->''"Ethel, I think we’re fighting a losing game!"''
-->-- '''Lucy''', ''Series/ILoveLucy''

'Unwinnable' is a gameplay state in which, while the game has not yet ended, it is completely impossible for the player to finish the game. Players who have reached this point have only two options: reload a previous save--in the fortunate situations where this is possible, or start the game anew--for the much more unfortunate situations where it is not. This is also known as a "walking dead" state. In {{Speedrunning}} circles, this is known as a softlock.

Unwinnable comes in four flavors:
* UnwinnableByDesign, where [[{{Jerkass}} malicious]] programmers [[KaizoTrap deliberately create traps]] for people to stumble into. This type has been known to prompt a BigNo from frustrated gamers.
* UnwinnableByInsanity, where the player looks at a few perfectly harmless game elements and says "Hey, if I did this mindnumbingly stupid thing, I'd break the game! Cool!" It's more of a novelty than anything.
* UnwinnableJokeGame, where the game is intentionally impossible from the beginning, generally played as a joke on the player.
* UnwinnableByMistake, where bad design oversights or [[GameBreakingBug bug-filled programming]] stop the player from progressing, prevent the player from accessing needed equipment, or otherwise make the game impossible to beat.

'''Examples go on the subtropes above.'''

Compare [[LuckBasedMission Luck-Based Mission]], FissionMailed and ControllableHelplessness, as well as EndlessGame. See also [[WakeUpCallBoss Wake-Up Call Boss]].