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A meter, usually a coloured bar, that displays the Hit Points of a character. If this shrinks to nothing, Critical Existence Failure is the result.

In single-character games, this is found on the HUD. In strategy games, this appears next to selected units, often over their heads, and by their portraits in the HUD.

The color of the life meter is often determined as a major stylistic point for the game. Red is a very common color, being strongly associated with blood and flesh, as well as the ubiquitous red-crossed health packs. Sci Fi life meters often change color as health declines, from green, to yellow, and down to red. Other colors usually indicate something unique about the character or game. The life meter may also change color to reflect status ailments, such as poisoning. An alternate menu may note how many Hit Points that meter reflects. Fantasy games tend not to have the meter change color, and will instead have it remain a blue or green color. It may flash red when the PC reaches a critical threshold.

A Life Meter may also be made of a line of symbols rather than a bar. Frequently, hearts are used for this purpose.

If your life meter also comes with an alarm sound to indicate low health, that alarm will likely be the Most Annoying Sound.

Running out can either lead to a Game Over, or simply losing one of the Video Game Lives.

Examples of Life Meter include:

Anime and Manga

  • Part of the player interface in Sword Art Online, and can be seen by other players; the fact that Kirito's Life Meter did not drop appreciably while he was fighting against half-a-dozen player killers was the first clue Silica had that he was far more powerful than he had let on. Of especial importance in SAO because the game's interface helmets will kill any players who die in the game.

Video Games

  • The life meter in Prince of Persia's "Sands Trilogy" is aqua blue, indicative of the use of water as life replenishment.
  • The Life Meter in Diablo takes the form of a globe filled with red liquid, the same color as the life potions. The color changes to green if the character is poisoned. Also, in Diablo II, the globe is held up by a little demon statue, characters turn green when poisoned, and other things (gas, throwing potions, damage stats) are green when they relate to poison.
    • The same color convention—red changing to green when poisoned—was later used in Nox.
    • And a similar convention and life meter was used in the first Legacy of Kain although in this case, it's fairly clear what the liquid is supposed to be, since he's a vampire and all.
  • Rayman 2 introduced the series to the life meter. Before this, Rayman used a Hit Point system.
    • Something funny used in Rayman 2 is an image of Rayman's head in the upper left corner turning from happy to sad when low on life.
  • In addition to the Life Meter, Eternal Darkness also features a Sanity Meter, an affectation borrowed from Lovecraft-inspired role playing games. It effectively acts as a second Life Meter (shocking but not physically harmful experiences deplete it, and physical damage occurs when it is fully depleted), but is also tied to the game's "insanity effects", where unexpected visuals, such as insects crawling across the screen, would simulate the player's decline into insanity. Of course, after finishing such mentally stressing levels, a Heroic BSOD (as opposed to an actual BSOD, which is one of the insanity effects) is expected from most characters.
  • Averted, surprisingly, in a Fighting Game. Bushido Blade and its sequel Bushido Blade 2, is a game based around duels with melee weapons that's very unusual in the fact there are no life gauges whatsoever. You can literally be killed with a single blow.
  • Likewise, Operation Flashpoint has no life meter; to determine the extent of your injuries, you simply check your body for wounds. Any wound to a vital area has a good chance of killing you outright, and wounds to the limbs affect your movement and accuracy. Though there aren't any health packs as such, you can get the wound treated by a medic if you can find one.
  • Many Mega Man games feature bosses that strike a cool pose whilst their life meter fills up before they fight.
  • Spyro the Dragon and its sequels had a creative, if basic, adaptation: The dragonfly Sparx literally served as a health meter, changing colors from Gold at full health down to green, and then disappearing entirely. After that, a single hit would kill you. The game explained this by way of some vague protective magic Sparx generated.
    • Similarly, early versions of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time had the color of Link's tunic and shield change to indicate his health. Of course, the final version just used collections of hearts like previous titles.
    • The early Crash Bandicoot games, and some of the new ones, feature a similar approach with a hovering mask pickup instead of the dragonfly. Pick up a mask, and you can take an extra hit. Pick up two, and your mask turns golden, meaning you can take two hits. Pick up a third one, and you're invincible for a short while.
    • The newer Legend of Spyro games have actually stopped using Sparx as a health indicator and reverted to a conventional health meter, but for a good reason: The new combat system requires Spyro to have way more health than in previous games, which would have been difficult to show with Sparx.
  • In Trespasser: Jurassic Park, there is no HUD; your health is instead displayed by glancing down at a heart-shaped tattoo on your left breast (a rare example of a First Person Seductress).
  • Lugaru: The Rabbit's Foot has no HUD, but Life Meters for two types of damage which affect the same pool of Hit Points: Temporary damage, caused by blunt impact, is indicated by the character limping and the camera's view becoming blurry and shaky, it fades with time. Permanent damage, caused by cuts and stabs, which is only healed between levels, has the additional indication of pain skins (visible wound texturemaps).
  • While they had normal numeric indicators as well, Wolfenstein 3D and many games modelled after it also have a depiction of the player character's face in the bottom of the HUD which grits his teeth when hurt and becomes progressively more bloody looking as he takes damage.
  • Halo 2 and 3 have no Life Meter per se. Instead, there's a meter for your energy shield. When it reaches zero, your now-unseen health bar can be diminished, obviously enough hits on you after the shield bar is depleted will result in your death. However, if not hit in a set amount of time, your health and shields will regenerate, the shield bar filling up again (Interestingly enough, Master Chief's health regenerates slower than his shields in Halo 3, meaning that if his health is low enough, but his shields have fully regenerated and were promptly depleted, he'd still have very low health. See the word of Bungie here, under the OMG Fix Mayleeey, Bungle! section, sub-section The Nitty Gritty).
    • The original Halo has the energy shield in addition to a traditional Life Meter. Master Chief's health only drops once his shield runs out, and health can only be restored by medkits scattered around. Halo: Reach also reverts to this setup, being a Prequel to the existing games, and only differs in that the medkits tend to be mounted on walls rather than lying on the floor, as well as the Life Meter having very minor regeneration at certain levels of injury.
  • Viewtiful Joe had bosses with multi layered life meters, deplete the top most layer and you start working on the next one. They where color coded to show roughly how many hp were left, as an absolute unit, not percent.
  • While Kingdom Hearts II and all following games used a green bar with green squares underneath representing the amount of health bars left for enemies, Kingdom Hearts I and the GBA game Chain of Memories used colored, multi layered health bars. This was kind of a problem in KH1 with Sephiroth, as he had so much health the developers ran out of colors to use, so he has all the normal colors up to purple and an additional invisible bar.
  • All of the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games, save for the first one, use a life meter to determine the judge's patience with you. Screwing up costs you some life and an empty bar results in a guilty verdict/Game Over. Some screw ups can cost you your entire life bar and sometimes a character in the courtroom wants to up the ante by increasing your possible penalty (life bar loss). They are also used in the Magatama segments, where it's implied that they show Phoenix's soul state. (If you empty it Pearls says you should stop before your soul shatters, and if you finish the sequence you regain energy).
    • Oddly, how well you did in court effects how much health you have in your Magatama investigations, and every time you start the trial the next day, your health is full again. However, during the last case, your Magatama health is restored in the middle of your investigation... but doesn't recover when you go to court the next day. Considering how troubling the last investigation segment is, you're likely only going to have a smidge-higher than half health, making almost all mistakes fatal.
  • In the early Tomb Raider games, it's only visible, if you get hurt or heal yourself.
  • The life meters in The World Ends With You are vertically-oriented bars, and extend into both screens along the right side. Either half of the meter could be gone, gone, gone, but you're both still fighting until the whole thing is gone. It refills after every battle (counting a chain reduction battle as a single one). The bar itself is green, with empty sections of bar as gray. Bosses also have a life meter that depletes from each side of the screen and has a second, yellow bar over the green one.
    • The colors for bosses go farther, too.
    • Players can easily be confused by the life bar. It's shared by both Neku and his partner... but the gap between the two screens is not counted in the bar. So it's pretty easy to think "Oh I have a lot of life left..." but it isn't nearly as much as you think.
  • Older Than the NES: Ultimate's Atic Atac featured a graphic of a chicken, which decreased down to bare bones as you lost energy. (Eating food replenished it.)
  • The above was directly lifted for classic kid's TV show Knightmare, except that it was a human face instead of a skeleton and the skeleton would eventually also disintegrate away into nothing. That one also used green to yellow to red backgrounds as a more general measure.
  • The Legend of Zelda games, with the notable exception of Zelda II, use a hearts system in place of a regular life meter. Link invariably starts the game with three hearts. Unlike most games, he can acquire more by locating a Heart Container; the more of these he gets, the longer his string of hearts becomes and, therefore, allows him to take significantly greater damage before dying.
    • Similarly, Samus Aran always begins with 99 points of energy, usually displayed as a simple white meter on the HUD, and adds 100 more points with each Energy Tank she finds, displayed as boxes above the meter.
  • The swordsmanship minigame in the old computer game Sword of the Samurai (programmed by Sid Meier of Civilization fame) has an interesting spin on it, in keeping with the game's feel, which is to contain absolutely no anachronisms. Each time a combatant takes a hit, a brush draws the strokes in the kanji for 'life'; when it is complete, they die.
  • The Warriors uses a standard life meter designed as a circle around your character. It starts out at green and changes colors from yellow to orange to red as you get injured, and the characters themselves also suffer bruises and cuts and grow in number and intensity when their health grows lower. Strangely enough, all those visible injuries magically vanish once you use some Flash.
  • The second and third Streets of Rage have a standard health bar for players and Mooks, but a boss' health bar is slightly different from the player's. In game 2, the boss' health bar was shown in blue and the number of stars under their name showed how many health bars they had. By the 3rd game, they changed the stars to a number next to the health bar, which makes it look like the amount of "lives" the boss had. Once all the extra bars of health were gone, the boss' life bar would be shown in yellow/red like any other enemy. On higher difficulty levels, even some Mooks can have multiple bars of health like a boss.
  • The arcade game Rolling Thunder has a segmented life bar, though this feature is hardly necessary: colliding with or getting punched by Mooks takes out half of the bar, and getting hit by any projectile kills the player outright!
  • Much like Crash Bandicoot above, the first Sly Cooper game had horseshoes Sly could pick up to get more than one hit. Get one, and a silver horseshoe would appear on his backpack. Get another, and the horseshoe turns gold. Dropped outright for a standard health meter in the sequels.
  • Super Star Wars has it as a lightsaber on the upper left corner of the screen.
  • In Rogue Squadron there is a small icon of the current starship on screen. Damage taken changes the icon's color. It's blue (After obtaining a powerup to increase them) and goes through green to yellow as your shields take damage, then orange to red if you continue to get shot up before your shields recharge.
  • In Gungrave, your character has two meters—a red bar for his vitality and a blue bar for his regenerating shield. The shield will recover if Grave takes no hits for a few moments, however, explosions and some boss attacks will break the shield completely. Once his shield is gone he will lose his health rapidly, and will fall if the red bar reaches zero.
  • Guitar Hero and Rock Band play with this by having a "Rock Meter" (Guitar Hero) or "Crowd Meter" (Rock Band) that tells you how much the crowd is liking your performance; it increases with notes hit and decreases with notes missed. While not technically a "life meter" per se, it serves the same purpose; if the meter hits bottom, you fail out of the song and either must restart it or must be saved by a bandmate, depending on the situation.
    • Rock Band's crowd meter isn't a straight life meter in multiplayer, either - if the meter itself hits bottom, the entire band fails out automatically. However, each member has a slider on the meter, and if a member's slider hits bottom, they fail out, and the meter starts being drained until all failed members are recovered. The amount of the meter that is filled is around the average of the band member's positions on the meter.
  • Pokémon with it changing colors from green to yellow to red.
    • And a very annoying looped beeping noise when it's in the red.
    • It also has numerical values with HP being a stat that can be increased, but you can only see the exact value for your own Pokemon.
  • Parodied rather well at the climax of Problem Sleuth. The final boss, Demonhead Mobster Kingpin, has three forms, each with its own health bar. The first regenerates slowly. The second has two which regenerates two times faster than damage can be inflicted. The third, however, starts with three bars that literally must be broken themselves. Right before Problem Sleuth can activate his Bad-Ass Finishing Move, DMK literally GROWS an infinite number of life bars, which are physically real and break through the Earth's surface all the way down to Hell.
    • An interesting variation from Homestuck: Health is represented by a colored bar suspended inside a clump of gel, called a "Health Vial". As you take damage, the bar is forced out of the gel, and falls to the ground and shatters when your health is depleted. When leveling up, instead of gaining a longer health bar, you get a more viscous gel.
  • Ever since Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain and WWE Day of Reckoning (at least), the WWE-based Professional Wrestling games on consoles have had a variant on the health meter: it's represented by a humanoid figure with four sections (head, torso, both arms, both legs). As each region gets worked over, the meter goes from no damage to, normally, yellow-orange-red. Submission holds have better chances if you're working them on a red region, and if the head is red (on a male), certain headshots will cause bleeding.
  • Some Rhythm Games' life meters are different.
    • Beatmania, Beatmania IIDX, and Pop'n music: Your life meter starts at 22%, and you must build your life up to (by hitting notes) and finish the song with at least 80% of your life intact to clear it. On the plus side, a drop to 0% life (or 2% on IIDX) won't result in a fail. There's also the gauges for Expert mode, Pop'ns Extra Stage, and IIDXs Hard modifier, in which you start full and any amount of life left results in a clear, but running out of life will kill you.
    • DJMAX Technika: In Technical mode, you must finish with at least 75% life on stage 1, 50% life on stage 2, 25% on stage 3, and simply live to see the end of stage 4. It's harder than it sounds because on each successive stage, it takes more notes to recover your life.
    • Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan and Elite Beat Agents: Your life meter (called the "Elite-O-Meter" in EBA) continously drains, even if there aren't any notes to hit. This can lead to some cases where you fail the song in mid-combo.
  • The Shutokou Battle and Kaido Battle racing game series (known outside of Japan as Tokyo Xtreme Racer / Import Tuner Challenge and Tokyo Xtreme Racer Drift, respectively), have life meters, but not for how much more your car can take; rather, during races, you lose life when you are trailing behind your opponent or run into something. Whoever runs out of life first loses the race, as opposed to whoever reaches a goal first like in most other racing games (although this is an alternate way to win in Kaido Battle). The original Wangan Midnight arcade game, being based on Shutokou Battle, also has this system, but you can also win by being ahead of your opponents when the time runs out.
    • The Kaido Battle series also featured a twist in this system. Running out of life does not equal an instant loss if you're either ahead of your opponent, or are following close enough so the meter won't start draining.
  • In The Conduit, not only does the life meter change from green to flashing red when the player's life meter is low, but the game also desaturates the colors and turn down ambient sounds when the player is low on life. This is needed because it is possible to play the game without a HUD (thus hiding the regular life meter all together).
  • 007: Nightfire features an interesting design for the life meter: it's based on the James Bond Gunbarrel. As you start to lose life points, the damage eats away at the barrel, wedge by wedge, as the remaining wedges change from green to yellow to red. After the last sliver falls, the "game over" screen is represented by blood pouring down from the top of the screen.
  • EarthBound's is rather unique. It's a scrolling meter of numbers. Instead of actually taking damage and instantly being drained of your health directly, you get damaged, but you won't die instantly, instead, the meter will just drop up until it reaches zero. It also applies when your healing.
    • It's even more unique because you can slow down the scrolling health bar by using the Guard command.
    • Arguably, it could be considered a (very good) way to subvert Critical Existence Failure. That is, a badly wounded character will not die instantly, but will die if not healed quickly. (Thankfully if someone's headed for 0 HP, you are warned that the character has "suffered mortal damage!") On the other hand, healing is also not instantaneous in real life. As for guard, it could have the character place greater priority on defending him/herself or staying alive than actively attacking.
  • Echo Night: Beyond uses an EKG monitor; Richard's heartrate jumps whenever he encounters ghosts, but will even out if the ghost is friendly. Hostile ghosts, on the other hand, along with other disturbing phenomena, can push his heartrate up much higher... Reaching 300+ immediately kills him.
  • The Doom games combined a percentile health meter with a central character face portrait that got progressively more bloody as your health decreased.
    • Same deal with Wolfenstein 3D and the Catacomb games (the sequels to the original Catacomb 3D).
    • And with Nitemare 3D, but rather than getting bloody, the skin wore away like in Knightmare. You'd be down to a skull when you were on your last 10% health, and when you died, the skull went dark.
  • Heretic had a numerical life meter, but also a red gem on a chain that moved from right to left as health decreased. This interface was carried over to the first Hexen game as well.
  • Bug!! has a can of "Bug Juice". Taking damage greys out a fraction of it, and when it becomes depleted, Bug dies and the can "melts".
  • Truth in Television: EKG, EEG and other lifesign indicators used in hospitals.
  • Sapiens uses a single symbol as a Life Meter. When you're in perfect health, the meter depicts a large heart. As you receive damage, the hearts decreases gradually, then disappears, then is replaced with progressively larger skulls.
  • Indiana Jones And His Desktop Adventures has a circle-shaped life meter, initially completely green. As you receive damage, the circle loses more and more "slices" (like a pie graph), gradually turning yellow. Once it's completely yellow, the yellow begins to peel away in the same way, revealing red. Then, once it's all red, it begins giving way to black. Once it's all black, you die...
  • Catacomb 3-D has a human face which is slowly replaced, from the bottom up, by an image of a skull.
  • In the old Batman: The Movie, the Life Meter is Batman's face, gradually replaced by The Joker's face as the hero receives damage.
  • Shows up in the games Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2. They even come with one when you are swimming: if you stay underwater too long, you will drown.
  • In Aladdin, Aladdin's health was measured by a trail of smoke coming out of the lamp in the top left corner of the screen.
  • The Madou Monogatari RPGs for the MSX2, Game Gear and PC 98 did the furthest to avert conventional analog or digital representations of the player character's health, which is represented instead by changing facial expressions.
  • Legend of Success Joe gave the player a three-part life bar; half-empty bars would refill between stages but not fully empty ones.
  • In Brazilian game Guimo, the life meter is a pair of eyes, that get bloodshot with every hit (when they're completely red, the player dies).
  • Most Castlevania games have one for the player character, either as hearts or as a bar. Older games had one for bosses too.
  • The platform games Rare developed for the Nintendo64 has an idiosyncratic, unique life meter each:
  • Your life meter in the Super Star Wars series is displayed as a lightsaber.
  • In Ib, the characters' lives are represented by roses with a number showing how many hitpoints they have left. The more damage they take, the more wilted their rose becomes. If it becomes a bare stalk, it's Game Over.
  • In Flink, Flink's life meter was the big red bottle in the corner of the screen, labeled "MAGIC" since it doubled as his Magic Meter.
  • Super Mario XP: Instead of the usual die-in-two-hits system from Super Mario Bros, Mario has the life bar system from Castlevania.
  • In FHBG, the player's health is drawn as hearts in the upper left corner, as in Super Mario Bros. 2: Mario Madness.