I completely understand that someone would not be into golf at all. It is a slow sport that demands concentration, accounting for all hazards, and a steady hand for making the perfect swings in order to get a ball into a hole. However, that is also why I love it. This might come from my love for turn-based titles, but this is right up my alley due to requiring so much strategy and a cool head. Interestingly enough, Mario Golf: Super Rush wishes to change up this traditional sport and add speed to it, which had me severely intrigued. This idea has been tinkered with before in previous entries to mixed results, but maybe the developers found a good setup for it this time? Let’s give it a swing!
Speedy golf on a steep climb
Right from the start, Mario Golf: Super Rush gives the player the option to play different forms of golf alone, with friends or take on the Golf Adventure mode. The last one is the main event, so we will be covering it first and foremost in this segment, while leaving the other single- and multiplayer options for later. There is an attempt at creating an atmosphere with rivals and secret powers of golf in this campaign, but the story is clearly an afterthought and barely a part of this adventure. Luckily, this is better than having the “plot” drag the entire experience down and it is overall easy to ignore.
Golf Adventure is nothing grand, though. It simply takes you through different forms of golf and teaches you all the way through about varied techniques, such as lob shots, skipping ball on water, and so on. Unfortunately, the campaign is filled with strange things halting the player, be it forcing you to take a practice run before an actual tournament or sudden gameplay changes in styles and rules. You can go from playing normal round of golf to out of nowhere fighting a boss that requires QTEs or take on one golf mode that you will never do again in this adventure.
This campaign is all over the place in pacing and setups, making it hard to keep up or even feel fulfilled by because of how tone deaf it is. Thankfully, while this makes playing through this mode annoying, a lot of the challenges you take on are engaging. Of course, normal golf returns and it is as familiar as ever. Through 18 fields, you try to get a ball into a hole in each by taking as few strokes with your different clubs as possible. Sounds simple enough, though when you have to take into consideration hazards like wind, boulders, ice, rough grass, and more, it can be anything but.
Whenever you ready your swing, you aim your shot from a third person perspective and can also use an overhead map to get a different view and see where the ball will continue to roll after it has landed. The ball’s distance and arc is affected by the power of your swing, wind, and the elevation of the ground, so there is a lot of aspects to be mindful of. When you have aimed in your preferred direction, you hit B to charge up your power and hit it again when you have reached the desired amount. You can also put a top- or backspin for altering the ball’s speed back and forth and curve your shot to avoid obstacles while charging. The latter can even be done with different amounts of strengths and at specific altitudes, which are neat elements for making skillful shots.
However, unlike previous titles; you do not press again to determine the shot’s accuracy. This is now completely automated, with the wider portion of the power bar showcasing where the shots can be off. This sadly makes it difficult to be precise with your swings and adds a poor form of randomisation. I do like that you have to aim your shots carefully if you want to hit under max distance, as you can only see the furthest your ball can go with a club, but that is about it. This is an unnecessary way to simplify this setup, especially for a game with so many numbers and details to be aware of before taking a swing. Even the ground has grids to showcase their slopes and heights!
Luckily, the rest of the mechanics are solid and the varied clubs still have distinct uses, such as the sand wedge for getting out of bunkers and the putter for tapping the ball into the hole on the green. There is nothing stopping you from switching out the clubs, but the game does a good job at selecting a recommended one for the situation you are in. You can also change up and use the motion controls for determining the power and arc of your swings, but despite being functional, they do not offer the amount of precision the buttons and analog stick already do.
This is all for the normal golfing and returning to the singleplayer campaign from previous entries, are the RPG mechanics. After doing anything significant, you gain money for purchasing equipment and experience points for levelling up with each awarding you a stat point you can put into one of six categories. These stats are easy to decipher; power determines how far you can drive the ball, stamina is for how long you can dash, speed shows how fast you can run, control makes your shots as straight as possible, and spin affects how much you can shape your shots.
Upgrading one stat and not spreading the skill points out equally, can affect other stats negatively, but this seems to happen at random and is never a huge inconvenience either, since some of the stats have a max level. This can easily make your character become both overpowered and have their upgrades restricted due to only occasionally forcing the player to use a stat point on another stat from time to time. In fact, this awkward design is very reminiscent of Mario Golf: Super Rush’s overall gameplay as well.
Outside of this, you have golf clubs, shirts, and shoes to purchase for varied effects, like making shots not easily affected by the wind or being able to run faster in the rough. All of these equipment are interesting, as they affect your playstyle in different ways instead of just increasing your stats. Although, the main attraction for this instalment, is the Speed Golf. Whenever you have taken your shot in this golf mode, you run towards where your ball landed in order to swing at it again. You are here ranked on both the amount of strokes and the time it took you to finish a field.
This mode can be incredibly tense, since you have a stamina bar that depletes when the run button is held down and you can even use it to bump into competitors. You refill it by walking slowly or picking up hearts scattered around the field, which forces you to plan a route or take risks. Furthermore, pressing L will use a huge amount of your stamina for a special dash that makes you faster and can affect opponents or their balls in unique ways if you collide with them. I really enjoy this take on golf, as it forces the player to be both fast-paced and quick thinking, but also have a steady hand when they are about to shoot the ball onward. Even the amount of clubs you have with you affects your speed, which is a neat touch!
Coins are also placed around on the fields, which are used to build up a super meter. It will also be filled up when you get the ball into a hole and when full, you can use it to make a special shot! These changes from character to character, and will affect other players or their balls depending on their setups, similar to the special dash. However, it is here where I question a lot of this game’s design choices. These special shots are extremely situational, as they are only here to create inconveniences for the opponents and not for getting through the hazards that can continuously hinder these shots. This makes them distinct, but also bland due to their limited uses.
The special dash can be just as inconsistent in usefulness, as the running is stiff and if you happen to barely miss your ball, you will not be able to turn around quickly to get back to it until you have finished the dash. I am not sure whether these elements where implemented to avoid making the special abilities overpowered or not, but it is to the point that removing them completely from this title would not have been a sore loss due to how situational they are.
There are also other odd annoyances to come across here, such as how someone can hit you off-screen when readying a shot and you simply have to reorient yourself in order to do it again. It does not make the matches any more challenging, only tedious. Thankfully, the courses themselves are engaging to play on. While the first two are rather traditional and good introduction levels, the others are very creative, such as how the mountain course has whirlwinds, higher grounds, and boulders rolling around to be aware of. All of the fields are fun and diverse thanks to their imaginative ideas, enhancing what an exciting sport golf can be.
Sadly, there are only six different courses here and their qualities vary, making even this aspect lacking. It is also a huge shame that for a game set in the Mushroom Kingdom, these imaginative concepts do not get to evolve at all. This is especially strange when there are three boss fights included that have you running around and doing QTEs, with them all being adequate at best. There is also XC golf that you play once, where you have to get a ball into multiple holes throughout one field within a limited amount of strokes. This is an exciting mode as you have to find the best rout in order to win, but this is only possible to play in battle mode afterwards, which is confusing.
I could have accepted a lot of these uncomfortable shortcomings, if the main adventure was not a chore to play through. There are so many rounds of the same courses and mandatory tutorials the player has to take on, instead of letting them choose to jump right into a tournament and do their best. This is also where Speed Golf can be quite tedious to play, as they take a long time to get through since you have to run to your ball. Playing 18 holes alone can take a while in traditional golf, but Speed Golf ironically makes it last even longer due to more things happening on the screen.
Golf Adventure is also inconsistent about letting you divide these tournaments with a break for saving and when you have to go through all of it in one go, which is surreal to me. If you wonder; no, you cannot save within the tournaments and practice rounds are forced upon you. This is where repetition will set in and for a game that should not take more than 3-4 hours to beat, it can take upwards to 10. Who thought this was an acceptable idea?
This is a strange form of wanting to introduce legitimately cool concepts, but also try to make things easier and more complex simultaneously without finding a good middle ground. Learning different swings for varied situations is odd to pair with special moves that are too situational to be entertaining. The gameplay is overall solid and fun, but with a tedious climb for the main campaign that can force you to take multiple breaks. I love the ingredients within this entry, but the amount of each needed to be better implemented.
Gameplay Score: 6/10
Nothing is pushing the Switch’s graphical capabilities and it can make the areas even more underwhelming than what they actually are. Areas are colourful and nice looking, with cabins and bazaars functioning as places for acquiring equipment, sleeping in, and entering tournaments, with cafes adding a touch of flavour to the different hubs. Unfortunately, with four courses being heavy on the colour green, repetition can set in quickly. Sure, one rainy course has lily pads and another has wind blowing on rocky mountains, but more set pieces to differentiate one from another would have been severely welcomed.
Thankfully, the visuals are commendable despite the simple textures. There are some lovely effects added into this project, like the lovely lighting and the ball catching fire when spinning hard on the ground. However, what Mario Golf: Super Rush suffers the most from, is its inconsistency in creativity. You will meet the same kind of creatures from the Mushroom Kingdom in every location and this destroys any atmosphere this game could have had. While there are living boulders in the mountains and fiery creatures in Bowser’s level, the inhabitants are always Goombas, Shy Guys, and Koopas for example. Because of this, they all feel like placeholders due to no cultural setups given to the hubs.
I am happy that the environments can look good if repetitive, with minor differences to make them stand out. Unfortunately, this criticism towards the lack of imagination does not only come from this being set in Mario’s universe, but also from how clearly the developers could have gone further. You have a ginormous knight shooting lightning, mythologies about ultimate powers, and even one area combining ice and lava for a cool course gimmick. Sadly, that is about it for creativity and it is a shame that nothing is done to give this title a clear tone at the very least.
To be more positive, the characters look outstanding with neat attires for a day of golfing and there is a healthy variety of included characters. If I may also be blunt; Waluigi looks so fashionable in his new getup to the point that I hope he finally gets his own game. Their animations on the courses, be it swinging their clubs or running on the field, are also different enough to make them highlight their playstyles and personalities, with wins and losses being followed up by cute reactions. This definitely helps at making the matches become much more exciting on the rather mixed courses.
The audio is overall decent, but the shots sound weak. I believe they are meant to have a realistic effect to them, but with balls that are able to create ice on the field or shock people when flying through the air, it is strange that their sounds are completely bland. Luckily, the characters have charming and strong voices, with the announcer being quite uplifting. I do notice that some voice clips are taken from Mario Kart Wii and older Mario Golf entries, but they still sound clear.
Although, I have a hard time commenting on the music. Motoi Sakuraba returns as the composer, but the tracks here mixes in so many instruments to make them sound complicated, but never presents a clear tone with plenty of high and low notes. It is the moments where the guitar gets to shine in the lake course, the chimes and choirs in the snowy Bowser’s castle are heard or the flutes and lighter notes in the first hub get to be taken in, that the tracks actually sound pleasant. However, the rest of the music mainly tries to make every instrument highlighted, and it becomes a mess instead due to the amount of them. All of the melodies fit the mood they go for, but there is nothing culturally distinct or anything memorable about them.
Presentation Score: 6.5/10
Just the essential clubs
While the main campaign has no side quests or similar things to offer, you can always play Standard Golf, Speed Golf, and Battle Golf alone or with friends. Battle Golf is basically XC golf and it is surprisingly fun to see who gets three holes in first and you can even add in randomised effects to appear, like turning the balls into eggs or get speed boost. However, there are only two fields for this mode, making it have a short lasting appeal. You can play all three versions of golf with other people on- and offline, including Standard Golf with one controller.
There are customisation for rules and the amount of fields to take on, with normal golf allowing you to play simultaneously with others if you have enough controllers! Sadly, that is about it and the multiplayer is hard to return to with less modes and options compared to previous entries. This also makes online play become underwhelming with no tournaments or more creative modes to take on. Solo challenges are also poor due to being just different forms of score- and time attack, nothing else. You could always play plenty of courses with one character to unlock stronger versions of them, but that is just tedious work and unnecessary for multiplayer. At the very least, a golf guide is here to make you informed on the different terms and rules of golf.
Extra Score: 4/10
This is a bizarre entry to the Mario Golf series that both fleshes out intriguing concepts of fast-paced golfing, but at the cost of making everything else lacklustre by missing important aspects from previous titles. Even without comparing it to its predecessors, Mario Golf: Super Rush is hard to recommend due to its confusing design choices, few reasons to revisit it, and from how it struggles with following through the creative ideas it presents. In all honesty, it is easier to recommend all of the earlier Mario Golf games (except for the N64 version) or titles already on the Switch like Neo Turf Master and Golf Story. This addition to the series has some nice swings to it, but ends up in the rough.