You need Mario Kart’s Blue Shell more than it needs you.

With the release of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch, its that time again for internet-wide complaints about the blue, spiny shell.


If you’re not familiar with the blue shell (or spiny shell, as it is technically called by Nintendo) in Mario Kart, here is a brief primer: the blue shell seeks out the player in first place and will hit them in a big, kart-slowing explosion. The shell travels on the ground (or in the air in previous iterations) knocking out any player in its path.


Sounds pretty good, right? Well, here’s the catch: in a standard 12-player race, typically only players in the 8-12 positions, those at the back of the pack, receive the blue shell from an item box on the course. This typically means that when the blue shell arrives at its destination–first place–the player who shot the shell receives little to no benefit from disrupting the top of the order.


And here is where the anger begins to build. Many players feel that the blue shell has now place in a semi-competitive game like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. If you’ve played Mario Kart for a decent amount of time, you have probably experienced getting blue-shelled in first place right before the finish line. Watching second, third, and fourth place breeze by you because of an action taking by someone in twelfth place is not fun.

But in reality, the blue shell is an amazing quick-fix design decision to help prevent runaway leaders. As someone who has put far too many hours into Mario Kart 8, I usually spend most of the rest at or near the head of the pack. The experience of being first or second as opposed to seventh or eight is entirely different. The driver in first place sees nothing but wide open lanes and clear skies. The driver in eighth place is inundated with banana peels, red shells, bob-ombs, and bullet bills. It is madness compared to the zen-like tranquility of driving in first place.


And that is why the blue shell is a necessary evil. It opens up a space for the seed of chaos to be planted. The next time you get blue-shelled in first place, take a deep breath and think back to a time when you were in six or seventh, and with the help of a well-timed Super Star, you were able to zoom up into the top position, passing the first-place player who just so happened to be recently blue-shelled. Without that pesky item, the runaway leader problem in Mario Kart 8 would be even greater.

It’s a great design fix once you understand the actual functions of the blue shell.