure, it's that it quickly becomes tedious and frustrating. Earning a badge will often involve playing multiple rounds of three, six, nine, or eighteen holes. You'll often get used to seeing the same holes over and over, especially after hitting some obnoxious fail states. As Golf Adventure goes on, players will run up against time limits, stroke limits, or other ways to fail that don't involve actual golf. Hitting fail states wouldn't be so bad if the objectives themselves weren't so time consuming. Imagine going through a 20-30 minute round of 18 holes, only to ultimately fail because the time expired right before you could get your final putt in, forcing you to start the whole thing over again. It's not very fun and it doesn't get better as the story goes on.
Still, as a solo campaign, I could get behind some of the ideas in Golf Adventure. They're better than some of Super Rush's other new additions.
There's little that's better than Mario Golf competition in its purest form. That sadly goes out the window with some of Super Rush's new game modes. Speed Golf is one of the newest additions to the series and it's a drag. The premise is that after hitting your ball, you must then go and retrieve it yourself on foot. There's a stamina bar in place and players must manage it, either saving it or opting to use a burst of it for a special dash that can trip up opponents. There are a couple of fundamental flaws with this idea. For one thing, there's more time spent chasing your ball than actually playing golf. I would presume people play Mario Golf more to play golf, not get in a foot race with other players. It's made much worse when there's no clear path to your ball and you spend more time trying to plot out routes than you do trying to actually aim for the hole.
On that note, the biggest issue with Speed Golf is that because it's a race against time, there's not only no incentive to measure your shot and hit a precise drive, but there's almost an active penalty for doing so. The object of Speed Golf is to sink your ball in before the opponent, which ultimately leads to a lot of sloppy shots. Strokes will count for 30 seconds a piece, so it's not good to be completely careless, but the pressure of working quickly sucks a lot of the joy of playing a simple round of golf. Worse yet, part of the joy of golf is standing back and admiring your handywork after a particularly great drive and that element is lost if you're more focused on trying to run down the course.
Super Rush's other new game mode is Battle Golf, which puts players in a giant arena with nine holes scattered about. The objective is to sink three holes before any opponent. This can be fun, especially as chaos inevitably sets in. The arenas are littered with gimmicks and traps, plus a character's special shot can lead to some Mario Kart-style sabotage. The problem with Battle Golf is that its novelty wears off way too fast, since there are only two playable courses: Strategic and Technical. If there were more playable areas, Battle Golf could be a fun side attraction from the normal Mario Golf formula. Unfortunately, there just isn't enough to offer and any enjoyment wears thin quickly.
In fact, that's Super Rush's biggest problem in a turtle shell.
As somebody who has enjoyed Mario Golf games in the past, it's hard not to feel ike Mario Golf: Super Rush is less of a good thing. There are six courses for Standard and Speed Golf and only two arenas for Battle Golf. Compare that to the seven courses for 2003's Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour (the last Mario Golf game to hit a home console) or the ten courses in the handheld Mario Golf: World Tour from 2014.
Even diving into the game itself, it feels like there's less to enjoy. Outside of the various unlockables for your Mii Character in Golf Adventure, there's nothing worth unlocking in the main game itself. The actual presentation feels bare bones with no extended celebrations, instant replays, or any of the bells and whistles one would expect out of a Mario Golf game. Super Rush is fine in small doses, but the fun wears out too quickly.
Mario Golf: Super Rush is ultimately at its best when it tries to be two things and two things only: "Mario" and "Golf." The actual course designs are solid. Sprinkling in obstacles like Brolders and Pokeys across some uniquely designed courses offers that unique Mario flavor that can't be found in another golf game. Trying to navigate around that stuff with solid golfing fundamentals is a formula for a good time, especially with friends. There just isn't enough of it, even though Standard, Speed, and Battle Golf all offer a variety of house rule options that can be used on or offline.
The focus on speed and chaos is what ultimately undoes Mario Golf: Super Rush. I would say that when it comes to Mario Golf, slow and steady wins the race, except this game has shown me that racing and golf don't really mix.
This review is based on a Nintendo Switch digital code provided by the publisher. Mario Golf: Super Rush is available on the Nintendo eShop now for $59.99 USD. The game is rated E.
Mario Golf Super Rush
- Shows strong golf fundamentals
- A fun game to play with friends on occasion
- Courses are well designed with some unique obstacles
- High variety of rule options, which can also be used online
- Golf Adventure is a decent story
- Speed Golf on a fundamental level is not fun
- Battle Golf gets old fast with only two course options
- Fewer courses than previous Mario Golf games
- Disappointing unlockables
- Golf Adventure can be boring and frustrating
- Tutorials for certain mechanics are poorly conveyed