Super Nintendo World Pushes Theme Park Boundaries
Fans who have enjoyed playing titles from the “Super Mario” game series may have envisioned entering a video game themselves, running and jumping through the Mushroom Kingdom with Mario, collecting virtual coins, and punching blocks while avoiding enemy hazards.
Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka brings this dream to life by fusing virtual and real elements to capture the spirit of one of the world’s most popular video games.
“The moment you enter the park, you will be amazed at how real everything feels,” says Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the Mario franchise.
Visitors access Super Nintendo World through a giant green warp pipe and are met on the other side by a brightly colored world with chomping Piranha Plants, punchable question-mark blocks, iconic apple trees, stone-faced Thwomps, and a flag-topped Mount Beanpole. Fictional Super Mario World dinosaurs—the ride vehicle for a five-minute, family-friendly ride named “Yoshi’s Adventure”—circle the rampart walls.
The flagship attraction in this $550 million immersive land is “Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge.” Located inside Bowser’s Castle, past an extensively themed queue area, this ride may best be described as an augmented reality (AR) video game ride. The dark ride combines storytelling, projection mapping, screen projection, and AR to transport guests into the courses of the “Mario Kart” video game series.
“The teams at Universal and Nintendo worked closely together to build something that’s never been seen before by combining our extensive industry knowledge and utilizing cutting-edge technology,” says Miyamoto.
Riders don large AR goggles once seated in their kart. Every passenger has a steering wheel, along with buttons to throw shells, which enable them to interact with the game. During the ride, signals appear that tell guests to turn left or right. If everyone in the four-person vehicle does so at the same time, the kart drifts further and riders receive additional points. Riders also pick up points by collecting coins and throwing shells at enemies. “Mario Kart” fans and avid gamers will enjoy the ride as they compete for the highest score.
The highlight for many visitors is the interactive game play that comes with the purchase of a $30 radio-frequency identification (RFID) Power-Up Band that syncs with the park’s app and ranks them as they navigate the land, gather spinning gold coins, punch blocks, collect character stamps, and defeat bad guys. Some points are earned through physical contact (jumping to hit a block), while others are gained through virtual interactions.
Players must pass a series of games and collect keys throughout Super Nintendo World, including in an underground maze that is revealed using the Power-Up bands, before they can compete in a “Boss Battle” finale where they swipe away virtual enemies on a projection screen inside Bowser Jr.’s Lair.
The Power-Up Bands build on the interactive wands used inside Universal Studios Japan’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter land. They are also Nintendo amiibo devices, so gamers can import Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Daisy, Toad, and Yoshi costumes for their characters into a Nintendo Switch video game console.
“At Super Nintendo World, you can do everything Mario does. This experience completely revolutionizes theme park entertainment,” says Universal Studios Japan President and CEO J.L. Bonnier.
Throughout Super Nintendo World, Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach pose for photos with guests—many of whom have purchased Mario and Luigi hats, gloves, and glasses with dangling mustaches inside the 1Up Factory shop. Nintendo theming is prevalent in the dining and snack choices. One of the most popular items is bound to be the collectible popcorn buckets that look like “Mario Kart” race cars.
Universal Studios Japan employs a timed-entry system into Super Nintendo World to manage crowds and ensure social distancing.
Universal previously announced plans to build Super Nintendo World lands as part of Universal Studios Hollywood in California and Universal Orlando Resort in Florida in the United States, though no opening dates have been announced as of press time.