Universal has announced the grand opening date and details for the first Super Nintendo World, a blockbuster $580 million expansion that will bring Mario Kart and Yoshi’s Adventure attractions to life. In this post, we’ll share everything we know so far about these iconic characters finally being realizing in theme park form.
The first Super Nintendo World will open on February 4, 2021 at Universal Studios Japan. Originally, the land was slated to open this year ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympics, but that was delayed for obvious reasons. For the last several months, aerial shots have showed the land in mostly finished-form, stunning fans with photos that looked like concept art.
Now, we have our first look inside Super Nintendo World, and the visuals are even more stunning. Normally, this isn’t something we would cover on this blog. While we’ve branched out into Universal Orlando, the Osaka park is a totally different beast. Experiencing Super Nintendo World there is going to be a bit more difficult and “aspirational” even for those who intend upon visiting Tokyo Disney Resort…
However, we’re making an exception and covering Super Nintendo World here for a couple of reasons. First, this is really good and exciting news, at a time when we could all use such stories. Second, Super Nintendo World is coming sooner rather than later to Universal Studios Hollywood and probably to Universal Orlando Resort someday, too. (Although now that Epic Universe has been shelved, there’s no guarantee of that.)
Warning: some mild photo spoilers of Super Nintendo World lie ahead…
Super Nintendo World’s flagship attraction will be Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge, housed inside a recreation of Bowser’s Castle.
The castle features themed walls, doors, banners, ceilings, lights, and a giant statue of Bowser up a grand staircase. Guests see all this and a trophy room while waiting in line for the ride.
Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge will feature iconic courses from the Nintendo series brought to life with cutting-edge augmented reality technology, projection mapping, and fully dimensional environments. (Meaning it’s not a screen-based simulator.)
Each ride vehicle has four seats and a steering wheel offering limited control of the on-rails ride.
The world’s first interactive Mario Kart theme park ride promises a rush of adrenaline, the ability to challenge enemies with shells, and a race to the finish line with Mario and Peach.
Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge is approximately 5 minutes long, with a range of different courses brought to life.
Reporters who did a walk-through of Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge indicated that there were side by side tracks for the attraction, suggesting your kart could be racing other guests. Universal has indicated that each ride will be a unique experience and visitors aren’t guaranteed to win.
While there are obviously still a lot of unknowns, Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge sounds a lot like a next-gen Radiator Springs Racers with a broader array of technology leveraged to bring to life the video game environments. If Universal pulls that off, this should instantly become one of the best theme park attractions in the world.
Super Nintendo World’s other attraction will be Yoshi’s Adventure, a family-friendly attraction that allows guests to go on a journey with Yoshi. You’ll search for Captain Toad on a treasure hunt and use his map to find 3 mysterious eggs!
Along the way, guests will be treated to a spectacular view of the Mushroom Kingdom from Mount Beanpole. Not much more is known about Yoshi’s Adventure, but this is definitely the lower-profile, supporting attraction.
Finally, visitors to Super Nintendo World will be able to purchase Power Up Bands that connect to a smartphone app and special in-land check points. Guests will be able to collect digital coins and compete with other visitors to see who collected the most.
Additional interactive features in Super Nintendo World will include Question Blocks, which Power Up Band wearers can physically hit to collect coins. Visitors can also collect character stamps while visiting Super Nintendo World, guests will feel like they are competing for a high score in a video game.
Super Nintendo World also will have Power Up Band Key Challenges. In this interactive game, guests will help Peach recover the Golden Mushroom taken by Bowser Jr. Visitors will play through different games within Super Nintendo World and collect 3 keys.
Once you acquire all three, you participate in the Final Challenge, which is an exciting boss battle with Bowser Jr. Can you defeat the Mushroom Kingdom’s most devious trickster?!
Universal Studios Japan guests who have not purchased an “Area Timed Entry Ticket: Advance Booking” or a “Universal Express Pass with an Area Timed Entry Ticket: Advance Booking” must obtain an “Area Timed Entry Ticket” on the day using the official Universal Studios Japan app.
This is a similar system to what Universal Studios Japan has previously used for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and limited-capacity seasonal experiences, like the VR coasters during “Cool Japan” and live-action role playing games. More on this in a minute…
We’re huge fans of Universal Studios Japan. We’ve been Annual Passholders there and used to spy on Super Nintendo World while riding the Flying Dinosaur. In fact, for a couple of years, we actually spent more time at Universal Studios Japan than we did Universal Orlando. (We did a series of multi-month stays in Kyoto, and USJ was an easy train ride away.)
That experience with Universal Studios Japan has taught us something: it’s the busiest theme park in the world and one that is ill-equipped to absorb the heavy crowds it often sees. Don’t get us wrong–we love Universal Studios Japan, but it makes Disney’s Hollywood Studios look like the paragon of operational efficiency.
Super Nintendo World was designed as an intimate area—you literally enter through a green ‘warp pipe’ tunnel. That’s great for immersiveness, but obviously not ideal in this temporary time of physical distancing. It’s also not great for a high-demand land in one of the world’s top theme parks, attendance-wise.
As noted above, Super Nintendo World will utilize timed entry tickets, similar to the systems previously in place for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and more. Even ~5 years after the opening of USJ’s Harry Potter land, there were still scenarios in which that park used the timed entry system on busy days.
On several occasions, we raced to those kiosks at rope drop only to receive a return time towards the end of the day. With this in-app system and “pay to play” capacity set aside, we’re envisioning a scenario where only those guests who line up hours before the park opens have a chance at scoring the elusive same-day timed entry tickets.
That’s pretty much how things played out when Soaring: Fantastic Flight opened at Tokyo DisneySea–and that was not an entire land based on some of Japan’s most beloved and popular IP.
Our goal with this isn’t to scare the handful of you contemplating a visit to Osaka for Super Nintendo World. Rather, it’s to adjust your expectations and understand the challenges that await. This is like the Bouldergeist boss fight (don’t be surprised if you have to dodge rocks while entering the park), not some cakewalk where you just bounce on Bowser Jr. a few times.
That isn’t to stop you from trying–we plan on being there as soon as travel reopens to Japan–but you should strongly consider one of the paid options that guarantees entry. We are typically anti-upcharge and are not particularly keen on Express Pass. This is one huge exception to that. If visiting Universal Studios Japan and wanting to do Super Nintendo World, you should absolutely plan on purchasing Express Pass or Advance Timed Entry Tickets. Otherwise, there’s a high probability you won’t be doing it.
Finally, above is a video from Bloomberg’s walk-through of Super Nintendo World and the Mario Kart attraction. Or at least, I think it is. I haven’t watched, wanting to avoid full spoilers to the greatest extent possible while still covering the news. (A tricky proposition!)
Ultimately, we are really, really excited for Super Nintendo World. With classics like JAWS and new-favorites like the Flying Dinosaur, this will further cement Universal Studios Japan as a world class theme park. Moreover, with Super Nintendo World plus the new Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast at Tokyo Disneyland and upcoming Fantasy Springs at Tokyo DisneySea, we’re hopeful that more Americans will take the plunge and visit Japan’s theme parks. As we’ve been saying for years, it’s absolutely worth saving and making the once-in-a-lifetime trip, even if it means skipping Walt Disney World for a while.
What do you think of Super Nintendo World? Excited to experience Mario Kart in real life? Thoughts on Yoshi’s Adventure, Power Bands, Timed Entry, or anything else covered here? Eager to step foot into this video game universe? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!