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Expressive Health Bar

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If the health bar wasn't enough to tell you about how he's doing, then look at the face!

If the health meter shows [two hearts] or less, it begins to shake violently, warning that the player is low on health.

A lot of video games have a Life Meter or similar which shows you how close you are to losing a life, dying, hitting Game Over or whatever. Most of the time you have to read the meter to find out how much health you have, but sometimes, the meter will do something to let you know and that's this trope.

Maybe the meter moves (shaking is a common motion), or maybe there is a Character Portrait or a face next to the meter that winces whenever your character gets hurt or gradually looks more and more angry/scared/sick/sad/tired/beat up. Maybe the character themselves changes in some way (slows down, becomes more cranky, appears tired/injured/sickly etc.) Perhaps it also makes a sound or flashes. Sometimes, if it really wants to get your attention, words or frowny faces or similar might flash onscreen or the Exposition Fairy won't shut up about you being low on health.


This is probably a way of getting the player's attention— after all, it's easy to ignore a life meter when it just sits innocently in the corner, but if it starts shaking, it might get your attention.

See Turns Red for when bosses are the ones that change on low health and can sometimes overlap with Songs in the Key of Panic (for the "key of warning" type). Critical Annoyance is almost a subtrope: it's for sounds that play when you either have low health or are playing incompetently. Compare Notice This, which is also about getting players' attention. Note: Changing colour does not count as that is extremely common. Neither does greying out a character who is knocked out unless something else happens to indicate they are knocked out.



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    Fighting Games 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future: The character portrait next to the health bar goes from "normal" to "pain" whenever the character is hit.
  • The arcade versions of Power Instinct first games before Groove on Fight have the character's side face with the health bar, which changes from normal to being-hit animation when you were hit by the opponent. This got more dramatic in the first game, where the portrait's backgrounds also change of colors from blue to red when you got hit and the character's face got more agitated when the health bar is low.
  • Primal Rage: If you have the gore enabled, the gauge displays with a long artery-like graphic and ends in a beating heart. Die, and the heart blows up and gets bloody. And if your character is stunned, the health bar gets electricity arcing around it.
  • The NES version of Punch-Out!!, in addition to an actual health bar, has Little Mac's sprite change depending on where his health's at in-between rounds, going from happy, to happy with a swollen eye, to sad with a swollen eye.
  • Street Fighter X Tekken: the health bar shakes losing a portion of the remaining health whenever an attack is landed on a character.
  • Them's Fightin' Herds has portraits of the two fighters next to the health bars, which change expressions when taking damage, using a super move, or getting KO'd, and become visibly injured when low on health.

    First-Person Shooters 
  • Doom: The heads-up display includes a picture of the character's head. As the character takes damage, the head looks more and more hurt (bloodied and bruised). When the character has almost no health left, the head looks almost dead. If the character picks up the Invincibility Power-Up, the portrait will display Glowing Eyes of Doom. Receiving damage will cause the character to grit his teeth in pain, or (in certain version of the game) make a shocked face.
  • I. M. Meen actually uses these too - when your character takes a hit, their face will depict surprise.
  • Quake I features Ranger's face as an additional health status indicator alongside the current health indicator.
  • Wolfenstein 3D: Similarly to the later Doom, the status bar includes the protagonist's face which looks increasingly bloody as the player takes damage.

    Hack-and-Slash Games 

    Horror Games 
  • The first Clock Tower game features this. While the background is usually a prime indicator, Jennifer's 'health' is represented by by her facial expression, and it changes based upon whether or not she is being attacked by something (such as a crow or most regularly Scissorman). This even carries over to cutscenes.
  • Gregory Horror Show's PlayStation 2 game Soul Collector also features this. Whenever the character is given a status ailment, their face in the Heads Up Display will change to fit it - and when they are being chased (or experiencing a horror show) they will be inevitably scared.

    Licensed Games 
  • In the video game version of Alien: Resurrection, the health bar blinks red when its at Critical status.
  • On the Genesis version of Beavis And Butthead, both characters start out happy at full health. With each hit they take, they become sadder and more tired. When they're a couple of hits away from dying, they have bandages on their faces.
  • In the console version of the Coraline video game, the heroine's health is measured by a multicolored half-circle bar with her character portrait going along with its status. Coraline's expression starts out perky and confident when health is full, but turns pouty whenever health starts to dip. When the health bar is nearly gone or empty, she looks anguished.
  • Deadpool takes this Up to Eleven. In several video games, most notably Marvel vs. Capcom, Deadpool can physically pick up his health bar and use it as a weapon to strike enemies.
  • In "Germ Squirmish", a licensed game of The Loud House, as the "infection" meter rises, Lincoln's face next to it looks more and more disturbed, then sickly, then if it fills completely, he gets sick and you lose.
  • In Jungle Stumble, a licensed game of Rugrats, your player character whines whenever you take damage.
  • The first Tom and Jerry video game for Game Boy has a picture of Jerry as the health meter. When Jerry is at full health, he is smiling. Each time he is hit with an obstacle, the smile gradually fades to that of a worried expression. By the time he is fully out of health, Jerry is completely petrified.
  • In Virtual Bart, a licensed game title for The Simpsons, Bart has a health meter which also depicts his relative status. At full health, he seems confident. As health drains, he begins to look sickly, and when he dies he becomes a skeleton. This health meter was also shared for Bart's Nightmare.

    Life Simulation Games 
  • Baby Hazel: If you delay, the adults will get a hangdog expression and the kids will cry.
  • In The Farmer, if your sleep meter is low, the words "I am tired" will flash on the screen.
  • Frenzy: In many of the games, people will start to look ticked off if you don't tend to them within a period of time.
  • The Sims has several other ways besides the color-changing diamond to tell if a Sim's needs are low:
    • If they're hungry, they will refuse to do tasks and become irritable, unless they are a baby, whereupon they will cry.
    • If they're uncomfortable, they'll also become grumpy, although they'll generally still do tasks.
    • Having to pee also causes grumpiness (although, like discomfort, they'll generally do tasks) and when it gets to be urgent, they'll run towards the toilet. Some Sims who need to pee might also do a Potty Dance. When babies need a diaper change, a green stink cloud will appear on them.
    • If they're dirty, they slowly become visibly dirty and occasionally sniff themselves and then gag.
    • If they're tired, they'll generally act tired.
    • If they're sad, they'll have a dejected expression and, if they're a baby, they'll cry. If this sadness is caused by loneliness, however, they won't indicate it unless it's The Sims 2, whereupon they'll become delusional and start seeing the "Social Bunny".
    • In later entries, their mood will often be shown to the player when the player highlights them.
  • In Super Sized Family, if a kid is sick they will look green-faced and Virginia will have her arms down (she normally holds them up.)
  • In Terrible Triplets, the parents' faces look more and more worried the lower your health.

  • Moshi Monsters: When a Moshi Monster is sad or hungry (both your monster and the ones on the Ice Scream Parlour game), a little face that indicates their mood will change to a neutral expression, and then a frown.
  • Neopets: If a Neopet's hunger goes below "very hungry", they start looking sad (each species has its own "sad face"). Weirdly, if their happiness goes down, they still look happy. If they're sick, they make a different negative face, which doubles as their disgusted face (when they're fed a gross food). If they get given something (such as a food, toy, book, or petpet) they dislike or you type your password wrong, they snarl.
  • Tribal Hunter: Munch has a character portrait next to his health bar; at full heath he has his usual grin, at half health he looks tired and uncertain, and near death he's battered, bruised, and teary-eyed. His portrait also changes if he's nearly full, becoming worried with distended cheeks.

    Massively Multiplayer Online Game 
  • World of Warcraft played with this - while the character always had a static image, they would either flash red or fade in and out at low health (but only when you targeted them.) Players also could mod this to actually it more or less obvious - such mods were common back in the day.

    Platform Games 
  • Aladdin (Virgin Games): The health bar in the PC/Amiga version is the face of the genie, accompanied by a hourglass which indicates Aladdin's health by the amount of sand in the upper bulb. When Aladdin's health is at max, the genie is smiling, but the more damage Aladdin takes, the more nervous the genie starts to look, until near the bottom he is biting his nails in anxiety.
  • In the Animaniacs Licensed Game for the Sega Genesis, the Warners' health bar is on the upper-left corner of the screen, and it consists of a face with its expression changing depending on how much health they have (they can take up to eight hits). If their health gauge is full, the expression is excited, if they take two hits, the expression is calm, if they take four hits, the expression is terrified, and if they take six hits, the expression is tired. If they're one hit away from losing a life, the expression starts flashing.
  • Banjo-Kazooie: The health bar is paired with an image of the titular duo's face. As the player loses health, their expressions go from grinning to sad, ultimately falling unconscious when they lose a life.
  • Bubsy 2 on the Sega Genesis and the SNES gave you a three-hit health meter, represented by Bubsy's face next to the life counter (a cocky smirk at full health, a nervous grin after one hit, and an Oh, Crap! face after two hits; get hit while on the Oh, Crap! face, and you die).
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day has an expressive Oxygen Meter, consisting of a stream of bubbles coming out of Conker’s mouth. As the stream of bubbles gets shorter, his expression gets more desperate and his face starts turning blue, ultimately drooping if you keep him under water for too long.
  • A variation occurs in Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex, having an expressive Life Meter instead. When Crash dies, the face next to it either turns blue (when he turns into an angel or gets frozen) or the eyes on it close (all other deaths).
  • In Kirby games starting from Kirby's Return to Dream Land, whenever a character picks up the Invincibility Candy, their health bar will flash rainbow while the effect's active. Similarly, Kirby's face on the side of the health bar changes to a sad one if health is low.
  • Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal uses this trope for Qwark Vid-Comics. As Qwark gets hurt, his mug next to his HP goes from happy to somewhat cheery to neutral to desperate.
  • In Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, as you damage the bosses, their faces below their health bars go from angry, to worried, to eventually, bruised and beaten up.
  • Yoshi's Story: The player's health bar is represented with by a smiling flower, which loses its petals and becomes less and less happy as the player loses health. If the player manages to eat a Heart Fruit and become temporarily invincible (which also fully restores their health), the flower instead breaks out into a wide grin and starts pulsating.

    Point-and-Click Adventure Games 

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Alter A.I.L.A.: Before and After. The red-haired guy, called "Blue", gets wounds on his face after he gets hurt.
  • The character portraits in Dragon Age: Inquisition get bloodied and battered if a character is low on health.
  • Eternal Senia: Hydrangea After The Rain: Senia's Character Portrait has her wince once her health goes below half.
  • In Kingdom Hearts, playable character wince in their character portrait when they take damage. Along with that, when on low health, a siren blares and the character in the portrait looks exhausted. Kingdom Hearts III expands this to the other characters as well.
  • Mother 2 and 3 will sometimes have the health bar shake if they take a fatal attack or a critical hit.
  • In NieR: Automata, the health bars are configurable parts of the robotic Player Characters' combat interface. Whenever said characters get hacked, the first thing to change is usually their health bar being stretched beyond the screen boundary, rendering it effectively useless.
  • In Pokémon, the health bar shakes when a strong hit collides with your Mon.
  • In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, when your belly is empty your health bar will start flashing yellow instead of red.
  • Multiple games in the Tales Series incorporated this after Tales of Symphonia brought the series into 3D. Characters' portraits will sometimes change depicting the character talking, looking sick when they are under a status ailment, or unconscious when they are reduced to 0 HP.
  • In Undertale, hit enemies become shocked/angered/saddened as their sprite shakes, before a number indicating how much damage you dealt rises out of their depleting heath bar.

    Shoot 'Em Up Games 
  • In the SNES version of U.N. Squadron, the health bar flashes and player portrait grimaces while the player's plane is in a vulnerable state (during which time it's a one-hit kill for the player if they take any damage). The Arcade version shows this effect when the health bar falls to 1/4 or less.

    Simulation Games 
  • The labels on the Multiple Life Bars in Dead In Vinland change color as they creep toward the fatal 100% damage. 0-24% means a green label, 25-49% means a yellow label, 50-74% means an orange label, and 75%-99% means a red label with an ominously pulsing red skull icon attached.

    Turn-Based Strategy Games 
  • In some Fire Emblem games, the health bar will visibly shake when a character is hit with a critical strike.
    • In the 3DS games, critical hits or some skill activations give a little cut-in of the character art along with a Pre Ass Kicking One Liner. However, Fire Emblem Fates animates these, having the characters' facial expressions change.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses surprisingly incorporates these - much like the previous example, if characters do a critical hit, an animated cut-in with the Pre Ass Kicking One Liner appears. But if the character is at low health, they will have a desperate or scared looking expression instead.

    Visual Novels 

    Wide-Open Sandboxes 
  • Minecraft: The health bar shakes when the player dies or when the health is below two hearts. The hunger bar shakes whenever one hunger point is lost.
  • Stardew Valley features an energy bar and health bar. When the player character is exhausted, an icon showing a tired face appears above the energy bar, and in-game, the character moves slowly. When the character's health is very low, the bar shakes while periodically erupting red droplets.

    Word Puzzles 
  • In Hangmouse, a parody of Hangman, every wrong guess you make has the cat look more and more aggressive.

  • In Cold And Flu Invasion, as your health goes down, your character's face becomes red, he starts to walk slower, and red bubbles begin to form above his head. He goes back to normal if another level begins without him getting sick or if you take a med kit.
  • Friday Night Funkin': The faces of the Boyfriend and his current opponent are shown on the life bar at the bottom of the screen. If the Boyfriend is close to failing, his life bar icon gets X's in his eyes. The same will happen to most of his opponents if he's doing exceptionally well.
  • Vet Set Go: When a patient's health is getting low, they will turn pale, break out in spots, and their mouth will become a zigzag. On the other hand, if their health is high, they will stick their tongue out and lose their blush.

Conversed examples

  • Conversed in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book "Cabin Fever", where Greg mentions that his virtual pet looks unhappy if he doesn't tend to him.


Video Example(s):


Dos/PC Aladdin's Health Bar

On the Amiga and Pc version of Virgin Game's Aladdin, the health bar is shown by the face of the genie and a hourglass. When Aladdin's health is at max, he is smiling and the sand is on the top, but the more damage Aladdin takes from the enemies, the more nervous the genie starts to look as he reacts to the sand descending, until near the bottom he is biting his nails in anxiety as the sand is at the bottom.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / ExpressiveHealthBar

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Main / ExpressiveHealthBar