Nintendo Rides Coming to Universal Studios, Y'all

Gang, days like this is why we invented the “Shut Up and Take My Money” meme. Prepare yourself for exclamation points.

Nintendo is joining forces with Universal Studios theme parks, and it’s the kind of cool/cynical corporate branding that I can 10,000% throw my support behind. All this talk of pop commerce meeting the loyal-est of brand loyalties, I’m mutating into the nastiest capitalist pig. The mere possibility of Nintendo rides—a Millennial Holy Grail pipe dream (there had better be Mario pipes everywhere!).

Details of what kind of attractions are on their way are nothing more than rampant, rabid-frothing, delirious speculation at this point, so let’s put on our speculating hats and get to wish list making!


There will be actual blood in the streets of the nerdiest parts of town if this isn’t the first attraction to become a reality.

With Disney excelling at interactive games within their rides (Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, Toy Story Midway Mania) as well as their simulator innovation at DisneyQuest, Universal is well-placed to piggyback that technology with ludicrous, reckless amounts of money to hand deliver guests to the Rainbow Road, Choco Mountain, Banshee Boardwalk, Koopa Troopa Beach (oh god stop me, I’m drooling, get me a towel). Motion simulators can elevate gameplay (where you’ll feel every loop, every banana peel, every plummet off the raceway rails) to a point where guests will be high-fiving each other to death, they’ll be so excited.

The only question is…which one of you jerks is gonna fight me for the Peach car?



The best theme parks are all about placemaking, and up until Universal created the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, their placemaking had been pitiful compared to Disney’s. Immersion is the key. The less “real world” a guest sees, the more transported they become. Every trash can, every safety rail, every pebble on the street tells the story of the attraction. Harry Potter has a waiting line that is every bit as entertaining as the ride itself—the muggy scent of the castle walls, the moving portraits, the detail work around every corner. Universal’s Spider-Man ride, by contrast, has a waiting line that feels like the DMV. It’s a parking lot and some steel rails to herd you cattle step by step, hour by hour, into a two-minute, fifteen-year-old ride.

I can’t think of any game more devoted to (and more dependent on) such expert placemaking as Legend of Zelda. The road to bringing the world of Link and Hyrule into filmed reality is lined with the bodies of failures. We came closest during The Lord of the Rings but then interest waned. Now, we’ve got Game of Thrones and Netflix is apparently trying to make a kid-friendly GoT out of Zelda and…bon voyage to them with that!

The reason taking Zelda’s world and making it a reality has been such a monumental non-starter has been the core problem: movies simply aren’t interactive or reward-based. A true Zelda experience must include both thrilling adventures and puzzle-solving. The thrill of discovery—that gorgeous, affirming, unmistakable “you’ve discovered a secret” sound effect—is vital to satisfaction.

A true blue Zelda attraction should be a sprawling, grown-up sandbox. Maybe some aberration of a scavenger hunt, punctuated with games and smaller rides. Let us discover dungeons, collect keys, unlock secret passages, and dive for rupees. Since Potter plays such a large visual role in the park, there should probably less emphasis on the castle parts of Zelda and more on the forests, deserts, mountains, and lakes.

I also require a Great Fairy Fountain refreshment stand and a Shop that plays the Theme of the Shop. You know the one.


Now we have our tentpoles, let’s not forget the rest of the roster:

*METROID. This sucker’s definitely going to have itself a world-class arcade, and Metroid should employ the greatest laser tag arena ever constructed by human hands.

*KIRBY. Kirby and Yoshi have to have the kiddie playlands, in opposing bubble-gum pink and dino-green colors. Their stores must only sell the pinkest and sugariest of drinks. 

*DONKEY KONG. Kong Koaster. Done. You got your coaster, coaster junkies. Jungle theme. Banana-yellow track. Kong Koaster. Boom.

adammichaelsass's picture
on May 7, 2015

ADAM SASS begins all his writing in Sharpie on dozens of Starbucks pastry bags. This may cause him to be late making your cappuccino, and he sincerely apologizes. His Writer’s Digest award-nominated story "98% Graves" appeared in the anthology STARTLING SCI-FI: NEW TALES OF THE BEYOND. He lives in New York City with his husband and two dachshunds.

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