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Hearts Are Health

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He's got heart! But when he's hurt, he loses some. Keep an eye on this counter, because if Chauncey turns "heartless," the game's over.
The Horde, instruction manual

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

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

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


Compare Heart Container, Heart Symbol, Healing Potion.


  • Distorted Travesty 3, being a Zelda fangame (among many other things), borrows the life meter, heart containers, pieces of heart, and heart shaped healing pickups
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Life Meter and the Heart Containers. The original Zelda is the very first game to incorporate the trope and the franchise has been using it since; small hearts recover health and the bigger Heart Container extends Link's health meter. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is the only one not to have one—opting for a Life Meter instead (Heart Containers still extend it, however).
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • In Super Mario Bros. 2, hearts restore health, and the Super Mario All-Stars and Super Mario Advance remakes use hearts for the health meter (the original NES version uses hexagons instead).
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    • In Super Mario Land and Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, hearts are instead extra lives. This is probably due to color limitations: how would you distinguish between a normal mushroom and a 1up Mushroom? In the latter, one of the bonus minigames at the end of the level makes it possible to pick up a 3up, which is a heart with a "3" on it. In Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, hearts alone don't restore extra lives; instead, the player has "Heart Points", and collecting hearts adds ten heart points, while defeating an enemy adds one heart point. Collecting 100 hearts adds an extra life.
    • In Super Mario Odyssey, hearts are used to recover health.
    • In the Paper Mario games, your health is explicitly called "Heart Points", and picking up hearts that enemies drop refills it a little — both you and your partner in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. There are also Recovery Blocks which refills your Heart Points (and Flower Points) if you hit it, though you're charged coins for the service in the second game.
    • Super Princess Peach uses incremental hearts as its health meter, with two different sized heart collectables to refill it. Small hearts restore half a heart (one hit), while big ones restore a full heart, or two-hit points.
    • Luigi's Mansion (Series): Luigi's health is represented by a heart that shrinks as the character's HP decreases. The health consists of 100 HP, and can be replenished by gathering stray hearts (their size determines how much they'll heal Luigi).
  • Hey! Pikmin: Olimar can regain health by collecting heart-shaped fruits.
  • Jurassic Park: Trespasser, despite its novel Diegetic Interface, still measures the protagonist's health with a heart by tattooing it on her chest and filling it up with red as she takes damage.
  • The Life Meter in Sapiens depicts a heart of variable size when you're still quite healthy. It is replaced by a skull when you get weaker.
  • StarTropics I & II both use hearts as a Life Meter which are filled by Heart Containers, similar to Zelda.
  • Non-video game example: it became a sort of Memetic Mutation for Kakuzu in Naruto - he really did have five hearts and wouldn't go down until all were destroyed - as the new chapters of the manga progressed, fanart would depict him with a decreasing heart meter.
  • Decap Attack plays with this; your health meter is comprised of actual, realistic beating hearts.
  • Cave Story has both heart-shaped health refills and Heart Containers.
  • Purple represents its health restoring items as hearts.
  • Viewtiful Joe runs on pink-colored hearts the shape of peppers.
  • Minecraft has these. If you're riding a horse, its health bar is rendered in horse butts (which are of course heart-shaped). In Hardcore, these hearts have menacing eyes (or maybe blood vessels), which is a worrying reminder of the finality of death in this difficulty.
  • Primal Rage has a slightly more gruesome application this: your lifebar is represented as a major artery ending in a beating realistic heart, and your stun gauge is represented as a spinal cord ending in a brain: when the stun gauge is depleted, the brain crackles with electricity, and when you take damage, the heart beats faster. If you lose a round, the heart explodes and the brain is fried to ashes.
  • Spelunky combines this with Cardiovascular Love: it uses hearts for life, and they are restored by the floating love hearts that appear when you get a kiss from a damsel.
  • Heart Containers in An Untitled Story take the form of hearts radiating with red light.
  • The Binding of Isaac: The game has hearts representing health. Little hearts and half-hearts can be grabbed to replenish them. Items that add a heart to your maximum health include blood bags, a realistic looking heart, and various questionable "foods". There's also the Yum Heart, represented as a big red heart with a bite take out of it, which can be used every six rooms if need be to refill one of your hearts.
  • In a similar vein, Blood uses "life essences" (which look like realistic hearts) as a healing item. Blood II goes further and depicts its super-health item, the Life Seed, as a heart floating above a sigil.
  • In also a similar vein, Viscerafest has its protagonist Caroline straight up eating up realistic (if albeit alien) hearts to heal herself, mostly gathered by gibbing organic enemy corpses.
  • In Aladdin (Virgin Games), the powerups that restore health are blue hearts with goatees: this is fitting considering most of the other powerups involve the Genie somehow as well.
  • The Super Star Wars games uses a lightsaber as your health meter, but hearts are used for health restoration.
  • Splatterhouse is another game that uses realistic-looking human hearts for life points (and hockey masks for lives).
  • In Little Samson, big hearts restore four units of health, and small hearts only restore one unit.
  • Hearts restore health in The Goonies games.
  • Tesla: The Weather Man uses hearts for the Life Meter and as healing pickups.
  • Given a Shout-Out in an issue of Heroic Publishing's Tigress title, in which a supervillainess graphically slaughtering her way through a compound explicity compares the experience to a videogame — complete with all those neat hearts you find.
  • Serious Sam uses the standard heart symbol on one end of Sam's health meter. A giant heart is also used for the games' Ultra Health pick-up, which adds 100+ hit points.
  • All the Batman Platform Games by Sunsoft use hearts to refill Batman's health. This does not apply to the PC Engine Maze Game, where Batman is a One-Hit-Point Wonder.
  • Your life meter is this in Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures.
  • In Girl's Garden, the hearts labeled "LOVE" on the Status Line are actually Video-Game Lives.
  • Extra lives were originally represented by stars in the Touhou Project series, but were changed to hearts from Touhou Shinreibyou ~ Ten Desires onwards.
  • The Treasure Hunter Man series:
  • Kid Dracula plays this straight, unlike the main Castlevania series, with the Life Meter, healing items and Heart Containers all represented by hearts.
  • The Transformer characters in Angry Bird Transformers use hearts for their health meters, while their enemies get the standard green-to-red meter.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures games:
    • In the 1991 NES game of the same name, everything kills the player with one hit, unless the player has a Heart Container in their inventory. If they already have one in their inventory when they find another, they will get an extra life (of which, they can hold up to nine).
    • The sequel, Trouble in Wackyland, has a three-heart health bar. However, heart power-ups are very rare to find in the game.
    • In Babs' Big Break for the Game Boy, the player starts out with two hearts. A little heart will add one heart to their health bar, while a big heart will extend it up to three. Completing a level will reset your health bar back to two hearts. Playing on hard mode will subtract one heart from your health bar.
    • In the sequel, Montana's Movie Madness, the player stars out with three hearts in their health bar, and heart power-ups are only accessible through a bonus roullette. If it lands on Babs, she will extend the player's health bar to the maximum of four, and if it lands on Plucky or Hamton, they will restore the health bar to its full extent. Like in Babs' Big Break, completing a level will reset the health bar back to three hearts, and playing on hard mode will subtract one heart from it.
    • In Buster Busts Loose if played on Children or Normal mode, the player starts out with three hearts in their health bar, and can extend it up to five by finding crystal carrot power-ups. Completing a level will reset the health bar back to three, and playing on Hard mode subtracts two hearts.
    • In Buster's Hidden Treasure, the player starts out with three hearts in their health bar and can extend it up to five by finding bell power-ups. Unlike Babs' Big Break, Montana's Movie Madness, and Buster Busts Loose, the player's health bar will retain its extra hearts after a level is completed. However, if the player loses a life, their health bar will reset back to three.
  • The health display in Wuppo is a small heart bubble that follows the player. Enemies also occasionally drop little bubbles with a heart inside that you can eat to replenish health.
  • Ittle Dew uses hearts to represent health and as a healing pickup. Tippsy is understandably disturbed that you're eating hearts you found on the ground.
  • Don't Starve uses a heart to depict the health meter. As the character's health depletes, the heart starts to shrivel up...
  • In Snoopy's Grand Adventure, Snoopy has a health bar that consists of three hearts, and over the course of the game, he can upgrade it up to nine. If Snoopy gets hit, the heart he loses will float above him, and he can re-collect it before it disappears. In addition, Snoopy can also regain lost hearts by collecting cookie power-ups.
  • In Magical Pop'n, the heroine's health is represented by a row of hearts, which can be extended by collecting hearts.
  • Enter the Gungeon uses little red shotgun shells, crossed two at a time in such a way as to form little hearts. As well, the palette of items that extend your health are heart-themed.
  • In The Flintstones: The Rescue Of Dino & Hoppy, Fred starts out with three hearts in his health bar and can extend it up to five by collecting steak ribs power-ups. Finding a heart power-up will restore Fred's health bar to its full extent. If Fred loses a life, his health bar will decrease by one until it gets back to three hearts.
  • The extra life powerup in Arc Doors looks like a heart. The introductory story explains that the evil wizard who's behind the protagonist's plight had divided hisnote  heart and hid its pieces across the levels.
  • In The Berenstain Bears' Camping Adventure, the player characters have a simple life meter with six hearts that can be extended to as many as eight. Snack Baskets fully restore health but only up to six hearts. In order to get up to eight, only Hearts and Hot Dogs can extend the life meter.
  • Postal 2 pokes fun at this by having your health counter be represented by an actual beating heart. It beats faster and takes on different shades as the player's health decreases or they use certain substances in the game (sickly green and beating noticeably faster when under the effects of catnip, beating impossibly fast when withdrawal starts setting in after smoking a health pipe, etc.).
  • Bug!: Heart pickups restore one of Bug's five hit points.
  • In the Darkwing Duck Licensed Game for the NES, Darkwing's life bar is a single heart, but he can take four hits before dying. Collecting a thin can will restore one hit, and collecting a first-aid kit will restore Darkwing's health to its full extent.
  • In Octogeddon, Octogeddon's life bar is represented by hearts. Also, white submarines and planes with heart symbols can replenish your health when hit.
  • A pixelated heart represents health in No More Heroes and its sequel, with the pixels being the real units of health. Max health increases change the color of the center of the heart, creating layers of pixels with each color.
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony represents the player character's Influence gauge with hearts. Said gauge is reduced by making mistakes, and if it's reduced to zero, the player will be unable to convince the others of the truth, resulting in the class being unable to find the culprit.
  • In Dillon's Rolling Western, Dillon's health is represented by hearts, and collecting Heart Pieces from ruins increases his health by one heart for every three pieces.
  • Minty Fresh Adventure! and Fresh Minty Adventure: The Life Meter at the bottom of the screen, is initially in three sections, represented by three Heart Symbols.
  • In BioShock Infinite, the Life Meter has a Heart Symbol for its symbol.
  • In Grow RPG: The hero's life is represented by red hearts while the monsters' life is represented by purple hearts.
  • Little Red Hood: The life bar's made of simple hearts, though the purchasable heart in shops looks like a real human heart.
  • The Witches' Tea Party: Chapter 3's deduction session that ends the chapter, has two Heart Symbols in the upper right as effectively a Life Meter, to represent the number of times that Charlotte can deduct incorrectly before getting a negative ending.
  • Simple Samosa is technically a non-video game example.
    • In "Khelo Samosa", the gang is trapped in an arcade game and must beat its levels to save everyone else stuck there. Their health meter is represented with heart symbols.
    • The official web game creatively titled Simple Samosa Game also has a heart health meter.
  • Adventure Story: Matt's Life Meter is formed out of Heart Symbols.
  • The Princess Remedy series connects its Hit Points to a Heart Symbol-based icon.
  • In JumpJet Rex, the titular dinosaur's hitpoints are represented by hearts.
  • Stitchy In Tooki Trouble: Stitchy's health is represented by three hearts in the top left corner of the screen.
  • In the LEGO Adaptation Game series, Hit Points are hearts—a player character has four, while a boss will have anywhere from six to twelve.
  • In Polyroll, the titular character's hitpoints are represented by hearts. He starts out with three and the player can gain three more by completing the various Heart Palace levels in the world map. Taking damage will deplete one heart at a time, while collecting 10 gems will restore one.
  • Arena.Xlsm: Heart Symbol is used for representing the ability to restore Hit Points back to full.
  • In Armillo, Armillo's hitpoints are represented by hearts. He starts out with two on normal difficulty and three on easy, and an extra one can be purchased as an upgrade from the shop.
  • Going Under: Human Hearts are sold in Styxcoin and they serve as literal Heart Containers, healing and increasing the number of hearts Jacqueline has by 1. Her Life Meter is Heart Symbols, and each hit takes down at least half of one.
  • Meritous: Heart Symbols at the upper right are the indicator of Hit Points. 1 heart per each one.
  • The Legends of Owlia: Collecting small hearts can restore Adlanniel's Life Meter, which is represented by a line of hearts.
  • Ninjish Guy In Low Res World: You can replenish lost health by collecting blue hearts.
  • The "Heart of Darkness" is the standard healing item in Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain.
  • Away: Journey to the Unexpected: The kid's Life Meter is represented in the game as a life of hearts.
  • One Step From Eden:
    • The Hit Points measurement's symbol is three diamonds in a triangle shape, the Heart Symbol-iest that can be represented with a minimum of diamonds.
    • The "Sell Health" pact shows a Heart Symbol being slashed at. Its effect: Take 140 damage.


Video Example(s):


Paper Mario The Origami King

Mario picks up hearts to gain HP, demonstrated here.

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