There wasn’t much for Mario and his coterie of friends—and mortal enemies—to do during the pandemic. With their usual cycle of kidnapping-and-rescue adventures restricted by Mushroom Kingdom public safety dictates, the gang rediscovered a long-forgotten passion: golf outings on courses inhabited by magical creatures, death traps, and very large mushrooms.
Mario Golf: Super Rush is the first console installment in the series since 2003’s Toadstool Tour, and much has changed in the 18 years since then. And yeah, yeah, we’ll get to some “reviewing” of how this Nintendo Switch jaunt measures up later on. But first, let’s meet some of our golfers and pick apart their wardrobes.
Mario. He is what he is, all right? It’s a lot of pressure to carry a company on your shoulders. Any little quirk or eccentricity is going to send the international media into a frenzy. And so we get a bland, red-and-white traditional outfit with a short-sleeve quarter-zip. Custom-branded glove. He’s just not going to give you much.
Wario may be snarling, conniving, and duplicitous, but you can’t beat an outfit like this. A swashbuckling, Greg-Norman-esque gambler on the course, our antihero wears a wide-brimmed hat to better mask himself from the constant aerial FBI surveillance.
The big ol’ spiked dino-turtle himself, ready for a summer of R&R after filming a tumultuous season of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in his hometown, Hell.
Yoshi golfs in the nude. It’s a consistent source of embarrassment to Mario. Just get Mario tipsy on a few highballs in the clubhouse before you ask him about it. (Or better yet, don’t.)
The restrictive clothing is a poor fit for Waluigi’s free-flowing swing, yes, but he didn’t have time to change after chasing Indiana Jones through the canals of Venice.
Here’s the deal with Rosalina: She doesn’t even swing the club! She flicks her magic wand and makes the club swing itself. If not a violation of the letter of the Rules of Golf, which are silent on wand usage, it’s certainly a violation of the spirit. But does this look like a person who gives a shit what I think?
As the subtitle Super Rush indicates, the newest element introduced in this edition is speed. As in, you’re running while you’re golfing. Throughout the game, like in the new Battle mode, where golfers rush and push and blow up each other on their way to winning holes, you are sprinting. There is a Speed Golf mode in which your score is secondary to how quickly you finish, with penalties for not moving quickly enough. Layered on top of that are course-specific wrinkles. In the desert course, for example, you have to complete your round quickly enough before you run out of water. (You are informed by the regulars that there’s a local tradition to see how long you can play the course before collapsing from dehydration. There is always a paper-thin layer separating the outwardly sunny Mario franchise from its sadistic subtext. The special shot for Boo, the ghost, is to “haunt balls upon impact.” I’m haunted just thinking about that.)
So you get to run a lot. But what don’t you get to do? The list runs dispiritingly long. With the caveat that Nintendo can and will make more available through downloadable content in the coming months, the game feels incomplete.
For the single player, there are two options: Playing a round by yourself, or playing the game’s golf adventure mode, an RPG-like journey through the five courses and the quaint towns that surround them. Playing as your custom character, you develop skills and attributes as you progress from the Mushroom Kingdom to the woodlands, the desert, and so on and so forth. It’s a good opportunity to give Mario universe characters bit parts. Birdo, having reformed from her early rebel days spitting eggs at Mario, now runs a boarding house for characters in town for a tournament. Shy Guy is the groundskeeper; the Hammer Brothers serve as instructors. The story mode, however, is both relatively short—it only takes a couple of days to beat—and something of a slog to stay focused on. Rather than just playing rounds of golf, you spend an inordinate amount of time in forced training exercises, running back and forth between the gate to the course and Toad, who’s manning a registration table and constantly telling you that the course isn’t ready for play due to a weather event. So much of real-life golf is going from the parking lot to the clubhouse check-in, to the staff outdoors telling you the fairways are too wet to drive on, to going back to the clubhouse because the brakes on your cart don’t work. A video game doesn’t need to re-create that.
A simple tournament circuit would do.
The gameplay is intuitive and straightforward but missing elements that could improve precision. There’s no trajectory preview of the shots to get a sense of where to land the ball or how much to curve it, and while you’re told that shots will be simply “uphill” or “downhill,” there’s no specificity to it that allows you to make the proper adjustment. Maybe you’re asking, who is this inane person demanding more exacting metrics, yardage numbers, and slope adjustments in a cartoon golf video game for children? Well, here’s my reaction to you:
Waluigi is an absolute king and deserves a game worthy of his inclusion. Hopefully, with a few more updates from Nintendo, it will get there.