Attractions

Guide to Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge in SUPER NINTENDO WORLD at Universal Studios Hollywood

February 2, 2024
A group of people riding Mario Kart.

In 1992, players pressed “start” on Mario Kart. Brothers Mario and Luigi, who’d been around since the mid-80s, took us on various kart races for the very first time.  

In the gaming world Mario Kart was — well — a game-changer. And still is.

Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge in SUPER NINTENDO WORLD at Universal Studios Hollywood is groundbreaking, putting guests in the driver’s seat for an immersive, unprecedented ride experience. Whether you’re a skilled racer or have never held a controller in your entire life, you’re up for this challenge. And Mario Kart is a must-do on your Universal Studios Hollywood itinerary

Let’s-a go!

PRO TIP: Depending on the day, you may need to make a reservation to enter SUPER NINTENDO WORLD. Once you’ve entered Universal Studios Hollywood, open the official Universal Studios Hollywood app on your phone to select the number of people in your party (up to 10) and join the virtual queue for the same day. You’ll still wait in line for the ride, but there’s plenty of fun to be had in the queue.

THE STORY

The long-standing rivalry between Mario and Bowser is as fierce as ever! The fire-breathing Koopa has been plotting the perfect plan to defeat Team Mario on the racetrack. You’ll get into your own four-person kart and join Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, Toad, and Yoshi to help them win the Golden Cup. But it is Mario Kart, so don’t expect a seamless ride…

THE QUEUE

A large statue of Bowser.

Once you’re through the green pipe and into the Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge queue, you’ll land on Yoshi’s Island themed spaces. The first one is a whimsical cave-like area, filled with colorful gems and stars, followed by a two-level outdoor room.

You’ll soon reach my favorite part of the line: Bowser’s Castle. This section of the queue is elevated to the second story of the land, and has one of the best views of the entire Mushroom Kingdom — a great spot to stop and take it all in (and take some pictures, too!). You’ll spend the rest of your time in the queue inside Bowser’s Castle. As soon as you walk through the castle gate, you’ll come face to face with an impressive statue of Bowser, which definitely warrants another photo. 

Universal Cup at Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge with a dark background.

You’ll move through several rooms within the Castle, from the hall of medallions and trophies, to the study where Bowser plots mischievous schemes to defeat Mario and his friends, past his impressive collection of books (take a moment to read the book titles — the references are genius!), to the factory which produces Bob-ombs and Mechakoopas.

The queue of Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge. Different racing costumes line the wall.

You’ll then proceed into two pre-shows. There, you’ll gear up for the race and learn about the ride functionalities on the screens in front of you — how to steer your vehicle, throw shells, collect coins, etc. Next, you’ll grab your Mario-hat-looking visor and adjust it on your head (make sure it’s firm, but comfortable) and board the attraction. Once you’re on the ride, attach the goggles in front of you onto your visor.

Ready?

THE RIDE

A family rides Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge at SUPER NINTENDO WORLD.

If you’ve played Mario Kart before, then you know the kart-racing adventures never go smoothly, not even for the most skilled drivers. You can always count on multiple obstacles to throw you off-course, be they slippery banana peels or sneaky Bob-ombs and Bullet Bills along the way. Well, Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge at Universal Studios Hollywood is no different.

“If you look around while you’re riding the attraction, you’ll be able to see your favorite characters racing beside you,” says Abbye Finnan, show producer on SUPER NINTENDO WORLD. “But what makes the ride brilliant is that you’re getting a unique experience by being able to compete with, let’s say, your little brother for coins and points.” Nothing like a dash of competition to elevate the fun!

Once you enter your four-seat vehicle, there are three things you must do before starting your engines:

  1. Pull down your lap bar
  2. Pick up the goggles in front of you and attach them to your visor
  3. If you have one, tap your Power-Up Band on the “M” on the steering wheel so you can track your points. And, if they have Power-Up Bands as well, you can compete with friends and family! You can still play even if you don’t have a Power-Up band, but it surely adds to the fun!

Ready, set… let’s-a go!

As soon as Lakitu gives the 3, 2, 1 signal, you’re off!

A girl taps her Power-Up Band to the wheel on Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Use your steering wheel to move right and left and drive through multiple courses. While you’re at it, make sure you collect any coins you find along the way. Can you get over 100 coins?

But great driving skills alone won’t cut it — you’ll have to use the two buttons at the top of your steering wheel to throw shells at Koopas and other enemies to earn points and defeat Team Bowser. The secret to hitting your targets with your shells is look to aim — wherever you look, that’s where your shell is going to hit. I see you, Goomba! You’ll eventually come face-to-face with Bowser, and when you do, send off as many shells as you possibly can!

Will Team Mario always win? I wish (although I have been developing a soft spot for Bowser lately). “Just like in the video game, there are different outcomes to the attraction. So depending on how many coins you get, Bowser’s team can win,” says Abbye. Great excuse to come back and ride it again, am I right?

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: You can purchase your Power-Up Band, themed to your favorite character, at stores around Universal Studios Hollywood and CityWalk, as well as at 1-UP Factory, the SUPER NINTENDO WORLD exclusive store. To learn more about Power-Up Bands, check our Guide to SUPER NINTENDO WORLD.  Download the Universal Studios Hollywood App before you arrive so you can sync your Power-Up Band before entering SUPER NINTENDO WORLD and playing Mario Kart.

RIDE DETAILS

–   Single Rider available

–   Height requirement: 40” (102 cm)

–   Children under 48” (122 cm) require a supervising companion

–   Ride type: not a coaster, but it’s a 3D and 4D dark ride

–   Child Swap is available upon request

– Universal Express Pass is not available at this time (but is available for VIP Tour guests)

EXPLORING SUPER NINTENDO WORLD

A woman posing with Mario and Luigi at SUPER NINTENDO WORLD.

Once you walk through the life-sized green pipe and into the Mushroom Kingdom, you’re immediately transported to the world of Mario and Luigi, where you can punch ? Blocks, collect digital coins (so long as you have a Power-Up Band), and explore the Frosted Glacier area while peeping into the binoculars for fun surprises.

Here’s how to have the most fun in Universal Studios Hollywood’s SUPER NINTENDO WORLD, besides riding Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge, of course!

  • Play the four main Key Challenges around the land — my favorite one is Piranha Plant Nap Mishap!
  • As you walk around the land from challenge to challenge, stop by the Meet and Greet spots for a quick hello and photo with Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Peach. (Yes, that’s me in the photo above. I’m a fan.)
  • Make a pit stop at 1-UP Factory to grab your favorite SUPER NINTENDO WORLD merchandise — the ? Block reversible pillow turns into a Super Star so that’s a no-brainer. 
  • This land also has some of the best food and drink at Universal Studios Hollywood. Start or end your day at Toadstool Cafe — Just be sure to make a reservation in advance. And don’t miss my personal favorite menu item, the Super Star Lemon Squash! Take a peek at the Toadstool Cafe menu right here

Let us know in the comments below who won the race in Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge when you played: Team Mario or Team Bowser? If you haven’t been yet, tell us what you’re looking forward to experiencing at Universal Studios Hollywood!

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