Earlier this month a tale emerged of a Reddit user who had been playing the same Civilization II game for a total of 10 years. The result? A “hellish nightmare of suffering and devastation” resulting from dozens of nuclear wars that “rendered vast swaths of the world uninhabitable wastelands”. Awesome.
This got us thinking about other games that, theoretically, don’t ever have to end. While many massively multiplayer games could take a lifetime to complete and open world games like GTA offer endless fun, here is a list of games that – by their very nature – offer an endless mode that still requires user intervention.
Much like the aforementioned game of Civ II, you too can start your own endless campaign in any of the games in Sid Meier’s series in addition to a number of scenarios to work your way out of. Civilization V is the latest in the best-selling series of turn-based strategy games, and is available for Windows and Mac OS X computers.
While Civ V was released nearly two years ago now it has recently received some additional content and game mechanic tweaks in the form of the Gods & Kings expansion. Graphics, gameplay and the number of included civilizations have all been improved, with the latest add-on adding religion and espionage game features.
The original city building game, Will Wright’s Sim City series has touched the heart of would-be town planners the world over since 1989. This year’s E3 laid the foundations for what is destined to be the best edition yet, with a full reveal trailer for the upcoming title SimCity, one of the most awaited games of the last decade.
If the rumoured February 2013 release date is too long to wait then why not pick up your favourite edition and start another sprawling concrete landscape? My personal favourite has to be Sim City 3000 though Sim City 4 is arguably the most advanced in the series. Just steer clear of Sim City: Societies, because that game was bad.
Departing from the top-down strategy theme for a moment, Skyrim is a game that technically never ends. The story does, but the game also includes a mission generator which procedurally creates quests for you to complete depending on what you’ve done. The system is known as the “Radiant” quest system and ensures you’re never short on things to do.
You can pick up these quests from any of the in-game guilds and other NPCs dotted about the land. They’re not entirely random either – the game will specifically send you to places you have not been to further discover more of the map and in an attempt to keep gameplay fresh. As if there wasn’t enough to do in Skyrim, now you’ve got infinite quests to complete too.
Another Will Wright classic, love it or hate it The Sims also offers you an endless list of things to do, needs to satisfy and ladders to steal from swimming pools. There are a huge range of games in the series, though you’ll want to stick to the main three, each of which is available on both Windows and Mac OS X.
In addition to the three main core games there are a seemingly endless number of expansions which add items, career paths, new locations and major features to keep you and your virtual beings happy. Build your dream home, seduce your neighbour’s wife or wall-in the postman – The Sims is the engine but your actions decide what kind of game unfolds.
I’m not embarrassed to admit that Chris Sawyer’s original RollerCoaster Tycoon occupied much of my childhood. No game came close to the roller coaster building experience offered here, and while you couldn’t quite tweak the level of salt in the fries à la Theme Park, you could build rides that would make your virtual customers fill their virtual pants.
In fact, keeping the intensity rating of each ride down is part of the challenge and roller coaster building becomes somewhat of an art. Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 improved on what was already a winning formula with the third addition adding CoasterCam, allowing you to ride your roller coasters. The new RollerCoaster Tycoon 3D title comes out for the Nintendo 3DS this year, though unfortunately it doesn’t seem a patch on its prequels.
Arguably one of the most cherished video games of all time, Elite is a masterpiece space trading simulator written by David Braben and Ian Bell for the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron computers way back in 1984. While the wireframe graphics and open-ended game model might seem a little dusty these days, it still stands as one of the finest games ever made.
Elite certainly wasn’t the first space trading game, but it was to space trading games what Doom was to first person shooters. To quote Chris Sawyer who was responsible for remaking Elite as Elite Plus for DOS in 1991: “Most games can be ‘completed’ – the Elite games can just go on and on.”
The original Championship Manager was developed by Sports Interactive (then Intelek, now SI Games), the collective name of Paul and Oliver Collyer who wrote the fiendishly addictive management simulation in their bedrooms and released it on Amiga and Atari ST in 1992. A split from then-publisher Eidos saw SI Interactive lose the IP shortly after Champ Man 03/04, and the company now develops the Football Manager series (which is where you’ll want to head next).
Football fans beware – classic Championship Manager features the perfect mix of casual gameplay and life-sapping simulation mechanics that will eat away at your spare time. Football Manager continues the tradition and before long you’ll have it open, windowed, all the time. Your girlfriend will leave you. You might even forget to buy pork scratchings and watch Match of the Day on Saturday evenings. You have been warned.
This is my personal shortlist of quality games that never end. Many come with separate modes featuring scenarios to complete and goals to achieve, but all feature one uniting mechanic and that’s an open-ended mode that will keep you playing for a long time yet. If you have any personal favourites, waves of nostalgia or opinions regarding the games in this article then we would love to hear all about it in the comments.