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Tips and tricks for visiting Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan

By Kara Santos Published Jul 23, 2023 11:48 am

It’s been 40 years since Japanese video game company Nintendo unleashed the iconic Family Computer console to the world.

For many gamers who grew up playing the Super Mario series, and other classic Nintendo games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, getting whisked away into a video game world in real life is the ultimate fantasy. 

Japan has always been a top destination among Filipino travelers so it’s no surprise that Super Nintendo World, which opened amid the pandemic in March 2021, is drawing travelers once again.

Meet-and-greet with Mario and Luigi

Located within Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, Super Nintendo World allows guests to experience the nostalgia of playing their first Mario video game. This themed area is an 8-bit paradise filled with Mario-themed food, fun rides like Mario Kart IRL, and all the photo-op spots to keep your inner geek happy.

As USJ’s hottest attraction, you can expect the area to get pretty crowded, so you'll want to plan ahead to make the most of your trip. From scoring Timed Entry Tickets to the latest prices as of July 2023, here’s what you need to know about visiting Super Nintendo World.

Book your tickets at least a month ahead of your trip

Book your tickets online at least 3 weeks to a month before your trip, which you can do through online platforms like Klook. The most basic package is the Universal Studios Japan 1-day Studio Pass that costs¥8,600 (P3,353) for adults to ¥5,600 (P2,183) for kids aged 4-11, which gives you entry to the park, while other types of passes give you special access to various attractions and rides. 

Welcome to the Mushroom Kingdom.

You can also opt for the 1.5-Day Studio Pass for ¥13,100 (P5,107) for adults, where you enter from 3:00 p.m. on the first day so you’ll have more time to do the rides you want on the next full day or the 2-Day Studio Pass, which costs ¥16,300 per ticket (P6,354).

While it’s possible to buy admission tickets at a booth right before you enter, getting tickets ahead online is way more convenient. You’ll already be lining up a LOT inside the theme park, so at least you don’t need to join the initial queue of parkgoers. You’ll just be wasting precious park time and risk tickets being sold out for the day.

It's a given that weekends and holidays are jam-packed. But apparently, Japanese schools also organize school trips to USJ on Mondays and Tuesdays. To avoid crowds, the best days to go are Wednesdays or Thursdays. 

Splurge on express tickets to skip lines

The more expensive Universal Express Passes, which can cost an additional ¥6,800, ¥7,800 or ¥10,800 each (roughly P2,600 to P4,200 more for all ages) on top of the regular theme park admission, grant you the power to skip lines in certain attractions and guarantees entry to Super Nintendo World.

Play interactive mini-games with the Power-Up Band.

You can use the Express Pass to ride Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge and Yoshi’s Adventure, and other popular rides like Jurassic Park’s The Flying Dinosaur and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in other parts of USJ. While the price tag is pretty steep, the Express Passes are a worthy splurge if you don’t want to be stuck in line for hours for a ride that lasts just a couple of minutes. The Universal Studios Japan Express Pass 7 (where you can skip lines in 7 attractions) costs roughly P11,774 per person, yet gets quickly sold out.

Download the Universal Studios app 

Before your trip, plan ahead and know where to go. The colorful video game-themed area is a distinct enclosed section in between Water World and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It’s a long walk into the area, but when in doubt, just follow the crowds as most people immediately make a beeline for Super Nintendo World as soon as the park opens.

Download the Universal Studios Japan app ahead of time, since it contains an interactive map and gives real-time updates on waiting times for different rides. You’ll also need the app to register your park passes and secure timed entry tickets if you want to exit the area and return later in the day. 

Secure an area-timed entry ticket

Even with the basic studio pass, there’s still no guarantee you can enter Super Nintendo World. You still need the “Universal Express Pass with an Area Timed Entry Ticket: Advance Booking,” “Area Timed Entry Ticket” or “Standby Entry Tickets” just to enter the Nintendo area.

Screenshots from Universal Studios Japan app

This is included in some Universal Express Pass types or travel agency packages even before your visit. Timed Entry eTickets are available on the day of your park visit from anywhere inside the park through the official app or at a ticket kiosk in the park.

Once you're inside the park, refresh the app frequently to check for slots and book them immediately. During our visit, I noticed that slots that opened at 10:00 a.m. were already for past noon, and by noontime, the earliest available slots were for 5:00 p.m.

Arrive early ahead of the park’s opening hours

Depending on crowd conditions, you may be able to enter Super Nintendo World without timed entry tickets. USJ lists its opening hours at 9:00 a.m. but usually opens park doors before the official time. Gates may open at 8:00 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. if you’re lucky, so you can run immediately to Super Nintendo World and go on the rides with minimal waiting time even without the express pass.

We took the direct bus (available as an add-on on Klook) from Osaka Dohtonbori to USJ  which leaves at 7:00 a.m., got to the park around 7:30 a.m. and were allowed inside at around 8:20 a.m. Take note that re-entry is not allowed after you leave the area, unless you get a timed entry ticket again for later in the day.

Prioritize the rides

The themed land is fairly small, and has only two main rides currently open, namely: Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge and Yoshi’s Adventure.

Long line for Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge.

Koopa’s Challenge is a fully immersive rollercoaster based on the popular Mario Kart games sure to delight gamers of all ages. Making use of cutting-edge AR and projection mapping technology, riders don AR headsets shaped like Mario’s cap to race on multiple rails alongside popular characters from the franchise such as Toad, Luigi, and Princess Peach. The entrance to Koopa’s Challenge is Bowser’s Castle.

Yoshi’s Adventure is a slow-moving coaster based on the Yoshi character, suited for young children who want to get a good view of the entire Mushroom Kingdom. 

Yoshi's Adventure 

The typical waiting time for the two rides during peak hours is around 60 minutes to two hours, so be sure to line up at the rides at once. If you don’t mind not being seated next to your companions, take advantage of the Single Rider lines so you can get on the rides faster. Parents can also make use of the Child Switch System, which enables groups with companions who don't meet attraction requirements to take turns in a ride without waiting in line again.

Invest in a Power-Up Band

The Power-Up Band gives visitors the ultimate experience in Super Nintendo World with access to interactive mini-games around the park. While using the band and the official Universal Studios smartphone app, you can enjoy key challenges, collect virtual coins and items, and keep track of your progress.

Power-Up Band designs

The bands are sold at the cart in front of Super Star Plaza right before entering the area. You can also get them at the 1UP Factory and at a kiosk inside the park once you enter. Power-Up Bands currently cost ¥4,200 (P1,636) each and come in six regular designs inspired by Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, Toad, and Yoshi. There's also a special Limited Edition Gold Mario band priced at ¥4,900 (P1,909).

Aside from being a souvenir, the PowerBand also acts as an amiibo (a line of interactive tech toys) compatible with games on certain platforms like the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS.

Get timed tickets for Kiniopio’s Cafe 

Kinopio’s Cafe is the only main restaurant inside Super Nintendo World, so there’s usually a very long line to eat here during lunch. If you want to try the food (and you should), have someone in your group secure physical timed tickets for Kinopio’s Cafe at once. You can only start lining up outside the cafe at the time indicated on the ticket. It’ll take another 30 minutes to an hour to actually get into the cafe, place your order, and get a table.

Kinopio's Cafe

Bestsellers here include:

  • Mario’s Bacon Cheeseburger - ¥2,300 (P896)
  • Luigi’s Green Curry Chicken Sandwich - ¥2,300 (P896)
  • Yoshi’s Spinach Carbonara - ¥2,200 (P857)
  • Super Mushroom Pizza Bowl with Mushroom Tomato Sauce - ¥1,600 (P624)
  • Kid's Hamburger Meal with Mario Figurine Pick - ¥1,600 (P624)
  • ? Block Tiramisu - ¥800 (P311)
The toppers on Mario's Bacon Cheeseburger & Luigi's Green Curry Chicken Sandwich can be taken home.

A meal for two people with sandwiches, drinks, and a shared dessert cost us around ¥6,480 (P2,526), which is kind of pricey since you can easily get a good bento box meal for under ¥1,000 (P390) in convenience stores. But hey, you're paying for the experience!

If you're still hungry afterwards, you can head to restaurants in other areas like Jurassic Park‘s Discovery Restaurant, which doesn’t get so crowded. Look out for seasonal offerings in stalls as well.

While you can't bring outside food and drinks to the park (with the exception of baby food and snacks for small children), you can bring a tumbler for water or plastic bottles (limited to one 500 ml container per person) and get free refills at the cafe’s drinking station and water fountains around the park. 

Mushroom soup served in a mushroom container

Save your photo ops and shopping for last

It’s easy to get overwhelmed upon entering the green warp pipe and emerging outside Princess Peach’s Castle into the Mushroom Kingdom. You'll want to take spend time taking photos, taking video clips, and checking out all the shops. To save time, head to the main rides first and save the photo ops, social media updates, mini-games, and shopping for last. 

1Up Factory

My suggested walkthrough is going for the Mario Kart ride as soon as possible, getting a timed ticket for the cafe, lining up for Yoshi’s Adventure, doing the mini-games, then checking out shops like the 1Up Factory and Mario’s Motors while waiting to eat at Kinopio’s Cafe, in that order. 

While the park is currently very Mario-centric, expansions are underway with the addition of a large area dedicated to Donkey Kong set to open in 2024.

If you follow the game plan, you can finish visiting all the areas around Super Nintendo World by lunchtime and have time to enjoy the rest of the park at a more leisurely pace in the afternoon.