Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Top 10 Best Mini Golf Games

The first mention of modern miniature golf was in The Illustrated London News (June 8th, 1912) where it was referred to as Gofstacle: at once transforming Golf from a sport of mild privilege overrun by leaden headed pragmatists to a preposterous world of fantasy that requires only one club, numerous windmills, dinosaurs and barely an acre of space. If you ask me it was a huge improvement (like adding milk to tea) and the onerous slog that was once golf lost it's pretensions and became laugh-a-minute fun. In this digital age mini golf games abound, having transformed the venerable sport yet again (requiring even less space, patience and skill) and appearing in crude form on some of the earliest Pong hybrid consoles. They've always been a favourite genre amongst tea-break gamers but a select few have rightfully been elevated to classics. This list is my personal ranking in order of pedigree from Pebble Beach to the exalted shores of the Royal and Ancient. I've played many but this is by no means a comprehensive list and should act only as encouragement to other digital mini golfers to venture forth and find their favourite front nine.


10: Putt & Putter - SEGA Gamegear / SEGA Master System

Putt & Putter. Three little words. "You can't even say them you emotionally stunted bastard." However, one additional word beginning with P would make its description complete. 'Pinball'. Yes! Bumpers, switches, warp zones and other pinball contrivances are located creatively throughout the game. It's interesting to note that pinball is one of the most common digital mini golf themes: appearing to various extents in many games. Offering reasonable depth, a satisfying difficulty curve and an intuitive control system - this is mini golf game polished to a sheen. P&P was released for Game Gear in 1991 and again for Master System in 1992. Despite getting a lukewarm reception upon release both versions are respectively the best mini golf experiences on these systems and hold-up well today.

One from each nostril.

9: Mario Golf - Nintendo 64

Everyone knows Mario Golf 64 is a bona fide classic, with courses so phantasmagorical as to qualify as crazy, but less appreciated is its built-in mini golf simulator. It utilised a somewhat unimaginative alpha-numeric course design that presents a serious putting simulator with added edutainment value. Despite the perfunctory course design the putting system in Mario Golf is so well implemented that gameplay in these simplistic courses is greatly amplified: making for some truly rewarding multiplayer battles. The courses can also be set to fast or slow greens which is a nice touch. Overall a great game for honing your putting skills whilst mastering the alphabet.

Now I know my ABC's.

YouTube playthrough of the front 9.
Learn to count with Sesame Street.
Download from Emuparadise.

8: Wonderputt - iOS / Web

Wonderputt presents a beautifully compact golfing universe: containing everything from ancient megaliths and giant squid to submarines and space ships. The entire history of mankind played-out by means of mini golf. Thematically this is a tour-de-force: the BBC Civilisation of mini-golf games if you will. Play is solid and rewarding but slightly restricted by the compactness of the golfing domain. Nevertheless few golf games offer the variety, polish and constant thrill of discovery as Wonderputt.

That lily could not support the bulk of Ian Woosnam.

7: Gopher Golf - Apple II

Every golfers nemesis, the gopher, makes his unwanted presence felt in this shareware classic from 1989. The ingenious groundsman has decided to forsake golf with its immaculate lawns and opt for mini golf - perverting the gophers dark intentions - making his former hazards a desirable obstacle. I would like to believe this game was loosely based on the film Caddyshack. First released for the Apple II, Gopher Golf is a true pioneer of the genre. A perfectly realised simulator with many classic mini golf features and the added zest of a level editor. It seems poetically satisfying that golfer and gopher are such similar words. Gofer Golph anyone?

Bill Murray confronts a gopher.

Download from Macintosh Garden.
Watch the Best of Caddyshack!
Bob Mancarella's followup game Goofy Golf Deluxe.

6: O.B. Club - SNES Sattelaview

A richly detailed, competitive mini golf experience with a profusion of characters, course designs and gameplay not typical of the genre. The twist here is a croquet like ability to thwack your opponents ball out of bounds (OB) by bumping into it. OB Club was only available in Japan on the SNES through its Sattelaview broadcast service and as such was mired in obscurity for many moons. Thanks to the modern emulation scene this game is now playable and eminently worth your time.

Playing cautiously from out behind the emmental she spots a weener.

Passionate review from RVGFanatic.
Satellablog a resource for everything Satellaview.
Play English patched version online.

5: Kirby's Dream Course - SNES

Everyone's most loved / detested pink globular hoover is back to drizzle joy and star dust on the sad face of golf. With a rare whimsy in his eye Kirby invites you to his Dream Course - golf re-imagined by a marshmallow. Not surprisingly it's a vast improvement and here Kirby gallantly plays the role of the ball himself: propelling his bulk around strange daemon infested landscapes: there are even boss fights. Imaginatively designed and offering a welcome change of pace for jaded mini putters this is a deep and enjoyable offering from that loathsome puff.

If you were a blob would you play golf with yourself?

A potted history of Kirby games.
Download from Edge Emulation.
A remarkably bogus psychological evaluation of the colour pink.

4: Will Harvey's Zany Golf - Amiga / SEGA Mega Drive / Atari ST / DOS / Apple II

When crazy just isn't crazy enough it's time to go 'next level'. Hence, Zany Golf. The first hole starts out mundanely enough with the tried and tested windmill. Little does the player realise what's in store: an exponential curve of madness. Zany rating is officially reached by hole two which features a hovering burger that must be kept aloft by rapid mouse clicks. Further on we discover faeries, magic carpets and the logical conclusion of the pinball trope: until we reach the final outrageous level that seems more like Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday than a typical afternoons golf. There are many versions; with the Mega Drive offering the most polish but sadly lacking the secret hole and mouse control. The Amiga version offers a decent mix of graphics and control mechanism but the Apple II version just seems to have that certain je ne sais quoi. The Will Harvey in question also ported Marble Madness to the Megadrive and designed the excellent Music Construction Set for EA.

Simply touch the fairy then approach the burger.

3: Hole In One Miniature Golf - DOS / Amiga

If the last game was zany where is there left to go? I'll tell you. Directly into worlds of total physical and thematic abstraction. Ever played golf on the event horizon of a black hole? Ever played golf through the legs of majorettes under the shadow of a colossal floating mouse? Ever sunk a ball by smashing it off a cat's jaw? Some may see these levels as crude and the ball physics as primitive but where this game shines is in its total disregard for all tablets of stone. Gone are the primitive tropes of mini golf and even the laws of physics and in their place a bizarro realm where sometimes the only thing reminding you of golf is your checkered trousers.

Treasure of the Sierra Madre meets Mini Golf.

2: Minigolf Maniacs - Windows XP

What happens when you have played a hundred mini golf games and still want more? Well you should probably play this. A mini golf masterpiece salvaged from the scrap heap by a coterie of die-hard enthusiasts. When Sierra started going-under this was one of the first projects to be canned, but fortunately they'd already done enough to allow modders to complete the developers intended vision. And what was their vision? Well more mini golf than you could shake a stick at, all lovingly rendered in 3D, and played by a pack of wild animals. With a variety of level design, modes of play and sheer amount of content that elevates it far above the pack.

A canine on a dogleg.

1: Fuzzy's World of Miniature Space Golf - DOS

Fuzzy's World of Miniature Space Golf excels on every level. Of course reinterpreting any sport in a sci-fi context is a recipe for improvement but Fuzzy's exceeds all expectations. The marriage of sci-fi trappings such as laser beams, hover boards, teleportation and meteor strikes with mini golf is so natural you would think the game had originated in the 23rd century. Not forcibly supposited with gimmicky features like so many lesser games. The course design is elegant with just the right obstacle to clutter ratio and the potential for creative stroke play is enormous. The music is a perfect blend of screwball chip-tunes and atmospheric space melodies. Every hole is satisfying. Fuzzy's is not only the greatest mini golf game but a contender for the best alternative sports game of all time: ranking comfortably alongside Shufflepuck Cafe.

These days, the title says it all.


Well, it's been quite a journey. It's amazing how many artistic styles, locations, traps and obstacles are represented in the world of digital mini golf: at times transforming that most tedious of sports into something unrecognisable. Now all that remains is to severe all remaining links with golf; get rid of that last club (perhaps replace it with a gun), replace the ball with a bullet, ignore the stupid hole in the ground and aim for a monster. Could DOOM be the greatest mini golf game of all time? Have we all been playing mini golf our whole lives and not realised it? It's a mind bending twist worthy of the worst Twilight Zone episode never made. And with that I'll see you at the 19th hole, adieu!

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