Nintendo's Secret Strongest Genre? Golf

Nintendo's Secret Strongest Genre? Golf

The world loves Nintendo for Link, but the publisher is just as impressive when it comes to the links.

When you think of world-class sports games, you rarely think of Nintendo. Sure, they make some decent ones every now and then, but it's not exactly a trademark... right?

Well, actually, it kind of is. Nintendo has been making great golf software for 30 years, beginning with Golf for NES. Excellent depth and accessibility (so long as you know your 9-Iron from your wedge) elevated Golf among the mundane sports titles that glutted the system in its early days. The Game Boy port was the only entertaining sports game to appear in that system's first year of life. NES Open Golf — programmed in part by the late Satoru Iwata — was really the launchpad for Nintendo's golf domination, though. That game gave Mario a proper starring role (rather than simply a Mario-like duffer) and began the move toward more cartoon-style visuals underscored by grounded and meaningful game rules and physics.

WATCH: An anniversary tribute to Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour

Still, it wasn't until the end of the '90s that Nintendo found its winning combination for sports perfection: Golf and Camelot Software Planning. There's a certain irony in that, because Camelot got its start as an RPG developer working as an internal Sega division. How they ended up making sports games for Sega's main rival is one of gaming's great mysteries, but they did — and they brought along the golf expertise they had honed while creating Hot Shots Golf for Sony. Yes, at one point or another, Camelot has been in bed with every major first party except Microsoft. With the arrival of Mario Golf, Nintendo locked down a firm claim to golf greatness.

Camelot's most unique Mario Golf projects tend to show up on portables, where they integrate mechanics that call back to Camelot's heritage as an RPG maker. But for a pure golf experience, their console projects — such as Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, which launched 12 years ago today on GameCube — just can't be beaten. They offer near-simulation depth without the dull seriousness of more "legitimate" golf titles. With minigames, special challenges, and bonus modes galore in addition to the standard tournament modes, Mario Golf always aims to make golf interesting and accessible to those who don't particularly care for the sport. The competition often tries to pull off the reverse... but not always with total success. It's a surprisingly little niche for Nintendo to have carved for itself, but history bears out their success.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Related articles

Why Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island Was Fated to Be Overlooked Despite Its Brilliance

Yoshi's Island is a top-tier Super Mario game, but bad timing and bad advertising caused a lot of people to miss out the first time around.

Remember When…The Virtual Boy Introduced Shin Megami Tensei to the West

In 1995, a select few welcomed Jack Frost into the domain of Western mortals.

Remember When... Dragon Quest 9 Shocked the World?

Robust multiplayer options and a brief affair with action-based gameplay made Dragon Quest 9 the Shockmaster of the Dragon Quest series.

Why I'm Still Playing Gradius 35 Years After Its Original Release

On its 35th anniversary, the Vic Viper lives on.

You may also like

Creative Europe Says It Wasn't Aware of Prior Allegations Against Weather Factory Developer

EU video game agency "reserves the right to re-evaluate the situation," but no sign of a move to rescind grant money.

GDC 2021 Will Be a Physical-Virtual "Hybrid" Conference

The best of both worlds, hopefully.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater Remake Is Ditching the "Mute" Grab For a New Name

The game is looking to truly honor the legacy of a famous trick's creator.