There’s an art to how Nintendo usually iterates on its long-running series. That twist it almost always seems to discover makes us excited about what’s to come, while also looking back on fond memories already forged. Mario Golf: Super Rush, though, is an exception to that trend – it’s sporadically fun but it frustratingly falls short of the green more often than not. Its newly introduced Speed Golf mode is a bright point that shakes up the formula, while its lacklustre Adventure mode is a short and not overly sweet few hours. It makes for a package as a whole that offers some of the fun of the Mario Golf games of past generations, but when all is said and done it lacks the variety, replayability, and general amount of content needed to be considered a standout in the series.
The original Mario Golf (titled NES Open Tournament Golf) is the first game I really remember playing, as I graduated from crawling around and tangling in my dad’s controller wires to holding the pad myself. The core mechanics remain, and apart from the obvious visual improvements, it doesn’t feel a million miles away from how it did 25-odd years ago: Line up your shot, press A to begin your swing, then A again (or B if you want to apply backspin) to lock in the power of your shot.
It’s these simple button presses as the power bar fills up on the right hand side of the screen, coupled with the subsequent sound of club hitting ball that evokes nostalgia and takes me to a happy place. The standard modes of match play and stroke play also provide comfort and familiarity, and as with every mode (aside from story campaign) these can be played solo or with up to three other players for a relaxed time with Mario and friends, but they’re so old and worn that while they’re certainly comforting, they’re nothing to get excited about.
Need for Speed
The mode that does spark some joy is Speed Golf. Speed Golf is the new twist on the formula this time around, and it’s fair to assume is what inspired the “Super Rush” part of Mario Golf: Super Rush’s name. This fresh take on a round of 18 holes is where I found the majority of my enjoyment coming from. Instead of simply taking your shot, watching to see where it goes, and then magically appearing next to your ball, it places as much importance on what happens in between strokes as the swings of the club itself.
Speed Golf is where I found the majority of my enjoyment coming from.
Of course, this is done in classic Nintendo fashion: there’s no jumping on your golf cart and slowly driving to your ball here (though now that I mention it I do like the idea of each hole being half Mario Kart track, half golf course). Instead, you’ll race competitors to your next lie, holding in B to dash for as long as your stamina bar will allow. You can also pick up hearts to refill that stamina, and coins which fill your special shot bar along the way. The placement of these items offers a fun tactical minigame to play within each shot, as you must weigh up which is the best “golf shot” to play in order to reach the hole against which will lead you to pick up more coins without taking too much of a detour and wasting time. One option could lead to a more traditionally beneficial position, but the other could grant you that all-important special shot that bit quicker.
As you might reasonably assume from the name, time is very much the key in Speed Golf, but the phrase “more haste, less speed” also rings very true. That’s because each shot you take adds 30 seconds to your time, so taking those extra few moments to line up a better shot will benefit you in the long run because the victor is determined by speed rather than who takes the fewest strokes. It’s a clever risk-vs-reward mechanic that keeps it fresh hole after hole.
Sometimes plans can be disrupted, though, thanks to the unique character abilities belonging to each of the 16 playable characters. These aforementioned “special shots” are not only highly accurate shots, but come with effects that can be used to sabotage your opponents. They’re available to perform across all modes, but it’s in Speed Golf that they really come into their own.
Luigi, for example, can turn the area around where his ball lands to ice, making for a difficult surface to putt and indeed run on if trying to get to your ball. King Bob-omb can spawn a series of (you guessed it) bombs around his ball that can knock opponents and their balls away if touched. For my money, however, the most effective of these special abilities belongs to Wario: he can usher in a massive thunder cloud over an area of the hole, and anybody who tries to strike their ball at maximum power while under it will be struck by lightning, costing them a stroke. (I hate playing against him but make no apologies for doing so myself.) Although some of these special shots do double up over the full roster of 16 characters (like Mario and Bowser who can both blast away balls on impact), there’s enough variety to keep things interesting and find something that works for you.
Special dash moves give off the sort of serotonin-filled dose of schadenfreude that the blue and red shells of Mario Kart, supply all too well.
Each character also possesses their own special dash move when running between locations which grants a significant speed boost and knocks aside anyone in your path. These are less exciting to use, but do still give off the sort of serotonin-filled dose of schadenfreude that the blue and red shells of Mario Golf’s sister series, Mario Kart, supply all too well. All in all, I enjoyed playing Speed Golf and it definitely became my preferred mode to play, especially when compared to the relatively ponderous nature of the traditional modes.
One of the only real downsides to it is the fact that you can’t sit back and admire a beautiful shot you’ve made. I’ve only struck one hole-in-one so far in my time with Super Rush, and because it came during a Speed Golf round I never got to see what really happened. Sure, I was pleasantly surprised to see the words “Hole-in-One” flash up on the screen as I was running halfway down the fairway but the suspense of “will it or won’t it?” was lost. There’s no option to watch replays or highlights either across any of the modes, which just seems a little odd. I guess that mirrors real life as you walk up the hole to see the ball already sitting in it, but I’m not really playing a game with a giant ape one-handedly swinging a golf club towards a tornado for realism, to be honest.
Further moving away from any form of reality (not a bad thing!) is the new Battle Golf, which didn’t ever grab me in the same way. Mainly that’s because it’s so fast-paced that it’s normally over before you have a moment to really get into it. It consists of you and three other competitors battling out in an arena to be the first to put their ball in three holes. Seems simple enough – but wait, there’s a catch. There are nine flags dotted around the stadium to go for, but they disappear once one of the four players has holed them. It makes for a fast and frantic game mode where the key to success, unfortunately, is to steer clear of trouble and go where others aren’t. Avoiding confrontation kind of defeats the whole idea of it being Battle Golf.
With no way of upping or lowering the difficulty I soon got bored of Battle Golf.
The AI opponents are often not the sharpest tools either, and with no way of upping or lowering the difficulty I soon got bored of this mode. When the rounds rarely last upwards of three minutes, that means I became bored quite quickly indeed. Playing online against other humans does give more of a joyful spontaneity to Battle Golf, but it’s still all over far too quickly. It’s not a mode I can see myself playing much more of after my first few days, but it’s far from the dullest in Super Rush.
What We Said About Mario Golf: World Tour
You don’t have to be a hardcore golf fan to get hooked on Mario Golf: World Tour. It rewards good play, gives plenty to do, and is a great teacher. Its incremental approach to challenge kept me coming back to test myself, and the post-game challenges and multiplayer modes inspired me to play in new ways even after I thought I was a pro. – Brian Albert, April 24, 2014
Read the full Mario Golf: World Tour Review
Golf Adventure mode was what I was most looking forward to in Super Rush, with nostalgia of previous Mario Golf installments once again fuelling my expectations. Instead, I got a largely underwhelming four or five hours. Things start out promisingly, almost like a Pokemon game: you wake up in your home and are set off on your journey to become the very best by your proxy-mother, Birdo. Without spoiling what limited story there is here, you then go about earning badges to build your profile as a golfer before getting roped into saving the kingdom from an artificially engineered climate-change threat. It kinda comes out of nowhere and then finishes before you’ve been given a chance to ask as simple a question as “why?”
I wasn’t going into this expecting storytelling on the level of Homer’s Odyssey, but something akin to Mario’s own Odyssey wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t going into this expecting storytelling on the level of Homer’s Odyssey, but something akin to Mario’s own Odyssey from a few years back wouldn’t have gone amiss, either. It’s not really even a Mario story at all – aside from a few extended cameos from some familiar faces it’s all a bit rushed, and I’m sure not in the way that “Super Rush” is intended. It starts slow, as you learn the ropes on beginner courses before developing into a series of repetitive and clunky boss battle encounters which have you dodging attacks and firing golf balls at enemies in moderate anger.
That’s not to say that Golf Adventure doesn’t have its high points. I particularly enjoyed a challenge that involved completing nine holes of the whirlwind and water-littered Ridgerock Lake course in under 40 strokes. The twist being that you could do them in any order and continued playing on from the green of each hole, only teeing off once. This turned this into a more puzzle-like section that had me genuinely thinking about what the best strategy to take would be. It’s a shame that this challenge type is only used once, however, because it felt like there was more for it to do.
In fact, lots of mechanics are brought in and used very briefly, and sometimes introduced then not used at all. For example, about halfway through the journey you’re given a club that has the ability to make your shots skim across the water, which sounds and looks very cool. So when I was given no real opportunity to ever use this past the tutorial section in which you learn how to use it, I was baffled. More confusingly, none of the other characters have the ability to use this technique in any of the other modes, meaning it’s rendered almost completely redundant. And this wasn’t the only time something like this happened.
I would say that Golf Adventure isn’t worth sinking the time into, but the truth is that it’s kind of necessary if you want to be able to enjoy the rest of what Super Rush has to offer. Not only does it teach you basic golfing skills and introduce you to the rules of Speed Golf, but it’s the only way to unlock all of the courses for use in the other modes.
It’s also the only place to level up your Mii character, which comes with both pros and cons: don’t play the Adventure mode and you’ll have a character who can’t compete in other modes, but play it fully and you’ll likely have an overpowered character who can out-drive every other member of the roster. There’s a lack of balance to be found here, especially if you want to play as your Mii characters against a friend in local multiplayer, as it will mean they’ll also have to complete the story mode in order to have a chance against you.
There are six courses in total, which isn’t a huge amount (especially when compared to World Tour, which had 10 before DLC), but at least they offer variety. The super sandy Balmy Dunes will test your approach play, while Wildweather Woods has (you guessed it, again) wild weather to contend with. They’re each visually appealing in their own ways, and while Super Rush doesn’t look like a top-tier Nintendo game graphically, it bursts with colour – especially when playing in handheld mode.
There are six courses in total, which isn’t a huge amount (especially when compared to World Tour, which had 10 before DLC).
I can’t help but wish there were just a couple more courses, though, even if the handful provided at launch are fun enough. The truth is that unless you’re interested in regularly playing online then there’s not a whole lot more to do after the first few hours except chase your own high scores once the story has finished. Confusingly, there are also no online tournaments to play – another thing World Tour has that has been omitted here, making it feel light on things to do by comparison to its older sibling.
All the courses will be unlocked after the story is complete and all the characters are there from the start. There are special club sets to earn for each of the 16 characters that you must buy with loyalty coins earned by playing as them, but this really does pale in comparison to recent parallels such as Everybody’s Golf which is much better at constantly giving you items to earn and a sense of genuine progression. The truth is that after several hours of playing I’d had a fun enough time with Super Rush, but I was left just thinking, “Well, what’s next?” a whole lot sooner than I ever thought I would be.