The Top Nine Games That Won't Let You Stop Playing

December 10, 2009

Some games are compelling. Some games are addictive. And some games have simply decided that letting the player do anything else is for the weak.  Here are some that you’d better either have strong bladder muscles or the ability to play on the toilet.

Source: Hill Creek Pictures/UpperCut Images/Getty Images

By Dan Seitz

9. Donkey Kong


Source: Nintendo

Sure, we could throw any old-school arcade game in here.  Like in Pac-Man, where once you hit level 256 you get the infamous split-screen, a level that won’t let you advance because of a glitch unless you hack the game.  But Donkey Kong makes it so, so much worse.

Donkey Kong is infamous for its “kill screen,” the 22nd level where you get about two seconds to complete the level, and then the game kills you.  So, basically, you can’t pause until the game decides it’s done with you.  Fans of The King of Kong, the second greatest movie about video games ever made (the first being The Wizard, what with the Power Glove being so bad), might remember the hero being forced to neglect his kid because the game just wouldn’t let him go.


Finally, sick of this glitch, somebody decided to hack it and see what happens, and it turns out you get Memento starring a fat plumber.  The 99th level just keeps repeating, repeating, repeating until you either die or quit in frustration.  You know, just like your day job.

8. Dead Space


Source: Electronic Arts

“But wait!”, you say!  “I’ve played Dead Space, and you can pause it!.”  Well, sure you can.  Just not if you need to do anything in the game itself.

Unlike most games, where hitting pause means you get a breather as you sort through your inventory and leisurely choose exactly what kind of gun you’re going to use to eviscerate your target, if you want to get at anything in-game, whether it’s your inventory, your health pack, or just turning down the sound effects, you’re going to be doing it while those freakish abominations are chasing you around.  Which honestly sounds like most people’s day job, so maybe you won’t have that much trouble with it.

7. World of Warcraft


Source: Blizzard Entertainment

No, World of Warcraft doesn’t make this list because you can never stop playing.  Some people really do have willpower, even in the face of the Horde.  But back when World of Warcraft had an honor ranking system where the points expired, willpower went by the wayside if you wanted to use any of the cool stuff you’d collected.

WoW’s system redefined the word “brutal.” To go up a rank in honor, the number of points went up exponentially.  As in one rank was a hundred points, the second rank was a thousand, and it got worse from there.  So if you wanted to get the highest rank, you basically had to fight, nonstop, for months.  Playing characters in shifts wasn’t uncommon.  Even better, your points expired over time, so you had to keep playing to keep using the specialty gear your rank unlocked.

Gee, you’d think Blizzard made money off of obsessive players or something!

6. Left 4 Dead


Source: Valve Corporation

One of the reasons video games exist is to let us kill zombies.  Kill zombies with shotguns, with blunt objects, with sharp objects, with other zombies -- the point is, zombies need to die.  But if you’re playing Versus mode in Left 4 Dead, zombie death becomes a marathon.

If you haven’t played, you alternate as survivors and zombies.  Generally, the survivors get a safe room to rest in, but in Versus mode, you’ve got about a minute before the door pops open and some zombies come in to say "hi."  Also, if you stick around the safe room too long, the zombies get unlimited respawns.

Sure, we get it, other players are on the server and they get to have fun too.  But geez.  Doesn’t anybody at Valve pee?

5. Old-School Console Fighting Games


Source: Capcom

We all remember the days of Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat.  Of course, what you may not remember is how they probably extended periods of bedwetting by about four years by making it impossible to pause a match.

Unlike most of the entries on here, it’s not because of sadistic programmers. It’s because they couldn’t design the game right.  Everybody remembers that if you hold back, it blocks...except for the guys coding Mortal Kombat for the home consoles. Instead of holding “back” like every other game, they decided to extend the games edginess to the control scheme and make “Start” the button you pressed to block so it’d be more like the arcade game, which also had a pointless “block” button.

But that’s not nearly as bad as Street Fighter II on the Genesis: if all you had was the three-button controller, “Start” didn’t pause the game, it switched between kicks and punches.  Although that probably made pausing a moot point, since you were getting your butt kicked every time you tried to switch.


4. Demon’s Souls


Source: From Software

Role-playing games are infamous for being profound time-sinks (just ask any member of Girlfriends Against World of Warcraft).  And Atlus is infamous for putting out games that will give you nightmares about how hard they are.  So when you cross the two, and you realize one of their games is on this list, you know that just can’t be good.

Demon’s Souls is particularly cruel because Atlus, in addition to making the game harder on certain holidays because it makes them giggle, has decided that you can’t pause the game when you’re playing.  EVER.  And you can’t just go hide in a corner and sprint to the bathroom, because the game is designed to have other players hunt you down and kill you.

But, hey, if you desperately need to lose weight, this game looks like it’s designed to keep you from eating.  So you could go for that.

3. D


Source: WARP

Who doesn’t look fondly back on point-and-click adventure games?  Games where you had a massive inventory, and basically had to solve puzzles by using everything in your inventory on everything else you could click, meaning most puzzles were nothing more than trying to figure out some stupid pun or some insane chain of logic that only makes sense to the game designer. Hours and hours of clicking and hearing “I can’t do that” or “that doesn’t fit in there” and checking the guide only to realize you’d gotten it right and the stupid hitbox was the size of a pixel or you had to talk to some jackass the next town over…you know what?  Point-and-click adventure games sucked.

But far be it from D not to take everything you hate about adventure games and combine it with everything you hated about every other game: that is, a time limit.  You only had two hours to finish D and all its puzzles before your own father mutated and ate you.  Oh, and to get the best ending, you also had to find and collect a bunch of beetles. So not only did you have to solve a bunch of puzzles with the clock ticking, you also had to go on…a pointless fetch quest!  We’re pretty sure this game was released on the 3DO because no other system would take it.

2. Penn and Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors


Source: Absolute Entertainment

No list of games that strain your bladder and starve your stomach is complete without mentioning this game, starring Penn Jillette before he was a washed-up libertarian inflicting stupid names on his children, and Teller, who for some reason has kept taking Penn’s crap (we’re guessing he pays pretty well).  The entire idea of the game was to prank your friends, and no prank is more famous, or more cruel, than Desert Bus.

How to play Desert Bus: You drive continuously from Tucson to Las Vegas, rendered in only the finest graphics that mid-‘90s game consoles could offer.  That’s roughly eight hours of driving, by the way.  Needless to say, you can’t pause.  Nor can you tape down the controller, because the bus will slowly drift to the right.  And if you go off the road, the bus will stall and you’ll be towed back to Tucson …in real time. No, you have to sit there, for eight hours, and when you arrive, you will be rewarded the princely sum of one point.  Also, if you want to go back to Tucson , you can…although you have to think fast as the game will take that option away after a few seconds.

Smoke and Mirrors was never officially released, as the company that was making it folded, but it turned up on the Internet and has become a legend.  A group of poor bastards even run a charity called “Desert Bus For Hope,” where the more you donate to the Child’s Play charity, the more they play Desert Bus.  24 hours a day, seven days a week, until the donations dry up.  And they do this so kids who suffer from cancer can enjoy video games.  Of course, for doing this in the first place, they also probably qualify for sainthood, but we’ll leave that one alone.

1. Final Fantasy XI


Source: Square

Considering how MMOs will eat your time, it was hard to pick from any of the ways it can destroy your life.  But there’s one instance in Final Fantasy XI that just tops all the others: the dreaded Pandemonium Warden.

As of right now, the Pandemonium Warden is a tough boss because he’s got a time limit: if you haven’t handed him his ass in two hours, he takes his ball and goes home.  But originally Square Enix came up with something vastly more sadistic.

Basically, the Pandemonium Warden was the boss from hell: a group of high-powered FFXI players beat on this guy for eighteen straight hours and couldn’t put a dent in him.  Ultimately, he beat them, but not because he wiped out all their characters.  He won because players were actually passing out, at their computers, from exhaustion.

Yes, this is the only game boss that kicks your ass with metagaming.  Look on your character stats, ye mighty, and despair.