For all of the sports that Mario has dabbled in, golf has arguably remained the most pivotal. Ever since NES Open Tournament Golf first released on Nintendo’s debut console way back in 1991, Mario and co. have repeatedly hit the links over the course of Nintendo’s hardware history, with golf being their most frequent sport of choice alongside tennis.
Following the release of Mario Golf: Advance Tour on the Game Boy Advance in 2004 however, it seems that the Mushroom Kingdom crew temporarily hung up their clubs. There were no new trips to the golf course on DS or Wii, and while the Golf minigame in Wii Sports did a surprisingly reliable job of filling the void in the meantime, it took a whole decade for a new Mario Golf game to finally materialize.
Now however, that long wait is finally over! Mario Golf: World Tour brings this beloved spin-off brand to the 3DS, packing in the largest array of challenges yet, a Mii-centric persistent single-player career in the Castle Club, and best of all, the series’ first online multiplayer suite, complete with live regional and worldwide tournaments! Whether you’re a greenhorn, a pro, or somewhere in between, Mario Golf: World Tour offers plenty of means to both push your skills, and improve your golf game at a fundamental level.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the Mario Golf series has never been better than it is here either! Developer, Camelot has brought together the best elements of their familiar Mario Golf formula in this new 3DS offering, producing a rewarding and addictive experience that’s only slightly let down by a few sloppy, cumbersome elements in the design.
Fortunately, when you consider the entire package and what it has to offer, these issues are easy to overlook, especially once you settle in. Thus, if you’re interested in a great golf game for your 3DS/2DS, regardless of your pedigree in the sport, Mario Golf: World Tour will have you quite satisfied, especially if you’re an established fan that’s waited ten long years for a new installment.
Mario Golf: World Tour looks absolutely incredible, immediately drawing you in with all sorts of visual polish. Whether you’re playing on one of the more grounded golf course designs, or one of the more abstract, Mario-style challenge courses, the game consistently looks incredible, and effortlessly draws you into unwinding on the links.
Helpful visual prompts and colourful, encouraging declarations help to continually give Mario Golf: World Tour a friendly, cartoon-y vibe as well. There’s a ton of visual character in the game that really makes it leap off of the screen, even if you’re playing on a 2DS, or have switched off the 3D Slider.
If you do opt to crank up the 3D on a 3DS model however, the potent 3D effects all the more immerse you in the experience to an astonishing degree. In fact, Mario Golf: World Tour stands as one of the most stunningly engrossing 3DS games to date when played on a 3DS XL in particular, where the enlarged screen, more detailed resolution and extra potent 3D make each course feel incredibly large and lifelike, even if you’re golfing on a high mountain or underwater! The 3D effects even genuinely improve your game, helping you better gauge distance, wind speed and other environmental factors thanks to the heightened immersion of the 3D, which sadly puts 2DS users at a slight disadvantage when it comes to planning their shots.
Regardless of who you’re playing as, the characters are also remarkably expressive, which adds a lot of personality to what’s otherwise a pretty slow-paced sport. Players will no doubt smile watching their character celebrate to a display of flash and fireworks that comes with every Birdie, just like it’s tough not to mirror the amusingly tragic disappointment on your character’s face with varying degrees of Bogey’s, or perhaps giving up on a hole entirely. Either way, the highly detailed character graphics and animations are superb, especially for a handheld game!
The visuals take a bit of a hit outside of the courses naturally, with the free-roaming Castle Club area still looking solid, but noticeably more modest. As much as the Castle Club feels lively in its architecture and wealth of characters wandering around that give you amusing dialogue and helpful tips when you have your Mii speak to them, it can also be a bit confusing to navigate as well. You’ll get the hang of it before long, but the area really could have used more user-friendly and distinct means of helping players find their way to the shops and the different courses scattered throughout the club.
For the most part however, Mario Golf: World Tour is not wanting for the expected visual polish that comes with any Mario game. Camelot has injected more personality than ever into every element of the graphics, and that will keep players glued to the experience in a way that the series’ previous offerings never could, especially if they can exploit the 3D capabilities.
There isn’t much to say about the soundtrack of Mario Golf: World Tour, which is predictably unintrusive and mellow. A triumphant main piano theme greets players upon starting the game, though almost every other music track consists of gentle, methodical beats that are no doubt designed so as to enhance a player’s concentration. The only exceptions are the playful jazz and percussion that play as you complete each hole, nicely complementing your character’s reflection of how well you did.
Even if the music is low-key however, there’s clearly been tons of effort put into polishing the actual sound effects. The whomp and sailing of each ball you hit feels incredibly satisfying to listen to, and the bouncing and rolling along various types of terrain is captured with perfect precision as well. Even in the more off-the-wall cartoon-style courses, the golfing itself always feels incredibly real in how it sounds, and this helps to invest players in the game all the more effectively.
With that said however, the familiar cheer of the Mario personalities is still intact. Each character has a variety of voice clips for when they play well or play poorly, and as usual, players are bound to have favourite personalities, whether it be the adorable Princess Peach, the gloating Wario, or, naturally, the ever-optimistic Mario himself.
As with the visuals, there’s just the right mix between personality and authenticity throughout the audio of Mario Golf: World Tour, which easily combines the best elements of the real-life sport with the everlasting charm of the Mushroom Kingdom.
All you need to approach Mario Golf: World Tour is some level of interest in golf. That’s it. It could be pro golf skills, or it could be just wanting to learn more about the sport. Regardless, Mario Golf: World Tour has you covered.
In fact, the most impressive element in what’s already a very large and ambitious portable sports game is how well it accommodates any variety of player. There’s plenty of unlockable rewards and challenges to keep serious golf enthusiasts busy, though if you’re a more casual or even wholly uninitiated golfer that would rather enjoy a more relaxed experience without the pressure, you can do that as well. Mario Golf: World Tour is exactly the kind of golf game you want it to be, and that’s a great thing!
It’s true though that there may be a bit of added appeal for more casual players. Mario Golf: World Tour doesn’t aim to be a stark realistic capturing of the sport by any stretch obviously, and the arcade-style golf play does lend itself especially well to casual golfers who would rather just unwind with a loose play experience.
On this note, golfing neophytes have numerous means with which to learn more about the sport, and improve their fundamental play style. Toad’s caddy booth is loaded with in-depth tutorials that help players aim and execute shots, assess environmental factors, improve their ability to deal with tricky terrain, understand the uses and values of different varieties of clubs, and more. There’s even a very large glossary that gives simple, concise explanations of even obscure golf terms. Despite its cartoon-y presentation of the sport, Mario Golf: World Tour is nonetheless an excellent teaching tool when it comes to learning and understanding how to play golf, even in the real world!
If you’re willing to put in the time, even people who have never picked up a golf video game and/or golf club in their life will soon feel right at home, effectively assessing shots and reducing their play handicaps with aplomb. Mario Golf: World Tour even gives players the choice as to whether they wish to use a simplified control scheme that just utilizes simple, timed taps of the A Button, or a more advanced control scheme that lets players better control draws, fades, spins and other club trickery, which allows more seasoned golf players exceptional control and flexibility over dictating the perfect shot. This control customization makes gameplay exceptionally inviting for all walks of golfers!
While you can play one-off practice rounds and participate in simple Versus matches against up to three other friends using local wireless play, most of Mario Golf: World Tour will no doubt be spent in one of two areas; Castle Club and online tournaments.
Castle Club is Mario Golf: World Tour’s RPG-style single-player Career Mode, essentially. You’re limited to playing as your Mii in this mode, though you have some degree of control over your Mii’s stats, thanks to the ability to earn Coins to spend on different outfits and golfing equipment. It’s a shame that many of these changes are mainly cosmetic, though there is some difference in your Mii’s playing ability, should you outfit them with expensive and well-earned gear.
Castle Club allows players’ Mii’s to freely wander about, interacting with other characters for anecdotes and golf tips, studying up on the game with Toad’s glossary and tutorials, and most of all, perfecting their skills on Mario Golf: World Tour’s main three play courses; The Forest Course, Seaside Course and Mountain Course. The Forest Course is a nice, relaxed way to learn the fundamentals of the game with minimal hazards and wind, though the Seaside Course kicks things up a notch with increased wind and water hazards that can tally up plenty of stroke penalties. The Mountain Course meanwhile really puts players to the test with all manner of hostile terrain, and is arguably the most tricky of the three courses, demanding the most player skill to perform well.
These more grounded courses are a far cry from the eccentric and especially memorable challenges that come with the specialized theme courses in Challenge Mode however. Challenge Mode tasks players with using limited amounts of strokes to collect Star Coins, hit the ball through rings, and perform other trying tasks that will really put their golfing abilities to the test. The rewards from Challenge Mode are frequent and compelling, including costumes, unlockable characters, unlockable courses and more, though they present the stiffest obstacles that Mario Golf: World Tour has to offer, and are best only attempted by highly experienced players for the most part.
Fortunately, Castle Club presents a nice and rewarding way to keep mastering your game. It would have been nice if this play mode was a bit easier to navigate to start though, and wasn’t oddly separated from the other play modes in the game. This is perhaps the biggest way that Mario Golf: World Tour’s design infrastructure feels occasionally sloppy. Still, at least players will get a sense of being adequately rewarded and recognized for their efforts in Castle Club, without the distractions of shot-altering novelty items and bizarre environmental alterations that make or break one’s game in many of the other play modes.
As satisfying as it is to conquer Mario Golf: World Tour’s more kooky challenges however, for many players, one of the game’s biggest draws to improve will be the continually cycling regional and worldwide online SpotPass tournaments. How these work is, various communities, namely Nintendo themselves, host player tournaments at regional or worldwide levels. These can include standard 18-hole sessions, speed-based golf, stroke-based golf, and a few other variations. If you’re interested in playing online, it won’t be hard to participate in the kind of online golf challenge you prefer, which is great.
Also great is the fact that players play independently during tournaments, rather than in a group of other players. This means that players can keep playing and replaying a tournament to keep trying to get the best possible score before the tournament closes and the online leaderboard is finalized, and also prevents tournament games from being disturbed by rage-quitters and other such unsavoury online folks.
Most importantly, it allows even people playing online to just relax and enjoy the game, whether just to have fun, or seriously test their skills against other players in their region or across the world. That’s an incredible rarity in what’s otherwise a highly competitive and disappointingly hostile method of playing video games in the present day. It’s just one of many ways that Mario Golf: World Tour’s robust online multiplayer suite feels wonderfully set up, and refreshingly inviting to players of all skill levels, particularly in contrast to most other online-capable sports games.
If you prefer, you can even just play long-distance online matches with up to three other people, selecting whether they’re private and limited to people on your 3DS Friends List, or open to any random player to join, with the host setting rules and play style. You can even dictate the player count if you wish. For those who want to play online without the pressure of a leaderboard, this is another welcome option, with online games working smoothly and being a joy to experience, even with a full group of four players in a session.
The sheer amount of online and offline content in Mario Golf: World Tour is amazing, particularly considering that it’s a handheld game. Castle Club has a few messy design elements, and mastering the use of the power-up shot items in the other modes is a bit touch-and-go, granted, but this is still a very finely-crafted arcade-style golf experience. It’s remarkably accessible and educational for even the most uninitiated golfer, but still has the potential to be incredibly challenging and consistently replayable for hardened pros as well.
Mario Golf: World Tour was worth the wait. It’s a great game of golf no matter what kind of golfer you are, or how skilled you are. Even putting aside the conventions of the sport, it’s an addictive and rewarding 3DS game on its own merits, one that continually presents incentive to replay and master it for those who fancy themselves some time on the course.
Obviously, at least some interest in golf is necessary to get anything out of the experience here, naturally. As far as portable golf games go however, this is one of the most extensive and impressive offerings to come along in quite a while, let alone the best Mario Golf game yet. It pretty easily stands as the best golf game that the 3DS library has to offer in general at this point as well.
So, regardless of your reasons to want to tee off, whether to practice, compete, relax, have fun alone or with friends, or simply savour your love of golf, Mario Golf: World Tour presents the best way to hit the links on your 3DS/2DS.
It’s great to see that the first sport that Mario and co. ever mastered is still the sport that they’re arguably best at offering!
- Wealth of content
- Superb online play
- Gorgeous production value
- Castle Club is messy
- Power-ups poorly explained