8 Things To Know About Super Nintendo World Before You Go To Universal Studios

Super Nintendo World has kicked open its doors (warp pipe) at Universal Studios Hollywood, allowing guests to immerse themselves in the world of Mario, the Italian-ish plumber with a heart of gold who seems to find himself fighting a giant demon turtle time and time again.

Universal Studios’ creative team and the team at Nintendo worked together to create one of the most immersive theme park experiences yet–yes, more than Disney’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and even Universal’s own Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Walking around Super Nintendo World feels like an authentic trip into the Mario video game franchise, which in reality is a lush, colorful, and cartoony-looking world, filled with ? blocks, piranha plants, giant toadstools, and even a Mario Kart ride.

“If you take a look at even when we create a film, experience or whatever else, we work with the filmmakers we work with the actual actors, we work with the directors and writers and with our feature film group so authenticity is essential to everything we do because otherwise, it’s kind of a cheat,” Universal Creative vice president Jon Corfino told GameSpot. And Super Nintendo World was no different. Instead of working with filmmakers, though, Universal collaborated directly with Nintendo in bringing this world to life.

Before you jump in the pipe and warp to the Mushroom Kingdom, though, there are some things you’re going to need to know about visiting Super Nintendo World–things that could greatly impact your trip, along with some tips and tricks to unlock an even better time when you do walk through Peach’s castle into the world. Take a look below.

1. It’s a living video game

Something that you might now know, which isn’t being talked about nearly as much as it should be, is that Super Nintendo World is a living video game. What does that mean? While the Mario Kart ride is surely the star of the land, there’s so much more going on.

Throughout the land, there are a series of four different minigames built into your surroundings. They range from a touchscreen color-change game, to specifically timing the hitting of POW blocks to knock a Koopa Troopa shell into the right position. Beating each challenge earns you a key and if you gather three of those, you can unlock the door to Bowser Jr.’s castle for the final showdown–a boss stage.

This is far different than everything we’ve seen from theme parks thus far. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has now built bounty hunting into the Play Disney Parks app, which is a fun distraction. It’s nowhere near the level of what’s happening in Super Nintendo World, though. What’s more, this Mario-filled land has a level of replayability that makes it worth coming back to.

2. There’s a hard mode

The first time through, the minigames aren’t all that difficult. They’re all physical, but relatively easy. However, if you beat them, prepare for a challenge. All of the games–save for the sleeping Piranha plant–come equipped with a hard mode. So the next time you play those games, whether on your same visit or in the future, you will be presented with a harder difficulty. For instance, there is a touchscreen game where you tap various ? blocks displayed to change them from yellow to blue. On the harder setting, Bowser Jr. throws some extra obstacles in your way, making for a more dramatic playthrough.

It’s touches like this that make Super Nintendo World such an interesting addition to the current lineup of immersive theme park attractions. It’s asking you to go deeper, engage further, and–to put it simply–get good.

3. Yes, the Power-Up bands are pretty important

How do you get good without keeping track of your score? While it’s easy to write off Super Nintendo World’s Power-Up bands as the Super Mario equivalent of the Wizarding World’s magic wands, you shouldn’t do that. Each band connects to the Universal Studios app via a QR code, allowing you to track the coins and achievements you earn throughout your time in Super Nintendo World.

You earn keys for beating games, coins for punching ? blocks anywhere you see them (and defeating Bowser Jr.), and “stickers” for doing practically anything around the land. There’s a long list of achievements that award digital stickers for everything from meeting Mario and Luigi to earning the top score on the Mario Kart ride. While these won’t earn you any prizes in the land, there are leaderboards on display for both teams and individuals. Plus, honestly, it’s just fun competing with a friend to see who can gather the most coins and stickers.

And if that’s not enough, the bands also act as Amiibos for your Nintendo Switch. With them, you’re able to, for instance, unlock special costumes in Mario Kart.

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4. The ride is a first of its kind

With the launch of The Secret Life of Pets Unleashed, Universal Studios has landed a counter-blow to the critique that the parks are too focused on screen-based “simulator” rides. With Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge, a whole new kind of ride debuts. Yes, it still has screens–like Transformers, it’s a dark ride with screens–however, it’s also filled with physical objects and, most notably, augmented reality. While on the ride, you wear goggles that add in animated characters and objects from the Mario Kart series, making for an actual race. You can even shoot items at your AR opponents in an attempt to best them and save the Mushroom Kingdom. It may be the only actual ride in Super Nintendo World (for now), but it’s a good one.

5. It’s a tight fit

Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to ride. Surely, you’ve seen the reports that the seats are rather restrictive to bigger individuals, with 40-inch waists being noted as the limit. The good news is everybody is different and even some people with larger than 40-inch waists will be able to ride. The bad news is that everybody is different, so even some with smaller than 40-inch waists may have trouble fitting in.

Luckily, Universal Studios has installed a test seat at the entrance of the ride, hidden around a corner to the right. The bigger issue is, though, that the parks continue to design ride vehicles without the average American in mind, which is troubling. Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge and the aforementioned Secret Life of Pets Unleashed are both rather slow and safe rides with seats that are more restrictive than many roller coasters–including Disney’s latest Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. There is no need for the seats to be so restrictive and, for many in the park, it’s going to mean missing out on the two most promising glimpses into the park’s future.

6. Almost all of the food has mushrooms

Yes, there’s a themed restaurant, the Toadstool Cafe, where Chef Toad and his kitchen of mushroom people cook up an array of foods, ranging from very on-brand for a theme park (cheeseburgers) to a bit unique (mushroom soup served in a plastic power up mushroom from the world of Mario.) After tasting everything, we can say there’s not really a bad dish in the bunch, save for possibly the mushroom-shaped garlic knots, which were rather dry.

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What’s interesting about the food is the amount of thought put into including mushrooms in various dishes. Even the tomato soup (yes, this place has two different soups, which is weird in a very hot California) has a slice of mushroom atop it. It makes sense to include mushrooms in the menu but it feels so out of the norm for theme parks. Still, it works and, as it turns out, the mushroom soup is the absolute best thing on the menu. And for dessert, don’t sleep on the Mt. Beanpole cake, which is actually two pieces of Neapolitan cake with a matcha frosting made to represent the end of a level in a Super Mario game–complete with a plastic flagpole to take home.

7. There are Easter eggs everywhere

Chances are just about everything you see in the land is some sort of Easter egg. There are hidden spaces, characters, and items strewn throughout the land. The queue for Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge takes you through King Koopa’s castle and into his workshop to see how Bob-Ombs and Bullet Bills are made, along with a variety of other nods to the game franchise. However, also keep an eye out for Pikmin scattered around the land.

8. Sadly, the lines are going to lessen the experience

While the living video game of a theme park experience is a blast, it’s also not huge. Universal Studios Hollywood already is often short on room due to being built into a working film and TV studio. That said, as much fun as the minigames are when we tried them on press day, the land was sparsely populated and didn’t have any lines to speak of. Now that it’s open to the world, that’s no longer the case. Each of the minigames has a line, as does the ride, and that’s after you wait to get to your virtual line reservation time. So while it’s a smaller area, you’ll wind up spending plenty of time there in line. So long as you properly prepare yourself to wait (bring a Switch) you should be fine.

Super Nintendo World is open now at Universal Studios Hollywood.

The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors.
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