Overall Rating: 4/5
Mario has starred or appeared in hundreds of games for Nintendo. Although he was a superheroic character perfectly capable of supporting his own entirely original worlds, storylines, and games, he also put together a supporting cast that was able to inject their unique brand of fun into already-established pastimes such as tennis, board games, and especially kart racing.
Once upon a time, for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Mario and crew took a shot at golf with the engaging NES Open. But did it deliver fun on an awesome Mario level, or a disappointing just-another-golf-game sort?
The still shots of the characters were colorful, recognizable, and well-defined. When you watched Luigi tee off, it truly did look like the Mario Brothers had taken some lessons on the links. Also, when compared to other entrants to the golf genre such as the aptly named Golf, NES Open truly shined and flexed the muscles of name-brand development strength behind it. The courses made it clear what was a hazard and what was out of bounds, the ball sailed in convincing fashion, and the occasional skips across the water caused the heart to skip as well. Although golf-course overviews tend not to tax a system’s graphics, this game did add an innovative up-close look at the ball whenever it landed in a sand trap or on the putting green, offering a more stylized look at your shot’s result.
The various blips and bloops as you navigated the menus could actually have been approved: The high-pitched bong when you are selecting clubs is wince-worthy, and the music is forgettable. The highlight of the game’s sound is the overachieving fanfare of victories and contests; otherwise, nothing wonderful at hand.
NES Open offered some truly brilliant twists on the golf-game idea. One was that, during tournaments, once per round at random would appear a longest drive contest and a closest to the pin contest. On those particular holes, if you won (by either hitting the longest tee shot or landing your first shot closest to the flag) the contest, you won extra prize money. Also, one truly amazing feature is the capacity to name a player’s 30 computer competitors. This may seem minor, but it truly enriched the experience to be able to name opponents after friends, relatives, comic-book heroes, video game characters, and other creative ideas. Imagine the humor and thrill of checking a leaderboard where the top three places are held by Moses, Sean Connery, and Spider-Man. Such was the potential that NES Golf offered.
In addition, NES Open wisely operated on a save file that kept your records of prize money, tournament scores, which league you qualified for and, perhaps most fun of all, highlights of your best shots. This offered vast and expansive replay value, much more than similar sports simulations had for the NES. When you reached a million dollars in prize money, you got a special congratulations, marking an apex of the NES Open experience that could be repeated at every doubling of the total but just getting to a million was a fulfilling, fun experience for one player or two.
Overall, the game firmly earns four stars out of five as yet another example of how the classic Mario Brothers cast can inject new life into a stale genre.
For a look at other genres and Mario appearances on the 8-bit NES console, see NintendoLegend.com.