First off, the Avatar is a junkie. He's addicted to two main substances, 'Food' and potions. Food is probably the most dangerous, since the Avatar is totally unable to kick the habit and withdrawal will kill him. Worse yet, the other party members will ... also become Food users simply by virtue of being in close proximity to the Avatar.
This is the practice of using a food resource as a time limit. It is sometimes implemented as a hard time limit, with running out of "time" meaning death, or other times it simply conveys various disadvantages, such as weakening stats or an increased chance of death. If you're lucky, actual consumption of food will be abstracted away. At other times, you'll need to explicitly eat the food. Being able to die from overeating isn't unheard of.
Depending on who you ask (and on how the game uses it), this is either an enjoyable source of tension, a gentle prompt to keep a player moving through the game or an unwanted aspect of the game.
Trope named after the way the game Gauntlet tells the player that he's about to starve to death if he's playing a wizard (or elf, or valkyrie, or warrior).
Probably related to Timed Mission but takes place over an entire game. Sometimes paired with a Hyperactive Metabolism. The inversion of Easy Logistics. Sometimes used in Roguelikes to prevent grinding by making you keep going forward.
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In every Digimon anime series, if the mons were too hungry, they couldn't Digivolve, and thus couldn't fight. Much time was devoted to finding food.
In early Dragon Ball chapters, when Goku is hungry, he becomes sorta weak. Not much, but anyways... At one point, it enables a much weaker demon to actually beat Goku in a fight. And hunger played a big role in Goku's inability to defeat Mercenary Tao in their first encounter.
Luffy from One Piece often excuses his (temporary) losses to not having eaten. Large feasts are a favorite way to recover from his injuries after a fight. So much so that after a particularly brutal battle, he manages to eat while unconscious.
Implied in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha that Modern Belkan practitioners (what with their Full-Contact Magic) consume a lot more calories than their more spell-based Ancient Belkan and Mid-Childan counterparts. Unfortunately, one of the few characters that show this tendency, Subaru, is also a Hollywood Cyborg, so we don't get to know how true this goes, even if the logic is there.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: This was a trope made use of in some of the earlier episodes where the characters, including their eventual powerhouse Simon, couldn't make use of their mechs or spiral energy when on an empty stomach. It comes up again in the finale, leading Boota to make one of the weirdest heroic sacrifices ever— he pulls off his butt to serve as an emergency food source.
Iron Man foe Ezekiel Stane modified his own body to be able to do everything that Iron Man's Powered Armor could do, such as repulsor blasts and flight. Using his powers drains a lot of energy, so Ezekiel has to regularly consume a very high-calorie goo to keep his energy and blood sugar up.
During Wally West's tenure as The Flash, it wasn't uncommon to see Wally perform heroic feats and save the day before running to the nearest fast food joint and order a bunch of hamburgers and milkshakes - running at incredibly high speeds ended up burning up the calories like mad.
John in With Strings Attached must eat almost constantly; otherwise he “fades pretty fast.” He's taken to wearing a food pouch that he keeps filled with high-calorie travel food like jerky and dried fruit. When it's empty, he'll eat any plant life nearby.
A literal example in Divine Hammer, the second book of the Kingpriest Trilogy. An evil apprentice mage is trapped in the abandoned underground base of his master. There is no physical exit, he's not skilled enough to teleport out (plus he doesn't know where he is) and every bit of useful magical paraphernalia has been stripped from the base except for a summoning pool. He ends up surviving off of the flesh of the (weak) demons he summons.
Mordred Deschain from The Dark Tower series suffers from something similar to this. The only way that he can travel long distances or fight or really do much of anything is if he changes into his Giant Spider form, which unfortunately for him has a metabolism that runs extremely hot and fast and digests food quickly, so that he is constantly hungry and looking for food while hunting down Roland and his friends. A good example of this horrifying metabolism is when he eats Randall Flagg, who as any Stephen King fan knows is extremely powerful and likely very high in calories and other nutrients. (He had also just eaten a small-but very fatty and protein/carbohydrate-rich meal of peanut butter and crackers before being eaten himself.) Mordred blows through the energy that this (literally) magical feast affords him in about a day, and most of that day is spent sleeping. After that point the biggest things he gets to eat are a radioactive and half-dead coyote, a feeble old man named Rando Thoughtful(whom he had to share with over a thousand telepathically-controlled crows), and a diseased horse which gives him food poisoning and ultimately leads to his death.
Live Action TV
Kids' Game ShowKnightmare had a life force clock which gradually counted down to nothing, and could be refilled by picking up food and putting it into a knapsack.
Particularly notable for the terrifying quality of said life clock (basically, a face which falls apart) and the fact that it seemed to need refuelling every ten minutes. Certain traps would make it go down faster, but the thing about those traps was if the kid fell into them they were usually screwed anyway.
Here are the specifics on the face. You started out with the knight's head in a helmet (green background). As your life force ran down, bits of the helmet broke off, until you had nothing but the face (yellow background). At this point, the skin started peeling away (no blood, but that didn't really stop it being horrific). Eventually, you'd get down to just the skull (red background). From there, the jaw came off, then part of the top of the skull, then (and here's where the real terrors happened) the rest of the skull flying towards the camera (it went through one of the eye sockets). Then the eyes rolled off the screen. When that happened... BONG!"Ooooh... nasty." It was used only in the first five seasons.
For seasons 6 and 7, the face was replaced by an armored skeleton which slowly lost armor. When all the armor was gone, the skeleton would crumble, and that was it. (The skull from before made one appearance in season 6.
And then season 8 came, and the life force was represented by, of all things, a cake.
In an interview Tim Child, one of the people who made Knightmare, explained that the lifeforce was more of a "hurry up" than a real threat, designed to stop the teams from dithering for too long. Although he said that if a team were too slow they were more likely to bring a monster into the current room and kill them with that since starvation was a bit boring. I've no idea how many teams' games actually did end due to starvation but I'm fairly sure it happened at least once.
Lexx had this for the namesake Living Ship, which needed to eat organic things (Like planets or large chunks of them) to survive. Kai, as an assassin for the Divine Order, needed a goopy substance called proto-blood to continue functioning. Sometimes, the search for food would be the plot of an entire episode.
Maintaining and replenishing their extremely limited resources was a main plot driver in Battlestar Galactica
Rarely a problem in Dungeons & Dragons. Even if you aren't in a friendly town, you probably have a spellcaster who can create food or someone who can hunt or recognize edible plants. If that fails, there are also magic items or even class abilities which either create food or mean you don't have to eat (or drink, or sometimes even sleep or breathe). If you somehow don't have any of those things, starvation (in 3.5 at least) only causes nonlethal damage anyway.
4th edition has an item anyone with 4 levels, 840 gold, and the Ritual Caster feat can create, producing enough food for five people every day. Also, the rules specify that everybody can go without food for thirty days before they start to feel any adverse effects.
All of this assumes, however, that your DM is the type who keeps track of this sort of thing.
Hey, Bards can create not just food but a portable hotel for free!
The GURPSCreate Food spell would allow the caster to convert any non-metallic matter into edible food. Discussions and speculations that continue to this day point out that any character with access to this spell would be able to eat their way out of any dungeon that wasn't built completely of metal or otherwise given specific protection from this spell.
4th Edition dropped the "non-metallic" rule. Which makes Food College Mages into nearly unstoppable tunneling machines.
Ars Magica subverts the above: Rather than being able to eat anything this game's variant on the Create Food spell does exactly that. However, most such spells have a limited duration, after which the food vanishes, taking its nourishment with it. While you could make a spell that created food that didn't vanish in this way, it would be too expensive to be worthwhile. Worse, living off magically-created food would cause Warping if done for any extended period of time.
The main tension in the Battlestar Galactica board game, aside from the constant Paranoia Fuel, is that you have rapidly expending resources drained by crises, and if you run out you lose. Also leads to such decisions as 'Lose one population or three fuel'. Very effectively captures the atmosphere of the show.
Project Zomboid: Food increases strength and decreases healing time. Go without, and well, the aforementioned reasons are reversed. Starve yourself, and you start losing health.
Master Higgins from the Adventure Island games (well, most of them) had a time limit to get to the end of the stage that could (and most of the time had to be) extended by grabbing the numerous fruits that hung in the air. Milk was a full restore.
This was also used in its spiritual predecessor, the first Wonder Boy game.
The necessity to eat every five seconds or else die is fondly dubbed Master Higgins Syndrome (MHS).
The NES game Chubby Cherub. The only objective in the game is to eat everything in sight. And yes, eating keeps the cherub alive.
Achaea forces the player to keep an eye on his food and sleep status. If he forgets to eat or sleep for too long, he'll start randomly passing out (and in the case of food, eventually starve to death). This limit is lifted when the character reaches level 80, as they are considered to have transcended mortal needs. Fortunately, sleep is possible anywhere (although time-consuming, and leaving the character open to attack) and food can be kept for at least a Real Life day before it disappears. Mounts and some pets also starve, unless magically enhanced (read: paid for).
In The Black Cauldron, your character had to eat regularly to avoid dying, which was bad enough since you were always fighting the clock. What made matters worse was that there was a limited total amount of food in the game, so you effectively had a hard time limit to finish in. Add to this the standard Sierra sadism and the result could be frustrating. Fortunately, there is a "food wallet" under a bridge that had unlimited uses, and your water jug can be refilled indefinitely at any stream.
The mechanic appears in King's Quest III, too. Manannan, to whom you are enslaved, periodically demands food. If you don't feed him within 3 game-minutes, you are killed. There are only four things in the game you can feed to him; if you feed him the fourth without special preparation, the game becomes Unwinnable by Design as you will be killed the next time he demands food. Manannan is, of course, a wizard, and since you can disobey him in other ways without being killed, he must need food badly.
Even older is Epyx's Crush Crumble And Chomp, a turn-based strategy game that has the player play a Kaiju out to destroy a city. The player must regularly eat food people to sustain his monstrous self. Failure to do so would result in the monster going mad with hunger; this was simulated by having the game make a bee-line to the nearest tasty human, crushing any buildings in the way, and entering commands much faster then you could normally. Which was fine, except when there was a nuclear power plant in the way, which would result in your monster trying to stomp it, and getting destroyed. Or simply going for the one on screen where it would be more tactically wise to switch screens, as the longer you stay on one screen, the more heavy artillery shows up.
Food availability limits city growth in Civilization. The AI will often pillage your farms, trying to cause depopulation and civil unrest through starvation. In earlier games, lack of food could even result in military units spontaneously disbanding! (Now they are supplied entirely with money.)
Dead Frontier has it. You gain twice much XP when being completely nourished, but you lose life when you're starving. And the higher your level is, the rarer (or pricey) the food is. Newbiens can live on beer, potato chips and candies, but top-level players eat only caviar, red wine and fresh meat.
Infinity mode in Dead Rising. It's necessary in that game because Infinity Mode is timed with an online leaderboard. Without a timer, there would still be fools with their X Boxes humming away and Frank West just sitting on an awning that the Zombies can't reach.
Making sure that your dwarves keep well fed is vital to keeping them alive. Making sure that they have sufficient alcohol is vital to keeping them productive and non-homicidal. Yup, a dwarf forced to drink water will work more and more slowly and his happiness will decrease, making him more likely to snap and start murdering his neighbors or commit suicide. The later versions have made it harder to starve during your first winter, but it's still something that must be planned against.
Sometimes more insidious, all of the dwarves have food preferences and keep track of what they've eaten lately, and get unhappier if served the same food and drink constantly.
Wandering adventurers will need food, drink and sleep too. Interestingly averted with necromancers, the actual wizards in unmodded games.
Spiderweb Software's Exile went like this: Start game, create characters, enter world, completely ignore the first NPC (who would've said where to get free food), wander around town, find directions to next town, head out the gate, walk fifteen steps, keel over. Reload game and repeat. A lot.
In the remake, Avernum, the significance of food diminished, then vanished until Avernum 6, where the scarcity of food became a plot point again.
To be precise, the Avernum trilogy removed starvation, but required food for resting (restoring health and energy). Avernum 4 dispensed with this too, instead turning all food into low-level healing potions (as in Geneforge, which Avernum 4's mechanics were based on in part).
Eye Of The Beholder series of RPG games had this issue. Luckily, being a Dungeons & Dragons game, it also gives you a handy solution in the form of "Create Food and Water" spell if you have a cleric in your party.
The aforementioned Gauntlet abstracts its food away into a clock that gradually counts down. Said food counter doubled as a health meter, meaning it doubled as a Hyperactive Metabolism. The blue sorceress still needs clothes badly though.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas tied CJ's life meter to his hunger. If you go without eating for a long time, CJ's fat and muscle stats begin to deplete, and his life meter eventually starts draining. Luckily, you'd have to go a very long time without food before the game starts to remind you that you need to eat and you'd practically have to be starving CJ on purpose if he were to die from hunger. Since food is the only way to recover energy while not on a mission, eating too much (except salads) would make CJ gain weight.
Storm, a 1986 Gauntlet-like by Mastertronic, uses food as the health meter. If it starts running low, the message "Storm needs food badly..." or "Wizard is about to die..." (depending on the character) will scroll on the top of the screen.
While Rogue had the explicit requirement of collecting and eating food to prevent starving to death, NetHack took it to the next level by allowing you to die from overeating, including some corpses which give food poisoning, food that rots away, and a weight restriction for an inventory which can only carry fifty-two items total. Surprisingly, it's rare for a non-new player to die from starvation, as the game difficulty is high enough that most characters for new players will die quite quickly from something else.
NetHack has an explicit Shout Out; a character playing a wizard (or elf or valkyrie) receives the Gauntlet message when in need of food.
Food is a similar resource in Alpha Man, though it's a little more simplified.
This is a key part of most roguelikes. If it isn't food, then it's water, or even something more exotic like fuel. It does make this trope name extra appropriate.
In most roguelikes spellcasting consumes food. This results in the counter intuitive situation that wizard-like characters require more food than fighters. It does make the trope name extra appropriate.
Angband players must eat, though the mechanics are simpler than in Nethack, especially with Satisfy Hunger scrolls or spells. It is possible, though unlikely, for the message warning about hunger to appear after "You die."
NetHack lets the player #pray for food when fainting from hunger. It might work, if the player's god isn't angry with him, and the player hasn't prayed recently.
Linley's Dungeon Crawl and its more recent Stone Soup version twists the hunger clock a bit. Most species aren't able to eat all types of food, some are vegetarian and some prefer tainted meat over fresh. Especially interesting is the race of Vampires - their "hunger" (actually thirst of blood) determines their status between life and unlife - being devoid of blood will grant the vampire sweet undead abilities and resistances, but won't be able to regenerate. Conversely, vampires that drink enough blood regenerate normally but are subject to poisons of the mortals and unable to use their undead powers.
The Oregon Trail uses the abstracted away sort, and allows you to restock food either by trading for it from others or via a hunting minigame.
Oregon Trail II requires not only food, but a balanced diet. You would be warned if you were running out of fruit, vegetables or meat. Having no fruit or veggies generally resulted in scurvy for all. Going too long without meat results in beriberi.
Going through a "No Water" area without canteens or water kegs generally resulted in Total Party Kill by dehydration.
In the Advance Wars series, units consume fuel (or rations, in the infantry's case) with every step they take. If they run out, they cannot move until a friendly APC or transport unit picks them up.
Unless it's a ship or a plane, in which case it falls down or sinks.
The Harvest Moon games—the Gamecube version, and probably the others as well—required that you eat or else your character will stop moving at regular intervals to pant and recover. This is extremely troublesome to newbies starting out, for whom it's not clear where to get food from easily.
Luckily, any Harvest Moon game is full of lots of tasty free herbs growing in the forest behind your farm, and they all respawn daily or every other day (and can be kept in your 'fridge, or even your rucksack, for fifty years without spoiling). The other versions (besides the Wonderful Life version mentioned above) only have you eating food to refill your stamina meter, which is depleted by using tools (so that a day of just running around talking to people won't leave you hungry, but a day of mining will).
In Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness, the fatigue bar has been replaced with a "fullness" bar that depletes with time, and seems to do so faster during particularly hot or rainy days. You will HAVE to eat (or use the kappa earrings) to keep it filled; if the hunger bar goes to zero, you WILL pass out even though you may have full stamina. Even if you don't let it run down, when the fullness bar starts slipping below half, you'll start waking up later and later in the morning, until about 20%, when you wake up at noon! Also, the "freshness" meter on food and flower items makes sure you can't keep them forever (unless you have a gold/mythic fridge); spoiled food fills you up less.
Lost In Blue is a game about being stranded on a desert island. Unsurprisingly, food is spare. More annoyingly, the food meter drains ridiculously swift and fills ridiculously slowly—a massive plate of fish and potatoes will give you maybe 10% fullness—unless you cook or taw them together into a clever recipe, which takes some out-game learning to grasp. Oh, and if your stomach is bare you can't rest. If you thirst meter is bare you can't eat. If your fatigue meter is bare you walk at a crawl. If they're all bare you start to die.
You would die of starvation in the Quest for Glory series if you went too long without eating anything. (There was also death by dehydration in the second game since the setting was in a desert.)
In the first game, you can't starve to death (although you still get the warnings that your character needs to eat) due to a programming oversight. In the third game, if you're wandering in the overworld and starving, a giant waffle will follow you until you eat it.
Also averted therein with a general consumable system which doesn't penalize the player for long periods without food or booze; in fact, the game rather generously rewards Self Imposed Challenges of the sort.
Also also, a Shout Out to the trope title occurs when braving the Gauntlet Gauntlet.
If you're doing an Oxygenarian run, you may have an encounter in the pirate tavern where the tavern keeper raises the question of how you are even able to survive without eating or drinking. The player character responds that it's a matter of abusing loopholes by consuming stuff that can't be classified as food or booze.
A variation appears in Fallout. While the remaining time limit is a water supply, and passing 150 days (or 250 days if you buy water for them) gives you a game over, it is for the player's home, rather than the player himself.
As well, the player character will randomly take (minor) damage from thirst if he doesn't have a decent outdoorsmanship skill. This can be avoided by the too-obvious solution of carrying a canteen. (Fallout 2 even gives you one to start, but under a different pretext...)
Fallout New Vegas has an optional mode, dubbed hardcore mode, that plays this trope straight, as the player character has to eat, drink and sleep, or suffer progressively worse penalties, eventually leading to death.
Dark Cloud does this as well, with the player having a thirst meter in the form of water drops near your health gauge. As you wander dungeons, the drops will slowly vanish, and should it reach naught, your health will start to drop, and your stats will all decrease. You can rehydrate your characters by finding small springs in the dungeons or by drinking bottled water from your inventory.
In the sequel, Dark Chronicle, "Thirst" is simply a status effect that prevents the player from eating (presumably from dry-mouth) until a bottle of water is consumed.
Players found this so annoying, that very early in the sequel to Enchanter you obtain a magical potion that enables you to go without food and water indefinitely.
This was especially annoying in Planetfall, which had both a "you need to eat" timer, and a "you need to sleep" timer. And part of the plot involved a disease with the symptoms being increased need for food and sleep, making the timers run even swifter.
At least in Planetfall the food will keep you going throughout the game. In the sequel, Stationfall, only a few pieces of food are available and careful rationing is required.
Dungeon Master had both food and water meters for each party member. Fortunately there are plentiful fountains and food can be restocked by killing certain respawning monsters.
Appears on most MUDs, and can be particularly annoying. If you're hungry/thirsty, you'll start taking damage and get an annoying little reminder every time you do. On more fantasy-based muds there's usually a plethora of ways of dealing with this thankfully. On the SWR codebase (a SMAUG derivative devoted almost entirely to Star Wars), consider yourself lucky if the mud in question has any option other than dragging around a mountain of food.
Food is a necessity in DikuMUD and CircleMUD codebases; the first consequence is usually that the player stops regenerating crucial health and stamina. In LPMUDs, food was used simply for healing, so players would clock-watch their digestion for the opportunity to eat more food. If possible it's best to go into the toughest fights on an empty stomach so you can restore the most HP by binging mid-battle.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was the only game in the series that had the consumption of food as a major gameplay factor. If the player did not eat, his stamina meter would slowly deplete which would cause all sorts of negative effects such as reduced health regeneration.
The fourth game introduced the Psyche meter, which performed largely the same function, albeit by much more arbitrary parameters. Eating food did recover it, among other options.
Magician, an NES game by Eurocom(Taxan), integrated both hunger and thirst into protagonist Paul's status; keeping both up was necessary in order to recharge Hit Points and Mana, and the game only contained two sources of free (safe) limitless water; all food had to be found or purchased.
Not only that, but if your food and water percentage drops to naught you begin losing health. A GameFAQs writer notes that it takes 4 minutes, 15 seconds to go from a full stomach to dying of starvation.
Dragon Quest Monsters: Caravan Hearts is practically based around this. It was only released in Japan, but there is a good fan translation going around, somewhere. Every step you take in the games overworld consumes some food, you start to lose precious Hit Points if you run out of food, and the first major "quest" you embark on even involves feeding a ghost-woman-thing some of the food ingredients you find. It's actually easier to just drag your caravan/camp, walk a few steps, and starve to death, and drag your base camp again though, since if you die they refill your food. Oh, and the more people and monsters you have with you, the more food you consume. This becomes a tedious process.
Food is an important factor in The Magic Candle. Each party member consumes one "unit" of food per day from his inventory (characters have separate inventories in this game). A character whose supply drops below 5 is "hungry" and must be told to eat, or else he can't sleep. A character with no food at all is "starving" and incapable of taking any action until he eats. (It's safe to keep starving indefinitely, though, as you can't die outside of combat.) You can refill food by buying it or hunting for it, but it's easy to forget.
Parodied in Space Quest with the can of Dehydrated Water. "Just add air!" It had the two-fold use of allowing you to survive the desert heat, and later on doubled as an alternate way to get rid of a hungry monster by tossing the can in his mouth, resulting in a cartoonish death by overdrinking.
In the Lone Wolf series, every so often you'll be prompted to "eat a meal or lose 3 ENDURANCE points, which can't be healed until after you've eaten. You can avoid this by having the Hunting skill of your tier.
In Mount & Blade, no food = periodic morale penalty = troops desertion. Having a variety of food, on the other hand, gives a morale bonus.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon. Especially annoying in dungeons that you're not allowed to bring outside items into, as you're essentially at the mercy of the random item appearances.
Used in RuneScape in the Kharidian Desert. Traveling on foot requires you to carry a (filled) waterskin and occasionally top it off with water from cacti. Running out of water causes you to start dying of thirst.
Similarly done in the Mort Myre swamp area, though not as severely: If you don't have the proper protection from the swamp's decaying effect, you'll occasionally lose a handful of Hitpoints. The ghastly denizens of the swamp will also swipe at you and try to steal more Hitpoints out of you, unless you have another protective item, or food. If you have the latter, it protects you because the creatures somehow attack your food instead of you. Thankfully, the damage done by these is a good deal less than that of dying of thirst in the desert, so you can ignore it if you're not staying in the area long.
Sheep In Space requires you to graze periodically in order to avoid starving to death. You can die from overeating, and grazing is the only way to recover shields. Land on anything other than grass, however, and it's instant death. Makes for a surprisingly interesting resource management puzzle for a Shmup.
The Sims, although in the second and third instalments, at least they will make themselves food if you have a fridge and their hunger is critical, rather than starving because you won't tell them to make lunch. Unless you have turned off "Free Will" in the game options.
Hunger is one of the only two needs from the original series that was kept in The Sims Medieval; if a medieval sim is too hungry, they'll stop what they're doing and autonomously go home and make gruel. (And yes, because one of the classes available is wizard, you can have a wizard needing food badly.)
In Spore's Creature and Tribal stages, at least, your creature can starve to death relatively easily if you don't remember to get it some food. Can cause some unfortunate snags in making friends if you're playing a carnivore creature.
While food and drink items can be used to restore some health in Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl, there is a hunger indicator that serves no apparent purpose other than to pop up after some time and force you to consume food or else you health will suddenly start to decline.
In a brief part of Star Fox Adventures, you have to steer a Snowhorn through an area beset by a blizzard. While you're in that area with him, he has a bar gauge which empties steadily over time. To refill the gauge, you have to guide him over alpine roots. If the gauge empties, you'll probably have to start the section over, considering that Fox cannot go through by himself.
And your sidekick Tricky has a meter for using his special abilities, such as digging and breathing fire, that's refilled by feeding him mushrooms.
Superfrog had to keep drinking bottles of his power source Lucozade to keep him from turning back into an ordinary frog.
The Yoshis in Super Mario Sunshine had to eat fruit regularly or else they would vanish into thin air.
Time Stalkers gave the player a stomach gauge that slowly drained while in dungeons; when it was empty, the player's HP would drain instead. Nearly all the recovery items were "fruits" of some kind, so it was relatively easy to keep it above zero (and there were some dedicated food items that filled the stomach a lot), but in the longer dungeons it was rather easy for it to reach zero. Still, it was one of the more minor threats, all things considered, and running out of HP just kicked you back into the overworld anyway.
Ultima I-V used the abstracted away variety, with a unit of food being consumed every several steps, by increasing orders of magnitude depending on the size of your party. Ultima VI and Ultima VII did away with the point system in favor of discrete units of food that had to be explicitly eaten, and also made it impossible to starve to death - in Ultima VI, without food, the characters couldn't recover HP or MP by resting, and in Ultima VII, Hungry characters got gradually increasing stat penalties instead.
The worst part of the Ultima VII food system wasn't the stat penalties; it was that your companions would constantly complain about how they "could use a little food."
Likewise Ultima Underworld utilized a discrete food system. Fortunately there was usually plenty around that was edible.
World of Warcraft does not require players to eat or drink, but doing so refills your health or mana bar quickly and may give additional buffs depending on the type consumed. Plus, in a possibly intentional inversion of the trope, the Mage class is capable of conjuring food and water for themselves and an entire party or raid group.
In the classic game, Hunters were victims of this trope played much straighter, as their pets required food periodically in order to remain happy. Unhappy pets lost loyalty, which conveyed severe damage penalties and reduced their available skill points. To add insult to injury, each pet type had a distinct set of food preferences, and while meat-eaters were usually easy to keep fed, a pet with a cheese, fungus, or fruit preference could be more problematic. This was widely considered a Scrappy Mechanic for the class, and the more severe penalties were eventually dropped in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.
Also, special talents and glyphs allow the pet to gain happiness just by fighting or getting healed with the Mend Pet skill, bypassing the pet feeding mechanic completely.
Finally averted in a recent patch that eliminated the happiness mechanic altogether. The ability of hunters to feed their pets is still available, but is now a powerful heal only usable when out of combat.
EverQuest uses food mechanics, allowing players to make or buy stat foods for boosts, but using a consumption mechanic that causes them to eat foods regularly (consuming their stat-boosting food unless they force-feed other foods to prevent eating the stat boosters). If players don't have any food for long enough, they get hungry and lose the ability to regenerate health and mana.
The browser-based game Improbable Island encourages you to eat by giving you Stamina rewards for meals and a great Stamina penalty if you allow yourself to starve. Starvation can't kill you, though, and the penalty for being too fat seems to outweigh the penalty for being underfed.
Yoshis Story has a sort of inversion. In all of the non-boss levels, the point is to consume a certain amount of fruit. When you hit the mark, it's on to the next level.
Two instances in Breath of Fire III. In the faerie village Side Quest, you have to keep the food supply up (by assigning the "hunter" job to faeries) or no new faeries would be born and those you had could die of starvation. The second instance is in the Desert of Death, where you have to drink when prompted to avoid getting a penalty to you max HP.
While Giants: Citizen Kabuto didn't use food as a time limit is a resource for your builders and they will refuse to use work without being fed.
Averted by 8-bit adventure game The Hobbit; Elrond gives lunch to you (Bilbo), but you don't need to eat it (or anything else). You can choose to do so, in which case Elrond will in time give you another. Eat too many of them, however, and you get the message "Your foul gluttony has killed you"...
In the Cossacks series, units drain food at a steady rate and if you run out, they die of starvation.
While food was not strictly necessary in Realmz, having "Iron Rations" in any party member's inventory gave a bonus to health regained while resting, consuming them in the process.
Mystic Towers had food and drink meters which decreased over time, eventually causing you to lose health if they weren't replenished. Most levels had water fountains that never ran out, but you had to find or buy food.
Used to special effect in Interactive Fiction game Edifice. One level requires the PC (an early human just learning how to use tools) to use a weapon, kill an animal, and cook its meat before dying from starvation.
Also played with in Savoir Faire. The PC gets hungry, though he can't die from it (going hungry for a long while causes him to start hallucinating, though), but he is required to prepare a meal (a rather ludicrously elaborate one, at that) in order to progress in the game.
Betrayal At Krondor requires you to keep rations on hand for your characters, with one unit consumed every game day (with a working day/night cycle). There's even an area later on where you go to sleep with each step, causing you to need to eat a day's rations.
Spellforce has a variety of resources to collect, including food, but food is not directly necessary for your individual units. Instead, it's spent to increase your unit cap, so you can recruit more units.
Used as part of the game mechanics of Windham Classics' Below the Root and Swiss Family Robinson in slightly different ways. In BtR, your character needs to rest and eat occasionally. Failing to do so will cause them to collapse and be teleported to their home, losing a day's worth of game time (you had 50 days). In the other one, you had to eat once and drink twice per "season" or perish.
Running out of food meant instant death in Legacy Of The Ancients. There was no excuse for it, as food was ridiculously cheap, many monsters could be added to your food supply (at the risk of illness), and the player could carry 1000 units at a time.
Baroque uses an variation. The PC has both a hitpoint gauge and a 'vitality' gauge. Hit points can be restored by eating meat, Vitality goes down over time and can be restored by eating fruit. As long as your vitality is above zero, you regenerate hitpoints slowly, but once it reaches zero, you start losing hitpoints.
In Dynasty Warriors Vol.2 for PSP your army's food supply in measured in seconds. By capturing enemy's supply depot you're gaining another 5 minutes to play, losing supplies decrease your time. Out of timesupply is one of the lose conditions.
In Uncharted Waters, your ships' crew needs their daily rations of both food and water while at sea. If you run out of food, the crew will first get sick (which drops their efficiency), then start to die off (which drops the efficiency even further), then probably mutiny (you get where this is heading). However, before the latter happens, one of your navigators will probably mutiny first and run away with his ship, leaving you with even less supplies.
The Bally Midway arcade game Blasted has a variation of this trope. Your character starts without a Life Meter, but the first time you're shot by the killer cyborgs you're sniping, your power supply is damaged, and you acquire a Life Meter that gradually ticks away. Certain actions can refill it, and you don't automatically die when it runs out—but if you're shot again when you don't have enough life to take the hit, it's game over.
Chocobo's Dungeon (at least the Wii installment) has a food meter that you mainly refill by eating Gysahl Greens. Different jobs get hungrier at different rates; run out and you lose HP with every action. At least one dungeon has a special rule in which you're always at 0% food, so you must constantly recover your waning HP to survive. And like all special rule dungeons, you can't bring in any outside equipment, so be sure to say a prayer to the Random Number God first. Or level up your White Mage job.
The eponymous worker units in LEGO Rock Raiders have quartered sandwiches above their head that indicate how hungry they are. The more the sandwich depletes, the more often they will have to put down whatever they're carrying to pant for a few seconds. Earlier on in levels, Raiders have to be fed manually via the select menu, but once a Support Station is constructed, they will return there automatically if they aren't carrying or driving anything and feed themselves once they get down to a quarter of a sandwich.
Unfortunately, getting food overrides any other commands they have been given, meaning that getting a Rock Raider any further than his hunger meter will allow requires you to follow his progress manually, stop him and feed him when he becomes hungry, and reassign his goal until he reaches it. One solution is to put the unit in a vehicle, where hunger won't bother him.
In addition, depletion of a Rock Raider's health lowers his maximum food capacity. Thus, any units with below 25% health become essentially useless, constantly stopping to catch their breath and returning to the base for food, and usually must either be placed in a vehicle or euthanized teleported out.
Shadowgate in its many itinerations used light rather than food as a limited resource. You started the game with a burning torch and had to replace it regularly by gathering unlit torches from wall holders and light a new one every time the one in your hand was about to burn out. And because your idiot character hadn't had the foresight to bring a tinderbox or something, the only way to light a torch was using the active one, and if that one burned out it was back to the last save point. So about every five minutes you had to open your inventory, find a torch (and they all looked different too), select it, use it with the one in your hand and put it in your hand after discarding the old one. And you thought having to click the Eat button was annoying?
The NES version, at least, put all torches in a single inventory slot.
Super Mario World had a bonus level based around this mechanic. You had 200 seconds to finish the level, half the usual amount, but Yoshi can in this and only this level extend the time limit by 20 seconds by eating a green berry; eating anything also gives you a coin. Yoshi needs food badly.
Pac-Man. The whole game is a yellow guy eating a bunch of dots and occasionally fruit, and a bunch of ghosts trying to stop him. Why? Nobody knows.
In Sim Ant, the ants had to eat on a regular basis. Get an ant hungry enough, and it would even eat one of the eggs in its own hive.
Parodied in one of the messages shown during loading screens in Baldur's Gate 2, which reminded you that even though your character didn't need to eat, you still did.
Implied in Galactic Civilizations II where the game won't let any of your ships pass the maximum range of their life support system. If one does go beyond the redline, the crew goes into cryo and the ship is set on autopilot to your nearest planet.
In the first Avatar game, Sokka would declare that he needed food when he ran low on energy.
Referenced in Solomons Keep: There's a chance for the evil necromancer himself would appear on a cleared floor to whack the player wizard's hit points really low. After which he says: "Muahahahaha! Blue Wizard needs potion badly!"
Minecraft has a food meter that gradually drains over time. If your food meter is at least 90% full, you regenerate health. If it drops to 30%, you can no longer run. If it reaches 0%, your health meter starts draining instead, to a different extent depending on how high you've set the difficulty. On easy, your maximum health is effectively cut in half. On normal, you become a One Hit Point Wonder. On hard, you'll eventually starve to death. Fortunately, several kinds of animals are reliable sources of food, and it's easy to passively stockpile a large supply once you learn how to grow edible mushrooms, wheat, or watermelons. You can also go fishing, which is considerably faster if you give it your full attention. In an emergency, you can even eat zombie flesh to fill a fifth of your food meter, although it has an 80% chance of causing food poisoning, which drains a fifth of your food meter over thirty seconds. Switching to Peaceful stops the hunger meter from draining but you still need food to refill it if it wasn't full before.
Unlike a lot of games where you get hungrier at a constant rate, Minecraft actually uses a more complicated system based on your activity level. You become a little hungrier every time you receive damage, break a block, or move around. A running jump is equivalent to two regular jumps, or running four meters, or walking forty meters, or sneaking forty-five meters, or breaking sixteen blocks. Combat demands the most energy; if you swing your sword around like an idiot, you may end up succumbing to hunger instead of monsters.
Eating food also restores hunger by varying amounts. Small food like cookies and apples only sedates your hunger by a mere amount while larger foods like cooked steak gets you fuller a lot quicker. Each piece of food also has different saturation amounts, meaning some foods can keep you full longer before you start to go hungry again while foods with low saturation will only keep the hunger pangs back for a minute before you start starving again.
Legend Of Kay features a variant in the racing minigames. The animal you are riding needs to pick up a treat every three seconds or so, or it will throw you off.
Spelunker had no real notion of "food," but it featured a blue energy meter that dwindled continually and was replenished by picking up potions.
Every few in-game hours in Super Hydlide your character starts to lose health because of hunger, so you gotta always have three or so food items in your bag. The character also has to sleep well or else he will start to die too.
Likewise in Pathologic you must eat and sleep reguraly. Exacebrated by the fact that the game takes place in a plague-stricken town, and the food is ungodly expensive.
The Billy and Mandy fighting game has Hams as a health item. When a character is at low health, an announcer ("Weird Al" Yankovic of all people) calls out "Player [X] needs ham badly!"
Ehrgeiz has a dungeon-crawling quest mode that has a similar mechanic. Below your health bar is a "hunger" bar that depletes constantly and is refilled by eating food that you find in the dungeon. When that bar goes down all the way, you'll start hemorrhaging health as your character starves to death.
In Task Maker, one of the player's stats is Food. If this hits 0 due to lack of eating, the player's stats drain very fast until he finds food or dies from his Health falling to 0.
The entire premise of the Famicom game Bird Week is that Mommy Bird needs to feed her babies.
In Jagged Alliance Back in Action, mercenaries should carry some food and drink with them to avoid having to rest and waste precious time. Cereal Bars are good source of energy boosting goodness among all things.
Animals in Tokyo Jungle have to eat to replenish their Hunger bar, otherwise their Life bar starts going down. Predators have to hunt and kill other animals, while grazers have to find and eat plants.
Knights And Merchants requires you to provide every citizen with food. Interestingly, civilians care about what they eat and warriors do not - a barrel of wine is as nutritious for them as a bunch of pork sausages.
Kabam games like Dragons of Atlantis and Kingdoms of Camelot require you to keep enough food to feed your troops or they'll desert.
Ecco The Dolphin usually just has a Hyperactive Metabolism, but when his air meter completely drains, the game starts draining his life meter. Getting air again takes priority and the life meter drain is very fast once it starts, but in theory if he can be fed he can survive drowning indefinitely.
Dont Starve has three meters: health, hunger, and sanity. As the title suggests, keeping well-fed is vital to one's survival, with the added benefits of keeping one healthy and sane.