High Score Lists

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High Score lists give players the chance to rank how well the current game sessions compared to previous game sessions.


The first arcade game to have High Score Lists was Asteroids. The player who achieves a high enough score compared to the other players of the same machine is allowed to enter his initials to be displayed in the High Score List.

Using the pattern

The use of High Score Lists is fairly standardized, with the main design choices being the number of Scores saved in the High Score List and how Handles are supported. Most High Score Lists make use of Handles so that the players can identify their own scores and know that other players can recognize them. Since High Score Lists typically are ordered, they need Tiebreakers or have to be explicitly designed to allow several players with Tied Results to be displayed as completely equal.

Although many High Score Lists use Scores there are other options. Gameplay Statistics (e.g. hit percentage) provide quantifiable values which can be used in place of Scores. Individual Achievements cannot be the basis of High Score Lists due to their boolean nature but collections of them can play the same role as Scores.

forced by Xbox Live & Steam

High Score Lists may be designed to remove old values after a certain time period. This can be motivated if large numbers of players use the same list, e.g. in games with global High Score Lists, since very few players will have a chance of making it into the list. Although this can seem to remove the reward for achieving the all-time best score in the game one can avoid this by having an all-time High Score List and a temporary one. For games with Buddy Lists one can also create filtered High Score Lists that only show the Scores of friends, and therefor make the ranks more personal. This is

Diegetic Aspects

High Score Lists are typically presented outside the gameplay and game world. This does not imply that they cannot be accessible during gameplay since they can be presented in a different section of the game interface or be accessible through Option Interfaces. There are however some example of how to place High Score Lists within the game world. The use of Ghosts in racing games such as Gran Turismo 3 can be seen as a form of High Score Lists that allows players to judge their progress against other performances, as well as their own individual performances, in previous game sessions while playing the game. Another example can be found in the Facebook version of the game Icy Tower, where the highest level a players' friends have reached is indicated by placing the friends Avatars on that level in the player's game.


High Score Lists create Meta Games out of the game by using Trans-Game Information which allows players to have Player Defined Goals such as to beating their own previous score or that of a friend. This is a simply way of encouraging Game Mastery. Doing so adds [[Replayability]9 to the game, as the players have the additional goal of simply performing slightly better than in the previous game sessions. High Score Lists also introduce Competition to otherwise Single-Player Games and are also a way for players to compare and display their Social Statuses.



Player Defined Goals, Meta Games, Replayability, Trans-Game Information, Social Statuses, Tied Results


Instantiated By

Modulated By

Tiebreakers, Single-Player Games

Potentially Conflicting With


An rewrite of the original pattern named High Score Lists in the book 'Patterns in Game Design' (Björk & Holopainen, 2004).


Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.

Icy Tower Facebook game