An injection of mayhem makes Mario Golf: Super Rush the best Nintendo golfing game in more than a generation.
It’s not unusual for sports sims – however realistic they purport to be – to speed up the action in the name of fun. EA’s FIFA series is a good example. For the most part, it plays a solid game of football, but if real-life players moved around at the same speed as their digital doppelgängers, it would make “the beautiful game” a genuinely balletic affair.
Although golf is a relatively relaxed sport, most video game adaptations still compress the action by cutting to the chase, jumping between tee-off and subsequent shots in an instant. No one wants to actually stroll across a digital golf course in real-time to take their next shot, do they? However, with some help from Super Mario and friends, this precise action becomes one of the highlights of Mario Golf: Super Rush.
Mario Golf: Super Rush features a standard golf mode that plays out as you would expect, but the star of the show in this recently released Nintendo Switch game is the titular Super Rush mode. Think Mario Kart, but on foot.
In Super Rush mode, players must break into a sprint after each shot, with their competitors in hot pursuit. Just like Mario Kart, environmental obstacles can impede your progress. Hearts will give you a speed boost – surely it should be a mushroom? – and each character has its own Special Shot and Special Dash, which can provide an advantage if used carefully. And, of course, there are coins to collect that can be spent on goodies from the clubhouse.
The result is that the most leisurely of sports is revamped into a chaotic frenzy. And somehow, it feels entirely appropriate.
Super Rush mode also makes frequent appearances in the game’s story campaign, which is much more successful than the threadbare and frustrating offering served up in 2018’s Mario Tennis Aces. Each of the game’s six 18-hole courses has its own cast of characters to talk to, a clubhouse to visit, and gear to purchase. It’s not the deepest adventure you’ll ever embark on, but it’s fair to say the story goes places, and a familiar cast of Mario favourites all play the parts you would expect. There’s a pleasing sense of competitive camaraderie that echoes Fire Emblem: Three Houses of all things. And, most importantly, Wario and Waluigi have a chance to shine.
In addition to the story, the Mii-focused campaign also delivers a sampler of the game’s various modes and options. Standard and Super Rush modes are tweaked and changed throughout, ensuring a continuous variety of activities, another way in which the game bests Mario Tennis Aces. XC Golf (cross country) is a particularly nail-biting variant that requires careful planning and skill.
Your performance can be enhanced by the myriad of costumes and equipment to purchase. Each one improves your stats or abilities in specific scenarios, but choosing the right loadout is a tricky business as item weight can negatively affect your running speed. It helps to make club selection more integral to the experience than in any previous Mario title.
In fact, the game as a whole is a splendid primer in the intricacies of the sport. Each course is speckled by a range of NPCs – usually idle Koopas – ready to deliver tips, advice and short tutorials. As helpful as they are in-game, much of the information also translates to the real world and is genuinely useful for armchair spectators.
The suite of modes is rounded out by Battle Golf, an arena-based free-for-all in which each player must rush to complete three holes. Chain Chomps, Thwomps, and speed ramps all add to the pandemonium, which feels deliberately reminiscent of Mario Kart’s much-loved Battle Mode.
Despite the razzamatazz on display throughout, traditionalists are well catered for by the game’s standard golf mode. The stock-issue power meter is enhanced with the ability to add various types of spin, and an element of chance is brought into play by a shift mechanic, which is new to the series. You’re free to whack a ball at full power, but depending on the club you are using and the nature of the terrain, there’s a randomly determined chance that your shot will veer to the left or right. Shift adds a welcome risk-reward element and ensures the game never feels too rigid or precise.
And, shock of shocks, even the Wii-like motion controls are impressive once you get the swing of them.
Local and online multiplayer is supported with a range of customisation options. And although voice chat is an unfortunate omission, online play was stable across all the gameplay modes during my experience. Performance takes an occasional hit in local multiplayer, however.
Altogether, it all adds up best Mario sports game in some time, squeaking past Mario Golf: World Tour on Nintendo 3DS and perhaps even overtaking the much-loved Mario Golf: Advance Tour on GBA.
The only thing that Mario Golf: Super Rush really lacks is a bit of polish; a common issue with some of Nintendo’s B-tier releases. The visuals are crisp and colourful, and the vistas – if you slow down to take them in – are oddly beautiful. However, the overall tone adheres to the tried and tested New Super Mario Bros aesthetic with a sprinkle of Wii Sports for good measure. Every single Koopa looks like every other Koopa, and there are plenty of repeated assets throughout. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it is another missed opportunity to add a little more spice and personality to the Mario sports sub-genre.
These minor complaints aside, Mario Golf: Super Rush is a well-rounded package with enough content to satisfy solo players and a host of online modes to keep golfers with friends busy for some time.
Mario Golf: Super Rush review
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Release Date: June 25, 2021
A wealth of modes that accommodate a range of play preferences make this the best Mario golf game – and probably the best Mario sports game – in an age.
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