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Hearts Are Health

A common bit of widely understood symbolism in Video Games: a heart is used to represent someone's health or life. The Life Meter or lives counter may be made of hearts, and health-related pickups and power ups may be in the shape of hearts as well (see Heart Container).

The reason the heart specifically is used for this trope is because of the positive connotations the heart has picked up over the millennia: "lifeblood", love, as well as it being considered the most important organ by the medical community for the longest time (and it's still considered the second most important organ behind the brain, but brains are rather squicky and have different connotations entirely, mainly intellectual, so they should be mana if anythingnote ).

This is so common, that some games can confuse players when hearts represent something else (such as the Castlevania games or Kid Icarus).

Compare Heart Container, Heart Symbol, Healing Potion.


Examples:

  • The Life Meter and the famous Heart Containers of The Legend of Zelda series. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is the only one not to have one—opting for a Life Meter instead.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • In Super Mario Bros. 2, hearts restore health, and the Super Mario All-Stars and Super Mario Advance remakes use hearts for the health meter (the original NES version uses hexagons instead).
    • In the Paper Mario games, your health is explicitly called "Heart Points", and picking up hearts that enemies drop refills it a little — both you and your partner in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. There are also Recovery Blocks which refills your Heart Points (and Flower Points) if you hit it, though you're charged coins for the service in the second game.
    • In Super Mario Land and Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, hearts are instead extra lives. This is probably due to color limitations: how would you distinguish between a normal mushroom and a 1up Mushroom? In the latter, one of the bonus minigames at the end of the level makes it possible to pick up a 3up, which is a heart with a "3" on it.
  • Jurassic Park: Trespasser, despite its novel Diegetic Interface, still measures the protagonist's health with a heart by tattooing it on her chest and filling it up with red as she takes damage.
  • Pandemonium
  • In many Grand Theft Auto games, touching a heart restores health. Most hospitals have one nearby. Grand Theft Auto II uses hearts for its Life Meter.
  • The NES game Little Red Hood... But the hearts that replenish health are HUMAN.
  • The Smurfs on the SNES uses hearts as a Life Meter.
  • Prehistorik Man does as well. It also has heart containers.
  • In the XGen Studios Web Game Stick Arena Ballistic, your Life Meter has a beating heart next to it. As you take damage the heart becomes damaged, leaks blood and beats more weakly.
  • Crystal Caves
  • Terraria
  • The Life Meter in Sapiens depicts a heart of variable size when you're still quite healthy. It is replaced by a skull when you get weaker.
  • StarTropics I & II both use hearts as a Life Meter which are filled by Heart Containers, similar to Zelda.
  • Non-video game example: it became a sort of Memetic Mutation for Kakuzu in Naruto - he really did have five hearts and wouldn't go down until all were destroyed - as the new chapters of the manga progressed, fanart would depict him with a decreasing heart meter.
  • De Cap Attack plays with this; your health meter is comprised of actual, realistic beating hearts.
  • Cave Story has both heart-shaped health refills and Heart Containers.
  • Purple represents its health restoring items as hearts.
  • Viewtiful Joe runs on pink-colored hearts the shape of peppers.
  • Minecraft
    • In Hardcore these hearts have menacing eyes (or maybe blood vessels), which is a worrying reminder of the finality of death in this difficulty.
  • Astyanax
  • Primal Rage has a slightly more gruesome application this: your lifebar is represented as a major artery ending in a beating realistic heart, and your stun gauge is represented as a spinal cord ending in a brain: when the stun gauge is depleted, the brain crackles with electricity, and when you take damage, the heart beats faster. If you lose a round, the heart explodes and the brain is fried to ashes.
  • Eternal Daughter
  • Spelunky combines this with Cardiovascular Love: it uses hearts for life, and they are restored by the floating love hearts that appear when you get a kiss from a damsel.
  • Heart Containers in An Untitled Story take the form of hearts radiating with red light.
  • The Binding of Isaac has hearts representing health. Little hearts and half-hearts can be grabbed to replenish them. Items that add a heart to your maximum health include blood bags, a realistic looking heart, and various questionable "foods". There's also the Yum Heart, represented as a big red heart with a bite take out of it, which can be used every six rooms if need be to refill one of your hearts. There are also steel-blue hearts you can get that serve as a shield of sorts, with no limit on how many you can have at a time.
  • In a similar vein, Blood uses "life essences" (which look like realistic hearts) as a healing item.
  • In Aladdin (Virgin Games), the powerups that restore health are blue hearts with goatees: this is fitting considering most of the other powerups involve the Genie somehow as well.
  • The Super Star Wars games uses a lightsaber as your health meter, but hearts are used for health restoration.
  • Splatterhouse is another game that uses realistic-looking human hearts for life points (and hockey masks for lives).
  • Milons Secret Castle
  • In Little Samson, big hearts restore four units of health, and small hearts only restore one unit.
  • Hearts restore health in The Goonies games.
  • Tesla The Weather Man uses hearts for the Life Meter and as healing pickups.
  • Given a shout out in an issue of Heroic Publishing's Tigress title, in which a supervillainess graphically slaughtering her way through a compound explicity compares the experience to a videogame — complete with all those neat hearts you find.
  • Serious Sam uses the standard heart symbol on one end of Sam's health meter. A giant heart is also used for the games' Ultra Health pick-up, which adds 100+ hit points.
  • All the Batman Platform Games by Sunsoft use hearts to refill Batman's health. This does not apply to the PC Engine Maze Game, where Batman is a One-Hit-Point Wonder.
  • Your life meter is this in Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures.
  • In Girl's Garden, the hearts labeled "LOVE" on the Status Line are actually Video Game Lives.
  • Extra lives were originally represented by stars in the Touhou series, but were changed to hearts from Ten Desires onwards.

Heart SymbolStock Visual MetaphorsHigh Pressure Emotion
Fleur de LisShapes and Symbols TropesHeart Symbol
Heart ContainerVideo Game Items and InventoryHoly Hand Grenade
Evil SorcererImageSource/Video GamesNatural Spotlight

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