Over the past three weeks, I’ve reviewed a total of 60 golf video games for 24 different systems. This Golfyssey has taken me all the way from the lowly Atari 2600 to the PC and beyond. I’ve played terrible games that barely resemble golf and only serve to frustrate, to realistic simulations that are so much fun I don’t want to put the controller down.
Before I started The Golfyssey, there were only a handful of these games that I played with any regularity. Out of coincidence, the one that I still consider to be the very best out of them all was one of the first golf video games I ever played, and in retrospect, this ended up being a test to see how many games I could find that measured up.
I also learned a lot about what some people want out of their golf games. Not everybody values the features that I think make a great game, and I’ve seen some of my favourites reviewed by other people as dreadfully dull and boring. So consider that when I present these, Robotman’s Front 9. These are listed countdown style, with the ninth-best game first and the very best game presented last.
Final placement in this list also comes after playing a complete round (or the equivalent) in each game so I could get a better feel for longer-term gameplay. I had an idea of what my favourites were before I started, but after discovering some very fine games, some places on the list have shuffled.
#9 – “Jack Nicklaus Golf” for the Super Nintendo
I didn’t actually review this specific version, but I did review the NES, Game Boy and TurboGrafx-16 versions. The Super Nintendo version takes what was great about those games and makes it even better. This was a very enjoyable game to play through, and I must say the graphics put all of the earlier versions to shame.
#8 – “Wicked 18” for the Super Nintendo
I grew to love this game as I played through it, even though some graphics and display issues keep it from earning a higher spot on this list. And I loved playing through a round of this game even though I finished it 51 over par. Every hole in this game is devilishly difficult, and that’s what makes it so much fun. There is a lot of strategy thrown into each hole when you see how ludicrously isolated and high your putting green is, for example, then look at where you start and say to yourself “How the hell am I supposed to get the ball up there?!” I laughed the whole way through, even when I finished one hole 17 over par. But this is most assuredly a game that can be mastered, as are all of the ones on this list.
#7 – “MicroProse Golf” for the Amiga
A game that was ahead of its time. One of two mouse-controlled games on this list, this one might be good to run in the background on an emulator while you browse if you’re so inclined. But I found that it does require concentration, and you need to get into that “rhythm” like you do with all golf video games to be able to perform well. The interface is still rather unique but it is quite functional and extremely well made.
#6 – “Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf” for the Game Boy Advance
Another high-quality game, and the only reason it’s not higher on the list is because of its limited gameplay options. But the variable and realistic weather is a wonderful factor to have to consider. When you see the sky darken and hear the wind pickup, you know you will have to aim your shots differently. I had lots of fun playing this one. I’m really impressed to think that it’s a game for a portable system.
#5 – “Leaderboard Golf” for the Commodore 64
Definitely a classic. And another one that was ahead of its time. This game pushes the Commodore 64 to its limits, and rewards the player with a game that really set the standard for years to come. After all these years, the original is still loads of fun to play and the sounds are still immersive and great.
#4 – “Chip Shot Super Pro Golf” for the “Intellivision”
Virtually unknown and released long after the Intellivision had disappeared from everyone’s radar, this game needs more attention. It takes such minimal resources and builds such a masterpiece out of them that it has to be played to be believed. Before I had played this, if you were to tell me that the Intellivision had a golf game that played as good as this, I would have punched you in the throat. Well, maybe not. But you get my point. For the ball physics to be as realistic as they are on a console that came out in 1979 is just WTF-worthy.
#3 – “36 Great Holes Starring Fred Couples” for the Sega 32X
Another overlooked game for a forgotten console. I was quite surprised that the 32X had any good games released for it, let alone the golf game I was interested in. This game went quickly from “Wow, that’s good” in my mind to “This is in the top ten” to “I can’t wait to play this one again”. I can also report that I scored my first albatross while playing this game.
A hole in 2 on a par 5 – a 241 yard shot – was pretty fucking fun, and yes I saved that replay.
#2 – “Microsoft Golf 3.0” for the PC
This is another game that I’ve been playing a lot. This was actually the game that spurred The Golfyssey. I got this game, played it, and said “Damn, this has got to be one of the best golf video games I’ve ever played!” I must sadly report that this version can only be installed in Windows 95 and Windows 98. I tried to install it on a Windows XP machine and it just crashed every time I tried to start the program. But thanks to virtualization, I can play this game any time I want. This is the other mouse-driven game on the list, but it’s a natural fit and it works so damn sweet.
#1 – “PGA European Tour” for the Sega Genesis
The one that really started it all for me. Back in 1996 when I lived with an ex girlfriend, our friend loaned us her Sega Genesis and some games. This game was one of them. We didn’t care for many of the other games she had loaned us, but we liked playing this one. When we reluctantly gave the Genesis back, I remembered this one, and all the late nights I had spent playing this particular game.
It’s just a great game. For me, this is video game golf. Realistic physics, ever-present challenge, great graphics that don’t obscure what you’re doing. Whatever aspect of golf you want to talk about, this game nails it. It does everything so well, and it has such a great feel that I still think no other game has topped it in all this time. This one is the best.
I hope you enjoyed The Golfyssey as much as I did. I’m really glad to have found these nine games, because most of them I hadn’t ever played before I began these reviews. They’re all great, wonderfully rewarding games, so I encourage you to go out and collect them for yourself.