Sometimes it takes diligent effort to reach rock bottom.
"No matter how low your expectations of the users are, they will always find new ways to disappoint you."
— Developer proverb
There's Unwinnable by Design
, where a game is intentionally unwinnable if you do a certain thing. And there's Unwinnable by Mistake
, where a glitch prevents you from winning.
And then there's this
This situation is for when you can render your game Unwinnable by doing something utterly dumb, or something no sane player would attempt in any conceivable gameplay.
This trope overlaps both with Unwinnable by Mistake
and Unwinnable by Design
. Usually it is testers' job to think of the craziest possible decisions a player might make, and make sure the game still works properly. On the other hand, designers may decide they simply cannot prevent unwinnable situations from occurring altogether, and leave them in the game, reasoning that the player deserves
such an outcome if they do something so obviously suicidal.
Other times, it's a reasonable oversight. When the fruits of a few dozen programmers gets into the hands of thousands or even millions of players, odds are at least a few of them are going to be far more creatively insane than anyone could realistically account for. But compare The Dev Team Thinks of Everything
for examples of where they actually do
In many genres it's nearly impossible to avoid it. For example, in a shooter the player can fire away all the ammunition, enter a fight with a health bar at nearly zero, and save. In a strategy game, one can stay still, not gathering or building anything, and when the enemy attacks with overwhelming force, save. And in almost any game that allows you to save at any time, you can save just before (and sometimes just after
) a death, when it's too late to do anything about it. The latter case can occasionally overlap with Unwinnable by Mistake
in a game with quicksaves, if you hit quicksave when you meant to hit quickload and have no other saves; autosaves can lead to a similar situation, although you usually need to be playing the game in a slightly-insane manner for it to happen.
- The Minus World in Super Mario Bros., reachable by performing a glitch in World 1-2. The reason is because the player always goes back to the start whenever the alleged exit is reached. Since time doesn't restart, the player is stuck in the level until time expires.
- Who with any sense would go to an island with only a Finneon capable of getting them off again, and trade that Finneon for a Magikarp which can't?note
- It is possible to strand a player on Cinnabar Island by defeating all the trainers at Blaine's Gym and the Cinnabar Mansion, picking up all the hidden items around the island, healing at the Pokémon Center (ensuring this is where the player will respawn if their party is knocked out), releasing all Pokémon that know or are capable of learning Fly and/or Surf, throwing away all items from the player's bag that can be discarded, and draining their bank account by buying items at the store and throwing them away. This ensures that the player cannot catch any new Pokémon (because they lack any Poké Balls or funds to buy them) and cannot escape the island (as Surf and Fly are the only ways to leave).
- In the Japanese Pokemon Red and Green, if you evolve your starting Pokémon before you get the Pokédex (raising it from level 5 to 16 against Pokémon about levels 2 through 4 before you get to the second town and back) then you can never get the Pokédex, which means you can't get Poké Balls, which means that old man won't let you past the second town, Viridian City. This was corrected in Pokémon Blue, as well as all international releases. (And remakes, of course.)
- Thanks to a glitch involving the Safari Zone, saving, ledges, and poison, one can gain the ability to walk through walls. However, this ability is lost upon reloading the game, so if one saves and reloads inside a wall, they'll be stuck. Similarly, one can use the glitch to reach the Seafoam Islands without any Pokémon that know Surf or Fly. However, the glitch is so elaborate that one would need instructions to pull it off.
- Also, if in Gen I you manage to defeat all possible trainers and then spend/lose all your money before entering Saffron City, it is impossible to buy a drink so the guard lets you pass. The only way to correct this is by catching/trading a Pokemon with Pay Daynote or selling an item worth enough money for the drink. This was eliminated in the Gen III remakes by making the guards ask for tea, a key item obtained from a little old lady, instead of a drink you bought with your own money.note
- The same process could make the game unwinnable by making it so you can't enter the Safari Zone (which requires an entrance fee) to get the HM in it, except by the solutions given already. The Generation III games also avert this with the Vs. Seeker, which you can get earlier. It allows you to re-battle trainers and thus get more prize money. Of course, you could simply do it again...
- In addition, Gen I has the famous Glitch City, which - if the player follows a particular sequence of actions involving the Safari Zone - will put you in a "town" made of a random jumble of tiles pulled from the town you last visited. Walk too far North, South, or East and the game crashes. Walk too far West and... you lose the ability to go back and then the game crashes. The only way out is to Fly to another city or Teleport/Dig yourself back to the last Pokemon Center you visited. So if you save in Glitch City without a Pokemon who knows one of those moves, you're screwed.
- Also qualifying in Gen I are the glitch Pokemon such as Missingno. and 'M. Granted, you usually have to go out of your way to encounter them, especially in Yellow, but it seems the harder you have to look the more damage they do. While Missingno. rarely does anything worse than mess with your Hall of Fame, other glitched Pokemon and trainers can screw up your party, destroy your savegame, and in some case render the entire cartridge unusable. Demons in all their glitchy glory here.
- Diablo has strong roguelike influences and can screw you over in numerous other ways.
- Black Death in particular takes away 1 hit point permanently on striking (with no indication that this is the case) and can render the game unwinnable if you are playing very badly and get hit hundreds of times, leaving you with a tiny amount of health.
- When you die, the save function is disabled, but not immediately. Yes, saving at this point makes the current game unwinnable. It requires timing by the milliseconds, though. A frame too late and the game disables the save function. The easiest way is probably to get a +HP item and then get yourself down to health lower than said item provides you. When you remove the item, you die. If you click and press ESC almost exactly at the same moment, you get to save without having that item on you. No, there is no time to put it back on.
- It's possible to make the game unwinnable by abusing the Chamber of Bone entrance in a hilariously stupid way. You need to teleport there before you use the book to open it (either with a scroll of teleport or using a scroll of town portal then going there from town) and leave yourself stuck in a sealed room. Yes, you need to be completely stupid to do this unless you're doing it intentionally for the lulz.
- Play through Dragon Age: Origins without ever taking a level or making a hard save. Get into a fight with an autosave at the start that you can't win at your low level. It's also possible to make the two candidates of the Orzamar throne distrust you, forcing a hard restart.
- Although extremely difficult, it is technically possible to make Monster Rancher 2 Unwinnable. You get a Game Over if, at the start of the month, you have less than 100 G and are unable to feed your monster. The only way to get this situation is if you saved after the last tournament of the month your monster could possibly enter, you have no items to sell, your monster is too young to sell, all of your monsters in storage are too young to sell, and your monster never brings you any item you could possibly sell for money out of the blue. Whew!
- In Ragnarok Online, certain maps have mesas or other landforms or rooms that can only be accessed by teleporting to a random cell on the map. A player who doesn't have the teleport skill can use a flywing item to teleport until they arrive at one of these places, and if they run out of teleporting items on that exact teleport and don't know the skill, they are stuck because these places usually don't spawn monsters and if you are at a high level it's unlikely a monster would be able to kill you anyways even if you took off all your armor and buffs and stood there letting it try to hit you for an hour. There are ways to fix this involving the help of another person (like contacting a GM to help you, or another player to teleport until they get there too and hand over some flywings or Butterfly Wings, get close enough to trade, kill you themselves, or warp you), but on your own, there is no way to get out of the situation, to the point that Jerkass players with the Warp Portal skill would make save points at these places and place warps under random people's feet, teleporting them there without warning and, if they happen to not have teleporting items handy, without any convenient way to leave.
- Metroid: Fusion has the TRO Trap, which looks like a very tricky Sequence Break that lets Samus fight Nettori before defeating Yakuza. It fails because the game breaks when bosses are defeated out of the scripted order.
- It's possible to find a 2-blocks deep hole in the (indestructible) Bedrock, and jump in with nothing in your inventory. Be sure that the area around you is also lit up and sealed off so that it will be impossible for any mobs to enter into the hole and kill you/aid in your escape. Rage Quit. After Beta 1.8 added a hunger meter, it became possible to starve to deathnote , taking this out of Unwinnable territory... but 1.0 added Hardcore mode, which puts it right back in.
- You can also make a pool of lava in your respawn point.
- It is possible to make the first two Monkey Island games unwinnable if you try very hard.
- In The Secret Of Monkey Island, spend all your coins, one by one, in the soda machine, until you don't have enough to pay for the sword, the shovel and the map. You can also use them up by giving them to Otis in prison.
- In Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, you need 6000 pieces of eight to buy a map piece from an antiques dealer. The intended path involves recovering the masthead from a shipwreck, which requires devising a way to strengthen your spit to win a spitting contest to raise money to hire a ship. However, you can get 1 piece of eight at a time for polishing one of the Men of Low Moral Fiber's peg leg; this cuts off before you get to 6000, but if you've bought something else from the antiques dealer, you can sell it back to him to get enough. Later, when Guybrush is captured by LeChuck, he needs to strengthen his spit to escape; if you skipped that path and didn't know about the drinks, you're stuck. The CD-ROM and remakes of the game cap the amount of times you can polish his leg at 19 pieces of eight, however.
- In Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl, if you do an endless-time match with pause turned "off" (i.e. activate the setting that disallows pausing during a match), you can't escape the match unless you turn the game off. This isn't as serious as other Unwinnable cases, and in fact could occasionally be by Unwinnable by Mistake (e.g. your friend keeps pausing the game to take Snapshots, so you end your match and turn pause "off." Then, forgetting that Pause is off, you later start an endless match to rack up your Playing Time. Unable to pause and reset your match, you made it unwinnable). But most of the time, you have to be trying.
- In Laura Bow 2, it is possible (although unlikely if you're one of those Sierra players who live under the mantra "take everything that isn't nailed to the ground, and even if it is, solve the puzzle to trigger the anti-nailing event to nab it") to make it impossible to get the good or semi-good endings if you've failed to get most or all of the evidence in the game. If you don't pick up at least the evidence littered by the dead bodies, it doesn't matter if you can successfully identify the murderer to the correct victim and motive, or that you've successfully identified who had what dirty little secret—without proof they can't do anything with the murderer, the Dagger will go missing again, and the killer will still kill Laura.
- Although a bit difficult (and unlikely, considering the game's emphasis in examining everything), you can find both halves of the Rosetta Stones in the museum, but not actually examine them, preventing you from writing down hieroglyph letters written on the stones to add into your journal. The problem comes when you eventually meet The Ra cultists in your chase, and you have to spell out the answers to their riddles using hieroglyphs (which Laura can't do if you didn't write them down, even if you know the answers).
- In the DS game Lux-Pain, the game can become Unwinnable during Chapter 7. If you take too long finding Yayoi Kamishiro when she is obviously suicidal, then you will be told that Liu Yee is going after her and get an automatic game over. Your time is basically measured by Nami's phone conversations with you. If you save your game after she's talked with you three times, then the game is Unwinnable. Luckily, the game warns you and tells you to make a new save before all this occurs; you should be fine as long as you follow the game's advice.
- NetHack has uncountable ways to kill you, but very few ways to become unwinnable, most of which are variations of "tick off your quest leader before you get the Bell of Opening". It's not a bug — if you look in the game's source, you can see the developers included code to handle just that vanishingly unlikely situation.
- The airship Highwind is required to continue parts of the story in late Disc 2 and Disc 3 of Final Fantasy VII. Thanks to the ability to bring Chocobos on board, it's possible to permanently lose access to the airship by parking it in an isolated area, riding your on-board Chocobo over mountains, rivers, and oceans back to the ranch, and releasing it (along with any other Chocobos you may have). In doing so, you have just lost on-foot access to the Highwind - which, as stated, is necessary to advance through the game. You no longer have any special Chocobos which might be able to bring you to the Highwind. Furthermore, it's impossible to breed any new special Chocobos because doing so requires "good" and "great" Chocobos, which are not found on the first continent. Your only way to access the second continent at this point is the Highwind...note which you just lost all access to. For extra kicks, park it somewhere just nearby, like at one of the islands near Fort Condor, so you'll be able to see it and know that it's forever out of your reach.
- If you already have Cloud back in your party after getting the Highwind, you'll need to access the sub and park it in Costa Del Sol first.
- One can make an unwinnable save-state in The Last Remnant, but only by deliberately doing so. Going to an area with incredibly high level monsters (compared to the current party), making them aggressive towards Rush, having them chase Rush into a corner and then saving will make the game essentially unwinnable, since upon loading there will be no way to avoid the encounter, and subsequent defeat.
- In Duke Nukem 3D, you could actually save while dead. However, the game protected you from ill-timed quick saves, stating helpfully "you cannot "quick save" when dead!"
- In SaGa 2, utilizing the "trashcan bug" can result in this if you overuse it. Using the trashcan at specific MAGI counts will give it the effect of other items. Most are pretty ordinary, but if you have exactly 67 or 68 MAGI, you can get free permanent-stat raising potions (Power at 67, Speed at 68) if you do this. However, overusing this glitch will screw up your MAGI counter after a certain number of uses (depending on equipped MAGI) and leave you unable to progress with the game.
- In Fallout 3, the door to Vault 87 took a near direct hit from a nuke and is thus irradiated to all hell. To even get close enough to mark it on your map requires that the player be wearing some of the best anti-radiation gear in the game and munch anti-Radiation pills like popcorn the entire time (even then, you'll still die in at most one minute). The problem is, the game on default settings autosaves when you discover a new location... (The Insanity in this case is attempting any of this without hard-saving beforehand.)
- Another stupid way to make the game unwinnable is to access Vault 87 and the GECK before you're assigned the quest to do so, which results in you being locked out of the Citadel and Project Purity. You can also render the vault inaccessable altogether by doing a related sidequest too early.
- In Vault 92, you can glitch your way into the Overseer's tunnel, which leads to an otherwise inaccessible room in the Living Quarters; however, there is no way out of here other than using console commands on the PC to open the jammed door. The game also autosaves when you enter this room, so if you're not on a PC, you better have a manual save on hand.
- As shown in the picture, one level (World 2-2) of Super Mario Bros. 2 features two pits, one of which becomes a trap, but only if you're OCD enough to dig up all the dirt in it. And unlike most other games in the Super Mario Bros. series, there's no time limit to wait out...
- Super Mario Bros.:
- Several levels in worlds 6 and 7 of Super Mario Bros. 3 require ducking through a one-block-high hole to pass, something that can't be done if you're in the Frog suit. And in at least one of them, you can't even commit suicide by way of Bottomless Pit. Considering how difficult it is to maneuver on land with the Frog suit, why would you use it prior to entering a level with no water? If there are no enemies nearby to run in to, you can commit a slower form of suicide by waiting for the timer to run out, thus avoiding the need to reset the game.
- It's impossible to do without cheats, but Kuribo's Shoe can be used in any level. However, using it in a water level causes you to sink to the bottom instantly.
- In TaskMaker, you have to find an object requested by the title character to advance in the game. Should you choose to Bestow the task item to an NPC and then kill them, it will very likely not be on their person when they die. However, there are often far better objects that you can Bestow, and you don't really have to Bestow in the first place (it's mostly used to calm down angry monsters, but only up to a certain level).
- The Legend of Zelda:
- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening:
- The game can be be made unwinnable in Dungeon 5 by pulling off a tricky diagonal jump to get into a locked door. The door the (generic) key is meant for has a replacement key behind it—this door does not, making it impossible to complete the 5th dungeon, meaning dungeons 6, 7, and 8 never open. There is also a place in Dungeon 4 which is supposed to be crossed using the dungeon's item, but can be just barely cleared with a running jump. If you can pull this off and use your remaining keys in exactly the wrong order, it is possible to make the dungeon unwinnable. This glitch was resolved in the DX version, where the jump distance and "ledge physics" were changed to make it much, MUCH harder to make the jump. When standing half on a ground tile and half on a hole tile, Link would slip toward the hole but could fight against it, which was how this glitch worked. In the DX version, the further into the hole the Link was, the harder it became to fight.
- Another way to make the game unwinnable is to use the infamous warp glitch. Near the starting point of a new game is a shop whose front yard and entrance is completely walled off by bushes. Using the warp glitch, you can teleport yourself into that yard. If you haven't obtained the sword yet, you're now stuck, as you have no way to remove the bushes in your way - you can't even use the warp glitch to get out, as it requires you to reach the edge of the screen. If you enter the shop and then save, you're now permanently stuck, since your save point will be the shop entrance. At least having to start over at this point isn't a big deal, since it's at the very beginning of the game.
- In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, it's possible to use a series of glitches to get to the room where Agahnim awaits without first acquiring the Magic Mirror or Moon Pearl. This is important because defeating Agahnim puts the main character in the Dark World... where he turns into a rabbit that can't attack or defend himself, unless he has the Moon Pearl to prevent the transformation. The only option is to return to the Light World... which can only be done using the Magic Mirror.
- Zelda II The Adventure Of Link has the "fairy warp" glitch.
- Go to Darunia and jump from roof to roof until you reach the tallest building in town. Next, jump up off screen, use the Fairy spell, and push either left or right. You'll fall into a glitched-up town, and trying to leave it will deposit you in the middle of the ocean, unable to move.
- You'll also be up the creek without a paddle if you opt to use the Fairy spell in the middle of a boss fight. There is no reason to do this whatsoever.
- By using the aforementioned "fairy warp glitch" in a palace with falling blocks, it is possible to destroy the palace without completing it, but only if you have not already completed the first palace. (i.e., getting the candle, defeating Horsehead, and placing the crystal in the statue.) Make sure you reset without saving, unless you want to delete your character and start over. (See the "Legend of Zelda" section on the "Unwinnable by Mistake" page.)
- In earlier Resident Evil (up to Zero) games it is possible to make the game nearly unwinnable for yourself if you were to waste all of your ammo, ink ribbons, and healing items and then get yourself mauled by monsters until you are on Danger and only have the combat knife for a weapon. Not completely unwinnable, but for a human with normal reflexes, really close.
- It's also entirely possible to do this in 4 and 5 if you sell all of your weapons and do something with the cash like purchase nothing but First-Aid Spray, ammo or grenades.
- It's harder than it appears to make Resident Evil 4 Unwinnable - the player is only required to fire four shots through the entire game. Three to shoot spots on one collapsing ceiling (the fourth spot can be knifed) and one rocket to kill Salazar. Every other encounter in the game can be handled using some combination of the knife and grenades. Now, granted, to get said grenades you'll have to repeatedly farm enemies until they drop them... but you can still technically win!
- Speaking of Salazar, it is possible to kill merchants. Kill the merchant right before the Salazar fight ... goodbye Leon!
- Fire Emblem
- Throughout the series, one can break everyone's weapons, then spend all your money on non-weapon items. Congratulations, you can no longer damage your enemies!
- Fire Emblem: Awakening rectifies this by giving Chrom the Falchion to start with, which is unbreakable and unsellable, and if he dies it's Game Over anyway.
- A specific method occurs in Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War - if Cuan and Ethlin survive Trabant's ambush in Chapter 5 and if you let them conquer Phinora Castle, which is your next step at that point... Congratulations, now Phinora is an allied castle and you can't conquer it back, meaning that you're stuck in Yied Desert with no way to advance further in the game (since your progress is very linear, conquering a castle disables the Invisible Wall guarding the next one). Though you have to try really, really, REALLY hard to pull the whole thing off.
- In The Elder Scrolls, it's possible to quicksave right next to enemies about to kill you.
- In Morrowind, it's possible to kill key characters such as, Caius Cosades. The game helpfully warns you when you've made it unwinnable like this. Sometimes this could be Unwinnable by Mistake (for some characters, there's no indication that they're important), but for others, it's glaringly obvious that killing them will break the plot.
- In Oblivion, there's a cage in Fort Carmala that contains some rats. The handle to open the cage is right outside it, and you can very easily close the gate and rush in before it actually drops. Seeing as there's no way to open it from the inside, you're now stuck. In the event you're on a console version and you don't have a previous save to load from (you can autosave by waiting), then the entire character is worthless.
- The "Blood of the Divines" quest in Oblivion requires you to sacrifice a Daedric artifact. Fifteen exist in the game, and it is possible to obtain (and potentially lose) fourteen of them before starting this quest, but one of them (the Oghma Infinium) can't be obtained before "Blood of the Divines" is started. This means that players who have lost the first fourteen artifacts still can get hold of an artifact to sacrifice. However, there is nothing stopping an especially insane player from destroying the first fourteen artifacts, obtaining the Oghma Infinium (knowing, by this point, that it is needed for the sacrifice) and destroying it as well, rendering the main questline unwinnable.
- In Skyrim, it is also possible to quicksave while jumping off a mountain.
- Also in Skyrim, if you are fleeing dangerous foes with whom you're in combat, you may flee through a door that's an area boundary but be taking continuous damage from poison; the damage does not stop while you are transitioning areas, and your autosave on the other side may be of a dead character, leaving you endlessly reloading a dead character unless you interrupt the death animation by loading an earlier save.
- Robo Warrior. Using up all your life rings before you traverse a water area is a pretty stupid thing to do.
- In Tomb Raider III, it is possible to jump into the small water tunnel in the empty third water tank in Thames Wharf before you fill the tank. The jump is rather challenging and requires careful timing. Doing this will lead you to the edifice, but the edifice's exit will be too high for Lara to reach, thus preventing her from finishing the level. The empty tank has no ladder and is too deep to get out of. This can be corrected by reloading, but if you save after making the jump, Lara will be stuck in the edifice forever unless you restart the level.
- King's Bounty has an area which can only be reached by flight, and which contains only a single treasure spot. If said treasure spot contains non-flying creatures, and you were to recruit them and then ditch your flying creatures, and you didn't have any Town Gate or Castle Gate spells, you would be stuck there forever.
- In Lands of Lore 2, it is entirely possible to drop an absolutely vital item into a river and you'll never see it again. The third game makes this impossible.
- Early in Exit Fate, you can sell all your equipment and use all money you have now to buy consumables, then waste them, and you'll be permanently stuck in a town where you're required to rest at an inn, but don't have the money to do so.
- Many Role Playing Games try to avoid the "You need to rest at an inn to advance the plot but you don't have the money for it" problem by either making the stay at the inn free just for that time or having someone else pay for it.
- In "Toys N The Hood", the first real stage of Dynamite Headdy, you have 2 platforms out of reach. Your goal is to pull one of them close to you with your detachable head so you can hop onto it. If you purposely stand as far away as possible, pull the platform to you, and run away immediately after, when the platform comes to you, it'll be too far away for you to reach the ledge or the other platform. You can't kill yourself either. Here's a video demonstrating this.
- Portal and its sequel have certain rooms where you can trap yourself, making it impossible to continue. (In the Xbox Live port of the first Portal, there is even an achievement for trapping yourself so that GLaDOS had to help you escape.) That said, Valve found most of the possible ways to trap yourself, and added dialogue on your state as well as providing a way out (by lowering a wall or dispensing an extra cube, for example.) That said, they didn't find every possible trap, so some weird cube or portal manipulations may leave you permanently trapped. The room showcased in that second video also shows up in The Stanley Parable when following a certain path in the game, namely the Video Games path. You can get the cube stuck outside like in that video. Like GLaDOS, The Narrator never helps you, but unlike GLaDOS, you do get some humorous dialogue instead. There are many situations where you can trap yourself or make a puzzle unbeatable; the developers have figured out most of them and made GLaDOS deliver another cube or open the door if you manage to do so. There are, however, several ways to trap yourself that they haven't thought of, such as piling cameras under the weighted companion cube to support it while it's partway on the button, going through the door where the button to open the incinerator is, and then shoot a portal to make the camera fall through and the cube come off the button, so the door closes and you're trapped.
- An Untitled Story. If you miss the save point teleportation power the first time by avoiding the pit outside Skytown, then miss it a second time in Stonecastle by jumping over it on purpose, and finally going down the upper branch of Farfall, you can end up stuck in a pit with a save point, unable to escape because you don't have the power
- In Silent Hill: Downpour, you get the Forensic Flashlight in the Centennial Building. You can switch this out with a standard flashlight in the police station if you hadn't already grabbed it. Then, if you enter the orphanage, you are stuck with a large number of enemies that are invisible without the Forensic Flashlight's ultraviolet setting. Not technically unwinnable, but getting through is statistically impossible.
- Final Fantasy VI:
- The game has an Optional Party Member named Shadow, a wandering ninja you can hire temporarily. At one point in the game, if you try to take him back to your main base in Narshe, he leaves at the front gate, before you're properly inside. It's also possible to bring a one-person party with him when you hire him; this one person can be Gau, who — if you use him to fight in a special location called the Veldt — can leave temporarily. Therefore, if you use Gau to recruit Shadow, then lose Gau in the Veldt, then take Shadow to Narshe, you can end up with a zero-person party and unable to do anything. The insanity comes from the fact that you have to traverse most of the game world on foot, then run away from most battles (so Shadow doesn't decide he's earned his fee and leave) to pull this off.
- There is an obscure glitch that allows the player to end up with an airship at a stage of the game where this isn't supposed to be possible. Landing in the wrong spot can completely ruin the game's scripting. The glitch starts when you play almost half of the game without saving, then deliberately die, which certainly explains why playtesters never caught it.
- Final Fantasy X-2:
- Once you pass a certain point in the story, all of the enemies in the world will have been elevated to at least mid levels. If you avoid as much experience as possible throughout the game while also skipping all side events, it is possible to reach a state in which even basic enemies are undefeatable.
- While this is an uncommon scenario, it is not out of the question for a player to land in it accidentally, as the enemies' levels will suddenly skyrocket, and veterans of previous Final Fantasy titles are often accustomed to purposely avoiding experience since in some of those games it is easy or perhaps actually advantageous. Because of this possibility, it is partially Unwinnable by Mistake.
- In Tales of the Abyss, if you start the Mushroom Road sidequest before entering The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, Luke leaves the party to give place to Asch. You can then go all the way to the other end of Mushroom Road to get out to the world map (in a cliff where the Greater Flightstone is) and then use the world map glitch to get out of there without getting Luke back. This lets you play as Asch for as long as you want,note and Asch replaces Luke in every scene (except for one needed to get Tear's Infinity+1 Sword, which will not trigger). If you finish the game while using Asch, you will start the next cycle without Luke. Once you get to the tutorial battle, the game freezes because you don't have any character in your party. If you saved your clear data over your only file, you are now stuck inside Duke Fabre's Manor forever.
- The world map glitch by itself can be this. To use this glitch, you need to take the disc off the PS2 while being on the world map, which will make the scenario disappear, and allows you to walk over the water, mountains, etc. You can then put the disc back and wait for a while for the scenario to come back. However, if you are over a unwalkable path (over the water, for example) when you do this, you get stuck and cannot even use the world map glitch to leave, as you will be unable to move. It is possible to save the game whenever you want while being in the world map. If you save in this condition, you are stuck forever.
- In Half-Life, you can deliberately trap yourself in the rotating door in one chapter, by triggering the turning process and moving back, then entering the side part of the rotating door.
- Half-Life 2: It is possible to avoid picking up the crowbar at the begging of the game and abuse the physics system to proceed until the Route Kanal chapter where a wall of boards is unbreakable without the crowbar and the player is gated out of being able to go back and retrieve the tool.
- Mabinogi has the VIP inventory, in which is for VIP players. If you're feeling insane or dumb, you can deliberately put in a Key Item in the VIP inventory when you have less than a day left of VIP service and be locked out of using the Said Key Item. Such Key items can be replaced, but when it's a Unique Key item like the Avon Feather...
- Dark Souls: The Curse status ailment cuts your life bar in half every time you die from it, and it stacks up to 1/8 maximum health. If you were to get cursed repeatedly and not have any Purging Stones, you could easily get trapped. This could potentially qualify for Unwinnable by Mistake, but what Dark Souls player with any common sense would allow him/herself to be repeatedly Cursed?
- Fairly early into Xenogears, there is a level where Fei goes by himself into a cave piloting his gear. There is a service robot he encounters, which the game gives you the option to fight and kill. This robot also sells you gear parts, which you'll probably need to survive the wave of boss battles ahead. If you save your game after killing the robot, then the upcoming battles are nearly impossible without a gameshark. And no, you can't just grind to obscene levels, that's not how Xenogears works.
- In the Left 4 Dead series, survivor bots will attempt to go to you when you're incapacitated so you can be revived. Bots are also programmed to teleport near the player's location should the bot's path finding fail and get stuck. However, should the player go down in a place the bots cannot reach them, even if it's physically possible to get there, the bots will be confused and unable to reach the player, leaving them to bleed out. This can also happen if the player goes down in some place that you can physically reach out to help them up, but because the bot's path finding isn't programmed to go to that spot, you're boned.
- In Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, you can make Richter slide out of the castle before the gate closes... with no way back inside.
- Averted in Golden Sun, where the devs added amusing cutscenes if you did something like navigate Morgall Forest without the Force Gem (getting you stuck in Altin) or give Piers the Lash Pebble before he leaves the party (getting you stuck outside Lunpa's house). The cutscenes fix the respective problems, leaving you free to continue.
- In X3: Terran Conflict, firing the Unfocused Jumpdrive takes you to a randomly generated Unknown Sector. Firing it again takes you back to wherever you jumped from. Each firing costs a predetermined amount of Energy Cells; just in case you've used your very last to fire the unfocused jumpdrive, every Unknown Sector you spawn into has a crate of energy cells free for the taking. If you destroy that crate, however - which is almost impossible to do unintentionally - you're stuck there forever. Fortunately, the game being a mod-friendly PC exclusive means there's no situation that can't be gotten out of by cheating.
- It's possible to make Mass Effect 2 unwinnable by being extremely stubborn. You have a limited amount of fuel in order to navigate the Normandy between systems. If you run out of fuel, then traveling between systems drains your resources. And if you run out of resources... it's your fault you didn't go back and buy the cheap, readily-available fuel.
- In Ultima VII Part II, the crematorium in Monitor can destroy anything, including quest items and bodies loaded with quest items.
- In Doom E3M9 (Warrens), it is possible to lock yourself out of the first room by pressing the button to lower the first door in the level and then quickly running through the door before it closes. This will prevent you from beating the level.
- Insaniquarium has the Tank 6 Glitch, where one can access a sixth tank beyond the normal five. The trouble is, this tank is a Dead End Room; the only way to escape is to delete your game data and start completely anew. Let's hope you backed up your data before entering Tank 6, so you can restore it...
- In Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, it's very possible to lock yourself outside Treacherous Mansion by going to the Nautical Exhibit, putting an object on the switch when there are still ghosts in the area, then entering the door just as a ghost punches the object away. This leaves you stuck on a balcony with the only way out being to restart. Of course, you have to be really, really trying to pull this off. as shown here.
- In Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale, you could theoretically squander all your money (for example, by repeatedly buying a bunch of crap from the market then selling it back at a loss immediately) the day before a payment is due and then save your game without keeping a backup save in another slot. This doesn't actually render your save file useless though, since a Game Over simply gives you the bad ending, then sends you into a New Game+ minus all your money and any rewards you would've gotten for beating the game.
- While playing with emulators in general, nearly if not all games can be rendered Unwinnable by saving a game state in a situation that will always cause definitive Game Over (example: surrounded by enemies, with one hitpoint, no lives and no continues) with no saved battery files or backup states.
- The SNES Shadowrun game has an early subversion: If you sell all your weapons before being sent to the caryards, an NPC hands you a gun that is weaker than any other gun in the game, can't be acquired any other way, and only exists to keep the player from getting stuck in the arena with no weapon. After getting back out, you can still sell all your weapons and armor, hire bodyguards and then run around accomplishing nothing until there's no money left.
- In the online game Stick Ranger, it is possible to sell all your weapons and then blow all your money, making it impossible to fight bosses to progress in the game or gain any new weapons.
- Right at the start of Stage 22 in the Game Boy game The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2, you're seemingly forced to get the hammer and pick axe. You can't get very far without the hammer, and you'd be stuck at one part of the level without the pick axe. However, it actually is possible to get past the beginning part of the level without getting the pick axe, by getting the hammer, then breaking the rock at just the right moment that the enemy behind the rock is going the other way, then sneaking past that enemy. It's much more difficult than simply going the other direction and collecting the pick axe while doing so, and would probably never even occur to most players that it's even possible to sneak past the enemy here, and really, there's no reason to even try except for the sole reason of getting past the start of the level in a way you're not meant to, which leads to getting stuck in one part of the level, since you won't have that pick axe to climb out of an upcoming pit, and if you kill the enemy in that pit, you'll be forced to reset the game!
- Ancient Domains of Mystery has two bonus dungeons that only open at certain levels; the Pyramid and the Minotaur Maze. If you reach a certain level without completing them, they close up for good, rendering everything inside Lost Forever. It's possible to enter them, drop one of the Chaos Orbs, then leave. If you gain that level while the orb is inside, the orb is irretrievable, and you can't open the locks on D:48. This is nigh-impossible to do unintentionally.
- In older versions of the game, if you became entangled in webs on D:49, you would be completely incapable of breaking free, and would be trapped, slowly starving to death, one floor away from victory. There is no reason ever to use webs on D:49, since no monsters ever spawn there.
- In Shin Megami Tensei IV, you can get stuck at Ouji and Minami Senju before you get the Global Airship if you spend the 500 Macca to go there when you have less than 700 Macca total (as it only costs 200 for the return trip) and don't have the Scout Bonus or Fundraise apps or enough App Points to purchase one. Note that you can still buy your way out...if you spend the real-world cash needed to get the DLC mission that can give you more App Points.
- In the Mac FPS Sensory Overload, enemies would sometimes come out of rooms that were locked to the player, but they could enter the room while the door was open, resulting in them being trapped when it closed.
- In the ZX Spectrum game Nonteraqueous, you are a robotic "Seeker" who is powered by "Psyche" which you have to keep topped up by using "Psychers". Unfortunately, some Psychers contain decayed Psyche which will kill you instantly. Another way to refuel is that some rooms boost your Psyche when you enter, so you can repeatedly leave and re-enter such a room... but if you attempt to boost your charge beyond the maximum, you are told that you have overloaded and killed yourself that way.
- In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, this can happen after activating the Gollop Chamber. Although all forward progress is stopped after the activation, you can still dismiss any soldier in your roster with the sole exception of your volunteer. Thus, it is possible to have only one soldier available for the final mission while being unable to recruit or train anymore soldiers since all forward progress in the game had been stopped.
- Strife, being an early First-Person Shooter game with RPG Elements and actual NPCs, had a few instances of this. The plot, while allowing for Multiple Endings, was rather easy to break. One notable example, in a lot of But Thou Must conversations, you can Take a Third Option by outright refusing to advance the plot, which has the added bonus of provoking the local acolytes/rebels/etc into swarming you. There's also a certain sidequest that's less Unwinnable by Design and more this trope if you pick up on the hints that the person giving you that quest can't be trusted.
Non-Video Game Examples:
- In the short story "Touching Centauri" in Stephen Baxter's "Phase Space" anthology of sci-fi stories, scientists discover that the universe they can observe is actually a highly sophisticated simulation, which is expanding its scope at roughly the same rate that humanity advances. So they do something they simulation designers never expected: Concentrate nearly all of the resources of the human race into sending a high-powered laser to Alpha Centauri, which arrives beyond the horizon of the simulation faster than humanity would reasonably be expected to get there. As a result, the simulation starts collapsing, all of space overlapping with alternate timelines and possibilities as the effect draws closer to Earth, when it is then effectively game over.
- Takara Tomy thought of nearly everything when they made a licensed Collectible Card Game based on Inazuma Eleven. Every card has a "BCP" number in the corner, which is used for several things including tiebreakers: in case of a tie for action precedence, each player flips over the next card in their deck and higher BCP wins out. If both have the same BCP, repeat until the tie is resolved. All cards drawn are discarded after the tie is resolved. If one player runs out of cards, they shuffle their discard pile and start drawing cards from there. If their discard pile and their deck are both empty, they automatically lose. Now, if both players made their decks solely out of cards all with the exact same BCP value and they hit a tie while having the same total number of cards in their deck + discard pile, the game would go into a recursive loop until both players run out of cards, ending the match in a double loss.
- Chess. It's possible to reach a stalemate position (your entire army is tied up so you have no legal moves) in ten moves from the start of the game, but only by playing extremely badly. Conversely, if your opponent has only the king and you have enough material to win (anything more than a single knight or bishop), you can sabotage your winning chances by placing your opponent in stalemate.
- There's also a rule to prevent insanity, where if the exact same position (with the same player to move) occurs for the third time in succession, either of the players may call a draw.
- Possibly subverted, as its not uncommon for a player to intentionally try for stalemate, especially against a superior opponent. Informally, many consider a less-skilled player forcing a stalemate the same as winning the match, as the better player should be able to stop him. Even officially, the record will only reflect that both players played equally (un)well in case of a stalemate.
- Players determine the form of the final boss using "kernelsprites". Whatever you put into it forms part of the boss's final form that you have to face. One player (thanks to a couple of less-than-benevolent players from another session) stick an omnipotent being into the kernelsprite, thus making the final boss nigh-on-unkillable.
- Another group of players didn't put anything into the kernelsprites. While this stopped the enemies and final boss from gaining any special powers, this prevents the Reckoning, and thus the final boss fight, from occurring. This makes the session doomed to continue in stalemate for eternity.
- Two siblings had planned on playing the game with only two people rather than the larger groups it was made to be played by (to be fair, they didn't really have anyone else to play it with). This would have (barely) worked, until one of the two killed the other before the game began and then tried to play alone. This resulted in a game so severely different that it could barely be called the same game (but it appears that the game was designed to address this possibility).