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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 is currently unknown when Universal Orlando (or Universal Studios Hollywood or Universal Studios Singapore, for that matter) will be getting its own version, but it can be safe to assume that, with its bigger swaths of land, the Florida resort’s take can be bigger, contain more experiences, and cost significantly more.

Let’s put it this way: 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 eight years.

Skip to: History | Location | Opening date | Layout | Attractions | Interactivity | Index of articles

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

 

What is the history behind Super Nintendo World?

After launching the modern iteration of the videogame business 36 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 have proven to be one of the worst runs for the big N yet, and it’s 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 discussing: 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 into Mario’s realm.

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

 

Where will Super Nintendo World be located at Universal Orlando?

This is one of the biggest questions that fans and vacation-planners have been asking, but, unfortunately, the only answer we have is a resounding, “We don’t know.”

Although the news that Super Nintendo World would be making its way to the crown jewel of the Universal Parks portfolio is already five years old at this point, the company has still remained notoriously tight-lipped about its exact future home at the Florida resort. Depending upon which route Universal wishes to take, it could either demolish a pre-existing theme-park land at either Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure, located at Universal Orlando’s north campus, or it could build the Mario-themed area from scratch at Epic Universe, the new park coming sometime next decade in the also-being-developed south campus.

 

When will Super Nintendo World open?

Much like with the new theme-park land’s location, this is an answer that we just don’t have — although, in this particular instance, at least we do have a reason behind our not knowing: in an interview with investors, the chairman and CEO of Universal Parks and Resorts, Tom Williams, stated that the company wasn’t discussing possible timelines because it didn’t “want to deter attendance” – something that had happened a decade ago, with the years-long construction of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.

 

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 and Bowser’s castles, 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 29 years). No other information has been released on this attraction as of yet.

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 arrive – 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?

Nintendo Switch console system
Nintendo Switch console system

“The whole land is interactive,” Universal’s Tom Williams has declared. What precise forms this interactivity will take are still, as of now, unannounced, but we do have some info on a more general level: expect there to be games located throughout Super Nintendo World, along with the possibility of some sort of stat- or score-keeping within the Mario Kart ride.

The key to all this interactivity will be a wristband that will somehow be distributed inside the themed area (whether that be a temporary loan, like the TapuTapu wearable at the Volcano Bay water park, or a necessary purchase, like the interactive wands at the Wizarding World, has yet to be seen) that will have the big red Mario symbol on it and that will seal magnetically – just slap it at your wrist, and it snaps on. This little device will record your performance across all aspects of the park, such as continually tabulating your various scores, even across multiple visits – and, furthermore, it’ll transmit the 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.

 

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:

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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