->'''Lt. Saavik:''' Permission to speak candidly, sir.\\
'''Admiral Kirk:''' Granted.\\
'''Saavik:''' I don't believe this was a fair test of my command abilities.\\
'''Kirk:''' And why not?\\
'''Saavik:''' Because... there was no way to win.\\
'''Kirk:''' A no-win situation is a possibility every commander may face. [...] How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life, wouldn't you say?\\
'''Saavik:''' (''stiffly'') As I indicated, Admiral, that thought had not occured to me.\\
'''Kirk:''' Well, now you have something new to think about. Carry on.
-->-- Informal debriefing from the exam, "Kobayashi Maru", in ''Film/StarTrekIITheWrathOfKhan''

[[TheHero Our hero]] is executing an impossible mission. It's full of action and adventure, and he gets to show off how heroic he is, but at the last minute, something unexpected goes badly -- [[DiabolusExMachina often ridiculously so]]. The alarm goes off, the hero's weapons and equipment malfunctions, and his team mates dies screaming as they are picked off one by one by something large and scary. The last thing the hero sees is the killer robot swooping down to off him and...

[[ProsceniumReveal Computer, end program.]]

It was all just a [[VirtualTrainingSimulation simulation]], training exercise, or DreamSequence. In most cases, TheHero steps outside to discuss what he did wrong with the simulation operator, who will point out, "If this had been an actual emergency, you'd be dead."

The rest of the episode will typically focus on his overcoming whatever character flaw prevented him from succeeding in simulation. If the simulation is truly ''supposed'' to be unbeatable, the focus will be on the character learning to accept the fact that sometimes you just can't win.

This is typically used as [[FakeActionPrologue the first scene]] of an episode or {{film}} (though it may also come between the planning and execution phases of an ImpossibleMission story), as an easy way of introducing the viewer to the kind of danger the main character(s) might experience on a regular basis. It will feel like InMediasRes, except that it's not really part of the main storyline.

Such a scene shows that the character is not invincible but has a critical flaw which might lead to his demise later without actually affecting the {{plot}}. This will cause additional suspense later on when the character inevitably gets into a similar "real" situation and must show that he overcame this flaw (or is able to [[TakeAThirdOption find a clever workaround]] for it).

Occurs most often in SpeculativeFiction, series about teams of criminals, series set in the military, and shows about ninjas. Sometimes leads to a TrainingAccident plot, if the people involved don't know it's not real.

An Unwinnable Training Simulation may double as an HiddenPurposeTest, often of how the trainees deal with unwinnable situations. If this type of scenario is featured at the beginning of an episode, the character flaw the rest of the episode focuses on will either be the character's own pride or inability to accept that sometimes, [[ShootTheShaggyDog crap happens]].

Occasionally, this will be subverted in that the character ''will'' win the scenario, by 'cheating' (which is how Kirk in both ''[[Film/StarTrekIITheWrathOfKhan The Wrath of Khan]]'' and [[Film/StarTrek the 2009 reboot]] became the only cadet to ever win).

A type of FalseCrucible. See also EndlessGame and SecretTestOfCharacter. If the simulation becomes legitimately dangerous, that's a HolodeckMalfunction. If the simulation was legitimately dangerous all along, it's DeadlyTrainingArea. If the situation is not a simulation, but instead a real life situation where the character is set up to fail, it may be ALessonInDefeat.


[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Anime/DragonBallZ'': In the Vegeta saga, Kami used a simulation to introduce Kuririn, Yamucha, Tenshinhan, Chaozu and Yajirobe to the capabilities of Saiyans. Of course, at the level of strength they currently possessed, there was no possible way for them to win. And then Kami points out that the Saiyans seen in the simulation were nowhere near as strong as the two heading for Earth in real life, putting the power gap in perspective.
* ''Anime/StrainStrategicArmoredInfantry'', when Sara trains for sub-lightspeed permission.
* Many times in the ''Franchise/DotHack'' series, although they're in a virtual world to begin with.
* Somewhat used in the second ''Manga/CardcaptorSakura'' [[TheMovie movie]]. After capturing all of the Cards, we learn that this is how Tomoyo keeps herself entertained. However, it's not a simulation (the monsters are made with the Create card), and Sakura wins.
* Used once in ''Manga/OutlawStar'', where Gene goes through several launch simulations. Each time, something goes badly wrong as a test to see how he's react in unanticipated situations. Needless to say, it pissed him off, and the first launch went perfectly...Well, if you don't count the thousands of dollars worth of damage he caused to the landing dock, that is.
* ''Anime/CodeGeass'' doesn't use it, but in one interview the show's director offered this sort of situation to illustrate the differences between the two male leads. As the story goes, there's a car wreck and two men are injured, one worse than the other; there's also a hospital some distance away. Lelouch, an "end justifies the means" type, would consider the factors, then take the man with less severe injuries to the hospital; that man lives, and Lelouch consoles himself over the other's death with the knowledge that at least he saved one person. Suzaku, a "means justifies the ends" type, would do his best to get both of them to the hospital, but they'd both die along the way; at first he'd curse his own weakness, but then he'd assuage himself by saying that he did the right thing.
* ''[[LightNovel/CrestOfTheStars Banner of the Stars]]'' opens with a fierce battle which results in the {{main character}}s' ship being destroyed. It turns out it was a mock engagement. It wasn't technically unwinnable, but as Lafiel and her crew were far less experienced than their opponents, nobody thought they'd win and it's made clear there was no shame in losing (Lafiel still feels disappointed in herself regardless).
* The beginning episodes of ''Anime/SkyGirls'' were built up in such a way that the three main characters believe they're part of an aerobatics team, even when they were eventually training with weapons. But one episode's simulator suddenly throws the thought-to-be-extinct [=WORMs=] into their routine flight training. With no training and the WORM's overwhelming firepower, none of the girls, not even the Eika with her military background, can defeat it. It isn't until two episodes later (on a HotSpringsEpisode no less) that their true purpose is revealed.
* The "Program" short in ''Anime/TheAnimatrix'' featured this which tests how crewmate would respond in a situation if one of their own turned against them. In this case Cis is informed by her partner Duo that he has betrayed the rebels and informed the machines of their location. Having locked the program so she can't escape, it's pretty much a lose/lose situation. She can kill him but be killed when the machines destroy her ship, be killed by him or join him in betraying the humans.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Try to count how many times the Comicbook/XMen did this in their Danger Room. Between the comics and cartoons, ComicBook/{{Wolverine}} has had his butt kicked by simulated robots in order to learn an important lesson at least once per StoryArc.
--> "Bang! You're dead."
** In Joss Whedon's "Astonishing X-men" run, Emma Frost simulated a Sentinel invasion as the beginning of student orientation. Without letting the other X-men know. She wanted to [[SomeAnvilsNeedToBeDropped hammer in the point]] that the world at large will always hate and fear the students for being mutants, and they always need to be ready to defend themselves.
* ''VideoGame/StarTrekEliteForce'' had a comic book adaptation which begins with this. The scenario was that the ''Voyager'' is attacked by a Borg Cube (complete with exterior shot) and Hazard Team is sent to plant explosives around the cube to distract them long enough for the Voyager to escape. During the attack, Munro falls into an assimilation chamber, where he finds an assimilated Foster and not wanting to ShootTheDog, fails. Tuvok even points this scenario out and [[ContinuityNod notes its similarity to the Kobayashi Maru]]. This was called back when [[spoiler: Foster did get assimilated and Tuvok calls Munro out for not shooting him.]]
* Played with in ''ComicBook/{{Preacher}}''. Herr Starr must take unarmed combat lessons with an instructor infamous for badly injuring students on the first day. The instructor demands to know how Starr would defeat him as an obvious prelude to inflicting such a beating on Starr. Starr responds him by shooting him in both knees and declaring that Starr never has any intention of ever being unarmed. Perhaps not a straight example though as while it supposed to be an unwinnable situation it was never officially sanctioned.
* In issue 1 of ''ComicBook/MightyMorphinPowerRangersBoomStudios'', Tommy is given one that involves escorting a group of civilians to safety during a giant monster attack. They walk right into a Putty ambush, but Zordon explains that it was meant to be impossible no matter which path he chose. Tommy, who's still dealing with the guilt of what he did while brainwashed, demands another go ''anyway''.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* Many {{fanfiction}} writers have written their take on how they would win the ''Kobayashi Maru'' scenario, but very few have felt as within the realm of the possible as "The Final Simulation," a mini-story featured in the [[http://www.eyrie.net/ Eyrie Productions]] universe, ''UndocumentedFeatures''. In this story, Ben Hutchins' AuthorAvatar, Gryphon, captains the simulated ''Enterprise'' through the encounter with Klingons menacing the wayward fuel carrier with a plan to beat the "no-win scenario." Monitoring them are Admirals Christopher Pike (the original Jeffrey Hunter version) and Roger Cartwright (from the classic ''[[Franchise/StarTrek Trek]]'' movies) as he and his crew pull off the ultimate Starfleet Academy stunt -- outsmarting the scenario '''without cheating'''. Aiding him are fellow Starfleet cadets from a wide range of sources:
** Science officer Saavik (the [[Film/StarTrekIIITheSearchForSpock Robin]] [[Film/StarTrekIVTheVoyageHome Curtis]] incarnation), helmsman John Harriman (before his stint as captain of the ''Enterprise-B'' in ''Film/StarTrekGenerations'') and engineer Peter Preston (''Film/StarTrekIITheWrathOfKhan'') come from the classic ''[[Franchise/StarTrek Trek]]'' movies.
** Orion navigator Gaila comes from the [[Film/StarTrek 2009 ''Trek'' movie reboot]], as does the inspiration for their transporter officer -- [[spoiler: Valentina Andre'evna Chekova, the imagined daughter of the new movie's Pavel Chekov]].
** Tactical Officer Winston Zeddemore (yep, from ''Franchise/{{Ghostbusters}}'').
* The infamous FanFic/MarissaPicard stories use the Kobayashi Maru test as a plot justification to have preteens pilot the Enterprise, due to their long survival time in the simulation. No, it doesn't really make sense, but that's the least of these stories' problems.
* "Fanfic/TheUniverseDoesntCheat" was written for a ''VideoGame/StarTrekOnline'' forum prompt on the ''Maru'', and somewhat {{deconstruct|ion}}s it. Kanril Eleya attempts XanatosSpeedChess against the computer[[note]]She negotiates with the Klingons as a delaying tactic while she sets up her ''real'' plan, which is to fire on the ''Maru'' to disrupt its shields and beam everybody off, while simultaneously {{ramming|AlwaysWorks}} her way out of the Klingon pincer by going to warp ''through'' a battlecruiser, then spraying torpedoes out her rear launcher to discourage pursuit.[[/note]], but unusually for fan fiction ''doesn't'' win: she and T'Var figure out that the computer is cheating when a pair of pursuing battlecruisers hit a physically impossible speed, then changes tactics ''again''[[note]]This time she's prepared to sacrifice herself and the stardrive in a holding action to let the saucer containing the ''Maru'' crew and her nonessentials escape.[[/note]] and [[RocksFallEveryoneDies the computer basically gives up and drops a battleship on her head]]. T'Var calls the logic behind the test fallacious and notes that with their WillingSuspensionOfDisbelief broken by the computer's obvious cheating, the accuracy of the test is questionable. Meanwhile Eleya comments that, while she believes actual no-win scenarios to be ''possible'', they usually happen "because somebody ''fucked up''!"
* A ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer40000}}''/''Franchise/MassEffect'' crossover called ''Hammerhand'' has a Space Marine trying to beat one of these. The AI tries to persuade him that "winning" the simulation is impossible, since it has no ends and simply keeps spawning more and more (and more powerful) enemies until you die. The point is to die as late as possible. Though it should be noted that this is [[{{Determinator}} entirely in character]] for a Space Marine.
* ''FanFic/HopeOnADistantMountain'' turns the events of ''VisualNovel/DanganRonpa'' into one, meant to test the skills of SHSL students with particularly high willpower or leadership potential. Naegi managed to beat it, much to everyone's surprise, but suffers from [[ShellShockedVeteran PTSD]] afterwards, struggling to adapt back to the real world and everyone's high expectations for him.
* ''FanFic/WithThisRing'''s version of ''WesternAnimation/YoungJustice'' episode ''Failsafe'' shows Orange Lantern and the rest of team going into the simulation knowing it was a test before it goes [[GoneHorriblyWrong horribly wrong]] when M'gann accidentally causes them to believe the simulation was real. Thinking that Earth was getting invading and his friends were dead or in danger, [[SummonBiggerFish Orange Lantern summons]] [[PhysicalGod the Oph]][[SealedEvilInACan idian]] to turn the tide and ends up defeating the simulation. To everyone's horror, the Ophidian comes out with them at the end of the simulation.

* ''Franchise/StarTrek'':
** The "Kobayashi Maru" training scenario seen in ''Film/StarTrekIITheWrathOfKhan'', which is a test of how the OCS cadet responds to a HeadsIWinTailsYouLose situation. The cadet, in command of a starship, receives a distress call from a freighter (the ''Kobayashi Maru''), which has broken down in TheNeutralZone between Klingon and [[TheFederation Federation]] territory, and whose crew will soon die unless action is taken. The politically correct choice is to abandon them to their law-breaking fates; if the cadet chooses to aid, s/he is preemptively attacked by angry Klingons. The aspect of the test which some {{trope}} users do not carry over is that the cadet ''must'' be defeated by those ships, so TheComputerIsACheatingBastard and will happily break the laws of physics, probability or reality to ensure a HumiliationConga-worthy win.
** In [[Film/StarTrek the reboot]], Kirk reprograms the simulation so that the Klingons have no shields. He then photon-torpedoes the ships and "wins". Also worth noting is that here ''Spock'' designs the test every year to be unbeatable, with the point of the no-win situation being to know what it's like to face certain death, while Kirk (like in the aforementioned novels) explicitly believes there is no such thing as a no-win situation. As Pike says, "It depends on how you define 'winning', doesn't it?"
* Referenced in ''Film/DogSoldiers'', when a platoon on a training exercise finds out their "opponents" have bugged their communications: "It's the Kobayashi Maru test -- they've fixed it so we can't fucking win!"
* ''Film/{{Apollo 13}}:'' "If I had a dollar for every time they killed me in this thing (the simulator), I wouldn't have to work for you, Deke."
* ''Film/TheMatrix'':
** The Agent training scenario ("Were you listening to me, Neo, or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?"). Even Neo is fooled into thinking it was the real thing. The scenario is designed to always end with the trainee's death, because a human ''cannot'' beat an Agent. The only recourse when faced with one is to attempt escape, and even that is iffy at best.
** Although not intentionally unwinnable, the building jump scenario is this as well. Nobody makes the first jump. Not even Neo, who's TheChosenOne.
* The virtual reality wargaming scenes in ''Film/{{Avalon}}''.
* In ''Film/MovingViolations'', the corrupt judge and policeman set up an unwinnable driving course to ensure the traffic-school students will all fail, allowing the pair to sell off their cars and keep the money.
* Discussed in ''Film/NeverSayNeverAgain'', where Bond's new boss is dissatisfied with his performance during the simulated training missions (he died once and lost his legs in another mission). Bond then points out that training missions cannot be compared to the real thing as the adrenaline boost is missing.
* In ''Film/TheRecruit'', the protagonist is kidnapped from his CIA training and held captive by what he believes to be enemy operatives; the scenario is actually a test to see how he reacts and how long he lasts. Upon his release, he laments having eventually broken and is informed that that is the point of the exercise--it doesn't stop ''until'' you break.

* ''Franchise/StarTrekNovelVerse'':
** Responses to the Kobayashi Maru scenario are varied, with several characters improvising solutions but losing anyway (Scotty, for instance, [[RulesLawyer used a physics trick that worked on paper but not in the real world]]; the computer's response was to spawn more ships than the entire Klingon fleet ''had''). Only James T. Kirk ever defeated it, and that was by [[TakeAThirdOption reprogramming the simulation beforehand]] so that the Klingons would be respectful of [[LivingLegend the reputation he intended to have]]. Computer cheats? Kirk cheats back. (According to semi-canonical novels by [[WilliamShatner Shatner]] himself, the test later becomes used to encourage this sort of outside-the-box thinking.)
** Other novels give Kirk the FreudianExcuse that his traumatic memories of the executions on Tarsus IV (from "Conscience of the King") led him to not believe in the No-Win Scenario.
** The novels had Sulu go the diplomatic route, stay out of the Neutral Zone, and leave the ''Maru'' to its fate (the most 'correct' decision). Nog used his [[PlanetOfHats Hat]] and [[ProudMerchantRaceGuy bribed]] the Klingons. Chekov self-destructed his ship, taking the Klingons with him. However the explosion was bad enough the lifepods of the crew were also taken out. ExpandedUniverse has many other characters taking the test. At least [[OffTheRails one blew up the ship rather than rescue it...]]
** Two characters ''deliberately'' blew it up, [[StarTrekNewFrontier one]] rationalizing that either it was screwed to hell anyway, or that it was actually working with the enemy to lure him into a trap. The other was completely apathetic to the plight of the Maru's crew, and simply exploited the ship's volatile cargo to win the fight with the Klingons.
** Scotty in the ExpandedUniverse is mentioned to have beaten it by constantly improvising new and ingenious engineering solutions, forcing the computer to respond by amping up the stakes, leading Scotty to perform yet another off-the-cuff fix and so forth. This kept Scotty and the Computer at a stalemate for ''hours'' until it was shut down by the Examiners who determined that the only way that the Computer could ''potentially'' beat Scotty would be if he spent ''[[{{Determinator}} several days]]'' of outwitting it before collapsing out of sheer exhaustion. Scotty then protested that if he had access to an actual engineering room, he could have beaten the simulation. This got him transferred to the Engineering Corp, which [[BatmanGambit turned out to be Scotty's original intention.]]
** And then there's always unpredictable [[Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration Commander Riker]], who is alluded to have brought an EVA suit into the simulation so that he could fight the enemy ships ''with his fists''.
** One of the novels has Kirk's nephew [[spoiler:save the ship by challenging the enemy commander (Romulan rather than Klingon in this version) to single combat and having the ''Enterprise'' beam off the ''Kobayashi Maru'' crew and run away while he fights to the death. As he puts it during the simulation, "It's a no-win scenario, Mr. Spock, I'll give you that. [[HeroicSacrifice But only for me.]]" The admiral in command assumes he must have cheated like his uncle, but Spock explains that it all would've worked. It's just that Peter Kirk knew far more about Romulan culture (including a formal challenge predating the Vulcan/Romulan schism that -- if properly given -- is punishable by death to refuse, even if issued by a non-Romulan) than a cadet normally would.]]
** A ''Literature/StarTrekEnterpriseRelaunch'' novel depicts the origin of the Kobayashi Maru scenario, which is ''not'' a simulation. [[spoiler:In addition to being outnumbered, Captain Archer discovers that the enemy ships have a device that can take remote control of his ship's systems. He ends up having to flee and allow the ''Kobayashi Maru'' to be destroyed. That's why it's known as a no-win scenario.]]
** In ''Dreadnought!,'' the MarySue heroine, after her simulated crew has been nearly wiped out by the Klingons, ties her communicator into the Starfleet Headquarters computer. (She confuses the computer with an emergency priority code that is perfectly valid in-simulation, but shouldn't work out-of-sim.) She then uses the computer's power to run the entire simulated ship -- briefly. The simulation, and SFHQ, crash before the final Klingon victory. The instructors call this a qualified tie, and tell her not to do it again.
** Mackenzie Calhoun found an interesting way to get through the Kobayashi Maru in ''Stone And Anvil'': [[spoiler:he gives the orders to [[ShootTheDog destroy the ship]] himself.]]
* In ''[[Literature/TheActsOfCaine Blade of Tyshalle]]'', the College of Battle Magic has an advanced class that opens with the Lakefront simulation. In it, our student Actor is put into a VR simulation of Overworld, in the docks of the city of Ankhana, where he/she hears the sound of a woman being assaulted down a nearby alley by a single man. Those actors who confront the man will quickly find out that there are two others waiting on the low rooftops to jump some fool like you rushing to her aid. Even defeating all three won't do; the best student in the College, Kris Hansen, got that far only to be knifed by the woman, who is in on the charade. When Hari Michaelson, a Labour-caste near-dropout with terrible magick skills, enters the challenge, he becomes the first person in the history of the College to beat the simulation. Not bothering with spells, [[CombatPragmatist he gets the jump on the first man]], KOs the other two before they can recover from jumping into the alley, and [[SatisfiedStreetRat knows better than to trust the woman]], who gets her throat cut when she tries to knife him. He only fails because the test expected him to use magick, and the instructor hacked the simulation to bring the other players back to life and beat him senseless, something that was never before needed for the Lakefront sim. Regardless, as the instructor points out, the point of the test is to show whether the Actor-to-be can give the viewers an interesting death scene.
* "The two .38s roared simultaneously". Literature/JamesBond concludes something like this in the first chapter of ''Literature/{{Moonraker}}'', which is basically a quick-drawing contest. He puts the other "guy" (a cardboard target) in hospital, but is "killed".
* This occurs several times in the Franchise/StarWarsExpandedUniverse, especially the ''[[Literature/XWingSeries X-Wing]]'' books. As in RealLife, cockpit-shaped simulators are essential tools for fighter pilot training -- but here, holographic and gravity-altering technology makes the simulations ''much'' more realistic. They get used for all kinds of things, from training to testing new tactics to teamwork-building exercises, and they tend to be either this trope or FictionalVideoGame. There are even a few times when the one in the simulator [[TrainingAccident doesn't know it's a sim]].
** Most notably, Michael A. Stackpole's ''[[ComicBook/XWingSeries Star Wars: X-Wing]]'' opens with prospective Rogue Squadron pilots training by playing the ''Redemption'' scenario, which is so infamously difficult that it's earned the in-universe nickname of the "[[http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Redemption_scenario Requiem scenario]]." Four X-Wings are tasked with defending the corvette ''Korolev'' as it transfers wounded to the medical frigate ''Redeptmion'', while an Imperial frigate pops in and out of the system launching waves of TIE Fighters and Bombers. The "by the book" strategy developed by pilots is for two X-Wings to engage the [=TIEs=] as they're launched while the other two stay behind to guard the corvette, otherwise the Imperial frigate joins the battle and make a terrible situation even worse. It's noted that "by the book" is not a particularly good strategy, as it leaves those actually fighting the [=TIEs=] outnumbered by a substantial margin, but since the Rebels are outnumbered and outgunned regardless it's simply the least bad of the available choices. Corran Horn only wins the mission by taking out the more dangerous TIE Bombers with his proton torpedoes before finishing off the enemy fighters, and even then he lucks out after barely "surviving" a head-on engagement that damaged the last remaining enemy fighter enough for a torpedo to catch up with it.
*** The best part is that this mission is based in-universe on an actual historical battle, and out-of-universe on ThatOneLevel from the ''VideoGame/XWing'' flight sim. Of course, in-universe it's even worse because the enemy [=TIEs=] can be played by other pilots, meaning that sometimes they'll deviate from the script. The strategy the pilots use in the book is not only the recommended way to beat the level, but canonically the way the skirmish was won.
** When prospective pilots for Wraith Squadron are being evaluated, Wes Janson runs them through a simulation pitched as a holding action against an enemy force while their home base evacuates. Things go OffTheRails immediately so that the pilots are being attacked before their ships have even exited the hangar, and when they request orders they find that Control has been "killed." It is of course a test to see how the pilots can improvise and survive a worst-case scenario, with the twist that each pilot's score is swapped with that of his or her wingman, for an additional lesson on the importance of teamwork.
*** When future Wraith Squadron pilot Myn Donos' first command is wiped out in an ambush, the disaster is made into a hellish training sim the other Wraiths are subjected to (while they wonder why Donos is excused from it). [[spoiler:Later, after they've learned the reason (he was the SoleSurvivor of the battle that the training sim is based on) and Myn is suffering a HeroicBSOD, they place him in the simulation while he's asleep in a desperate attempt to get through to him.]]
** Another book, ''Literature/DeathStar'', has a pilot compulsively replaying a simulation that had been made from a scan of one of the top fighter pilots. Even as a simulation, the top pilot kept gunning down the compulsive pilot within seconds, but this pilot was pleased to note that he was lasting a couple seconds more than when he'd started.
*** Later in the book, that same top pilot is said to have engaged in a practice fighter duel with [[ImprobablePilotingSkills Darth Vader]] [[CurbStompBattle and lasted about the same amount of time]]. The viewpoint pilot, who'd seen it and been morbidly fascinated, swore that if ''he'' was ever in Vader's sights, he'd just overload his engines and kill himself.
* In the novel ''Reach'' by Edward Gibson the Wayfarer 2 astronauts are approaching their destination when one looks out the window to find they're about to collide with...his house! It turns out they're in the simulator, and the people running it were trying to demonstrate the importance of staying focused even when something unexpected happens.
* Mentioned in one of the ''Literature/ArtemisFowl'' books. In one of her LEP exams, Holly defeated a simulation that pitted her against insurmountable numbers by [[TakeAThirdOption blasting the projector]]. The computer recorded defeat of all enemies, so she passed.
** In a prequel short-story, she sidesteps some potentially career-killing disciplinary action by a combination of ExactWords and shooting her superior officer (with a paintball gun).
* ''Literature/EndersGame'': Pretty much all of the games in the school when Ender is given his own team are designed to be unwinnable. [[spoiler:Of course, he wins them all.]]
** Also inverted at the end, when [[spoiler:Ender discovers all the "simulations" since he left Battle School were actual space battles. The deception was crucial both because the military commanders believed fighting the HiveMind Buggers required no hesitation over the lives of real soldiers, and because the final "simulation" was unwinnable by any conventional means. Ender, thinking that it was all just another unbeatable test, decides he can't take it anymore and tries to show that he is too savage to be allowed to actually command, by destroying the enemy home world, sacrificing his own fleet in a kamikaze attack. When he finds out that he ordered ''actual'' soldiers to their deaths -- as well as utterly destroying an entire alien race -- Ender feels incredibly guilty.]]
** The battle school also has a fantasy game that all the children play (used to monitor their psychological development and stability). Within this game is a section called "The Giant's Drink". A giant offers the PlayerCharacter a choice of two drinks, claiming one is poison and the other leads to Fairyland. Of course, [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard no matter what the player chooses]], they die [[TheManyDeathsOfYou a gruesome death]]. It's supposed to be a gauge of a child's suicidal tendencies (Battle School being a stressful place). [[spoiler:Ender ultimately confounds this by killing the giant instead, forcing the game to invent entirely new sections that had never existed before and generally freaking out the PowersThatBe.]]
* Almost ''every'' novel in ''Literature/HonorHarrington'' has simulator runs, some of which are indeed meant to be (nearly) unwinnable. More often than not, however, it is Honor Harrington herself who sets up the exercise. Most notable example is found in ''On Basilisk Station'' where her ship is built as a testbed for a new weapon system that is obviously an unworkable idea as it requires very close proximity (The developer of the weapon would later admit that she knew that the weapon in question wasn't yet practical for actual combat, but was overridden). In the first exercise she manages to "kill" the ''King Roger'', flagship of the Manticoran fleet. She does not manage to repeat the feat, however, as her ship is thereafter targeted as soon as it appears and "killed" with overwhelming firepower.
** When Harrington is on medical leave and instructing at Saganami Island, she arranges for selected cadets to participate in extracurricular simulations. When she plays the Opposing Force, the students pass if they somehow manage to ''survive'' the simulated battle. Justified in that Harrington is universally recognized as one of the top naval commanders of her era and her opponents are college-aged (18-25) officer cadets.
** While training the new LAC squadrons in ''Echoes of Honor'', an admiral opposed to the idea kept [[MovingTheGoalposts stacking the deck]] against the officers doing the trial exercises to get a decisive defeat to occur and [[SabotageToDiscredit discredit the whole idea]]. Alice Truman, the officer in charge of the [=LACs=] fully expected one of these eventually as a result and sent notices to even higher ranked officers to make them aware of the situation to ensure the [=LACs=] would still be evaluated fairly--paying particular note to the fact Truman's [=LACs=] ''kept winning anyway''.
** In one of the prequel series Travis complains about a no-win scenario he was observing because the reason the trainees lost was the Opposing Force pulling out a weapon that was ''physically impossible to produce'', which he then proceeds to explain exactly why you couldn't make one. This gets him in trouble with the officer who came up with the simulation, as he'd been trying to get the funding to develop said system (A multi-drive missile). While [=MDMs=] were eventually developed, Hemphill had an additional 400 years of further R&D to build on to make it practical, and even then one of Travis' objections (That an MDM would be significantly larger than a single-drive missile, and thus have a different sensor return) still applied.
* Early in ''Literature/{{Otherland}}'', the barbarian Thargor gets killed. Then we find out it was a virtual RPG and meet the kid playing Thargor.
** Still, Thargor's death was pretty traumatic, since in this MMORPG, [[FinalDeath a character's death is permanent]] and the player spent years grinding on that character until he was the most powerful in the whole game.
* The first book of the Literature/{{Sten}} series has the title character put through one of these during his basic training ... but it's '''not''' really a test. Instead, it's an excuse, by claiming he handled the situation badly, to pretend he's being washed out of training and kicked out of the service in disgrace. He's actually being transferred to Mantis Section, the elite commando force. Sten '''isn't''' told this in advance.
* Early in the novel ''Gravity'' by Tess Garritsenn, there is a scene of a catastrophic space-shuttle launch that turns out to be a simulation. A higher-up had expressed concern that the team members were overconfident, so the instructors tried to take them down a notch and remind them, "Disaster is not theoretical."
* In the [[Literature/TheCulture Culture]] novel ''Literature/SurfaceDetail'' a protagonist in an Orbital militia does one of these and complains that it serves no purpose.
* One of the later ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'' books begins this way, with the Yeerks supposedly invading the Hork-Bajir valley. Used to demonstrate how unprepared everyone is, especially with all the families hiding there.
* Arkady Bogdanov is in charge of landing simulations for the ''Ares'' in ''[[Literature/RedMarsTrilogy Red Mars]]''. He takes an inordinate amount of glee in "problem runs," making everyone groan when the announcement comes over the loudspeaker. (The actual landing on Mars goes off without a hitch.)
* Parodied in ''[[Literature/MythAdventures Myth-Quoted]]'', in which the opening scene (quickly revealed to be a training simulation) shows Skeeve being beleaguered by a chaotic and brutal mob of ''reporters''.
* In Creator/SergeyLukyanenko's ''[[Literature/{{Genome}} Cripples]]'', the protagonists are hired to "tame" the AI of a newly-built warship commissioned by a human colony. The colonists angered the Halflings, who built the ship, by haggling over the price, a big no-no in Halfling culture (since it devalues their work). So the Halflings found a [[LoopholeAbuse loophole in their contract]] and programmed the ship's AI to reject the commands of any crew which it finds "unworthy". The only way to prove a crew's worthiness is to resolve a critical situation in such a way that the AI would never be able to do. They go on a dangerous mission to destroy several powerful robotic ships left to guard a NegativeSpaceWedgie. They succeed, but only with the help of the local human colony. The AI considers that a failure since they didn't do it on their own. The protagonist finally finds a solution. [[spoiler:Like most human ships, this one is infested with rats, which no one has been able to get rid of and which will, eventually, chew through enough cables to permanently damage the AI. The protagonist offers an ingenious solution to the problem, and the AI agrees to follow the orders of any human crew]].
* Creator/KimStanleyRobinson’s ''Literature/RedMars'': On the Ares, they do a lot of training runs of the [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerocapture aerocapture]] maneuver. They go all the way from “mantra runs”, everything works fine, through difficult but possible (not all of it mechanical faults: “‘Arkady (who thinks up the scenarios) has gone mad!’ ‘He has ''simulated'' going mad.’”) to absurdly unlikely and impossible to survive. (“(T)he screens register(ed) a hit by a small asteroid, which sheared through the hub and killed them all.”)

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* One of eps of the ''Series/TheATeam'' has Hannibal, Face and Murdock trapped in a Vietnam prison and Hannibal going over in his head how they'll escape. Needless to say the imagined attempt doesn't end well.
* In ''Series/{{CSI}}'', David Hodges also mentions that he called his cat Kobayashi Maru (affectionately known as 'Kobe' or 'Mr. K').
* The first episode of season 6 of ''Series/{{Castle}}'' jumps ahead 2 months into what appears to be an ActionPrologue demonstrating that Beckett is [[spoiler:a. now a federal agent,]] and b. still a total badass - until she learns too late that the hostage she was protecting was actually another bad guy, when said hostage [[AnyoneCanDie shoots her several times in the chest]]. Cut to the office, where she's being questioned about the training exercise the audience had no idea we were watching.
%%* The third season premiere of ''Series/{{Chuck}}.''
* One episode of ''Series/Cleopatra2525'' featured a variant of this trope where one character had to learn the nearly impossible route and hazards of a rescue mission using a virtual reality simulator (in time to actually make the run and save a teammate). Of course, nobody bothers to tell her it's a simulation the first time so for her the trope is in effect like she's in the audience until she fails and sees her friend die before the simulation resets.
* Happened a few times in ''Series/{{ER}}.''
** Abby was working with a dying patient, with [[DrJerk Romano]] briskly telling at her to move faster, only for the patient to die. Then, just as Romano solemnly and brutally told her that the patient was dead, the camera swiveled around to show us that the patient was a dummy.
** Another time was when Sam and a much taller, muscular man were yelling at each other when suddenly the man tackled Sam to the ground, where we can see that there are mats on the ground. Turns out it was a training session for nurses to deal with violent patients.
* An episode of ''Series/GreysAnatomy'' does this, though not with the usual opening scene fake-out. Owen runs a trauma-certification drill where the residents have to keep their dummy patients "alive" after an accident until a helicopter arrives. As hours go by with no imaginary helicopter, the point of the test becomes clear. HilarityEnsues when April refuses to accept defeat and ends up hijacking the (supposedly damaged) ambulance used in the scenario and driving her last patients around to the hospital entrance.
* In the short-lived series ''Series/{{Heist}}'', a cliffhanger has professional thief Mickey locking himself in a vault to motivate his team members to figure out how to open it quickly before he suffocates. The next episode begins with the team members apparently failing to unlock the vault in time, only for Mickey to yell at them and for the camera to reveal the giant hole they had cut in the vault to get him out.
* An episode of ''Series/{{JAG}}'' ends with Harm crashing on a carrier landing. Turns out Harm was running a simulation of the doomed flight of the Defendant of The Week. It's implied that Harm's run the simulation several times, crashed every time, and went down with the jet, rather than eject, every time.
* Referenced as an ActorAllusion in ''Series/{{Leverage}}'' where the hacker Chaos (played by Creator/WilWheaton) is called the "Kobayashi Maru" by the government since his attacks are good enough as to be effectively unwinnable.
* In ''Series/TheListener'', paramedic main character Toby and his partner get stuck while trying to reach a woman with a head wound. She is annoyed, but amused; if it hadn't been an exam, she could have died.
* ''Series/MacGyver'', multiple times ("Lost Love", "The Survivors").
* ''Franchise/PowerRangers'' is fond of this one, using it in episodes of ''Series/PowerRangersLightspeedRescue'' ("Trial by Fire"), ''Series/PowerRangersNinjaStorm'' ("There's No 'I' In Team"), ''Series/PowerRangersSPD'' ("Beginnings"), and ''Series/PowerRangersRPM'' ("Ranger Red").
** "Gung-Ho" from MMPR is a very interesting twist -- using the carrier zord, Titanus as this.
* ''Series/{{Quantico}}''
** "America" features one. The agent and analyst trainees are given three reconstructed rooms where crimes the FBI stopped were plotted. After deducing what was planned and where it would take place (assassinating a senator, bombing Liberty Hall, and committing arson at a Planned Parenthood center), they had to determine which was a priority. [[spoiler: None of them were: the assassination was still being planned, the bombing was meant to smoke out agents tracking the culprit, and the arson was an act of zealotry and never came to pass. The test was designed to show the agents that information is only as good as the source it comes from, and Alex is the only one who figures out that the real culprit was Liam--the guy who gave them their information in the first place.]]
** A more literal example is in "Clue", where the trainees are placed in a simulated airplane with trainers playing terrorists or other people. The class tries the scenario over and over, trying different approaches each time but always failing. Sometimes the plan wasn't thought through enough, sometimes the trainers add new variables and sometimes the trainees just make simple mistakes. By the end, [[spoiler:Liam reveals, as the trainees were starting to understand, that the scenario is ''designed to be'' unbeatable, because sometimes even having the most competent people on the job can result in an unwinnable situation]].
* ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'':
** In addition to its original appearance, the Kobayashi Maru simulation is found or mentioned in a number of episodes. (''TNG'' also includes fresh instances and variations of the trope; for instance, the Bridge Officer qualification test on the Holodeck in the episode "Thine Own Self", in which Troi realizes that she can only succeed if she [[spoiler:orders holographic [=LaForge=] to his death]]). The point of the BO-QT is to impress upon the trainee that you are in charge of a SHIP that has HUNDREDS if not THOUSANDS of lives aboard. [[spoiler:Essentially to teach the lesson "Lives of the Many outweigh the lives of the Few, or the One." Even if that One is one of your best, closest friends.]]
---> '''Riker:''' "I can't - as much as I care about you, my first duty is to the ship. I can not let any bridge officer serve who's not qualified - I'm sorry."
** Dealt with in an early episode -- the holodeck creates some objects in a similar fashion to the replicator and enacting a non-standard shutdown could result in the people inside also being anywhere from partially to completely dematerialized.
** Proving that Starfleet isn't blind to all those "How I Flunked The ''Kobayashi Maru'' Test" stories circulating among cadets, Wesley Crusher on ''TNG'' was subjected to a different kind of simulated no-win scenario during his Academy training. A faked "accident" left two technicians trapped in a room that would soon flood with radiation, and Wesley was given time to save only one of them. Unable to talk the more terrified man into moving, he helped the injured one to safety and reluctantly left the other behind. Unlike the traditional test this was just for entrance into the academy, and designed to make him face what they had determined was his greatest fear (being in the situation Picard had faced when unable to save Wesley's father, his best friend, on an away mission).
** The episode "Chain of Command", in which Picard, Crusher, and Worf storm a Cardassian base also uses this. They were only preparing for the real mission on the holodeck to prepare for any eventualities including their own deaths, but in the field they still walk right into a trap.
* The holodeck in general made for a convenient and simple premise for a lot of invocations of this trope in many of the series. In the ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'' episode "The Magnificent Ferengi" where the Ferengi are shown in a botched attempt to rescue Quark and Rom's mother, in which she ends up being shot by one of her rescuers, before it is revealed that they are practicing for the real thing, in a holosuite. It's supposed to be on easy mode, they just suck.
* ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'' is particularly guilty of someone dying in a BatmanColdOpen only to be revealed as a simulation, to the point that you could make a drinking game out of it.
** The failed invasion of a Borg ship to steal some {{Phlebotinum}} that leads to Borg storming the ''Voyager'' proves to be a simulation.
** Tuvok provides an interesting twist in the episode "Worst Case Scenario:" Paris discovered an unfinished "Maquis Rebellion Scenario" that Tuvok never completed since he saw the Maquis having virtually zero problems fitting in. Paris and Torres have fun trying out different scenarios, and it proves to be so popular among the crew that Tuvok is pressured to complete it. When Tuvok and Paris attempt to modify the simulation, however, they find that former Maquis (and defector to the Kazon) Seska had discovered it and rigged it to be a true no-win scenario with EverythingTryingToKillYou, and with the safeties disabled, Tuvok and Paris would be KilledOffForReal. The bridge crew couldn't shut it down quickly, but they did have access to the writing interface. So Janeway stepped in by becoming the DeusExMachina until they could turn it off.
** "Threshold" starts off with Tom Paris trying to break the Warp 10 limit in a shuttle. As he reaches Warp 9.95 the nacelles are ripped off and the shuttle explodes. Paris appears sitting on the holodeck floor and B'Elanna Torres says "You're dead." How they were able to program a simulation for what would happen at Warp 10 without any data on what happens when you approach Warp 10 is unclear, but that's the least of the problems the infamous episode has.
** The episode "Learning Curves" had Tuvok administer a battle simulation test to a group of Marquis crewmen. The attack ends with the simulated Voyager going down in flames, all phasers blazing. When the test ends the trainees obliquely reference the Kobayashi Maru, which is what they believe they were facing in the test - an unwinnable scenario. Turns out that it was a SubvertedTrope, because Tuvok did program in a winning condition: [[TacticalWithdrawal retreat]]. Aside from the outcome of the battle there was nothing at stake, so there was no reason not to withdraw and live to fight another day[[note]]A real Kobayashi Maru scenario includes a distress call being issued by a civilian ship, which all Starfleet officers are duty-bound to respond to by their standing orders[[/note]].
* ''Series/StargateSG1'':
** An early episode "The Gamekeeper" had the SG-1 team trapped in a simulation of one of the most terrible moments of their lives and tasked with changing the outcome. [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard However, the entire simulation is rigged,]] as whatever they try to do causes the simulation to merely alter things so whatever did happen happens anyway. The team "wins" by simply refusing to play the game anymore, causing the titular Gamekeeper to let them leave [[spoiler:or so it seems...]]
** In the episode "Avatar", Teal'c is trapped in a training simulation designed to learn from him and become harder to beat as a result. It did this by either spawning enemies right around corners to shoot him, spawning new enemies after the conditions of the simulation had been beaten, and adding factors to make the enemies harder to beat. It took Daniel being added in as an ally (with the ability to see the future as a cheat) for the computer to finally give Teal'c a victory scenario. Worse, it turns out [[spoiler: it was a reverse-ClapYourHandsIfYouBelieve scenario. Since Teal'c's mind was driving the game, it turns out that Teal'c had to ''believe'' he'd won]] or every time, he'd find that TheComputerIsACheatingBastard and would change the rules on him. And he [[spoiler: could ''never'' see the battle against the Goa'uld finally being over.]]
* ''Series/StargateAtlantis'' has a blatant one in "Progeny" where [[spoiler: they think they escaped, make it back to Atlantis and then the city gets attacked by 9 hive ships with 15 more on the way. Sheppard has to stay behind to trigger the self-destruct.]]
* ''Series/StargateUniverse'' also uses the trope in "Trial and Error". [[spoiler:''Destiny'' projects a battle scenario into Young's dreams wherein the ship is attacked by aliens. Young tries to attack them, but they overpower and destroy the ship. Young tries to turtle behind the shields until the ship can jump to FTL, but the simulation just generates more ships. Then he tries to agree to their demands (handing over Chloe), but that just causes the shields to drop, allowing the aliens to board and kill everyone. Young never wins; Rush just shuts it off when he gets tired of it interfering with the ship.]]
%%* ''[[Series.WarOfTheWorlds War of the Worlds]]''
* In the blow-off for ''Series/{{Warehouse 13}}'''s third season, when the BigBad Walter Sykes traps Myka in a chair and forces H.G. Wells to play chess for her life. Wells recollects her mentor's proclivities, and breaks the rules to win the game.
* The opening to one episode of ''Series/TheWire'' shows Michael Lee being trained in a gunfight simulation with paint guns by Chris Partlow and Snoop, who are TheDragon and TheBrute respectively for a ruthless drug organization and have at least 22 kills between them, while Michael has practically no experience with a gun. Michael wins anyway, {{foreshadowing}} his future.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII: VideoGame/CrisisCore'' begins with one of these, with Zack and Angeal on a simulated mission to the Sector 1 train station ([[ContinuityNod which was not entirely unlike that of the original game]]). At least it explains [[ViolationOfCommonSense why Zack was acting so casual with a dozen soldiers firing machine guns at him...]] At the end of the mission he engages Sephiroth who viciously and effortlessly defeats him, only for Angeal to end the simulation as Sephiroth holds his sword business-edge over Zack's face.
* ''Franchise/JamesBond'' likes this trope.
** The first mission in ''VideoGame/GoldenEyeRogueAgent'' is one of these, with the eponymous agent and a simulated James Bond getting shot down in a helicopter over Fort Knox, and Bond dying a few seconds in. Afterward, the agent is fired from [=MI6=] for a combination of that and for letting the bad guys detonate a bomb [[BloodKnight because he wasted too much time killing everybody he could]].
** ''James Bond'' does like this trope. In ''VideoGame/DoubleOhSevenFromRussiaWithLove'', the player watches his character get garroted in the cutscene following a lengthy infiltration mission. Turns out it's a training scenario for the Dragon, and the player's character was an evil mook-in-a-mask rather than Bond. As this same scene (minus the infiltration) happens in the original movie, the player shouldn't be too surprised.
* ''VideoGame/NinjaGaiden'' for the original Xbox begins with what turns out to have been a training mission. What makes this a bit disconcerting is the fact that you kill a good 200 ninjas (absolutely no ambiguity about whether they're dead or just knocked out here) before the audience is let in on this.
** It's AllThereInTheManual: the rival ninja clan is, well, a rival ninja clan, enemies of the Hayabusa ninjas. Ryu murders them. But the leader of the rival ninja clan is, in fact, his uncle, and so they don't really fight to the death. Unless Ryu loses.
* ''VideoGame/SpaceQuestVTheNextMutation'' opens with Roger Wilco at the helm of a spaceship facing a dire red alert situation (a direct homage to the Kobayashi Maru scenario). He's then interrupted by on the viewscreen by an actual captain who tells him to stop messing around in the spaceship simulator and get back to class.
* ''[[VideoGame/StarTrekEliteForce Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force]]'' couldn't resist: the game opens with you playing as Ensign Munro with an away team on a Borg cube. Then things go horribly wrong and you end up killing yourself and your team mates, only to reveal that's a Holodeck simulation all along. True to form, Tuvok is there to tell you what a sorry excuse for a Starfleet officer you are. Even worse, he tells you, as you board the turbolift, to consider the scenario to be your personal Kobayashi Maru.
* ''Starfleet Academy'' games tend to have the actual Kobayashi Maru as a level. In the old PC version by Interplay, you're given the option to cheat in a similar way to Kirk -- in fact, you ''have to'' in order to [[MultipleEndings get the best ending]]. Your bridge crew's reactions when the Klingons recognize you are priceless.
** In the SNES version, the only way to get the Kirk ending was to play ''as'' Kirk -- by inputting a CheatCode at the name selection menu (you could only select from a limited amount of preexisting names), enabling you to name your cadet "James T. Kirk". All other name combinations resulted in the standard Kobayashi Maru scenario, with either the loss of the freighter, or the loss of your ship.
* One of the "Tales from New Terra" short stories from ''Outpost 2'' opens up with a crew heading to the spaceport to fight a fire. It is later revealed that they are firefighters training in a simulator.
* The ''VideoGame/StarfleetAdventures'' mod for ''VideoGame/EscapeVelocity Nova'' (based on ''Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries'' and the first six movies -- with some things from ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'' and ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'' that would already have been there but weren't mentioned until the later shows) has the Kobayashi Maru as the first thing the player does. It was designed to be unbeatable for the player (six [=D-7s=] versus one ''Constitution''-class), but some players managed to beat it only to find that [[UnwinnableByMistake the dev team hadn't accounted for that]].
** The dev team ''did'' have a plan, and mentioned to the public what it was (the player would get a suitably impressed reaction, and would get to jump a rank, getting them access to better officers and stronger ships more quickly). Unfortunately, it hadn't yet been implemented in the last public release... [[VaporWare which was in 2010]].
* ''DemonsSouls'' all the way.
** To clarify, the tutorial takes you through all the basics: movement, attacking, defending, counters, items, etc... Then you face your very first boss, who is capable killing you in one hit, no matter what armor you have on, and is very likely to do so... On the off chance that you manage to survive the fight and defeat him, you are transported to another area where a massive (we're talking as big as the ''whole freaking room'') dragon delivers a single instant death punch right to your face in a cutscene, resulting in your death.
* ''VideoGame/PokemonXDGaleOfDarkness'' begins with a simulator involving two powerful Pokémon, Salamence and Metagross, and is quite a difficult battle for one that opens a Pokémon game. It's a bit subverted in that it's deliberately and consistently winnable in exactly one way, but in a way that a beginner (that is, the player character at that moment) shouldn't get.
* ''VideoGame/StarTrekOnline'' added in the "No-Win Situation" PVE mode for the Federation players. A team of five players are tasked in protecting a frigate against increasingly difficult foes. Most players can reach level 5 before the frigate is destroyed. The game will send out game-wide notifications for those who pass level 8, 9, and 10, with level 10 having the game proudly boasting that a player "Doesn't Believe In A No-Win Situation".
* ''VideoGame/StarTrekKlingonAcademy'' combines this with SecretTestOfCharacter during a simulated mission to prevent war with the Tholians.
* The infamous ''VideoGame/XMen'' for the NintendoEntertainmentSystem features the Danger Room as a practice level, which just spams an endless stream of enemies at you until you have practiced (read: gotten bored) and pick a different level. Being NintendoHard and rife with [[GameBreakingBug Game Breaking Bugs]], the rest of the game doesn't fare much better either.
* The very first ''VideoGame/{{Wing Commander|TheKilrathiSaga}}'' game starts by dropping the player into a simulator mission that destroys the player's fighter before they can do anything, as an excuse to enter in the player's callsign for the sim's "high scores" screen.

* ''Webcomic/{{Erfworld}}'': ''The Battle for Gobwin Knob'' IS a Kobayashi Maru, or at least the scenario Parson had been designing that resembled it was. That's likely why Parson was considered the perfect warlord, he had spent months thinking over an unwinnable situation for a tabletop game. [[spoiler:In addition to fighting impossible odds, the GM is supposed to cheat, and the only way for the player to win is to cheat the system better or come up with a solution clever enough to impress the GM. Parson ends up [[RocksFallEverybodyDies destroying his own capital city with the enemy army inside it]], slaughtering ''everyone'' except himself and a few magic users on his side.]]
** At this point, Parson has "won" the battle and is now having to deal with the aftermath. It seems like every story told in Erfworld so far deals with impossible odds.
* ''Webcomic/DarthsAndDroids'' gives the following advice to [[http://www.darthsanddroids.net/episodes/0888.html GMs:]] "in a roleplaying scenario, you need not fear setting up unwinnable scenarios. Because, when it comes right down to it, you can never take into account all the sneaky things a group of desperate [=PCs=] can get up to. The [[TakeAThirdOption third option]] is always there; even if you can't see it, they will."
* In ''Webcomic/QuentynQuinnSpaceRanger'', Space Ranger cadets are routinely put into unwinnable sims and graded on ''how many times they can beat them anyway'', each time with the solution they used last time removed. "Impossible" is [[WeDoTheImpossible not a well-respected concept]] in the ESS Ranger Corps.
* ''Webcomic/BobAndGeorge''[='=]s fifth "Tales from a Parallel Universe" storyline is introduced with one of these: Rockman successfully defeats Junk Man, then gets hit with a sneak attack by Guts Man. Guts Man proceeds to pick up a boulder to finish Rockman off, but then he freezes in place [[http://bobandgeorge.com/archives/021106 as it turns out Roll shut off the simulation]].

[[folder:Web Original]]
* The short story "The Op" in the WhateleyUniverse. The Grunts (the mutant version of [=JROTC=]) face an Franchise/{{Alien}}-like threat that has already wiped out a city. They're killed one by one in horrific fashion. The villain of the scenario is [[spoiler:Sara]] as we see just how dangerous [[spoiler:she]] really could be. In full trope mode, they get their asses chewed by Gunny Bardue once the scenario ends.
** This trope crops up again a while later, in chapter 8 of "Ayla and the Birthday Brawl," where Team Kimba basically goes up against an army and gets their asses handed to them. It looks like they're going to try re-running the same sim in a few days, so we'll see what happens then.
*** It's turned into a NoodleIncident, but Team Kimba used what Ayla learned in "Ayla and the Birthday Brawl" to come up with two ways to win that sim. And apparently, Jade's CrazyAwesome 'Radioactive Condor Girl' idea ''actually worked''. And completely freaked out the people running the sims.
*** Possibly because Ayla's plans were so detailed...See UnspokenPlanGuarantee.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* The ''WesternAnimation/LegionOfSuperHeroes'' SeasonFinale "Sundown: Part 1" opens with the entire team being destroyed one by one by the Fatal Five. Then the simulation ends, and they prep to start again. Phantom Girl is not amused. "There's only so many times a girl can face her simulated doom in one day!"
** And "The Man From The Edge of Tomorrow: Part 1" opens with Brainiac 5 seemingly [[HoYay dying tragically in Superman's arms]], complete with melodramatic music [[SorryILeftTheBGMOn (which Brainy apparently also programmed into the simulation)]].
* Used in the "Glitter N' Gold" episode of ''WesternAnimation/{{Jem}}''. Jerrica wants to tell her boyfriend, Rio, that she is Jem's secret identity. She uses Synergy, her hologram-making super-computer to make an illusion of Rio to see what will happen; it goes badly. Synergy assumes that she might be wrong--but then the real Rio explodes at Kimber after she reveals that she made a mistake -- using almost the exact same words the holographic Rio did. This came from Christy Marx, the writer of most of the episodes of the ''Jem'' series, who wanted Jerrica to have a reason to keep her other identity a secret from Rio.
* The ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'' two-parter, ''Stewie Kills Lois/Lois Kills Stewie'', is revealed to be one of these in the final minutes.
** Lampshaded when Brian describes it as "a huge middle finger to the viewers."
* ''WesternAnimation/ThePowerpuffGirls'' use a holographic training room in one episode as a ShoutOut to X-men.
* One ''WesternAnimation/TimeSquad'' episode began with the heroes fighting a pyromaniac George Washington in a training simulation (bizarrely this ''wasn't'' part of the simulation's design: Larry just wanted to see what would happen if they invited "virtual Washington" for a tour of the space station...)
* The episode [[spoiler:"Failsafe"]] of ''WesternAnimation/YoungJustice'' [[spoiler:is one of these that had GoneHorriblyWrong. No matter what, winning was completely impossible. no matter what they did, the situation would continue to get worse and worse until they failed. That said, the simulation ended up having to AssPull a second alien mothership to win, so they did pretty well. As for the GoneHorriblyWrong part? Well, M'gann accidentally made the entire team think it was real, not only plunging everyone into extreme trauma, but also nearly trapping everyone who "died" in a coma.]]
* The direct-to-video/pilot episode three-parter "The Adventure Begins" of ''WesternAnimation/BuzzLightyearOfStarCommand'' has this. At Star Command's training deck, Commander Nebula calls Buzz up to watch one of the rookies, Mira, with the intention of making her Buzz's new partner. Mira beats Buzz's level, Level 9, and goes on to Level 10, which is comprised of three huge and presumably impenetrable robots. [[spoiler:Where any normal Ranger, even Buzz (since we never hear that he beat it), would have been blasted to Game Over, Mira succeeds by using her ghosting abilities.]]
* ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' has [[Franchise/XMen Princess Celestia's school]] [[ShoutOut for gifted unicorns]]. The test to get in involves hatching a dragon egg, which WordOfGod said was unwinnable. When Twilight Sparkle took the test, [[spoiler: her magical abilities were exponentially multiplied as a result of Rainbow Dash's Sonic Rainboom, which allowed her to pass the test and, coincidentally, give birth to Spike.]] However the Season Five finale seemingly retcons this idea away since, when she fails to hatch the egg when the past is changed, she ''isn't'' accepted into the school. [[FridgeLogic One must wonder how exactly one does get into this school]].
** If we're playing the Kobayashi Maru example straight, then chances are the true test is a test of character, judging how well a pony can accept failure and realize where their flaws lie. Given how Twilight takes the thought of failure (before the Rainboom boosts her power, she quickly gives up and apologizes for wasting the instructor's time), it's not exactly a surprise she failed in the many alternate timelines.
* [[InvertedTrope Inverted]] in ''WesternAnimation/StevenUniverse''. The Gems give Steven a test of skill rigged so that it's actually impossible to fail (the idea was to boost Steven's confidence in himself). Steven is upset when he figures this out, because he feels like the Gems don't trust him enough to actually challenge him.

* A prank puzzle called "The Inescapable Island". The teller begins with "imagine that you are stranded on a tiny little island", then goes on to describe with detail how the surrounding sea is vast and borderless and filled with hungry sharks and how the island is a bare spot of sand with thousands of poisonous scorpions and this and that. Once the situation is inescapable enough, the teller then asks the victim to find out a way to save themself. The only acceptable solution is along the lines of "stop imagining".
* There's an old joke about a trainee sailor asked how he'd deal with a series of increasingly severe incoming storms; in each case, he answers that he lowers another anchor. When finally asked "Where are you getting all your anchors?" he replies "Same place you're getting all your storms."
* [[ParodiedTrope Parodied]] in ChooseYourOwnAdventure style gamebook TrialOfTheClone, where the silent protagonist may be faced with a Kobayashi Maru {{Expy}}. You may attempt to honestly face the test [[spoiler:which ends the game]], shoot a random person instead [[spoiler:thus setting you back]] or cheat [[spoiler:in the most ridiculously, stupidly obvious way possible.]]

[[folder:Real life]]
* Part of a typical NASA Astronaut's TrainingFromHell involves dealing with emergencies in a simulator, though in this case the scenarios used have obscure or complicated solutions, as opposed to no solution at all. The idea here is training the astronauts in Olympic-standard mental gymnastics rather than training them to face death stoically. The latter is [[DangerDeadpan part of the job description]] anyway.
** In the early days of Gemini and Apollo, NASA initially had a specific rule against these sorts of training situations, thinking that it would hurt morale to no avail if there was no actual answer. After Apollo 13, it was realized that the situation faced by the crew would have been rejected as impossible. Since that time, this rule was removed, and several unwinnable scenarios have actually been beaten by creativity and ingenuity.
** A released audio segment depicting the training for the Space Shuttle's earliest available abort mode, RTLS (Return To Launch Site), was this. Engine 1 (the center engine) failed approximately 30 seconds after liftoff. The trainers were sporting enough to wait until after the shuttle had gotten some return velocity to Kennedy Space Center (but not enough) before killing Engine 2 (the starboard engine) - mostly because the Shuttle's response to losing two engines during the powered pitch-around maneuver would be to drop directly into the Atlantic Ocean. Engine 3 died shortly before fuel exhaustion, leaving a contingency abort (essentially, ditching the shuttle as close to land as possible and abandoning ship via the mid-deck) the only remaining option. It's easy to tell why the astronauts who flew the Shuttle never, ever wanted to actually ''use'' the RTLS abort in a mission (fortunately, the only abort mode ever used was abort-to-orbit, used on ''Challenger'''s 8th mission).
* Various training simulations for prospective pilots involve the instructor randomly turning things off in order to simulate piloting a heavily damaged or malfunctioning plane. If the instructor so wishes, he can "break" so many of the plane's functions that all the pilot can hope for is a crash landing with a slim possibility of passenger survival.
* A similar thing is occasionally done in military exercises -- the [[KillerGameMaster exercise coordinator]] might at one point say: "Blue Team, your [=SAMs=] no longer work", or "[=OpFor=], your fuel dump has been destroyed," so as to train participants to adapt when plans fall apart.
** The same thing occurs during command training exercises for civilian disaster response: it's typical for the organizers to arbitrarily declare that a given response has failed in order to make the situation worse, or that ''another'' situation has sprung up while the agency which would normally deal with it is fully occupied with the first incident.
** And if all else fails, point to the guy making all the decisions and say "You're dead," then point to the next guy and say "[[YouAreInCommandNow So what do you do?]]"
* Training for [=EMTs=] and ER personnel often forces them to deal with training scenarios where they have to save a patient and everything going wrong and the patient dying on them, or they do everything correctly and the patient ''still'' dies. The entire point of the scenarios is to drive home the fact that they ''will'' eventually fail to save a patient and that some of the reasons are outside of their control, but they still have to try.
* A fairly common practice after a particularly notable air disaster involving some kind of failure of the aircraft is to program a simulator with the scenario, put experienced pilots in the cockpit, and see if there was anything at all that could have been done. Even if the test pilots know what's coming, it's not unusual for it to be demonstrated to be utterly impossible to have saved the aircraft. In cases of ''near'' disaster, running the simulation often shows how ridiculously lucky and/or skilled the original pilots were to have pulled off what they did.