Super Nintendo World
Super Nintendo World, a new themed land at Universal Studios Hollywood, opened to the public on February 17, 2023. The area features games, food, merchandise, and an interactive Mario Kart ride. Nintendo was generous enough to provide Stardust Fields with complimentary park tickets, a hotel room, rental car, dinner with Shigeru Miyamoto, and a first look at Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door 2. Just kidding. Here’s the official Stardust Fields review.
SNW is accessed via a warp pipe in the farthest back corner of the lower lot. This pipe brings you immediately into Princess Peach’s castle, where you can then exit into the main area.
Mario and Luigi stop by the center of the land every so often to take pictures with guests, and Princess Peach does the same in her gazebo near the castle.
There are many areas to explore and secrets to find. Purchasing a Power-Up Band ($40 at time of writing) allows you to earn keys at the games, track how many coins you get from question blocks, and see how you rank against other guests. This information is viewable by scanning your band on the large screens near the restrooms as well as on the Universal Studios Hollywood smartphone app.
There are four large-scale games in Super Nintendo World where players can earn “keys”; obtaining three keys grants access to a fifth game in Bowser Jr.'s Castle that serves as the final boss.
One game involves a rotating platform that players must roll (via a crank) towards a Goomba to make it retreat backward.
Another game has a POW block that must be hit to trigger a chain of POW blocks that launch a spinning Koopa shell up through a vertical pipe. The timing of the POW blocks is revealed when the player starts the game, and they must hit the first POW block with their hand at the right time so that the last POW block hits the bottom of the pipes when the Koopa shell is directly below the vertical one.
There’s also an indoor game where players are presented with a grid of blocks, each of which are one of two colors and must be flipped so that all the colors match.
The lines on opening day were very long so I didn’t end up playing the Piranha Plant game, and by the time I had three keys and could play the Bowser Jr. final boss game it was unfortunately having a malfunction and was closed. I’ll update this page with more info on these after my next visit.
Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge
The main attraction of Super Nintendo World is an interactive dark ride based on the Mario Kart series. Riders sit in four-person karts and wear special augmented reality goggles that turn the ride into a competitive game. Each seat on the kart is equipped with a steering wheel that has buttons on either side.
I had never been on an interactive ride before, much less an augmented reality one, so this was really cool. I can’t say I completely understood what was going on in the game, but I know I shot a lot of Koopa shells at the characters I saw in the goggles and ended up getting the high score for my kart. Performance in the game can be recorded to your Power-Up Band.
The queue line for this ride is long and features winding paths through a bunch of themed areas, several styled like Yoshi’s Island, and a view of the whole land from Bowser’s Castle.
Super Nintendo World features the Toadstool Café, a restaurant with a large dining room and vegetarian-friendly options.
My visit to SNW wouldn’t be complete without eating something Italian, so I opted for the Fire Flower Spaghetti & Meatballs, the Toadstool Cheesy Garlic Knots, and a Princess Peach cupcake.
I was impressed overall with the food. The attention to detail and integration of Mario concepts was done really well. The spaghetti and meatballs had a nice spicy kick, the garlic knots were soft and came with their own marinara, and the cupcake was solid with a tasty raspberry filling. Other menu options, such as the Mario and Luigi burgers, looked delicious and I look forward to trying them on my next visit.
There are four separate SNW-themed shops around Universal. The main store, 1-UP Factory, is located in SNW itself, and offers a large collection of shirts, bags, plush, pins, and other souvenirs.
The Character Shop just outside on the lower lot and the Feature Presentation store on the upper lot by the main entrance also had SNW items, and there is a dedicated Super Nintendo World Store in CityWalk. All locations sell the Power-Up Bands.
I was a bit underwhelmed by the merchandise offerings. While there was a lot to choose from in terms of different types of items, I felt like most of it wasn’t of the same quality offered at stores like Nintendo New York. This was most evident in the plush selection. I also wish there was a bigger selection for shirts; a lot of them were Mario Kart-themed, which is understandable, but outside of those and the special polyester character shirts there aren’t many standard options. There were blue t-shirts and black longsleeves with graphics from the original Super Mario Bros. that were cool, and there was a nice balance in terms of offerings for adults and kids alike.
I will update this page with more info after subsequent visits to Super Nintendo World. Opening day was understandably busy so I hope to go back on a day when the lines are shorter, but long lines are a small price to pay for the benefit of finally having a Nintendo theme park in the United States.
All photos by Shadow Yoshi, February 17, 2023