"We are Mario!" the crowd screams before a bunch of people wearing red Mario hats and oversized white gloves start punching gold blocks above their heads.
I'm at the Super Nintendo World Challenge in Grand Central Terminal in NYC, where a bunch of contestants are competing to win a trip for two to preview Super Nintendo World in Universal Studios Japan ahead of its official opening this summer. The high ceilings of Grand Central are a perfect backdrop for the suspended gold boxes, which are ceremoniously lit up before the competition starts.
Just before the boxes are lit, Page Thompson, President and Chief Operating Officer of Universal Parks and Resorts, hypes the crowd up with his description of the park, which is due to open in Osaka later this summer. It will be "immersive, expansive, and authentic" with Peach's Castle, the Mushroom Kingdom, and a Mario Kart ride that will make you "feel like you are actually in the world of Mario Kart." The park will also have a system by which attendees can compete against each other by collecting coins throughout the park - likely through interacting with boxes just like the ones in Grand Central Station.
Speaking of those boxes...the white glove every contestant is donning holds a phone in its grip, which counts each time they connect with a box. Short people are at a severe disadvantage - I watch as a young woman around my height (5'3") winds up before each jump, bending deep in the knees, while the man next to her can touch the box simply by straightening his arm. Despite this, a winner is randomly selected from the participants, so athletic prowess or height will get you nowhere in this world.
After a first round that had no grand prize winner, a victor emerges in the second. Jessica, from Rochester, New York, who I manage to pull aside after the dust has cleared. "I'm so excited, my kids are going to be jealous," she says, "We'll have to figure out a way to get two more people to go."
Super Nintendo World will open in Osaka this summer, and is due to open in Orlando, Florida in 2023. Universal Studios California will be getting a Super Nintendo World as well, with the opening date TBD.
If this got you in the mood to play some Nintendo games, check out our best Switch games (opens in new tab).