Video Game Lives are basically how many tries a player has before a Game Over
. They aren't as common these days, but were prevalent in the days of Nintendo Hard
games, and is Older Than the NES
Ways to lose a life can vary:
This actually started out with Pinball
games, where you had a limited number of plays until you had to put in more money. This continued in arcade games. When games were released in home consoles, the need of lives was largely removed (with an exception of games where the goal is to get the highest score and not beat the game), but was initially kept in as The Artifact
and the punishment of running out of lives was changed from entering a new coin to starting the game over. Eventually a continue system had also gone more widespread so the players didn't have to start from the beginning of the game when the lives ran out. In time, the importance of lives diminished which could be first seen clearly in PC first-person shooters which started to utilize save and load system. In 2000s, many flash games removed the lives system altogether so they could add the difficulty in their games without being really frustrating. In the late 2000s, this spread to commercially released games too. Despite this, many modern games still use the lives system.
and Infinite 1-Ups
are how you gain extra lives. Meaningless Lives
is when the lives are almost inconsequential to completion.
Video Game Lives sometimes have Gameplay and Story Segregation
in terms of Plotline Death
Classic Cheat Codes
and cheat devices are often a way to gain extra, or infinite, lives.
Modern video games generally do not have lives counters, instead opting for a "one-and-done" health bar system that can be increased RPG-style, or infinite retries, with different ways to gauge difficulty.
Not to be confused with Video Games Live
, concerts in which classical musicians play video game music as directed by Tommy Tallarico.
Disclaimer: This is a widespread trope. So examples had best be more than just any game with lives.
Video Game Examples:
- Aladdin (Virgin Games) and The Lion King: Treated extra lives differently from continues (known as "wishes" in the former game).
- Aliens Infestation: Plays with this by giving each Marine have their own face, name, and dialogue. Anyone Can Die, but you can rescue Marines knocked unconcious by aliens be finding the hives where they were taken. (The first time, that is. The second time they're mortally wounded...well...) As well, you'll often come across other Marines in hidden locations that you can recruit into your fireteam (though they'll only accept if you're down a man or two.)
- Armed Police Batrider: You decide on a team of 3 different characters, each character representing one life. When your current character is destroyed, you take control of the next character.
- Battle City series: You start with 3 lives, but you'll get instant game over if the enemies manage to destroy the base.
- Columns III: Had an odd version, especially since it's a Puzzle Game. You could collect Mystic Hourglasses which turn back time when shattered, allowing you to challenge the enemy you were fighting again.
- Conker's Bad Fur Day: Actually goes out of it's way to give a full explanation on how the protagonist, Conker, manages to get away with dying only to come back to life. The in game explanation (obviously used to parody this trope) is shown in the form of a cutscene that plays the first time you die, and explains that "Greg the Grim Reaper", who controls death, must give squirrels multiple chances at their lives. They even give an explanation for 1-UPS, stating that they act as "tokens" that Greg trades for extra chances.
- Contra: This game on the NES give you 3 lives, unless you enter the Konami Code and gain 30.
- Crash Bandicoot: These games used lives. Most games in the series tend to hand them out at hilariously generous rates, however, so you might as well have an infinite amount. But as the manual for one game says, "we give you all those lives for a reason".
- Dance Dance Revolution: The Challenge/Oni mode is a rare Rhythm Game example: you start with four lives, and every time you get a Good, Boonote , Missnote , or NG, you lose one life, and losing all of your lives will, of course, trigger a Game Over. (And unlike other modes, in which you can keep playing if the other player is still alive, the game stops completely on your side if you die, showing "Game Over" on your side of the screen.) If you're lucky, the song you're on may give you a life back once completed. The Extra Stage system in Dance Dance Revolution SuperNOVA onwards, also uses lives, and One More Extra Stages give you a mere one life.
- DTET: This Tetris clone has lives, unusually for a Falling Blocks game. In most modes, you start with multiple lives, and every time you top out you will, instead of getting a Game Over, use up a life and the playing field will be emptied out.
- Every Extend: This series makes a single life trivial: you start with a large stock of lives (usually 12), and your only attack consists of you exploding your current life to destroy other enemies. Because of this, the games offer generous amounts of extends.
- Fable I: The original game uses a variant. If the Hero dies, the player is forced to reload. However, the Hero can find and buy "Resurrection Phials." If the Hero dies while carrying Resurrection Phials, he'll lose one Phial and have his health partially restored. He can carry up to nine. Later games in the series eschew this system entirely.
- Friday the 13th: Each character has but one life. Lose one, you switch to another character. Lose them all, and you get to see the infamous "You and your friends are dead" Game Over screen.
- Futurama: The video game actually explains the presence of lives; the Professor builds a "reanimator" that resurrects you when you die.
- Galaga: Plays with the underlying concept of lives. Each life represents a ship in your fleet. If your ship is captured by a Tractor Beam, the enemy takes control of your ship and you move on to your next ship (life). If you destroy the controlling enemy, you can retrieve the ship and regain it. But instead of increasing your lives by one, it instead lets you control both of them at the same time, doubling your firepower.
- GoldenEye (1997): The "You Only Live Twice" multiplayer mode is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: you get two lives. Lose them both and you're out.
- Gradius III: Uses lives in the normal manner, but they can be prematurely consumed to increase one's firepower. The weapon selector lets the player equip a special item. When they use it, they lose four lives, but receive four Attack Drones in return.
- Illusion of Gaia: Explained the presence of revival after death - the main character is psychic, and the former run is presumed to be a dream giving him a glimpse into the future.
- Impossible Mission: Getting killed knocks off a certain amount of time. If you run out, the world goes kaboom. Game Over.
- I Wanna Be the Guy: One of the few merciful concessions made by this game is averting this. It's nightmarish with infinite lives, imagine it with limited lives.
- The Last Story: This game is an usual example of an RPG using lives. Party members start each battle with five lives, when their HP hits zero, they lose a life and stay down for a few moments before getting back up with full HP. If a character loses all five lives, they're out for the duration of the encounter (or in the case of the protagonist, Game Over). This seems shockingly generous until you realize characters are rather fragile in this game and a single tactical cock-up will see your entire party losing a life each in short order.
- Meteos features this as well, though you have to manually set having more than one Annihaliation.
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door:
- Has a few sections where Bowser plays through a fascimile of the original Super Mario Bros.. Before each attempt, a screen like the one above is shown, only replacing Mario with Bowser, and the three with an infinity symbol.
- While Super Paper Mario doesn't have extra lives, Luigi does mention them at one point.
- Police 911: This series gives you one hundred more extra lives above your starting three if you reach the top rank of Comissioner - but since the process of losing a life and restarting takes about 15 seconds of your rarely more than 2 minute timer (the game ends instantly if the timer runs out) this is solely a Bragging Rights Reward. And if you die on your way to Commissioner rank, you lose every promotion and have to start over.
- Purple: This game is a modern example of this, coming alongside with Scoring Points.
- RAY Series (RayStorm): Has makes this a Justified Trope: your extra lives come in the form of the other R-Gray craft in your squadron. When one is destroyed, the next one takes its place.
- Rock Band: This game is another rare rhythm example; if you fail in a band, someone else can bring you back, but if you fail three times, you're done for good (and so is your band unless the song is ending).
- Satan's Hollow: Used extra lives in the classic sense, showing them as replacement ships in the corner of the screen. Enemies will try to grab and fly away with them.
- Scott Pilgrim:
- This game naturally plays with this.
- Heck, the graphic novels and the movie play with it as well, inasmuch as Scott actually manages to pick up an extra life in real life. And use it.
- Silent Scope: Early games in this series used both lives and time - if you get shot, stabbed, orshoot a hostage, you'd lose one of multiple lives (and gain some back by viewing bikini-clad women in the scope), but the game instantly ends when time runs out. Later games meld time and lives into a life-meter which constantly ticks down - get shot and you'll lose time.
- Space Invaders: But it's instant Game Over if those aliens reach the bottom.
- Spyro the Dragon: The first few games used lives, but the later entries after Insomniac left the series, and Insomniac's own Ratchet & Clank, dropped lives in favor of just having you restart at checkpoints when you die.
- Star Fox Adventures: Has an item called the Bafomdad, which works like an optional extra life: die with at least one in your inventory, and it'll ask you if you want to use one; if you do, you come back to life right where you stood. There's only one to collect in Krystal's part of the game, and it doesn't carry over to Fox's part. Fox himself can only carry one until he gets a Bafomdad Holder, which lets him carry ten. The game has many more, but if you have ten already, you can't pick them up; they stay there until you try with nine or fewer.
- Super Meat Boy: Gets a Lampshade Hanging, where the Hell level is littered with the many, many Meat Boys that have perished brutally in your control.
- Another Platform Hell game, Syobon Action, has a lives counter that starts at three ala Super Mario Bros., but instead of giving the player a Game Over when it hits zero, it just keeps dropping into negative numbers.
- A variation of this mechanic occurs in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game on NES. In that game, you have the four different ninja turtles; rather than providing an arbitrary number of lives, a turtle will be captured when his health bar is exhausted, and the player has to face an additional challenge to rescue him.
- Total Overdose: Had up to 9 'Rewinds', which would back the action up to 5 seconds before death, giving the player opportunity to other choices, if possible. Running out of Rewinds resulted in Final Death, but one could always use a Rewind to exit the mission and return to Sandbox mode, cutting their losses.
- V2000: The player character is a drone pilot (supposedly) working alongside many others, and lives are the interdimensional exploration ships they fly. Since there's no danger to pilots but a shortage of crazy world-hopping UAVs, extra lives represent being trusted with more resources. This falls apart the moment the player gets an extra life by finding trophies, but it was a good try.
- Warning Forever: Gives you a choice between different kinds of lives. You can either have standard lives, or a timer which loses large chunks of time if you get killed.
- Yoshi's Story: Has a special variation. Instead of lives, the player has 8 different Yoshis to play as (which differ in color and favorite fruit). There are two ways of increasing the count: finding two secret Yoshis and finding white Shy Guys, which can rescue a lost Yoshi.
- You Only Live Once: Parodied rather savagely in this Deconstruction Game. As the name suggests, it's a platform game where you only have one life. If you try to "continue" when the nerdy protagonist dies, the game just shows his kidnapped girlfriend calling an ambulance, then the paramedics declaring him a lost cause, his death getting reported on the evening news, the Big Bad being arrested for manslaughter because of the death-trap-laden castle, and finally a memorial built on the stage where he died. And on top of all that, you can never play the game again, unless you find and delete the appropriate file.
- Zelda II: The Adventure of Link: This is the only game in its series to use lives. (Though in a way, bottled fairies in later games could be considered extra lives, since in most games you will automatically use up a bottled fairy when you die.)
Non-Video Game Examples:
- Brawl in the Family: Interprets the word "lives" quite literally.
- Futurama: One of the show's "Anthology of Interest" episodes featured them in a world that was more like video games. During an invasion, Fry get's killed but comes right back because he still had an extra life. Unfortunately, General Pac-Man was not so lucky.
- Averted Trope in this TV series, but referenced in the earlier seasons, at least: after explaining how the life force meter works, Treguard would give the team a warning along the lines of "this is no game for a player with numerous lives, and when this one is done, your adventure is over."
- The French and Spanish versions had no life force meter, but had a 4-player team that could play as long as there were one knight and one advisor left (which means three lives).