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