The first Nintendo-based land for Universal Orlando will open at Epic Universe next year, but rumors suggest we may see additional lands based on video game franchises in the coming years as well.
Pokémon is now rumored to replace The Simpsons in Universal Studios Florida, Zelda is still expected to take over Lost Continent in Islands of Adventure, and we may even see Luigi’s Mansion added to Epic Universe.
Let’s go over each of these rumors, as well as possible ride details for all of them, in today’s news update. See the video version of this story below for additional visuals.
Super Nintendo World will finally open in Orlando, at Epic Universe, in 2025—ten years after the partnership between Nintendo and Universal was first announced in 2015. This land will feature the Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge indoor ride, Yoshi’s Adventure outdoor ride, and the Donkey Kong Mine Cart Madness roller coaster attraction.
This may only be the first area based on beloved video game franchises to open at Universal Orlando this decade.
POKÉMON LAND AT UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA
New rumors suggest that Orlando may be getting a new land based on the Pokémon franchise, and sooner than originally expected.
The franchise was originally rumored to get its own land replacing the KidZone area, with an indoor coaster attraction and battle arena show, but those plans were canceled. Instead, the company has announced a new land based on DreamWorks to be taking over this section of Universal Studios Florida, expected to open later this year.
Universal Studios Japan will be the first to get a Pokémon ride, rumored to be replacing The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man attraction. That ride is set to close permanently this month, on January 22, 2024.
Rumors for the Pokémon ride have the ride path from Spider-Man being retained, but the entire ride system to be replaced. This would include entirely new ride vehicles, which are very different from the former ride’s “SCOOP” vehicles.
The Pokémon ride is expected to utilize Augmented Reality, similar to the Mario Kart attraction. This would allow for characters and effects to be displayed on goggles on top of reality while experiencing the attraction.
On the ride, it is rumored we will be able to select a Pokémon through AR that we could then use hand gestures to instruct to battle against other Pokémon and foes, working together with other riders in our vehicle. Multiple types of hand gestures would be used for different special moves.
Part of the New York area of Universal Studios Japan is expected to be themed to Pokémon, but likely only the area directly surrounding the ride, (at least to start).
Back at Universal Studios Florida, recent rumors have the company not renewing its contract for The Simpsons, which is now owned by Disney. There are rumors that support a theory that The Simpsons Ride may be closing sooner than many expected, perhaps as soon as later this year or early next year.
It has also been reported that the two Sprung Tents behind this area, which are used for the Halloween Horror Nights event, may be taken down permanently. Recent permits suggest possible new locations for the Halloween event to replace these house locations instead.
It is not known yet if the old Back to the Future ride building and aging ride system would be demolished to make way for a new Pokémon-themed area. However, with all of the R&D that has gone into the new Pokémon E-Ticket ride, it’s likely that it will be cloned for the Orlando version of the land as well, but that is only speculation.
Previous rumors for a Pokémon-based land in Universal Studios Florida would have had an interactive Poké Ball you could purchase. This interactive item would allow you to search around designated areas to catch and collect different types of Pokémon, which you would be able to manage through the app. It’s possible that this could then be synchronized with the ride, allowing you to access Pokémon from your own collection when riding.
The original rumored timeline for the latest version of the Pokémon land had it opening by 2030, but new rumors suggest the timeline has been moved up. With new HHN locations rumored to replace the sprung tents this year, and talk of The Simpsons Ride closing as soon as this year or next year, we may see this new Pokémon land open several years sooner than expected.
LEGEND OF ZELDA LAND FOR ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE
Another long-rumored concept for Universal Orlando is for The Legend of Zelda to get some sort of attraction or themed land of its own. Originally designed as a theater show with moving seats in the initial pitch to Nintendo, (before they secured the theme park rights), another Zelda attraction concept designed later was for a boat ride that would transform into a suspended dark ride halfway through.
Neither of those concepts were greenlit, but rumors for the Zelda property to replace the Lost Continent section of Islands of Adventure have persisted in recent years.
The final attraction at the Lost Continent land closed last May, when the temple for Poseidon’s Fury was sealed for good. Before that, the The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad stunt show closed permanently in 2018. Both of these attractions have sat unused since closing, leaving only the dining and shopping options open for Lost Continent.
As of now, no demolition plans have been filed for this area.
Currently, work is happening to extend the exterior queue for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. Permits indicate that a backstage wall near Hagrid’s hut is being pushed back to create more space. This will make it so that attraction is not reliant on having its queue extend out into the Lost Continent and Sindbad theater areas each morning, and keep the Hagrid’s queue within the Wizarding World land at all times. If they’re ever to close Lost Continent for a new land, this will be an important first step.
The latest rumors for what types of offerings a possible Legend of Zelda land would have in Islands of Adventure include: an indoor boat ride as its main attraction, as well as smaller outdoor ride—perhaps a small roller coaster—as well as a reimagined Mythos restaurant, now themed as the Deku Tree from Zelda.
The main attraction is rumored to utilize The Rocking Boat concept by Mack Rides. This ride system allows for tight turns, which could allow for a decent ride path even in small spaces. It can appear to be free floating in the water, without the need of visible side rails. This ride system can also ride its track out of the water, to create a hybrid in-the-water and out-of-water ride experience.
Despite a recent announcement for a live action Zelda movie that is in the works from Sony, this possible land would be based on the video games. This would be in line with the other attractions based on Nintendo franchises for Universal parks.
The latest rumors had this Zelda-themed land set to open in 2027, with demolition and construction beginning as soon as the end of this year. With the possibility of the Pokémon plans at Universal Studios Florida being pushed forward sooner, perhaps that project and this project have swapped timelines?
We’ll continue to monitor for eventual demolition plans for Lost Continent, but regardless of what happens, we may need to be prepared for these shuttered attractions to remain dormant a little while longer.
LUIGI’S MANSION EXPANSION FOR EPIC UNIVERSE
But that’s not all, as there are now strong rumors that the first new ride to be added to Epic Universe after it opens could be based on the Luigi’s Mansion franchise.
According to multiple sources, this possible expansion would not be only a new ride for Super Nintendo World, but instead could be an entire mini-land area, similar to the Donkey Kong Country area. That could mean it would have its own warp pipe entry leading from the main Super Nintendo World courtyard.
This rumored mini-land would be built in a portion of the expansion plot located between the existing Super Nintendo World and Dark Universe lands.
Rumors for the Luigi’s Mansion dark ride experience itself would have us traversing rooms of a haunted mansion, using a new version of the Poltergust ghost vacuum, featuring new interactive shooter tech that would be across between Men in Black: Alien Attack and Villain-Con Minion Blast.
Being a mini-land, the spooky Luigi’s Mansion area could also contain a flat ride to help round it out, as well as a themed restaurant located within the mansion itself.
There are rumors for the first phase 2 expansions around Epic Universe to mostly be related to adding additional dining capacity. This includes a couple new dining locations within the central hub that may not open after the park debuts, as well as the Harry Potter Great Hall diner experience, rumored to be added to the park’s Wizarding World land in 2026.
An opening year for the Luigi’s Mansion mini-land is not yet known, but according to rumors, it should mark the first phase of new attractions to be added to the park after opening.
It sounds like all of these plans are still in flux, and all of the possible projects we’ve talked about today are still only rumors. If they do pan out, regardless of the order in which they open, it sounds like the next 6 years at Universal Orlando are going to be exciting, with video game franchises from Nintendo and The Pokémon Company leading the pack!
That’s all for this update around Universal Orlando, but be sure to check out the video version of this story for additional visuals. Consider subscribing to the YouTube channel or to the site’s newsfeed to follow along with all of these rumored projects and more.
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