%%
%% ZeroContextExample entries are not allowed on wiki pages. All such entries have been commented out. Add context to the entries before uncommenting them.
%%
[[quoteright:194:[[VideoGame/EryisAction http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/s_crappy_action_7942.png]]]]
[[caption-width-right:194:Yes, the game lets you go into negative lives. [[PlatformHell Be glad it does.]]]]

In the beginning, there were NintendoHard games which you had to finish in a single sitting. To make these games more fair, creators implemented "lives" so that you wouldn't have to start all the way at the beginning of the game if you failed -- only when you ran out of lives. It was a good idea, and it added an extra element of strategy to the game as it made characters [[OneUp collect these extra lives]] along the way to save them up for the harder levels near the end of the game.

Then came game saving, a feature that allowed the player to quit and start again later more or less where they left off. ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZelda'' and ''VideoGame/{{Metroid}}'' were among the first to do this, and note that they had no "lives", since the concept of having lives and the concept of saving are more or less contradictory. If you can save the game, it means the game can't force you to start at the beginning when you run out of lives. The farthest back it can take you is the last place you saved, reducing the ability of a GameOver to be any more damaging to the player's progress than any other death.

But some developers didn't care. They liked "lives" and wanted to keep them despite having save features. People expected them to be there. Hence Meaningless Lives.

This can be caused by the following, but not always:
* Having the ability to use [[InfiniteOneUps cheap tricks to get many lives]] near the start of the game.
* Having a "game over" serve no purpose besides making you lose your level checkpoint and returning you to the title screen, where you can simply re-load your game and pick up where you left off. (Basically any time [[Main/{{DeathIsASlapOnTheWrist}} Death Is A Slap On The Wrist]].)
* Resetting your lives to three or some other default value every time you re-load your game.
* Having infinite continues (on console games that don't require money like arcade games).
* Having the most difficult levels have an obvious, easy-to-obtain, respawning OneUp which can be used to try the same level unsuccessfully forever.
** Even worse, having two or more of these at the same place. Your continued failures will actually ''increase'' your life count.
* Allowing -- or even ''requiring'' -- levels to be replayed, and saving the number of lives.
* Having a game that is really, really, really easy.

Whatever the case, you never look at your life counter simply because you just don't care.

A SubTrope of VideoGameLives.

Somebody who [[IThoughtItMeant takes the trope name too literally]] is a StrawNihilist.
----
!!Examples:
* Every ''Franchise/SuperMarioBros'' game since ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros3''.
** Downplayed in the Lost Levels, as even though you can max out your life counter at 127-8 (depending on the version) in the first level, you can still easily lose them all before beating the game. Played straight in ''VideoGame/SuperMarioAllStars'', in which ''Lost Levels'' is the only game in the compilation where the player can save his progress at the last stage he played, a benefit not featured in the other games in the compilation.
** ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros3'' is a mild example, since two of the easiest spots to rack up InfiniteLives are in the first world. One is in the second level!
** The SNES version of Super Mario World allowed you to quickly rack up lives by replaying certain levels, but the life counter was not saved. The GBA remake saved it and also extended the life counter to three digits. It was not uncommon to accumulate hundreds of lives without even trying by the end of the game.
** The GBA version of ''[[VideoGame/YoshisIsland Yoshi's Island]]'' took this even further, since, like the original, it featured bonus games which could reward you with dozens of lives each play.
** ''VideoGame/SuperMario64'': Getting a game over was only marginally more time consuming than losing a life(dying drops you at the level entrance, game overs kick you to the front of the castle). There was the occasional checkpoint now and then, but again, it didn't take long to reach them. It's not hard to get upwards of twenty lives in one sitting anyway, and 100% completion was [[AWinnerIsYou 99 of the bloody things]].
** ''VideoGame/SuperMarioSunshine'' specifically had 1-Ups that respawned every time one entered a level and came back. This means every time you die, you'd get that life back if you start near the 1-Up spawn.
** ''VideoGame/SuperMarioGalaxy'' is guilty of practically every single point listed above. The Lobby has about 5 1-Ups scattered across, most of which are easy to reach (and of course, they are back every time you return), and you frequently get letters from the Princess with free 1-Ups attached. And most levels have 1-Ups as well, and you get them for every 50 Star Bits ''or'' coins collected. And of course, exiting the game resets your life count to 5 (and Peach's letter is always available when you reload). And the most difficult challenges don't have checkpoints anyway. Strangely, Mario loses a life for losing races, as well. It gets to the point where on some levels, the number of lives you have is actually directly proportional to how ''badly'' you're doing, since you get more lives than you lose on the tough challenges.
** VideoGame/SuperMarioGalaxy2 is this to about as much degree at the first game. The hub has the usual five odd lives, as well as an infinite supply in the basement via the Chance Cube in the casino (aka, about 20 possible lives to get for about a 100 coins apiece). And the standard five from Princess Peach's letters to Mario. And the Chance Cubes in most levels. And the fact unlike most 3D Mario games, you keep any lives you gain in a level if you exit without beating it, meaning easy 1-Up farming.
** ''VideoGame/NewSuperMarioBrosWii'' and ''U'' have over a dozen intentional ways to get infinite (or high numbers of) 1-ups, and in ''Wii'' they're all documented in videos in the game. In other words, the game tells you how to get them. Although getting lives is trivial, losing them holds a little more weight as 7 deaths in one level (except on hard levels) makes the Super Guide block pop up which means your file can [[LostForever never]] have shiny stars. Also, in multiplayer there isn't time to collect as many 1ups unless everyone cooperates, and running out means you need to sit out the level until it's completed or everyone dies.
** ''VideoGame/SuperMario3DLand'' does things similarly to ''New Super Mario Bros. Wii'', having a fairly easy infinite-life trick in the ''second level of the game''. The game even rewards you for finding the trick by letting you get over the normal maximum number of lives. Just as in ''New Super Mario Bros. Wii'' however, losing too many lives in a row causes the game to [[MercyMode give you help]] and [[LostForever take away]] your BraggingRightsReward of shiny stars.
** It seems Nintendo simply doesn't care anymore with ''VideoGame/NewSuperMarioBros2'' - the central theme of the game is [[GoldFever collecting as many coins as possible]] and the game is filled with ways to collect massive amounts of them very quickly, including: gold fire flowers whose massive fireballs turn anything into coins, gold enemies that drop extra coins when defeated, blocks you can wear on your head for a steady coin output and even bonus levels that literally have coins raining down from the sky! In addition to this, the game is about as generous with the 1-Up mushrooms as Mario's other recent outings, so it's very easy to reach a life count in the triple digits without even trying. And in fact, [[UpToEleven maxing out your life counter is needed to earn one of the stars on your save file!]]
** In ''VideoGame/MarioVsDonkeyKong'': Minis March Again, which was the first game in the series to even HAVE lives (aside from the [[EarlyInstallmentWeirdness completely different original]]), losing all of them causes you to... gain five more. Yeah...
** The original is just as bad. The only negative effect getting a Game Over will have is resetting your score when you're on the second half of a level. If you were aiming for a high score, this isn't any worse than dying normally -- you lose the time you accumulated from the previous area, so your high score is now moot, meaning Game Overs technically have ''no consequences whatsoever.'' Of course, that doesn't stop the game from forcing you to play bonus games if you get all the presents to win... Get this... More lives.
** In ''Mario and Wario'', a Japan only Mario puzzler controlled with the SNES mouse, you can play the initial 8 worlds in any order and continue an infinite amount of times if you run out of lives. However, you still need to replay all the levels for any given world if you run out of lives and you need to beat last 2 normally unselectable worlds with a single set of lives.
* In the ''VideoGame/MegaManClassic'' platformers that aren't NintendoHard, losing your lives restarts the level. Big deal. Your life count is also reset every time you reload.
** ''VideoGame/MegaManPoweredUp'' allows players to farm lives up to 9 and save quite easily in the new version. Beating the boss of the level the free life is in isn't even required (though Roll bugs you about being "a little fast"). These lives aren't totally useless, as Mega Man loves its cheap shots in jumping puzzles (see Guts Man's level).
** ''VideoGame/MegaManX5''/''VideoGame/MegaManX6'' were especially ridiculous, as getting a Game Over did not even make you lose your level checkpoint. Also, the littering of hostages in many stages, ''each'' of whom granted an extra life, meant maxing out at 9 lives was too easy.
** The latter parts of the ''VideoGame/MegaManZero'' series, and the ''[[VideoGame/MegaManZX ZX]]'' series seem to have begun to find a nice balance. You can save, yes, but only at certain locations in the game world - the trans servers. Lives, on the other hand, return you to the last 'checkpoint' in the level; normally the point where the screen went black for a moment loading the next area. Given how hard these games can get, lives suddenly become valuable - they let you resume without losing all your hard work by being sent back to your last save.
** The later NES Mega Man games didn't let you keep your energy tanks if you decided to go dancing on the spiky floor until game over, but not to worry: if you grabbed of a copy of ''Wily Wars'' back in the day, you'd find that it had not only forgotten that little downside and also gladly saved your tanks between plays.
** A lot of Mega Man games don't restore your weapons when you die, but they do make sure to save which refills you've already picked up, so you can't pick them up again. They also love to have obstacles in the final sequence that [[UnWinnableByDesign require]] or are [[UnstableEquilibrium made much easier]] with specific weapons, so if you're out of that weapon, all lives are going to do is make it take longer to get Game Over.
* In ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaIISimonsQuest'', you literally continue from the exact same spot if you lose all your lives. The only catch is that you would lose all your hard-earned hearts.
* The original ''{{Tomba}}'' had lives... and the game saved how many you had left when you saved the game. This could actually screw you if you ran low, as the game booted you back to the opening menu if you ran out. The sequel ditched it.
* In the GBA ports of the ''VideoGame/DonkeyKongCountry'' games, the player can save anywhere on the level select screen, restart from a level checkpoint at any time, and keep all lives when saving the game; all these features were absent in the original SNES versions, and they make lives largely pointless.
** In ''VideoGame/DonkeyKongCountryReturns'' and ''VideoGame/DonkeyKongCountryTropicalFreeze'', the Kong Temples are incredibly relentless, but they include millions of bananas and banana coins, meaning you get one extra life for every two halfway attempts, and enough coins to buy back all the lives you have lost and then a couple hundred more at Cranky's/Funky's shop. And the hardest challenges make sure to offer you a pretty obvious life-farming chance via bouncing on several enemies in a row- in the World 2 temple in ''Tropical Freeze'', you can get half a dozen lives that way.
* The multiplayer-oriented ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaFourSwordsAdventures'' has fairies that can be collected, representing lives. The fairies are everywhere, and you get at least two just for beating a level. If you die, you lose one. It almost eliminates the need for lives altogether--especially in multiplayer, where lives are only lost if every player is down at the same time, which is an unlikely event as a downed character auto-revives after ten seconds.
* Attempted subversion in ''[[Videogame/{{Gex}} Gex: Enter the Gecko]]'', where running out of lives would erase all your progress and force you to start again. At least, that's the theory. The problem was that the game had to prompt the player to overwrite their save file, making it incredibly easy to avoid the punishment.
* ''VideoGame/ConkerLiveAndReloaded'' would reset your lives to 3 if you lost them all and chose to retry. You were thrown back to the previous checkpoint, but since literally every new room was a checkpoint this was not much of a penalty.
* ''VideoGame/{{Stinkoman 20X6}}'' gives you three lives, but the levels have no checkpoints and you can choose from any of the levels right from the start of the game. The only points at which lives matter are the boss battles, because if you have lives left when you die to a boss, you start at the boss rather than the beginning of the level. (And a glitch makes lives worthless against the first two bosses as well, since you respawn to instant death.) At all other times, you lose nothing but a few seconds of time by just refreshing the page and going back to three lives when you die.
* ''[[VideoGame/YoshisIsland Yoshi's Island DS]]'' is a difficult game, but an actual GameOver is rare. By the last world you'll lose 50 lives per level, but that doesn't matter because you get 70 1-Ups in the process.
%%* ''SlyCooper'' (but only the first of the three) did this.
%%* Bugs Bunny licenced games like ''Lost in Time''.
* ''Videogame/BanjoKazooie'': 1-Ups (Banjo trophies) are easy to find, and they reappear every time to return to their area (Spiral Mountain has two 1-Ups, for example). Of course, they serve little purpose, since if you lose all of your lives, you simply get sent back to the entrance to Gruntilda's Lair. However, death itself was far from a slap on the wrist. Upon death, all 100 notes in the level would be reset, meaning that the only way to get them all is to do it in one life (in the original version; the Xbox Live Arcade port changed this). ''Videogame/BanjoTooie'' ditched the lives completely and made note collection much easier to boot.
* ''[[VideoGame/GhostsNGoblins Ghouls N Ghosts]]'' (at least, the Genesis version) has infinite continues, making what was a near-impossible game merely really really hard.
* ''Videogame/SonicUnleashed'' for the PS2/Wii does this one a little differently. You start with 2 retries, fair enough, but during the game you can get non-renewable 1up items that expand your stock on a permanent basis. Thus, you essentially have infinite lives; just a given number in any one stage. The 360/PS3 version is more in line with the trope, with extra lives lovingly scattered around the levels, many directly after checkpoints, all of which respawn when you die. Some of the Werehog sections, however, are so frustrating and so long, however, that those lives are far from meaningless.
** ''Sonic Rush'' and its sequel, in modern 2D platformer fashion, still allow you to amass more lives than you'll ever need.
** ''Sonic the Hedgehog 4'' is a huge example of this. A mediocre player could end up with over one hundred fifty lives at the time of beating the final boss.
*** Be honest, is anyone ever going to use up over 400 freaking lives?
** ''Sonic 3 & Knuckles'' made lives even more pointless with the introduction of save files. Every time you complete a zone and reach a new zone, the game is saved, so you can quit and pick up where you left off later. The only danger a game over brings is booting you to the level's start instead of a checkpoint.
* [[PlatformHell Hell Platformer]] ''VideoGame/SyobonAction'' has the ultimate in meaningless lives: The game never checks to see if you run out of lives. So the lives-remaining indicator can start at 2, and be -52 by the time you beat the game.
** ''VideoGame/EryisAction'' does the same, being a PlatformHell game that draws heavy inspiration from ''Syobon Action''.
* Averted in ''Starfighter: Disputed Galaxy''. The game saves your progress as you go ''and'' allows you to stock up to ten lives at a time (which can be repurchased or refreshed altogether on buying a new ship). However, if you manage to run out of lives, the game resets your progress completely and forces you to start over.
* Averted in the original ''VideoGame/{{Rayman}}''. It had both lives and saving, but the lives were justified because the levels were NintendoHard, long enough for your level checkpoints to feel precious, and it had ''limited continues''.
* Variation: ''VideoGame/PrinceOfPersia1'' gives you infinite lives, but a limited amount of time to complete the game, and the timer does not reset when Death restarts you at the beginning of the current level. However, you can get your time back as well simply by saving at the start of every level and reloading whenever you die.
* In the PSP game ''VideoGame/PrinnyCanIReallyBeTheHero'', your character starts with 1,000 lives and the game consists of 10 levels. The game can be pretty hard at times, but you won't ever expend the 1,000 lives you start with, with most people losing somewhere between 100 and 300 over the course of the entire game.
** Speak for ''yourself'', [[VerbalTic dood]]! Seriously though, the game also allows you to learn an ability that allows you to attack enemies with your life stock (That is to say, ''launching'' the other Prinnies at them).
* Lives are not quite as meaningless in the original ''Videogame/CrashBandicoot1996'' as they are in future installments. Loading the game or using a password resets your lives to 5, and [[NintendoHard you're going to need as many as you can get]]. However, collecting the green gem opens a shortcut in the level "Castle Machinery", which will take you to the exit in 10 seconds and give you '''25 extra lives'''.
** From ''Videogame/CrashBandicoot2CortexStrikesBack'' onward, most levels have a bonus section that will usually give you somewhere around 2 lives for successful completion. Besides that, the games begin saving your life count, so if you lose more lives than you care to, you can reload your game and try again. So long as you save regularly, Game Overs are inconsequential.
* The first ''{{Ty the Tasmanian Tiger}}'' game was pretty fond of this. Sure, lives weren't exactly dotted around like raindrops, but they were juuust frequent enough (that combined with the lax difficulty), that you were never really in any danger at all.
* ''{{Glover}}''. [[SoBadItsGood Oh Lord, Glover.]] See, there was a [[ClassicCheatCode cheat that turned you into a frog.]] In the hub, there were insects flying around. Eating them as a frog gained you an extra life. And they respawned. It's possible to ''break the life counter'' - it starts showing powers, then ''gives up'' and letters and symbols appear instead. In essence, you had infinite lives.
** You didn't even need the frog code. If you were doing [[OneHundredPercentCompletion card runs]], you'd start racking up obscene amounts of lives anyway, and you'd break the life counter about halfway through the game.
* ''VideoGame/JazzJackrabbit 1'' would reset everything (lives included) when a game was loaded and also if you selected 'continue' after game over.
* ''VideoGame/CommanderKeen'' invokes this trope starting with Keen Dreams (episode 3.5), which introduced the ability to save your game anywhere and 1UP pickups to the series. The first three episodes only allowed saving on the map and only gave you extra lives every 20000 points. Being able to save your exact progress anywhere in the second half of the series rather rendered the three methods of getting extra lives meaningless, unless you were trying to [[SelfImposedChallenge play the whole game without saving.]] For the record, the methods were every 10000*2^N points, a 1UP pickup, and collect-100-for-a-life pickups (the latter being introduced in episode 4).
* ''VideoGame/StarFoxAdventures'' not only has more extra lives than you need, but there are more lives available than you can ''carry'' (once you buy the holder, the maximum is ten). Aside from maybe one difficult sequence where slow reflexes may cost you a couple of lives, you're not going to be going long enough between finding health to lose more than two or three lives over the course of the whole game, even on your first play through.
* ''{{R-Type}} [[CompilationRerelease Dimensions]]'' offers an "Infinite Mode" in which you have infinite lives and respawn in place (contrary to every other ''R-Type'' game in existence, save for ''[[GaidenGame R-Type Leo]]'')...but you have a life counter that goes ''up'' every time you die, and the object is to complete the game with as few deaths as possible.
* Averted in ''VideoGame/MediEvil'', where your "lives" are Life Bottles - extra life bars. Dying causes you to empty one, and if your health bar is full when you get a health pick-up, it overflows into any empty Life Bottles. Kind of like a succession of renewable Zelda fairy bottles.
** Or the sub tanks from ''X''/''Zero''/''ZX''.
* OlderThanTheyThink: The NES version of ''Section Z'' gives you three lives every time you begin the game. You lose a life and five energy points every time you physically touch an enemy, forcing you to restart the current section. However, losing all your lives does nothing other than resetting your score, since you'll always restart from the same section no matter what. Thus, the only way to truly "lose" is to run out of energy, which happens every time you're hit by enemy bullets: in such cases, you simply warp back to the very first section of your current stage.
** The Famicom version was actually released for the Disk System and thus had a save feature. Losing every life and getting a GameOver is the only way the game prompts the player whether he wants to continue or save his progress to resume another time.
* ''RayCrisis'''s Special Mode drops so many extra life pickups, you practically have unlimited lives.
* The LEGOAdaptationGame series gives you four hearts. When you get hit four times or fall into any pit you die and respawn exactly where you were and at worst lose a tenth of your money/studs.
* ''MonsterBash'' may not save your exact location in a level, but it still invokes this trope via the easy-to-remember cheat code in the registered version for full lives. Of course, considering the DifficultySpike in the registered episodes, anyone who has finished this game will almost certainly have used said cheat a few times. Especially on [[ThatOneLevel the swamp levels in episode 3]].
* ''SpyroTheDragon'' has a fantastically superfluous bonus life system. In addition to a rather generous number of bonus lives scattered around as loot, you also get small orbs whenever you defeat an enemy you've already beaten. Ten of these makes a bonus life. Oh, and if that's not easy enough, sometimes an enemy will drop a full extra life instead of an orb. On the other hand, you might need them, depending how good you are at the game's jumping puzzles...
* ''VideoGame/StreetFighter2010'' has unlimited continues that takes you the same exact stage where you died, which is no different from losing a single life. The game doesn't even have a scoring system to reset.
* ''VideoGame/Wolfenstein3D'' likewise has lives, 1-up pickups, and score that gives you lives in a first-person shooter where you can save at any point. Apparently, Id Software needed time to shake off the platform game conventions while working on the predecessor of today's FPS's.
* ''[[SeriousSam Serious Sam 2]]'', a FirstPersonShooter, released in 2005, that you can have as many saves at any moment as you want in, has lives. Possibly as part of its DenserAndWackier theme that also harkens back to the old console games of yore. Still a rather pointless feature.
* The GBC version of ''DonaldDuckGoinQuackers'' rewards you with one life per 20 blue pegs collected as well as one per... well... "[[OneUp Donald]]". By the end of the game, you're likely to have stocked up on roughly 90-99 lives, making a desperate chase for more quite redundant.
* There's no punishment at all for running out of Lives in KirbySuperStar. The score isn't even reset.
* In the ''VideoGame/MetalSlug'' games, the player character respawns immediately after dying, even if you needed to use a continue. You respawn with 10 grenades, which are rarely found otherwise, and continuing drops a Machine Gun powerup, making suicide a viable tactic against some bosses. Console releases generally have infinite continues available, with the game displaying how many were used on the ending screen. The only penalty for dying is losing credit for rescued prisoners.
* In NES game ''TheBugsBunnyBirthdayBlowout'', 1-ups are very plentiful, and if you run out of lives, you are sent back to the title screen, but can continue playing where you left off. So this is possibly one of the biggest examples of truly meaningless lives in all of video games.
* ''VideoGame/RiseOfTheTriad'' gave players an extra life whenever they collected 100 "life items". Each life let the player restart the level from the beginning with the default pistol... or they could take advantage of the save/quicksave feature and reload one of their savegames from before they died, preventing them from having to replay the level and letting them keep all their other guns. The only other use for lives and life items was the score bonus for collecting them.
* ZigZagged in [[VideoGame/OneThousandAndOneSpikes 1001 Spikes]]. You go from being confident when realising you have 1001 Lives, to [[NintendoHard realising you don't nearly have enough]], to the glee from the huge amount of 1ups you get from completing a chapter, to [[spoiler: Ultimately discovering due to the lack of checkpoints in levels, all a game over does is waste 20 seconds of your time.]]
* ''VideoGame/IAmAlive'' has "retries," which are theoretically expended each time you die. But the game also has bountiful checkpoints, where your supplies (including retries) are recorded and saved.
----