The mini design challenge: Blue Shell = Dumb

28 Oct

I love Mario Kart.  In general it is like playing a textbook on good design.



But one thing is so weird, the Blue Shell.

Only people at the back of the line get it in their inventory.

Only people at the front of the line are affected by it.

In all of your history playing Mario Kart, did you ever get a blue shell that was in any way useful to you?  If you’re in last place it doesn’t matter who comes in first second and third, none of them are you and a blue shell won’t change that.  In fact nine out of ten time it just reorganizes the first three spots and has no bearing on your time/spot at the finish line.

The Blue Shell is a way for the last place person to help the third/fourth place person win.

So the design challenge for those of you reading- just answer the question:  What is the point of the blue shell?

If you were particulary savvy you could suggest an alterenative inventory item to properly serve the purpose of the blue shell.


7 Responses to “The mini design challenge: Blue Shell = Dumb”

  1. Alan October 30, 2008 at 9:15 pm #

    The purpose seems to give the last place player something fun to do. They might not be enjoying themselves much way back in last place.

    Possible alternative: Make it a guided shell, so the last place player gets to steer it up the course hitting whomever they want. I guess you’d have to leave their kart on autopilot while they were busy steering the shell.

  2. Carl October 31, 2008 at 9:50 pm #

    Isn’t it for really close races?

    Alternately I’d like a shell that hit all the people in front of you at once.

  3. Mack November 11, 2008 at 3:47 am #


    The person in last place has something to do…get out of last place.

    I love the guided shell idea. That is a GREAT solution.


    Have you ever played a race where firing the blue shell affected the outcome of your race? Not to say it’s impossible but highly improbable.

    As for a shell that hits everybody…That is the lightning strike (and/or the bullet.)

  4. Flopsy November 11, 2008 at 4:12 pm #

    In the world of Mario Kart, the object of the game is, primarily, have ‘silly fun’, even if it is somewhat competitive.

    In this, the Blue Shell serves the purpose of an artificial level for the 2-3 players bringing up the rear of the race.

    In a tight race, sometimes you get pockets of racers that end up together, usually grinding away at each other for a precious second. To that end, the Blue Shell usually knocks off more than one player.

    Conversely, if you have a hotshot who is miles ahead of the competition, the Blue Shell serves almost as a bargaining chip for the player that fires it at that stiff competition, because it helps bring that player down to the level of the others, and is usually appreciated by the other players as a sign of good faith, and they will allow the player firing it a little more leniency in upcoming matches.

    Granted, all this is based upon usage of the Blue Shell in multiplay. I couldn’t begin to tell you why it exists in single play 😉

  5. Andrew Laing November 18, 2008 at 10:12 pm #

    When I played this game with my son, he kicked my ass. At least I could use the blue shell to alter the final outcomes of tournaments; conceivably in my favour. In other words, if I all but have a tournament wrapped up in points, I can still protect myself during those last couple of races. Perhaps you saw the last F1 race; the last race of the season, and the LAST 5 SECONDS determined who won the ENTIRE SEASON… and this is AFTER the first placed finisher crossed the line. So, you can also use the Blue Shell AFTER the guy in first place finishes until your target is the leading player still in the race… but you already knew that right?

  6. Jenna November 19, 2008 at 6:02 pm #

    I actually have found the blue shell to be highly effective. I played the Gamecube version obsessively in college with my friends, and we all got so good that every race was a close race. When playing with friends you could only have four racers at a time, so the blue shell became an extremely effective weapon that in a close race could knock someone from first to fourth. We even began coming up with crazy strategies where someone would hold a blue shell until they got into first, then wait until a precarious section of the track, hit the brakes to get to fourth, and shoot the blue shell in hopes of knocking everyone else off of the track so their recovery time would be longer!

  7. Techni May 26, 2009 at 6:23 pm #

    I find the blue shell to be horrible game design, as it punishes players for being better at the game. It makes the outcome more random.

    In short, it ruins the game for the ones who were having fun

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