Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Image: Nintendo Life / Nintendo

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the most popular game on Nintendo Switch, no doubt partly due to the fact that it caters to players of all levels. Pro players with Jedi reflexes can compete in 200cc, while there are various speed classes and assists to help all racers have fun.

What's not fun is leading a race and being bopped by a blue shell — Spiny Shell is actually its official name, but we're going with the popular phrase. It's a divisive item, but also iconic, and in this latest entry on Switch there are ways to actually avoid it.

Avoiding the Blue Shell in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Well, the first question for those of you new to the series...

What is the Blue Shell?

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is full of interesting items, and one of them is the Blue/Spiny Shell. Given to random players (typically someone further down the field), when launched it targets the player in 1st place. On its route it travels along the ground so can hit other players (watch out for 'alerts' as you race and get away from the centre of the track). Upon reaching the lead player it temporarily hovers above them before exploding downwards.

Can I just drop back and have it hit someone else?

No, if you're in first place when a blue shell is launched it'll lock onto you, regardless of whether you drop down places. When it does strike, though, it causes an explosion with a relatively wide area of effect. One risky tactic if targeted is to drop back close to other rival racers and try to have the explosion hit them too. Get it wrong, though, and you've lost a lot of ground.

How can I avoid the blue shell?

In Mario Kart 8 Deluxe we have the Super Horn, the red item pictured above. When equipped your character holds it above them - when activated with 'L', 'ZL, or 'SL' (the latter when playing with a solo Joy-Con sideways) it unleashes a blast in the immediate area around you. In a push it can be used to hit other racers near you, but its real purpose is to destroy blue shells.

The timing is relatively simple, activate the Horn just as the Blue Shell starts to hover above you and it'll be destroyed.

If you're in first place and get the Super Horn from an item box it's definitely worth holding onto - if possible - to take out a blue shell. If you need to use it, though, not only can its shockwave hit racers around you, but activating it just before an item like a Red Shell hits you will also keep you safe.

Is there another way to avoid the blue shell?

Technically yes, but to be clear it's a very difficult technique and happens rarely. If you hit a boost pad or use a boost Mushroom at the very moment the Blue Shell is starting its descent and explosion you may dodge it. On courses like Big Blue, too, where there are boost 'tunnels' across gaps, being on those at that same point of the Blue Shell explosion can also be effective.

Don't be harsh on yourself if you don't manage this, it's rather rare!

That's it for dodging the dreaded Blue Shell! Keep an eye out for our other Mario Kart 8 Deluxe guides, and be sure to share your own pearls of wisdom in the comments.

This article is part of our Mario Kart 8 Deluxe guide series, featuring tips, hints, tricks and unlocks for the best kart racing game on Switch. You can find the Full Character Roster, every course in the game, including the DLC tracks, and How To Download And Access the DLC itself.

We also explain How To Build The Best Kart, How To Unlock All Gold Mario And All Gold Kart Parts, How To Avoid Blue Shells, How To Farm Infinite Coins, How To Drift, Slipstream, And Boost, and How To Get A Rocket Start, as well as Explain And Rank Every Item, list every every compatible amiibo and unlockable Mii Costumes, explore The Difference Between 'All Items' And 'Frantic Items', plus give an in-depth explanation of All Control Options And Assists and How To Turn Automatic Steering On And Off.