A heart container is commonly a heart-shaped item that adds an additional permanent unit to a video game character's life meter. Nintendo
's The Legend of Zelda
series is probably the most well-known example of games that include heart containers, and if Link
hopes to survive against tougher challenges he must acquires as many of these life-giving items as he can. Link
begins with three hearts in his life meter and can acquire up to 16-20 hearts in most games. Typically the containers are dropped by defeated bosses in each of the dungeon
s, plus a few others were scattered around the land. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
introduced the concept of "pieces of heart" to the series. By collecting four pieces of heart a full heart container could be constructed. This was a clever way of increasing the challenge of the game, as now Link
had to seek out four times as many items before being awarded with an additional life heart.
Capcom's Mega Man X series of games for the Super NES, PC CD-ROM, Sony Playstation, and Game Boy Color also include a heart container item. One container was hidden in each of the Maverick stages, and finding one would add a few more units of life to Mega Man X's life meter until the meter had become double its original size. In games where X's friend Zero is playable he is unable to pick up the containers, as his life meter is already maxed out when the game begins. The passwords in the first three Mega Man X games save the number of heart containers earned, and therefore it's possible to cheat and change passwords to award oneself all of the containers without having found them. Of course, this is only possible if one knows how the passwords are generated. Luckily there are a number of password generators available on the Internet. Possessing all of the heart containers (along with all other items in the game) is a common requirement in earning the secret bonus weapon found near the end of the game, such as the Fireball, the Dragon Punch, or the Golden Armor.
A number of other games, such as Konami's Castlevania series, use heart-shaped items to represent life and/or various other energy-related power-ups. It would seem that the use of a heart has come to universally represent life/energy power in video gaming.