How Super Nintendo World almost became the Fyre Festival of theme parks
Until I found a secret shortcut. Here's my full Super Nintendo World review and guide
✅ Mario-themed nostalgia will make you feel like a child
✅ Augmented reality Mario Kart ride felt inventively fresh
✅ Fun interactive mini-games and character photo-ops
✅ So much potential to improve and expand beyond Mario
❌ 🍔 Currently, no food except for Toadstool’s Cafe (which was booked)
❌ ⏲️ 3 1/2-hour wait time for its one and only ride
❌ 👥👥👥👥👥 Crowded when I went 👥👥👥👥👥
❌ 💰Expensive – parking + passes + Power-Up Band
Update: My Super Nintendo World review includes why you should trust my expert opinion and a fresh take now that I’ve written our The Super Mario Bros. movie review in 3D, 4DX, IMAX and every film format.
Super Nintendo World review
Nostalgia runs high at Super Nintendo World, but so does the desire to eat in this food desert of a theme park tourist trap. I was facing a three-hour wait time for its one ride, so I decided to hit the reset button by finding a secret 27-minute shortcut.
I’ll start with this story arc’s big conflict then warp pipe to the resolution.
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Why trust my Super Nintendo World review
I paid my own way to Super Nintendo World and Universal Studios Hollywood, which also means I waited in the same line that you will, not one roped off for press and influencers. It doesn’t get much more authentic than that. That’s why you’ll get my honest take in this Nintendo World review that you might not read elsewhere. Who else is analyzing ride wait times and prices in an in-depth review?
Only at The Shortcut will you learn how great Super Nintendo World is for photo ops, but still in beta due to its food, price and wait time problems.
Thanks, Mario! But our food is in another castle
There was a 210-minute wait for Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge – the only ride in Universal Studios Hollywood’s new theme park area – even though I went to Super Nintendo World as soon as I got there in the morning. The walls of the Mushroom Kingdom are gated off by a reservation system you can access through a QR code posted on signs. My time to enter? 2:10pm – not 2pm, 2:10pm (I tried).
It was at this moment – in a crowd of hangry families getting few answers – I realized that Super Nintendo World was on the verge of becoming the Frye Festival of theme parks.
Unfortunately, reservations to the Toadstool’s Cafe (accessible via a separate QR code I found once inside Super Nintendo World) ran out earlier in the morning. So here I was, surrounded by anxious children and impatient parents who were in disbelief, 11 minutes into a 210-minute line. I only had 199 minutes left to go.
It was at this moment – in a crowd of hangry families getting few answers – I realized that Super Nintendo World was on the verge of becoming the Frye Festival of theme parks. I thought about knawing on my $40 plastic Mario-themed Power-Up Band. I can faithfully say it didn’t taste like chicken.
Everyone had the same question: “Do I wait it out? Or do I exit to get food outside of Super Nintendo World?” If the latter sounds like a reasonable plan, know this: once you exit the walls of the Mushroom Kingdom, you risk not being able to get back in as reservation times will have been snapped up by then (and even Panda Express just outside of the Kingdom had a brutal hour-long wait).
I needed a new plan
Let’s-a-go: The Shortcut at Nintendo World
I did register the domain TheShortcut.com, so it’s in my nature to beat the system. The biggest problem with Super Nintendo World is the lack of direction. I didn’t know about the reservation system for the area and Toadstool’s Cafe, no one was told they ran out of food in the siloed park area, and I wasn’t told about this one crucial positive fact: the Mario Kart ride has a hidden side door for single riders.
Yes, just like in Mario Kart 64’s famous Wario Stadium shortcut, I was lapping people who didn’t know about the secret side door.
Yes, the single-rider line – with signage that’s not very obvious – granted me access to Nintendo and Universal’s AR on-rails tour through Bowser’s Castle. The ride is modeled after one of the best Mario games of all time and the best Nintendo Switch games out right now. It took me 27 minutes to get through the single rider line the first time and 40 minutes the second time. As the day went on, people started to catch on to the shortcut.
My second time through, I passed by starving people and I asked them how long they were in line. Sure enough, “three hours.” In fact, they were waiting more than an hour before I bailed on the 210-minute line, rethought my plan and rode twice. They were curious about the line I was in. Yes, just like in Mario Kart 64’s famous Wario Stadium shortcut, I was lapping people who didn’t know about the secret side door.
AR ride tips based on my IRL experience
The single-rider line is the way beat the line of Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge. But you need to know four things before you try this side-door shortcut.
🥽 I saw people forget to attach the AR glasses to the plastic Mario hat visor, and the glasses are essential for seeing the Mario Kart characters in augmented reality. The confusion is due to the fact that the tutorial is part of the main line. You’re given the red visor 2/3rds of the way through the line and the AR glasses are sitting on the ride’s dashboard. It’s up to you to magnetically clip them to the front of the visor. It’s a pretty disappointing ride without the AR.
🏰 Besides missing the tutorial, you won’t get a full tour of Bowser’s Castle if you don’t wade through the longer line. For most people, it’s not worth three extra hours. There are enough YouTube videos out there.
📐 The minimum height is 40 inches (102cm) with a parent. But children must be 48 inches (122cm) to ride alone – a requirement to be in the single-rider line.
🧒🔄 Child swap is available for this ride, meaning you can get a pass that will allow some in your party to go on a ride while a child who is not tall enough (or scared) waits with another adult. And then when the first people finish, you swap, the remaining people ride (except the kid), and you all exit together.
🤫 Super secret: While there’s no Express Pass for the Mario Kart ride, some workers do have a super secret priority pass (just one). Be nice to them! You never know which Universal Studios employees might have this VIP pass. Here’s proof it exists:
Super Nintendo World price: how much it costs
Theme parks aren’t cheap (thanks, Disney), so going to Super Nintendo World will cost you a few hundred dollars if you’re with a family. Here are the prices:
$109 per person for a General Admission Pass to Universal Studios Hollywood
$20 per person Super Nintendo World Early Access ticket (optional and often sold out); you can get in for free after they get a one-hour headstart
$40 character-themed Power-Up Band (so $160 for a family of four)
$30 for general parking ($50 for preferred / $70 for front gate)
$16.99 for a Mario Burger (not as bad as I thought – but reservations ran out, so I didn’t end up getting this)
Note: Spending $619 on Universal’s Platinum Annual Pass (the one with no blackout dates) entitles you to access Super Nintendo World without a reservation after 3pm. Everyone else should know that lines can get longer after this time.
Also, note: there’s no Express Pass (Universal’s name for its fast pass) for Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge.
Is Super Nintendo World worth it?
I can give you an honest review of Super Nintendo World, as I wasn’t sponsored by Nintendo or Universal and I paid my own way to access the theme park. No special treatment was given… I mean, clearly if I was in a 210-minute line and didn’t even get to try the Mario Burger. That leads me to this: is it worth going? Well, it depends.
I’m patient and would have still waited in the 210-minute line if I had to just so I could complete this review, but I’m so glad I found the single-rider shortcut. If you can get the $20 Super Nintendo World early access pass and get there on time, then you have a shot at breezing through the long lines for an hour. The problem is that these passes are usually sold out two (for weekdays) to three (for weekends) weeks in advance. And the price climbs to $25 and $30 during prime summer months.
If you have fidgety kids, I’d say skip the hot summer months and wait until both the weather and Mario’s new height in popularity die down, but before The Super Mario Bros. Movie 2 release date likely in 2016. Maybe by then, Universal will offer more food within the confines of the Mushroom Kingdom. For now, it’s just easier to buy some Super Mario Bros. Movie toys for kids and call it a day. 🍄
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