Someone is attempting to assassinate someone. But the target refuses to be assassinated, either because of luck, a talent to survive, special skills, or a skilled bodyguard.
The assassin may be killed by his target, have poisoned himself before the mission, commit suicide, be executed by his leader or organisation (or alternatively have other assassins sent after him, which sometimes causes him to outclass these in turn) or by the person who contracted him, or join the 'outclasser'.
A character can evolve into a real 'assassin outclasser' when recurrent assassination attempts fail, which makes the character in question even more cautious, which makes the failure of more assassination attempts even more likely. Such can only happen if the majority of assassins were defeated by the target him/her/itself (and not by a bodyguard or similar), since this title demands that the target defeat - "outclass" - the assassins. The trope itself, however, is just about assassination attempts failing because of the target (like in Tales of the Otori) or some "protector" (see Artemis Fowl, where it's the Battle Butler), or great amounts of attempted assassinations that failed because of the exceptional luck of the target (see The Dark Side of the Sun).
Sometimes, this a running gag. In many cases, that situation leads to a Crowning Moment Of Awesome or "Who's Laughing Now?" for the assassin's target, but sometimes it can horribly fail, when the lucky streak breaks and the target cannot defend themselves sufficiently anymore, either because of further, much more skilled assassins that were sent or because the target became overly self-confident and careless after outclassing various assassins.
Killing an Assassin Outclasser usually is a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for the assassin. It will often be a Rasputinian Death, since these people are... not easy to kill.
If the assassin refuses to finish the job instead of failing or is verbally convinced by the victim to leave them alone, see Hitman with a Heart.
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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Anime & Manga
Hilariously, in both Fate/stay night and Fate/Zero the Assassin class servants, named Assassin, have a terrible track record. At least in Fate/Zero, Assassin's Master did this on purpose while the others have no such excuse.
In Berserk, anyone who tries to kill Griffith will die. Period.
Reima sends a bunch of assassins after Fuga in Ginga Nagareboshi Gin after he runs away from home. Thanks to his own ability and Riki's help, Fuga gets away relatively unscathed.
In an episode about Ninjas. Samurai Champloo has Jin perform a typically stylish version of this trope against five attackers at once who tried to ambush him but got quickly discovered.
The manga had a guy who was a specialist in assassinations for the Anten Seven. He was assigned to kill Gene while Gene was staying at a local resort. The guy disguised himself as a tourist in an effort to get close to Gene, but kept getting derailed by accidents. Ironically, he looked suspiciously like the Epic Fail Guy.
This also happened with Suzuka. She spent her introductory episode trying to kill Gene's friend and financier, only to let up and join him until such time as her employer was bankrupted by said friend.
In Weiß Kreuz, Farfarello holds the honor of being Weiss' only known target to completely escape death. It reaches Karma Houdini levels when you sit back and realize he's murdered two teenage girls (both of whom were love interests for main characters), his own mother, tortured countless religious men, and actually has the happiest ending in the series: he settles down with the woman he loves and only ever cameos again.
In One Piece, the main characters manages to defeat two pairs of Baroque Works assassins, and eventually defeat their leader, Sir Crocodile, and destroy the whole syndicate.
Ace used to try to murder Whitebeard whenever he saw the chance. Judging from the flashback examples, Ace never managed to cut even a hair on his head.
An hilarious scene shows Doflamingo calmly talking to the phone while fending the assassination attempts from one of his own subordinates.
Bernard Wiseman tries to fell the eponymous Gundam in Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket, and it looked like he'd be successful too before he was impaled by the Gundam in battle. The Gundam didn't get away without losing an arm, its head, and a good chunk of the torso though.
In The Slayers Revolution and Evolution-R, Lina Inverse becomes the target of an infamous assassin who, as it is revealed later, also has a personal grudge against her. Of course, she is Lina Inverse, and the assassin gets his ass handed to him. Twice.
In the Lupin III franchise, this trope comes in two flavours.
The Rival is introduced for one or more of the characters. Either brand-new, or from their past. The rivals clash two or three times before the final confrontation calls for our protagonists to win.
Both played straight and played with in Hunter × Hunter. When the Mafia hires assassins to take out the Genei Ryodan, the Ryodan's leader, Chrollo easily kills everyone that comes for him... until he meets Killua's father and grandfather, Silva and Zeno. After a destructive Boss Battle, the two recieve a call from Killua's brother Illumi, who has just completed Chrollo's contract on the Mafia bosses responsible for calling hits on the Ryodan in the first place. Their employers dead, Silva and Zeno figure the job is done and leave peacefully. Not so much a physical example of outclassin' for Chrollo, but he still out-gambitted the Mafia community.
The four most notable instances: a serial killer, having learned the famed City Hunter was on his case, broke in his home to kill him, only to shoot a puppet in his bed and get tortured psychologically in return; an actress has hired Umibozu to kill her and her agency hired Ryo as her bodyguard, leading to Ryo thwarting his initial attempts before bribing him into throwing the job and scare her into wishing to live (it helped Umibozu was a fan of hers); a Corrupt Cop capable of shooting a target at one km wanted to kill Ryo and Reika (who had hired him), and Ryo, at the same distance, shot the barrel of his rifle (twice), his belt and the buttons of his shirt, getting him to surrender; Umibozu got hired to kill Ryo, and, the two being on the same level, they agree to fight a Duel to the Death that ends with Ryo breaking Umibozu's gun with his last bullet.
In Hitman this happens almost constantly, usually but not always to Tommy, Natt, and Ringo. It helps that the three of them are all *also* assassins, and Tommy and Ringo specifically are the two deadliest assassins in Gotham-freaking-city. Attempted assassins include but are not limited to: idiot Gotham wannabe assassins, a few dozen ninjas, hundreds of mafia thugs, Johnny Navarone, large chunks of the CIA, super fast mutant cowboys, an SAS hit-squad (though Tommy and Natt get out of that more because of luck and internal strife in the squad than anything else), a ten-armed demon from Hell, Lobo, Benito Gallo, and Johnny's son Marc Navarone. Among others.
Ultimately subverted, though, as Ringo is killed by an army of assassins (led be a super powered one), and Tommy and Natt both ultimately die at the hands of an even bigger army of rogue CIA assassins (though in Tommy's case it's pretty much voluntary).
Pat Noonan and Sean Noonan of the main cast are also killed by assassins (Pat by Johnny and Sean by Benito), but do considerably less outclassing beforehand.
This is the entire idea behind the Human Target. Christopher Chance impersonates people who live dangerous lives, and takes on whatever comes after him until they're safe.
UltimateNick Fury did this by putting a hit out on himself. When the assassin looked through his scope to take out Fury the only thing he saw was the good colonel sighting him with a rifle of his own.
In the New 52's Suicide Squad, this is how Deadshot was sent to Belle Reve Prison. He was supposed to assassinate a senator in Gotham, but was thwarted by Batman, causing Deadshot his first career miss.
This is used frequently in Sin City. Both Marv and Wallace's main stories involve assassins coming after them in waves, only to get killed.
In Discworld fiction, Sam Vimes' reputation for unkillability continues. In fact, Assassins' School teacher Miss Alice Band now has an informal agreement with Sam that she can send him a student in need of correction at any time, and he will obligingly aid in their education by delivering a short sharp lesson in over-confidence and where it leads to. In The Civilian Assistant, she indulges a Klatchian student with a flying carpet, partly because she wants to trial an aerial approach to the client, and partly because the over-confident student has forgotten to take into account that Vimes now recruits an Air Police. Vimes and his airborne Watch-Feegle tip the hapless girl off the flying carpet and into the inevitable Ramkin Manor cess-pit. Alice will happily bodyguard Vimes against attack - as if he needs it - as he is such a valuable teaching assistant to her.
In Nature Studies, Vimes is in fact saved from near-certain death by an Assassin. She whips two irritated and hungry lions away from him (thus introducing the circus discipline of lion-taming to the Discworld) when she might have stood back, allowed Nature to be red in tooth and claw, and claimed the bounty money, citing two lionesses as her inhumation weapon. Asked afterwards why she saved him, she cited several reasons, including fear of the wrath of Lady Sybil. Vimes himself maintains he would have stubbed his cigar out on the animal's nose to make it back off. This might have worked...
The Man Who Knew Too Little starring Bill Murray is this trope Played for Laughs. The main character is oblivious to the fact that he isn't in an interactive play, but rather surviving multiple murder attempts through a combination of mad luck and help from competent agents.
The Pink Panther Strikes Again is all over this. Chief Inspector Dreyfus has gone insane and sent assassins from around the world to kill Clouseau. But they've also been told to assassinate each other because each country wants to have the privilege of killing Clouseau. Meanwhile Clouseau bumblingly foils each try, not even knowing about the assassination attempts most of the time.
In Angel's Dance, a random woman is targeted for assassination simply as target practice for a hitman-in-training by his mentor. The woman survives the first attack and quickly adapts herself to avoiding and turning the tables on her would-be killer.
In Dial M for Murder, Margot Wendice's husband, Tony hires a crook named Swann to strangle her to death. However, Margot manages to stab him to death with her scissors, setting off Tony's Xanatos Speed Chess.
A number of characters evade assassins in the Deryni works by Katherine Kurtz, with or without help. A partial list:
Prince Richard Haldane is saved from Mearan assassins by the Earl of Lendour and his son Lord Ahern de Corwyn (the Earl dies, and his son is injured).
King Donal Haldane is saved from assassins by Sir Kenneth Morgan in In the King's Service. Sir Kenneth takes an arrow in the leg.
King Brion Haldane is saved from assassin Zachris Pomeroy and his minions by Master Jamyl Arilan, Kenneth Morgan (now Earl of Lendour in right of his wife) Rhydon of Eastmarch, and Sir Sé trelawney in Childe Morgan.
Kelson Haldane escapes a deadly Stenrect thanks to Alaric Morgan in Deryni Rising.
Morgan is saved from an assassin by a Haldane squire while sailing aboard his ship Rhafallia in Deryni Checkmate. Later in the same book, he's rescued from Warin de Grey and his men by his cousin Duncan.
Duncan learns the increased security in Dhassa in High Deryni was put in place after a failed assassination attempt against itinerant bishop Wolfram de Blanet. Cardiel and Arilan fear Loris was behind it, so he could appoint a replacement and get the needed twelfth vote in his reduced Curia.
Duncan fights off an assassin (a youth disguised in his Mclain livery) in The Bishop's Heir. He is slashed across the palm of one hand, and the dagger is laced with merasha.
Nigel fights off Torenthi assassins with help from his son Conall, his brother-in-law Saer de Traherne, and Haldane household archers and troops in The King's Justice. Nigel also ensures young Liam of Torenth is safe; there is some evidence Liam's death was intended in the attack as well as Nigel's.
Kelson and Liam fight off assassins (with help from Brendan Coris and Morgan) while visiting the Hort of Orsal in King Kelson's Bride.
Sam Vimes does this to various assassins many many times. Despite being an enormous headache for the political intrigue of the city, Vimes proved so repeatedly unkillable that he became one of only two people struck from the guild register; the other is Vetinari, either because as a former assassin he too is unkillable, or simply because as the Patrician, and, being Vetinari, killing him would cause too many political hiccoughs.
Not only is he unkillable, but Vimes provides a unique opportunity for the Assassin's Guild. Unlike the Patrician, who tends to make sure Nothinghappens to people who make attempts on his life, Vimes tends towards relatively nonlethal measures of self defense, provided his family is not targeted. Thus, the Assassins use him for a training exercise... in humility. Indeed, Vimes seems to take a perverse pleasure in booby-trapping his home.
Also, in Thud!, some religiously fanatic Dwarves try to attack his family: One of them gets roasted by twenty six dragons after his flamethrower utterly fails to harm his target, one is stabbed by Willikins and one is knocked out and dies from poison he took before.
Also from Discworld: Rincewind, who survives all manner of ridiculous situations through a combination of extreme luck and applied cowardice. Assassins fare no better around him than anything else. Worse, usually. Special mention goes to all the wizards trying to kill him in The Light Fantastic.
Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully, who by virtue of his position is a prime target for Klingon Promotion. He rarely kills attempted assassins, but always at least breaks a limb. Much like Vetinari and Vimes, the other wizards realized it was simply too much trouble to try to kill him and have since largely given up the "Pointy Shoes" tradition.
Moist von Lipwig in Making Money discovers another side to the Assassins and might have finessed them into keeping him alive. He is under a suspended Guild contract that will only be activated if he fails to keep the dog Mr Fusspot alive and healthy. If the dog, who has become chairman of the Royal Bank and thus a highly important player of the game, dies of anything but natural causes, so does Moist. Therefore to allow Moist to keep the dog alive and to allow a Guild member a chance to earn the money if he doesn't, Moist - and dog - need to be bodyguarded and kept alive by the Guild.... and this dog is politically important, don't forget...
Simply put, the guild won't take a second contract on the same person and no self-respecting member will agree to assassinate a dog.
Susan Sto Helit is pretty good at outclassin' assassins- albeit on other people's behalf, and usually without them knowing at the time. In Soul Music she (ab)used the power of Death to scare the Gresham Ford Close Harmony Singersnote the Musician's Guild enforcers and two members of the Assassin's Guild away from Imp y Celyn; in Hogfather, her grandfather (Death) asked her to save the Hogfather, first from mad Assassin Teatime and then from the Auditors of Reality. Finally, in Thief of Time, she teams up with the Sweeper, a rogue Auditor and half of the Anthropomorphic Personification of Time to save Time (and, by extension the world) from the Auditors.
Another Pratchett example: This is a great part of The Dark Side of the Sun: Dom Sabalos survives countless assassination attempts, mostly due to 'probability maths' that grant him fate-like, epic luck by allowing him to instinctively "navigate" to countless Alternate Universes where he survives those attacks.
Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos novel Yendi. During a turf war, Vlad survives multiple assassination attempts. He finally realizes that he shouldn't have been able to survive them that easily and realizes that there's something deeper going on.
In The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, the entry on assassins is all about this trope. It indicates that at some point the protagonist will get attacked by a supposedly dangerously skilled assassin and defeat/kill them, and the assassin will go their death complaining that the protagonist wasn't playing according to the "rules".
In Amanda Downum's The Bone Palace, Savedra, the Crown Prince's transsexual mistress, repeatedly dispatches assassins sent to kill her, the Prince, or for that matter his wife. Not that either of them is that defenseless either, especially the rather Amazonian warrior Princess.
In Lynn Abbey's Beneath the Web, after many failed attempts, the assassins' guild declares Prince Rinchen sorRodion too difficult to kill, and refuses to take any more contracts on him.
In The Dresden Files, assassins regularly make a pass at the titular wizard for one reason or another.
In Summer Knight, after Harry and Will see off a hit squad in the first few pages of the book, Harry complains that normally assassins only take a swing at him after he's started the investigation.
Notably averted at the end of Changes, where Harry actually gets assassinated. Like a chump. He was Only Mostly Dead, of course, but still! The lack of outclassin' is twisted when it's revealed who contracted the kill.
Eugenides from The Queen's Thief series is able to take on multiple assassins singlehandedly and win. Turns out that the hook he has instead of a hand is actually razor sharp. Also, he was trained to be a soldier, though he doesn't look like it. And he's a master of the Bare-Handed Blade Block. To top everything off, he has the literal protection of a god.
A Song of Ice and Fire: Queen Cersei sent a minor lord after Bronn. The lord's wife comes back, lamenting that the former sellsword killed her husband and took over his lands. A bit of a subversion; Cersei dropped hints that she wanted Bronn covertly assassinated; instead, the lord (a presumably once-puissant but currently aged man) quite openly challenged Bronn, a battle-hardened mercenary in his prime, to single combat.
Tiphaine d'Ath of the Novels Of The Change, being a former assassin herself, has a pretty good idea of the preventative measures she needs to take when she's promoted to the juicy-target position of Grand Constable.
Happens several times in Tales of the Branion Realm (understandable as it focuses on a royal family). From the first book alone: Demnor survives an attack and doesn't even bother to tell anyone, binding his own wound. His twelve-year-old sister Kassandra shoots another assassin through the eye. His other sister Quindara actively dares rebels to try to kill her while on campaign, and leaves a string of hanged corpses behind her. Quindara earned her knighthood at fourteen by killing an assassin hiding outside her mother's tent.
Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain survives no less than three attacks in Duty Calls. When, later, he speculates that an apparent Friendly Fire incident was a fourth, he admits it sounds paranoid but obviously someone was out to get him.
Live Action TV
Done in an episode of Lois and Clark, where an alien assassin is trying to kill Superman. Upon failing, he has an immediate Eye Lights Out death - failure is unacceptable in his culture.
Grimm: Reapers are assassins who are specifically target Grimms, but since Grimms are far from helpless, their success is far from guaranteed. The Reaper who goes after Marie Kessler overpowers her, but he makes the mistake of disregarding her police-trained nephew, Nick, who shoots him dead. The Reapers who later come to kill Nick make the mistake of thinking that two of them will be enough to kill him. Nick sends a note back to their boss, "Next time send your best." This is accompanied by the heads of the two Reapers.
In one episode of Criminal Minds, for years two men have been kidnapping victims, taking them to the Idaho National Forest, and hunting them down with high-tech bows and arrows. Without ever failing. The victim of the week gets herself a knife, bushwhacks one killer and stabs him repeatedly, avoids the second, and stabs him too. The first killer dies of injuries before the end of the episode, and the second is shot and killed by the BAU team. The female victim-to-be is fine, other than some dirt and bruises.
In Luck, not only does Gus ambush and kill an assassin with his bare hands, but his idle chatter with Ace makes it seem like this isn't the first time.
Gus: "Remember Chicago? I think we've got a situation like that again."
An episode of Sledge Hammer! has assassins trying to kill Sledge from the time he wakes until he gets to the office. One, hiding in his closet, meets his end because Sledge shoots him through the closet door. Not because he knew there was an assassin in the closet, but because he always shoots at the target on his closet door.
Doctor Who: The First Doctor runs rings around the mute assassin Ascaris sent to kill him in "The Romans", and ultimately ends up shoving him out of a window.
Babylon 5: See the nameless Narn stalking Vir Cotto's fiancee, weapon drawn? Switch the scene to a bit later, and she's offering the hogtied Narn to Vir as a gift.
NCIS; Lab RatAbby Scuito is preparing to testify in court, but the suspect hires a hitman to take her out while she's on her way to the courthouse. By the time Gibbs and his team catch up with her, she pushes her would-be killer out of the taxi while gleefully tasering him.
Gibbs: ABBY! Abby: Be with you in a second, Gibbs. (tasers the guy again) And don't look up my skirt!
When Numbers and Wrench finally learn Malvo's identity and are ordered to kill him, Malvo escapes their vehicular ambush in a snowstorm and kills Numbers before heading off.
Malvo himself falls victim to this when he tracks down Lester, who sets up a bear trap and injures him enough to force him to flee.
This is what the board game Kill Dr. Lucky is all about.
The main cast of canon characters for the 7th Sea RPG includes The Evil Prince Villanova, who thrives on this trope. Assassins are casually sent for him, and just as casually are never heard from again. In several instances he is seen dispatching at least some of them himself. When he publicly broke the rules of Swordsmen's Guild they sent a specially trained enforcers, who are about as badass fighters as it gets. Being mailed parts of their bodies yearly pretty much stopped said Guild from further action on the matter.
A handful of achievements for most classes in Team Fortress 2 revolve around getting the upper hand against enemy Spies, such as killing one when he's fully cloaked, or disguised as yourself.
In the Meet the Soldier and Meet the Sniper videos, the respective protagonists effortlessly kill a Spy that's about to backstab them.
In Clonk a player-made scenario called Faffnir is an assassination mission. According to the guards, your character is nowhere near the first person they've had to deal with.
Sissel's first few jobs in Ghost Trick are to protect Lynne and her associates from blue-skinned assassins. In some instances they actually succeed, but Sissel goes back and changes events to thwart them.
Exit Fate. Daniel does it only oncenote The assassin comments "You are... stronger than I", but in fact, Daniel just had healing spells., but afterwards, he manages to convince the assassin (who wanted to avenge his dead sister) that he is innocent in the case of aforementioned sister's death, what makes the assassin join him.
Kaguya from Touhou is always doing this to Mokou and vice-versa. Both are immortals.
Zevran in Dragon Age: Origins will try to assassinate the PC. Obviously you have to survive the battle to continue the game. Afterward, you have the choice to recruit or kill him. Recruiting him means you'll face more assassins a little later in the game. If you get his approval high enough, he'll confess that he only went for a head on assault because he wanted you to kill him. Otherwise, he would have tried a sneakier method.
Nearly the exact same thing happens in Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening. When the PC first arrives at Vigil's Keep after the darkspawn invasion, you're told that the guards subdued and captured a man sneaking around the fort attempting to kill him/her. You have the chance to speak to him in the Vigil's Keep dungeon, where you find out that he's Nathaniel Howe, Arl Howe's son, who was after you as revenge for killing his father...and one of your options when speaking to him is to suggest that he become a Grey Warden and join your party. When he asks why the PC isn't worried about him trying to "finish the job," one dialogue response is "Some of my best friends have attempted to kill me." (For extra hilarity, play Awakening with a Warden who romanced Zevran in the main game.)
In Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven you actually play the assassin sent after the rival mob boss' brother, who proves so cautious/tough to kill that the mission 15 (appropriately titled "You Lucky Bastard!") is the single longest mission in the entire game. First, you try to call the bar he is in, and then just shoot him when he answers the phone. He wasn't there, and you kill a random stranger. Next, you use a car bomb, but he let his friend borrow it, and so once again kill a stranger. Then, you try to just ambush him with a machine gun, but it jams and you have to run away. Then, you hire some professionals. They take over a train junction; when the target is stopped at some train tracks, one professional while make sure the safety bars don't go down, while the other professionals are in a car behind the target. The idea was to ram the car into the trains. He figures this out and drives off, so the professionals drive into the train by accident. You immediately chase him to a train yard, but he's surrounded by men. After killing them all, he hides behind a reinforced door. After blowing it up by ramming a train into it, you finally get to kill him. When you do, your character says "You lucky bastard!"
The Ship Murder Party, what with the objective of the game being to assassinate other players. Killing innocent NPCs or players whom are not your current target penalizes your score, but (if you can figure out who it is) you are free to kill your own assassin. And take his wallet.
Iji is a major target for assassins once the Komato arrive. She survives repeated attempts by Asha, before finally killing him. If Iji avoids the fight, then he kills himself from shame.
You can also avert this by letting the assassin kill you, but coming back with a one-time checkpoint service. With a little creativity you use this twice, allowing you to die to the same assassin three times. The second time you come fight him Asha is joyful to have the chance to kill you twice, but the third time he's just incensed you won't stay dead.
When you first meet Sheena in Tales of Symphonia, she's trying to assassinate the Chosen. Luckily, she's terrible at it, and eventually she joins the party.
Failing to assassinate someone in the Total War games will often lead to the target developing paranoia and becoming even harder to assassinate. Due to Artificial Stupidity the AI may sometimes try to serially assassinate your most valuable general, who only becomes better and better at outclassing the more they try.
A bunch of assassins (players) set loose on one another is the entire premise of the multiplayer element in the Assassin's Creed expansions Brotherhood and Revelations. Most of the game modes are set up so that your target is different from your pursuer, meaning you can't kill the person trying to kill you, but you can outclass them by stunning them before they get you, making them fail their contract. It's also common to get killed by your pursuer just before you manage to kill your own target. The new Assassinate mode allows you to kill any opponent, allowing you to outclass potential assassins directly, but only if they haven't yet locked onto you.
Parodied in Bahamut Lagoon: when you recruit a pair of ninjas into your army, they also give you a free assassination as a bonus. You can choose the target to be either the Rebellious Princess, a Mighty Glacier or a Red Shirt. No prizes for guessing which target is the only one they actually succeed in killing.
Blood Money features a mission where the player character 47 must locate three other assassins before they can kill their target, and another where he has to take out two rival assassins trying to kill him.
A similar scenario occurs in a few missions in Silent Assassin. Some of the later missions include one where you have to kill a number of rival assassins who have been tasked with eliminating both you and your contact. The second-to-last mission involved 47 out-gambitting another assassin, Mr. 17, who is also one of his "brothers" (all of whom he thought were dead at that point).
In the "Tribunal" expansion pack to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind you are randomly assaulted by dark brotherhood assassins whenever you sleep, until you get to the heart of the problem (and the main premise for the Tribunal expansion pack) and stop them. Naturally, if you aren't employing this trope, you die. Game Over.
In Tropico 3 and 4, one possible random event is an assassin being sent after El Presidente; the player can choose to hide in their mansion for several months until the assassin gets bored and leaves, bribe the assassin to leave, attempt to arrest the assassin with the Secret Police, or hire an even better assassin to assassinate the assassin before he can assassinate you.
Ace Attorney Investigations 2 plays with this trope. The first case features an assassination attempt on a foreign presedent, which fails. But it turns out to have all been staged. The president was trying to invoke this trope in a desperate attempt to salvage his declining popularity.
Mass Effect 3 has two possible versions of this when the Salarian Councillor is attacked by Cerberus assassin Kai Leng. If Kirrahe intervenes, he suffers a fatal wound but the target escapes. If Thane (no slouch in the assassin department himself) intervenes, the target escapes and Thane (though he suffers a fatal wound himself) gets a fantastic line.
Thane: That assassin should be embarrassed. A terminally ill drell managed to stop him from reaching his target.
Garrett from the Thief games does this a few times. Starting in the first game (with a mission appropriately titled Assassins), he narrowly avoids a couple of hitmen sent to kill him. They don't realise what happened and think they're done, so he tails them back to their employer and humiliates everyone involved. In the second game, the mission Ambush! has Garrett traversing the streets of the City which are stuffed with the City Watch, who were tipped off to his location by a treacherous fence, making his way back to his old home and getting his stuff so that he can go disappear elsewhere.
Dishonored allows you to do this in the late-game level "The Flooded District". Having been captured by a group of Assassins working for Daud, the man who killed the Empress, Corvo is stripped of his gear and imprisoned so he can be turned over to the Lord Regent Farley Havelock. Corvo promptly escapes, recovers his gear, and then proceeds into Daud's base to confront him. If he gets there undetected, then Daud will be informed by one of his men than Corvo has escaped, but no one has seen anything or has any idea how he did it, to which Daud merely states that Corvo knows their work better than they do. While it's then possible to engage Daud in an epic swordfight, the nonlethal option involves sneaking up behind Daud and picking his pocket, letting him know that Corvo snuck into the heart of his base, past all of his men, and had Daud right in his sights and let him live with Daud being none the wiser. It's no surprise Daud up and leaves Dunwall afterward.
Carmilla of the Whateley Universe seems to specialize in this. Right after she manifested, she took down a hypnotized armed security office who show a hole in her. Then she thwarted the killers pursuing her until she got to America. Then, when the Reverend England sicced a team of mutants on her, she ate at least one of them and escaped. Then at Halloween, she faced a mutant assassin, a school-wide invasion of Syndicate troops, and a team of Syndicate killers. Now she has Jobe Wilkins trying to kill her with bio-weapons. It might have something to do with the issue that she's a baby Great Old One.
In The Minister Of Chance, Ambassador Durian not only escapes an undercover assassin, but even goes on to use her as a political tool against both the political rival who sent her and the rival state of Jura.
In The Venture Bros. season 3 finale, Brock Samson manages to defeat three assassins sent after him.
In Batman Beyond, an assassin, Curare, is sent after Commissioner Barbara Gordon's husband, DA Sam Young. When she fails, the society she's a member of begins hunting her down for her failure. Thinking proactively, she in turn begins hunting down and eliminating them. She succeeds, but fails when she attacks her final target on her list: Batman himself, the one she held most responsible. (For some odd reason, she didn't include either Young or Gordon, but that may be for the best.)
Episode "Infiltrator": the Team is assigned to protect Dr. Serling Roquette, who has a hit on her because she's the only one who can neutralize the Fog. The Team only manages to stop the three assassins when Dr. Roquette completes the virus that stops the Fog; rendering the hit void.
In the opening of the episode "Insecurity", Black Spider's assassination of a man is thwarted by Green Arrow and his sidekick Artemis.
There were over 40 attempts on Adolf Hitler's life, mostly by his subordinates.
Zog I, Skanderbeg III of the Albanians has survived over 55 assassination attempts. He also carried a personal sidearm (a tradition carried on by his son Crown Prince Leka), and is said to have exchanged gunfire with potential assassins on at least one occassion.
Fidel Castro has survived over 638 assassination attempts from the CIA. These assassinations have ranged from exploding cigars to mafia-style shootings. Castro himself is well aware of the numerous failed attempts on his life and has said, "If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal." He also said that when he dies, no one will believe it. He also happens to hate Call of Duty: Black Ops, which just happens to start with a mission where you shoot him in the head. Of course, this is a double.
Richard Lawrence tried to assassinate the elderly Andrew Jackson with a pair of pistols. Unfortunately for him, both of them misfired, and Jackson subsequently gave him a serious beating with his cane to the point that Jackson's security had to stop him from beating the guy to death. Talk about Bullying a Dragon.
A man in Portland, Oregon hired a hitman to kill his estranged wife. After a protracted struggle, the woman was able to disarm the hit man and subsequently strangled him to death.
Carlos Hathcock, a Marine sniper in Vietnam, was so infamous amongst the North Vietnamese Army that the NVA offered a $30,000 bounty on him, 15 times more than the highest bounty they had offered before. When enemy counter-snipers tried to earn that bounty, he dispatched them handily. One counter-sniper, given the Code Name "Cobra" by the Marines, had killed several American soldiers and was moments from killing Hathcock when Carlos killed him with a Scope Snipe. By his own admission, had he not fired when he did, he'd have been on the receiving end of it.
Hathcock wasn't the first sniper to draw such ire, as Simo Häyhä managed to piss off the Soviet army so muchnote 542 confirmed kills with a non-scoped rifle, ~200 with submachinegun that they sent countersnipers after him (he was unharmed), bombed the area he was thought to be in (he was unharmed), and one sniper managed to finally place an exploding round in Hayha's face... quickly earning a regular round in his head, and Hayha staggered off to the nearest Finnish unit, getting sent to the hospital. Interestingly, the USSR withdrew 11 days later, the same day that Hayha woke up from a coma. The jokes about the Soviets having heard about this and saying Screw This, I'm Outta Here! practically wrote themselves.
Edward The First once succeeded in killing a Mameluke assassin with his own blade.
Stop sending people to kill me. We've already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle... If you don't stop sending killers, I'll send a very fast working one to Moscow and I certainly won't have to send another.