Release date: June 25, 2021
Mario and sports have had a symbiotic relationship since the early days of the NES, giving people at home arcade twists on the classic physical games of skill. Outings in the likes of golf, tennis, soccer/football, baseball, and all the way to the Olympics have seen Nintendo’s all-star roster challenge each other in a variety of ways on virtually every platform. Mario Golf: Super Rush now sees Nintendo’s first golf outing since World Tour on 3DS back in 2013 and brings with it a slew of new features that make it arguably one of the best entries in all of the Mario sports series. Super Rush features not only a return to form, but refreshing gameplay thanks to its multiple modes and new takes on golf between Speed Golf and Battle Golf.
The Golf Adventure portion of the game is arguably the most creative part of Mario Golf: Super Rush’s package that has you playing as your Mii as you work your way up the ranks to play with the greats such as Bowser and Peach. As you go from area to area and course to course, you’ll acquire new badges that show off your continued growth. Growth doesn’t just come from your technicality alone though as you’ll need to upgrade and buy new clubs and attire to make sure you’re prepared for just about every course’s unique set of winds and terrain that add a level of challenge each time you’re ready to tee up. These shops will be made available in each location you go to and walk around in, all beautifully set up to remain unique and distinct from one another that are equal parts colorful and inviting, with paths that branch off into other hubs and areas within them where you can lounge or practice shots to increase your experience and your funds to help you become the best of the best among your peers.
The shops grow little by little, offering more products in stock as you progress, giving passives and buffs to both your equipment and your character while you’re out running along in Speed Golf – a unique play on the sport in which players race to the ball’s landing position. These passives and buffs can be anywhere from huge drives to being able to neglect wind completely at the cost of having little to no control over the trajectory or spin of your ball. Little additions like this that were similarly seen in Mario Tennis Aces give the game a nice strategic spin where both brains and technical skill come into play, making the luck factor reduce down to a true definition of itself rather than some nonsensical algorithm around its core design.
The Golf Adventure mode doesn’t last particularly long, however, as depending on your proficiency with golf games in general and an understanding of the physics, you could be looking at anywhere between 5-7 hours until you find credits rolling. Still, it’s a great way to increase the stats of your Mii which you can play outside of story mode as well (so long as your lobbies allow it) and unlock courses in a quick fashion. Courses can still be unlocked outside of story mode when playing multiplayer if you find yourself doing that more than a single-player expedition through its adventure, but you’ll have to frequently play games of 18 consecutive holes per game before acquiring any remaining maps and features.
The new modes like Speed Golf and Battle Golf are incredibly addicting and a ton of fun whether alone or with other people locally and online, so it’s easy to find the time pass by super fast as you’re going from hole to hole either trying to be the quickest or most accurate. There are rulesets within each too that help tweak the game even more to your liking, and though they don’t stray far from simply choosing between score or fastest time and technical or strategic, they are plenty enjoyable so that, win or lose, you want to go another round and try again. Both modes can get incredibly frenetic with dashes and special shots enabled, but truthfully the insanity is part of the charm of Mario Golf: Super Rush that makes me want to play more and more each time I jump in. There’s a big emphasis on Speed Golf and Battle Golf that you can tell when looking at marketing and playing the game as well, and though traditional golf is certainly available for play, it undoubtedly takes a backseat to let the other modes show off their crazy ideas as well as letting the roster run wild in them.
In the case of Speed Golf, golfers will find themselves all teeing up at the same time rather than one after another, and after their initial hit will then race one another after their respective ball in preparation of their next shot. But it’s not as simple as running over to the location of your ball, which is what makes it so entertaining. Dashes and special dashes come into play here as well, where the Miis and the likes of Toad, Rosalina, Pauline and the rest of the roster will do their best to not only get to their ball the fastest, but also take advantage of making their opponent lose their footing to increase their overall time and penalties. Every character has their own special dash, but one thing that remains common between them all is just how fast it makes them, though little things like bombs being dropped behind King Bob-omb, Yoshi steamrolling people in front of him with his egg, or Luigi ice-skating his way through keep them all unique and can take others hugely off course causing them to lose time and momentum. A stamina meter ensures you can’t exactly abuse these techniques, but having hearts on the field keep it competitive so that you can quickly replenish your meter for another dash or to run for a longer period. I find myself playing this mode the most, especially with friends online, and its always a constant amount of fun filled with laughs and insane shots as everyone is frantically trying to be the first to get their ball in the hole, all while still trying to stay within the rules of golf and not just smash away before ending up with multiple bogeys.
To make things even more frenzied, special shots in the game make it so each character also has their own move to swing the ball in both an advantageous and strategic way that will benefit them and sometimes hinder those the ball lands near. In the case of Bowser, he has a meteor strike that has the ball land firmly on impact and not move once it’s done so, while also sending out a shockwave from the impact that causes any balls within its radius to be blown away and any characters standing by to become stunned. Others are less aggressive but more of a huge inconvenience, where the likes of Rosalina can turn any nearby golf balls into star bits, causing them to be extremely difficult to maneuver (and especially putt) because of their lack of symmetry and inconsistent shape, so they end up curving like mad with high traction to boot. Quick little animations before each shot make the entire experience entertaining, and although it may be frustrating to be on the receiving side of these special shots, it increases the charm and depth of the game and its characters to add another layer of strategy as well as accessibility.
Battle Golf on the other hand is a different beast entirely, where you’ll have the same general capabilities and functions as Speed Golf, only it’s set in an arena format with flags sporadically placed for you to sink the golf balls in. The objective here is simple: the first to three wins. There’s technically two different types of arenas here despite the overall aesthetic staying the same. The biggest differences is that one is focused on more strategical shots for aiming the ball, and the other features differences in terrain, obstacles, and structures that require a more technical approach to how you’ll aim and sink. This mode is fine against CPUs, but where it really shines is in local and network play where things end up getting crazy, especially with a further rush option on and items out on the field where you can shoot bombs or place bananas to slow your opponents down. Even if you’re mid shot or preparing your next hit, it’ll still knock you off balance and likely cause your ball to go flying elsewhere.
It’s equal parts frustrating as it is fun, but the insanity and unpredictability of the mode is what makes it so enjoyable. I do wish there was more variety to the Battle Golf courses, especially since you’re in the same set arena that, despite its lights and very “grand stage” atmosphere, all the blue starts to blend into each other, and having a simple light show with, say, lasers or strobes whenever someone would sink a golf ball in would have made the Battle Golf experience feel much more grandiose and epic. Another big drawback is that for some reason, playing Battle Golf during network play tends to lag and stutter egregiously to the point that sometimes some rounds are simply unplayable. This isn’t an issue that occurs every time, per se, but it’s certainly often enough to cause worry for the stability of the following match. Other modes tend to do fine during network play for the most part, but with my experience, Battle Golf seems to be the most unstable when playing online. It doesn’t help that whether offline or online, Battle Golf causes the resolution to drop down tenfold, so add the inability to make sense of details very well regardless of TV or handheld mode, and you’re in for a test of patience and frustration hindering the experience. Of course, a big portion of this also has to do with whoever else is playing online in your lobby, so if someone has a less than optimal internet connection, the only battle you’ll end up having is against latency and interpolation delay.
Even though it’s made especially apparent in Battle Golf, drops in resolution can randomly occur whether you choose to play a simple round of golf or dabble in Golf Adventure. These sudden changes can range anywhere from subtle to absolutely horrendous as it tries to keep a steady 60 frames per second (which it does), but can ruin a shot with ease. There’s enough information on the HUD that may give you an idea of how to hit your ball as your meters and wind information isn’t affected by this, but any graphical information done on the course itself can be hard to deduce, leaving your grids and such that help determine slope, inclines, and velocity to be a mushy mess of lines that look like a poorly sewed blanket, and characters to look not much better than their 3DS counterparts. Dynamic resolution woes and the usual neglect of any anti-aliasing make an otherwise beautiful and colorful game be just “kind of pretty” instead, though truthfully so long as performance is fine – and it is a solid 60 FPS virtually always – this probably won’t be too much of an issue for the casual player or those looking to pick up Mario Golf to help pass the time once in a while. It’s worth mentioning, however, that when the resolution does drop, this sometimes affects the quality of textures as well when it does go back to its native target. As someone who loves environmental detail and likes to look at every corner of a game’s presentation, it can be a bit jarring to see, but those just going from hole to hole and beelining it through the adventure likely won’t notice much in the way of little nuances like this.
While Mario Golf: Super Rush is far from perfect, in terms of Mario’s sports titles and recent spinoffs, it’s without a doubt one of the best we’ve seen in quite some time. Its biggest misfortunes just come from how there’s always the feeling that more could be done. You can’t help but notice the voids going from its various menus that more could easily be added, leaving a lot of its presentation feeling rather empty, and while I undoubtedly appreciate simplicity, minimalism, and streamlining content as to not overwhelm right out of the gate, almost a little too much seems to have either been stripped or simplified that it does it more of a disservice. Mini-games are non-existent, which would have been a big plus for a game like this where players could compete for, say, hole-in-ones on a par 3, aiming the golf balls at flying targets, or seeing how far one can skip a ball across a lake while trying to avoid obstacles. One would hope that Nintendo will regularly the game for the foreseeable future to keep expanding and make the game truly feel whole by the time its last update arrives. For now, Mario Golf: Super Rush at least has enough packed in to keep those that dive in entertained for a fair amount of time, though that rush of fun may wane over time rather quickly once they’ve quickly played through the story and all of its courses over the weekend.
The latest Mario sports game is arguably one of the best we’ve seen in a long time, and how Super Rush’s packaged experience is tailored should make it the new blueprint moving forward. The story mode genuinely feels fun and exciting, and is what I believe Mario Tennis Aces before it tried to be before it found itself in an unfortunate uninspired rut. To some, the game may still seem a bit on the empty side, but each character and course has enough creativity and depth that it will keep things enjoyably fresh for quite some time, and with Nintendo’s plans to update it, there’ll hopefully be more fun to come. It’s only unfortunate that little issues with dynamic resolution and unstable network play hinder an otherwise great experience. Speed Golf and Battle Golf are good additions that keep the sport refreshing and laughs coming almost endlessly, however, and because of this, Mario Golf: Super Rush is one of the most enjoyable multiplayer experiences in some time.
Review copy provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.