Game Review

NES Open Tournament Golf Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Retro golf gaming at its finest

While the eShop already has Golf for the Game Boy available, anyone who purchased that game may now start to wish they had saved their money. NES Open Tournament Golf is a superior experience in every way. Perhaps not substantially so, but it's certainly a more rewarding way to spend a day on the links.

NES Open Tournament Golf features some familiar faces from the Mushroom Kingdom, but don't let their appearances here fool you: this is not a Mario sports game. It doesn't shake up the traditional formula, it doesn't introduce power-ups and exotic locations and — perhaps most importantly — it's not interested in courting gamers who aren't already fans of the sport. Toad may pop up to let you know that you've gone out of bounds, and Peach may cheer you on from the sidelines, but aside from that it's a straight game of golf.

It's also a very good game of golf. The controls can take some getting used to, as you'll need to time your button presses pretty precisely in order to hit the ball in exactly the way you'd like to, but it doesn't take long to master them. Once you do, you'll be stroking your way through three courses of 18 holes each, with a variety of different game modes to enjoy along the way.

In Stroke Play you will be golfing alone, attempting to earn the lowest score possible, thereby increasing your rank which is displayed on the game's title screen. Match Play sees you competing against either the CPU or a second player, taking it in turns to play. Yes, unlike the Golf on Game Boy, the two-player mode here is fully intact, and that makes for a nice selling point.

Tournament Mode is perhaps the most fun, however, as it has you competing against a multitude of CPUs (off-camera, sadly) for some prize money. Play through the course, see how you rank and collect your winnings... it's all worth it for the sight of Mario depositing his cash with a visor-wearing Donkey Kong.

The game also features some nice additional touches, such as allowing you to enter your own name instead of using Mario's, selecting your own clubs to take with you, and allowing you to practise any hole on any course, including the ability to change the wind direction and speed as player two. The single most welcome feature, however, is the automatic recording of your best performances. By visiting the clubhouse you can choose to watch replays of your most recent under-par holes, and that's a fantastic touch.

In terms of presentation, the game looks great. The animations are smooth and the music — when there is music — is bouncy and enjoyable. The colours are crisp and the graphics are clean.

There is, however, the issue of the game's small amount of content. Once you've played through all three courses, you've literally seen everything NES Open Tournament Golf has to offer. Of course replayability is built into golf as a sport, but if you're not interested in experiencing the same digital holes over and over again, there might not be much to keep you coming back.

The ranking system and prize money both go a long way toward encouraging repeat play, but that's not likely to be enough for everybody, and it's worth taking into account before you make your purchase.


If you're not already a golf fan, don't expect the sparse appearances of Mushroom Kingdom denizens to win you over. NES Open Tournament Golf takes a pretty straight approach to its subject matter. It's an approach that works, though, and there are some wonderful touches that helped it to stand out from its contemporaries. Your mileage with this title will be decided entirely upon your interest in the sport, but that's not always a bad thing.

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User Comments (56)



Alienfish said:

I can't for the life of me understand why they tried making sports games for such limited systems. I'm a 3DS ambassador so I have at least tried this game and it's probably about as good as it gets for what was possible on the NES, which isn't saying much. It might be worth a dollar, but I wouldn't pay anything more for it.



KaiserGX said:

And why as hell not? It works. What are you looking for in a sports game? How's this then.




Shotgunryugan said:

I'm skipping this game,i was never a big fan of golf,it bores me to be honest,it's definitely one of my least favorite sports.
Although i did find Wii Sport's Golf pretty fun



Chris720 said:

This is the one and only review of yours I can't agree with.

This game is just nasty!



Bass_X0 said:

I can't for the life of me understand why they tried making sports games for such limited systems.

Because thats all they had at the time. Even 16-bit and 32-bit consoles are limited compared to sports games of today. Should they never have bothered making sports games for those either?



pixelman said:

Silly noobs, you shouldn't diss a game if you won't even bother to figure out how to play it.



Hokori said:

Back in sept. they gave us this for free and a week later they released the GB golf on eShop, why do that?



Bass_X0 said:

Because not everyone is an Ambassador? Because many games will be released at some point or other even if there are already better versions of the genre?



bezerker99 said:

Dang phone! back in the da back in the day I've played this a lot before getting on to the school bus



photofool83 said:

Seriously, I thought this game was crap at first, too. Then I read the instruction manual and tried playing it again. It actually plays really well and you have a lot of control over the ball. I'm actually having a lot of fun with this game now. Thanks Nintendo, from an ambassador.



KaiserGX said:

I don't see how the controls are different to like say Mario Golf on the 64... unless I forgot how that plays. Haven't played it in awhile.



SKTTR said:

I always thought this is the best version of golf on the NES. Don't you people mistake this game, NES Open Tournament Golf (Nintendo, NES, 1991) with Golf (Nintendo, NES, 1984) or another game? And if you have played a better golf game on the NES - I know there were quite a few golf games on the system - do you remember its name?



hYdeks said:

Huh, the gameplay looks ALOT like Hot Shots Golf....which was made by Camelot...which later made the Mario Golf games....sooo, is Mario Golf like a unofficial sequel? hmm....wonder..

Game looks awesome though, and did alot of things right for a golf game from back in 1991!!!! Definitely thinking of getting this.



Philip_J_Reed said:

In honesty, I almost deleted this as an Ambassador as well. It was only recently, knowing this was hitting the shop and would need a proper review, that I spent much time with it...and I'm glad I did. There's a learning curve, certainly, but it's a far better game than it seemed to me at first glance. For those who have it already, give it another whirl!



KaiserGX said:

Press A once. press it again at the end of the bar... press A one last time... What's so hard about that?



TruenoGT said:

While simple, I think this game is fun in small bursts and works well as a portable game. If you're looking for another good vintage golf game, I'd recommend Neo Turf Masters for Neo Geo (also available on VC, although for the Wii). The presentation in that game is awesome.



ajcismo said:

Good review, pretty dead-on. Not the best golf sim in the world, but for 1991 probably the high point of 8-bit links. Especially before the Golden Tee's and Tiger Woods sims really kicked it up a notch later in the decade.
That picture of the old Atari Golf really makes me appreciate where we are in terms of golf games on any system.



pixelman said:

I think my favorite version of golf is the one in Wii Sports Resort. It has a nice relaxing feel to it, and the controls are awesome. I've never really been a fan of the Tiger Woods games though.



the_shpydar said:

@TJ I'm sorry, but if you can't figure out how to hit the ball, the problem is with you, not the game. Seriously.

As far as 8-bit golf games go, this is defintiely towards the top of the pack.



Gridatttack said:

This golf game is awesome. I remember playing it for hours. Same with the other normal Golf game.
Its so good, some people cant grasp its awesomeness



Rebel81 said:

This game sucks, after an hour of missing the ball I quite trying. Just do yourself a favour and download Neo Turf Masters for Wii VC if you want retro golf.



bezerker99 said:

This game is seriously lots of fun! Played it beaucoup times before hoppin' on the school bus and a youth.



sinalefa said:

I got this game as an Ambassador, and it was the NES game I spent the most time with. I never played it in the original system, so it was a nice surprise.

At first you will have problems hitting the ball, but if you persevere you will be able to progress. It seems that some gamers have severe ADD and they cannot play a game for more than 5 minutes or even bother to look up in google how to play it. Miss Birdo just summed up the whole thing in a single sentence.



iphys said:

I too couldn't hit the ball, even though I could in other retro golf games, so I assumed this game was just broken junk. Guess I'll go give this a second shot.



millarrp said:

I'm undecided on this one. I used to have it for the NES and I remember going back periodically and playing it.... Almost a shame they didn't make this a 3D Classic, I would pick it up for sure if they did



grumblegrumble said:

Great review! It looks like I may be in the minority here but as an older retro gamer, I absolutely LOVE this game, and I also love the original NES "Golf" which is available as a VC game (via Gameboy) in the e-shop. I have so many memories of both games that its hard to describe my love for it, but this game is, indeed, better than Golf, but both bring me great enjoyment. Thanks for giving it the high score that it deserves.



grumblegrumble said:

P.S. Back in the day, I think my Mom and Dad paid like $30-40 for that original NES Golf lol And I played the heck out of it. When I hear the sound that the ball makes when you put it ("mroooooooorph!") it makes me chuckle inside.



Gold_Ranger said:

I know HOW to hit the ball, it's just that when I do, it NEVER moves anywhere...
No matter the club I use.
I hate this game.
They should've given us something better during the Ambassador Release.
Like Mario 2.



BulbasaurusRex said:

It's surprising how many gamers these days don't know how to use 3 click golf controls. Before motions controls, practically every golf game used a 2 or 3 click system. Just hit A to start the meter, hit A again to lock in the power (usually you want it close to the first line from the left end of the meter to get max power without overswinging), and hit A a third time when the meter gets back to the starting point to lock in the accuracy.

When I tried this game as an Ambassador, I found the meter to move way too quickly on any difficulty to get any kind of consistent accuracy on my shots. However, if you can get past that, I was surprised at how much depth they managed to pack into this NES game. It's got nearly everything you could want in a golf game made a decade later, just in 8 bit graphics.



RetrogamerFan said:

Good review.

I'm surprised that people are calling this game unplayable/broken, it just takes a bit of practice. I have the original cart of this game, and my ambassador copy. The 3DS does make it tougher to start with because the meter gets seriously small on the 3DS's screen and the pointer moves very quickly even on low powered shots, but after a bit of practice you can control the shots with great accuracy. The other difficulty is the lack of feedback on the greens (although this is because of the original game design), it makes putting very difficult to learn at first.
After some practice the physics/ball movement are great and you can really get a feel for how the wind, terrain/lye, slice/hook, club choice etc. will affect your shot.

I also really like Gameboy Golf, the meter is so much easier to see (and moves slower), obviously because this is originally designed for a handheld. It's a nice change of pace and a bit easier than NES open golf, though still provides a decent challenge to get on to the leaderboard. It plays much more like the original NES golf. Again the physics and ball movement are very good and consistent. Main downside of GB golf, is almost no extra content over the 36 holes, and no multiplayer (yet...) but I think it's a decent cheaper option.



Thrillhaus said:

I'm not seeing the issue here - playing this is as easy as just about any other gold game. You start out by aiming, then select your club and where you are aiming to hit the ball and then you get taken to actual swing screen. You hit B once and watch the slider move to the left - trying to get it as close as possible to the left edge. Then on the way back you need to try to get it as close to the solid line that's just right of the center. The closer you get, the more your shot goes as aimed. Simple as that really - all golf games were like this for a very long time.

And this is the hands down, best golf game that the NES had at the time.



baba_944 said:

how do you hit the ball? I never knew playing NES games online was illegal when I was a kid so I played this game online. I can't hit the darn ball. So how do you hit it? I have a similar version on my Dad's SEGA GENESIS PGA Tour Golf II



TheGreenSpiny said:

@BulbasaurusRex: Well, thanks for the explanation. Much better than Birdo's up there, which means nothing to people who have never played a golf game outside of Wii Sports.

I'll give it another whirl, but I still think golf games are pointless without motion controls.



Scissors said:

Honestly I really wish this wasn't one of the ambassador games. I think alot of us would have been happier if they gave us Punch-Out instead.



Mordresh said:

Bought it recently, just love it. Surprisingly deep given the limited tools developers had at the time. Pure nostalgia too, was awesome at the time, is still awesome today.

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