Nintendo’s Super Mario is set to open the first US theme park in California

Nintendo’s first theme park outside of its home country of Japan opens in California next month, just weeks before Mario hits the big screen in a big new Hollywood movie.

Super Nintendo World will be part of NBCUniversal Studios Hollywood, an amusement park traditionally home to rides based on films and television series from Waterworld to Harry Potter.

But with the video game industry now dwarfing movies in size and theme parks increasingly adopting interactive technologies to engage guests, the heads of the two companies have joined forces to capitalize on the platform-hopping plumber’s worldwide popularity.

The new Nintendo attraction will largely mirror the design of its recently opened, slightly larger sister park in Osaka, including a Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge ride that uses augmented reality glasses.

Visitors race around a real racetrack surrounded by real set pieces, but can aim and fire virtual grenades at computer-controlled villains they see on their head-mounted, custom sights.

“We took so many different layers, be it video mapping, projection mapping, LED screens, really immersive, magical looking sets, special effects, physical effects and augmented reality to seamlessly blend everything together to create this very immersive environment to create,” says Jon Corfino, Vice President of Universal Creative.

“A visit to the theme park is like a video game”

There’s also a series of mini-games where visitors can use interactive bracelets to collect coins and stamps to qualify for a “final showdown” with the evil Bowser Jr.

“It’s like the ultimate playground,” says Corfino. “We’re known for our film franchises, which are great and very compelling. Games are a different matter. How we approach entertainment in the first place evolves by itself…Entertainment is not static.”

Super Nintendo World is set to officially launch on February 17, when visitors will be greeted by actors dressed as Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach, surrounded by mechanical Yoshis, Piranha Plants and Goombas from the popular gaming franchise.

Nintendo fans are already flocking to the Los Angeles amusement park, where word spread last week that the new attraction will be allowing visitors to “soft open” to iron out last-minute technical glitches.

“When I was a kid, my parents, my father, my uncle loved the old Mario stuff. We had the Nintendo Entertainment System and we played that, and Dr. Mario too. Yeah, as long as I’ve known him basically since I was a kid. Being here is like my childhood in real life,” said Carlos Moctezuma, who wore a Mario outfit at the park.

“I’ve known Mario since I was in second grade. That was one of my first games on Game Boy,” said his partner Lexsi Houseman, dressed as Luigi.

“I like it. It feels like a dream come true, like you are in a video game. It’s awesome.” Shannon Tatum, a Mario fan who visited the theme park.

Nintendo and NBCUniversal are banking heavily on this amazing reality project, hoping to capitalize on the film’s release and also put a big dent in the pockets of their rivals Disney.