Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is guaranteed fun on Nintendo Switch, whether playing solo against the CPU, playing with friends locally or testing your skills online against players around the world. However you play, items are hugely important — using them well can make the difference between winning or tumbling way down the field. It's a cruel game, at times!
Understanding each item is key, but using them in the best strategic way is also absolutely vital. For example you can hold two items, one that is active and one in reserve.
In this guide we cover every item in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, with tips on how best to use them in a race. We've also ranked them from 'worst' to 'best', for a bit of fun — it's not an exact science, but it should give you a quick idea of the items worth using as soon as you get them, and the ones worth hanging onto and deploying more strategically when they're most needed.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Item List - Every Item Ranked, Plus How To Use Them
24. Feather (Agility)
A bit of a blast from the past, first seen in Super Mario Kart.
This item is only found in Battle Mode, and allows you to leap into the air; tricky to use, but in Balloon rounds, for example, a well timed jump over an opponent can pop one of their balloons.
Awkward and limited to one mode, it takes bottom spot in our ranking as a result!
23. Coin (Speed)
The item no-one really wants, so just use it up right away when it arrives and it'll add two coins to your total. In a race you can have up to 10 coins at once, which gives you a little more speed, so it is worth collecting them on the track when possible. If you want to farm coins for unlockables, meanwhile, here's our guide.
Note that it has a couple of alternative looks — in the Animal Crossing track it is shaped like a Bell, and in the Hyrule track resembles a green Rupee.
22. Blooper (Offence)
Another item that you should just use as soon as it appears; it'll cover other racer's screens in ink, making it hard for them to see where they're going. Elementary and lacks the elegance of a perfectly aimed Green Shell, but it can be quite infuriating if you're on the receiving end!
Top tip: If you're the victim of blooper ink, boosts on the track can remove it from your screen.
21. Bob-omb (Offence)
One of the trickiest items to use in the game because it can hurt you as well! When released the Bob-omb flashes for a couple of seconds before triggering a large explosion, perfect for hitting multiple rivals at once.
By default a Bob-omb is thrown forward, but due to the danger of the explosion also hitting you, we typically advise throwing a Bob-omb backward. Do this by holding down on the left stick while pressing 'ZL' / 'L'. You can also 'hold' the bomb defensively, but this isn't wise as it'll explode if hit by another item, taking you out in the process.
20. Piranha Plant (Offence / Speed)
This ravenous item is forward facing only, but can be very useful. When activated the Piranha Plant will start chomping the air ahead of your kart for a set amount of time; each chomp brings a small boost in speed. When near other racers, it'll bite them and flip them over. It can also eat banana peels and other loose items that are in front of you, helping you avoid a collision.
19. Banana (Defence)
Another classic item. Deployed behind your character as standard, though it you press up on the left stick while using the it, you can throw it forward. The standard deployment is normally the best if you want to avoid an embarrassing slip-up, though.
Strategically, try to place bananas where mystery blocks spawn, or on ramps and turns that are the optimal route in a track. They can be used defensively, too, holding them with 'ZL' / 'L' to block most attacks from behind.
18. Triple Bananas (Defence)
As with other triple items, these will rotate around you and offer some protection with their full complement. Just like with the single banana, try to deploy strategically to catch players out.
Unfortunately, these bananas cannot be held behind your kart for defence and may not always block incoming projectiles.
17. Boo (Defence + extra item)
This item has two very useful effects over a short time; first of all it'll make you invisible and seemingly ghost-like, meaning items like Shells can't hit you. The second effect is that it'll steal an Item from the racer in front and add it to your inventory.
16. Green Shell (Offence / Defence)
The classic, this shell can be fired forward or backwards in a straight line — it can bounce off walls to chaotic effect, or of course take out other racers.
There are two key tactics. If in a good position it can be used defensively: press and hold 'L' or 'ZL' and it'll sit behind your kart, blocking a variety of attacks (other shells, mainly) from those chasing you. Alternatively, if you're back in the pack, try to line up behind an opponent before firing forwards.
And if it's a frantic race with loads of people ahead of you, fire into a wall; the ricochet may do the job for you.
15. Triple Green Shells (Offence / Defence)
A triple item means that three will rotate around you, with each used individually. You fire one green shell with each press of 'L' or 'ZL', and they can be fired forwards or backwards.
If defending from near the front, having a full complement of three shells will offer some (but not perfect) shielding, but you can't hold one behind you defensively like with the single shell. If you lose a shell, the best tactic is to use those that remain. On offence, similar to a single shell, try to line up shots or rely on ricochets.
14. Fire Flower (Offence)
This item can fill the track with fireballs, which looks fun and can cause mayhem for other racers. Once first fired, a countdown starts, so keep tapping 'ZL' / 'ZR' to propel fireballs either forward or backward. There's no restriction on ammo outside of the time limit, so shoot as many as possible while it's active!
13. Dash Mushroom (Speed)
The Super Mushroom item is one of the most familiar in the franchise — it provides a short turbo boost. Depending on the track and circumstances it can sometimes be best to hold the item for an optimal route: look out for ramps located in the middle of grass patches, for example. Can also be useful for gaining speed quickly after being hit by another player's item.
12. Red Shell (Offence / Defence)
The big difference between a Green Shell and a Red Shell is the latter's ability to home in on the racer in front of you. It isn't perfect — obstacles can still block it — so be sure to still take care with when you take your shot.
Defensively you can still press and hold 'L' / 'ZL' to keep the shell behind you defensively.
11. Boomerang Flower (Offence)
One of the newer items in the series, and both unique and effective when used well. You get to throw a boomerang forward three times, and it can hit multiple racers in a line if within range. The first two times it'll come back, while the third throw will travel further and then disappear.
You can also throw it backwards, but if you do this it won't come back.
10. Triple Dash Mushroom (Speed)
Rather self explanatory, but now you have triple boost power! Perfect for moving through the field rapidly.
9. Super Golden Mushroom (Speed)
A rather chaotic and fun item. Like the other mushrooms it gives you a turbo boost, but after the initial burst it'll start a countdown before it disappears. After first use, keep boosting with 'ZL' / 'L'! You can either tap rapidly for frenetic boosting, or find a rhythm to stretch each boost — either way, it's a great way to work your way up the field.
8. Triple Red Shells (Offence / Defence)
This can be an incredibly effective item when on the offence, especially if you time these homing attacks well.
If an opponent is far ahead, hit with one shell; if you see their character recover from the hit and move off, hit them again for maximum disruption (and frustration).
7. Super Star (Speed / Offence / Defence)
This is an invincibility star, and it usually makes sense to activate this the moment you get it. It stops any item from affecting you, including lightning (further down the list). If you hit other racers while the star is active you'll knock them out, and you also get a modest speed boost (which is reduced in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe compared to its predecessors).
Sometimes it might pay to keep it for a while before activating, although you run the risk of losing it if another racer activates their lightning bolt.
6. Spiny Shell (Offence)
Known more commonly as the Blue Shell, it's an item that is classic in the game but not always popular! It homes in on the first-placed racer, but on its way skims along the road; if you get a warning radar of a blue shell and you're not in first place, swerve away from the middle of the road to boost your chances of avoiding it. When it strikes it causes a big explosion so keep that in mind, too if you're close to the race leader. As for avoiding it if you're in first place, we have a guide for that.
If you get the Spiny Shell, simply fire it right away!
5. Lightning Bolt (Offence)
This is an item to use right away when you get it; the effect is that it shrinks every racer in front of you, greatly reducing their speed and making them squashable!
The only way to avoid Lightning defensively is to be lucky enough to have the invincibility Star active when it's triggered, or to be using Bullet Bill (below).
4. Bullet Bill (Speed / Offence / Defence)
If you get Bullet Bill it means you're likely near the back of the field, but this will help you catch up! Use this right away when you get it, as it'll transform you into Bill and rapidly accelerate and move you up the field. You're invincible when it's active and any racers you hit will be flipped over. You have no control during this, but keep the acceleration button held down so you can take over when the item ends.
To avoid a Bullet Bill, rather like with a Spiny Shell, get out of the middle of the road when you get a radar warning and hope it goes around you.
3. Super Horn (Offence / Defence)
This item is primarily designed to defend you from a Spiny Shell, so you may get it when leading a race (in particular). Held by your character, when a Spiny Shell settles above you ready to strike, use the Horn and both will be destroyed, keeping you safe!
The Super Horn can also be used against other racers and items, if you feel like it's the right move. When used it creates a shockwave around your vehicle that can hit other racings, or can be pressed just before a shell hits you (such as a Red Shell) to destroy it.
2. Crazy 8 (Speed / Offence / Defence)
A rare item typically reserved for racers struggling at the back of the field. Rotating around you will be a Mushroom, Blooper, Coin, Banana Peel, Green Shell, Red Shell, Bob-omb and a Super Star. These will rotate around you, and when you press the item button ('ZL' / 'L') you'll use the one in front of your character at that point.
It can be rather frantic to use, but it's worth trying to be tactical. For example, using the Star for protection and then Bob-omb thrown forward shortly after. When using the items well this can really change your fortunes.
1. Item Box
The most important part of this whole thing, the Item Box where you get all of the following weapons and goodies. If you don't get these, you don't get any of the above. Keep an eye on which boxes other racers are picking up, as they take a few seconds to respawn once used.
You can hold two items at once, so on some tracks you'll be able to grab two Item Boxes close to each other as well!
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.