I grew up as video games made the leap from Pong to PlayStation in the age of Pac-Man, Zelda and Sonic. And yes, I grew up in the age of Mario. But I often found myself on the outside looking in. You see, I had poor taste in game consoles for many years. It wasn’t until the N64 – which came out more than a decade after the original NES – that I joined the Nintendo World on anything other than a visiting basis. Except, when the PlayStation debuted with its disc, it quickly outdated the N64.
When I finally played Mario, I got to tackle underwater courses and learn the wonders of a warp pipe. Mario Kart became a date night tradition for me and my then girlfriend – now wife. To save money, instead of a night at the movies, we could play Mario Kart and race through the Nintendo World realms. That’s why, when Epic Universe opens, I’m looking forward to grabbing a star and knocking her off the track with a turtle shell just before she crosses the finish line. Just for old-time’s sake.
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What to expect at Universal Orlando Super Nintendo World
Universal Studios Orlando’s Super Nintendo World will be the third of four such lands, two of which are in the United States. The first opened in Japan while the second opened at Universal Studios Hollywood in February 2023. The third Super Mario World will be at the Universal Orlando Resort’s newest theme park, Epic Universe. It’s supposed to open in Orlando in 2025. The fourth Super Nintendo World will be at Universal Studios Singapore.
Rides and attractions at Universal Orlando Super Nintendo World
It appears that the plan is for the Orlando Super Nintendo World to open with three rides for guests. This is significantly different than the Hollywood park which is just opening with one, the augmented reality-enhanced Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge.
In addition to the Mario Kart ride, it appears that Orlando will have its own version of Yoshi’s Adventure Ride. Yoshi’s is a kid-friendly omnimover with various animatronics. Finally, Orlando will have the Donkey Kong Mine Coaster. It’s reportedly a cutting-edge ride experience similar to the one that’s currently under construction at Universal Studios Japan.
But also, when Nintendo fans go through the iconic green pipe into the 360-degree world of Mario, not only will they be enveloped in a multi-sensory backdrop of color, they will be able to – through discovery and exploration – interact with the dynamic land in ways that would have been unthinkable a decade or so ago. It’s a little like wand interaction within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, except with a significant technological upgrade within the captivating Mushroom Kingdom.
What do we know so far about the individual rides, restaurants and attractions slated for Super Nintendo World Orlando? Here’s what we’ve learned so far …
1. Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge
Assuming this attraction is similar to the one in Hollywood, in the entry queue of Super Nintendo World’s signature ride, you’ll tour Bowser’s Castle. As guests navigate the winding corridors, they will pass through the hall of medallions and trophies of the ominous castle to the coveted Golden Cup. Finally, from there, you prepare to face off on the track. Projection mapping technology is used to create a towering landmark of the theme park ride experience.
Guests will be seated in stadium-style, four-seat vehicles and navigate familiar courses through the creative use and integration of head-mounted AR goggles. This unique feature is a key point of differentiation that distinguishes this ride from other theme park attractions. The technologically advanced ride will also allow guests to battle Team Bowser on iconic Mario Kart courses.
Guests will have the option to purchase state-of-the-art wristbands known as power-up bands. The bands keep track of the points – coins – acquired throughout the course of the day.
The interactive elements of the attraction are meant to make it feel more like the guests are inside a gaming experience. It will also be a repeatable ride, meaning each race experience will change based on the decision you make as part of Team Mario trying to beat the powerful Bowser. There will be a variety of outcomes based on the basics of the actual set pieces.
2. Yoshi’s Adventure
Again, there’s a version of this out there in the world. Therefore, we have a pretty good idea of what’s coming. For example, the official description from the Japanese version of the ride is as follows: “Ride on Yoshi’s back, follow Captain Toad and set off on a treasure hunt adventure! Find the three eggs hidden here and there with the help of the captain’s forgotten map. See the Mushroom Kingdom from Mount Beanpole, meet cute girls and have lots of fun!”
The ride vehicles come equipped with three colored eggs for interactive gameplay. Guests who spot the hidden eggs and hit the button at the right time on the moving ride track collect extra points. This is certainly a fun ride for guests of all ages without the high stakes of battling Bowser on the race track.
3. Donkey Kong Mine Coaster
We do not know as much about this one since we don’t have a living, breathing example of it yet. Still, we do know that Donkey Kong will have its own mini-land within the Super Nintendo World. We also know the ride will utilize Universal’s patented boom track technology. In other words, the ride vehicle – a four-person mine kart – will appear to be riding along a horizontal track within the attraction.
It will, however, actually ride on a hidden track under the floor which is connected to the four-seat vehicles via a beam. This will allow for the ride to give the appearance of a torn-out track going off the rails. It’s a unique feature that will provide a better way for guests to feel a real part of the experience of battling Donkey Kong.
4. Toadstool Cafe (dining)
We’re going into the realm of educated guesses here, but you can’t have an immersive world without themed dining. In Orlando, we believe the land’s signature restaurant will be Hollywood Toadstool Cafe, just like in the Hollywood Super Nintendo Land.
Hollywood Toadstool Cafe serves a gourmet menu perfected by Chef Toad who greets guests upon entry. Menu items are prepared fresh daily. Items include Toadstool Cheesy Garlic Knots, Super Mushroom Soup, Piranha Plant Caprese, Mario Bacon Cheeseburger, Luigi Pesto Chicken Burger, Block Tiramisu and Princess Peach Cupcake.
It’s likely that the Orlando experience will be very similar. But I suspect there will be the odd key point of differentiation just to vary the experience somewhat.
5. Interactive mini-games
Again, based on what we see in Southern California, we can surely assume a certain level of interactive gameplay. Guests in Hollywood, using their powerbands, engage in real-life gameplay throughout the land, including punching blocks to collect digital coins and a variety of interactives.
There are also four key challenges where guests collect “guarded” keys from Goomba, Koopa Troopa, Piranha Plant and Thwomp. These interactive activities will ultimately allow access to the culminating boss battle with Bowser Jr. The premise is that fun interactive games will further enhance the entire kinetic experience within the land. Also, it’s supposed to immerse guests in the unique world of Super Mario.
In Hollywood, powerbands come in six design options with character themes. Guests can purchase them within the land and at retail shops located in the theme park and on CityWalk.
6. 1-UP Factory (retail)
At the Hollywood location, the 1-UP Factory allows guests to purchase collectible memorabilia. The store also offers an extensive selection of merchandise from Mario and Luigi-themed apparel to iconic character hats and an array of plush characters, including Mario, Luigi, Yoshi and Bowser.
Are you looking forward to Super Mario coming to Orlando? Let us know in the comments!