The 7 best video game lifebars

We celebrate our seven all-time favorite video game lifebars!

  • #3: Rock Meter (Guitar Hero Series)

    The concept of having a lifebar in a music title is a bit weird unless you're John Lennon (... too soon?) but Activision managed to incorporate one into Guitar Hero with great results. As your performance begins to suffer, the Rock Meter — a meter similar to many found on professional music equipment — will slip from the safe green section on the left to the middle yellow, to the red on the right. If your performance forces the pointer all the way to the right, you lose. It's simple, effective, and it fits in with the game perfectly. When you take the mess that is Rock Band's Band Meter into consideration the genius of the Rock Meter is magnified. What the hell does that outline when one person fails out mean anyway?
  • #5: Tattoo on Boob (Trespasser: Jurassic Park)

    Okay, Trespasser: Jurassic Park (shouldn't the title be the other way around?) might not have the name recognition that the other games on this list have, but what this relatively obscure FPS does have is one of the most unique heath display systems we've ever seen. In Trespasser, you play as Anne whose plane crashes on the dinosaur-infested island The Lost World. If being haunted by the disembodied voice of John Hammond (the old dude with the white beard and cane from the first film) wasn't weird enough, your health in the game is displayed by a heart tattoo on Anne's right breast that fills up with ink and detail as you take damage.
  • #6: EKG (Resident Evil Series)

    Capcom's zombie-ravaging survival horror series has several interesting ways in which the player's health is displayed. If enough zombies take bites out of your delicious flesh, you develop a limp, and the more scathed you get the more crippled you'd become making it difficult to move around. And the actual lifebar in Resident Evil games is just as memorable. Instead of your standard health bar, the amount of life you have left before turning into food for the living dead is shown by an Electrocardiogram (EKG). Sure, other games have done it since Resident Evil, but it's never fit so well as it does in the RE universe.
  • #2: Doomguy's Face (Doom)

    While playing as a character whose face becomes battered and bloodied the more damage you take was featured in id Software's popular Nazi-slaying FPS game Wolfenstein 3-D, it wasn't until the company spawned Doom that they perfected their unique alternative to the traditional video game health bar. Not only did Doom add more detail to the wounds you'd receive (big lacerations would break out on Doomguy's face and his nose would gush blood the more you let Imps and Cacodemons thrash you), but your demon hunting marine was just a lot cooler than Wolf 3-D's B.J. Blazkowicz. The upcoming re-imagining of Splatterhouse will also feature a similar health meter to classic Doom's where the protagonist's whole body displays gruesome damage.
  • #1: Hearts (The Legend of Zelda Series)

    When a lifebar system holds up over two decades of sequels, it's a sign of a well-designed one. Link starts each adventure with three hearts, which are depleted in increments of half-hearts due to taking damage. In order to replenish them, you collect miniature hearts from downed enemies (among other methods like drinking potions or having fairies fly about your head). If you want to add extra hearts, it's as simple as getting new heart containers. The Zelda heart has become an iconic image — show anyone a row of red and white hearts, and they'll likely reply with a surge of Nintendo nostalgia. Unless there's less than three red ones — then it's panic time.
  • #4 Spine Bar (Dead Space)

    Dead Space is a game that prides itself on never taking you out of the action--that means whether you're switching weapons, accessing your inventory, or even checking your health, you have to be focused on what Isaac's doing at all time. Putting a lifebar in the corner of the screen could be deadly if it caused you to lose focus in the midst of a bloody battle against a batch of necromorphs. Thankfully, the team at EA Redwood decided to incorporate the health bar into Isaac's mining armor. As a container of neon-blue fluid running up his spine, the healthbar is prominent without seeming out of place on Isaac's person. It may not be especially convenient in real life — you'd have to ask people how close to death you are constantly or have easy access to mirrors — but as a game mechanic, we love how it's incorporated in Dead Space.
  • Lifebars are a prominent, yet under-appreciated part of videogame history. Helping us keep tabs on our characters health without detracting from the gameplay experience is key — making a memorable lifebar is a task unto itself. While some games have done away with lifebars for more abstract and less memorable means (we're looking at you, Gears of War), we choose to celebrate games that have shown us our status in unique and enjoyable ways.

  • #7: Heart and Brain (Primal Rage)

    Who can forget the beating heart and pulsating brain gauges of the cult fighting game where you pummel your opponents as dinosaurs and prehistoric apes? The best part of Primal Rage's health bars are when a character is beaten to death. Once this happened, the fighter's heart bursts, leaving a bloody streak splattered on the screen. Your brain gauge in the game is equally as amusing: once it is completely depleted, a surge of electricity fries your brains, leaving you temporarily brain dead and susceptible to your enemy's onslaught of attacks.
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