Super Nintendo World Preview: A Great, Deep homage to Mario and Friends

With a walk through the Warp Pipe, plus the classic jingle and light show, I was swept away from my everyday life and into the magical land of Super Nintendo World.

Super Nintendo World, which opens at Universal Studios Hollywood on February 17, feels like being in the cartoon world, another world of another world. Super Mario Bros. game. The vast rolling hills are home to Mario’s friends and foes: Koopas scurrying back and forth, Piranhas poke their heads out of pipes and open their toothy jaws. All of these beloved characters are in constant motion; a pile of Goombas swayed back and forth as Yoshi walked around a tree in the shade.

There are dozens of these engaging animations set on towering sets, modeled like familiar Mario-level environments, with soundtracks to boot. You can do a full spin in the park without being submerged in water. Bowser’s massive castle looms in the background and Toadstool Cafe beckons hungry guests. The color of it all makes it look like a game screenshot: The desert and snowy puzzle pieces evoke the classic Mario world and the coin blocks dot the area. It’s a completely seamless visual smorgasbord and a punch of nostalgia for any Nintendo fan.

A photo from Super Nintendo World, with a tall Pokey in front of the pyramid and blocks of coins in the foreground.

Photo: Hamilton Pytluk/Universal Studios Hollywood

Super Nintendo World arrives at Universal Studios Hollywood after it debut at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka last year, and boasts many of the same settings — along with the central attraction Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge — although as Polygon learned during a press preview of the area, it takes up a fair share of the area. physically smaller. You’ll also have to go to Universal in Japan to take part in Yoshi’s Adventure, which is not available in the Hollywood version of the park. In 2025, though, the expanded Super Nintendo World will arrive at the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida.

Bringing Nintendo’s worlds to life is a turning point for an amusement park whose history is tied to the making of the film. Universal Studios Hollywood is known for its movie-themed attractions like Jurassic World, Transformers, and the world-famous Studio Tour, which shows recognizable sets and realistic effects from classic movies like jaw (1976). This is Universal Studios’ first theme park section dedicated to a series of video games.

“We’ve always wanted to achieve a higher level of immersion, and getting into the game is clearly another step forward for us,” said Jon Corfino, Vice President of Universal Creative. President of Universal Creative said, emphasizing the importance of “interactivity” throughout the Nintendo Super World.

The match makes sense. Video games and amusement parks both embody the idea of ​​fun; a player/visitor moves through a space, uncovering its secrets, and leaving their mark as they continue the story. That sense of discovery is still alive in the park.

A sense of play

Part of the Super Nintendo World, with a giant Thwomp in front of Bowser's Castle.

Photo: Nicole Clark/Polygon

Super Nintendo World tells a classic story: “Peach was taken by Bowser Jr. steal the Golden Mushroom,” said Corfino. Guests play through a series of four mini-games, plus a final boss battle, to help her regain the mushroom.

The park delivers on the promise of “the game comes to life” in addition to its breathtaking scenery. There are many interactive coin blocks and games speckled throughout the park. And for $40, guests can purchase a Power-Up Strap that plays the same role as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s wand. Tapping on a band in a position marked with Mario “M” will trigger an Easter egg or a mini-game. There are six bands to choose from, inspired by Mario, Luigi, Peach and friends. Each of these is also an amiibo, although we don’t have word yet on whether they will work with home consoles.

The unique variation lies in the band’s point system. Interacting with the elements and playing mini-games will add points to your total, just like playing the video game Mario. Guest counts are all synced with the Universal Studios Hollywood app.

Mario projection with pixels on brick wall background.

Photo: Nicole Clark/Polygon

Cute interactive elements are hidden throughout the park’s nooks and crannies. One point makes one NES style Mario from the original Super Mario Bros., pixel art and all, appear in the stone wall above. Smashing the underside of one of the many coin blocks produces the characteristic tinkling sound of a collected coin. (Punch it without the strap and it still responds, but with a different sound.)

One of the four main mini-games in the land requires guests to aim for a giant Piranha Factory to win a key. And in the park’s final boss battle, Bowser Jr. Boss Battle, my group was herded into a room with a large screen, each of us standing on a number between 1 and 15. Our shadows were clearly visible on the projection screen, and we were able to play the game through via movement: I jump to hit coin blocks, smash Bob-ombs from the sky, catch a Fire Flower, and swing wildly to throw fireballs at Bowser Jr. as it flies by. We won the Golden Mushroom.

Each of these Easter eggs is a special treat for die-hard Nintendo fans, from nods to Mario’s origins to beloved enemy designs that have appeared in many games. since then, such as a wobbly Goomba stack. The game’s legacy also extends to the restaurant in Super Nintendo World. Toadstool Cafe is an extension of this fun charm, with displays showing a kitchen full of bustling Toads — it seems that culinary exploration is Toad’s next adventure – receive and fulfill your orders. Even though the cafe hasn’t officially opened yet, just looking at its interior is already exciting.

Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge

A large statue of Bowser at the entrance to Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge at Super Nintendo World.

Photo: Hamilton Pytluk/Universal Studios Hollywood

At the heart of Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood is the new ride, Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge. This will be the first time in this park that combines augmented reality with classic dark track elements to create something completely new. Four people carpooling Mario Kart, wearing AR glasses, throwing peels and bananas to their heart’s content. They will pass underwater courses, launch through the clouds and compete for the Gold Cup. According to Universal, it’s worth playing over and over again: You might get a different ending, depending on how you play.

“It’s a field trip and you’ll go through a series of environments with maps, LED screens, physical animations with special effects, and AR glasses,” says Corfino. He added that the way it brings “all of that together to make it look like it’s all gone and become something is really the art of the whole”.

A photo from Super Nintendo World's Mario Kart ride, showing Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi and Toad's karting costume and helmet.

Photo: Hamilton Pytluk/Universal Studios Hollywood

I can’t test drive it because it’s still in the safe run before opening. But I was impressed by the level of detail even in the queue; the ride greets guests with reverence for the Super Mario World games — complete with classic scoreinstantly takes me back to the long afternoons trying to stop baby Mario from drifting away in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi Island — and instant soft pencil art-style clouds and trees Yoshi’s Craft World. Another part of the queue takes the player through an ice world-like area, one of the main points of the Super Mario Bros. level design.

A Piranha Plant Book and a Goomba Paperweight Inside the Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge Queue

Photo: Nicole Clark/Polygon

Guests then move through Bowser’s Castle, peering inside the minds of Mario’s infamous nemesis and his gang. There are many books scattered around, including a self-help guide to talking to princesses, a guide to the dangers of bananas, and lots of Piranha Tree care manuals. A portrait of Peach sitting on a giant Bowser-sized throne. If you look closely, you can tell exactly which game is referenced. A floating diorama of a planet is a reminder of super mario galaxy, the 2007 model-changing Mario game not only brought him into the 3D world, but also reimagined the idea of ​​space and perspective. Nintendo’s major growth over the past 20 years is on full display in the park.


Signage and Warp Pipe-inspired entrance to Super Nintendo World's gift shop, called 1-Up Factory.

Photo: Nicole Clark/Polygon

Super Nintendo World’s 1-Up Factory was not open to the press during my visit, but a store dedicated to the new park area has opened in Universal Studios Hollywood’s CityWalk, the row of shops and restaurants that make up a small city center in front of the amusement park entrance. I glanced inside and was delighted with the stuffed animals, keychains, and clothes in tribute to Mario’s smallest friends and foes.

Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, and Bowser exist in plush form, but there are also Goombas, Bob-ombs, and Toads – including a Toad in a dandy chef costume (this one is very tempting.) coin block throw pillows, and Mario and Luigi matching shirts with Player 1 and Player 2 on them, plus loads of plush little keychains, including a Shy Guy cute little. We’ll have to wait until the park opens to see what’s in 1-Up Factory, but the options currently available look promising to any Nintendo fanatic.

Pre-sale is now open for Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood via its website.


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