Super Nintendo World opens at Universal Studios Hollywood

On Feb. 17, Super Nintendo World opened on the lower lot of Universal Studios Hollywood, the newest expansion of the park. This opening seems to be intended to build hype for The Super Mario Bros. Movie, scheduled to release on April 5 of this year.

One of the main features of the park is Power-Up Bands — bracelets that are available as six different characters (Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Daisy, Yoshi and Toad), each holding a map showing different parts of the park where they can be used. Not only can these bands be used in Mario games on the Nintendo Switch, but the bands also link to an account in the Universal CA app to see how many stamps, coins, and keys the player has collected from the challenges throughout the park. The different characters each serve as their own team with a ranking visible in the app; individual rankings can be seen as well, most notably on a screen by the park store.

There are a large number of stores throughout both the amusement park and the CityWalk, the majority of which play music common in Mario games. These stores sell a variety of merchandise including hats, headbands, key chains, pins, shirts, hoodies, popcorn buckets and stuffed animals featuring famous characters from across the Mario franchise. The 1-Up Factory, the only store inside of Super Nintendo World itself, features similar merchandise to that sold in the other parts of the park. However, some fans have been disappointed that there is very little in stores representing any of the game’s famous enemies. While Bowser is minimally represented, Mario’s arguably more recognizable enemy, the Goomba, is almost entirely absent from the Super Nintendo stores.

Super Nintendo World has already brought in a large number of guests, leading the park to open only for season pass holders on specified days. To try and limit entry to Super Nintendo World itself, Universal requires a Virtual Line ticket to get into that part of the theme park. These can be acquired in their app for specific entry times and can only be reserved once someone is inside Universal Studios. This Virtual Line, however, is only for entrance to the park, not any of the lines within this area of the park. Merchandise has limits as well shoppers are capped at buying four of the same item in a single transaction and are excluded from all discounts that season pass holders have access to.

It is important to consider that one of the major selling points of the park, the availability of the bands, is incredibly difficult to use due to how crowded the park has become. Long lines fill the small area, all of which are made up of people waiting to play the games that go with the Power-Up Bands.

An oversized warp pipe playing the sound effect heard at the beginning of a Mario game serves as the main entrance to Super Nintendo World. Immediately after the pipe is the inside of Princess Peach’s Castle, specifically the one seen in Super Mario 64, as the iconic paintings used to enter levels in the game are placed on the walls of the castle. In fact, the park makes at least one reference to almost every major game in the Mario franchise.

The park is incredibly immersive due to its incredibly accurate representation of the video games. For example, the music that plays while going upstairs in Bowser’s Castle is the same music that plays during the levels in which players go through his castle in the game. 

In addition, the animatronic elements on the walls of the park, such as coins and enemies, move as they would in the video games. Smaller details, including mushroom-shaped chairs, Super Star and Fire Flower-shaped hedges, the paneling featured in games and the wide spaces between bricks to give an animated feel, also add to the immersive experience. Since Super Nintendo World is on the smaller side, the park is very tall, adding to its entirely engaging atmosphere.

Main characters Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach are available for meet-and-greet photos throughout the park. In addition, the Toadstool Cafe features a wide variety of Mario-themed food, including a Piranha Plant Caprese and a Princess Peach Cupcake. However, the park only has one ride: Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge.

The ride, already available as a single rider, simulates a Mario Kart game. The Power-Up Band can be used to track points the player racks up by using the buttons on the steering wheel to send turtle shells at opposing racers, similar to in the Mario Kart game franchise. Riders wear a visor and goggles to create the AR experience of the ride, which is largely centered on the enemies of the franchise. Decorations revolve around Bob-ombs, the Koopalings and Mechakoopas, which makes sense given the ride takes place in Bowser’s Castle.

The ride’s references range from the large-scale to very small details in the decorations. For example, the Mario Kart TV logo, which features the enemy Lakitu in Super Mario 64, is at the bottom of posters in the queue for the ride. Additionally, the workers in the ride all wear red Mario Kart-themed NASCAR outfits, adding to the immersive atmosphere. 

The ride itself is underground, adding to the dungeon feel of Bowser’s Castle. Cars seat four people with two in each row, creating an interactive feel. The ride itself is incredible for any Mario fan, both with the amazing technology and innovation of the ride itself as well as the amount of fan service. For example, the ride ends with the kart going through a re-creation of the beloved Mario Kart-level Rainbow Road. Across the board, Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge is a delightful addition to the variety of rides at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Overall, Super Nintendo World is an immersive experience that remains faithful to the video games. Since the park is called Super Nintendo World, not Super Mario World, fans can hope that the park will one day expand to include other popular Nintendo franchises, including Kirby, Animal Crossing and Pokémon.