You Can Now Add Japan's Super Nintendo Theme Park to Your Post-Pandemic Travel List
The multi-level site is now open at Universal Studios in Osaka — and so is its 'Mario Kart' ride.
When Super Mario Kart first rolled onto Super Nintendo consoles back in 1992, it came with 20 inventive courses and endless hours of fun. Nearly three decades later, the game has become a beloved phenomenon — not just speeding through desert tracks and rainbow roads, but onto Google Maps and mobile phones, and also into reality. The hugely popular game's next stop? Theme parks.
In the works since 2019, delayed due to the pandemic (like everything else), but finally opening its doors on March 18, Super Nintendo World is now a place that genuinely exists. And yes, you can enjoy a real-life Mario Kart experience as part of the first-ever Nintendo-themed theme park zone, which has joined Universal Studios in Osaka.
There's no mistaking this space for anywhere else. Given that it features life-sized recreations of both Bowser's Castle — complete with spiked fences and heavy iron doors — and Peach's Castle, fans of the gaming brand will know exactly where they are. You also enter via a warp pipe, because of course you do. No other entryway would've done the park justice.
For those keen to hop on Mario Kart: Koopa's Challenge, you'll be racing through familiar Mario Kart courses that've been brought to life. And yes, as you steer your way along the track, you're surrounded by characters such as Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach. You can also throw shells to take out your opponents — because it wouldn't be Mario Kart without them. If you're wondering how it all works, it's a blend of physical sets, augmented reality, projection mapping and screen projection, all designed to make you feel like you're really in the game.
As for Yoshi's Adventure, that lets you climb on Yoshi's back — and, as it sounds, it's very family-friendly. So, you hop on, then set off on an adventure. Specifically, you follow Captain Toad to find three coloured eggs, plus a golden egg as well.
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Across its multiple levels — fitting for a gaming-themed space — Osaka's Super Nintendo World also includes restaurants and shops. A certain highlight: the world's first Mario cafe, which launched ahead of the rest of the site. Here, patrons are surrounded by oversized Mario and Luigi hat sculptures, the whole space is kitted out with a red and green colour scheme, and Mario Kart-style checkered floors are a feature. As for snacks, there are Mario pancake sandwiches and cream sodas, plus other drinks available in 'super mushroom' souvenir bottles.
The theme park also has wearable wrist bands, called Power Up Bands — which connect to a special app and allow patrons to interact with the site using their arms, hands and bodies. That mightn't sound all that exciting, but the bands enable you to collect coins just like Mario does in the Super Mario games. Like the red-capped plumber, you can also hit question blocks to reveal more coins. There are collectible items to gather, too, such as keys and character stamps, which you can only find after achieving various goals. The stamps also earn you even more coins, so you really will be basically playing Super Mario in real life. You do have to buy a Power Up Band separate to your entry ticket to enjoy that element of the park, though.
While no one is venturing far at present — and Japan has just shut out international travellers from the Tokyo Olympics, so you're unlikely to be able to head to the country anytime soon — you can add Osaka's Super Nintendo World to your must-visit list once overseas travel does start returning to normal. You might also want to add ziplining into a life-sized version of Godzilla to the same list while you're dreaming about Japanese holidays.
Universal Studios is also planning Super Nintendo Worlds for its other parks in Hollywood, Orlando and in Singapore, if you need to add more places to look forward to visiting sometime in the future. The latter was just announced last year, and is set to open by 2025.
Super Nintendo World is now open at Universal Studios Osaka, 2 Chome-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, Osaka, 554-0031, Japan.
Top image: Nintendo and Universal Studios.
Published on March 24, 2021 by Sarah Ward