Game Over Isn’t An Option: These Games Never End

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games that never endEarlier 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.

games that never end

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.

Sim City

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.

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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.

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

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.

The Sims

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.

RollerCoaster Tycoon

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.”

Championship Manager & Football Manager

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.

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Comments (32)
  • Ben

    Where can I get King’s Quest, Prince of Persia?

  • Laga Mahesa

    Tim Brookes has just entered my favorite people list for listing Elite. =)

    The sequel, Frontier, was the game for me though. I played that solid for over a year until my Amiga A1200 got nicked. My last save was somewhere near the galactic core, on a barren moon about to go on a suicidal fuel scoop run with a battered Imperial Courier.

    Back to the topic, I don’t bother with major games that aren’t open. None last long enough and there’s too much focus on multiplayer. Singleplayer is pretty much an advert for their online cash cows. The only time wasters I’ll play and pay for are on my iPad, where the price point makes sense for what you get.

    Also… holy crap, that Sim City looks GOOD.

    • Tim Brookes

      Pssst… I’ve still got my A1200. It’s gathering dust but still fully functional in its original box in the attive of my parents’ house, 10,000 miles away from where I currently live. The only thing I had to replace was the power supply (which incidentally came from an A500+, even older) due to a surge one day. My games, mouse, joysticks and the original TV I used to play on still work. It’s a little bit of history that I’ll be keeping forever.

      And yeah, SimCity looks awesome. I’m gutted it won’t be seeing a native OS X release.

    • Laga Mahesa

      Lucky git.

      There are two things preventing me from switching completely to Mac – gaming, and Directory Opus. If you ever used that on the Amiga you know my pain. Going from that to the finder… :/

      This is why I’m opting for the new MBP. Can run Windows via Parallels with no problem on that kit so the pain should be lessened.

    • Tim Brookes

      Hmm well you should have a look at Path Finder –

      As far as I’m aware it’s the closest thing to Opus on the Mac!

  • Philip Nelson

    Why put the series for the rest of them but only Skyrim for the Elder Scrolls?

    • Tim Brookes

      Because as far as I’m aware, Skyrim is the first to introduce endless procedurally generated quests – which is the point of the article. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe you will eventually completely run out of things to do in the other games in the series.

      Ergo, Skyrim is endless.

    • Laga Mahesa

      I kinda disagree, the generated quests got tedious. The modding scene is where the elder scrolls games live, and there’s a huge amount of material available for the predecessors.

      I remember making an antigravity arrow for morrowind that just made people float around uselessly. I loled.

    • Tim Brookes

      Mods are all well and good but they can only be applied to the PC version, and the console releases were huge this time round. Even Oblivion was big news on the 360 when it was released but nowhere near as big as Skyrim which even appealed to those who don’t usually pick up an RPG.

      Still, I do love the amount of mods there are for the PC version. While some are a little odd, others are just hilarious (like the Zoidberg mudcrabs).

  • Shehan Nirmal

    Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 3… The game with fun, real heroes, true war… It’s true that its single player session has an end, but multi-player sessions will never end… It is the best game I’ve ever had fun with…

    • Tim Brookes

      Real heroes? True war? You mean fictional characters in a fictional conflict, right?

      Modern Warfare 3 isn’t bad, but it’s just more of the same testosterone twitch shooter gameplay. Multiplayer modes don’t count as “endless” as they are round-based and eventually you can even run out of Prestige levels.

      This is in comparison to say Civ, where you can keep playing the same game on the same map for years on end and Champ Man where you can keep managing teams till you reach some inhuman age.

  • Joel

    Along the same lines of Elite are the Escape Velocity series from Ambrosia. The latest one has hundreds of star systems with a thousand worlds to travel and trade. Loads of ships to buy and upgrade and myriad factions to trade with and piss off make for an immersive game every time. Like Skyrim, the game continues infinitely after the story is done.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.