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Many games with health systems will always display the amount of health in a head-up display. A good example is Hollow Knight, which has a detailed head-up display in the upper left corner:

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Some games don't have health/lives at all, and so they don't need to display the number of lives on the interface. A classic example here is Super Mario Bros, where you usually only have one life and therefore don't need no health display.

Super Mario Brothers has a creative solution for if and when you get a second life. If you eat a Super Mushroom, Super Mario Bros will super-size your sprite into Super Mario. If you lose your second life, you turn back into the normal-sized Mario. In that way, the size of your sprite represents your number of lives.

I'm making a video game, and I plan to display the amount of Lives a player has left in my video game on the screen in a head-up display. But a constant head-up display will clutter the screen, so I'm looking for a more elegant solution.

My initial thought was to only show the number of Lives when the player takes damage (i.e. gets a question wrong). The number of lives left would flash up on the screen in a temporary head-up display, and then fade away.

Are there any video games that only show the amount of Lives/Health when the player gets damaged? Wondering if this model has been tried before, and if it works well. Thank you!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You wrote it is for an educational game. Depending on the nature of your game, keep in mind that it would be easy to game by guessing the correct solution ifyou loose right away the life. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibelas
    Commented May 15, 2023 at 7:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Many games don't show HP when it is full or when player is not in situation where HP can be reduced (e.g. in town). Some games (e.g. Trespasser, Dead Space) show HP on the character itself "in the game". \$\endgroup\$
    – Kromster
    Commented May 15, 2023 at 7:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zibelas each incorrect guess would cost a life though? \$\endgroup\$
    – kanamekun
    Commented May 15, 2023 at 8:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes that is true. But as an educational game you would want to teach something and not have the option to brute force the solution. For me this would be similar of taking a test in school or university and for each time I answer wrong, it is pointed out right away. In a normal quiz game having lifes is expected but what do you want to teach with your app? What is the nature of your questions? Can they progress with a wrong answer? Do they restart with the exact same set of questions on game over? Is the order fixed? Thats a more underlying question but should still be at least thought over \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibelas
    Commented May 15, 2023 at 8:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ hello all - thanks for the feedback! i actually decided not to have lives in my game anymore, based in part on this feedback. i also removed the reference to the type of video game, as it's outside of the scope of my question. i will accept the answer below, as it has some great examples. thank you! \$\endgroup\$
    – kanamekun
    Commented May 15, 2023 at 23:35

2 Answers 2

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A lot of 3D platformers comes in mind that handle this system, where they hide the health bar at full health, when you've taken damage, the health bar stays on screen until you've restored it again.

For example: Donkey Kong 64 did they had a life system shown as Melons, but if the melons are at full health they'll disappear, and only appear on the pause menu, this also happens at the Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy.

An argument why it's often in 3D platformers is because you want to use that space to look around for secrets or collectables, having a large healthbar would obstruct that vision often.

Those healthbars are also pretty static and don't change often, so you already know how much life you have even when it's not visible on screen. Though if the number does (temporarely) change, then it's better to keep that change visible on screen, like the mushroom in Super Mario Galaxy that doubles your health.

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I can't think of a game that totally hides the UI but I'm sure it's been done. There are a few that make it subtle but still useful. The Long Dark is a highly immersive game. The UI is unobtrusive enough to forget about. Health information flashes up in a warning message when there is a concern or damage so that you remember to take care of yourself. If you want more details you press a button and bring up a big UI.

There are also games that give the user a choice about what to show. For example Wurm Online allows users to choose which of dozens of UI elements to show. The Health bar has a bunch of stats on it but many can be individually shown or hidden. It's nice to have that level of control of the information.

Some games try to make the health bar more artistic in an attempt to make it blend in better or be more attractive, but I think sometimes that makes it harder to read which then forces the player to pay closer attention to it, which defeats the purpose.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Donkey Kong Country is the first game that comes in mind where they'll hide all the UI completely, only briefly showing up when picking up a collectable. (There was no healthbar, as the 2 Kongs could only take 1 hit.) Even the game's manual made a funny remark that the UI is "outside of the screen, where they belong". \$\endgroup\$
    – Steven
    Commented May 19, 2023 at 6:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I haven't played that one, but I have to think there must be several. I most games there is some game info is really necessary to show necessary and yet seems so in the way and out of place, it's hard not to want to do something different. I'm glad you knew a specific example. \$\endgroup\$
    – cyberchis
    Commented May 19, 2023 at 20:58

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