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Top 10 Best "Mario Kart" Items

Jeremy enjoys gaming when not working as a manager at the same college he graduated from.

Items in Mario Kart

Mario Kart racing games are renowned for their balance of skill and luck. Sure, the best drivers will better navigate the course, but the higher your position, the worse supplies you obtain as you pass through a course's reappearing item boxes. While frontrunners receive weak tools, stragglers attain formidable boosts that can skyrocket them ahead, leading to frequent and chaotic position changes.

From the lowly Banana to the powerful Starman, we've encountered dozens of racing boosts—which gear reigns supreme? These are the 10 best items throughout the core Mario Kart franchise!

A Spiny Shell in Mario Kart

A Spiny Shell in Mario Kart

10. Spiny Shell

Introduced in: Mario Kart 64

Sometimes called Blue Shells, these infamous day-ruiners travel all the way to the pack's leader, smashing the first-place racer and anyone else nearby. They're difficult to dodge and not many items can block them, especially given the lousy tools you acquire in first.

While Spiny Shells are definitely powerful, they won't necessarily move you up many ranks—you yourself aren't boosted, and you're usually only hitting one target.

A POW Block in Mario Kart

A POW Block in Mario Kart

9. POW Block

Introduced in: Mario Kart Arcade GP 2

An infrequent item, the POW Block is best known for its appearance in Mario Kart Wii. When activated, the item begins a warning countdown for all racers ahead of you. On the final crash, the POW both spins them out (which decreases speed) and forces them to drop any held items.

That's a brutal effect that slams multiple opponents, but you can entirely escape the effect if you're mid-air when the POW attacks. Even if grounded, skilled players can evade the speed loss (though you'll still lose items) by performing a wheelie right as the POW strikes.

A Golden Mushroom in Mario Kart

A Golden Mushroom in Mario Kart

8. Golden Mushroom

Introduced in: Mario Kart 64

Regular Mushrooms give players a short but noticeable speed burst and let you briefly ignore speed reduction on difficult terrain. Golden Mushrooms do the same, but rather than only working once, they provide an unlimited number of uses for a short duration.

You have to be careful not to boost yourself into a wall or other hazard, but skilled drivers can utilize shortcuts and move up several ranks. You'll also spin out any drivers you contact during your bursts, so don't be afraid to ram foes. At least ones not protected by the next item . . .

A Triple Red Shell in Mario Kart

A Triple Red Shell in Mario Kart

7. Triple Red Shell

Introduced in: Mario Kart 64 (singular Red Shells existed previously)

Red Shells are nice since you don't have to be terribly far back to land one, they can block incoming hits, and they lock onto the next racer (unlike straight-shooting Green Shells), making them difficult to dodge.

What's better than one Red Shell? Try a package of three, granting you three potential hits/blocks. Don't toss them all at once; space them out for maximum destructive potential, though you'll need to expend them all before you can pick up a new item.

A Starman in Mario Kart

A Starman in Mario Kart

6. Starman

Introduced in: Super Mario Kart

Often called a “Super Star“ or simply “Star”, these classic items briefly render you invincible, boost your speed, and let you spin out any racers you crash into. You also ignore difficult terrain penalties, and you can save a Starman for when a projectile is incoming, letting you ignore it with your brief invulnerability.

A Mega Mushroom in Mario Kart

A Mega Mushroom in Mario Kart

5. Mega Mushroom

Introduced in: Mario Kart Arcade GP

Mega Mushrooms enlarge your racer for a brief period. With your enhanced girth, you move a bit faster and become immune to most hazards—the only things that can damage you are Starman, Bullet Bills, and falling off the edge.

While not as well-shielded as the Starman, you'll have an easier time knocking over foes thanks to your larger size, and the hit flattens them instead of spinning them out, forcing an even greater speed loss. Use karts instead of bikes for more surface area and easier targets.

A Boo in Mario Kart

A Boo in Mario Kart

4. Boo

Introduced in: Super Mario Kart

Boo comes and goes throughout games, but when available, he offers a bit of everything. When activated, you briefly become invisible to opponents, can drive off-road with no speed penalty, and Boo will steal an opponent's item, giving you another weapon to continue fighting.

In many games, Boo will automatically pilfer the best item available, and in Super Mario Kart, he can even steal an item that hasn't stopped spinning in the item roulette (and thus wasn't yet available to your opponent).

A Lightning Bolt in Mario Kart

A Lightning Bolt in Mario Kart

3. Lightning Bolt

Introduced in: Super Mario Kart

Sometimes called Thunderbolts or simply Lightning, these bolts immediately zap every racer ahead of you, provided a faster POW Block attack. And not only do your victims spin out and lose their items, they shrink to a smaller size and drive more slowly until the effect ends. Some games add insult to injury by also having shrunken racers spin out if struck by a regular-sized racer.

A Bullet Bill in Mario Kart

A Bullet Bill in Mario Kart

2. Bullet Bill

Introduced in: Mario Kart DS

Bullet Bills are formidable tools; not only do they rocket you through the stage at insane speed and invincible status, you spin out struck foes struck and drop their items. The game automatically steers your charging racer, though you can slightly influence your course left or right to better target enemies. It is a powerful item, though occasionally your burst ends on a sharp turn, leaving little time to avoid a collision.

While Bills are absent in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Baby Mario and Baby Luigi can attain the similar character-specific Chain Chomp item. Unlockable racers King Boo and Petey Piranha (who have access to all character items) can also nab it.

A Crazy 8 in Mario Kart

A Crazy 8 in Mario Kart

1. Crazy 8/Lucky 7

Introduced in: Mario Kart 8/Mario Kart 7

These item smorgasboards pay homage to the numerical value of their debut appearances. The rarest treasures in their respective games, Crazy 8s and Lucky 7s grant you 7–8 items at once! Both packages contain a Green Shell, Red Shell, Banana Peel, Mushroom, Blooper, Star, and Bob-omb, and the Crazy 8 adds a Coin for good measure.

That's a powerful heap of tools at once, but each item quickly rotates around your kart, so it's difficult timing which one will actually activate (though you can rapidly spam them to guarantee one). Remember that Bob-ombs will blow up in your face if they block an incoming projectile, so it might help to toss it and let your Shells protect you as you strategically fire your remaining weapons.

It takes skill or luck to maximize these smorgasbords, but players who manage it are rewarded with a devastating set that can make or break your race.

Special Items in Mario Kart Arcade

Today we focused only on items found throughout the core games, but if you delve into the Mario Kart Arcade titles, you'll find dozens of unique equipment not seen elsewhere. Double Dash!! also features character-specific items, some of which have become series staples, others of which remain exclusive to it (like Peach's Heart and Bowser's Bowser Shell).

Mario Kart games are perhaps the most casual-friendly racers available, letting players of all skill have a good time—until those darn Spiny Shells, at least. But for now, vote for your favorite item and I'll see you at our next gaming countdown!