Dear Diary - Golfing in the Mushroom Kingdom with Mario Golf: Super Rush
Dear Diary is a series inspired by the (attempted) daily diary of Cyberpunk 2077. Rather than daily, these one-off stories will combine an oftentimes goofy narrative with VGG's VERY SERIOUS game impressions. Dear Diary is a unique series that stands somewhere between our formal reviews and regular coverage.
Today's entry comes from an up-and-coming golfer in the Mushroom Kingdom as he summarizes his first few weeks (hours) as a professional golfer on tour. Learn what we've thought of our time in Mario Golf: Super Rush and how normal-ass humans might just have the advantage when it comes to golfing in Mario's realm.
My nerves had officially settled in. Standing amongst my peers, I was moments away from starting my professional golfing career. Years of work, dreaming, visualizing — all paying off right here, right now. All that was on my mind: the moment I knew I wanted this to be my life. I was sitting on the mushroom couch in our little mushroom house when my Toad mom came into the (mush)room and flicked on our teeny mushroom TV.
On screen was a teaser for an upcoming series of golf tournaments, the Toadstool Tour. Almost instantly, I was enraptured. Seeing the legendary heroes (and villains) of our world enjoying a day out on the green, the literal fire in the eyes of Wario and Waluigi, and most importantly, the way the shiny trophy reflected the mustachioed faces of Mario and Luigi. They made golf look so fun! By the time the tease ended with a call for new golfers to sign up for the tour, my mind was made up. I would fight my way to the top to see my face in that trophy one day.
Look. I may spend a lot of my free time yelling about my passion for sports games, and more specifically, my love for the Mario sports RPGs available on the Gameboy Color, but let me do it one more time for you.
I've always loved how these games broke down complex sports into easy to digest gameplay systems. Hitting a golf ball with any authority is one of the hardest things to do in sports, and in 1984, Nintendo distilled the experience down into a few meters with a simple but engaging timing mechanic. Since then, they've iterated on the experience and added in all of the classic Mario charm you could ever want. But in recent years, they'd sadly stepped away from one of the most interesting modes the franchise had to offer: the single-player story with RPG mechanics.
In both Mario Golf and Mario Tennis on the Gameboy Color, players explored campuses full of amateur sports stars, looking to rise in the ranks and become the best of the best in the Mushroom Kingdom. As you progressed, you increased your stats and skill, ultimately culminating in showdowns with Mario and friends. You developed rivals as well as new friends, and it all made sinking hours into the game even easier than ever. Feeling your character grow in strength and push through each new tier of challenges was exciting, but the franchise moved away from the concept after the Gameboy Advance.
Enter Mario Golf: Super Rush. IT'S BACK BAYBEE. Leaning more in the adventure of it all, Super Rush's single-player story takes you through themed courses where you'll golf your way to glory, complete with unique "boss fights" and purchasable gear that can give you added bonuses. The story opens as you join a small athlete's dorm run by Mama Birdo located on the grounds of the game's first course, Bonny Greens.
After a day of training alongside the crafty Boo, the in-control Toadette, and the buff and brash Chargin' Chuck, I kind of got the sense I was... a lot better than my fellow rookies. Considering one of them was an actual ghost, another stood at half my size, and the other was a hulking behemoth who could barely bring his arms together to grab his club, I wondered if being a human was proving to be a bit of an unfair advantage. Back home, when Mama Toad let me know I was actually adopted, she told me I'd grow up a bit different than my friends at school, but I never realized it'd manifest on the links.
The tournament was on, and winning meant another step closer to seeing my face in that shiny silver trophy. With my friends and fans watching at the course, I sank another birdie putt and rushed over to see the scorecard. Through seven holes, I stood at a -6, having pulled a birdie at each hole besides the tricky third. The next best score was... 0 from Chargin' Chuck of all people. Peeking at the bottom of the list, I saw scores of +10 and above. Hell. In our first tournament, we were matched up with a tour pro, Donkey Kong — and even he stood somewhere around +3. Was I headed to the top of the charts sooner than expected?
If you've even played ONE other golf game with meter-based gameplay, Mario Golf: Super Rush's story is pretty easy to start. It walks you through the minutiae of the gameplay systems in a way I appreciated, and offers some genuine training opportunities through engaging minigames, but there's nothing in the early going I would classify as difficult.
Between each day I experienced in the world — the first spent training and the second being the tournament — I was able to wander around and talk to the various Koopas and Goombas who worked at this particular golf course. These interactions don't amount to much, giving you the classic filler NPC dialogue you could expect from old school RPGs. It's nice to see a little life on the resort, but something beyond a "Can't wait to see you hit the course!" would be nice.
Another noteworthy element is one of Super Rush's unique new features, timed courses, where golfers all play simultaneously and sprint after their ball with each stroke. It makes the fairly passive game of golf a little more chaotic, injecting it with a hint of adrenaline the sport is sometimes lacking. When you run after your ball, you are able to dash past opponents and even use a special dash to knock them out of the way. These mechanics are more suited for the Battle Golf and Speed Golf modes that haven't yet shown up in the story mode, but are still a welcome addition to keep the core golf game engaging.
Also, how funny is it that Nintendo has fully brought Miis back into the fold, with games like Miitopia and Smash making them relevant again in the Switch era.
When it was all said and done, I stood alone on the podium with a respectable -11. I'd only been here for a few days and already I stood proudly as champion against my fellow rookies and even a pro! Winning the tournament meant that my Steel Badge upgraded to Chrome and I could officially head over to Rockridge Lake and attempt to qualify for Bronze.
I rushed home to call Mama Toad. Her excitement and pride put a lump in my throat and it took all of my willpower to swallow back joyful tears in front of my new pals.
My journey was only beginning... but I had a feeling it would be an unforgettable one.
Mario Golf: Super Rush has its hooks in me already. The more active elements here are way more interesting than I expected. Running and jumping along a course's greens while trying to outpace your opponents adds a level of stress to the golfing experience I didn't know I wanted.
My only real hope is that the game's story introduces SOME amount of challenge as it progresses, because finishing ten strokes over even the second place finisher isn't all that fun. But if the story mode only amounts to a fun way to train up on my golfing skills in between competitions with Deputy Editor Julie, I'll still take it.
The sports RPG is back and I hope it's here to stay. Give me Mario Sluggers on Switch with a single-player RPG story where you recruit a ragtag team of baseball players to eventually take on Mario and crew. Do it and I'll be happy, Nintendo. While I wait, I'll dominate a few more rounds at Rockridge Lake, ensuring my overall dominance as TOP GOLF ROOKIE.