Mario Golf: Super Rush: Is It Worth Buying?

Sports games have been a huge hole in Nintendo’s lineup for over a decade now. Electronic Arts has mostly avoided the company’s hardware since the Wii U era (Madden and NHL haven’t seen the light of day of Nintendo gear in forever), and we’ve been waiting since late 2019 for MLB The Show to arrive on the console, leaving limited-feature FIFA and 2K Sports’s basketball series as the only major sports titles on the console (with apologies to R.B.I. Baseball). This issue has left Nintendo to try and fill this hole itself, and to its credit it’s done a credible job with its various Mario sports franchises, including Golf, Tennis, Baseball, and Strikers (soccer).

The runaway success of the Switch hasn’t yet convinced the major players in this genre to support the console and fill this hole, so Nintendo is once again stepping into the void, first with Mario Tennis Aces and now with Mario Golf: Super Rush. The golf series has been missing from the world for a while (the last entry came in 2014 for the 3DS), but the series has charmed a number of fans over its lifespan for its ability to produce a fun, faithful golf experience while also sprinkling in the usual Mario charm (I’m still a big fan of Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour from the GameCube era). The question we aim to answer here: Does Super Rush follow in its predecessors’ footsteps and clear the bar they have set?

Truthfully, I look at Mario Golf: Super Rush the way I look at the more-recent entries in the Pokémon series: The game still captures the essence of the series and in fun to play, but I’d call it a lateral move compared to Toadstool Tour: It’s not better or worse, just different. The game takes some chances to inject some energy and chaos into the series, but they often ran counter to the sort of game I was looking to play, and to me it didn’t really advance the series in any way. There’s something for both new players and veterans of the series to enjoy, but there are also some glaring omissions and decisions that leave you scratching your head. It’s a decent game, but I can’t help but feel like it could have been a lot better.

My detailed thoughts on the game are as follows:

  • After going through the technical issues of Bravely Default II, Mario Golf: Super Rush has a much cleaner and crisper presentation. While there are some moments where it takes a strangely-long amount of time before the game will allow button presses to register, load times are generally reasonable, and transitions and animations during a match are fairly smooth (even during online play, which features a few stutters and frame drops but nothing that would disrupt the game). The presentation features the typical Nintendo polish, and allows you to fully immerse yourself in the game.
  • Speaking of the game: There are four main modes here, including Standard Golf, Speed Golf, Battle Golf, and Golf Adventure. Standard Golf is the classic golf experience: You try to complete holes with the fewest number of shots or most points, either by yourself or competing with 1-3 other players. What’s missing, however, is the ability to play courses as a tournament against a large number of virtual players, which was honestly my favorite mode from Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour. Playing with a handful of players can approximate the same experience, but be sure to choose to let people play ‘all at once,’ as letting people take turns means you’re sitting through a bunch of shots that really don’t concern you.

Speed Golf and Battle Golf shake up the traditional golf formula by injecting a bit more…well, speed into the game. Speed Golf makes you run after your ball after you hit it, forcing you to navigate the course while avoiding hazards, while also giving you the opportunity to interfere with your opponents as they chase down their own shots. Battle Golf raises the stakes considerably: The courses are smaller, all the holes are in play simultaneously (the first person to claim three wins), and there are even Bob-ombs you can hit like golf balls to thwart your opponents’ progress. In practice, however, the additions don’t add a whole lot to the game: With each shot adding thirty seconds to your time, the impact of being a few seconds slower than your opponent is negligible, and you can generally grab enough stamina hearts to spam your special dash across the course. Battle Golf turns up the chaos meter considerably, but it seemed you either got caught up in Mario Party-esque random events or would up on a completely different path and played the whole game by yourself. As someone who prefers to take their time to line up the perfect shot, I found Standard Golf to be the best of these three modes, and the new modes really didn’t measure up by comparison.

  • Previous Golf titles included role-playing elements that allowed you to build your own character and learn the game through a single-player campaign, and Super Rush brings this mode back to the series in the form of Golf Adventure, where your Mii character becomes a feared golfer and you get to learn some of the more technical aspects of the game. The best part about Golf Adventure were the practice challenges, which forced you to think long and hard about the wind, the terrain, the clubs, and the ball spin to find a way to get the ball to the required location. Other parts of the mode, however, were a bit lackluster: Your fellow rookies mostly disappeared after the first tournament, the pacing was very inconsistent (you didn’t face a boss battle until the fifth course, and then suddenly you had to face two almost back-to-back), and XC Golf was less fun and more of a headache to play than Speed or Battle Golf. The player progression was a bit unorthodox as well: Instead of continually progressing, your speed, control, and spin will regress if you don’t keep sinking points into those attributes. It’s an awkward balancing mechanism that feels like it could have been handled differently. Overall, the mode is fine, but it really didn’t add a whole lot to the game.
  • Hitting the ball is a relatively straightforward process, but I found the tools you’re given to gauge and measure your shots to be a downgrade from what we had on the GameCube. Setting the shot power and determining roughly where it will land is easy enough, but Toadstool Tour also allowed you to see the expected flight of the ball to help you avoid trees and other obstacles, and the range and elevation finder seem clunky and not as useful as the tools from Toadstool Tour. (I also prefer having the limited power shots that could be conserved with perfect execution over having to charge a special shot and only being able to use it every few holes. I understand that the old system may have unbalanced online play, but I’d still rather have it available.) Overall, I found the game a bit harder to control and a bit less satisfying to play than its predecessors,
  • As someone who’s gotten used to the online limitations of Splatoon 2, there’s a lot to like about what Super Rush offers for network play. There are no random lobbies to speak of; players have to either establish a lobby or search for one that’s already available. Rooms can be located via ID or searched for by a number of parameters (game mode, hole amount, rule choices, shot or character restrictions, etc.) and can be password-protected for further control. While I only tried out Standard Golf online, the mode works very well for network play because each player operates mostly as an independent entity (without special shots, you don’t interact with the other players at all). You may encounter more issues with Speed/Battle Golf since you come into direct contact with the competition, but the glitches I saw during Standard Golf were minimal enough that I think these two modes wouldn’t suffer too much.

So should you drop $60 on Mario Golf: Super Rush? I would say the game is only worth it if you’re a fan of the standard golf gameplay, because it’s still satisfying to execute the perfect shot and online play adds a new dimension of competitiveness. If you’re looking for something more from golf, however, this game won’t give it to you: Speed and Battle Golf are minimal diversions that get old quickly, and Golf Adventure is mostly useful as an extended tutorial. The game definitely had its moments, but it felt surprisingly limited and didn’t quite offer the level of excitement I expected. Nintendo announced that there would be online updates to the game in the future, but if you’re on the fence about Super Rush, I would wait to see exactly what you get (characters, courses, maybe another game mode or two?) before investing in the game. As it is, the game is merely okay, and if you’re not already a fan of the game or the series, you may want to find another game that resonates more with you.