Super Nintendo World is the hottest thing to hit Universal Studios Hollywood since Harry Potter, and today we’re revealing everything you need to know before visiting America’s first Mario-inspired theme park land, with details direct from the upcoming Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2024.
Super Nintendo World, featuring the Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge ride, opened its green warp pipe to guests in early 2023 as the latest addition to Universal Studios Hollywood’s Lower Lot. This area is accessible only via the escalators and stairs descending from the back left section of the Upper Lot. The trip takes at least 7 minutes in each direction, and a bypass shuttle is available for disabled guests, acrophobics, or anyone requesting it.
Be aware that USH’s Lower Lot stops admitting new arrivals 15 minutes before the park closes, though its attractions remain in operation until closing time.
Welcome to Super Nintendo World
Following the 2021 debut of the original Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan, the first North American theme park land dedicated to Nintendo’s world-famous video game characters opened at Universal Studios Hollywood in early 2023, ahead of its arrival as an anchor property in Universal Orlando’s Epic Universe expansion.
Guests enter Super Nintendo World through an iconic green warp pipe in the back corner of the Lower Lot and emerge through a swirl of colored lights and 8-bit sound effects into the courtyard of Princess Peach’s castle.
Flag-topped Mount Beanpole and a range of terraced hills screen out the surrounding studio, and everywhere you turn there’s another moving animatronic—marching Koopas, waddling Goombas, and spinning coins—enlivening the area with infectious kinetic energy.
Hollywood’s version may lack the Donkey Kong roller coaster and family-friendly Yoshi ride found in the other locations, but it still features the anchor Mario Kart attraction, and it has been an even bigger hit for Hollywood than Harry Potter.
Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge
Based on the long-running series of racing games, Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge combines traditional dark ride elements with cutting-edge augmented reality technology that blurs the line between the real and virtual worlds.
The storyline sees Bowser, the villainous King of the Koopas, challenging Mario and his pals to a kart race through flaming lava fields, floating clouds, and other iconic tracks from the popular Mario Kart games.
Prospective competitors enter Bowser’s castle, touring its bowels where his anthropomorphic bomb minions are built, before being handed special visors styled after Mario’s distinctive red cap. Check out the full Mario Kart queue and preshow in this video:
Once riders strap into the four-seater vehicles, a video display with angled transparent lenses snaps onto the visor, creating Pepper’s Ghost–style digital holograms that appear to float among the physical sets.
During the ride, racers cooperate to claim the coveted Universal Cup by aiming at their virtual opponents with their heads, then pressing buttons on their steering wheels to shoot shells, as well as by turning the wheel in response to flashing arrows. Everyone on your team will need to collect at least 100 coins in order to beat Bowser to the finish line, and ammunition is limited, so look down along the track for crystal blocks to reload.
TIP: Press both buttons during the starting countdown between “3” and “2” for a bonus, and look behind you for hidden coin blocks.
The ride spins quite a bit but doesn’t actually move particularly fast; however, the combination of game-play elements and projection effects creates a chaotic sense of speed, especially during the climactic Rainbow Road sequence.
The Unofficial Guide gives Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge 5 Stars and rates it Not To Be Missed.
Although Mario Kart is a relatively slow-moving dark ride, the augmented-reality effects simulating high speed and video-game baddies may be too intense for preschoolers. There is a 40″ minimum height requirement, and a child-swap room is available.
Universal advises guests with waist sizes over 40 inches to test the vehicle restraints outside the attraction before entering the queue, but the lap bars are actually less restrictive than those on some other rides in the park, such as Revenge of the Mummy or Secret Life of Pets.
Power-Up Band Interactive Challenges
To keep track of your Mario Kart score, as well as fully participate in the interactive elements around the land, we strongly recommend that you install the smartphone app and purchase a colorful character-themed Power-Up Band ($40), which allows you to “punch” blocks and participate in activities throughout the multilevel complex.
Even though the bands (which also double as Amibos for the Switch) don’t need batteries or charging, their level of interactivity is far more sophisticated than Hogsmeade’s magic windows, reacting readily to the scores of sensors secreted around the land.
Beyond simply discovering all the sound-and-light effects you can activate—thereby adding digital badges to your app’s bragging board—you can participate in four physical challenges, each with multiple difficulty levels to keep veterans on their toes. The wacky tasks have you slapping alarm clocks so a monstrous Piranha Plant stays snoozing, slapping a touchscreen wall of sliding blocks, as well as other tests of timing and coordination.
Once you’ve conquered at least three of the key activities, you (and one companion) are allowed inside Bowser Jr.’s Lair for an arm-waving interactive “boss battle“ that’s a fantastic full-body workout. After you’ve beaten Bowser Jr., head upstairs to the Frosted Glacier overlook and use the augmented reality binoculars to find the final hidden key on the hovering airship.
Get a closer look at the Power-Up Band key challenges and boss battle in this video:
To save time in the morning, purchase your Power-Up Band in CityWalk and link it to your phone before entering the park; ask inside the 1UP gift shop for a free security sleeve to prevent your snap bracelet-style wristband from flying off when you fling your fists.
Dining in Super Nintendo World
Food options inside Super Nintendo World are limited to Toadstool Cafe, which serves mushroom soup, chicken sandwiches, pasta, and salads.
While dining, you can watch Toad and his friends in the kitchen through video screen “windows.“
Same-day reservations for the restaurant are available via a QR code posted outside the land, but tables fill up within 2 hours after opening; even with a reservation, you may queue for an hour before ordering and receiving your meal.
The food is tasty and super kawaii—some of the adorable dinnerware is available for purchase—but the wait isn’t worth the hassle when you’re on a tight touring schedule.
You can also find souvenir popcorn buckets and other Nintendo-themed snacks at a stand just outside the land. Take a look around the interior of Toadstool Cafe (without waiting) with our video tour:
Virtual Line and Super Nintendo World Touring Tips
Super Nintendo World is going to be USH’s top draw for some time to come. When the rather small area reaches capacity—which may happen within minutes after official opening—Universal requires Virtual Line reservations simply to enter the area. If that’s the case, grab a free return time through the app as soon as you arrive, or pick up one from the ATM-style kiosks next to the exit of Transformers.
Those who purchase early-entry privileges or Express passes don’t need Virtual Line reservations but will still have to wait in lines once inside the land. The Mario Kart ride may develop a multi-hour wait by the time the general public enters the land in the morning, and lines don’t drop off until closing time. Although the best time to ride Mario Kart is during early entry or shortly before closing, be warned that the ride may open late or close early for maintenance.
With no Express option for now, Mario Kart’s easily overlooked singe-rider entrance (on the right immediately inside the queue) can be a lifesaver, although it bypasses the Easter egg–filled queue and the cartoon preshows instructing you on how to score.
Express Passes and VIP at Super Nintendo World
Express Passes are not currently accepted at Mario Kart, but they do provide expedited entry into Super Nintendo World when Virtual Line is being used to restrict access to the land. Platinum annual passholders also get entry into Super Nintendo World without a Virtual Line Pass after 3 p.m.
Taking a VIP Tour ($369–$499, including admission, depending on season; $10 off if ordered online) is currently the only way to get Express access to Mario Kart (both during and after your tour), making this service worth its weight in spinning gold coins.
Super Nintendo World Early Admission
Early Admission to Super Nintendo World is available in advance online for an additional $20–$30 per person; quantities are limited and busy days will sell out. Express access to the Studio Tour before 11 a.m. is also included. Early-entry guests use designated turnstiles to the left of the entrance archway; guests with regular park admission only enter through the turnstiles on the right side.
When early entry is offered, Universal’s gates open up to 90 minutes before the official opening time, and eligible guests are allowed down the escalator and into Super Nintendo World 15 minutes before the bonus hour begins. Everyone else is held near the Upper Lot’s central plaza until regular operating hours begin. Mario Kart is not guaranteed to operate during early entry, but it may still be worthwhile even without the ride if you’re playing with the interactive Power-Up bands.
If you pre-purchase early access but then accidentally oversleep, you’ll be allowed inside Super Nintendo World without a Virtual Line reservation once you arrive, but you won’t be offered a refund.
What’s your favorite part of Universal Studios Hollywood’s new Super Nintendo World? Let us know in the comments below!
For all there is to see and do at Universal Studios Hollywood, check out The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland by Seth Kubersky with Bob Sehlinger, Len Testa, and Guy Selga Jr. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.