Sports games have been so deeply ingrained in the Mario series for so long that it’s easy to forget how infrequent specific sports titles actually are.
Not only is Mario Golf: Super Rush the first Mario Golf title in 7 years, it’s the first entirely new console instalment in 18 years (the last being on the GameCube).
Its presence on the Switch is welcome, and for the most part it plays a thoroughly entertaining game of golf, but it’s how Nintendo supports it post-launch that will determine whether it becomes truly essential.
Golf games obviously live and die by their controls, and in this respect Super Rush is undoubtedly a success. Players can use motion controls (which serve their purpose as you’d expect) or button controls, which provide far more accurate results.
The latter uses your conventional three-press system, with one press to start the swing, a second to set the power and a third to set the accuracy. Once you’ve nailed the timing, more advanced methods like adding topspin and backspin can be pulled off with double-taps of certain buttons.
Players can also apply bend to shots by holding the stick left or right as the accuracy bar rises. As they unlock more advanced clubs for each character, this bend can even be broken down into multiple parts, meaning you can hit a shot that bends left to avoid an obstacle, but then bends right mid-air to avoid landing on a different hazard.
If this all sounds a bit intimidating for what’s supposed to be a light-hearted arcade-style golf game, you shouldn’t worry: it’s perfectly possible to get by with the most basic moves. It’s just nice to have these more advanced techniques when you’re trying to improve your scores.
While it’s possible to have a standard round of golf and have a perfectly pleasant time doing so, it’s when Super Rush messes with typical golfing conventions that things get more entertaining.
“While it’s possible to have a standard round of golf and have a perfectly pleasant time doing so, it’s when Super Rush messes with typical golfing conventions that things get more entertaining.”
Purists will insist on straightforward stroke play with players taking turns, but it’s also possible to set an option where each of the players in a match line up together and tee off at the same time.
This continues throughout the entire round, with players all hitting their shots at the same time. Theoretically, if four characters are taking part, you can get through a round in roughly a quarter of the time because you don’t have to sit through everyone else’s strokes.
Not only does this speed the process up, it also allows for the use of power-ups that can mess up other players’ shots. Each character has their own unique power-up that affects other players’ balls in a certain way.
Chargin’ Chuck, for example, has a power shot that blasts through the air and knocks away any balls it gets near, whereas when Rosalina’s ball lands it transforms any other balls within a certain radius into a Star Bit, which makes it extremely difficult to putt for one shot.
More entertaining than this are the other variations that are available. Speed Golf also has everyone teeing off at the same time but then tasks them with physically running across the course to reach their ball before they can take their next shot.
As you’d expect, this adds even more potential for hijinks, as players use dash moves to plough through players while at the same time keeping their eye on their limited stamina gauge.
Later courses have more elaborate layouts too, meaning in order to reach your ball you may have to cross bridges, wade through quicksand or jump over lily pads.
It adds a new tactical element to where to place your shots: do you aim for a stretch of fairway that gives you a better approach to the hole, or somewhere that’s easier to reach in a shorter time with fewer hazards in the way?
Battle Golf, meanwhile, has a similar concept to Speed Golf but takes place in one of two arenas, where all the holes are available and the player chooses one to aim for. The first player to putt their ball in three holes wins, but of course power-ups and hazards can hinder their progress.
Battle Golf puts up to four players in a large arena
Simultaneous teeing off, Speed Golf and Battle Golf are all great ways to add some excitement to what’s generally quite a sedentary sport, but there’s one important thing to bear in mind: they can all only be played with two human players at most.
While each mode supports up to four characters, the Switch only supports two-player split screen, so any mode that involves everyone hitting the ball at once is a strictly 1-2 player affair with AI opponents making up the numbers.
As such, if you’re playing with three or four players, the only option available to you is traditional Stroke Play or Point Play golf with each player taking turns as you’d expect in other golf games. It’s a shame because it certainly removes some of the novelty and chaos from proceedings.
The other main mode in the game is Golf Adventure, a solo story mode where players take control of a Mii who starts off as a rookie and has to collect badges to rank up and eventually earn a platinum badge, which will in turn unlock them for use in the other modes.
Golf Adventure is relatively brief – if you’re good it’ll take you 5-6 hours to beat – but keeps things interesting by adding some other new variations to the mix.
The best of these is the section where you play cross-country golf, in which you’re placed in a large multi-tiered rocky area with a number of holes dotted around and have a set time to get the ball in all of them while making your way across the landscape.
Golf Adventure’s story starts off straightforward enough, then suddenly gets extremely silly with a bizarre plot twist that throws in boss battles and the like.
It doesn’t entirely hit, mainly because when the twist first appears it feels like it’s saying “you thought that was the adventure? THIS is the real adventure”, but then not long after this you actually complete the story, which can be underwhelming.
“Golf Adventure’s story starts off straightforward enough, then suddenly gets extremely silly with a bizarre plot twist that throws in boss battles and the like.”
That’s not to say it isn’t a fun mode while it lasts, though, and the different variations are worth experiencing (though it’s frustrating that they can’t be played outside of the story mode).
In more general terms, each of the 16 playable characters in Super Rush contains that typical Nintendo charm. Rather than a bunch of different character models with the same animations slapped onto them, each competitor’s personally shines through in the way they play.
Rosalina, for example, uses her wand to control her clubs remotely rather than swinging them herself, whereas Wario’s uniquely lazy putting method has to be seen to be believed.
The single-player Golf Adventure mode is brief but entertaining
It would have been nice to have a bit more variety in each character’s win and lose celebrations – after all, with 18 holes in a round it’s inevitable that you’ll see the same animations over and over – but for the most part there’s fun to be had playing as each of the characters and discovering how they differ.
The same can’t quite be said for the six courses on offer, however. Although they’re perfectly well designed and offer a nice variety of simple and complex layouts, each course’s art style is disappointingly safe with a couple of grass courses, a rocky one, a desert one, a rainy one and a Bowser-themed lava one.
Each course has a handful of themed hazards such as Pokeys, Bob-Ombs and the like, but for the most part the action is a little tame, especially compared to some other previous Mario Golf games.
Mario Golf: World Tour on 3DS, for example, had 10 wildly varied courses (and another six DLC ones), such as Peach Gardens (which was set outside Peach’s Castle and had a pink fairway), Yoshi Lake (which was designed to look like Yoshi’s Woolly World), an underwater course and a Donkey Kong themed course with barrel cannons.
There’s nothing as elaborate as that here, and while it may be considered positively zany compared to more serious golfing fare from EA or 2K Sports, by Mario Golf standards it’s pretty tame.
“While it may be considered positively zany compared to more serious golfing fare from EA or 2K Sports, by Mario Golf standards it’s pretty tame.”
This isn’t a completely lost cause, however. During its E3 2021 Direct presentation, Nintendo announced that Super Rush would be receiving downloadable content including new courses. Accompanying this was footage of a course set on New Donk City in Super Mario Odyssey, where Mario could be seen rebounding the ball off buildings.
This brief clip is far more off-the-wall (literally) than anything offered in the base package and the hope is that with a few courses like this the game could really come into its own over time.
It’s not like it would be the first time to happen, either. Mario Tennis Aces on Switch enjoyed a similar transformation, launching with just 16 characters and eventually amassing 30 after a series of free updates.
If Camelot can provide the same level of post-game support for its new golf game as it did for its last tennis one, there’s potential here for Super Rush to become a truly classic Mario sports title.
The groundwork is absolutely here: at its core this is a brilliant take on the sport with hugely satisfying controls that are simple enough to appeal to all skill levels but flexible enough to allow for more elaborate shots should the need arise.
With any luck, a steady stream of extra content post-launch could potentially push it to the forefront of the series. For now, though, the game is great to play, but the lack of meatier features and a somewhat less wacky nature than expected means it falls short of being truly fantastic.