Mario Kart 8 update nerfs controversial “sandbagging” strategy

Baby Luigi represents the reaction of sandbagging racers in this artistic rendering.

Baby Luigi represents the reaction of sandbagging racers in this artistic rendering.


Since Mario Kart 8‘s launch on the Wii U, one of the game’s most successful and controversial strategies has involved intentionally hanging out at the back of the pack to amass and abuse the game’s best items. Now, over nine years since the game’s initial release, Nintendo has taken steps to eliminate the controversial “bagging” strategy in the latest update to the Switch’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Mario Kart 8 players who made use of “bagging” (short for “sandbagging” and sometimes also called “item smuggling”) in online races would briefly retreat to last place to sit on a regenerating item box, waiting to acquire some of the game’s most powerful items (which are much more likely to appear when you are far away from first place). The bagging player could then use one of those items (say, a Golden Mushroom and/or Starman) to quickly catch up with the pack before using the other amassed item (say, a Bullet Bill) to build up a dominant lead. The strategy can be especially effective on tracks like “Cheese Land,” where using a Bullet Bill in very specific locations can extend how long the powerful item lasts.

Not “cheating,” but not exactly “racing”?

Despite bagging’s controversial reputation among many players, the strategy isn’t really comparable to outright cheating—baggers play an unmodified version of the game as it was designed, after all. And for years, many Mario Kart 8 players have argued that it’s a perfectly fair strategy that requires actual skill to use effectively. “Sandbagging is a risk vs reward kind of thing,” GameFAQs user RydeonHD wrote in 2016. “There have been many times where it can just plain out backfire (in those cases, it would’ve just been better to strive for first).”

On the other hand, it’s easy to argue that bagging at least goes against the spirit of a racing game, where the focus should never be on intentionally letting other racers pass you (though sandbagging can sometimes be beneficial in real-world racing as well). Many players have also complained about extremely awkward online races where multiple baggers end up fighting for last place to secure the best items, completely changing the vibe of the competition (you can see an example of this around 30 seconds into this video).

“A lobby with nearly 12 out of 12 players being ‘good baggers’ makes for a pretty unprecedented item-spammy Mario Kart experience for the players who choose not to bag,” Reddit user “West-Secretary-1188” argued last month. “Bagging is a hindrance to ye olden Mario Kart fun, shame on baggers.”

Apparently, Nintendo has now belatedly agreed that bagging shouldn’t be a part of the game. The patch notes for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s Version 3.0.0 update (which includes the game’s last set of DLC tracks) note that the update has “made it so that you can’t acquire strong items when taking an Item Box by stopping or driving in reverse, or taking an Item Box that is in the same location multiple times during a race.”

Since the update’s November 8 launch, players have already noticed that sitting on an item box in last place now only provides minimally useful items like a Mushroom or a Green Shell, leaving the lagging player in a tough position. The change should limit the effectiveness of intentional sandbagging while still allowing legitimately slow players a better chance of getting at least one good item.

Don’t worry, though; at least one other controversial, last-place-assistance feature seems likely to stay in Mario Kart 8 for the foreseeable future. “When we’ve experimented without the blue shell, actually it feels like something’s missing,” Mario Kart 7 and 8 director Kosuke Yabuki said in a 2017 interview. “You know, sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes in life you have something where you feel that’s not right, and that’s frustrating.”

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