Golf is often considered by its critics to be one of the more boring sports one can partake in - the stereotype of it being an activity reserved for older men in oddly coloured clothing is still alive and well. Nintendo, in its own way, strives to change this mindset with its own take on golfing that adds the world's most famous plumber into the mix. Mario Golf: World Tour, the 5th entry in Nintendo's golf series, brings a level of delight and excitement to golf that perhaps no other series outside of Hot Shots Golf has even attempted.
Since its introduction on the Nintendo 64, the Mario Golf franchise has thrived on an arsenal of arcade-themed golf, a mixture of fun power-ups, and recognizable Mario icons. But while Mario Golf: World Tour plays off this traditional formula in large part successfully, it does little to advance the series in any notable way.
Mario Golf managed to generate acclaim largely thanks to the ease of controls that Nintendo developed for the series. Swinging your club and hitting the ball requires just three simple presses of a button. This ease of swinging, combined with the ability to easily add a hook or slice to your shot, makes the game of golf more accessible to those with perhaps little-to-no experience of the real sport than ever before. Nintendo has long perfected this control scheme and formula, and while it is never wise to mess too much with perfection, it would have been nice if World Tour had attempted to refine and innovate the gameplay more than it actually does.
The blunt of World Tour's single player mode takes place in what is called Castle Club. This mode is available from the start of the game and is your standard tournament mode, with a total of three 18-hole courses where you'll put your arcade golfing skills to the test. After completing each of these courses, you're rewarded with a variety of unlockable items and additional courses.
In addition to the standard tournament mode with its 18-hole courses, there are also a series of bonus courses, which is where the game can take a more novel and exciting turn; it's both incredibly frustrating and enjoyable at the same time. There are six smaller 9-hole courses, each of which takes on a theme based on an element from the Mario series. But while these bit-sized levels are beautiful and well-designed, they can quickly get under your skin. For example, the underwater level has unbelievably inconsistent physics, and the Donkey Kong-inspired course features a barrage of obstacles that will haunt you and your ability to land a good shot off the tee. While these elements are creative, and add an element of crazy golf to proceedings, at times they feel a bit overdone.
Outside of the main courses, there are also plenty of additional modes that help beef up the value proposition of World Tour, such as the addicting 'Challenge Mode', which introduces gamers to a new set of rule parameters, such as time limits, coin collecting, and score requirements. Like the tournament mode, challenge mode will reward you with plenty of unlockables upon completion. The unlockable system as a whole makes it well worthwhile exploring every facet of the game.
If you get bored of playing by yourself, fear not, as World Tour offers a relatively deep multiplayer experience as well. The game can be played locally or online, and there are plenty of options, which allows for heavy match customization. Online play includes leaderboards and plenty of DLC, making it one of the deepest online experiences that Nintendo has ever offered.
On the whole, Mario Golf: World Tour is nothing short of a great entry in the series. If you are looking for the same precise and fine-tuned gameplay that has made Mario Golf so popular, then World Tour is a must play. While it does little to differentiate itself from past entries, World Tour boasts many hours of thoroughly enjoyable gameplay and offers plenty of additional DLC, making it a very content-packed 3DS title.
This review is based on a retail copy of Mario Golf: World Tour for the 3DS