Last October, I was lucky enough to visit Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. As a lifelong fan of Nintendo, the experience was immense, providing me with one of my favorite amusement park experiences ever. Naturally, when the first Super Nintendo World in America opened at Universal Studios Hollywood, I had to make the trip to Los Angeles to see how the experience stacks up.
Universal Studios provided me with a day pass to the park for the purpose of experiencing Super Nintendo World. While the photos do little to show off just how cool the experience of visiting Super Nintendo World is, follow along with my experience in the gallery below.
I arrived at Universal Studios Hollywood mid-morning and immediately made a beeline toward Super Nintendo World. The park is in the back corner, by attractions themed after Jurassic World, The Mummy, and Transformers. To get there, you need to take a series of long, steep escalators on the other side of the Simpsons area. The Super Nintendo World portion of the park feels way out of the way.
The silver lining is that, unlike the version in Osaka, you actually get a good view of the Hollywood version of the park from above. Though I would eventually get an up-close view of the various sights on offer, seeing Super Nintendo World from this birds-eye view successfully whetted my appetite for the exploration to come.
Much like its Japanese counterpart, you must make a reservation beforehand. Once inside the Super Nintendo World park area, you have the same photo opp in front of the Super Nintendo World sign. Naturally, I had to slide behind the pipe and pose with the sign.
After the obligatory photo opp, you can go through the giant warp pipe to Peach's Castle. Both the pipe length and the lobby area of Peach's Castle are smaller than the versions in Universal Studios Japan, which somewhat set the tone for the rest of my experience in Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Once I exited Peach's Castle, I was bombarded with the same feeling of excitement that I had when I emerged in Japan. Everything works perfectly in concert: the iconic Mario music hits just as you exit and get the full view of the park. It's a magical experience, even the second time.
Each area of Super Nintendo World is meticulously crafted and designed in a way that makes you feel like you've actually been transported to the Mushroom Kingdom. Mount Beanpole is still a sight to behold, but my eyes continue to be drawn to Bowser's Castle. There are also so many small details that you only notice after spending hours in the park. The animatronics are about as high quality as I've ever seen in a park.
As you can probably see from the pictures, Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood is jam-packed, both with attractions and people. This is likely due to several factors – it opened just over a month ago, my visit happened during spring break, and it's the current most popular attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood. However, it's impossible to not acknowledge how much smaller this version is than the version in Osaka.
Make no mistake about it: Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood is still a hypnotically magical experience for lifelong Nintendo fans such as myself. But for those who have been to the one at Universal Studios Japan, it's a tad underwhelming in a few spots. First, the area is much flatter than the multi-level Japanese version, meaning there are fewer vistas and not as much dimensionality to the simple exploration experience. In addition, the Yoshi's Adventure ride and the fun Underground-themed Bob-omb Kaboom Room minigame are absent, meaning the only ride in Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood is the excellent Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge (more on that later). Additionally, the Slot Machine and Note Block Rock activities are also missing, meaning there are slightly fewer activities to take part in at this version.
The other big downside is that the snack stand, which sells things like drinks and popcorn, is outside of the park, meaning that if you can't get a reservation at Toadstool Café (as I couldn't due to how busy it was), you have to leave Super Nintendo World to get any kind of food – and you can't get back in unless you make another reservation. It's easy to spend hours upon hours in Super Nintendo World, particularly with how long all the lines are, so this put me in the predicament of needing to leave the area and being unable to come back in or just being hungry and thirsty. While much of Super Nintendo World is very well thought out, I was not a fan of that aspect.
If you are interested in participating in the minigames, the quick, fun activities starring Koopa Troopa, Goomba, Thwomp, and Piranha Plant all carry over into the Hollywood version of the park. It's necessary to do at least three of these to gain access to the final boss battle against Bowser Jr. However, if you're there when it's busy, you'll be spending hours waiting in lines to gather the keys. If you want to take part in any of these minigames, the character-themed Power-Up Bands, which cost $40, are required.
The star of Super Nintendo World is undoubtedly Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge. The line serpentines through a Yoshi's Island-themed queueing area before eventually having you enter Bowser's Castle. The line is full of fun details and amazing photo opps. After a brief video explaining how the ride/game works, you're led down into the basement of Bowser's Castle, where the Mario Kart race occurs. You're given a Mario visor that will be used to hold the AR visor found on the kart you're about to get in.
The ride is exactly the same as the one in Osaka, only there's a bit more explanation about what to do thanks to an introductory video. Once you're in the kart, you're thrown into an augmented-reality ride featuring all your favorite Mario Kart racers. Your goal is to use the shells you pick up to blast as many enemies as possible while your kart whips you around across several different biomes. It's a sensory overload in all the best ways and remains one of the coolest rides I've ever been on.
After exiting Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge, I explored a bit more, collecting coins and finding hidden Easter eggs to add to the profile on the nifty Universal Studios Hollywood app, but with Toadstool's Café completely booked prior to my arrival, I eventually needed to leave the area in order to get some food. By the time I ate, Super Nintendo World was completely booked for the remainder of the day. Thankfully, I had already done most of what I wanted to do, but I'm disappointed I couldn't get into Toadstool's Café.
Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood may not be as outright amazing in all the same ways as its counterpart at Universal Studios Japan, but it's still an awesome experience and absolutely worthwhile. Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge is a terrific ride, and just the act of exploring the interactive Mushroom Kingdom is rewarding and memorable. If you have the chance to go to the one in Japan, that's the version you should visit, but if Hollywood is the most convenient option for you, it's still a great time.