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Super Nintendo World at Universal: Everything we know so far

Super Nintendo World, a highly-themed and immersive land based on Nintendo characters, is coming to Universal theme parks.

Universal announced plans to bring Nintendo video games to life back in 2016. Now, we know for sure that the hotly-anticipated Super Nintendo World attractions are heading for Epic Universe at Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood, as well as Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Singapore.

Super Nintendo World will feature state-of-the-art rides and immersive attractions, as well as retail and restaurants. They will all feature Nintendo’s most popular characters and games – including those from the Super Mario series. Here, we dig out everything we know about the expansions so far.

Updates – 04/02/21: Super Nintendo World footage unveils rides, merch, F&B 06/01/21: Super Nintendo World website and video reveal more interactive details 30/11/20: Super Nintendo World Japan: Opening date and Mario Kart AR ride announced

Super Mario Kart and Yoshi’s Adventures

“It’s a whole new separate area of the park,” said Universal Parks & Resorts CEO Tom Williams of the expansion at USJ. “It’s got food, it’s got merchandise. The first phase will have two rides, Super Mario Kart as well as Yoshi’s Adventures.”

“It’s the best, and we’ve tested them all, and they’re killers. It’s a great lineup. It takes it to the whole next level. It’s gonna redefine what a park experience is like. It really is special.”

Universal’s partnership with Nintendo is similar to its deal with Warner Bros for the ongoing use of the Harry Potter IP, with this model proving popular with both parties. Universal will work closely with Nintendo and expects a huge financial impact from adding the Nintendo IP.

“Nintendo, based on our research, is the biggest potential driver in attendance you can have in terms of intellectual properties,” said Comcast execs in a conference call in 2019. “It’s up there with Harry Potter. In some of our parks, Harry Potter drives incremental attendance of two million people.”

Interactive gameplay with Power Up Bands

Super Nintendo World will be an interactive area featuring state-of-the-art technology, combining the real world and video games. Visitors will have interactive experiences using wearable wristbands, called Power Up Bands, which can be linked to smartphones via the Universal Studios Japan app.

The wristbands will be available to buy at Super Nintendo World. They are themed to different characters and allow visitors to collect digital coins and compete with other guests.

Punch Question Blocks to collect coins

Visitors can physically hit the land’s Question Blocks to collect coins. They will feel like they’re competing for a high score in a video game. In addition, guests can collect digital keys and unlock gameplay opportunities in ‘Key Challenges’. These include ‘Boss Battles’ against enemy characters.

Colourful Power up Bands

“You’ll be able to go up and keep score and play with the various games. That also translates to a score-keeping capability if you choose to do so within the rides. It actually interfaces back with your game console,” said Williams.

“Think of Super Nintendo World as a life-size, living video game where you become one of the characters. You’re not just playing the game; you’re living the game, you’re living the adventure,” said Thierry Coup, senior VP and CCO, Universal Creative.

“We have developed some state-of-the-art technology to create the perfect fusion of the physical world with the world of video game. The Power Up Band will connect guests with dozens of iconic Nintendo items throughout the land in a truly seamless and innovative way. And the app will keep track of their adventures and any coins, stamps or other iconic elements they earn along the way.”

“There will be opportunities to advance through achievements, keep score, compete against each other and celebrate together when you win. I think the seamless integration of the gameplay is one of the most innovative experiences we have ever created at Universal Studios.”

Construction progress of Super Nintendo World

Super Nintendo World broke ground back in 2017 at Universal Studios Japan, Osaka. It was originally set to open in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but its launch was delayed by “a few months” due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

That said, it’s possible USJ will postpone the launch until much later this year or even 2021. Recent aerial view images and construction footage of Super Nintendo World revealed the expansion is almost complete in Japan.

Bowsers Castle construction

Genting Singapore recently confirmed delays to the $4.5 billion Resorts World Sentosa expansion due to disruption to the construction industry and global supply chain caused by COVID-19. This means, of course, that Super Nintendo World Singapore is also behind schedule.

US construction progress

Over in the US, Super Nintendo World was set to open as part of Universal’s Epic Universe in 2023, as confirmed by Comcast executives during a 2019 earnings conference call. However, the coronavirus crisis threw a spanner in the works for Universal Orlando Resort too.

super nintendo world rws genting
Genting Singapore

In March, Williams confirmed that Universal Orlando was continuing work on Epic Universe, despite the outbreak of COVID-19. He also said Super Nintendo World attractions were on track in Japan and California. However, we now know that the former is postponed.

“Our construction projects around the globe – Super Nintendo World in Osaka and Hollywood, Universal’s Epic Universe in Orlando and Universal Beijing all remain active and on track under protocols established by government officials and with their support,” said Williams.

universal japan

One month later, Comcast announced that construction work on Epic Universe had been paused so that the company could focus on the “immediate challenges that COVID-19 present”. This will, of course, hold up the launch of the Nintendo destination.

We know very little about California’s Super Nintendo World, which already appears to be under construction at Universal Studios Hollywood. It is located to the left of the park’s Transformers attraction. The size of the space available implies that the Hollywood version could be essentially a copy of the Japanese offering.

Inside Universal’s Super Nintendo World, from Yoshi to Donkey Kong

Last year, scale model photos of Super Nintendo World in Orlando leaked online, unveiling physical models of the attraction. The leaked images came from the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast, who pointed out that as the models are from 2016, plans may have changed since then.

The pictures reveal the Mushroom Kingdom-themed land, complete with Peach’s Castle and Bowser’s Castle. The latter serves as the entrance to a Mario Kart ride. Also pictured is the Toadstool Cafe inside a Mushroom House, and Yoshi’s Adventure featuring miniature Yoshi ride vehicles.

donkey kong universal japan

Epic Universe is also rumoured to boast a jungle-themed area inspired by Donkey Kong, as seen in the leaked images. The Donkey Kong Country area seemingly includes a roller coaster called Mine-Cart Madness. There is also Donkey Kong’s treehouse and Funky Kong’s plane.

Concept art for Super Nintendo World at Epic Universe later emerged online, providing a look at the potential Donkey Kong attractions and rides. The images came via Orlando ParkStop’s Alicia Stella, who said: “The first images are for the left and right sides of the land, second set is main ride entrance through temple. Originally designed for USF, land now set to open at Epic Universe.”

Mario Kart and Yoshi rides at Nintendo expansions

Videos and images of the official website and its attractions recently leaked online, including a glimpse at the state-of-the-art Mario Kart ride. The website says the Mario Kart ride has “a number of courses full of surprises, appear in front of you with the latest technology unique to the park”.

According to the leaked website, the ride lasts for five minutes. Ride vehicles can seat four people, and each rider has their own steering wheel. The website also says “you’ve never experienced fun like this before”, although it’s worth noting that the videos and images may not be official, with no confirmation from Nintendo.

super nintendo world

Williams previously confirmed that Super Nintendo World will have two rides – Super Mario Kart and Yoshi’s Adventures. The latter looks to be an omni-mover ride, travelling through indoor and outdoor sections. Universal has revealed few details about it. But it’s likely to be family-friendly, with ride cars looking like different members of Yoshi’s species.

The former will be the major anchor attraction. It will be themed to the Mario Kart racing game series and hidden within a recreation of Bowser’s Castle. It’s thought that visitors will be in their own multi-passenger go-kart racing vehicles, as above. However, details have been kept secret by Universal Creative.

Explore Peach’s Castle and Bowser’s Castle at Super Nintendo World

Riders will likely travel through Bowser’s Castle down to the dungeon level. This will serve as the theme of the first level of the racecourse. Riders will enter vehicles attached to one of two slightly different but side-by-side tracks. Similar to the popular Men In Black attraction at Universal Studios Florida.

Artist impression of Super Nintendo World

If the rumours are true, the vehicles may be capable of spinning motion while moving, like the Men In Black vehicles. So, if you hit a banana peel, your kart will spin out of control for a time.

But how will the ride create the effect of racing against other video game characters? Well, it may be through a combination of physical set items and projection-based effects. Alternatively, rumours are swirling that Universal was looking into giving guests augmented reality (AR) racing goggles for the ride.

Thank you so much for playing my game!

super nintendo world

So, what exactly do we know about Universal’s Super Nintendo World? For starters, there are definite delays in Japan, Singapore and Orlando. Plus there is little word on the Hollywood edition, thanks to COVID-19. The expansions will definitely feature two rides – Super Mario Kart and Yoshi’s Adventures. Interactive gameplay will be available via Power Up Bands.

There may or may not be a Donkey Kong-themed addition at Universal Orlando Resort, but we will see Peach’s Castle and Bowser’s Castle, as well as Goombas, Koopas, and Piranha Plants at the Mushroom Kingdom.

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Bea Mitchell

Bea is a journalist specialising in entertainment, attractions and tech with 10 years' experience. She has written and edited for publications including CNET, BuzzFeed, Digital Spy, Evening Standard and BBC. Bea graduated from King's College London and has an MA in journalism.

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