In the universe of video games, death is often just a constraint, a minor obstacle that can be overcome with extra lives or well-placed save points. However, some games like to make death more meaningful, by forcing you to start from the beginning every “Game Over”. Worse yet, some games go even further by only letting you die once. In these games, death is not a simple inconvenience, it is a unique and irreversible experience. Discover the 10 video games where you only have one chance to survive.
10. Zombie U
ZombieU is one of those games that appeared in the early 2010s, during the zombie apocalypse madness. However, unlike its competitors, the game takes a unique approach to heightening the terror of survival in the presence of the undead. Every death in Zombie U is permanent. Even though the game has a save system, when you die you do not return to the game as your previous character. You reappear in the world as another survivor, and your previous character turns into a zombie. With each death, your experience is unique. You must reacclimate to your surroundings and your new character, then venture out into the world to collect your belongings from the zombified body of your previous character. Sure, it can be frustrating to lose a character you've grown attached to, but it's precisely this emotion that Zombie U exploits to escalate the post-apocalyptic struggle.
9. You Only Live Once
At one time, Newgrounds was home to the most eccentric and creative Flash games on the Internet. One of these games was “You Only Live Once“, a platform game where, as the name suggests, you only have one chance to go through an obstacle course. Unlike Mario and other conventional platform games, “You Only Live Once” does not grant you extra lives. You have five hearts to survive a few hits, but when you lose them all, it's the end. You have no option to continue, no return to the menu and no starting again. You are simply dead. However, the game doesn't actually end. Instead, it advances time to show you what happens after you die. For example, if you die because of an enemy, you will see them call an ambulance for you and then be arrested for your murder. You will then see your modest grave in the same place where you perished. It's a level of realism that even Red Dead Redemption 2 didn't deliver.
8. Rogue Legacy
Rogue Legacy is not your ordinary rogue-like game. Normally the genre is about starting over, choosing your character, entering a dungeon, trying to survive as long as possible, and when you inevitably die, you start all over again. But in Rogue Legacy, the game never lets you choose the same character again. The whole gimmick of Rogue Legacy is that you don't play a single hero, but an entire lineage of them. So when your character dies, they don't come back, and you play one of their descendants instead. Each hero in your family tree only has one life. Getting attached to them usually ends in great disappointment and inevitable frustration. On the other hand, the random list of generated descendants keeps the game interesting for much longer. Plus, if you manage to reach the end, you'll be able to see how many descendants it took you to get there. Nothing is more powerful than knowing that you had to sacrifice decades of your bloodline to achieve this.
7. Project Zomboid
At the start of each game in Project Zomboid, the loading screen informs you that the story you are about to begin is the story of “how you died”. This may seem like an exaggeration, but in the reality of Project Zomboid's post-apocalyptic world, it is. Unlike other survival games, Project Zomboid doesn't have an easy mode that lets you reload your save file. Everything you do is recorded in real time, and if you die at any point during your journey through zombie-infested Kentucky, your character is lost forever. The only way to continue playing in your world is to create a new character who will inevitably die too. The death system in this game is truly unforgiving, as it doesn't take much to lose your character's precious life. Zombie bites, while guaranteed to kill you, are actually the least of your worries. It's more likely that your character will die from food poisoning or by stabbing themselves with a piece of broken glass. Anyone who has ever played Project Zomboid knows the pain of losing a veteran survivor with thousands of zombies under their belt to a fall down a flight of stairs.
Rimworld is an unpredictable and traumatic game, set in a distant future where humanity has colonized planets near and far. Rimworld puts you in charge of a colony of survivors and tasks you with ensuring they safely escape their deadly, isolated planet. The game offers several modes to customize your experience based on your individual needs, including a “commitment” mode that ensures your playthrough will be a unique challenge. Since the game has a multitude of randomly generated elements, from settlers to maps to events and even item descriptions, nothing is ever the same. Add to that the fact that your unique settlers attract death like a magnet, and the narrator can decide to rain a toxic cloud on their heads at any time, and “commitment” mode becomes a truly unique experience. One fatal mistake can erase your entire colony from the map and turn it into a distant memory, never to be recreated.
5. Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is an open-world survival game in which you attempt to guide a tribe of primitive humans through their evolutionary journey. As expected from its prehistoric setting, the life of your tribe is not easy and requires overcoming many dangers and trials to reach the final stage of their evolution. This is reflected in one of the key features of the game: each member of your tribe has only one life to live. Each time you take control of a particular primate in your group, you have total responsibility for their existence. You must guide them safely to the point where they can pass on their DNA to the next generation of humans. If you fail along the way, they become a dead link in evolution. Ancestors features several unforgiving death animations for those who have been unable to properly care for their primates, including scenarios such as slowly bleeding to death and even being devoured by a gigantic centipede. And once you witness the tragic end of your previous protégé, you immediately get another one to take care of, or perhaps he will meet the same fate. Evolution truly is a cruel mistress.
Reigns is a card-based strategy game where you play as a king learning the ropes of ruling a kingdom on Tinder. Each decision in the game appears as a card that you must swipe left or right. If this doesn't seem at all intense, it's because you haven't yet discovered the consequences of each decision. Reigns offers four stats for your kingdom that you must balance with each choice. If you fail to keep them all above zero or prevent any one from becoming predominant, your kingdom will experience a crisis, followed quickly by the gruesome end of your king. As the game has no save system, the death of your king is permanent, and the only way to continue playing is through your heir, provided you have one. Each king has a unique history and traits, you will never be able to play the same game again. After all, it's difficult to rule a kingdom after being burned at the stake and cut into small pieces.
3. Wild Frost
Wild Frost is a 2023 rogue-like deck-building game that tells the story of a village of adventurers trying to save their world from an eternal winter. Despite its cute art style, the game has become infamous for its high difficulty, partly due to the fact that the slightest mistake will cost you your adventurer's life forever. At the start of each game, you will be able to choose from three randomly generated heroes, each with a unique ability and appearance. This means two things: first, no matter how many times you play, you will never encounter the same character twice, and second, if your character dies at any point, you will never be able to play them again. Each hero only has one chance to save their frozen land, which can be especially brutal when you get an incredibly powerful character and they die because of a stupid, predictable mistake. Worst of all, Wild Frost keeps a record of every character that dies in a special book, so you can never forget all the poor souls you've doomed during your playthrough. True survivor's guilt, everyone's favorite activity.
With the rise of titles such as Rust and more recently Valheim and the new Sons of the Forest, the online survival genre has become a huge part of the gaming industry. However, the gaming that was there from the beginning and who helped to popularize the genre, it is certainly DayZ. Although many reviewers criticize DayZ for its gameplay, which consists of hiding in bushes for hours only to die under gunfire from a random player, the game popularized the concept of constant survival. The main concept of DayZ is that death is not just a gimmick, and its servers dedicated to permanent survival remind players of this reality in a pretty devastating way. Every time you die on a permanent survival server, your character is deleted from the game, and you cannot respawn on that server. As you can imagine, this can be quite a difficult situation for someone who spent a whole week gathering supplies only to lose them all during a random encounter with an unfriendly stranger. At least you know they won't have fun for very long either.
OneShot is a truly unique game where you play as yourself, guiding a little cat-kid named Nico on his quest to save the world. What makes this title special is that you actually have only one chance to play it. No matter which ending you get, the game won't let you continue or start again, unless you manipulate the data in your system folders a little. Even death counts as an ending. In the original version of OneShot, when the player left the game, it was equivalent to abandoning Nico and his world. You would return to the game to find that Nico was missing, and starting a new game would bring you to a dark, foreboding room instead. There was no way to go back except by directly manipulating game data. You could say that quitting a game is tantamount to giving up on its world is a bit extreme, but on the other hand, it's a incredibly memorable experience.