Good news, America: Universal’s revealed the opening date for the first Stateside version of Super Nintendo World. The theme park land based on Super Mario opened in Japan in Feb. 2021, but due to a little bit of business known as “the global pandemic” it’s been tough for all of us in the States to warp over to Osaka for some fun in the Mushroom Kingdom. Fortunately the Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood is just about done, and will be opening on Feb. 17, 2023—roughly two years after the original first debuted in Japan.
The Super Nintendo World outpost at Universal Hollywood will launch with one ride, but it seems like a doozy. Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge brings Nintendo’s beloved cart racer to life, with guests racing against Bowser’s team to win the Golden Cup. The attraction will use augmented reality to recreate some of the most iconic (and otherwise impossible) parts of the game, like power-ups and other items. The AR will also add a little bit of narrative flexibility to Bowser’s Challenge, so don’t expect it to be exactly the same every single time you ride it.
As exciting as a real-life Mario Kart ride is, the real star of Super Nintendo World might just be the land itself. From everything we’ve seen it looks like a genuinely immersive recreation of Super Mario’s distinctive, candy-colored world, with green hills, glittering coins, marching Koopas, Peach’s pink and white castle, and Bowser’s foreboding, metal palace. Standing above it all is Mt. Beanpole, with one of the flags that end every level in the original Super Mario games.
Universal touts that Super Nintendo World will take that immersion to another level through Power-Up Bands. These separately purchasable wristbands interact with various elements throughout the land, from Question Blocks to different enemies, and aim to make you feel like you’re playing a real-life game of Super Mario Bros. This kind of high-tech, game-style functionality has been popping up in theme parks for a few years now (something similar was hyped as a major part of Disney’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge), but it usually feels like an easily skipped option that doesn’t really add that much to the overall experience; given the videogame roots of Super Nintendo World, though, this could be the concept’s true breakthrough moment. Playing a theme park like a game makes perfect sense when that theme park is based on a game, especially one that prioritizes high scores and collecting coins and that’s so thoroughly ingrained in our culture.
Super Nintendo World will also launch with the Toadstool Cafe restaurant and the requisite gift shop selling Mario merch, including hats, toys, and plush.
Sadly the Yoshi’s Adventure dark ride found at Universal Studios Japan’s Super Nintendo World isn’t coming to Hollywood. It will most likely pop up at the Super Nintendo World coming to Orlando as part of the Epic Universe theme park, which is currently scheduled to open in 2025. Universal Studios Hollywood has some pretty tight space restrictions, so it’s not that unusual for it to get smaller versions of lands found at the other Universal parks. If anything, opening a smaller version of Super Nintendo World in America first will only make Epic Universe’s version that much more impressive when it opens two years later.
2025’s still a ways off, of course. What matters today is that we’re only two months away from visiting Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood, and any fan of theme parks and Super Mario should be pretty dang excited about that news. Until then, here’s a short teaser released today to whet your appetite.