The announcement points to Universal being back on track with their resort investment plans from before the pandemic. From the beginning, the goal had been to open the first Super Nintendo World in Japan, the smaller Hollywood version a year later, and Orlando's two years after that.
After being delayed, Japan saw its version of Super Nintendo World open in 2021, with a Donkey Kong expansion now planned to open in 2024. With Hollywood opening next year, that points to a 2025 opening in Orlando. That lines up with the announced opening timeframe of the Epic Universe theme park.
Alicia Stella has made it her mission to track Universal's every move regarding the upcoming Epic Universe theme park. On her Orlando ParkStop website and via two podcasts, Stella gives her followers a meticulous analysis of the new park’s development.
“Orlando's version of Super Nintendo World will be the most complete, opening with all three major attractions, including the Donkey Kong roller coaster (which is planned to open at Universal Japan in 2024). While Universal Hollywood's Super Nintendo World will be the first of the lands to open in the U.S., it will only contain one ride, Mario Kart," she said. "The land at Epic Universe will be the largest in the country, offering two additional rides you could only see by traveling to Japan.”
Despite having clones of attractions in Japan and Hollywood, Stella thinks the distance between theme parks will make this less of an issue.
may open before Epic Universe itself opens, noting construction within the park has so far been heavily focused on the Nintendo land. According to Stella, these rumored previews may include pre-opening visits for passholders and those staying at select on-site hotels. A phased opening would also allow Universal to fix any issues that may develop before the grand opening of the full theme park.
After seeing massive success with after-hours rentals of Diagon Alley, Universal has designed the new park with convention groups in mind. Each land has back-of-house access and a central entrance plaza from within the park.
“One way the company could operate the new park, given its unique design, is that the individual lands could close earlier than the central part of the park. That means that while Super Nintendo World, and the other theme park areas, may close at 5pm on some nights, they could leave the hub open until 10pm," she said. "That would keep guests on property for evening dining and shopping. You could even entice them to stick around by offering a fireworks show at the end of the night.”
Along with individual lands, Epic Universe may also see its hotels opening before the park itself. This includes the in-park hotel that acts as the central focal point within the park’s enormous garden-like hub and at least two other hotels. While the park’s flagship hotel was announced from the outset, these two other hotels have yet to be confirmed by Universal, even with public documents acknowledging them.
“We've already known about the hotel at the back of the theme park, but new permits suggest plans for two more hotels being built across the street from the entrance to the new theme park,” explains Stella.
While we don’t know the exact theme of the new hotels, permits show prominent space-themed iconography built into the entrance plazas of the two resorts.
“Early indications are that all three of the new hotels being planned for the Epic Universe site will continue the theme of the new park's hub and could be based around celestial bodies. I do not believe these new hotels will be themed to any existing intellectual property; however, I would not be surprised to see some themed suites based on properties from the new park, similar to the Jurassic World-themed rooms at Royal Pacific or Minions-themed rooms at Portofino Bay,” she said.
Despite their likely lack of recognizable theming, Stella is confident they will be great additions to Universal’s resort lineup. “All three of these hotels will be run by Loews, same as the other on-site hotels, so I am sure we can expect more of the same quality we've come to expect from Universal's partnership with that company.”
The 2025 opening of Epic Universe won’t be an end to Universal’s interest in its South Campus. Even more hotels are rumored for the site, and Stella believes additional theme park lands may already be in the works. Rumored properties for those lands range from Secret Life of Pets to Pokémon, but so far, there have been no official details regarding any project beyond 2025. The Secret Life of Pets rumor is based on comments Universal leadership made stating Illumination will be featured at Epic Universe. Illumination is the Universal co-owned powerhouse studio behind Secret Life of Pets, Despicable Me, and Sing. All of those franchises have successful attractions in existing Universal parks. Still, the comments may have been related to Super Nintendo World, with a new Mario animated film scheduled for release this coming Christmas holiday season.
There are also rumored new additions planned for Universal’s two existing Orlando theme parks. However, none of those projects are believed to be Nintendo related despite the two companies now pushing forward on their partnership.
If Hollywood and Japan are any indication, we should start to see major theming elements of Super Nintendo World rising at Epic Universe by the end of this year. By the next Mar10 Day, we may even know when Orlando’s version of the land will be welcoming guests.