Super Nintendo World: Is It Worth It? Survival Tips, Budget Advice, How To ‘Play’ The Park

Image: Alan Lopez / Nintendo Life

Super Nintendo World in Hollywood, California is finally open to the public, and we’ve been exploring the park to uncover its secrets.

Today, Alan will be your guide as he proffers essential tips for making the most your visit, including basic info concerning entry and queue times and the like, plus exactly how essential the Power-Up Band is to your enjoyment of the park (spoilers: very!) and advice on how much you should consider budgeting for if you’re partial to the sweet scent of exclusive theme park merch…

I just went to Super Nintendo World on opening day, and boy are my wrists tired! (Don’t worry, I’ll explain.)

Yes, Super Nintendo World is finally open. Following in the footsteps of the pioneering theme park in Japan of the same name, a couple of years of state-side construction, and roughly a month of small-scale gatherings held for media and annual pass holders, Nintendo and Universal held their official grand opening of Super Nintendo World to the general public on February 17th, 2023, located inside Universal Studios Hollywood. If you guessed it was popular, you would be right.

To both that and this point, all the pictures, videos, and vlogs for the theme park ever previously shared with you, the fan, were done so with the grace of a hype man carrying a t-shirt cannon, which is to say, loudly, instantly in your face, and so perfectly framed, the core experience could fit neatly on a shirt.

But up until this weekend, nobody knew what the Super Nintendo World experience in Hollywood, California would actually be like when it was all fully set in motion. What is a full day in the park like? How long are the lines? How much does it all cost? And what’s Luigi like in real life?

Luckily, Nintendo Life (uh, me) went Koopa-boots on the ground for opening day to answer all these questions for you, and much, much more.

And let’s just get this out of the way first: Luigi is actually pretty nice in person.

Super Nintendo World Survival Guide

At risk of this article coming across like a guide to Universal Studios in general, there are still some basic things everyone thinking of visiting Super Nintendo World needs to know.

You Need To Reserve Your Time Slot To Be Allowed In!

Like any brand new attraction (but likely never before in modern times at quite this large a scale), Universal Studios requires visitors to DOWNLOAD THE UNIVERSAL STUDIOS APP and RESERVE A TIME SLOT to be allowed into Super Nintendo World.

Super Nintendo World is a themed area inside the overall park. So, no, unless you are a VIP or have Universal Express, it does not matter if you purchased general admission; your ticket does not guarantee you entry into the Mushroom Kingdom. (At least, this will likely be the policy while Super Nintendo World is white-hot popular.)

What’s more, the app is GPS-guided, meaning you CANNOT reserve your slot until you are actually AT the park. (For me, I was able to reserve a time slot as far out as the general parking garage, though your mileage may vary.)

How crazy was this on opening day? I arrived at the park at 8:30 AM (on a typical day, the general park opens at either 8 or 9 AM). I was able to gain the option to reserve my slot by around 9:10 AM. By that point, the earliest entry into Super Nintendo World was 11:50 AM.

By around 10 AM, the earliest entry you could reserve was around 4 PM.

By 10:25 AM, the earliest entry you could reserve was not until 7:30 PM…!

How does entry work?

Universal has a well-guarded line outside the iconic green warp pipe leading into the Nintendo portion of the park, where they allow patrons inside no earlier than 5 minutes before their reserved time slot. I overheard more than a few heartbroken visitors being told to come back at 8 PM while it was only 10:30 AM.

To Universal’s credit, the app was well advertised and functioned smoothly with no apparent issues for me throughout the entire day.

Note: Universal has begun selling daily limited “early access ticket” add-ons for GA tickets, beginning at $20.

Super Nintendo World Has A Goal For You

Once you finally do enter the park (for me, it was around noon), you are guided through a literal green warp pipe to be greeted on the other end by an iconic Mushroom Kingdom vista: cartoonish topography, iconic buildings, and blaring Mario music. (My goodness, will you hear Mario music.) Frankly, it can be a little emotional!

But what isn’t quite so clear before trying to figure out what to actually do in there, is that Super Nintendo World wants you to “play it,” kind of like a Mario game in and of itself.

What can you do inside the park?

Not including the big, main attraction (“Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge” which is naturally located inside Bowser’s Castle, a building impossible to miss), there are four general attractions inside the park. And it’s only after the completion of at least three of them you can gain special entry into a related, fifth attraction. (I was explained entry was enforced as three digital keys per one person, or three keys for two adults and one child — more on that below.)

everything was fully functional, meticulously detailed, and left a lasting impression on me

What are these attractions? Well, they’re basically the theme park equivalency of a minigame.

One is a Piranha Plant game where you must slap oversized, ringing alarm clocks before time runs out; another is a crank game involving a spinning platform and a Goomba; another is a timing game involving POW Blocks and a Koopa Turtle; and the last is a touch-screen-based match game where you are pressured by a timer. Succeeding at any one of these in any order grants you a digital key, provided you purchased a special Nintendo wristband (more on that later, too).

However, given that these are more or less the only things you can actually spend your time on inside the park outside of shopping, the lines are long. On opening day, the absolute shortest amount of time I waited for one of these games was around 25 minutes, while the longest was over an hour.

Given that the successful completion of these games is necessary to experience the park’s only other “main” attractions (a Bowser Jr.-themed movement game that under normal circumstances would be worth the wait), these minigames come across more like mandatory fun, amusing far more on paper than in practice.

And don’t you dare lose. If you do, you will have to wait in line all over again for another shot at a key, which can sometimes mean punishment in the form of another grueling hour under the hot sun.

You Absolutely Need to Buy a Power-Up Band To Engage With Almost Anything

“Power-Up Bands” are these thick plastic, ’90s-riffic wristbands available at the park that are currently sold in six color variations: Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Toad, Daisy, and Princess Peach. (But why would anyone choose any other than Yoshi? Please explain this to me in the comments.)

They are designed to snap around your wrist and be scanned by almost everything throughout the park, which includes oversized question mark blocks, doorways, secret wall panels, and above all, are used to gain digital keys. Whatever you accomplish throughout the park is colorfully compiled inside the Mario potion of the Universal app in the form of special achievement “stickers” and inventory items. You can also browse these accomplishments by scanning your watch at any of the various wall-screen kiosks located throughout the park.

In addition to items, your chosen wristband character becomes your digital allegiance, as all your earned coins are tallied up by character on a public leaderboard. (Pick up the pace, Daisy!)

They retail at $39.99 apiece. You can purchase them in multiple stores throughout Universal Studios, including just outside Super Nintendo World, as well as two locations inside the park itself.

Do you need one to enjoy the park? Well, no, not technically. But do you enjoy waiting over an hour under the hot, Los Angeles sun to slap an alarm clock just for the sport of it? You tell me.

Don’t Come Hungry!

Timing your lunch or dinner time around the Nintendo park’s only food option was virtually impossible, at least on opening day.

Food is located at Toadstool Cafe, a whimsical restaurant that serves artisanal Mario-themed food items, located at the back of the park inside a giant mushroom, naturally. If you have any desire to eat inside Super Nintendo World, GO DIRECTLY HERE AS SOON AS YOU GET INSIDE THE PARK.

Why? To eat at Toadstool Cafe, you must wait in line to get a reservation time (sound familiar?). For me, I got to the Toadstool Cafe line around 12:15 PM, where I waited roughly 20 minutes in line to be told the earliest time slot available was for 4:00 PM for between 1-4 guests (with different scheduling opportunities available for bigger parties.)

With my ticket, I could then get in line no earlier than 5 minutes before my scheduled time slot, where I then waited an additional hour and 15 minutes in line to place an order. After doing the literal ordering around 5:10 PM, again I waited another 15 minutes in line before I could be seated. My food didn’t arrive to me until around 5:45 PM.

In essence, this means I had to wait almost six hours from when I first got there to when I actually ate. Strangely, there were no other food options inside the Mario portion of the park whatsoever, minus a small water and soda truck, and some chocolate bars inside the gift shop. (And I’m sorry to say, the chocolate bars I ate under duress didn’t even taste that great!)

Will Toadstool Cafe be like this forever? Unofficially, I was told the park had braced for 2x over-capacity on opening day, and had actually exceeded that guest total. Until that number goes down, bring your own snack, or eat at any of the plethora of other food options outside of Super Nintendo World.

Oh, and by the way, the food is actually not bad! (This opinion may have been aided by the fact that I was ravenous by the time I finally did eat.)

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