A Dueling Mario Kart Roller Coaster Is Coming to Japan’s New Super Nintendo World Park

The ride uses augmented reality to put karters directly into the Mushroom Kingdom.

byRob Stumpf|
Culture photo

It's official: Super Nintendo World is a go. Universal Studios Japan announced on Monday that its Osaka-based theme park will open on Feb. 4 and heavily feature Nintendo's best selling series, Mario. Yes, for the car nerds in the crowd, that means Mario Kart, too.

You've probably noticed that we, like any self-respecting vehicle-slash-video game enthusiast, are rather big fans of Mario Kart. From the official games to home-brewed drivable contraptions, it's really hard for the tiny plumber to do wrong. One of the biggest announcements for Super Nintendo World is its Mario Kart-based roller coaster which uses augmented reality (AR) to put riders in the front seat for a ride through the Mushroom Kingdom.

Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge begins inside of Bowser's Castle where riders line up to take a seat in one of the four-seater karts on either side of the tracks. Each kart is coupled to several others which will race in tandem with the riders on the other side of the tracks—that's right, it's a competitive rollercoaster.

The ride is interactive and has a ton of elements from the Mario Kart games. The area itself is splayed with trophies and art which are based on the original Nintendo sprites. You'll even see that the directional arrows are quite similar to on-track images seen in the video games.

To supplement the actual thrill of the ride with a bit more Mario magic, Universal Studios uses AR to display other graphics around the karts as they fly through the preset course. Riders have a set of AR glasses to wear during the ride which provides a bit more immersion to the coaster, and they even have a brim-shaped like a tiny Mario hat. Riders will reportedly be able to "throw shells" at other carts and collect items as they ride along the rails.

Universal Studios Japan says that the area of the theme park will open on Feb. 4—a little more than two months from today. Originally, the theme park was supposed to open before the 2020 Summer Olympics, but like most things occurring in 2020, it was delayed due to COVID-19. It's not clear how the park plans to implement precautions for the park, especially as the number of COVID cases around the world, including in Japan, is rapidly increasing. Bloomberg was given an inside look at the park ahead of its launch and noted that the area itself was rather cramped.

Still, it's hard to deny that this will be a major attraction for Universal Studios, especially in Mario's home market of Japan. It's rumored that the partnership is planned to expand to a Donkey Kong Country-themed area in the future.

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