Here’s the thing. Mario Golf: Super Rush is a ridiculously fun and inventive game, and in terms of sheer mechanics, probably the best Mario Sports game in over a decade. Nintendo and Camelot have made a game that, at its best, seriously ranks among the plumber’s sporting outing highs. The issue, of course, lies in those qualifiers I’ve used. While at its best, and purely mechanically, Super Rush is extremely good, it’s the troubles that lie elsewhere that drag the game down and keep it from meeting its full potential.
The issues are, as should be obvious at this point, not anywhere in the mechanics or how the game plays. Controls are remarkably simple and intuitive, and a really comprehensive (but not overbearing, which is important) onboarding system introduces players not just to how the game translates golf concepts, but also to those golf concepts themselves – meaning even newcomers to the sport can easily jump in and learn the rules as they go along. The mechanics are so much fun that even if you have no interest in golf, you’ll end up having a lot of fun with this game.
A lot of that comes down to the simplicity. Although golf is a nuanced and complex sport, Nintendo’s traditional design mentality is in making everything simple and intuitive to the player, and that ends up making Mario Golf’s translation of golf mechanics really easy to grasp. From shot power to the spin you add to the ball, from terrain and altitude advantages to even knowing to pick different golf clubs for different occasions, everything ends up being extremely simple. Controls are kept simple and transparent (both, motion control and button controls are supported), and the challenge comes not in remembering a dozen different things, but in being able to do them well.
"While at its best, and purely mechanically, Super Rush is extremely good, it’s the troubles that lie elsewhere that drag the game down and keep it from meeting its full potential."
Nintendo adds to this great translation of golf with some delightful twists – each character ends up having special abilities they can use, for example (which can be anything from a faster dash between holes to special shots), and the golf courses themselves end up getting incredibly imaginative and out there. Nintendo are arguably the best at level design in the industry, and Camelot brings some of that flair to Mario Golf, with some incredibly well designed courses that, again, stand independently as great works of level design, and can help the game appeal even to those who wouldn’t have any interest in a straightforward golf game, bringing a Mario Kart style chaos to proceedings that can make Mario Golf a delight to play as a party game, or as a more lighthearted and arcadey one (there are, obviously, some more basic golf courses included too, so those who like their golf traditional can still get that).
There’s a lot else that the game does right – it’s the first Mario Golf game since the Gameboy Advance one to include a story mode, for example. Online play is included, and works well, and you can play with friends in private lobbies or matchmake with filters you can use to set preferences. The many characters it includes all feel different to play as, and all feel viable. The Speed Golf mode is great.
It’s remarkable then how much it manages to stumble, in a lot of cases attaching caveats to its should-be well-earned wins. Take the story mode, for example. The older handheld Mario Golf games had these fleshed out RPG story modes – in fact, those story modes are why this franchise (along with Mario Tennis) have so many fans to begin with. But much like Mario Tennis Aces, Super Rush’s adventure mode is a very thinly disguised tutorial of the mechanics that is ultimately unfulfilling as a singleplayer campaign. Or let’s talk about the online – on a functional level, it’s great. But it lacks basics, such as a progression or ranking system, or the ability to create or host tournaments.
We talked about how great the courses are – and they really are! – but there are also only six of them, which is a shockingly low number, particularly given that the inventiveness of the courses is the key thing that makes the game stand out. Effectively, this means that the game’s long term appeal is stunted – there is a story mode, but it’s short and unfulfilling. There is an online mode, but the lack of tournaments or lobbies means that ultimately you’re simply playing to engage with the mechanics with other people, rather than against the CPU. And when it comes to engaging with the game’s mechanics, there is a shocking lack of content, so you end up running into a sense of rote and repetition much sooner than a game like this should.
"It really is a shame because as mentioned, what’s there is incredible. And if you can put up with the repetition, and basic QoL – at least, until the updates presumably flesh things out – you end up with an incredibly fun and inventive game, that is remarkably well designed and engaging as a traditional golf game, and as a mad dash Nintendo multiplayer one."
One could point to titles such as Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8, ARMS, or even Mario Tennis Aces, that all started out with very barebones content – and ended up being stuffed with content and endless hours of playability after many free updates. There is every reason to expect that Mario Golf Super Rush will end up getting loads of new courses or characters or even game modes going forward. Mario Tennis Aces did, after all. But in the here and now, it makes it a significantly harder sell for $60 USD. It’s a full price game, and it can often be hard to shake the feeling that it’s not quite coming up with enough to be worth that full price. In a few months, assuming good updates, sure, it could be. But right now, it’s the lack of content, particularly can add a significant caveat in any recommendation for the game – particularly since there is basic QOL functionality missing that can end up frustrating even what is there.
As mentioned already, there is no tournament mode, online or local (other than the tournaments you get in story mode). There are no replays or highlight reels. There isn’t even a way to restart a game in progress with a CPU character, something that especially stands out in the story mode.
"A lack of content holds Mario Golf Super Rush back, but purely mechanically and in terms of design, it stands as one of Mario’s best sports game outings in a very long time."
It really is a shame because as mentioned, what’s there is incredible. And if you can put up with the repetition, and basic QoL – at least, until the updates presumably flesh things out – you end up with an incredibly fun and inventive game, that is remarkably well designed and engaging as a traditional golf game, and as a mad dash Nintendo multiplayer one. I think that what’s here makes a compelling case for itself – but it’s a much harder sell than it needs to be given the lack of content and features, to the point that I have to exercise caution in any recommendation for this game. I do think it’s really fun. I also think, however, that there is a dearth of content, currently, and I can foresee many that find it disappointing because of that.
But if you can make your peace with the low content (which, again, is hopefully not going to be a factor in a few months), this will end up being a really fun game – and if you are primarily intending it to be for family or party multiplayer sessions, then you will still get a lot of mileage out of it. Mario Golf Super Rush is held back from being as great as it could be – but even with all the compromises, it ends up being pretty damn good.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
Extremely well designed and mechanically impeccable; really fun to play as both, a straightforward golf game, and a more arcadey, party game take on the sport; each character feels different to play as; the courses are really inventive.
There is a critical lack of content and basic functionality - the story mode is unfulfilling and short, there is no tournament mode, there are no replays, there is no ranking or progression system online, there are only six courses, and so on.