For what seems like forever, the world of Super Nintendo World as been taking shape on the lower lot of Universal Studios Hollywood. In a park where everything is essentially visible and impossible to hide, every visitor and blogger in SoCal could see it. Even riding down the Starway, you could hear rumblings of guests talking about the constructions and the rumored Mario Kart attraction. Of course now this has all been confirmed, but before anything was formally announced, the community and guests at the park were a buzz with excitement. I mean, the world of Super Mario and even Nintendo is known across the world and means something to so many generations…including us! We’ve played Super Mario games our entire lives like so many people. Growing up with Mario continuously searching for Peach in Bowser’s Castle. We were there for every adventure, every Goomba stomped, and even through the rough times were Mario went missing! To nobodies surprise, the fact that soon we will be walking into the world we know and love is not only exciting but it’s overwhelming in the best of ways. We’ve had so many experiences at Universal Studios, walking into our favorite films. But for the first time, we are walking into our favorite video game franchise.
I was incredibly lucky and humbled when I was asked to take a preview tour of Super Nintendo World with Jon Corfino of Universal Creative, before the new land opens to the public on February 17th, this year. I learned so much about the land, the theming, the interactive elements and the innovative Mario Kart attraction. And all that info will be here, along with our first impressions of the land, so that you will be informed before visiting the park for Super Nintendo World.
ENTRANCE & FIRST IMPRESSIONS
As you approach the entrance to Super Nintendo World, you’re met with a life size green warp pipe with colorful lights swirling on the inside. You’ll hear whimsical music and even the familiar warp pipe sound effect from the game. To the right of the massive green pipe is a smaller one for a photo op in front of the Super Nintendo World sign.
I knew coming into this tour, that I was more than likely going to cry. Nikki cried when she first visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter because that property meant so much to her. And that is the exact same thing with me and Super Mario Bros. I was already completely overwhelmed looking at a real life green warp pipe. As you enter the green pipe, you see the floor slowly change to from dark red brickwork to black and white floor tiles. As you exit the pipe, you find yourself inside of Princess Peach’s Castle. Here is where you’ll get a bit more information regarding the lands story surrounding the interactive games. Baby Bowser has stolen Princess Preach’s golden mushroom and it’s our job to get it back! You do so by participating in the games throughout the land and obtaining the gold keys. Once you’ve obtained them all, you can fight Baby Bowser to get the mushroom back! More on all of that fun later.
As you step out of the castle, you are completely transported to the world of Super Mario. Goombas, Piranha Plants, Pokeys, Koopa Troopas, Mushrooms, Fire Flowers, Thwomps and so much more. There is tremendous kinetic energy in this land from the moving props and characters throughout. And of course, there was the iconic music that everyone knows and loves. It perfectly captures the essence and feeling of the games themselves.
With the visuals and the music, I was completely overwhelmed and started to cry. It was a complete dream come true to be honest. It’s not something you’d ever expect you’d ever be able to see, but there I was standing in the middle of a living Super Mario game! Lucky (or unlucky) for me, my friend snagged a picture of my first reaction to the land. I’m sure everyone can see the big fat dork tears falling down my face.
After I wiped the tears from my face, my first initial thought about the new land was how much bigger it was in person. I feel like when you see the land from the different perspectives of the park, it makes it look much smaller than it is. Just with any new land, when that place is packed, it’s going to feel really small regardless of how big it is. Overall, I think there is a fair amount of room when you include all of the interactive elements and areas too.
THE INTERACTIVE ELEMENTS
Unlike games, movies don’t really have an inherent interactive element. The wands within the world of Harry Potter was a great creation to put the magic in the hands of guests at the park. But how do you take an inherently interactive experience like a video game and translate that to real world experiences? For Universal, they created the Power-Up Bands to help with that interaction. These bands sync with your Universal Studios App to keep track of points and your progress through the lands interactive elements. They cost $40 and you will be able to buy them outside of the new land, but they will have vending machines where you can purchase them as well within the land.
Remember I was talking about the Golden Mushroom? So here is where your bands help you get it back! There are 4 different experiences in the land where you’ll need to get a gold key and ,once you’ve obtained them all, you can fight Baby Bowser. The first interactive game is where you’re trying to keep a giant piranha plant from waking up, the second is trying to spin a goomba off a spinning wheel, the third is hitting a koopa troopa with a green shell, and the fourth and last game is the throwmp game! Once you go fight Baby Bowser, you’ll be facing a 180 degree screen where your shadow will be casted on the screen in front of you and you fight off different villains in order to get the Golden Mushroom back! All of these experiences gain you points but they aren’t the only ways.
Throughout the land you’ll encounter the iconic ? blocks and “M” logos. Hit the boxes for points and scan your Power-Up Bands on the “M” for points and a surprise too! If you don’t have a Power-Up Band, you won’t be able to keep track of points. But, if you’re in a group of people that do you can still participate in most of the games. Even if you approach a ? block and hit it, it will still interact with you. It’ll just make a difference noise.
Here is a TikTok of ours that will give you and idea of the way the interactive elements work with the Power-Up Bands!
As you experience these games, according to Jon Corfino, they will get harder as you get better. So even if you’ve played them all before, you can come back and challenge yourself by seeing if you can still beat each game. There is another way you can obtain points and that’s by riding the Mario Kart: Bowsers Challenge attractions!
Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge
Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge is the groundbreaking new attraction within Super Nintendo World. This all new ride will put you on iconic Mario Kart™ courses alongside Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach. You’re racing to win the Golden Cup and of course, bragging rights amongst your friends.
Unlike Osaka, our Mario Kart attraction enters through Mount Beampole. Which is to the right of Bowser’s Castle on the lower portion of the land.
This first section of the queue is all Yoshi themed. While we may not be getting Yoshi’s Adventure, we at least get his presence in some form. The first room hit me right in the feels with it’s recognizable color scheme and iconic art style. As you enter, to the right is the Single Rider queue, up the stairs is the Express entrance, and straight through the tunnel is the regular queue for the attraction. Once you make your way up the stairs, you’ll encounter Yoshi via screens (pictured below).
Many people have been talking about the extended queue section of this ride that is visible from the Studio Tour. We got a good peek at that too.
The queue for this attraction is massive and rivals the size and length of the queue for Forbidden Journey inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The second portion of the queue is when you enter Bowser’s Castle! The theming changes from bright pinks and whimsical environments, to more darker tones and it’s so dang cool.
These environments are so much fun because they are completely littered with easter eggs and references to the game. Even those who are merely peripherally familiar with the games will recognize characters and understand jokes. To be honest, just being able to see life size versions of these different recognizable items and characters from the game had my jaw on the floor.
You even get a great look at the trophy you’ll be racing to win as well!
Hands down, my favorite room of the queue was the room where you get to see how the Bob-ombs and Mechakoopas are created. You’ll see video screens showing their creation and giant containers holding life size versions of them.
Soon after, you’ll enter the first of two show rooms. This room is to educate people about the attraction and its use of a visor that you’ll fit to your head. Jon said that they took time to create this so that people are educated enough to board the attraction safely and quickly. You might be asking why people need to be educated before riding? That’s because this ride utilizes augmented reality goggles to further immerse guests into Mario Kart. Your screens are magnetically attached to your visor when you board your vehicle at the loading station of the attraction. One big piece of advice for the experience is that when you’re shooting, you’ll be shooting in the direction in which you look. Not in the direction your vehicle is facing. According to Jon, it takes a couple rides to really get the hang of it, but it makes for a tremendously unique experience.
The next room is where you’ll be informed of the story and how to defeat Team Bowser! This room was so cool because you can see all the racers outfits. I especially got excited when I saw that Mario had a Tanooki outfit right under his racing uniform!
That is as far as we were allowed to see in the queue, but I was tremendously impressed with the level of detail and the close attention to what makes Mario and Mario Kart unique. I loved seeing all the different references and easter eggs and it makes me excited to spend more time in those rooms so we can find every reference.
The last two things we got to see were the 1-Up Factor and the Toadstool Cafe. While we didn’t get to shop inside the store or eat at the restaurant, we did get to take a peak inside both.
The 1-Up Factor is the main store of Super Nintendo World and this is where you can find all of your favorite pieces of merchandise. As of right now, I’m unsure if there are any unique land specific pieces of merchandise. But right now, you can find most of these items sold throughout USH at many different locations. So even if you don’t make it inside this store, you’ll be able to purchase items still.
And of course, as many theme parks have it, you exit the Mario Kart attraction through the gift shop!
Then at The Toadstool Cafe, you’ll grab some tasty treats and yummy food to fuel you in your adventures in the land. By taking a look at the different items on the menu, it looks like we’ll be getting some of the same menu items the Osaka version has at theirs.
This restaurant is so dang cute. All of the decorations and theming is reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. 3 for me, which was one of the first Mario games I played as a kid. While waiting, you’ll be greeted by Chef Toad who is in the midsts of cooking up a meal.
One of the things I saw while visiting that got me very excited unfortunately isn’t pictured. But behind the restaurants ordering area are life size (if not bigger) versions of different power ups from the various Super Mario games.
For the Toadstool Cafe, you order at the counter and Team Members will bring you your food to your table. Right now, I’m unsure if there is a “to-go” option or only the “dine in” option.
While reserving my official thoughts on the land until it fully opens to the public (or Passholder Previews) I can say the new land is absolutely stunning and promises to entertain those familiar and even unfamiliar with the games the land is based on. Universal Creative did a fantastic job combining newer game characters designs, while still paying homage to the original 8-bit version of the characters throughout the land, which for a fan, was one of my favorite things to see. It makes me feel like they understood not only the property, but the community of people who love these characters. With Universal’s incredible attention to detail and the inherent genuine nature of the property; Super Nintendo World is bound to be a massive hit for the crowds coming to the visit the park. We are incredibly excited to see it all come together in one big harmonious celebration on February 17th at Universal Studios Hollywood!