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File:Mario with 3 lives.png


Video Game Lives are basically how many tries a player has before a Game Over. They aren't as common these days, but were prevalent in the days of Nintendo Hard games, and is Older Than the NES.

Ways to lose a life can vary:

This actually started out with Pinball games, where you had a limited number of plays until you had to put in more money. This continued in arcade games. When games were released in home consoles, the need of lives was largely removed (with an exception of games where the goal is to get the highest score and not beat the game), but was initially kept in as The Artifact and the punishment of running out of lives was changed from entering a new coin to starting the game over. Eventually a continue system had also gone more widespread so the players didn't have to start from the beginning of the game when the lives ran out. In time, the importance of lives diminished which could be first seen clearly in PC first-person shooters which started to utilize save and load system. In 2000s, many flash games removed the lives system altogether so they could add the difficulty in their games without being really frustrating. In the late 2000s, this spread to commercially released games too. Despite this, many modern games still use the lives system.

One Up and Infinite One Ups are how you gain extra lives. Meaningless Lives is when the lives are almost inconsequential to completion.

Video Game Lives sometimes have Gameplay and Story Segregation in terms of Plotline Death.

Classic Cheat Codes and cheat devices are often a way to gain extra, or infinite, lives.

Modern video games generally do not have lives counters, instead opting for a "one-and-done" health bar system that can be increased RPG-style, or infinite retries, with different ways to gauge difficulty.

Not to be confused with Video Games Live, concerts in which classical musicians play video game music as directed by Tommy Tallarico.


This is a widespread trope. So examples had best be more than just any game with lives.

  • Zelda II the Adventure of Link is the only game in its series to use lives. (Though in a way, bottled fairies in later games could be considered extra lives, since in most games you will automatically use up a bottled fairy when you die.)
  • Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door has a few sections where Bowser plays through a fascimile of the original Super Mario Bros.. Before each attempt, a screen like the one above is shown, only replacing Mario with Bowser, and the three with an infinity symbol.
  • The first Spyro the Dragon games used lives, but the later entries after Insomniac left the series, and Insomniac's own Ratchet and Clank, dropped lives in favor of just having you restart at checkpoints when you die.
  • Warning Forever gives you a choice between different kinds of lives. You can either have standard lives, or a timer which loses large chunks of time if you get killed.
  • The Crash Bandicoot games used lives. Most games in the series tend to hand them out at hilariously generous rates, however, so you might aswell have an infinite amount. But as the manual for one game says, "we give you all those lives for a reason".
  • Gradius III uses lives in the normal manner, but they can be prematurely consumed to increase one's firepower. The weapon selector lets the player equip a special item. When they use it, they lose four lives, but receive four Attack Drones in return.
  • Yoshis Story has a special variation. Instead of lives, the player has 8 different Yoshis to play as (which differ in color and favorite fruit). There are two ways of increasing the count: finding two secret Yoshis and finding white Shy Guys, which can rescue a lost Yoshi.
  • Lampshaded in Super Meat Boy, where the Hell level is littered with the many, many Meat Boys that have perished brutally in your control.
    • This is a more recent example of a mechanic introduced with the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game on NES. In that game you had the four different ninja turtles; rather than providing an arbitrary number of lives, a turtle would be captured when his health bar was exhausted, and the player would have to face an additional challenge to rescue him.
      • To expound on what this means: each turtle has a different normal weapon. Donatello's bo staff is the most powerful and has the longest range, but has difficulty hitting enemies above its normal path. Leonardo's katana has a fairly good range and can hit the aforementioned enemies more easily. Raphael's sai, by contrast, can only hit things pretty much right in front of his hand, right in front of his face, and right in front of his legs. Lose Don and Leo, and you're out the best two in the game until you rescue them.
  • One of the few merciful concessions made by I Wanna Be the Guy is averting this. It's nightmarish with infinite lives, imagine it with limited lives.
    • It does have impossible difficulty...
      • To clarify: Impossible difficulty has no save points. NONE! [1]
    • Another Platform Hell game, Syobon Action, has a lives counter that starts at three ala Super Mario Bros., but instead of giving the player a Game Over when it hits zero, it just keeps dropping into negative numbers.
  • Contra on the NES give you 3 lives, unless you enter the Konami Code and gain 30.
  • Space Invaders, but it's instant Game Over if those aliens reach the bottom.
  • Galaga plays with the underlying concept of lives. Each life represents a ship in your fleet. If your ship is captured by a Tractor Beam, the enemy takes control of your ship and you move on to your next ship (life). If you destroy the controlling enemy, you can retrieve the ship and regain it. But instead of increasing your lives by one, it instead lets you control both of them at the same time, doubling your firepower.
  • Dance Dance Revolution's Challenge/Oni mode is a rare Rhythm Game example: you start with four lives, and every time you get a Good, Boo[2], Miss[3], or NG, you lose one life, and losing all of your lives will, of course, trigger a Game Over. (And unlike other modes, in which you can keep playing if the other player is still alive, the game stops completely on your side if you die, showing "Game Over" on your side of the screen.) If you're lucky, the song you're on may give you a life back once completed. The Extra Stage system in Dance Dance Revolution SuperNOVA onwards, also uses lives, and One More Extra Stages give you a mere one life.
    • Rock Band is another rare rhythm example; if you fail in a band, someone else can bring you back, but if you fail three times, you're done for good (and so is your band unless the song is ending).
  • The Every Extend series makes a single life trivial: you start with a large stock of lives (usually 12), and your only attack consists of you exploding your current life to destroy other enemies. Because of this, the games offer generous amounts of extends.
  • Satan's Hollow used extra lives in the classic sense, showing them as replacement ships in the corner of the screen. Enemies will try to grab and fly away with them.
  • In Armed Police Batrider, you decide on a team of 3 different characters, each character representing one life. When your current character is destroyed, you take control of the next character.
  • The Tetris clone DTET has lives, unusually for a Falling Blocks game. In most modes, you start with multiple lives, and every time you top out you will, instead of getting a Game Over, use up a life and the playing field will be emptied out.
    • Meteos features this as well, though you have to manually set having more than one Annihaliation.
  • The Futurama video game actually explains the presence of lives; the Professor builds a "reanimator" that resurrects you when you die.
    • One of the show's "Anthology of Interest" episodes featured them in a world that was more like video games. During an invasion, Fry get's killed but comes right back because he still had an extra life. Unfortunately, General Pac-Man was not so lucky
  • Illusion of Gaia also explained the presence of revival after death - the main character is psychic, and the former run is presumed to be a dream giving him a glimpse into the future.
  • Parodied rather savagely in the Deconstruction Game You Only Live Once. As the name suggests, it's a platform game where you only have one life. If you try to "continue" when the nerdy protagonist dies, the game just shows his kidnapped girlfriend calling an ambulance, then the paramedics declaring him a lost cause, his death getting reported on the evening news, the Big Bad being arrested for manslaughter because of the death-trap-laden castle, and finally a memorial built on the stage where he died. And on top of all that, you can never play the game again, unless you find and delete the appropriate file.
  • The original Fable uses a variant. If the Hero dies, the player is forced to reload. However, the Hero can find and buy "Resurrection Phials." If the Hero dies while carrying Resurrection Phials, he'll lose one Phial and have his health partially restored. He can carry up to nine. Later games in the series eschew this system entirely.
  • Early games in the Silent Scope series used both lives and time - if you get shot, stabbed, orshoot a hostage, you'd lose one of multiple lives (and gain some back by viewing bikini-clad women in the scope), but the game instantly ends when time runs out. Later games meld time and lives into a life-meter which constantly ticks down - get shot and you'll lose time.
  • The Police911 series gives you one hundred more extra lives above your starting three if you reach the top rank of Comissioner - but since the process of losing a life and restarting takes about 15 seconds of your rarely more than 2 minute timer (the game ends instantly if the timer runs out) this is solely a Bragging Rights Reward.
    • And if you die on your way to Comissioner rank, you lose every promotion and have to start over.
  • Golden Eye 1997's "You Only Live Twice" multiplayer mode is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: you get two lives. Lose them both and you're out.
  • Total Overdose had up to 9 'Rewinds', which would back the action up to 5 seconds before death, giving the player opportunity to other choices, if possible. Running out of Rewinds resulted in Final Death, but one could always use a Rewind to exit the mission and return to Sandbox mode, cutting their losses.
  • Scott Pilgrim naturally plays with this.
  • Purple is a modern example of this, coming alongside with Scoring Points.
  • In Friday the 13 th, each character has but one life. Lose one, you switch to another character. Lose them all, and you get to see the infamous "You and your friends are dead" Game Over screen.
  • In Impossible Mission, getting killed knocks off a certain amount of time. If you run out, the world goes kaboom. Game Over.
  • Battle City series: You start with 3 lives, but you'll get instant game over if the enemies manage to destroy the base.
  • Star Fox Adventures has an item called the Bafomdad, which works like an optional extra life: die with at least one in your inventory, and it'll ask you if you want to use one; if you do, you come back to life right where you stood. There's only one to collect in Krystal's part of the game, and it doesn't carry over to Fox's part. Fox himself can only carry one until he gets a Bafomdad Holder, which lets him carry ten. The game has many more, but if you have ten already, you can't pick them up; they stay there until you try with nine or fewer.
  • Averted in the TV series Knightmare, but referenced in the earlier seasons, at least: after explaining how the life force meter works, Treguard would give the team a warning along the lines of "this is no game for a player with numerous lives, and when this one is done, your adventure is over."
    • The French and Spanish versions had no life force meter, but had a 4-player team that could play as long as there were one knight and one advisor left (which means three lives).
  • Aliens Infestation plays with this by giving each Marine have their own face, name, and dialogue. Anyone Can Die, but you can rescue Marines knocked unconcious by aliens be finding the hives where they were taken. (The first time, that is. The second time they're mortally wounded...well...) As well, you'll often come across other Marines in hidden locations that you can recruit into your fireteam (though they'll only accept if you're a man down or two.)
  • RayStorm has a Justified Trope version of this: your extra lives come in the form of the other R-Gray craft in your squadron. When one is destroyed, the next one takes its place.
  • Aladdin Virgin Games and The Lion King treated extra lives differently from continues (known as "wishes" in the former game).
  • Conkers Bad Fur Day actually goes out of it's way to give a full explanation on how the protagonist, Conker, manages to get away with dying only to come back to life. The in game explanation (obviously used too parody this trope) is shown in the form of a cutscene that plays the first time you die, and explains that "Greg the Grim Reaper", who controls death, must give squirrels multiple chances at their lives. They even give an explanation for 1-UPS, stating that they act as "tokens" that Greg trades for extra chances.
  • The Last Story is an usual example of an RPG using lives. Party members start each battle with five lives, when their HP hits zero, they lose a life and stay down for a few moments before getting back up with full HP. If a character loses all five lives, they're out for the duration of the encounter (or in the case of the protagonist, Game Over). This seems shockingly generous until you realize characters are rather fragile in this game and a single tactical cock-up will see your entire party losing a life each in short order.

Notes

  1. Except one that can be used through a glitch
  2. Almost in US versions
  3. Boo in US versions
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