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"Ethel, I think we’re fighting a losing game!"
Lucy, I Love Lucy

'Unwinnable' is a gameplay state in which it is completely impossible for the player to finish the game. Players who have reached this point have only two options: reload a previous save—in the fortunate situations where this is possible, or start the game anew—for the much more unfortunate situations where it is not.

Unwinnable comes in four flavors:

Examples go on the subtropes above.

Compare Luck-Based Mission and Controllable Helplessness, as well as Endless Game. See also "Wake-Up Call" Boss.