Super Nintendo World, Day 1: Not Mushroom in There

I went to Super Nintendo World's grand opening at Universal Studios Hollywood. It was crowded, chaotic, and... cheerful?
Edited by Kristi Jimenez

For five and a half hours of my life, Nintendo’s little plumber that could was inescapable. Excited chatter began long before I boarded the Universal Studios park shuttle. A family of three in full Nintendo gear boarded my subway car, the son almost vibrating in his seat. “It’s almost time to see Mario!” I sat up a little straighter. Even if I didn’t experience a single Nintendo attraction, the excitement and yes, the corporate synergy suddenly felt very real.

I spotted crowns, snatches of red and green, a bright, Daisy-orange tracksuit. Up the escalator to the park, through the security line, and all through Universal Studios itself, Mario was on the brain. Super Nintendo World was officially here.

Details on rides, attractions, and more: What to Expect at Super Nintendo World

A lot was riding on this theme park launch—the titular Super Mario Brothers film, oodles and oodles of merchandise sales, much needed public distraction from the TERF-y albatross around Universal Studios’ neck. I wanted to see that friction for myself: when a brand’s high-concept cross-promotional expectations meet harsh logistical reality.

Someone holds up the face of the Mario Power-Up Band to the camera,
Image via Universal Studios Hollywood

Into the Marioverse

First, I had to figure out how to get in. After the security line and confirming my pass at the turnstile, I walked as briskly as I could to the back of the upper lot, where the escalators snaked down. I was just in time to hear the bad news from a guide by the stairs: Super Nintendo World was reservation-only, unless you had an Express Pass. I did not, so I circled back to that line.

The woman at the register must have seen the look on my face, so she made sure to warn me further. The Express Pass would get you in, but it would not apply to the lines inside Super Nintendo World. Did I still want to upgrade for the day? I closed my eyes, thought of my future credit score, and said yes. She held up my new Express Pass, beaming: the Nintendo characters were printed on the front. I thanked her before rejoining the crowds at the lower lot escalators.

I savored the relative quiet on the ride down. Further down, a tween excitedly speculated about the park. A couple in complementary Mario and Luigi gear smooched and held hands; somewhere, a Folgers ad exec was fuming. A gruff looking older man in sunglasses rested his arm on the railing of the up escalator, his Toad bracelet on full display. I grinned under my face mask and took some footage of Super Nintendo World from above.

The line pooled around the Transformers attraction. I saw the Express Pass emblem and picked my way to the back of the Super Nintendo world queue. The employees with badge scanners did their best to manage the flow and answer questions. A younger man walked up beside me.

“Is this the line to get in?”
“Yeah, unfortunately,” I laughed.
“Do you need any sort of pass?”
“A reservation or Express Pass, based on what people are telling me.”
He looked down at his slip. “I just have a general admission ticket. Do you think that’ll do it?”
“Probably not,” I grimaced.
“Oh well,” he said, “It was worth a try.” More parkgoers funneled into the line, and eventually I was scanned and through. People stopped for the prime photo op in front of the giant warp pipe, but I pressed onward.

Interior of a Super Nintendo World merchandise store.
Image via Universal Studios Hollywood

End of the Line

The interior of Super Nintendo World felt like walking inside an architectural rendering, down to the giant warp pipe of an entrance. Attractions were scattered just so, the main thrust of Bowser’s Castle expertly framed as a centerpiece. Ideally, the people would be scattered too, lively accessories to bring the main attraction to life. Instead patient, not-paid-enough-for-this-shit employees did their best to tame the snarl of crisscrossing lines and expectations.

I stood obediently, waiting to see the estimate on a table for one at Toadstool Café. A family in front of me was handed a slip with “4:00 PM” on it. After some prodding, the man in the chef’s hat said they would need to stay in Super Nintendo World for the entire duration to keep their place. It wasn’t even noon.

I abandoned the line and gauged my remaining options. The QR code bracelets—sorry, Power Up Bands— were available, so I dutifully bought Luigi’s, sitting down on a bench to sync it up to my smartphone.

I looked up, noting that the wait time for Super Nintendo World’s one ride was over two and a half hours. After tucking the bracelet into my backpack, I took a few more videos, and left through the other warp pipe, where Megatron had stopped doing crowd work. It was time to follow my own advice.

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Taylor Hicklen
Taylor Hicklen

Taylor is Press SPACE to Jump's community lead. He likes midrange JRPGs, fighting games, and Dicey Dungeons. Bonus points if there are good fonts. To contact him about your game or other professional inquiries, you can email him at pstjtaylor@proton.me.

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