If there’s one single brand on this earth that has the ability to draw my attention to any kind of sport or sporting-adjacent entertainment it’s Nintendo. I’ve played more tennis, soccer, basketball and baseball by proxy of a digital mustachioed plumber than I ever have in the real world. And then there’s golf – a sport that I have absolutely never touched outside of its ‘miniature’ form, but will gladly lose hours to when the invite comes from the Mushroom Kingdom itself.
Mario Golf Super Rush is the latest in Nintendo and Camelot Software Planning’s long run of Mario sports titles, and the first golfing title since the Nintendo 3DS’s Mario Golf World Tour back in 2014. That game did well enough with critics, but the studio’s output of sports titles since has earned little more than a middling reception. It’s hard to understand why, given the demand for the kind of charming and accessible home sports experiences that you’d expect from Nintendo’s brand and characters. If this newest effort is anything to go by though, Camelot just hasn’t quite mastered that Nintendo magic yet.
Super Rush’s call to arms is its new Speed Golf mode, which takes the classic 3/6/9/18 holes and fills the time between strokes by making players actively run after their ball. It’s in the name but speed is key here, making every second between your ball landing and you reaching it is crucial. Even lining up your swings is an exercise in time management as the longer you take to make the shot the further you’ll fall behind, but with each stroke adding 30 seconds to your total it’s equally in your interest to ensure each shot is measured for success. It’s an interesting take on the classic game and one that lends itself well to playing with friends as it reduces downtime and adds an extra layer of chaos to the game.
And if chaos be your thing, another new mode exists in Battle Golf. Taking place on much smaller, arena-style courses this mode sees everyone racing to be the first to sink three balls among the many holes available. The aim here is to get to that magic number as quickly as possible yourself, while also using your special shots and unique dash move to screw with other players as they attempt the same. Like Speed Golf it’s a solid idea that taps into Golf Rush’s unique mechanics well enough, but after a few rounds it becomes clear that it similarly lacks longevity. It’s disappointing that, with these two new modes that have so much potential for mayhem, the standard game still winds up being the most appealing.
Some might balk at the game’s slight six courses, but they’re a dynamic bunch and if anything I found myself more than happy to tread familiar ground often as it meant getting to know each hole that much more intimately (heh). I was less impressed with its roster of characters, not that it isn’t nicely stacked with some great favourites and exciting newcomers, but more often that the golfers I vibed with had decidedly lacklustre special abilities. See, in the new modes like Speed Golf you’re able to collect coins across the course in order to build up to a special shot specific to your chosen character, and use them to either gain a technical advantage or simply to mess with your opponents. Some of these are decently entertaining or useful, but others feel decidedly less so and wind up feeling like more of a risk to your game than any kind of advantage.
To get you up to speed on all of this is Super Rush’s Adventure mode, which makes up the core of its single-player offering by way of a barebones ‘RPG’ starring players’ created Mii characters. Your Mii golfer’s objective is to work their way through the ranks in a golf tour across the Mushroom Kingdom while earning coins and experience points to unlock new gear and increase their stats. It’s a serviceable enough mode, but it’s a slow burn with little to do outside of actual golfing and so winds up feeling like less of an adventure and more a glorified tutorial. It works to that end though, and I felt compelled to push through the 7-8 hours of content Adventure Mode offers in the hopes of emerging with some degree of a competitive edge. I found that the smaller challenges peppered throughout that usually ask you to make a series of tricky shots or putts are the best for developing skills that translate to real games.
It helps that Super Rush’s golf game is actually a lot of fun, with the perfect mix of arcade-y and easy-to-grasp controls and a high enough skill ceiling to keep actual golf fans. Despite knowing exactly nothing about the actual mechanics of the game, the simple two-press system of setting the type and power of your shot is easy to grasp, as is tweaking each stroke’s curve and spin. It’s far from a sim, this is Mario Golf after all, but it’s extremely satisfying to put actual consideration into each stroke and have it pay off. Plus if you’re looking to jump online and get competitive, you’d best be on your A-game.
Multiplayer with friends is definitely where it’s at for casual golfers, whether it’s an intense game of Speed or Battle Golf online or even a throwback session of 18-holes of standard golf with the family using the optional Wii-style motion controls. It might sound obvious given this is a competitive sports game, but by far the most fun I had with Super Rush was when playing with friends. Setting up a private or public online lobby with custom rules or searching for one that suits is easy enough, and I didn’t experience any noticeable hitches or issues playing with various friends and strangers online. Where playing solo in Adventure Mode or a standard 18 holes has a finite appeal that quickly wears thin, I can see myself picking up Super Rush every now and again to have a bash with mates online or in person for a good while yet.
Mario Golf Super Rush is another solid sports title from Nintendo and Camelot that nails the essentials but fails to capture the flair and creativity expected from a Mario game. It’s no secret that real golf is mostly pretty boring, but golf in the Mushroom Kingdom should be the polar opposite. The core golfing mechanics here are excellent, and Speed Golf and Battle Golf are great ideas, but the overall package feels a tad too slight and undercooked to make it a must-buy for all but the most hardcore Mario Golf fans.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch // Review code supplied by publisher
- Camelot Software Planning
- June 25, 2021