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Thursday, July 1, 2021

Review: Mario Golf: Super Rush (Nintendo Switch)


Review by Matt S.

Mario Golf: Super Rush is at its best when it's not trying to be super or rush. When it's focused on simply being a bright, colourful golf game, starring Mario and the gang, it is the best Mario sports title that we've seen in quite some time, hearkening back nicely to those days when, on the Nintendo 64, it was entertaining enough to see Bowser shank it into the deepest rough. We didn't need anything else back then, and we still don't.

In the years since Nintendo and Camelot have become increasingly experimental with Mario Golf (and Tennis), and it has always been to its detriment. The more they have removed the technique and qualities of golf out of the experience, the more distracted and mechanically uninteresting it has all become. When Clap Hanz has been doubling down with the golf elements in its Everybody's Golf and Clap Hanz Golf, Camelot's been turning these things into powerup-hungry minigames that come as close to false advertising as it would be calling Mario Kart "Mario F1 Simulation", and then expecting serious F1 fans to still get along with it (yes, I know Mario Kart happens to be good as a power-up bonanza manic party game, and these Mario sports titles tend not to be, but that's beside the point that I'm making here).

With the above in context, it was disappointing that "speed golf" became the primary focus of the career mode. What starts out as a beautiful little 3D homage to the brilliant RPG-like mode in Mario Golf on the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance was quickly let down by the realisation that you're going to have to run all over these courses, taking shots within arbitrary time limits, and while there's certainly skill and management involved, it's also busy work that I never wanted from my Mario Golf experience. I loved everything about the career mode, from the narrative (which, again, is a beautiful homage back to humble little sports games that, to this day, I can pick up and fall completely in love with), to the aesthetics, right through to the equipment system. I loved the challenge of only being able to take a limited number of clubs to courses, and I loved the RPG-like levelling system. I just didn't love that where I wanted to play simple, "vanilla" golf, I was instead stuck traversing all these courses while trying to carefully manage a stamina bar, all while running to the ball to take my next snapshot. I didn't come to Mario Golf expecting Death Stranding: The Great Ball Hunt, and yet that's what I got.


Outside of the career mode, there were two modes that I will play exclusively going forward. One is standard golf. Just plain, standard, vanilla golf. Chose your favourite character, choose to play 3, 9, or 18 holes, and hit the links. No time-limits, no Kojima-inspired wandering. You just take a shot, see where the ball moves, and the game "teleports" you to your next shot, just like every other golf game throughout human history has done. Mario Golf's physics are arcadey enough to be accessible, making this as entertaining in multiplayer as Mario Golf has always been (and a better choice than 2K Golf, which loves nothing more than to punish you for daring to swing even slightly incorrectly), and the art and characters are Mario-colourful at its finest. This was the experience that I loved back on the Nintendo 64, and it has been preserved here beautifully.

There are only six courses, though, and while I hate to be the guy running around in circles screeching content until I fall over, dizzy from my own nonsense obsession with quality over quantity, six courses really are inadequate here. To put this in context, that Mario Golf 64 masterpiece that I keep bleating on about had eight courses. Eight is two more than six. Super Rush barely tops the Game Boy Color Mario Golf's course count (five). Yes, DLC will boost the number of courses more (and a lot, if not all of it will be free), but if you are coming to Mario Golf: Super Rush for the golf action, you're going to be disappointed by how little focus the developers placed on that.

The courses themselves do have some nice variety, from the greeny traditional course, to the deserty location (always my favourite), and then on to the more wild courses, like Bowser's one. They're pretty on the eye and the holes strike a nice balance between hazards to avoid, opportunities to apply skill to pull off some truly magnificent shots, and opportunities for every kind of character to thrive, be they a weaker but more accurate player, right through to the big-driving power hitters. If there was more of it, then I would have been satisfied with Super Rush even if I didn't dip my toes into anything else.


Bo little content I did try the Battle Golf mode and... thankfully (for me) I do like it. Especially in multiplayer, once everyone is familiar with the basic mechanics of the game, Battle Golf is going to offer a lot of fun. It's a "first to three" competition, where you need to try and "capture" holes (by sinking the putt) before your opponents, and the map itself is laid out with each of the holes linked together in such a way that's guaranteed to bring the characters into direct conflict with one another. And that's where the weapons and other environmental factors come in. This mode can feel like luck overrides skill (and that's because it does), but it will never stop being funny to stop Waluigi from nailing a gimme putt by dropping a bomb in his face. And so, while this mode only works with multiplayer and beers, it is the best effort we've seen yet for one of these Mario sports titles to still be interesting when so significantly distanced from the base sport.

I'm very torn on Mario Golf: Super Rush. On the one hand, the aesthetics are gorgeous, the charm is there, and the basic golf mechanics are wonderfully accessible and yet have enough given that there is room to master them. Putting aside the silly "manually chase the ball" nonsense in the story mode, the rest of it feels like a homage back to the original GBC Mario Golf, too, and that's really nice. I even give a pass to the Battle Golf mode. It may have sucked up development resources and time but... it is great, highly repeatable multiplayer fun. 

On the other hand... six courses, Nintendo. Six. When I did my first impressions video I genuinely thought there would be extra, hidden courses to unlock. But, no. For anyone who came to Mario Golf to play golf, Super Rush is greatly lacking. I'll be willing to grit my teeth and buy the DLC if that's what it takes to get this game up to par, but Nintendo's going to need to at least double the number of courses to get it there, and at the time of writing there only seem to be four new courses on the roadmap (though they are, at least, going to be free). It's still not going to be enough to return Mario Golf to that pedestal that it once had on the N64 and Game Boy Color.



- Matt S.
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb


Review: Mario Golf: Super Rush (Nintendo Switch)
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