Health Indicator

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Games which use health levels to determine player success often provide some kind of health indicator as a part of their head up display. The exact format of such health displays varies from game to game, but tend to standardize within genres. For example, in one-on-one fighting games, where knowing the health level of each fighter is especially important, each combatant's current health level displays in an overlay at the top of the screen, as in Street Fighter II: The World Warrior [Capcom, 1991].

In real time strategy games, where the health levels of many units are important, health indicators are tied to specific units, as in Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos [Pardo, 2002].

In platform games like Super Mario 64 [Miyamoto, 1996], knowing one's health level, while important, is often less urgent than in fighters or real time strategy games. That being the case, Mario 64 only displays Mario's health level when he takes damage or when he is dangerously low on health. Under normal circumstances, Mario's health level doesn't appear on screen.



Strong Examples

The Legend of Zelda Series

In the majority of The Legend of Zelda games, the main health indicator is the heart container. It gives a clear indication of how much health you have left and depending on what enemy attacks Link, he loses a set portion of his hearts. The damage depends on whether you lose pieces of your hearts by quarters or halves. Hearts are a key element in gameplay because if Link loses all of his hearts he dies. Not all of the Zelda games followed this system.

Last Blade 2

This game incorporates a health bar on the top of the screen with the health bar on the top right indicating the player that started the battle on the right end of the screen and the health bar on the top left to indicate the status of the opponent that started on the left of the screen. The bar starts initially with the color yellow to indicate full health. As time progresses, and damage occurs, the color of the health bar will turn completely red. After it's completely red, any more damage that accrues will have the color red be replaced by an empty health bar. Once the health bar has nothing left, the player will lose the match.

Weak Examples

The Adventure of Link and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

The Adventure of Link and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask did not fit the classic heart health system. The Adventure of Link used a health bar tied to a lives system. If you depleted your health bar you would lose a life. It could be argued that the health bar loses importance because the player is now more worried about losing his lives. Gameplay is also interrupted between lives, contrary to what strong examples of the health indicator would do. Majora's Mask still has the heart system; however, it does not maintain the consequences and valorization of said consequences that is found in the rest of Zelda games. The real game over of Majora's Mask is in the exhaustion of the time given before the world is destroyed. That exhaustion hardly occurs because it is easy to revert time back to the beginning.

Fight Night

Fight Night shows both health meter and a stamina meter. If the stamina meter goes down then the players punches are weaker. If the health meter is depleted then the opponent is knocked out. Unlike Street Fighter the player is not dead once their health is depleted. They are simply knocked out and, unless it is the third time within a round, can recover and come back to win the match. The countdown is the only indicator to tell whether a fighter has lost the round, not the health or stamina meters.

Civilization 4

Civilization 4 has a variety of ways of checking how you compare against your opponents via in-game graphs and charts that show how close one person may be to satisfying any of the numerous game objectives to win the game. While usually, "health bars" is one tool to indicate the status of a player, Civilization incorporates different indicators such as charts, a scoreboard, and timelines to show how well you're progressing. It is for this reason, however,Civilization 4 is a weak example of health. Though you're able to check your in game status, since there are numerous conditions for victory to check for using these tools, your actual progress may in fact being ambiguous.

Need for Speed

A weak example of health display on the HUD can be seen in Need for Speed. The player always has his current place if the race was to finish at that moment. And at certain places on the track they find out how far ahead or behind they are compared to the competition. This health, your current standing in the race, changes throughout the race and can go up and down.


Capcom, developer (1991). Street Fighter II: The World Warrior. Capcom Co., Ltd., arcade edition.

Miyamoto, S. (1996). Super Mario 64. Nintendo, nintendo 64 edition.

Pardo, R. (2002). Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. Blizzard Entertainment, windows edition.