Super Nintendo World Hollywood: Everything A Family Needs To Know Before They Go!

by | Mar 1, 2023 | Day Trips From Los Angeles, Destinations, Family Adventures, Traveling with Teens, USA, Weekend Trips, West Coast

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Kids will thrill when their folks take them to play at Universal Studios Hollywood’s newest land, Super Nintendo World but don’t tell these kiddies that their 1980s and 90s video game-obsessed parents are using them as an excuse to finally get to meet Mario and Luigi in real life! Super Nintendo World Hollywood opened its pipes to families on Friday, February 17, 2023, allowing them to walk through the jazzy, light display covering the inside of the channel used by characters in some Mario Bro. games to transport themselves into an equally dazzling video game world.  


super nintendo world hollywood entrance

Warp on in! ©Rina Nehdar


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It’s at once captivating and overwhelming. Without a proper mental map outlining the possibilities in the Mushroom Kingdom, the video game come-to-life world of the Mario Bros. may be a bit confusing. Here’s everything a family needs to know to make this an unforgettable experience in only the good way.




What’s In Super Nintendo World Hollywood?

Park designers managed to pack every inch of Super Nintendo World Hollywood with a vivid activity or moving contraption from the video game worlds of Super Mario Bros. and Mario Kart. They didn’t have as much space to play with as the Super Nintendo World Japan, which opened in 2021, but they definitely made it work.

Kids (and their parents) can engage in their favorite video game activities, but the players never die or have their games end. As long as participants are interacting in the land, the game continues. In between, Toadstool Cafe is an adorable cafeteria for players to recharge and the 1-Up Factory gift shop stocks all sorts of character goodies.


inside at super nintendo world hollywood

©Universal Studios Hollywood


What Are The Games In Super Nintendo World?

There are two main games in Super Nintendo World, and one is a ride. The ride (and game) is Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge, which is open to anyone who comes into the land, and the second, Bowser Jr. Shadow Showdown, requires a Power-Up Band.  


What Is A Power-Up Band?

Park creators say guests don’t need to buy a Power-Up Band to participate in the fun, but if they don’t, their experience will be limited to riding the Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge ride, watching others have fun interacting with the elements in the land, shopping in the 1-Up Factory gift shop or eating at Toadstool Cafe. So, we don’t see how anyone could avoid buying the Power-Up Band to really have a blast in this video universe.


power-up band in package in front of land entrance - super nintendo world hollywood

Sure, you could pop in without one, but it won’t be as much fun! ©Rina Nehdar


How Does The Power-Up Band Work?

Although admission to Super Nintendo World is included with general park admission, Power-Up Bands cost $40. They are available in the 1-UP Factory, some Universal City Walk retail shops, or within areas in the general Universal Studios Hollywood campus.

The first thing visitors must do after they purchase their band is sync it with their free Universal park app. There’s a Super Nintendo World button to push in the app home screen to activate a window that will appear on their smartphone that a player must direct over a QR code located on the inside of the Power-Up Band. Once the band is synced to the guest’s app, they can pick a player name that will appear in the stats and the digital boards hanging around the land. They’ll be able to see the score they’ve accumulated after each activity and overall. There’s also a team score. Depending on which of the six characters they’ve chosen for their bands, they’ll be either on Team Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Toad, Princess Peach, or Princess Daisy. 

The Power-Up Bands also keep all the stats of a player’s achievements into the future. When guests return, their stats will be uploaded to the world’s central computer system. 


Bonus! The Power-Up Band syncs to the Nintendo Switch for additional at-home fun.


mario and luigi with two players - super nintendo world hollywood

Everyone’s got one!  © Universal Studios Hollywood


How Do You Play Bowser Jr. Shadow Showdown?

The premise of the game is Bowser Jr., not straying far from his family’s bad character, has stolen the Golden Mushroom from Princess Peach’s castle. Players are either her friends or her soldiers, but regardless, they’re tasked with defeating Bowser Jr. and bringing the Golden Mushroom back to Princess Peach. 


Princess Peach -Super Nintendo World Hollywood

Oh dear, am I distressed! © Universal Studios Hollywood


To earn the right to challenge Bowser Jr. in his lair, players must first prove their worth by completing key challenges to get in. Brave combatants must bring three of the available four keys to the castle by winning games around Super Nintendo World.


What Are The Key Challenges?

There are four games, or key challenges, around the adorable little world. They are Goomba Crazy Crank, Koopa Troopa POWer Punch, Piranha Plant Nap Mishap, and Thwomp Panel Panic. Players must beat three of these to advance to Bowser Jr’s castle and confront the thief on his home turf. Each time a guest wins a game, they earn a key that’s saved on their Power-Up Band. They also increase their individual and team scores.


kids running around in Super Nintendo World Hollywood

Just like the video game except way more active! © Universal Studios Hollywood


How Do You Defeat Bowser Jr.?

Once players have earned the right to fight Bowser Jr., they show the gatekeeper their band to enter Bowser Jr’s castle. Now they can take him on with their new friends, who’ve also earned this privilege to fight him, or at least his shadow, for the Golden Mushroom in a group video game. Contenders face a screen and collectively take on Bowser Jr. It’s an intense experience and not an easy task, but players can keep coming back and retrying to defeat mean Bowser Jr. and get Princess Peach’s Golden Mushroom back. This game and the challenges that lead up to it all require the Power-Up Band to participate.


Fighting Bowser Jrs shadow - Super Nintendo World Hollywood

Take that you scoundrel! © Universal Studios Hollywood


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How Do You Play Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge Ride? 

A hopefully not scaled-to-life stone statue of Bowser stands in the middle of the land, looking ominous and completely unfriendly. OK, dude is ginormous. Not surprisingly, he’s the only figure without a glaring color, just a drab stone grey. There’s another statue as guests enter his castle. What an ego! 


Bowser's statue in his castle - Super Nintendo World Hollywood

Who dares enter my lair!? © Universal Studios Hollywood


Yet anyone could ride Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge! Simply enter Bowser’s Castle and walk through the queue designed to hold thousands of riders. Along the (incredibly long) switchbacks leading to the ride (seriously, I don’t know how many people they’re expecting, but they have enough space for a 5-hour wait), there is battle armor and various weapons designed for the Mario Bros. destruction. Mario’s and his team’s gear is hanging in lockers, and even Bowser’s secret plan is lying out in the open. If a rider does have to wait for a while, there is much to keep him occupied, appreciating the real-life video game magic displayed all through that super long line we mentioned. Waiters could also keep tabs on the changing stats if they did buy the Power-Up band.


Team Mario's locker room in Bowser's Castle - Super Nintendo World Hollywood

One may wonder how Mario’s locker room ended up in Bowser’s Castle…. © Universal Studios Hollywood


At the last part of the line, there are video screens showcasing the same simple kids found on the sides of the game boxes, instructing them on how to put on the head visor (that attaches to special glasses for the game) in the correct way. Maybe I missed it, but one thing that wasn’t discussed with us, or anyone near us, was how to tighten the attachment to the visor that slides over your head and is obviously a one-size fits all. Now, this would have been important information to have. As far as heads go, I have a big one and didn’t realize this needed to be done, so I spent most of my ride trying to keep the visor from careening off my face as I swiveled my noggin back and forth, looking for the bad guys.



Once the ride comes into view on a slow-moving track, gamers step into a four-person theater seating car and clip a magnetic set of high-tech glasses onto their visor. The glasses provide an augmented reality ride experience with projection mapping technology and real set pieces. 


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Mario Kart Ride with people in goggles - Super Nintendo World Hollywood

And away we go!!!! © Universal Studios Hollywood


Before play begins, challengers must tap their Power-Up Bands against the “horn” on the steering wheel of the Mario Kart ride to keep track of points and progress. For those who opted not to purchase a band, the game can still be played, and fun can still be had. It just won’t be saved for future personal delight. However, bandless visitors could check their stats on the game board at the end of the ride and on the screens displayed throughout the land.


The 4D ride has a height requirement of 40 inches (102 cm). Riders 40-48 inches (122 cm) tall require a companion aged 14 or older. There is also a Single Riders line and parents can do a Child Swap for this ride.


How Do You Win Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge? 

Those familiar with the Mario Kart games will immediately recognize some of the elements. Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge game blends actual sets built around the ride’s race track and imaginary video game components displayed through the glasses and attached to each head to build that 4D experience.

The first thing to notice is the red arrows that pop up when you look through the glasses. They tell each player the direction they must move their steering wheel. Contestants get points for that. There are coins to collect too. Then they must use the buttons on the top sides of the steering wheel to shoot tortoise shells at the bad guys. Players turn their heads in the direction where they want to aim. Each hit earns points. However, there are good guys, like Mario’s friends, Yoshi and Luigi, meandering around the road and town. Don’t get overexcited, like I did, and hit them with the shells because you’ll lose points (like I did). 



To Win: All players in the car must score 100 points or more.


There are sky scenes and water scenes and all kinds of fun scenes, and, really, you’ll want to play again like any good video game is designed to make players want to do, but then you’ll have to consider the amount of time that it took to get to the ride in the first place.



Participation Points

Just like in rec league sports teams, kids (and parents) get rewarded just for participating in the world. Players earn points for hanging out with and taking pictures of the game characters as they make their way around the land, when they hit mystery boxes, and when they interact with elements around the land. 


mario walking around his land

Get points for being a fan and snapping a pic with the big guy! ©Rina Nehdar


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Toadstool Café

But first, food. 

The Café is adorable in a soft cartoon world sort of way. Bright colors of red, blue, and yellow set the cheery tone, and video screens made to look like windows show scenes of cooking characters and adorable mushroom-headed creatures walking around “outside.”


outside toadstool cafe - super nintendo world hollywood

Come on! I know you’re hungry!  © Rina Nehdar


The dishes are Mario World themed with question mark boxes holding tiramisu cake desserts and hamburger buns with mustaches. There are gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options.


burger fries and a dessert box - super nintendo world hollywood

Eat me! © Rina Nehdar


Menu items have cute names like Toadstool Cheesy Garlic Knots, Piranha Plant Caprese, Mario Bacon Cheeseburger, Fire Flower Spaghetti and Meatballs,? Block Tiramisu, and Princess Peach Cupcake. The kids’ meal options are either a burger or spaghetti. Visitors can view the full menu, with descriptions and prices, on the Universal Studios Hollywood app.


cashiers in toadstool cafe - super nintendo world hollywood

The options are unlimited…sort of. © Rina Nehdar


1-Up Factory Gift Shop

Of course, there’s a gift shop. Buy accessories to dress up as video game characters, cool shirts not available outside the land, and fun little toys that’ll remind kids of their special day. Or just get the Power-Up Band.


inside the gift shop - super nintendo world hollywood

Lots of options! © Rina Nehdar


How To Get Into Super Nintendo World

On some days, all guests will have to do is walk through the park to the back corner of the lower lot and warp through the giant green pipe into Super Nintendo World. But while the world is new, it’ll attract much visitor attention. Maybe forever. So, the smart people at Universal devised a cap for the number of guests allowed in the area and a reservation system to make it enjoyable for everyone. To make sure you can get in, make a reservation in the virtual line through the free Universal app as soon as you enter the park. Seriously. Don’t wait.

Guests can also use the app to monitor the length of the wait for all park rides. Alternatively, visitors can splurge for the Universal Express Pass or the VIP Experience to skip the line and enter at any time once daily.


Is the Power-Up Band Worth It?

Whether you’re a season passholder, local to the area, or a one-time visitor, we’d say yes. It’s worth it if you can visit multiple times and/or love the Mario Bros. franchise. Once you own the band, return again and again to play all the interactive games. The kids will love the child-sized play area and the vibrant spirit. It’s especially worth it if you have a season pass. If guests are visiting from a distant city, it’s still worth it. Chances are, the kids will want a souvenir and it might as well be the band. Plus, the band can be paired with the Nintendo Switch so the fun doesn’t have to stop just because you have to go home.


When You Go



Getting To Universal Studios Hollywood

The entrance to Universal Studios Hollywood is off the Lankershim exit off the U.S. 101 Freeway. Parking is plentiful. There are general and preferred lots. General parking before 5 pm is $30 and $10 after. Preferred is $50 before 5 pm and $20 after. Front Gate parking is $60.


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Where To Stay Near Universal Studios Hollywood

There are hotels in the area that have special relationships with the theme park and may get early admission and discount tickets. Hilton Los Angeles – Universal City is one. It’s a beautiful hotel less than a mile from the park with a gorgeous glass garden atrium and an outdoor pool. The Sheraton Universal Hotel, about a mile from the entrance, provides a shuttle to the park. It also has an outdoor pool with a bar inside it. Both are also super convenient to enjoy City Walk which is like an amusement park of retail shops and restaurants. In North Hollywood, about 2 miles from Universal, the Garland is a swanky hotel that has family suites and rooms with bunk beds. It also has a pool, a restaurant, and bar.