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Super Nintendo World at Universal Orlando Resort – overview and history

After redefining the theme-park land with 2010’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and upping the water-park game with 2017’s Volcano Bay, Universal will next attempt to advance the mechanics of theming and immersion with one of the most hallowed and recognizable properties in the entire world: Nintendo, whose various creations have been part of the global popular consciousness since 1981.

Super Nintendo World, as the upcoming land is known, is no small undertaking. It will first arrive in Universal Studios Japan in spring 2020 and will cost some $544 million – about $90 million more than what Universal is said to have spent on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. It’ll then open at Universal Studios Hollywood, presumably in either ’21 or ’22, before landing in Epic Universe, the upcoming fourth park at Universal Orlando Resort, in 2023.

Given the cultural (not to mention the nostalgic) cache of Nintendo and the obvious excitement with which Universal has been talking about the new addition, it’s safe to assume that Nintendo Land will be just as much of an anchor to Universal Parks and Resorts’s future growth and development as the Boy Wizard has proven to be over the past decade.

(Of course, we should point out here that all of this information, from the visuals to the attractions, is all strictly for the Japanese version of the land; Universal has yet to announce any specifics whatsoever for any of the Hollywood, Orlando, or Singapore locations.)

Skip to: Location | Opening date | Layout | Attractions | InteractivityDining and shopping | History | Index of articles

 

Where will Super Nintendo World be located at Universal Orlando?

Super Nintendo World will be one of what appears to be four lands at Epic Universe, the new theme park that is currently being built down on Universal Orlando’s brand-new south campus.

 

When will Super Nintendo World open at Universal Orlando?

Entrance to Universal's Super Nintendo World
Entrance to Universal’s Super Nintendo World

Expect to see both the Mario-themed land and its home park, Epic Universe, open sometime in 2023.

 

What is Super Nintendo World’s layout?

Over in Osaka, Super Nintendo World will be primarily dedicated to the most legendary franchise in Nintendo’s catalog: Super Mario Bros., which got its start in 1985 and which has since grown to include well over 100 entries, spinoffs, and tie-ins (which isn’t to mention all the television shows, movies, comic books, and other pop-culture accouterments that have amassed over the decades). It will be spread across three different vertical levels and will include such iconic locations from the game series as Princess Peach’s castle and Bowser’s fortress, along with, of course, all the “different key elements.”

Just as with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, the entire area seems to be blocked off and completely separated from the rest of the park (which, in Universal Studios Japan’s case, is fairly accurate – the land that the themed area will sit on was once a parking lot). This allows fantastical vistas of the Mushroom Kingdom to pretty much stretch as far as the eye can see, and a giant green warp pipe looks to act like Diagon Alley’s London waterfront façade – which is to say, individuals outside of Nintendo World can’t peer in, and those already inside feel as if they’re in a completely different reality.

We’ll have to wait and see whether any of this, warp pipe or not, will make the transition Stateside.

 

What are Super Nintendo World’s attractions?

Mario Kart
Mario Kart will be the headliner attraction of Super Nintendo World

Universal has only officially announced two Japanese attractions thus far, and they collectively seem to take the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade approach, with one catering to the thrill-seeking side and the other being devoted to the younger crowd.

Mario Kart is, naturally, based off of the hugely popular spinoff series that has been gracing various Nintendo consoles and handhelds (and, now, mobile devices) since 1992. Just as the name would imply, Mario Kart is a racing game in which players pick from a huge roster of Super Mario characters to play as and an impressive swath of items and weapons to deploy against one another (including the various colored turtle shells and the now-infamous banana peel). Though no specifics of the ride adaptation have been revealed, Universal has promised that it’ll utilize “cutting-edge technology” and be an attraction “unlike any the world has ever seen.”

Next up is Yoshi’s Adventures, which looks to be a kid-friendly dark ride themed to Mario’s dinosaur pal (who’s been a part of the Nintendo stable for the past 30 years). No other information has been released on this attraction as of yet, other than the fact that guests will be able to explore Mario’s world from Yoshi’s back.

Both of these rides will only constitute the first phase of Universal Studios Japan’s Super Nintendo World, but what, exactly, will arrive in the second phase – or when it will even materialize – is entirely unknown at this point.

Beyond Mario Kart and Yoshi’s Adventures, there’s the land itself, something which the Wizarding World has proven (and Disney’s Pandora: The World of Avatar and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge have reaffirmed) can be its very own attraction unto itself. Universal and Nintendo have already come right out and said to expect gigantic Piranha Plants and (possibly floating) Question Blocks to dot the landscape – right alongside a number of character meet-‘n-greets (the concept art seems to suggest that Princess Peach and Toad will be at the forefront of these), exclusive food and merchandise, and a high degree of interactive elements.

Speaking of which…

 

What is Super Nintendo World’s interactivity all about?

Super Nintendo World's Power Up Bands
Super Nintendo World’s Power Up Bands

Universal has promised “interactive gameplay throughout the land.” This interactivity will revolve around two central tools, the first of which being a wristband called the Power Up Band; by wearing it, guests will be able to use “their arms, hands, and entire bodies as they explore the new area.” Although it seems, generally, as if this wearable device will have similar functionality to Volcano Bay’s TapuTapu, its method of distribution will be entirely different – instead of being loaned out at the beginning of visitors’ stays, it will have to be purchased (making it more like the interactive wands at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter). The Power Up Band will come in at least six different variations (based around the characters of Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Toadstool, and Yoshi) and will seal magnetically – just slap it at your wrist, and it snaps right on.

Once bought, the wristband can be linked to a smart-phone app, which helps keep track of guests’ scores and stats across Super Nintendo World – and, even, across multiple visits. Part of this will entail collecting digital coins, which can be snagged in several different ways, such as by hitting Question Blocks (in true Mario fashion!) or by obtaining various collectible items, including character stamps, which are worth differing amounts of coins. Everyone in the land will be able to compete against everyone else to see who can nab the highest score, thereby creating another type of game within the Nintendo World experience (and it sounds as if achievements may be part of the process, as well, adding in yet another layer).

The last big piece of this interactive “gameplay” is something called Key Challenges, which will have visitors collect virtual keys as they walk around and explore the land. Once a certain number has been obtained, it’ll enable guests to cooperate with others (who also possess a sufficient number of the digital items) to unlock additional experiences, including Boss Battles against various enemy characters. (So far, only one of these Key Challenges has been detailed: Koopa, Jr. has robbed a golden mushroom and stashed away the three keys it was holding.)

There is one final item to note in this effort to make guests feel as if they’re “part of the game world”: the ability for the app to transmit your performance data back to your Nintendo Switch console, opening up the possibility of some sort of home functionality, which, in turn, opens up the possibility of an around-the-clock experience. The potentialities here are pretty endless and not just a little revolutionary.

 

What else will be in Super Nintendo World?

Universal has announced that, in addition to its “incredibly fun rides,” the themed land will also contain shops and a restaurant. Unfortunately, we don’t have any further info than that on these additional experiences.

 

Live Super Nintendo World Challenge

On the morning of Wednesday, February 19, 2020, Universal and Nintendo threw a special event at none other than Grand Central Station in New York City (since they have a global partnership, the two companies wanted to make a global splash). With dozens of question mark blocks hanging overhead in Vanderbilt Hall, groups of contestants were able to jump up, Mario-style, and hit them to collect (digital) coins – replete with larger-than-life Super Mario hats and gloves, of course.

While seeing how many coins you could nab was certainly part of the fun, there were also plenty of additional perks to be had. Every individual who participated was eligible to receive a (randomly selected) prize that actually doubled as a future piece of merchandise that will go on sale at Super Nintendo World once it opens up in Japan this summer – items such as punch block cubes, stuffed Mario and Yoshi plushes, Mario glasses with mustaches, and, naturally, those Mario hats and gloves. And then there was the grand prize, a free trip to Universal Studios Japan once the land opens up, which was randomly awarded to one player roughly once an hour (there were a grand total of eight grand prizes handed out over the course of the day).

Finally, also in attendance was Page Thompson, President and Chief Operating Officer – International, Universal Parks and Resorts (he’s the executive who oversees both the Japanese and Singapore theme parks), and a number of Asian celebrities, including actors and YouTubers. It made for a more festive feeling, which you can get a little taste of in our livestream of the gathering.

Super Nintendo World Challenge photo gallery

 

What is the history behind Super Nintendo World?

After launching the modern iteration of the videogame business 37 years ago, Nintendo has had something of a lurching performance ever since, riding high as the global dominator for one decade and then barely hanging on for dear life the next. (Part of this has had to do with the company’s refusal to invest in the same technologies as its competitors, traditionally eschewing such features as online play, movie and music playback, and more advanced – and, therefore, more expensive – chipsets under its consoles’ hoods.)

The 2010s proved to be one of the worst runs for the big N yet, and it caused the normally-cautious Japanese corporation to make certain bold moves in order to ensure its survival. Since the beginning of 2015, Nintendo has been easing into the mobile market, hoping to translate its recognizable franchises into newfound success. So far, it’s been working, with such titles as the insanely popular (for a time) Pokemon Go and Super Mario Run seeing release. This was, of course, followed by the out-of-nowhere announcement on May 7, 2015 that it was working with Universal to develop Super Nintendo World. It wouldn’t be until a full year-and-a-half later, on November 29, 2016, that the very first – albeit vague – details would be discussed, including the tidbit that interactivity would be a crucial focus of each of the then-three lands. The next update, however, took a mercifully shorter wait – our first look at the concept art arrived just the following month.

On June 8, 2017, the biggest update thus far occurred: Universal held a groundbreaking ceremony on Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan, an event which came replete with the first official confirmation of the area’s flagship attraction and a short-but-enticing teaser video hinting at its layout and overall vibe.

Amidst all this ongoing theme-park discussion, talk also began to sprout up regarding another big move that Nintendo was supposedly considering: attempting to bring its properties to Hollywood’s big screen (and, just possibly, Netflix’s small, streaming screen) for the first time since the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when the finished products were nothing to write home about. This was officially confirmed on January 31, 2018, when Nintendo of America announced that its parent corporation was in partnership with Illumination Entertainment, the animation studio owned partly by Universal (and the one responsible for such properties as Despicable Me and The Secret Life of Pets), to develop a new Super Mario movie.

Nintendo and Universal’s relationship, it seems, goes much farther than just the realm of theme parks – a good sign, as it means their partnership will be here to stay.

All would be quiet on the news front for the next year-and-a-half, but the developments have been coming (comparatively) more quickly since. On April 3, 2019, word came that Universal Studios Singapore would also be getting in on the Nintendo action, and then, in September, a huge swath of info was dropped by Tom Williams, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Universal Parks and Resorts, giving us our first (virtual) look at the theme-park land’s central wristband that guests will be outfitted with when setting foot in Mario’s realm.

 

Super Nintendo World – index of articles

Here are all of our recent news updates, in-depth features, and speculative pieces regarding Super Nintendo World, both here in Orlando and around the rest of the world. Keep your eyes peeled here for the latest:

2019

Nintendo and Minions coming in first-ever expansion to Universal Studios Singapore

2017

4 things we just learned about Super Nintendo World

Mario Kart announced for Universal’s Super Nintendo World

How Nintendo and the new Switch could be part of Nintendo Land

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