6 Theme Park Secrets of Super Nintendo World to Know Before You Visit
It’s time to don those overalls and caps, hop into those warp pipes and prepare to face Goombas, Koopas and Piranha Plants, because the first Super Nintendo World opened inside Universal Studios Hollywood on February 17.
Integrated with the rest of the Universal, it doesn’t require a separate admission, though a virtual line may develop to enter on crowded days when that section of the park hits its capacity. The area is small — just one ride, compared with two at the Super Nintendo World in Japan — along with games to play, food to eat and, of course, The 1-UP Factory Store where you can get plenty of Nintendo merchandise.
At the moment, there isn’t a Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios’ Orlando location. It’s expected to open there as part of Universal’s Epic Universe, a new park scheduled to open in 2025 that’s also rumored to be home to areas devoted to the Universal Monsters and How to Train Your Dragon.
But even though it's on the smaller side, that doesn’t mean there isn't much to do, along with its own ins and outs for how to do them. After visiting as a welcomed guest on a press trip, I’ve found these are the best ways to get the most out of your visit to Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios in Hollywood.
Super Nintendo World is really way more fun if you get the Power-Up Band.
Usually, I’m loathe to tell people they have to buy something extra on top of an already-expensive theme park ticket. You certainly don’t need the Power-Up Band to visit Super Nintendo World — and, at $40 each, skipping it is entirely reasonable. You can still take a spin on the Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge ride, play mini-games, meet the characters and enjoy a treat from Toadstool Cafe without one.
But the world really does open up a lot more if you get one, and you get access to so many more feel-like-I’ve-been-transported-inside-a-Nintendo-game elements. If you wear a Power-Up band, you can smash bricks, hit question boxes, set off POWs and collect gifts — and the Universal app will keep track of all the coins you’ve earned and all the loot you got. (Hit those same bricks without the band, and you’ll just hear an unsatisfying thud.) Tap it on the wheel of your kart in Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge, and it’ll add to your coin count, and maybe you’ll even win a trophy.
Even the land’s four mini-games, which can be attempted by anybody, add another dimension if you have the Power-Up Band. Each win will get you a key, and three keys means you can unlock the entrance to Bowser, Jr.’s lair. There, you get to explore some more dark and spooky hallways, — which includes a shout-out to my favorite Nintendo item ever, Kuribo’s Shoe — collect more items and challenge Bowser, Jr. to another mini-game in a bid to retrieve Princess Peach’s Golden Mushroom. But you can’t collect the keys unless you have the band.
Odd corners, long hallways and dead ends often have a purpose.
You might look into a room and think the only thing in there is just another question block. Or you might think an entrance is needlessly wide, or that a hallway juts out at an odd angle.
Those nooks and crannies are often where you can find hidden characters (again, if you have a Power-Up Band). There are four concealed throughout the land: Mario, Luigi, Peach and Bowser. They look pixelated, like they did in the old, 8-bit version of Super Mario Bros. Tap a Band to an “M” hidden on the wall to make them appear. Each one you find earns you a badge at 45 coins in the app; get all four and you’ll get another badge and another 100 coins (which we all know is an extra life).
So it definitely pays to go up staircases, wander hallways and scan the walls looking for those Ms.
Looking for more inspiration for great family vacation destinations? The Good Housekeeping Family Travel Awards covers everything from the best destinations for kids to the gear that'll help get you there and back.
Nintendo fans will have plenty to enjoy while waiting for Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge.
Which is a good thing, because if you want to ride it, you’re probably going to have to wait for a while. At the moment, Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge is exempt from the Universal Express pass, which will get you into the land even if there's a virtual line, but won’t let you skip the queue for the ride. If you're worried about long wait times, you can get an early-entry ticket to Super Nintendo World for an additional $20 — if they’re available — which lets you into the land an hour before the general public. Or, if you’re rolling solo, you can check out the separate, single-rider line — off to the right when you enter the attraction — which might save you some time. Otherwise, when I was there, the waits were the shortest closer to the end of the day, when the littlest ones were at dinner or heading home altogether.)
But even if you have a long wait, there’s plenty for Nintendo fans to gush over in the queuing area. Different Nintendo eras and games are represented: you can enjoy the pink wispiness of Yoshi’s Island, see the trophies from different Mario Kart cups and even get a look at some of Bowser's evil plans in his library.
See the map hanging on the wall? It has an area marked with Piranha Plants, then an underwater area, then a fiery area, followed by something that looks like a classic Mario Kart track — hey, just like the ride course! (Though there are more areas to the ride than that, so it’s not a total spoiler.)
The “window” seats are the best place to sit at Toadstool Cafe.
No visit is complete without a stop at Toadstool Cafe. Here’s where you can get the mushroom-shaped collectible drink bottles you see everyone carrying around. The burgers were a hit with my party — the kids’ version came with its own mini Mario and a chocolate-covered cookie shaped like a coin, while the adult version had a mustache-adorned bun, and bother are served with on-theme truffle fries — but I admit my favorite was the Piranha Plant Caprese.
But enough about the food — how’s the view? Well, it’s virtual: Sit at a “window” seat, and you’ll be next to screens that look out onto the Mushroom Kingdom, and all the Toads frolicking therein. But if you’re really lucky, you’ll be seated there when Bowser’s airship goes by, and you’ll get front-row access to the mayhem it causes (the lighting and music even change in the rest of the café).
Another tip: Keep one eye on the line if you want to eat at Toadstool Cafe. If it gets crowded, they might start handing out slips of paper with a return time on them. On the weekday I visited, I got my slip around 11:30 am and my return time was 4:15 pm, so they go fast! And, when you do enter, make sure to tap your Power-Up Band at the entrance to get a gift from Toad.
It’s mostly Super Mario Bros., but it’s not all Super Mario Bros.
Sorry Kirby fans, you won’t see Meta Knight walking around with Mario and Luigi. Nor will you see Samus from Metroid or Link and Zelda. Even though it’s called Super Nintendo World, for the moment, it’s really Super Mario World.
..or is it? See if you can spot these guys in the land.
There are a couple of places where you can find Pikmin getting into mischief around Super Nintendo World. See if you can spot them all!
You don't actually need a car to get there.
Los Angeles has a reputation of being a driver's city, but if you're a non-driver or balk at the cost of car rental, it's actually easy to get around without one. And while there are hotels right at the park, we stayed as guests of The Garland hotel on our press trip, which has its own trolley that takes guests to and from Universal Studios. Head for an early breakfast at The Front Yard, the Garland's on-site restaurant, and you're likely to see lots of Marios, Luigis and Peaches dining before all heading out on the trolley together.
Once you get to Universal, there are trams that go between the Universal CityWalk — the shopping center outside the gates of the theme park — and the Los Angeles Metro. It's right on the line that can take you to places like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, TCL Chinese Theater and the bus to the Griffith Observatory. You can save that gas money and use it on souvenirs.
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