An inside look at Universal's new Super Nintendo World

Ever wondered what it's like to be inside a video game? Now you can find out at Universal Studios Hollywood's new Super Nintendo World.

Collect coins, fling fireballs from your fingertips, battle Koopas and Goombas, and take on Bowser in a real-life Mario Kart race—all while competing with other visitors for a high score. We look at how it works and ways to make the most of your visit to the Mushroom Kingdom.

What is Super Nintendo World?

The new land is an expansion of Universal Studios Hollywood that opened on February 17, 2023. Visitors enter one of the Mushroom Kingdom's famous green Warp Pipes and are transported into a real-life video game. No separate ticket is required, though guests may need to make a Virtual Line reservation in the Universal Studios Hollywood app for entry on certain days. Reservations can be made once you arrive at the park. 

Blocks at Super Nintendo World come in 3 main varieties: Brick, Question, and POW. 

Since the land is a game, guests can play with interactive elements throughout Super Nintendo World. Visitors can hit 3 different kinds of blocks to collect coins, as well as explore hidden areas tucked away in the land's far corners. The 3 blocks respond differently to being punched (POW Blocks, for example, will also activate any blocks above them) and just as in the games, they can be punched more than once to get multiple coins.

Fans can also meet Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach, as well as enjoy a meal at the Toadstool Cafe and shop at the 1-UP Factory store.

BLOCK PUNCHING TIP: If you have a Power-Up Band, it doesn’t have to make direct contact with the bottom of the block—punching with the same hand that's wearing the band is enough.

Power-Up Bands come in 6 character designs, including this Mario one, and snap around the wrist. 

How does playing in Super Nintendo World work?

To get the most immersive experience at Super Nintendo World, guests can buy a wearable digital Power-Up Band inside the park. The Power-Up Band pairs with the free Universal Studios Hollywood app on your mobile device and lets you interact with the land on a deeper level:

  • Like the points display in the top left corner of a Super Mario game, it keeps track of the digital coins you're earning by punching blocks.
  • It allows you to collect stamps for completing certain tasks. That can include punching certain blocks, completing challenges, or finding hidden collectibles. Stamps award more coins, not to mention bragging rights.
  • Speaking of bragging rights, the Power-Up Band also lets you compare your coin total with other visitors that day and all-time. Compete to be among the highest scorers by the end of your visit!
  • Most importantly, it unlocks the 4 Key Challenges and allows you to face Bowser Jr. in the Bowser Jr. Shadow Showdown.

Once you buy the Power-Up Band, it can be used indefinitely for future visits.

The 4 Key Challenges are identifiable by their spinning white-and-gold key coins, like this one at Piranha Plant Nap Mishap.

What are the Key Challenges?

It wouldn't be a game without a quest to complete. In this case, Bowser Jr. has stolen the Golden Mushroom from Princess Peach and locked it away in his hideout. To recover the mushroom from his lair, you'll need to collect 3 keys from the 4 Key Challenges around the land. Find Key Challenges by looking for the rotating white-and-gold key coin symbol, or on the Super Nintendo World Activities Map in the Universal Studios Hollywood app.

  • At Piranha Plant Nap Mishap, you need to shut off alarm clocks whack-a-mole style before they can wake up a sleeping Piranha Plant. 
  • Goomba Crazy Crank features a Goomba running along a cylinder; your job is to turn the cylinder faster than the Goomba can run. 
  • Thwomp Panel Panic challenges you to flip the tiles on a screen to one color or another before a giant stone Thwomp re-scrambles them.
  • Koopa Troopa POWer Punch is a timing game where you must detonate the first of several POW Blocks at the right time to fire a shell and trip up a Koopa.

CHALLENGE TIP: The Koopa Troopa POWer Punch is typically the most difficult of the 4 Key Challenges. Don't be discouraged if you need multiple attempts. Improve your odds by watching players ahead of you and noting the timing and technique of the ones who succeed.

Visitors to Bowser Jr. Shadow Showdown are greeted by a statue of Bowser Jr.

Once you have the necessary 3 keys, tap your Power-Up Band at the entrance to Bowser Jr. Shadow Showdown. You'll be transformed into a miniature shadow version of yourself that can collect power-ups like Super Stars and Fire Flowers.

You'll need them to defeat Bowser Jr. as he flies around in his Koopa Clown Car, raining Bob-ombs on you and your teammates. Deflect them by waving your arms (your shadow follows your movements) and hit back with Fire Flower fireballs and other power-ups. Your in-game actions are recorded by the Power-Up Band, and there are lots of stamps to collect for accomplishments like getting powered up and not taking damage.

SHADOW SHOWDOWN TIPS: On your way into Bowser Jr. Shadow Showdown, don't forget to punch the Bowser Jr. Block and open his toy chest—both actions unlock stamps and coins.

When taking your position in the main game room, if you're placing a bag or other item in the cubbies, be sure there are no straps hanging down. These can cover the camera that tracks your movements and interfere with the game.

How does the Mario Kart ride work?

If taking down Bowser Jr. isn't enough for you, strap in and race the King Koopa himself for the Golden Cup at Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge. This interactive indoor dark ride doesn't require a Power-Up Band, but tapping one on the steering wheel will allow you to keep track of your Mario Kart performances.

Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge uses an augmented reality visor to let you fire Koopa shells at Bowser and his Koopalings, as well as other targets of opportunity, to score points. Each driver's score is individually tracked and each kart carries 4 riders. Whether Team Bowser or Team Mario wins the race depends on how many points the riders score, and shells are limited, so take careful aim. 

MARIO KART TIPS: Shells are fired in the direction you're looking with the visor, not where your kart is pointing. This allows you to fire to the side and into the air as well as to the front, but it can be tricky to master at first.

Use that freedom to look all around the racetrack. There are secret purple blocks hidden around the map. If you find one, shoot it with a shell to unlock a stamp!

Hidden 8-bit portraits of Super Mario characters can be found around the land. Find and tap the M symbols to activate them and collect stamps.

What else is there to discover?

No game is complete without at least a few hidden "Easter eggs." Super Nintendo World invites visitors to search out 4 different 8-bit portraits of Super Mario characters—you'll get a stamp for finding each one, and a stamp for finding all 4. Look for M symbols on walls around the edges of the land and tap them with your Power-Up Band to collect them.

You can also get a stamp for using the binoculars that look down from the snowy heights above Bowser Jr. Shadow Showdown. Zoom in on particular sights to unlock even more stamps; the stamp list in the Universal Studios Hollywood app hints at what you'll need to look for. 

Hungry? Stop in at the Toadstool Cafe to enjoy Mario-inspired meals like the Piranha Plant Caprese (complete with a little Piranha Plant made out of a tomato), the Luigi Burger pesto chicken sandwich, Question Block Tiramisu, and much more.

Outside the cafe, you'll find screens where you can check your score and see how you rank on the leaderboards. Get your score as high as you can and then take a selfie with the leaderboards to show off your skills!

ALSO NEW, AT CITYWALK: Another recently opened attraction is just outside the park: the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen at Universal CityWalk Hollywood. It leans heavily into its chocolate factory theming (a certain children's book may come to mind) but there's a lot more going on behind the whimsical exterior.

There's an enormous variety of mouth-watering options: chocolate factory gears, chocolate pretzels, even chocolate-covered bacon, plus an array of colorful truffles. But Toothsome is also a full-service restaurant with European flair. Enjoy French onion soup, a forest mushroom flatbread, or a croque monsieur and immerse yourself in a steampunk vision of the Industrial Revolution.

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