This review is after spending about 10 hours with the game over the past 3 days. My feelings may evolve over time, but the things I mentioned below are pretty firm feelings I feel confident about. Also I have not played online modes, but my review is focused more on the core golf experience, not the wild and wacky modes the game offers.
I’m a fiend for arcade golf games. The sims are fine, but I’ve got a special place in my heart for arcade golf games, specifically ones with three-tap swing controls. This system worked 20 years ago and it works great today. As fas as my perspective, I’ve spent hundreds of hours of my life playing these games, and the ones that stand out the most to me have been:
- Everybody’s Golf for PS4
- Mario Golf: Advance Tour for GBA
- Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour for GameCube
- Pixel Pros Golf for iOS
Again, I’ve played a few more of them, but those are what I’d consider the cream of the crop, at least in terms of games I’ve sunk 100+ hours into.
What I Personally Want from a Mario Golf Game
I think Mario Golf: Advance Tour is as close to perfect as the Mario Golf series has ever gotten. There was some fun Mario stuff, but the courses were generally realistic, they offered lots of risk-vs-reward decisions, and it had a fantastic progression system that let me level up my character how I wanted. Oh, and it cranked up the difficulty of my opponents to make sure I was getting a constant challenge, even at higher levels.
Ultimately, I want to be able to pick up this game and play a round of golf easily, and I’d like to have some stats about that course or myself overall so that I can try to set some new record, no matter how small during that round. A story mode is nice and all, but that’s just the first few hours of the game. If it’s good, I’ll spend over 100 hours playing normal golf, and that’s where I want my Mario Golf games to shine.
For an example outside the Mushroom Kingdom, Everybody’s Golf for PS4 is absolutely amazing in this regard. Whenever I start a round, I know what the record score is on that course, and that score even changes based on what tees I’m using, what the wind is set to, and the weather conditions. I also know how often I hit the fairways, the greens in regulation, and what my longest drives have been. Oh, and as I play the round, my scorecard reminds me what the best score I’ve gotten on each hole, as well as what my longest drive per hole has been.
Finally, I like to have a tournament mode that I can play over and over again, and I’d like to have actually challenging opponents in those tournaments. Give me a run for my money, make me sweat, I’m ready for it.
What Mario Golf: Super Rush Does Well
I have decidedly mixed feelings about this game. On the one hand it does offer some of the things that I look for in a game like this. First off, the solo modes allow for tons of control over exactly what you want to do. I can play 3, 6, 9, or 18 holes on any course in the game, I can choose from 4-5 tee locations, I can select the wind settings, whether special shots are allowed, and even what hold of the course I want to start on.
This is a ton of flexibility, and I appreciate being able to lock in exactly the round of golf I want for the amount of time I have to dedicate to the game at that moment in time.
I also really like the progression system in the game. You start out as a slow weakling, but as you play through the story you will earn XP that you can use to level up things like your power, your accuracy, your spin, and your stamina and speed. Those last two are only relevant in the speed golf and battle golf modes, so you can actually level up your other stats quicker if you don’t care about the “fun” modes that much.
Oh, and this also does the great thing where if you put a few points in a row into power, your control and spin stats will drop, so you need to balance putting XP into your favorite stat with balancing out the losses elsewhere. I don’t know why, but I always love this mechanic in golf games.
It’s worth mentioning there are about a half dozen courses in the game, and they vary from very plain, realistic courses to things that are a little more Mario-themed. Some reviewers have been disappointed that the courses aren’t more outlandish, but for me that’s actually a feature so it’s fine by me.
I also have to mention cross country golf, which puts you on a course and you get to choose what order you go through the holes. When you get the ball in a hole you tee off right for that green, and there’s a good amount of strategy in figuring out what the optimum route is, and there are some legit Breath of the Wild moments where you are scaling steep cliff faces to get up to the next hole, or aiming at or around tornados to get your ball exactly where you want. Reviews have been pretty down on this mode, but I kinda dig it.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the moment to moment gameplay scratches that arcade golf itch, and I feel really chill playing a round of golf in this game. This is super subjective, of course, but for me I could see spending months playing this game. Little things like not being able to see how much you’re going to curve a fade before you hit it makes me need to build an intuition for how my character plays the game. Similarly, putting is a real challenge here, which is a relief because some Mario Golf games have had putting that was stupid simple.
What Could be Better
But for any game that I could play for 100+ hours, the devil is in the details, and there are a few things about this game that make it less than perfect, and I think less impressive than my current arcade golf game of choice, Everybody’s Golf for PS4.
The first thing that gets me is the shot mechanics. Instead of the traditional three click controls (start, power, and accuracy), this game has a two click control. This is basically the same auto-shot feature that all these games have had for years. Aka you tap to start the swing, tap again to set the power, and then the game will randomly set your accuracy for you. The UI for this is new, but it’s the same result, and that disappoints me because I don’t like that feature in other games, and in Super Rush it is the only option for button controls.
Super Rush does go a little further by letting you hold the joystick at any angle to shape the shot, and I do enjoy that quite a bit, but I’d like to have more agency over my accuracy.
Oh, and for completeness’s sake, spinning the ball works the same as other games, with a press or double-press of the A or B buttons to apply spin to the ball when it lands.
The second thing that bothers me is the lack of risk-vs-reward moments I feel when playing each hole. There really seems to be one way to play every hole, so I don’t have that much variety from round to round. Even as I get stronger and hit the ball farther, I’m really just hitting it further down the same fairway, not trying to do anything really fancy. I think this is compounded by the removal of power shots, as there is no way for me to try and hit the ball a little harder than normal to cut some corner.
These issues of few decisions during the round and not being able to control my own accuracy add up to each round feeling pretty same-y to me. There’s really not much variation because there’s not much I can change each time I play a course. Yes, sometimes the RNG will mean I hit a shot off course when I hit it perfectly another round, but the nature of odds-based RNG like this game uses means that over 18 holes my luck will generally even out. I love those rounds in other games where I’m just in the zone and I’m hitting perfect shots constantly and break my own high score, but I don’t get those moments in this game since I’m not actually in control, and that’s a bummer.
I’m also a little annoyed with how metrics are shown in the game. There are quite a few stats that are tracked, but you need to go to a specific page in the menus to find them, they aren’t visible as you play the game. I might see an alert that I just hit the longest drive on a hole, but I had no idea what the old record was, and I certainly didn’t know that I had a chance to beat it when I took my drive. And what’s the best score I’ve ever gotten on this hole? What’s the longest putt I’ve made? How often do I hit this fairway? How about this green? Everybody’s Golf shows me all of that, and old Mario Golf games showed many of them, but Super Rush has none of them, and that really sucks.
I was also really disappointed to see that tournaments only exist in the story mode. I would have loved to play against a whole field of opponents on the fly, but I can’t do that. My only options for solo play are to play against 2-3 CPUs in a foursome. I do love that we can all take our shots at the same time, but the CPU opponents are pretty bad and I’ve won some matches by 20 strokes, so I’ve taken to just playing solo since they’re literally no challenge at all.
Like I said near the start, I’m conflicted about this game. If I could have 3 wishes for things to change about this game I would choose these updates:
- Add an advanced swing mode where I get to set my own accuracy. This will make the game more skill-based and make me feel more engaged with the game as I feel more in control of my destiny.
- Scorecards should always show the best score I’ve ever gotten on each hole so I know what ones I should really be trying to get my first birdie or eagle on as I play. These are micro-challenges that I make for myself, and they’re a huge draw to the genre.
- Metrics, metrics everywhere! Like I said, arcade golf games in the long run are all about micro-challenges, and showing me my stats as I play lets me constantly be playing these games as I create games inside the normal golf game to add some flavor that wasn’t there by default.
I’d love to see things like tournaments break out of the story mode and XP be gained across all game modes, but I’m trying not to get too greedy here. I’m not expecting Nintendo to add any of these post-launch anyway (we’ll surely get new courses though), but those are my two cents.
Despite my complaints, I do think the game is fun and I will be playing it for the next few weeks for sure. Everybody’s Golf truly is a masterpiece and I’m sure I’ll go back to it eventually, the only question is how long Mario Golf: Super Rush can hold onto me before I move on.