June 25, 2021
The Mario sports games are always an interesting spectacle when a new one drops. In nature, they’re not going to be the amazing, maybe even masterpiece game the mainline entries often are. Still, they always offer a sporting adventure that’s more fun than it has any right to be. Maybe it’s the iconography of Mario characters that helps. Maybe it’s that the gameplay is in fact quite good. In Mario Golf: Super Rush‘s case, it unfortunately doesn’t have much of either going for it.
A Mario campaign with hardly any Mario
Mario Golf: Super Rush’s campaign, known as Golf Adventure starts off promising. On an in-game TV, we witness Mario and friends absolutely tearing up some golf courses, all within a gigantic stadium with thousands cheering. It’s quite an effective cutscene in highlighting the majesty the main cast have in the universe. The broadcast eventually ends and we see just who’s been watching the show: Boo, Toadette, Chargin’ Chuck and yourself, a Mii. It quickly becomes clear that the story being followed in Golf Adventure is that you’re a starry-eyed rookie individual in the Mario universe, looking to join the big leagues.
At first glance, this looks to set up an exciting premise: travel across different biomes and courses, master the way of a true golfer and meet some of your heroes along the way. What you actually get is quite far from that and is instead a baffling and quite dull experience. Golf Adventure mainly serves as a tutorial for the mechanics you’ll be grappling with in-game. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it’s how sports games’ campaigns tend to be. Where the problem lies is in two things: it can’t decide what the campaign wants to be, and Mario is hardly even there. Mario Golf: Super Rush’s campaign is an adventure largely without the iconic Mario and friends, with only a smaller selection of the cast making brief appearances.
“…Mario Golf: Super Rush’s campaign is an adventure largely without the iconic Mario and friends, with only a smaller selection of the cast making brief appearances.”
That’s not to say the Mario iconography isn’t there. Super Rush sports the cute and cosy art style that Nintendo is known and adored for while showing Toads, Goombas and the likes wandering the villages you’ll visit. Otherwise, you’ll get a few scarce offerings on your brief five or so hour adventure. One match sees D.K and Luigi showing up, with no dialogue or preamble, before disappearing as suddenly as they appeared. A cameo from our titular hero and Bowser occurs at the end. To top that off, you’ll get a strange, so baffling and almost admirable amount of limelight for Waluigi and Wario. That’s about it.
All of this is made all the more confusing by the weird shift the last hour of the game provides you. All the time prior has been spent developing and levelling up this Mii (the recent revived push for Miis is weird in itself) in various golfing skills such as drive distance and running speed for those fast-paced Speed Golf matches. To progress to each further area, you’re proving yourself in trials and elimination matches, earning a higher medal level badge that serves as a pass. Then, you’re introduced to a boss at the last minute. Quickly, you scramble to gather different elements and abilities from areas you’ve visited before until you’re ready to take on the boss and save the quickly introduced and then imprisoned Mario. Beat the boss and then that’s it. It’s credits.
Coming out of the downright confusing adventure, I can’t help but notice a divide in its design. Most of the campaign wants to be a romp that teaches you the game’s mechanics and introduces some incredibly light RPG mechanics. Approach the last hour and it seems Nintendo realised they suddenly can take advantage of the iconography of the Mario franchise and actually use it. It feels like a last-minute decision in the campaign that is so unbelievably hard to fathom. Why make a Mario campaign and just have him, Peach and the likes not be there for the ride? Say what you will about Mario Tennis Aces, at least it knew when to take advantage of its IP.
Mario Golf: Super Rush has just as many fun gameplay moments as it does frustrating ones
As for how Mario Golf: Super Rush plays, it has more points in its favour than that provided by the campaign. However, you’ll be groaning out of frustration after downfalls just as much as you’ll be jumping for joy when you pull off a win. So often does the game line between being sim and the arcade-style fun we’ve grown to know and love from Mario sports games. As always the case, most of the fun is to be hard with other players.
Coincidentally, it’s here you can make the most of the Mario franchise’s cast of characters. Whether it’s seeing the devastating super move of Yoshi or using the game as an excuse to see some favourite faces again, that appeal never really fades. You can jump into typical games of golf, customising the amount and specificity of which holes you’d like to play on any given course. That’s there and functions as well as ever. Though it’s the new Speed Golf mode that’s the most enticing. Finally, golf can be picked up a few more paces. Lord knows it needed it.
Speed Golf allows for up to four characters to play a match of Golf simultaneously. This mode, whether it’s a full party of four human players or just yourself against AI, has everyone teeing off at the same time. Once your ball leaves that tee you’re off for the hills. You must race to where your ball lands, occasionally dashing and pushing past your competitors, maybe even kicking their ball astray before making your way to your next shot. This picks up the pace of golf matches just that little bit and the novelty remained there for the time being during my sessions with Super Rush. However, I’m curious to see that mode’s longevity down the line. It’s not exactly a diamond in the rough game mode and it’s still not as fast as it could be (could you imagine getting to race around on golf carts to your next spot?!), but it’s the most fun you’ll have with friends in-game. Just maybe avoid split-screen play. It gets way too busy.
The other novelty that comes with Mario Golf: Super Rush is the fact that it offers the ability to play between a typical button and stick control set-up or with the use of Joy-Cons’ motion controls. The mainline Mario Golf games have only appeared on two consoles: the Nintendo 64 and the Gamecube. Additionally, the games have seen releases on the 3DS along with the Gameboy Colour and Advance. This means the series has missed the Wii entirely, a re-realisation I’ve had that feels almost criminal. It’s all the more reassuring then, that, provided you have space, motion controls play quite well, harkening back to that oh-so-missed Wii era.
As for the courses on offer, there isn’t a large amount to play around with. There are six different ones to play through, though each can be completed in a flash. They’re at least quite varied. Wildweather Woods has plenty of trees, thunderstorms and even Piranha Plants to be conscious of. Bowser Highlands feels like you’re taking a break from the villains’ castle and shooting your shots across dangerous lava lakes. While there’s enough delight in the variety of the maps’ design (I found the sandy dunes and rocky mountains that come with Balmy Dunes to be my favourite), the small amount to mess around in has me worried for the game’s future.
However, there are just as many faults as there are pleasures in Super Rush. Though true, that absolutely brings me no pleasure to say. Not only is the game quite rough visually, sporting quite the blocky, pixelated images despite its gorgeous colouring, but some gameplay mechanics and moments are absolutely rough.
Following a meter to determine your shot strength, pressing a button and occasionally moving a stick to determine spin all work as they should. Still, sometimes it’s hard to get a bearing on your surroundings. Upon lining up for a shot, the only real perspective players can receive is from behind and far above, in a bird’s eye view. Where sims like PGA Tour 2K21 have adopted the “tough, but fair” philosophy into their gameplay, Mario Golf: Super Rush feels like pure guesswork a lot of the time. This itself is absolutely joy sucking.
The most glaring example of this is in ascertaining a shot’s height. The preview of how high your hit on the golf ball is going to travel only goes so far. Stopping about halfway towards the shot’s arc peak, you’re left wondering so many times if you’re going to even clear an obstacle. Not in a joyous way either. Despite following all the game’s instructions and picking the apt clubs to get myself out of sticky situations, it was always way too much of a dice roll to see if I’d make my way out of a bunker or clear my way up that cliff. This became especially egregious in courses that emphasise verticality. Ridgerock Lake especially so.
This is a course in the Golf Adventure that’s used to introduce you to a game mode known as Cross Country (or XC). Featuring a high number of holes, you’re meant to travel high and low through the lanes of green, sinking your ball into a hole then move on to the next one. So often you’ll careen yourself into a cliffside, bounce off a rock you really shouldn’t and end up in the deep end. Imagine that. Now imagine beating your head against a wall until you’re finally able to clear this mess of a course so that you can proceed in the campaign that isn’t all that great anyway.
Slopes on hills, wind pressure and other environmental hazards are something to keep in mind during your time with Mario Golf: Super Rush also. It offers somewhat of an extra moment or two of deliberation as to where to aim and how powerful that shot will be, but despite your best efforts, you’ll either absolutely nail the shot as a pure fluke or land somewhere you really shouldn’t. There’s no in-between. Good luck.
So you have a game with a brief, baffling and lacklustre campaign. You have scarcity in both game modes and maps. Even the gameplay is a mixed bag. What’s left? The remnants of the Nintendo and Mario charm, of course. As average and disappointing as Mario Golf: Super Rush is, it’s entirely a game for the fans. As plain as day, this is a game that longtime Mario sports fans will rush out to add to their gigantic, several generations of consoles long catalogue. Just as clear is the fact that this is a game that absolutely will not foster longevity. It’s far from a stretch to imagine this game scarcely mentioned in a few months (hey, just like Mario Tennis Aces!). I’m not one hundred per cent sure what that says about how disposable and un-memorable some of Nintendo’s games can be, but it sure is worrying.
- Even if underutilised, the Mario charm is undeniable
- Speed Golf isn't perfect but does add new fun in controlled doses
- Brief, confusing and lacklustre campaign
- Absolutely lacking in content
- Lacking in polish both in gameplay and graphically
Mario Golf: Super Rush is one of the few games Nintendo puts out that every now and then is a bit of a miss. While trying its best by adding new modes, it doesn’t have the charm, polish and even satisfaction that have come from previous superb titles in the Mario sports series. What it needed to succeed was more doubling down on those beloved Mario characters, more time in the oven and plenty of ways to sink your time. Despite some moments of promise, it failed to match on almost all those fronts. If it’s a fun golf romp you’re after, maybe jump into Golf Story instead.
If you’re a Nintendo apologist, like so many of us are, Super Rush is a game you’ll likely pick up to add to that ever-growing catalogue even if it is a swing and a miss. Please Nintendo, let the next game be a Strikers sequel and let it be good.