How can a game be unwinnable? Well, the game becomes impossible to finish if you forget a vital item and can't get it back or any other circumstance that makes the game impossible to complete. For example, you go through a cave. Once you leave the cave collapses, making it impossible to go back into it. Later on you find a house that needs a key - that key was in the cave which collapsed. Now that game becomes unwinnable and you'll either have to restart the entire game anew or resume from a previous save point hopefully before the horrible events that led to unwinnablility happened. Either way, unless you have a walkthrough or a detailed guide, you may very well make the game unwinnable...

This amazing game can be unwinnable if two players are playing. On Level 11, it is impossible to complete when playing with two players simultaneously — there's a bug in Level 11 where Player 2's Clinger Winger never gets up to speed, so the Hypno Orb runs you over every time. You go back to the start of the level and repeat until you run out of lives. This game is hard enough as it is with just two players and then this bug gets ya! Very frustrating...

The DOS version of this game is unwinnable - not due to the player's fault but to a poorly designed Level 3. There is a jump in the sewers of Area 3 that is impossible to negotiate due to a low ceiling. Unless, that is, you use a cheat code to walk through walls or skip levels.

This game had you collecting six pieces in every level right? However, there was a bug in the programming that made the mission literally impossible - you could not collect one of the pieces. Only the Atari 7800 version of this game contains the bug, and specifically the NTSC version. All other versions of the game, including the original Commodore 64 version, and the PAL version of the Atari 7800 port (where the bug was fixed) do not contain the bug, and are therefore winnable.

In San Andreas, using too many cheats reportedly can make a certain mission unwinnable towards the end of the game, forcing players to restart. This occurs when you're tasked with catching a jumping, suicidal NPC in the bed of your truck. With the glitch in place, he automatically falls off and dies before it's possible to reach him. It is unknown if these are genuine glitches or measures taken by the developers to intentionally discourage cheating. Most evidence points towards using cheats which change the pedestrian's behaviour such as chaos and pedestrians attack. Sneaky!

In Little Big Adventure you are required to break into the museum, and you are supposed to do this by using the Red Key Card on the back door in order to get to the sewers, evacuate the museum by turning on the alarm there, then come back and get the treasure from the museum. Technically, if you are skilled enough, you can skip all of this and just go through the front door, avoiding the guards, get the items and escape before getting arrested. The problem is, if you do this before getting the Card, you will no longer be able to obtain it, and since it is used to open a few more doors later on, you can't complete the game without it. Oh what a kerfuffle! >:(

There are many Zork games which are unwinnable but this Zork game takes the cake. You can make the game unwinnable whenever you kill someone, but it can easily fail. Killing causes a masked vigilante to steal all the player's items, with the intention of rendering the game unwinnable. It is worth noting, however, that dropping all of one's items prior to killing circumvents this effect; the items will still be there after the vigilante comes and goes. Burning many items with the matches will usually result in an unsolvable game. This example drove many unknowning players insane: The plant appears in the first screen of the game, and since it's possible to snatch it with your hands and take it with you, that's probably what the player will do. Only much later in the game will the player discover that they needed to dig the plant up and keep it alive so it's possible to win the game. This example in particular feels like a deliberate trick on the designers' part. It is in fact possible to obtain a new one, although the secret is well-hidden! *shush!*

The original Space Quest, at one point, someone offers to give you money as a trade for your hovercraft, which you will need. If you refuse, the would-be buyer will come back and offer to throw in a jetpack as well. If you take his original offer (jetpack-less) offer, a few hours of play later you will find yourself in a situation where you need a jetpack, have no way to get one (or do much of anything besides float in space). Let's hope you have an earlier save!

While exploring the final area (Vohaul's asteroid base) the player can encounter an Alien ripoff resembling a xenomorph from the Alien films. If the creature manages to catch Roger Wilco, it will menace him right before romantically kissing Roger on the mouth, safely leaving him be afterwards. Despite the seemingly false alarm, the encounter is in fact deadly. Once you're nearing the end of the game and after having saved over anything before the kissing incident, a baby alien bursts from your character's chest, killing him. Nasty!

Out of all of the King's Quest games, this one is the grandaddy of all dead-end situations. You are given a pie at one point in the game. If you eat the pie or feed it to a starving vulture, you can't win the game. The pie itself was even worse. If you ate it for any reason, you are monster chow later. Early in the game a rat may be eaten by the cat simply by walking past the bakery. Through no action of your own the rat may die and the game will become unwinnable because the rat must be alive later in the game to progress. Even more confounding is the fact that in order to save the rat, you must have found a boot in the desert, which you are unlikely to find unless you are deliberately searching for it. And most of the game passes between failing to save that rat and actually coming to grief for it. Evil!

A game from Infocom, notorious for their many games that can be unwinnable. This game deserves a mention for being unwinnable in many places that the player isn't aware of until they are struck by it. At the end of the game, Marvin will ask you for a specific tool to repair the ship with. The tool required is randomly selected from a pool of eight or ten, and if you don't have one of them, the game will choose that one. So, if you left the toothbrush in your bedroom at the beginning of the game, you'll be forced to start over completely. And if you miss your appointment with Marvin by failing to work out how to get into the niche in exactly twelve turns? Also stuck. Early on in the game, the player character is presented with the opportunity to pick up a massive pile of junk mail while in his house. Later on in the game, the player must use the junk mail in the notorious "Babel Fish Dispenser" puzzle, and the need for the junk mail arises only after testing it several times. The junk mail is, at that point, inaccessible, as it has been destroyed along with the rest of the planet Earth. Also destroyed are the screwdriver and toothbrush from the very first scene, which are necessary to finish the final puzzle at the very end of the game. Most infamous of all is the cheese sandwich puzzle, in which failing to do something apparently pointless early in the game while you're rushing urgently on a timer will cause the game to be Un Winnable much, much later. You actually got a second chance at that puzzle (you relive that portion of the game as Ford and can have him do it), but there's no clue to do it then either. You don't mess around with this game! If you mess up it can make your save file useless, so unless you've got a walkthrough you may easily make a devastating fatal mistake!!

Many games, from the early pixilated blocks of Atari games, to the text-based games even till today with the great graphics, you can make a game impossible to finish if you do something wrong or forget something important. Some games, especially those from Sierra Entertainment and Infocom, are examples of being games with many dead-end situations. So, to warn all players out there, tread lightly! Think carefully! Make many saved games in case something bad goes wrong. And above all: BE CAREFUL! You may come to regret it...


List by tonyhawkdaman (12/08/2008)

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