An unwinnable state (also called a softlock) is when a level or a whole game is still technically playable but is impossible to complete because a technique or an object needed to progress has become inaccessible to the player, the player character is trapped with no means of escape, or a script fails to trigger. Unwinnable situations are usually the result of a glitch or of players going out of their way to trap themselves; they can also be intentional on the part of the game designers, although there are little to no instances of this in the Super Mario franchise.
This list does not include scripted boss battles that the player cannot win in RPGs, such as the first battles with Bowser in Paper Mario and the Shroobs in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, as the game still advances despite the player losing.
Examples of unwinnable situations
In all versions of Super Mario Bros. except the Family Computer Disk System version, it is impossible to progress past the Minus World after entering it, due to the Warp Pipe at the end of the level being glitched and taking Mario or Luigi to the beginning of the level once entered.
In some castle levels, there are some areas where Mario or Luigi can use a platform to jump above a hole in the ceiling and land on top of it. However, if they start running above the ceiling and reach the end of the level, they cannot return under the ceiling (as the screen does not scroll leftwards in this game) to touch the axe and finish the level, forcing the player to wait until the Time Limit runs out and Mario or Luigi loses a life to retry the level.
Attempting to jump over the Goal Pole, although only possible in certain levels such as World 3-3, will only result in the player being trapped in a neverending void should they succeed in doing so, and landing so far that the Goal Pole disappears offscreen that they are unable to touch it from the other side, as the game cannot backtrack, meaning that once this happens they are doomed to die by letting the time run out. Because of this, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels sometimes adds hidden Warp Zones behind certain Goal Poles in some levels in order to prevent this from happening, and in the Super Mario All-Stars version, attempting to jump over the Goal Pole, while still possible, will only result in the player being unable to venture beyond the fortress/castle on the other side and being stopped by an invisible barrier on the right side of the screen, likely to also prevent such from happening again.
If Mario or Luigi was to squeeze themselves into the gap above the exit pipe at the end of any underwater level by jumping and ducking into it at the same time, they will become stuck and unable to escape until they lose a life by running out of time. However, the Super Mario All-Stars version, as well as the European version of the game, adds an extra block above the exit pipe to prevent this from happening.
If the player digs up all the soft sand at the left side of the splitting path in World 2-2, they will be unable to jump out. The Super Mario Advance remake fixes this by adding a vase that can be used to reset the sand by entering and leaving it.
Another softlock can happen when playing as Luigi in World 7-2 during the final battle against Wart. Due to how defeating a boss locks the screen in place, if Luigi defeats Wart from the ceiling of his boss fight, the player will be unable to finish the game.
In Revision 0 of Super Mario Bros. 2, if a Small Fry Guy is hit with a Mushroom Block while the player is shrinking in World 4-3, then said Small Fry Guy will fall off the screen as opposed to disappearing in a puff of smoke. This causes the game to think that there are still Small Fry Guys left; due to this, the door to exit World 4-3 doesn't appear, rending it unbeatable. This glitch was fixed in subsequent rereleases.
The game has a softlock where, should an Enemy Course land on top of an N-Mark Spade Panel, the two combine and move across the overworld map indefinitely, preventing the player from going any further after clearing a course when the panel appears.
By collecting a power-up, the game temporarily freezes during the power-up animation. If this occurs at the same time that Yoshi eats a berry, the game freezes. If the player has already beaten the level, they can escape the freeze by pressing and . However, if the player has not beaten the level, they must reset the console.
There exists a glitch that allows the player to obtain a Magic Ball in their Item Stock. If the player performs this glitch and then collects the Magic Ball while in a bonus game, the player is taken to a glitched bonus game that is impossible to complete. The only option at this point is to reset the console.
To defeat Bowser in Bowser in the Dark World, Bowser in the Fire Sea, and Bowser in the Sky, Mario must throw him into the bombs around the arena. If Mario long-jumps into all the bombs to detonate them, he is left with no way to defeat Bowser unless he leaves the level. To fix this in the DS remake, one bomb always reappears in the arena if the player tries to detonate all of them, making it still possible to beat Bowser. Additionally, it is possible to trick Bowser into lunging after Mario and jumping directly into the pit. Normally, Mario needs to throw Bowser into the pit for him to land there, but if Bowser does so as part of his own attack, the game does not respawn him to jump back onto the stage.
If one of the Bullies in Lethal Lava Land is pushed into the lava at a specific angle, it is stuck there. Doing this does not count as defeating it; therefore, the Big Bully that must also be defeated to complete the mission does not spawn.
If the Sanbo Heads in the Red Coin Field fall off the stage, the player will not be able to collect the red coin from defeating them and will have to restart the level. Additionally, since there is no source of water in the level, if FLUDD runs out of water, the player will have to restart the level if any red coins that require water have not been collected.
In the Gusty Garden's Gravity Scramble mission in the Gusty Garden Galaxy, it is possible to fall back onto the final Disk Planet with the Launch Star by performing a Long Jump in the right place. However, because the gravity has now changed on the ! and ? Planets, the player will be forced to restart the mission.
If the Cataquack in the Wall Jumping up Waterfalls mission in the Beach Bowl Galaxy touches Ice Mario on the same frame one of the ice pillars breaks the platform it is standing on, the Cataquack will start glowing and the game will become unresponsive. The player will then have to restart the mission to continue.
On the missions Purple Coins on the Battlerock and Battlestation's Purple Coins, if the player leaves behind any of the Purple Coins, they will be unable to obtain the Power Star as the platforms that the player rides throughout the level do not backtrack. Although Mario will lose a life for doing so, he can end the softlock by talking to the Gearmos who host the event.
In The Chimp's Coin Challenge in Slimy Spring Galaxy, after winning the challenge the player is transported to the beginning of the galaxy where the Power Star is obtained. However, if the player goes down the waterslide, they will not be able to climb back up the waterslide and collect the Power Star and therefore must restart the mission.
During Silver Stars in the Whomp Fortress, if the player uses the Cloud Flower to reach the Bonus Planet, they will be unable to return to the starting planet. To return, the player must lose a life or restart the mission.
If a player under the effects of the Super Star lands on a moving block in the middle of a somersault on the frame the Star runs out, they will be stuck in their somersault animation, unable to move.
In World 1-, if the player uses the Super Leaf to jump over the gap between the platform and the bridge during the boss fight against Tail Bowser and then presses the button while he jumps to the left, the bridge will collapse with Bowser off-screen, causing the game to freeze.
In the New Super Mario Bros. U level Bramball Woods, it is possible to get stuck underneath the third Bramball in the level. Normally, Brick Blocks move into position when the player is nearby, allowing the Bramballs to move. However, returning to this Bramball after dying and respawning from the Checkpoint Flag without going too far left prevents the blocks from appearing. This allows the player to take a hit and stand on the Big Block, trapping them. Jumping against the Bramball has no effect, and if the player is in small form or mini form, they cannot escape without losing a life.
If the player skips the first Power Moon, activates a checkpoint past it, comes back and collects the Power Moon, and warps to the checkpoint, the game shows Mario walking towards the Odyssey and stopping in front of it before softlocking. The softlock can be fixed by closing and then reopening the game. This glitch was fixed in the version 1.3.0 update.
Due to oversights or glitches, there are two examples of unwinnable situations, both in World 4. In World 4-2, a certain pipe lacks an assigned destination, meaning that if it is entered, Mario will never exit, and thus be trapped until the timer runs out. Similarly, in World 4-3, a Coin Heaven area's pipe cannot be entered, trapping Mario in that area until the timer runs out.
GO! GO! MARIO!! has a Super Star that Yoshi can reach by jumping off a Shy-Guy. However, unless he has any Yoshi Eggs or watermelons, he will be unable to get out of the area and must quit out of the level. This is fixed in Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3.
Paper Mario series
The Kamek curse battles may result in situations that make the battle impossible to win (for example, forcing the player to only use Hammer cards against a flying enemy). The only solution is to exit the game (as the Kamek curse battles disable the Flee command) or waste one's entire supply of cards (which will re-enable the Flee command).
Before version 1.0.1., in Shangri-Spa, after obtaining the VIP pass to access the Spring of Rainbows, if the player left the path to it after entering, the VIP pass would be gone from the menu. If the player then spoke to the Toad at the reception, they would not have the stamp card and there would be no way to get another one. Saving after this point would have bricked the save file.
Luigi's Mansion series
In Treacherous Mansion, it is possible to open a door leading to the pirate ship on the side of the mansion by holding a nearby switch down with an object. If the player enters this area while a ghost knocks away the object, the door will become blocked again after they enter the room, leaving them stuck on a tiny platform and forced to restart the level.
If the player quits in the King Boo battle after the first Tough Possessor is defeated, it is possible that the game will count the earlier mission as complete without opening up the final mission, and will not send the player to the final boss upon replaying the level, making the game incompletable.
It is also possible to be unable to win a multiplayer ScareScraper round from a common glitch that stops a necessary key from appearing in the level. If this happens, the players are forced to lose the game.
Mario & Luigi series
At a certain point in the game, the Warp Pipe that leads to the Peach's Castle Dungeon becomes accessible by going to a question marked spot in Peach's Castle. Later in the game, the player will have to go back to Peach's Castle via Peach's Castle Dungeon from the Time holes in the Star Shrine or Toad Town. If the player did not activate the Warp Pipe at Peach's Castle beforehand, the player will be stuck at the dungeon as the pipe that connects to Peach's Castle and the dungeon does not appear. This only happens in the American version; The Japanese and European versions managed to fix this glitch.
There are a certain series of glitches in Mushrise Park that makes it possible to fall into the Mini Mario area as both Mario and Luigi, or get stuck in the collision for a nearby bridge. If this happens, the game is unwinnable and the file has to be started over.
Since this game allows players to retry a battle after losing, it is possible for Mario to essentially get stuck in a "loop of death" should he trip at the start of a Dream World battle with minimal HP and less Speed than the enemy. As Mario has no way of defending the enemy's attack, he is doomed to get KO'd over and over until the player restarts the battle on Easy Mode, in which the Bros. will always start with full HP and BP when activated. This doesn't work if Mario is currently wearing the Guard Shell or Guard Shell DX accessories, and cannot be performed at all in the Hard Mode.
If the player performs a glitch to make Paper Mario the only party member and goes to certain areas such as the island in Sunbeam Plains that requires the trio to dash into catapults to progress, he will get stuck due to the lack of available abilities. Saving while in this state renders the file useless.
Additionally, it used to be possible to make the game unwinnable by backtracking as solo Luigi after Mario got captured, since a glitch would result in him getting stuck in a certain area of Dimble Wood and being unable to leave. However, after the first update for the game, this was patched, and any affected save files were also fixed to allow progress.
At the level 3 difficulty of the microgame Right in the Eye, the eye of the needle may sometimes be positioned outside the playing area, making the game impossible to win. This issue was fixed in the microgame's WarioWare Gold remake.
Three microgames in Kat & Ana's set are impossible to complete on early Japanese copies. The lines in Bright Idea and The Proud, the Fuse cannot be drawn while the flashlight in Midnight Weirdo blinks on and off. This glitch was fixed in later Japanese copies.
In Pop Goes the Party and Balance the Scales, it is possible for Penny (who is considered the worst fit for both microgames) to destroy all of the pins in Level 3 and too many cracked rocks, respectively, making the microgames impossible to win.
Mario Kart series
In Ninja Hideaway, if the player lands on top of the sign after the final moving spike platform, they will be unable to move. When this happens, they will be forced to either lose the current race or quit the game.
Impossible 100% completion
- See also: Missable content
A less severe variation is when a game can still be finished, but denies the player 100% completion of their save file in some way. Unlike true unwinnable scenarios, examples of intentional impossible 100% completion are more common in the Super Mario franchise.
If the player loses eight lives in a course from one of the first eight worlds before completing it, a Super Guide Block appears when the player re-enters that course. If the player saves the game thereafter, it permanently prevents them from ever having shiny stars on their save file (even if they did not use the Super Guide Block).
Similar to New Super Mario Bros. Wii, if the player loses five lives when attempting a course from one of the first eight worlds, an Assist Block will appear on re-entry, permanently preventing the player from ever having shiny stars on their save file (even if they did not use the Invincibility Leaf nor the P-Wing).
In all subsequent Super Mario platformers, making the Super Guide Block or Assist Block appear will not void the player's chance to get shiny stars on their save file; any player who uses the Super Guide or Invincibility Leaf can get shiny stars by completing the same level without using it.
Before version 1.0.1, if the player turned off the water in the Shroom City Hotel but did not save the Toad that the Snifit was surfing on in the hotel pool before progressing the story, they would be unable to hit it with Mario's hammer. This made it impossible to get all the Toads needed to 100% complete the area, and locked them out of the perfect ending.
If the player defeated the Black Shy Guy with Professor Toad, it was impossible to achieve 100% completion in the Musée Champignon. This was fixed in version 1.0.1 by having a Black Shy Guy appear in Scorching Sandpaper West which can be fought as many times as the player wants.
Prior to version 1.2.2076427, in Barrendale Mesa, if the player left the Barren Key for the secret zone as the last item to buy with Planet Coins at the shop, it would no longer be possible to buy it as the secret zone contains a Spark, and all 30 Sparks were required to face the Giant Magnafowl which gives a Planet Coin after being defeated. This in turn made it impossible to obtain said Planet Coin and reach 100% for Barrendale Mesa. Following the version 1.2.2076427 update, the required Sparks were lowered to 29, which now makes it possible to leave the Barren Key for last and be able to fight the Giant Magnafowl.
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|General video game terms|
|Cheat code • Completion • Continue • Easter egg • Extra life • Fourth wall • Game Over • Glitch • Missable content • Point • Unrevisitable area • Unwinnable state|