Through the Warp Pipe: A Peek into Universal Studios’ Super Nintendo World

Eight years since Universal and Nintendo’s initial announcement, the long-awaited Super Nintendo World opened to a crowd of eager fans. Located next to the Transformers ride in the Lower Lot, the colorful land is squished into a tight area between sound stages. The bright Mushroom Kingdom comes to life as an immersive experience for children and adults, allowing parkgoers to enjoy activities with characters from the Mario franchise. Unfortunately, the condensed space only contains four attractions and the difficulty of navigating Universal Studios Hollywood to get there makes it a hard sell for families, large groups, and people with disabilities.

A quick walk through the green warp pipe tunnel leads out to a world of sensory overload: coin dings, thumping bricks, and walls of moving animatronics as far into the sky as the eye can see. Super Nintendo World makes up for its lack of width with its height; the stacked platforms and tall backgrounds imitate the feeling of being sealed in as the walls consume the skyline. The densely packed space makes for a great photograph background, but not for much else. Despite the name, the area is largely decorated in Mario memorabilia, with few inclusions of Pikmin. Right beside the park’s entrance through the doors of Peach’s Castle is a short hallway with coin and brick blocks that lead out to… more coin blocks. Punching blocks is one way to take out the frustrations of endlessly waiting for every activity, if your wrist can handle it.

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There are two levels to Super Mario World, but the second story is part of the queue line for Bowser’s Challenge. Similar to the cinematic views within Hogwarts on the way to the Forbidden Journey, the walkway to the Mario Kart VR game keeps you on your toes for easter eggs within the set designs. This is a nice change of pace after the walls of endless coin and brick blocks, but this raises a concern over ADA accessibility. For those unable to walk the mile and a half journey down from the parking structure to Super Nintendo World, the shuttle to take parkgoers down can take up to forty minutes. Within the attraction space, there’s barely any room to stand let alone store mobility scooters. Aside from the limited toadstool seats, there are very few places to sit. In addition, according to the Daily News, the Mario Kart ride isn’t accommodating for all body sizes.

Arguably, the Toadstool Café has the best food in the park. Reminiscent of decorated themed cafes in Japan, the inside seating area features a mini show that provides a peak into the daily lives of Toads in the Mushroom Kingdom. My personal recommendation would be The Luigi Burger—which comes with basil pesto aoli—paired with a Super Star Lemon Squash drink. Out of the four attractions, skip the 1UP Factory since Nintendo merchandise can be bought anywhere else in the park including CityWalk.

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While Super Nintendo World is a great addition to the park with endless potential for fun, I can’t imagine enjoying it at the height of its demand. First, outside of one seated ride, the mini games (from punching blocks to knocking over Goombas) make up most of the land. To play them, you need to purchase a power-up band (one per person) that costs $40 before taxes. I’d recommend a wrist guard, or you’ll go home with a bruised hand after an hour. After obtaining three keys from the mini games—which could take up to an hour to do—you’ll be rewarded with the chance to beat Bowser Jr. in an AR projection game.

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To the average one-day pass visitor, this portion of Universal Studios Hollywood is the best photograph opportunity amongst the others in the park. The immersion into the Mushroom Kingdom makes up for the lack of activities, but that means a lot of waiting for very little payoff. Without the activities, the entire park can be traversed in less than an hour (on an uncrowded day). If you have a free weekday and want to train for a half marathon jogging down the hill to Super Nintendo World, this would be a good opportunity to get some steps in with a view.

Kalai Chik

Pop culture writer focusing on animation, music, and games. Los Angeles native, USC alumni, and contributor for Asia Pacific Arts since 2015. Follow me on Twitter, @kalai_chik.

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