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File:Heart-container5 3588.png

For a Nintendo Hard game, this is worth its weight in gold.

This is a very common way of increasing one's Life Meter, particularly in Action Games and Adventure Games without RPG Elements (or just without the elements that increase life).

Games get more difficult as they go on. This is nigh-on universal. But when the Elite Mooks start dishing out epic levels of hurt, what's a poor hero to do? Well, they could Level Grind-- if they were in an RPG. But they're in a Platform Game or some other variety of Action Game! Experience points are (almost) unheard of! Status Buffs are equally uncommon! Healing Potions and Health Food are dropped maybe once a level! What now? Enter the Heart Container--a well-hidden, but oh-so-rewarding, item that permanently increases the Life Meter of the lucky adventurer who finds it. Even games that don't have well-defined "stats," like Attack or Defense, can feature Heart Containers-- lots of games do have Life Meters, after all, and the ability to take more hits without vaporizing is always a nice reward. It can even aleviate the pain of later levels somewhat.

Heart Containers usually come as a reward for doing something "big," like defeating a boss or completing a big ol' sidequest. Sometimes, they're just well hidden in the game world itself, inviting the player to search every nook and cranny for these valuable items. If they're too hard to find, it can lead to a Guide Dang It, and if they're too challenging to get, it can lead to Unstable Equilibrium. Some games use a "Piece of Heart" variant, where a player must collect X fragments of a certain item in order to gain the health boost. In games with icon-shaped Life Meters, it's highly likely that these life-giving MacGuffins will be shaped like their display counterpart (such as, uh, hearts).

Heart containers are a specific form of Rare Candy. Not to be confused with Soul Jar, which can sometimes literally be a heart in a container.

The Trope Namer is the Heart Containers from The Legend of Zelda.

Examples of Heart Container include:

  • Of course, the trope naming and trope making Heart Containers from The Legend of Zelda. Full Heart Containers come as rewards for beating bosses, while later games introduced Pieces of Heart (which make a full container with every 4 pieces found) that can be found as rewards for beating Mini Games and doing Sidequests, as well as exploring the heck out of the environment.
    • The very first game had 5 full containers in very well hidden areas (one outside, and four being a choice between a container and a red potion... you should take the container). The second game repeated this again with 4. The first game's second quest also featured a few old men that could take one full container away if you couldn't pay their price.
    • Similiarly, both Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks only have full containers... and some of them aren't even hidden at all, they can be bought at a shop.
    • A Link To The Past had only one full heart container gained in a way other than beating dungeon bosses. The overworld instead had pieces of heart. This was repeated in Minish Cap, where bosses give them, as well as one very obscure Sidequest that gave you a full Heart Container instead of the usual partial ones. Likewise, in the Oracle games, a full Container in each can be obtained through a special secret from the other game, and another is granted through the Hero Secret.
    • Twilight Princess abandoned the traditional 4 pieces in favor of 5 because it ended up having two more dungeons (and thus two more heart containers) than originally planned. Better get hunting.
    • In Skyward Sword, two Life Medals can enhance Link's life meter by one heart each, but only while they're equipped in the Adventure Pouch. Needless to say, increasing the Pouch's space will greatly help here.
    • 3D Dot Game Heroes, being a direct homage to the original Legend of Zelda, uses apples as the Life Meter and an apple-shaped container for the Heart Container.
  • Metroid, which originated the same year as Zelda, had Energy Tanks. And continues to have them to this day. To specify, the first game has 6 (12 in Zero Mission on Easy and Normal), the second has 5, Super and the Prime Trilogy have 14 each, Other M has up to 10 but played the Pieces of Heart aspect straight, and Fusion has twenty.
  • Banjo-Kazooie had Empty Honeycombs. In the original, 6 Empty Honeycombs equaled one new section for your Life Meter. In the sequels, an NPC named Honey B. would exchange increasing numbers of Empty Honeycombs for new segments on your Life Meter. Also in the first game, a special jigsaw puzzle at the very end rewards you with red Honeycombs that effectively double the life meter.
  • Rocket: Robot on Wheels, a somewhat obscure N64 Platform Game, had Power Packs. Because Rocket was a robot, this kind of makes sense.
  • Game Boy Color Metroidvania Shantae had Heart Holders, genie bottles shaped like... hearts. They were found only in out-of-the-way places.
  • Psychonauts had brains, which increased your "mental health." No, really. The game justifies this by saying that, once you rescue your friends' brains, they add their positive psychic energies to yours, making you stronger.
  • Beyond Good and Evil has the PA-1s. Unlike most Heart Containers, they stay in your inventory instead of getting used, letting you transfer them between yourself and your Sidekicks at leisure.
  • Even though the Castlevania games since Symphony have used EXP, a lot have heart containers--both for life, and the ammo that is known as "hearts." Games that have Magic Points have MP boosters, as well.
  • The Mega Man X series has Sub-tanks, which are effectively whole spare life meters which can be drained to fill the real one, and Heart Tanks, which add a small boost to your maximum health, and some Cyber-Elves in the Zero series which could increase your maximum health at the cost of your rank. The ZX series adds more standard Heart and weapon energy containers.
    • Before that, there were E-Tanks in the original Mega Man classic games from 2 on (except 8, where it was replaced with Rush dropping random powerups). While sometimes these were just handed out, other times you needed a weapon to access it or do some alternate death course. But then you could just buy them.
    • Don't forget the HPMemory in Mega Man Battle Network and Star Force. They are justified in the sense that every NetNavi is like a computer antivirus. So when its memory for storing HP increases...
    • Also in X5 and X6, you can find injured Maverick Hunters scattered through stages who occasionally have life-ups that will increase your max health, and even parts that can be equipped to act as full energy tanks.
  • Alundra has crystals as your life force. Huge ones added one more.
    • The second game has heart rings which grow your HP meter. Then there are orbs that do the same to your EP (magic) meter.
  • Resident Evil 4 had Yellow Herbs.
  • The first Ratchet and Clank game let you add first one, then three more health ("nanotech") spheres by buying Premium and Ultra Nanotech cans. The second game had an experience-based system for gaining health, but nanotech tubes could be found which would increase your maximum health by one, as well as recharging all your existing health and letting off a lightning zap thing which killed everything in sight.
    • Then, in the third game, the nanotech tubes were abandoned in turn, and the series now uses the experience-based system exclusively.
  • The Bonk's Adventure series had blue hearts which added an extra hit point each.
  • In Ninja Gaiden you can increase your life meter by collecting one "Lives of the Thousand Gods" item, or nine "Life of the Gods" jewels.
  • Assassin's Creed has a version of this, your synchronization bar (health) increases as you progress the game but finishing memory sequences, and also for every 15th side-memory you accomplish.
  • The 3D Prince of Persia games have special drinking fountains that extend your life bar.
    • The original Prince of Persia had giant potion bottles that functioned like this in mostly hidden areas; you could get from 3 hearts to 10 over the course of the game. Interestingly, at one point your Shadow can steal one of these from under your nose. When you merge back with him later, you get an extra life point regardless of whether he's actually stolen this potion. Of course, for a Speed Run you can simply avoid all these potions.
    • In the 2D sequel, you can raise your heart level from 3 to 12; there's more than nine potions, but that's the cap. It turns out by the end that you will need most of these, because the spell you require to win the game is Cast From Hit Points. The last level contains a side area where you can tediously grind these in case you missed a few.
  • Seen in the later Kirby games.
    • Inverted in the earlier. Some game modes or mechanics would reduce your hit points for an increased difficulty.
  • Okami and Okamiden have solar energy. If you collect 3 sun fragments, it will give you another unit of solar energy. (Additionally, you can use praise points to increase your solar energy.) The maximum amount you can have at any time in the original game is 20 Solar Energy, but praise points alone can only raise your maximum Solar Energy to 15. If you want to reach the full 20, you must find all 15 sun fragments scattered throughout the game.
  • Mystical Ninja 64 Starring Goemon has silver and gold Fortune Dolls (those "lucky cat" statuettes with one paw raised), which function like the Zelda series' Pieces of Heart and Heart Containers, respectively.
  • In Donkey Kong 64, Candy Kong, along with giving instrument upgrades, occasionally gives your characters extra watermelons to give them more health.
    • In Donkey Kong Country Returns, you can buy an actual heart-shaped container in Cranky's shop, and assign it to Donkey or Diddy (if the game's being played in co-op mode), or between the two (in single-player). Keep in mind that its effect only lasts until you either quit the level or clear it. A special, expensive Banana Juice protects you with 20 containers, but it only lasts for a limited time, and until you die for the first time.
  • Devil May Cry basically cloned the Heart Container idea. You'd collect blue orb fragments, and each four you collected extended your health bar. There was the occasional whole orb, but most of those were bought rather than found.
    • The third and fourth game allow buying whole orbs as well as getting fragments from SecretMissions, eventually quadrupling your starting Life Meter.
    • Similarly, Spiritual Successor Bayonetta has the Broken Witch Hearts, and you can also buy items that give you a maxed out lifebar for the duration of a single level.
  • Action-packed multiplayer games like the Quake, Unreal and Halo series also have special items that temporarily boost your various health meters beyond their normal limits. Quake and Halo even go so far as to continually whittle away at any health "over the brim" in order to discourage cowardly playstyles.
  • In God of War, Kratos can collect Gorgon Eyes to expand his health bar, and Phoenix Feathers to expand his magic bar. The third game also has Minotaur Horns, which extend his special item gauge.
  • In the Chronicles of Riddick video game, there were two types of medical machines--small ones that restored your health, and larger, single use ones that permanently increased it.
  • The SNES Zelda/Breakout hybrid Firestriker used these, mostly found after bosses, though a few were found in optional areas. There was one such area right before the final boss that could be repeated indefinitely, allowing the player to max their life meter even if they'd missed an expansion along the way, or had needed to use a continue, which reduced your max health to its initial capacity.
  • Blood has the literal hearts, ripped from bodies, as the "health packs". Creepy, huh?
  • Cave Story has Health Capsules. However, most are in plain view and only require some thorough exploring.
  • Brave Fencer Musashi has Minku, who are like Heart Containers that you have to chase and throw. They look kind of like rabbits with blue ears, and can only be found at night.
    • Your BP increases by breaking bincho fields and defeating Crest Guardians.
  • Collecting 3 gold rings in Star Fox 64 increases your life bar... until you lose a life or finish the level. Collecting 3 gold rings with an extended life bar grants an extra life.
    • The gold ring count only resets to zero each time a third is collected, so if you finish a level with two gold rings, you'll only need one to increase the life bar in the next level. In many levels, it's possible to collect two extra lives by way of gold rings if you started with two.
  • Although there's nothing to collect, in the original Metal Gear Solid, Snake's LIFE increases every time he defeats a boss...unless you're playing on the hardest difficulty level, in which case it just kind of... sits there. This was removed in the remake and sequels, where you simply start with maximum health.
    • Your maximum health in the original Metal Gear for the MSX increases when you gain in rank, which increases or decreases depending on how well you play.
  • The StarTropics series had this. Your max health, represented by hearts, usually increased automatically after clearing a boss. However, there were a rare few Heart Containers scattered around the game, which you could find fairly easily if you were thorough enough. Additionally, if you had less than the maximum, 22 Hearts, picking up a Vitamin-Z capsule would bring your health to the max, though it would slowly decrease to your maximum over time.
  • In Bionic Commando, while there weren't "Heart Containers" per se, picking up enough "bullets" that the enemy dropped when killed would increase your Max HP by 1 block, until your health topped out, at which point they would do nothing.
    • There's also the helmet, the bullet-proof vest and the crucifix. The pendant deflected one bullet and was recharged by dying or completing a level, the helmet deflected 3, and the vest deflected every other bullet (the first one that hit, the 3rd, the 5th, etc.)
  • Each of the Legacy of Kain games had something like this to extend your health: Blood Omen let you find blood vials that increased your health, and as it turned out, there were more of them than you could actually use. Soul Reaver had special wedge-shaped power ups, and every five would boost your health, while Soul Reaver 2 gave you an upgrade every time you activated a Reaver forge. Blood Omen 2 gave you an upgrade when you drank enough blood.
  • Cosmos Cosmic Adventure has burgers with the functionality of permanently adding an extra hit-point to your character. There are only two in each of the three episodes, so you'll never have more than five bars of health at any given point in the game. Mind you, those extra hit points come in very useful on the later levels of the episode.
  • Dynasty Warriors uses trays of Dim Sum to extend the Life Meter, though the RPG Elements might also affect it (this might vary by title). Equipment and weapons can also give extra life.
  • The Dark Cloud games have food items that increase the characters' stats, and are given as rewards for successfully reconstructing towns. Fruits of Eden would increase hit points, and can be used by any character --making the player reach a balance so as to keep all characters strong enough for upcoming challenges-- while personalized items, such as Potato Pies or Witch Parfaits in the sequel, would increase other stats.
  • Wario Land Shake It had heart vessels with this purpose, which you had the chance to buy after each world/boss battle was completed.
  • Canisters in the Geneforge series function as either this or Upgrade Artifacts, modifying your DNA to make you stronger, let you throw fireballs, etc. Side effects include rampant egotism and extreme temper problems, and unlike in the later Bioshock, this does apply to you.
  • Later games in the Touhou series introduce star pieces that grant the player one-fifth of an extra life; they're typically received for successfully clearing spellcards.
    • Done differently in Ten Desires, where you obtain "heart pieces" by collecting purple spirits.
  • Battle of Olympus for the NES had Ambrosia, which increases the player's maximum health. There are five of them found throughout the game.
  • Planet Harriers featured heart containers purchasable from the shops at the end (and sometimes in the middle) of levels. This was a game where you were jetpacking through planet landscapes.
  • Adventure Island IV has heart containers and heart container halves in special rooms which require to complete a jumping puzzle to reach them.
  • Dewys Adventure has Health Shards, which generally appear after you defeat a Mook Maker.
  • Dead Rising Chop Till You Drop has the white drinks, which restore and increase your health (the original game increases your life with levels).
  • The Worms games have health crates which randomly drop between turns; any worm which collects a health crate recovers a fixed amount of HP. This counts as a Heart Container since worms technically do not have maximum HP levels; a worm at full health that collects a + 25 crate will gain the full + 25.
  • War in Darksiders gains an extra heart container after defeating a boss or collecting four Life Stones.
  • Every level of Super Mario Bros 2 has two Mushrooms hidden in subspace; these function as Heart Containers, but their effect only lasts till you beat the level.
    • The Updated Rerelease adds one more mushroom per level. It also features a challenge mode where some of the mushrooms are replaced by Yoshi eggs which you must carry to the exit without dying.
    • The big, star-tatooed mushrooms in Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel have the same function. Your life meter is usually 3 points worth, but the mushrooms increase it to 6. Keep in mind that, like their SMB2 counterparts, their effect only last during the current level.
  • An Untitled Story features hearts, collecting which gives 10HP to your beginning 100.
  • Ricky Slater from Moon Crystal starts with three of the famous internal organs known as hearts. He can increase the counter to five when finding Heart Containers.
  • In Jabless Adventure, you start with 5 HP. You can collect up to 10 fruit, each of which increase your maximum HP by 2 points.
  • You can increase your ego meter in Duke Nukem Forever by doing things that would boost Duke's ego: pumping iron, admiring yourself in a mirror, winning at a slot machine, getting a high score on a pinball table...oh yeah, and defeating bosses.
  • In Dragon Slayer, each coin collected will be exchanged for 500 extra HP when brought back to Player Headquarters. There are no shops or NPCs, so coins aren't good for anything else.
  • The Lion King has African red bugs to extend Simba's health meter.
  • Ufouria has Health Containers. You can't start finding them until you've found all your friends.
  • Blue Landers in The Guardian Legend.
  • There are two of these in each main planet (level) in Jet Force Gemini. Each character (Juno, Vela, Lupus) visits three planets before Mizar's Palace, so each can get 6 extra units (worth 5 HP each).
  • The first No More Heroes game awards Travis with an actual, Zelda-style Heart Container upon the defeat of a boss. An extra Container is gained when the training with Thunder Ryu is completed. The trope is averted in the sequel, however, so Travis can only make his regular health meter more enduring.
  • Deadly Towers has literal heart containers. They raise maximum health, but unlike ordinary hearts, they do nothing for current health, which only aggravates the game's Nintendo Hard difficulty.
  • Terraria plays this utterly straight. Heart Containers are called "Life Crystals," and can only be found underground. Upon smashing them, collecting the crystal and using it, the player gains 1 more Heart (20HP), starting at 5 and maxing out at 20. There are also "Mana Stars," the casting equivalent, which can only be made, and then only from falling stars that can only be found above ground--and at night.
  • The Wizard Cards in the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets video game worked this way. Collecting ten of them would increase your stamina.
  • The Super Star Wars series uses health swords that extend your life meter when picked up. Since they can be dropped by enemies at random or found in hidden areas, it's possible to grind for these health extending items and have an extremely long life bar. However, your life meter reverts to its default length after completing a level or losing a life.
  • Crystal Hearts in Athena.