(N64 / Nintendo 64)

Mario Golf (N64 / Nintendo 64)

Game Review

Mario Golf Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Joel Couture

Serious Golf for Serious Plumbers

You could argue that the best part of many of the Mario sports titles is that they bring goofy, lighthearted aspects to those pastimes. Games like Super Mario Strikers and Mario Hoops: 3 on 3 all make dramatic changes to the sports they're portraying, capturing the attention of players who might not be interested in the sport alone. That being said, Mario Golf was effectively Mario's first foray into the world of professional sport - aside from Mario's Tennis on Virtual Boy - and is a much more sombre, serious take on the sport than many of his later games. Golf fans may find themselves enjoying the game's take on the sport, but anyone looking for Mario's unique brand of sports fun might not find much to get excited over.

Mario Golf 64 is a straight-faced golfing affair despite playing the game with gorillas, turtles, and dinosaurs. The game offers players a series of varied holes to play through, each filled with trees, bunkers, water hazards, and other problems you'd see in a real-world course. It makes the courses easy to learn as they can really only have a mixture of these hazards (along with hills and valleys), and you'll soon know what to take into account as you play. Still, this being a Mario game, it would have been nice to see some nods to the Mushroom Kingdom in the terrain. The game does have hills with eyes and the occasional bob-omb sitting outside the course, but otherwise the land is all quite normal.

If you want to sink that shot, you'll need to choose the correct club, which the game is a big help with. If you have no idea what each club is for the game breaks them down in terms of distance, often offering you a good club depending on your distance to the hole. It's not always perfect, but luckily it tells you the exact distance to the hole, helping you choose the best club for the situation. It also indicates wind direction and inclines with easy-to-digest visuals, making the decision as smooth as possible when you line up your shot.

Knowing what you're supposed to do is one thing; doing it is another. Each character has a certain curve they put on their ball that you'll need to take into account, creating an added level of strategy when you're going for those long shots. You'll also have to navigate the game's power bar to hit the ball correctly. A bar appears once you take your shot, filling steadily. The further the bar goes, the more power you put into your shot. After you've set your power the bar starts rolling back, and you'll have to hit the button again just as the bar reaches its starting point. Do this right and your shot will go where you want. Miss, even by a little, and it adds a little unpredictable curve to things; you can also attempt a Power shot - one of the rare concessions to wackiness - if you're feeling bold. It takes some time to get used to, but even if you mess up it's not usually too bad. It just adds a little margin for error to keep things interesting.

That being said, the computer doesn't screw up too often. The AI is hard to beat unless you've put in a good few hours, which is a drag as you don't start off with many playable characters and can only earn more by beating the AI in a character-unlocking mode. Expect the same kind of vicious play you'd see in Mario Party or 150cc Mario Kart, where the computer cheats so blatantly that it's hard not to want to smash your GamePad into tiny pieces. It is do-able, but again you'll want to be quite familiar with the game's mechanics before you try to unlock other characters.

Even as you fail, though, you gain experience. Experience is gained by playing any of the game's modes through to completion, although you get far more for winning than losing. Experience translates to new courses, so if you get sick of the main offerings you'll need to play more to unlock new places. It's nice that you can gain something even when you fail, although progress will be very, very slow at first. This does ensure that there are going to be new things to unlock for some time as you play, but it can be a drag that your rewards come at a glacial pace.

It'll take a bit to work through the game's various modes. There is regular tournament play, a mode where you can bet on certain aspects of your game (driving distance, strokes, etc…), the character unlock mode, and mini-golf, depending on what you want to do. They're mainly minor deviations, but they provide enough new requirements that they help the game stay fresh as you work on your skills. If any one mode gets too frustrating, at least there are others to play through.

These things all make for a solid, challenging golf game, but as a Mario sports title it can potentially be underwhelming. The various characters from the Mario universe add nothing to the gameplay, basically adding skins, sound effects and a few visual quirks. Even as far back as Mario Kart, bringing Mario into another sport or genre meant bringing along interesting aspects that made the game feel unique. Items, attacks, abilities and more would make the gameplay feel like more than just driving, playing soccer, or hitting the ball in tennis. The unique, fun quirks that Mario brings to these games is often enough to get people with no interest in those sports to play them, but there is little of that charm or innovation here. It's golf, but with Mario. Well, if you can unlock him, that is.

Mario Golf 64 doesn't look too bad for a game from 1999. The visuals appear to have been cleaned up so that they look nice on a HD TV, with none of the blurriness you'd see from just hooking an N64 up to your flatscreen. It's still from the early polygon era, though, so don't expect too much, but it really doesn't look too bad considering its age. Jaggy Luigis aside, it's pretty nice.


Mario Golf 64 is a strong, challenging golf game for anyone looking to play a few holes although, beyond nostalgia, it seems like a strange choice. There are other, far more serious golf games out there now, and with the Mario characters failing to bring in any interesting gameplay mechanics it leaves the game sitting in limbo. Serious golf fans may be turned off by the silly characters, and Mario fans will be left disappointed that the characters don't add anything to the sport. This makes the game occupy a strange place where it doesn't fully fit with either audience, and while it plays well it may not be enough to endear it to any audience save for those who have fond memories of the original title. It's a good game, but lacking the magic to make it great.

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User Comments (31)



Hendesu said:

7? You got to be kidding me, Mario Golf 64 had original characters(Skins? How can you say that? Most characters look different from each other), the gameplay isn't that hard if you practice, and how can "Serious golf fans may be turned off by the silly characters." It's Mario, what you think? He's supposed to be silly and fun. Hardcore players still play his sports games,
Still, the game deserve a 8 at least.



PanurgeJr said:

Since the courses were redone for World Tour and Daisy isn't playable, I'll pass. But I do love the series as a whole.



Spoony_Tech said:

@NightmareEater I agree with you. This game easily deserves an 8 at least. The console Mario golf games are still better than the handheld to me. It seems like course design and game play were always a tad better in there. Too bad we never got a Wii and Wii U version.



XyVoX said:

This review is so wrong 7/10 PAHHH 8.5 minimum and if you've ever sessioned this then you'd truly know that a 7 isn't right.



RantingThespian said:

I actually really adore this game! I spent so many hours playing this game, and I still play it on the virtual console.



GLA said:

7 is still a good score. I'd say the review hits all the handicaps spot on, and ultimately it's still a recommendation. Definitely an instance where the N64 VC games need to be priced a lot lower.



Mario90125 said:

Strange how Mario is an unlockable character, despite being on the cover and his name on the title.



JaxonH said:

I still think Mario Golf World Tour is one of THE best games on 3DS. If this one's even half as good, I think it's worth picking up.



Aneira said:

7 is an insult. Mario Golf 64 is by far the best non-sim golf game ever made.



electrolite77 said:

This review has seriously underrated an excellent game. It's a very good iteration of Mario Golf/Everybody's Golf with tons of content and great balance. Hugely addictive and long-lasting.



BrizzoUK said:

@JaxonH Completely agree, feels like the definitive version of MG as well. Didn't appreciate the DLC being day one, yet I couldn't argue with the added content, think I've sunk about 130 hours into the game (which is a lot for me - I buy too many!), I've only played more of FE:A and AC:NL On 3DS.



SuperWiiU said:

I have the same thing with Mario Golf as I have with Mario Tennis, the older entries look enticing and are cheaper, but I'd rather get the new games(World Tour & Ultra Smash).



MussakkuLaden said:

I find nothing fundamentally wrong with a 7/10, though personally I'd give it a 8.5 or so. The fact that it's fairly realistic and the Mario characters barely affect the gameplay is just the point why I prefer it over most other Mario sports games, while the Mario designs on their own are already enough to make that game more fun than most truly "realistic" golf games - which, by the way, at the time when Mario Golf was released were still way more generic and sober than they are today. So Mario Golf did something for the genre.
From a technical perspective, while the graphics are very satisfying, I think the true strength of this particular installment is its soundtrack.



mid_55 said:

@JoelCouture Is there any word on an EU release for this? I loved this when it was new. I spent hours on end getting all 120 birdie badges, the music, characters and courses are great, and it just has an atmosphere somehow. One of my favourite N64 titles!



JJtheTexan said:

@joel_couture "That being said, Mario Golf was effectively Mario's first foray into the world of professional sport - aside from Mario's Tennis on Virtual Boy..."

What? It's not even Mario's first GOLF game. He starred in NES Open: Tournament Golf, and Golf for Game Boy, prior to Mario's Tennis.



mrchills said:

I love this game. Im not a golfer. But this could be one of my favorite games ever (and resident evil4). Im not writing articles for nintendolife hence, I dont care too much about the variations between yoshi and wario. To me, the game is perfect. The bottom line is that this game is so simple to play, just hit that button twice, but its SO hard to master, and near impossible to complete. On a side note, that would be awesome if nintendo put those four characters on that you could only have gotten from the gameboy.



Seacliff said:

I can understand this score. I love the Mario golf series, but the gamecube version improved this one mechanically in almost every way possible.

Of course, this one is nostalgic as hell with the soundtrack, polygons, and cheesy voice acting.



ericthecheese said:

I loved this game. Is it shameful to say that this ranks in my top three of most played games on my N64?



BestBuck15 said:

I'd rate this game 9/10 any day. The graphics are cute, no bad thing and underneath there is a hardcore golf game that is ultra playable. I love it.



link2thefuture83 said:

oh nintendo life...what has happened to you? only here could someone wish this awesome game to be more like 3on3 or strikers, two games, which come nowhere close to mario golf. hey a review is just an opinion, but damn some of the remarks in this one are hard to believe.



Hero-of-WiiU said:

This and Mario Tennis got some really good scores then. I have this on the Wii and its pretty good, I'd give it a 7 myself but I can see how others differ, I have just always been bad at this game and the other golf games, especially the putting.



JJtheTexan said:

Yes, but Nintendo later identified the golfer in the NES game as Ossan, which is Japanese for "old guy" or something like that. The golfer in the Game Boy version of Golf is clearly Mario.



cookypuss said:

I paid out £70 for the Japanese import of this when it came out. Played the hell out of it tho, definitely got my money's worth



OldBonesey said:

This game was based on the Hot Shots Golf engine correct? I first played hot shots on playstation, and have yet to find a golf game that plays as well as the ones based on that game play.

Also, I have said this before, but doesn't it feel like somehow if we can prove to Nintendo that we have an 90 N64 cartridge of the game in our closet, we get the eshop version for a discount? Just a thought:) Let's get that idea out there! Base it on original cartridge serial number registration I am ok with that!



giavin01 said:

I just purchase the game on WII U Eshop and it lagging bug time on my console. Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of Mario Golf 64, but in it's current state, it is almost unplayable.

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