Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 06/27/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
I’ve always been a big fan of Mario sports games, and that’s especially true when it comes to tennis and golf. With the exception of the Wii, we’ve gotten a Mario Tennis game on every home console since the Nintendo 64, but while Mario Golf was well represented on Nintendo’s handhelds, this is the first console Mario Golf game we’ve gotten in 18 years. With how good Mario Tennis Aces was on Switch, I went into Mario Golf: Super Rush with high hopes. I’m pleased to report that Nintendo and Camelot did not disappoint me.
If you read my review of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, you’ll recall that one of my criticisms was that it had a story mode that felt rather pointless and didn’t really add much to the game. Mario Tennis Aces, on the other hand, had a story mode that, while not an amazing story, was solid and added a unique experience to the game. That’s exactly how the story mode in Mario Golf: Super Rush is; it’s not an amazing story, but it adds something to the game and is definitely better being included than not. Your Mii is a rookie golfer working their way through the golf world. You work your way through various golf courses and play different types of golf to earn badges, the way the golf world ranks you. There are some actual bosses beyond just playing golf against other competitors, but I don’t want to say enough to spoil it. The neat thing is that the story mode is in RPG format; each round of golf you play nets your Mii experience, and when you level up, you can put that stat point into a stronger swing, a more accurate swing, improved ability to curve your ball, faster movement speed, or more stamina for dashing (the last two are useful for speed golf).
The story mode also serves as an in-depth tutorial to teach you the game’s mechanics and the different types of golf that you can play. The first area in the story mode is just your standard golf. The second area is cross-country (XC) golf which was a really cool take on golf but hands down the most frustrating part of the game. It’s a very non-linear take on golf where you can do the holes in any order in a sort of pseudo-open world golf course. The elevation varies wildly, and you have to hit your golf balls into tornadoes at the right angle to launch it to a higher cliff to reach certain holes. You also have to clear however many holes you’re playing (it starts at three and goes all the way to nine holes) within a certain number of strokes, and given how difficult it can be to get the angle right with the tornadoes, that lead to a lot of cursing on my part. After you clear that and proceed to the third area, you’re introduced to speed golf where you have to clear the course within a certain time limit. Each stroke subtracts 30 seconds in addition to however long it takes you to chase after your ball following each swing. Completing the story mode unlocks your Mii as a usable character for Battle Golf where there are nine holes surrounded by obstacles, and the first person to get three flags wins.
I played through the entire story mode, and I’d reckon it took me about 10 hours or so, although if you’re good at video game golf and don’t spend two hours raging at XC golf, you can do it quicker than that. I also got a chance to play online with my friends Sherri and Davy, and it was an extremely smooth experience. I encountered no lag, had no connection issues, and was even able to send them direct invites to the match. I had only talked to Davy about playing; I just happened to see that Sherri was online and sent an invite for the hell of it, and she was able to accept the invite and connect with no problems. You can set it either to have all players take their swings at the same time – that’s how story mode does it – or to have the players take turns, and I chose taking turns because I thought it sounded more fun to watch each swing, but from what I could tell, there was no lag whatsoever. This is about as close as I’ve seen Nintendo come to having a truly competent online experience with invitations and whatnot. Still no in-app voice chat, but hey, at least their totally-not-a-piece-of-crap smartphone app supports voice chat for Mario Golf.
The music and sound effects are great, and the game looks gorgeous. If this is what Nintendo and Camelot can do with Switch hardware, I can only imagine how gorgeous a Mario sports game would look on a stronger platform. I can’t say how hard this is pushing the Switch, but they definitely made a beautiful looking game even on a 65″ screen. As far as control goes, there are traditional button controls as well as motion controls. As much as I love motion controls, I opted for the standard button controls, and it all felt very fluid and natural. Honestly, the only thing I think the game needed was a few more characters – I’m upset that my beloved Koopa Troopa was excluded from the game’s roster – and amiibo support. Unlocking some costumes with amiibo like in Mario Kart 8 would have been a great addition. There is supposed to be DLC coming in the way of new characters and courses, so hopefully, my shelly boy will get added with DLC.
Mario Golf: Super Rush is an exceptional Mario sports game. I personally detest golf in real life, and that loathing usually extends to golf video games, but this one makes the sport approachable enough to get folks like me interested while keeping enough the core sport to feel like more than just an arcade imitation. The single-player is robust enough to keep you entertained for a weekend, and the multiplayer is exceptionally good. Like with Mario Kart, you can have two people play online from the same system, so it’s a great way to mix local and online multiplayer together. All things considered, I wouldn’t call the game perfect – the difficulty in story mode isn’t too consistent, and the character roster feels a little light to me – but it’s an excellent game nonetheless and the best of the Mario Golf series thus far in my opinion.