In the earliest days of video gaming, the designers needed to display some sort of gauge for objective achievement or progress. The easiest way to do so is a scoring system.
When games were impossible to "win" and had to be played on a quarter-by-quarter basis in the arcade, people wanted proof they played well. That proof usually was putting their initials (or a dirty word) in the coveted high score table.
But, as games began to develop plot, even the excuse kind, gamers changed. They became more interested in things like the ending cinematic, the new areas and powers to explore, the new hookers to kill on every corner, and 100% Completion; most games nowadays use "achievements" to track these kinds of things. Those things are also sometimes measured in "points", but of the permanent kind; this trope is about a score counter that resets itself after each Game Over.
Opinion varies from gamer to gamer, even in the early days of arcades. On one hand, for example, many Pac-Man players were more interested in what the new fruit in which level was and those who play most video games could care less about high scores since they generally dismiss them as mere bragging rights. On the other hand, "high score" can be Serious Business.
Nowadays, this is an Undead Horse Trope. Most games stripped score out entirely except if scoring is relevant — such as games with short, replayable levels, most commonly Shoot Em Ups and Rhythm Games, where beating another's high score or getting a good rank/grade is a big part of the game. Then there were the endlessly repeating games where score was the only practical way to measure success: Activision's Atari 2600 games always would have specific guidelines in their manuals for what score you should aim to attain to get their special patches or t-shirts for having become a pro at it if you could send them proof. Pinball is a good example that has survived (somewhat) into the modern age. Casual Video Games are also very score-heavy; you'd be hard-pressed to find a Bejeweled or Peggle player who isn't trying to beat their best scores. Roguelikes, also, interestingly enough, often have a score system of some sort; since the Final Death elements often make players want to keep track of their best runs, though often low scores are sought after here.
Points about scoring:
Most games with points will give you a tally of the points and other bonuses you earned in the level via a Score Screen.
There is some sort of inflation related to points. For example, killing the weakest mook in most games (e.g. Contra) gets you a hundred points. You can't get less. Even from a technical standpoint, the extra zeroes are often phoned-in to save on memory; the goomba is technically worth one point, but there are two static zeroes after the score to give the illusion of more points.
On some games, points are scored in multiples of 100, leaving the tens and ones for a different reason: a continue counter. Each time you continue, either your game-over score goes up by one point, or your score resets all the way down to one point per continue you've used.
Some fansites are dedicated to recording scores manually, usually either when official leaderboards or internet ranking are not available or as an intra-community leaderboard.
Some games have Gameplay Grading, which often revolves around points (unless it's based on time or damage instead). One can say "I got an A!" rather than "I scored 7,278,100 points!".
All scores have a Cap and this cap can be reached in many games. Usually, reaching the cap will keep it from increasing any more (this behavior is known as "counter stop"), but depending on the game, it might instead reset the score to zero, or cause problems with the game.
Sierra had an age-old tradition of giving out points whenever the player did something positive, often for completely arbitrary reasons to inspire players to come back to the game later to try and get all the points. For their more comedic games, the developers would deliberately give goofy, arbitrary scores for some actions, most egregiously; in Al Lowe's Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist, which has a maximum score of 1,000 points, and you get 500 points for opening a locked door at the very start of the game. Congratulations, you're already halfway done! There were also points for picking up some items that would do nothing but kill you if you hung onto them, such as the spinach dip in Leisure Suit Larry 2 and the unstable ordnance in Space Quest 4.
If you use the cheat code to win in The Secret of Monkey Island, the game tells you you scored 800 out of 800 points. This is the only reference ever the game makes to your score.
Toejam And Earl gave the player 1 point for every tile on the map that's flipped over and 2 points for every present opened. The score actually served a practical purpose, though, acting as Experience Points to let the player level up and increase their maximum health. Panic on Funkotron retained a practical scoring system, though this time it awarded the player extra lives Every 10,000 Points.
Beat 'Em Ups
MadWorld uses points to determine your progress in a level. At certain score plateaus, new areas or power-ups will be opened in the level. You need a minimum score to face the level's boss. The score itself is justified as being the scoring system of the Show Within a Show lethal game, Deathwatch.
There is a vitality bonus in the SNES Turtles in Time and the Sega Genesis Hyperstone Heist at the end of each stage after defeating a boss. So that certainly helped in grabbing for extra lives.
Cash bags and gold bars exist to grant bonus points, and a high enough score earns you an extra life. In Streetsof Rage 3, earning 40,000 points on a single life grants you a star, which upgrades your blitz attack. The harder the difficulty, more points you get at the end of each round. This applies to all of the games.
The Warriors had points you could earn for just about anything you do. Punched someone in the face? Points. Smashed a window? Score. Mugged someone? Even more points. Smashed a bottle on the ground? You get the picture. However, high scores are needed to unlock bonus content in the game. Luckily, if you happen to die and restart from a checkpoint, you still retain your score from that point.
Crazy Taxi's central (really only) objective is to pick up fares and deliver them to destinations before they get impatient and jump out of the cab. The more money you earn in a session (either a flexible time limit that changes every time you pick up a fare or a fixed time limit where you race to see how many fares you can squeeze into the allotted time) the better your rank.
Super Smash Bros. had a completely arbitrary score in the main mode. This system is in Classic Mode in Melee and Brawl and Adventure Mode in Melee. Melee, notoriously, had a laundry list of modifiers to the score that awarded a trophy if all were earned... which was nigh-impossible. In modes other than Classic, the score disappears and is replaced with something meaningful (such as kills or time in the Multi-Man Melee or distance in Home-Run Contest).
There was also an optional mode in Melee called "Bonus Mode" which decided the winners based off, you guessed it, score.
What made the scoring in Melee's Classic mode really arbitrary was that if a computer opponent accidentally KOed itself 2 seconds into the fight, it would result in a long string of bonuses awarded for, e.g., not hitting the opponent, not moving, not getting hit, etc.
Return of scoring points in first-person-shooters appeared in Serious Sam series. In Serious Sam XBOX and Serious Sam II and in certain co-op modes in III, score actually provides the player extra lives.
Points are used to determine the winning and losing team in VS mode in Left 4 Dead. The infected team also gains points as they attack the survivors, but in the first game they contribute nothing to the competition, thus they are mostly for show.
In the second game, it's a bit different. As it is much easier for both teams to get the exact same score on a level (if both teams make it to the end with everyone alive), the game gives an extra 25 points to the team that did more damage as Infected.
Bulletstorm awards scores for crazy kills. You get points for any kill scenario you can contrive, with the more interesting and complex scenarios getting you more.
Points in Team Fortress 2 are used to determine who the most valuable players in a particular round are and otherwise don't do anything unless the server settings are such that it determines the winning side based on points under certain circumstances. Other servers have a separate ranking system that's just there for the bragging rights.
The Civilization games keep score, based on factors such as difficulty level, land area controlled, technologies researched and (eventually) year of victory/defeat. While generally pointless, they did give you an approximate idea of how your civilization compared to others. Also, if no other win condition was met, the game would determine the winner based on score after a set number of turns.
Endless Space, Spiritual Successor to Master of Orion, keeps score too. The points are even more meaningless than in Civ, because while a Points Victory is possible, the AI is quite competent and will win by other means unless those means are explicitly disabled.
Late in 2008, World of Warcraft introduced the Achievement system. Certain activities will give your character special achievement points. The score itself has no effect, though some of them have cosmetic rewards, usually in the form of a title, a tabard, a pet, or a mount.
Minigames usually have a scorekeeping system. That's usually because they are meant to evoke a vintage, arcade feel to a current game. Like Chrono Trigger 's racing minigame.
The entire goal of the WarioWare series once you've beaten the story mode is trying to get as many points as possible, with 1 point being gained for every microgame completed (or in some, survived with at least one life left afterwards).
In Antarctic Adventure, you could score points by jumping over obstacles, capturing flags or fish, and completing levels. These points didn't really do anything; you didn't get an extra life Every 10,000 Points because Video Game Lives didn't exist here. The sequel Penguin Adventure did away with points.
The original Mega Man had a score counter, which was completely useless. (Particularly since the game was so Nintendo Hard that you'd usually get a few game overs, losing all your points.) It even had power-ups that did nothing but add points at the end of the level. For obvious reasons, later games in the franchise dropped the score counter entirely.
Averted in Sonic Adventure 2, where the score defines the rating, from E to A. What gives the score some sense is the fact that the very last emblems require the player to get an A rating on EVERY FREAKING MISSION.
Later 3-D Sonic games would also use the points as the basis for their ranking system (though there were often some cases, and even a few entire games, where the only thing affecting your rank is how fast you are - this isthe Sonic series we're talking about!) 2-D Sonic games up until Sonic Advance 2gave you lives for every so many points instead, until Sonic Advance 3 did away with them entirely, then Sonic Rush brought them back and used them for a ranking system.
While later Spyro the Dragon games featured gems that were actually used as currency, in the first game, they served no purpose outside of a point counter. The only times your gem count affected gameplay were as Plot Coupons- you needed a certain number to advance to some of the homeworlds, and also to access the bonus level- which contained nothing but more gems, and a few trick enemies you had to kill to get even more gems. Essentially, they were worthless unless you were striving for 100% Completion.
Captain Claw is an odd game, what with being a computer 2D platformer. One interesting quirk is that it's score, represented by the treasure you collected, aside from giving extra lives, was there to incite the player to find the secrets of the game since at the end of each stage the game specifically told you the treasures that you missed. The game was more than a tad harder if you went for the secrets, as each required equal parts non-human reflexes and calculations of non-intuitive reflexes to be reached.
Pac-Man World 2 had points—mostly on account of tradition. You did get an extra life for a certain amount of points, however, though the total was so high you actually had to do very, very well on any individual level to get it.
Purple keeps highscores for each individual stage as well as a highscore table for overall scores.
Kula World (Also known as Roll Away) has an interesting variation. Your total amount of points not only serves as a high score, but also as a "life meter" of sorts. Losing a level merely causes you to lose however many points you earned in the level, plus a penalty based on the level number. If your total score drops below zero, it's game over.
Boppin': Unusually used. Long story short, the goal of the game is to clear the screen tossing alike blocks together, but with points you can exchange unwanted pieces without losing lives, and kill Hunnybunz faster (more points, more damagingspike thingies, less exposure-to-death time). Still, being able to save the game anywhere just makes the task less daunting. Also more fun, if you are competing with someone:
If you were able to solve all the screens before the final battle without ever having to continue, you could theoretically beat the boss in a couple of seconds. Good luck.
Irisu Syndrome: Depending on how many points you scored, you would get the bad ending, or the good ending. After you get the good ending, getting even higher scores will cause text files and a secret picture to appear in your game folder.
Klax: Has special "Points Waves," where the goal is to score a certain number of points. Overrunning the goal x means that every point beyond x is doubled; taking too long usually results in a face full of tiles coming at you so quickly that you can hardly think. Beyond that, though, and a few tricks for getting unbelievably high scores, the points don't really matter.
Panel de Pon (Puzzle League): This series has a scoring system that awards 10 points per tile cleared, 1 point per row added manually, plus much larger bonuses for chains and combos based on size. The original Panel de Pon and Tetris Attack, however, had a bug where the 14th and subsequent hits in a chain would not yield any additional bonuses, instead of the 1,800 per hit that was supposed to be awarded starting from the 13th hit; this was fixed in later versions. The original has a Cap on the score counter at 99,999 while sequels have 6-digit counters to max out at 999,999 instead; some players try to Speed Run to hit the cap as fast as possible. The game also encourages score attacks with a Time Trial mode, which gives you 2 minutes to score as high as you can.
Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc: Spoofed in the manual, which claims the Pick-Ups (points gems) were scattered throughout the game by the developers "for purely aesthetic reasons". The points themselves can, however, be used to unlock bonus content such as video clips and minigames.
Revolution 1986: You get points for solving puzzles. In fact, the amount of time you have left remaining will be added to the score once you beat the level.
Tetris: The Grand Master: Uses points as the basis for its grade system. TGM2, however, only takes points into consideration in its Normal mode; its Master mode (the de facto main mode of the game) use a hidden "grade points" system to determine your grade, and the other modes use completion and/or how many levels you complete to determine your ranking. In TGM3, score is just outright useless, being shown only at the end of the game and even then it does nothing to your grade. It's even useless in Easy mode as well, where the game sets off fireworks when you clear lines and the object is not to score points but instead score as many fireworks as possible.
Wesleyan Tetris: Among its many tricks, this game will change your score to something ludicrous for a moment just to see if it can take your eyes off the game.
The Professor Layton series gives you picarats for completing puzzles; getting a wrong answer makes a given puzzle worth fewer picarats the next time you attempt it. This carries over into Professor Layton Vs Ace Attorney and also adds Phoenix Wright's trial segments being worth picarats for a successful completion, with bonus picarats awarded for each unused penalty.
The Time Crisis series went the opposite direction of the Mega Man example. Originally a game in which the goal was to beat it as fast as possible, 2 introduced a point system that put much emphasis on accuracy and combos and less on time. Although you get time bonuses, they typically don't amount to a whole lot.
In the Light Gun GamePolice Trainer, most of the Mini-Game-like stages have point quotas. Meet the quota and the stage will be marked cleared. If you don't, you'll lose one life.
Real Time Strategy
Many RTS's, among them StarCraft, Warcraft, and Dawn of War, award points at the end of the match. StarCraft, for instance, bases them on units killed versus units lost, buildings destroyed versus buildings lost, and resources mined and consumed. The scores are purely cosmetic and don't really affect anything.
Rhythm games are generally the exception to the rule. While the old Dance Dance Revolutions had a weird scoring system, all the new DDRs, as well Guitar Hero, Rock Band, In The Groove, etc have logical ones. These games usually have a grade (or star rating) that is based directly on the score (e.g. x range of points results in x grade), which is more memorable than a bunch of numbers and is usually specific enough for non-competitive play. The fact remains that points are important in these games since they solely determine the grade.
However, the scoring in Guitar Hero and Rock Band is ruined by the fact that comboing notes will multiply the point value of each additional note you hit; a screwup in mid-song will do more damage to your score than if it were at the beginning or end of the song. The aforementioned In The Groove, as well as the DDR series from SuperNOVA onwards, DJMAX Portable, among some other Rhythm Games use percentage-based scoring systems that don't care where in the song you did your best (and worst).
In case you don't realize how wrong the comboing system is: audiences tend to notice mistakes more at the beginning and end than in the middle.
This is made slightly less offensive in Guitar Hero/Rock Band, as the combo system maxes out at a 4x score multiplier (6x in the case of Rock Band's bass guitar). Missing a note at max multiplier in Rock Band, for example, tends not to cost you any more than 2000-3000 points in songs worth about 150,000 on average in solo play.
Earlier incarnations of Dance Dance Revolution assigned you a somewhat totally arbitrary number of points for your performance. Hardcore players and tournaments usually ignored this number, preferring instead to measure performance by the number of "perfects" one scored overall.
DDR 1st Mix, 2nd Mix and 4th Mix used combo-based scoring. The first two multiplied in a factor based on the square of your combo, making it even more punishing to break a combo than in most such systems.
3rd Mix and 5th Mix through DDR Extreme, outside of Oni Mode (a.k.a. Challenge Mode), would increase the multiplier by 1 with every step. This meant that the 300th step of a song is worth 300 times the first step. In addition, it would salami-slice a couple points off each step, which accumulate into a bonus that only gets added to your score as a bonus if you get a Perfect on the last step to make a perfect score come out to a round number. This gets increasingly worse as the step count of a song goes up; MaxX Unlimited, for example, has 611 steps. This means a Perfect on the first step is worth 540 points, a Perfect on the final jump is worth 329,400 points, and holding the Freeze Arrow on that jump until you get the OK gives you another 1,231,850 points (329,940 base + 908,020 added back from salami-sliced points).
DDRMAX2's Oni Mode was the first to break the trend and use a less arbitrary scoring system, with a "dance point" system (2 points for a Perfect, 1 point for a Great, 2 points for an OK on a Freeze Arrow), that was nearly identical to the "EX Score" in Beatmania IIDX (described below), but displaying your score as a percentage rounded down to the nearest tenth of a percent. DDR Extreme took it a step further and just displayed the raw score (as well as adding the Marvelous judgment, worth 3 points, and making an OK worth 3 points as well).
DDR SuperNOVA then threw out the old, arbitrary point system altogether, sticking with the Oni system in all modes (MAX2 scoring in normal play, Extreme scoring in Nonstop and Oni modes). Your score in DDR SuperNOVA is just your dance point percentage multiplied by 10,000 and rounded down to the nearest integer. Starting with DDR SuperNOVA 2, it's your dance point percentage multiplied by 1,000 and rounded down to the nearest 10, minus 10 points for every Perfect or Great (thus making the Marvelous count a tiebreaker).
beatmania IIDX has two different scoring systems. The more visible one (known to fans as the "money score") maxes out at 200,000 points per song and has a small combo factor that maxes out after 10 notes. Even though songs commonly have significantly more than 1000 notes, this is still enough to render the money score unsuitable for comparison. On top of that, there are several bonuses that may be awarded, including one for a full combo and one for completing the song with the minimum lifebar needed to pass. (Due to the mechanics of this game, it is possible to achieve both, and doing so while hitting the best judgment on every note would in theory net a money score somewhat over 210,000.) The other score (known as the "EX score") is based solely on judgments (2 points per Just Great, 1 point per Great) and determines the grade awarded. All rankings, official and non, use this score. Since difficulty in this game is largely about weathering a sudden spike of notes at the end, EX score is usually taken more seriously than whether or not you actually pass the song.
Pop N Music's scoring acts similar to that of current Dance Dance Revolution games. The maximum score on a song is 100,000 points. Getting a GREAT gets you 100% of the amount of points per note, a GOOD gives you 20%, and a BAD gets you no points. This changes if the COOL judgement is enabled, in which case COOL gives you 100%, GREAT 50%, and GOOD 10%. Like in DDR, combo has no influence on your score.
Then there's the Extra Point system. Fulfilling specific criteria—things like reaching score or combo milestones, as well as comboing "Highlight Zones", will get you Extra Points. Get enough of these points over three stages and you'll obtain an extra stage; if you don't, your Extra Points will carry over to your next game, if you are using an e-Amusement Pass.
One is used to determine win/loss status, as the game is a head-to-head game. You get 3 points for hitting a note with a JUST judgement, 2 points for a GREAT, 1 point for a GOOD, and -3 points for a MISS. In addition, when you perform a JUST REFLEC attack, you'll get 10 points, although since a JUST REFLEC can be done if and only if you get a JUST, this means you get 13 points total for the attack. On the other hand, miss a note that was JUST REFLEC'd at you, and you'll lose 10 extra points.
Then there's the Achievement Rate percentage system, which is still influenced by note judgements, but does not go down, and is used to determine pass/fail status instead. You need 70% or higher to clear the song.
Audiosurf is entirely based on maximizing your score and trying to beat the scores of everyone else who's played a given song. The problem there comes in when you learn that you can generally only win in certain modes, while others (particularly Mono) are limited in how many points they can score, so they can never show up on the scoreboards.
Audiosurf has many other problems. As ALL tracks except the radio tracks are user generated, and it's based entirely on the tag of the track, you may be competing against others in a totally different track, or even just slightly different because one person uses a better quality sound file. Not to mention, the ridiculousness of a 10% penalty upon overfilling — so a mistake 30 seconds in may cost very little, while one after 6 minutes of a fast track may cost 50K points just because you messed up there.
If you overfill in Ironmode, it's game over. But the game's not done punishing you yet; it docks 99999 points from your score just to drive the point home.
Rock Band has fans. Do well, get more fans. Do bad, lose some fans. While you'll need a few to access certain areas, you also need stars, and the chances of having enough stars but not enough fans are next to nil (it has good old-fashioned points too, but being a rhythm game, they're important. (They're converted to stars at the end of a song.)
It is possible: Get enough unskilled virtual-musicians to play setlists and put no fail mode on: Bam. You're earning 1-2 stars per song (generally without no fail mode on, you have to try really hard to get less than three stars without trying), and probably losing fans (if you have any at all. But if your unskilled virtual-musicians get better, the problem will basically solve itself.
The Ouendan series (including, by extension, Elite Beat Agents) uses a weird segregated system for its scoring and ranking. While normal gameplay uses a standard scoring system (which uses a difficulty-based formula that can lead to Pinball Scoring on higher difficulties, especially if you factor in the Invisible modifier in Ouendan 2), your rank is determined not by your score but on the percentage of 300-point hits you scored in the song. The max rank you can normally get is an A rank with 90% or higher 300-point hits; however, your rank is bumped up a grade if you don't miss any notes, making the true maximum rank an S rank. Because of the incongruity between points and rank, it's possible to get an S-rank, then get a higher scoring A-rank, which will replace the S.
jubeat uses a mix of flat scoring and a special Life Meter-esque bonus. The maximum score in a single song is 1 million. Up to 900,000 of these points can be earned by simply accurately hitting notes, with each note having a fixed value. The other 100,000 is part of a bonus that increases as you hit notes (but cannot exceed 100,000), and decreases as you miss notes (but cannot go below 0). As a result, even if you fall just shy of the 700,000-point requirement to clear a song, if you played well enough at the end the bonus can push you high enough to save you.
NetHack has a point-scoring mechanic. There are four mindsets about these:
Most expert players value a reasonably low score, indicating efficient play - to these, high scores mean you over-prepared, a mark of inexperience.
Certain players go for the highest possible score, to the extreme ends of farming for items and kill-count until their score is at the absolute maximum.
Certain other players go for the minimum possible score (while still ascending) - a Self-Imposed Challenge in that deliberately and woefully underpreparing while everything tries to kill you is usually not wise.
And the large majority of players don't care about score at all.
Final Fantasy X-2 has a reference to "respect points". This is completely not gameplay-related, but an obvious parody of point systems.
Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2 had two types of scoring: A numerical score, and a Battle Rank, denoted by stars. Your numerical score determined what battle rank you got, and was calculated largely by your stat level and time battling during encounters. In the first game, Battle Rank determined the rarity of your drops and how many Technical Points you regenerated at the end of battle, but the sequel reduces their overall importance.
Pokémon Black and White has the Battle Institute, which ranks a series of consecutive test battles with a score. In-game, they have yet to serve much of a purpose, but at special events, one can compare their scores to other players on a scoreboard for bragging rights.
In Super Paper Mario, the points are certainly (generally) given on the magnitude of the early games in the Mario series, as though they were pointless, but they're actually a stand-in for XP.
In the multiplayer mode of Mass Effect 3, you earn points for killing enemies, assisting others with killing, and completing the wave's specific objective. In the first case, you earn more points the more powerful the enemy (killing an Atlas is far more rewarding than killing a random trooper). In the second, you earn more points depending on how much damage you did to the enemy. In the last, the amount of points a player can earn depends on the specific objective in that round. A player can also earn bonus points for certain tasks (x kills, surviving x waves, xheadshots, etc.). At the end of the match (if you get that far), all players earn more points depending on the difficulty level of the match, whether you got a full or partial extraction, and whether you played an "Unknown Location" and/or "Unknown Enemy" match. These points do have a purpose: at the end of the match, every player's point total is added up, and that number of Experience Points is rewarded to their characters. This happens even if your party doesn't make it through to extraction, discouraging rage quitting.
Shoot 'Em Ups
The whole Shoot 'em Up genre has a lot of fans fixated on getting the highest possible score, to which end they spend hours upon hours of practice improving their reflexes, dodging skills, and game-specific scoring tactics. Sometimes they go a little too far, and "counterstop" the game, which means the in-game score hits a cap and literally won't go any higher.
Geometry Wars is entirely about how far can you crank up your score. No less, no more. Actually addictive thanks to its blazing fast pace.
Its derivative game Grid Wars actually granted powerups and extra lives based on getting to certain score amounts.
Giga Wing is a shmup in which the scoring system is a major attraction of the game...because the scores get freaking huge.
Most all of Touhou games have fairly robust scoring systems, and they all have in-game scoreboards to encourage players to improve. The fandom, by and large, only begins to care if it's one of the games that gives extra lives for points.
Amusingly, Undefined Fantastic Object had a bug in its initial release, causing the game to crash upon the player reaching one billion points. Until it was patched, players were forced to Do Well, But Not Perfect in order to get a high score without hitting the brick wall.
Hellsinker probably have the most complex scoring system of any Shoot 'em Up to date while at the same time averting Pinball Scoring. There are two other scoring systems that have nothing to do with your primary one: one is based on how many enemies you kill, and another is based on how many of those large purple tokens you collect.
There are two ways you can lose points: Time out a boss (your score, kill count, and token count for the stage are halved), or enter the Shrine of Farewell, which begins by having your points confiscated. The amount you can get back at the end of the stage depends on how well you fight the four bosses.
Later games in the Star Soldier series have modes that let you test how many points you can score in just 2 or 5 minutes. These are the only modes that can be played in Star Soldier R (not counting a 20-second minigame).
Computer Space, probably the earliest to calculate score.
If you play Radiant Silvergun, playing for score is mandatory. Your weapons use your points to level up and become stronger. And the scoring system is tough: You shoot enemies of the same color to build up your chain, and once you start a chain using one color, you can't hit any enemies of other colors or the chain resets, which means leaving roughly 2/3 of enemies intact. Which means if you try to play RSG like a traditional shmup, your weapons will quickly be outclassed by the stamina of later enemies, making the game damn near impossible to finish.
In Thwaite, you don't get points for shooting anything. Instead, points for protecting houses and for being efficient with your ammo are awarded on the Score Screen at the end of each wave.
Judgement Silversword and its Spiritual SuccessorEschatos are notable in that the points you earn across playthroughs double as Experience Points. Leveling up will unlock new options such as a sound test, new modes, and cosmetic options. Those who play well and for score will unlock features faster than those who play strictly for survival and/or not as proficiently.
The Trauma Center series uses a point system that determines your rank in every operation. Tasks such as stitching and extracting foreign objects can be done carefully or hastily, and such actions will be ranked either Cool, Good, or Bad with Cools getting the most points. In order to get the highest rank (either an S or XS rank), you must have a high enough score, as well as fulfill certain conditions such as no mistakes, beating the operation in a certain amount of time, having a high chain, etc.
That said, Trauma Center doesn't count the GUILT or Stigma dealing damage to the patient's vitals against the player, meaning sometimes the player needs to actively impede treatment of the patient to get the best score. Trauma Team fixes hits, however.
Rescue on Fractalus!: In addition to hundreds of points for destroying enemies and rescuing allies, you receive one point for every second of flight.
Wii Sports, but mainly because they are based on real sports that are point-based.
Backyard Sports. In most games, the reason is obvious, as they are sports games. But in the minigames and Backyard Skateboarding, the amount of points can unlock new things.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater always has a couple of score-based objectives for every level of Career mode. On competition levels, you're graded not only on score but variety and perfection (i.e. no bailing) as well.
Third Person Shooter
The Club has been unfavorably compared to other more action-focused shooters by some. However, as discussed in a PA podcast (link at the bottom of this page), the aim of the game is more about finding the right pace, maintaining a combo and trying to get a perfect 'lap' in order to maximize your score, making it more comparable to other games by Bizzarre Creations, such as Geometry Wars and Project Gotham Racing.
Gemcraft prior to Labyrinth has you score points. The highest score for each level is then totaled and counts towards your experience total. Getting the highest level requires you to replay levels, a form of Level Grinding.
At the end of a stage in Defense Grid The Awakening, you get points equal to how many resources you have left, the sellback value of all of your towers, and the number of cores you have left x20. The scoring system helps promote efficient use of resources while keeping as many cores intact as possible.
GTA 1 and GTA 2 in particular emphasize the need to acquire enough points before the player can move on to a new story arc or city. It even keeps tabs of the five highest scores the player amasses in each level. Note that saving a game also took money. No donation, no salvation. 50,000, which was a lot. And it's only in GTA 2 that you can save.
GTA San Andreas completely destroys this by having a save point right next to a casino, resulting in money only being limited by how much time you're willing to spend saving and loading the game instead of actually playing it. Money as scoring has been gradually replaced by the 100% completion award and some achievements that aren't tracked such as having fancy, usually unique, cars in your garages, made harder by the games their tendency to forget some of the cars in your garage sometimes. Also something that you can impress people with is showing off what bugs you found that aren't listed on the many websites/forums about the game. Stuff that you discovered on your own. Personally, i had a save that upon loading allowed you to make a tank go from standstill to catapulted into the air without using any cheats. Anyways, the amount of money doesn't matter much anymore.
In Total Overdose, kills are scored on quality, style and sheer ballsiness, and multiplied by the killing streak maintained for a period of time. Upgrades are unlocked by reaching high scores, upgrades such as more health, more adrenaline, dual weapons, unlimited ammo and Loco Moves. Global scoring becomes irrelevant early on, but Mission scores remain important to unlocking upgrades for survivability in later missions.
Parodied in the comedy skit show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?." Drew Carey, the host, would randomly hand out various kinds of "points" (like Wonder Points, Low Fat Points, etc) during the show to the comedians on stage, guest comedians and even the audience and the viewers at home because it's "the show where everything's made up and the points don't matter." At the end of the show, the person with the "highest" point total (entirely based Rule of Funnynote Everyone "won", and whoever's idea got the funniest result was aired.) would decide the type of skit they would perform for the ending act.
It's carried over from the original British version, where the host would explicitly give and take away ludicrous amounts of points for no reason other than humor.
In fact, with most panel games the score is irrelevant to some degree or other, however much the contestants may protest. Since the show is recorded over two or three hours, then edited down for the final transmission, whole questions tend to be cut out. That can mean that one team might seem to answer only a few questions correctly but end up winning the game.
QI is a prime example of this, as the difficulty is compounded by the fact that points (plus or minus) seem to be awarded arbitrarily by both the scorer and Stephen Fry.
An even better example is "Talking 'Bout Your Generation", where the points awarded for the final round are always 1 point more than the difference between the points of the winning team and the points of the team in third, making it a Golden Snitch.
The standard rules for Nomic include rules for winning by scoring points, but they're deliberately boring to encourage the players to change them (changing the rules is the real point of Nomic).
Some online forums track a user's "reputation" by various means. Under this system, a poster who is often "upvoted" or started highly "rated" or popular threads is considered better than a complete newcomer, who in turn is preferable to a troll.
Rooster Teeth tracks Karma, which is reduced by "Lame" or "Flamebait" posts and increased by funny or clever ones. There is also a system of achievements (Awards) for participating in site activities, and sponsors of the site have small yellow stars next to their names.
The Escapist also has achievements (Badges), so that for example watching seven episodes of Unskippable awards "Fishy McSketcherson". Also, forumites are awarded journalism-themed titles from "Anonymous Source" to "Nobel Laureate" (15k posts), albeit paying members of the Publisher's Club can invent their own titles.
In Knowledge is Power the Death Eaters apparently have "Death Eater points" earned from torturing people for the Dark Lord's amusement. What form these take is never made clear.
The video game soundtracks in ReZonance Soundtrack Reviews are literally graded by this method. There's even a High Score Table at the end of a review.