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.

Above: Retinal damage means your condition is critical! 

But GamesRadar remembers! That’s what we do. And as developers increasingly diminish the Heads Up Display in favor of realism, minimalism and… uh, sports games, we wanted to honor to that which give life meaning.

Dead Space

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.

Primal Rage

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.

Above: Too bad the in-game lightsabers were pretty much ineffective baseball bats 

Superman Returns

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!

Above: “Hmmm… not a whole lot here worth saving, actually.” 

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.

Above: “Do mine eyes deceive, or doth that fireplace look like a vagina?” 


  • kpale002 - December 31, 2013 2:01 a.m.

    well it could be argued that the RIG in dead space and the health bar due make sense from Isaacs point of view to a third person one. If you knew you weren't feeling well you wouldn't really need an indicator ttell you that. From a doctors perspective (or player) it makes sense because it quickly gauges how severe a persons are. Plus there is nothing to say that he can't see it either, it may be part of his HUD within the helmet.
  • g1rldraco7 - December 30, 2013 5:08 p.m.

    Primal Rage was a great fighter and that life bar really surprised me. It was disturbing when the heart and brain exploded when the character was defeated. My favorite has always been the Zelda life bar.
  • TheWebSwinger - December 30, 2013 1:06 p.m.

    I was wondering when we'd get some ClassicRadar from the old (permanent staff) crew : )
  • GenderBender_9000 - December 30, 2013 5:45 p.m.

    I thought I detected a hint of pizza aroma.
  • Strangleme - August 21, 2010 4:33 p.m.

    Sweet article. I love the Doom facial expressions the most. When I played that game as a kid I use to love seeing him get fucked up and bloody!!! Good times.
  • darkprince4321 - August 21, 2010 2:01 a.m.

    am i the only one who remembers Tak and the Power of JuJu's color changing head feather health meter, that was a kick ass health meter, or how about spyro the dragon's Sparx the dragonfly who also changed colors and had to eat butterflies to regain health, anyone else got anything???
  • MrWordman - August 20, 2010 9:51 p.m.

    Steve Brule FTW
  • GameManiac - August 20, 2010 4:29 p.m.

    I knew it! I knew that somewhere in this article, the health bar ITSELF would be used as a weapon.
  • american101 - August 20, 2010 4:50 a.m.

  • mahabat - August 20, 2010 2:52 a.m.

    uhhhh mass effect 2 health system is no different then halo 3 in any way at all, also neither of them are very original at all
  • Radagast107 - August 20, 2010 12:51 a.m.

    I thought that the healing system that Mass Effect 2 was pretty nice, no worrying about health packs anymore!!
  • WickedSid - August 20, 2010 12:08 a.m.

  • Dutch - August 19, 2010 9:28 p.m.

    It's nice seeing Chris do a feature now and then.
  • notallgoodnameswheretaken - August 19, 2010 6:40 p.m.

    Thank you
  • FETALJUICE - August 19, 2010 4:09 p.m.

    I loved that spine health bar in Dead Space. Kinda disappointing you guys didn't mention the EKG graph from the old Resident Evil games, the self healing animations of Farcry 2, and even the Silouhette Pain Meter in Max Payne series. Hell, what about the upcoming Splatterhouse remake where how badly your injured is shown on the character's body, (ex. lost limbs, exposed ribs)?
  • notallgoodnameswheretaken - August 19, 2010 4:02 p.m.

    Fix the damn ads. You should permanently ban people if all they do is put up ads. Even drawing a cute kitty isn't going to make me buy anything.
  • gmknoble - August 19, 2010 3:42 p.m.

    Dig the article, Mr. Antista.
  • horrorfinatic - August 19, 2010 3:05 p.m.

    I am a huge resident evil fan, so I am disappointed that it was't mentioned. Also, the remake, residentevil 0, and resident evil 4. All gamecube classics.
  • CAPST3R - August 19, 2010 2:53 p.m.

    Dammit, isn't there anything anybody can do to get rid of these ads besides reporting them? They're beginning to annoy me. And that 'use the health bar as a weapon' thing is just awesome. I had the idea myself a few years back (no, I'm not saying that they stole the idea from me), but I never thought it would actually happen. Sadly, it isn't grounds for me buying the game. Also, I agree with the guy somewhere above- FC2's self-healing system was good, it should have gotten a mention. And another thing- have these reCAPTCHA things got harder to read recently, or have I just been playing FO3 too much?
  • CARDYKEV - August 19, 2010 1:56 p.m.

    I personally thought a noticable feature of Jurassic Park Tresspasser was the realistic physics :p

Showing 1-20 of 66 comments

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