The spiny shell, commonly referred to as the blue shell, is a well-known power-up item of the Mario Kart series of video games. Originating in Mario Kart 64, it allows a racer to shoot a projectile directly at the first place racer. The blue shell acts as a "catch-up" system, intended to give the lower-ranking characters a better chance to advance, keeping players closer together. A character in first place is likely to be hit by a blue shell at some point and once fired, the blue shell is almost always unavoidable. Because of this, the power-up has received a very mixed reception.
The Mario series features some visually similar figures which predate the blue shell, such as the red spinies from the original Super Mario Bros. (1985) and blue Koopa Troopas of Super Mario World (1990).
In Mario Kart 64, only the last place racer can obtain the blue shell. Since the release of Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, the series sees the blue shell being more common to characters closer to the lead, and in all releases prior to Mario Kart 7, it is unable to hit characters on its way to the lead, as it flies above the track using wings rather than gliding upon its surface.
There are few techniques possible in some Mario Kart games to evade a blue shell, such as using a timed boost from a Mushroom item in Mario Kart Wii onwards. In Mario Kart 8, it is possible to use a Super Horn to destroy blue shells. A toy model of the blue shell is included in the limited edition package of Mario Kart 8.
The blue shell is known as a random element with harsh consequences, which is difficult to evade. As a "hazard that strips certainty and authority", Gamasutra calls Mario Kart's blue shell the "most profoundly existentialist element of the Mario canon", disruptive to "the entire logic of this familiar fantasy universe." The Geek Handbook names as one of Mario Kart 8's greatest frustrations, to be hit by a blue shell shortly before reaching the finish line. GameSpot considers the ability to destroy the "dreaded" blue shells as a particularly exciting feature of Mario Kart 8.
Calling it "The Great Equalizer" for its enhancement of the elements of struggle and luck, Kotaku's Nathan Grayson considered the blue shell to be the most despised, and best, item of the Mario Kart series. Kotaku's Yannick Le Jacq considered the blue shell to be the most notable and game-changing amongst Mario Kart's "most notorious" items, adding that this made it "a lot more fun" to use in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U.
- "Mario Kart 64 Operation Card" (PDF). Nintendo of America. Retrieved 2014-11-28.
Spiny shells will chase the Kart in the lead. Along the way, if there are other Karts in its path, they will suffer the consequences.
- Mario Kart 7 (PDF) (game manual). Nintendo. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
- Mario Kart DS instruction booklet (PDF). Nintendo. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
- Bogost, Ian (2014-05-30). "The Blue Shell and its Discontents". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2014-11-28.
- Elias, George Skaff; Garfield, Richard; Gutschera, K. Robert (2012-08-24). Characteristics of Games. MIT Press. p. 109. ISBN 026201713X. Retrieved 2014-11-28.
There are countless of examples of deliberately added catch-up features in games. The shells in Mario kart fire forward, so the person in the lead can't make use of them, but people who are behind can fire on those ahead of them. And the Spiny Shell specifically homes in on the person in first place.
- Totilo, Stephen (March 9, 2011). "The Maker Of Mario Kart Justifies The Blue Shell". Kotaku. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- Reinhardt, Ciaran (2014-10-18). "Mario Kart's Blue Shell: An Analysis". Pop Culture Monster. Retrieved 2014-11-28.
- Despain, Wendy (2012-12-18). "Feedback Loops". 100 Principles of Game Design. New Riders. ISBN 0133362744. Retrieved 2014-11-28.
In Mario Kart, the blue shell targets only the leader of the race. Being in first means that player is likely to be hit with the shell, which may cause them to fall out first.
- Le Jacq, Yannick (January 21, 2015). "Smash Bros. Makes Mario Kart's Most Notorious Items A Lot More Fun". Kotaku. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
- Mario Hoops 3 on 3 (PDF) (game manual). Nintendo. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
- McGee, Maxwell (2014-04-30). "Blue Shell's Tyranny Ends in Mario Kart 8". GameSpot. Retrieved 2014-11-28.
What excites me the most is the Super Horn, a new item that can destroy incoming items--including the dreaded blue shells ...
- Hernandez, Patricia (2014-06-24). "Reminder: You Can Totally Dodge The Blue Shell In Mario Kart". Kotaku. Retrieved 2014-11-28.
- Little, Riley (2014). "'Mario Kart 8' Limited Edition Comes With Replica Blue Shell". Game Rant. Retrieved 2014-11-28.
- Yin-Poole, Wesley (2014-06-03). "Mario Kart 8 Limited Edition comes with a real life Spiny Shell". Eurogamer.net. Retrieved 2014-11-28.
- Langley, Alex (2012-11-21). The Geek Handbook: Practical Skills and Advice for the Likeable Modern Geek. Krause Publications. p. 66. ISBN 1440232881. Retrieved 2014-11-28.
Because there are few things more frustrating than being in first place for an entire race, only to fall to eighth at the last moment because of a well-timed blue shell smacking you right in the noggin.
- "Mario Kart Wii (Wii)". Nintendo Power. Vol. 252-254. Nintendo of America. 2010. p. 69. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
Defining moment: When you've used a mushroom to dodge an incoming spiny shell.
- Grayson, Nathan (August 28, 2014). "Mario Kart's Most Hated Item Is Actually Its Best". Kotaku. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
- Doolan, Liam (2014-05-16). "Mario Kart Month: A Brief History Of Mario Kart Item Evolution: The Shell". Nintendo Life. Retrieved 2014-12-04.