Life. Health. HP. No matter what you want to call it, all games have some method of letting you know how dead you is, or how dead you ain’t. Or at least they used to?
Nowadays, gamers have gotten so used to regenerating this or that, they may’ve forgotten what the hell a health bar even looks like.
We’re finally seeing games re-embrace the life bar after nearly half a decade of disinterest. Why the HUD hatred? Well, many developers thought onscreen indicators lacked realism, and strove to find ways around them. Dead Space was very much a part of that movement, and thus Isaac’s bio-backbone meter was born! Sort of a next-gen life bar… But once you think about it, ALL of his indicators are located on his back.
And since we’re not privy to any kind thermal, Teminator Vision, we can assume Isaac himself can’t actually see these meters, which makes them logically unsound and essentially no different from your average health bar. But hey, it’s pretty damned creative to say the least.
This battle of the Colossi brawler took the life bar to incredibly literal heights, depicting it as a blood-filled vein stemming from a beating heart. I suppose one could interpret the prehistoric blows as preventing blood flow to the heart. Either way, get to the end of that life bar with the gore turned on and KA-BLARP… Cardiac Catastrophe!
Star Wars Masters of the Teras Kasi
Yep, that’s pretty much all there is to it… the most powerful weapon in the galaxy just sitting there, masquerading as a health bar. And that was about as creative as the developers got with what most consider one of the worst Star Wars games of all time. Sorry folks, we’ll try our best never to bring the game up again.
Sure, this unfortunate movie license may have one redeeming virtue, but that doesn’t make it any less terrible. Supes has always gotten the shit end of the gaming stick, but even while turning the most over-powered superhero of all time into a generic robot punching rescuer of pets, at least EA remembered one vital thing: Superman is f***ing invincible dammit!
So, instead of giving the dude another life bar like so many horrendous games have done before, Metropolis itself is the one living on borrowed time. That’s right, the entire city gets a health bar, and once it hits zero Clark Kent has officially failed.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
Perhaps the life bar here isn’t very “creative” in and of itself. However, Deadpool’s use of it most certainly is! The latest trailer shows that Marvel’s mentally unstable mercenary will actually be able to rip down the life bar and literally beat the diarrhea out of opponents with it. Is it a poignant metaphor on the ever fluctuating balance of all consuming power? Who cares?! Looks fun as hell!
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
The Sanity Meter may not be a life bar per se, but it’s certainly just as crucial to the player’s mortality in the GameCube classic (God, that feels weird to write) Eternal Darkness. As the meter depletes, so does the protagonist’s grip on reality. It starts out with some creepy auditory hallucinations and skewed camera angles, until eventually the game detonates the 4th wall entirely with fake endings and even a phony Blue Screens of Death.
Jurassic Park Trespasser
What do Trespasser and GamesRadar have in common? They both force you to look at boobs! LOLOLLOL! Your life meter takes the form of a heart tattooed on a giant set of first-person gazzungas. If the game had anything else worth noting, which coincidentally it does not, it wouldn’t matter. Also like GR, “BOOBZ” will be the only thing anyone remembers. *cue tiniest violin*
Doom not only made you the life bar, it was pretty much the only glimpse gamers got of the nameless space marine. His bloody dishevelment made low health situations feel all the more dire. And by creating viewable physical consequences to poor play and decision making, the bond it assuredly reinforced the bond between player and protagonist. You are bleeding, and it’s YOUR fault, mister! And yes, I’m aware Wolfenstein 3D did it first, but Doom sprites were easier to find.
The Legend of Zelda
You can’t argue that it’s probably the most iconic life bar in the medium, but not the most creative, you say? Poppycock! Hearts in Zelda imply so very many things, and often times speak something unique about every player. Sure, they give you more life (durr!) however, they can also mark progression as well.
Zelda’s heart meter is capable of indicating how many dungeons a fastidious player has beaten, while people who get up to twenty can wear them proudly as badges of exploratory honor. Hell, deep Zelda nerds can probably look at a single inventory screen and judge exactly where Link is in the game based solely on aspects of the heart collection. So who cares if they’re responsible for one of gaming’s most annoying noises?! More hearts is more gooder!
BONUS: Mega Man IV
Okay, the life bars in Mega Man may not be all that creative even though, visually, they’re damn near perfection. This is different. Years after we’ve all played every NES game to death, people are still unearthing shit about the game. Oh, you think you’ve learned every boss pattern? Well, some dude named MrL1193 discovered this mind-blowing fact about Bright Man just a mere matter of months ago: the secret is in his health bar.
As it turns out, Bright Man uses his cheap ass Flash Stopper according to specific levels in his health. Even without knowledge of his weaknesses, it’d only take a bit of simple math and timing to conceivably defeat him without ever getting attacked by his signature move. So… it stands to reason this pattern probably isn’t exclusive to a single Mega Man boss, right? We’ll leave that to somebody with a lot more time on their hands.
Livin' it up
That's how these characters were able to get a life, but did we miss any good ones? Let us know in the comments!
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