Review – Mario Golf: Super Rush
The Nintendo Switch is definitely the platform for bringing back titles with a brand new coat of paint. Some are really transparent: the port for New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is downright offensive (no one actually likes Luigi U), and even Bayonetta receives little more than a shrug. “You probably didn’t own a Wii U, so buy this now.” Nintendo took bigger swings with other properties, giving Super Mario 3D World a whole new chunk of Bowser’s Fury, and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore having all the DLC and plenty of bonus content built in.
But the real tests of mettle have come in the new steps forward for long dead IPs, or at least dormant. Making a new Mario Tennis Aces was natural, though I still have yet to meet anyone in real life who plays these games. Metroid Dread was the first console Metroid in over a decade, and was enthusiastically received. But golf was a game that no one really saw coming. Mario Golf was a delightful sports-adjacent title where Nintendo tried to cram some decent physics and a slew of characters into a polygonal color explosion on the Nintendo 64. It was leaps and bounds from the original NES Golf, and now another massive leap forward has come in the form of Mario Golf: Super Rush.
As a Mario sports title, you anticipate certain things about the game. There’ll be a colorful cast of would-be athletes, all hailing from previous Mario games, having specific golf-centric skills. There will be the actual sport at the core of it all, but there’ll be some modifications to make it more accessible for children and more enticing for people who don’t normally play sports games.
Additionally, there has to be something to help make it somewhat “more.” In the case of Mario Golf: Super Rush, it’s the speed golf mode, where you actively run and shove your opponents as you all try and shoot for the hole in the least number of strokes but also the fastest time. Additionally, there’s a story mode that serves its purpose of being as “pure” of a golf game as you can get when you’re playing against Wario and King Bob-Omb. The story mode, where you take a Mii character through golf school and then into a Mushroom Kingdom-wide tournament, is lackluster, but serves the important task of letting players have some kind of challenge when they’re playing by themselves.
The graphics for Mario Golf: Super Rush are pretty top-notch, at least for the characters and their Special Shot animations. Being a mostly in-house project (as Camelot Software hasn’t done anything non-Nintendo in over a decade), you’d expect the design to be tight, and it is, for the most part. I won’t kid you that I was surprised on the handful of times where the graphics glitched out and trees seemed to be blinking in and out of existence, but I’m willing to chalk that up to my microSD card being old and tired.
With a robust list of avatars to choose from, it’s great to see that there was some consideration and care in crafting golf-centric clothing and poses for any of the humanoid choices. Waluigi, always a heartthrob, looks especially dapper in his golf suit. Strangely, though, the two newest editions to the game roster (a recent update from a couple weeks back) polarize the game in terms of strong and weak design. Ninji, an enemy who first showed up in Super Mario Bros. 2, is an adorable and well animated figure who also hasn’t received a ton of love outside of Paper Mario installments. Toadette, on the other hand, has such a lazily crafted set of clothes that she might as well have just dropped in from her Captain Toad days instead. Toad looks like he came straight from the clubhouse, Toadette looks like she just finished a shift at a department store.
The courses, I must say, were impeccably crafted while still being relatively straightforward and simple. Mario Golf: Super Rush does a solid job of taking you on a tour of what a golf course might look like in the Mushroom Kingdom if it were made by the driest Toad in all the land. Seriously, I had the most fun with the newer course of New Donk City specifically because it was a wild reach that was more like a mini golf course than just a normal set of bunkers, fairways and obstacles.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the weather elements for Wildweather Woods and Spiky Palms are great and interesting, but there’s just this sort of blandness that exists throughout that doesn’t make sense. I mean, this is a game where a ghost is playing golf against a princess from the stars, where a dude in full football gear can pick up his ball and throw it, and it’s all done on something that looks like Jack Nicklaus thought it up when he was trying to be a wild and crazy guy. They look great, but so does a still life of fruit. Beautifully boring.
Audio quality can’t be complained about, and I appreciate that Super Rush does have a solid, bubbly soundtrack that we’ve come to love and almost expect from Motoi Sakuraba. The music of a Mario game, even an adjacent Mario game, tends to do the work of creating a world or environment and making you feel like you belong there. Nowhere was there a moment that I felt like we were pitching from the wrong side of the field or that things were not as they should be. You have plenty of ambient noise from things like natural sounds of birds (that you never see) and running water (on occasion) to the soundscape of each and every character needing to yell out things constantly to remind you who they are.
The biggest offender is Donkey Kong, who sounds like his oeuvre of grunts and screeches gets longer every game I see him in. Still, it wouldn’t be a Mario game if it wasn’t noisy, and everyone succeeds wildly in bringing a full cacophony to the famously quiet game of golf. You even get the very intense musical shift every time you go to line up a putt, so, in case it wasn’t stressful enough, now you’ve got the game reminding you that everything is on the line, and your father will STOP loving you if you don’t sink this for birdie.
Though I was a bit snarky about the story mode earlier, it does serve as a decent (if short) serving slice of what Mario Golf: Super Rush is all about. You get a full range of the different game modes and ideas while still being in a story-driven setting about Wario and Waluigi reminding you they’re bad. You have an opportunity to see what the Speed Golf is all about, why different terrains require different clubs (perfect for kids) and a bit more of an explanation as to why we’re all playing golf together. This is also the only time I’ll recommend using motion controls, as you can swing around at your own pace and have a genuinely good time at it. If you’re one of the people who shelled out for the golf case for your Joycon, go nuts: I would never consider using one if any sort of serious competitive game opened up in your home.
While Speed Golf is fun due to the fundamental nature of running and shoving each other during a golf game, the overall “golf” aspect of Mario Golf: Super Rush is a bit flat and disappointing. For one, beating the CPU has no difficulty whatsoever once you get in the swing of things (I know, I hate me, too). Simply using the same levels of spin with every stroke is the easiest way to set up for longer ranges and more precise landings than any of the computer players ever mustered.
This felt like it was improved slightly with a recent update, but not enough to make it excessively challenging. Also, for most of the gameplay against local human beings, the Super Shot is the entire crux of strategy when it comes to winning. Regardless of whom you choose, the approach is always the same: do your best for a few swings to charge up the Super Shot, then, depending on the character, use your Shot to either 1.) nail a hole-in-one, 2.) nail a ridiculously long putt, or 3.) knock your opponent enough off course to ensure that you can still get to the hole before them.
Given that a majority of the shots have the idea of upsetting your opponents ball as their core design value, banking on 3 is best for playing with friends or at least people you don’t like, whereas the 1 and 2 ideas are best for online play, which, sadly, is starting to get sparse already. There’s no room in ranked mode for anyone looking to enter the game casually: like Mario Tennis Aces, the competition is already getting positively vicious for people who are looking to be the absolute best at something a majority of players care very little for. In short, you’d rather play against people you know then take any chance on someone rage quitting because you’re too good or you’re too bad.
Mario Golf: Super Rush isn’t a bad game, but it simply isn’t that great, either. It’s not golf enough to pull serious sports enthusiasts to the bedside, but it’s not Mario enough for casual players to keep the game going once you’ve played all the courses a couple of times. If this was the 90s, I’d recommend a two week rental at Blockbuster, get it all out of your system, and then save some cash without paying full price. A month of Gamefly might be worth to really enjoy the ride, but I’m also curious if Nintendo will keep hammering away at it. We keep seeing games get late-in-life updates, with Super Mario Party receiving online play two years after launch. But this isn’t the future, this is now, and, as it stands, players shouldn’t be in a super rush to pick this up before Black Friday or later.
Fantastic character sprites and animation, lush but boring courses.
After you figure out motion controls aren’t worth it, players just have to get good at pushing a button fast.
Enjoyable soundtrack from start to finish, character sounds are a bit chaotic but not awful.
Fun Factor: 6.0
Unless you’re doing Speed Golf, the standard game is dull and repetitive in spite of super powered shots.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Mario Golf: Super Rush is available now on Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.