9 Best Games Where You Can’t Win

Most games nowadays have a win condition – or at least an ending. Whether you’re going for a big cinematic finish followed by a credits roll (and afterward, the requisite stinger), or just a simple ‘Victory!’ or ‘You Win!” screen, games always end.

However, this isn't always the rule. In fact, a lot of games – especially older ones – simply kept going until you ran out of lives, quarters, or patience. These days, games can be so open-ended that the decision to stop is based solely on when you want to and as a result, you can’t really “Win." However, there’s an adage about the journey mattering more than the destination and these games prove it to be true.

9 Temple Run

One of the classic mobile games and an early example of the now-ubiquitous endless runner genre, Temple Run hit the iPhone app store in 2011, hooking players despite its simple concept.

You’re an explorer who just got a sacred artifact– but you’ve set off a trap! Now you have to escape from the infinite temple while being chased by demonic monkeys, sliding under traps, jumping over pitfalls, and making the correct turns to stave off your doom a little longer. You might not make it out, but you can always chase the high score and maybe unlock some characters along the way.

8 World War Z Horde Mode

Ever since Gears of War 2 invented the simple yet compelling concept of the Horde Mode, plenty of games have put their own spin on it, either as a side mode or a whole standalone game.

World War Z is one such game, trading its Left 4 Dead-like gameplay for a hopeless holdout situation that has our doomed survivors defending an airport in an effort to evacuate as many civilians as possible. The gameplay is a bit cut-and-dry but has enough interesting wrinkles to chew up plenty of time.

In addition to an economy that has you upgrading your gear and buying deployable defenses, there’s an optional mini-objective every few rounds that has you doing tasks for cash, as well as a defense point that moves every ten rounds or so. With an ever-increasing difficulty and diminishing returns, every run ends under a tide of the undead, but it’s a pretty good time to see how far you can go.

7 Pac-Man

A classic arcade staple, Pac-Man has you chasing eating pellets and fruit as well as avoiding ghosts to advance in the game and get a sweet high score in the process. However, no matter how good you are, the fun times end when you beat the admittedly high stage 255, because you’ll find that the right side of stage 256 is a garbled mess of untraversable code. Since you need to eat 244 dots to beat a stage, you can’t win on account of half the dots in the game missing.

This glitch has reached meme status and even has a game based on it– Pac-Man 256, an endless runner that has you traversing the maze as a wall of glitched assets chases after you.

6 Vampire Survivor

A bit of an indie darling because of its rock-bottom price point and simple yet somehow incredibly compelling gameplay, this game will keep you up past sunrise if you’re not careful.

Vampire Survivors represents a new genre in its own right, a 2D isometric game where you run around, avoid an endless horde of enemies while you auto-fire whatever weapons and spells you have, which can be evolved into more powerful forms if you buy them in the right combinations.

However, no matter how good your gear is, the fun always ends at the half-hour mark when the Reaper collects his due and kills you, ending your run.

5 7 Days To Die

There are plenty of 3D open-world sandboxes to play in, but 7 Days To Die is one of the more interesting ones. In the same vein as games like Minecraft, you’re dropped into a giant place with the goals of surviving and exploring, though this one is far more likely to kill you if you're caught unprepared.

What sets the game apart is its thematic richness, which does a good job of immersing you in a post-zombie apocalypse world as well as giving you a constant major threat to deal with in the form of Blood Moons where every seven days, you’ll be hounded by waves of zombies until daybreak. The game never really ends, so it’s up to you to figure out what ‘winning’ even is, be it surviving for an arbitrary number of days, unlocking all the tech, or building the perfect zombie-proof bunker.

4 Cookie Clicker

The original clicker game and the precursor to the idle game genre. The game is simple, click the cookie to get more cookies, which you spend on upgrades to get even more cookies.

Upgrades go from simple things like extra clickers or higher outputs to strange, like grandmas who passively generate cookies, all the way to cookie-based eldritch abominations made of cookies, who also generate cookies like some sort of cookie singularity. There isn’t really an endgame and one of the last things you can do is to start over with a percentage of your buffs, doing it all again, but faster…

3 The Sims

A sandbox sim where you control the lives of everyone in a little world or let them be and watch them mind their business. There isn’t really an endgame scenario and the game plays somewhere between a people terrarium and a social sim.

Because of its nature as a social sandbox, there’s a lot of emergent storytelling that can come from just tooling around in the game. There are specific ways to play the game that have gained traction on YouTube, like Legacy Challenges which aim to map the achievements of one family in a set number of generations, or the Hundred Baby challenge which challenges a sim to have a hundred babies with different sims. The game also has built-in scenarios if you're stuck for something to do.

2 EVE Online

EVE Online is an MMORPG that casts you in the shoes of a spacefarer in a persistent universe. You can take on any number of professions from the legitimate– like a miner, trader, or explorer to the criminal – like a pirate or a CEO and everything in between.

The game doesn’t have an end state, so you're free to gather money, valuables, and sweet space ships to your heart's content, provided you don’t mind the risk of being murdered or swindled out of it as well since some regions in the game’s universe are more lawless than others. Of course, you’re free to be the one doing the murdering or swindling, if you’re good (and bad) enough.

1 Tetris

The great grandaddy of puzzle video games, is still ubiquitous even in modern day, thanks to its timeless gameplay: line the pieces up and watch them disappear. Though the formula is tried, tested and true, new spins on the game have also helped it stay fresh, like the Battle Royale of Tetris99 or the head-to-head gameplay that most Tetris games have.

However, before all that, it was a stripped-down experience where you clear lines, advance in stages, and score points, with the game getting more difficult the further you go. There’s a point, however, around level 29 where the game is simply too fast for human reflexes to deal with. The furthest any human has gotten is level 33, through some trickery with the controller known as “hyper-tapping." Eventually, the speed gets to you and there isn’t even a ‘win’ screen to be had, so just enjoy the line clearing while you have and accept it when the journey’s over.

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