Take the 2-minute tour ×
Game Development Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional and independent game developers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What is the difference between the notions of "bonus" and "power-up?"

I have in-game some objects and the player has the ability to pick up some bonuses/power-ups that allow the player to create an explosion all around. There's also an item that lets the player teleport from one place to another -- are these all power-ups?

A bonus signifies permanent change (increased abilities while wearing an item) a power up is temporary (increased abilities for a limited amount of time). Also bonuses are usually awarded while power ups are collected. –  Benjamin Danger Johnson Sep 13 '13 at 21:59

6 Answers 6

"Bonus" is usually used to describe something that effects the score or the outcome of the game (such as a score multiplier). "Power-ups" generally refer to things that give the game extra abilities/mechanics like increased speed or power. However, whoever you are talking to will probably understand what you mean no matter which word you use.


Personnaly, I'd see :

  • a "power-up" as something that makes you more "potent"
  • a "bonus" as a reward
+1 Ah, "potent". What a great word. –  Arcane Engineer Aug 3 '11 at 21:54

Genrally (and perhaps not only in games)...

IMHO there is no bonus in what you describe, but only the pickup that lets the player explode all around (as a powerup), where the teleport is simply a trigger.

E.g. in Super Mario you have the coins which are simply pickups and you have the mushrooms that actually give you an extra ability making the mushroom a powerup. In some games you gain an extra bonus if you complete a level if you completed the level within a given time.

+1 I quite like this distinction. –  Arcane Engineer Feb 2 '12 at 20:12

From my point of view,

  • "power-ups" are items/abilities that can be gathered while playing (like a super temporary shield) to help,
  • whereas "bonus" is something given because you were good enough to deserve it (like a bonus stage).

But power-ups are often called bonus and vice-versa.

  • "power-ups" as the word suggests "pulls-up" your current "powers" ingame. Thus the effect is temporary and your powers will return to their previous default value when the power-up expired.

  • A "bonus" is an addition to the things you own ingame (score, collection, powers) but it is has no time-out. (example : have a defensive bonus on a shield. the bonus won't go away unless i decide to swap it for some other bonus / if the bonus can expire after some time it's a power-up ;-) )


bonuses give you extra points/currency

power-ups give you extra abilities which you can use to earn points/currency more efficiently


Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.