Whether running ahead of you into danger or plodding so slowly that foes have time to converge, these escortees need a leash of some kind.
World of Warcraft: Poor lost tauren Pao'ka Swiftmountain, who wandered into a Wyvern nest in Thousand Needles and needs your help to get out. He's relatively durable, but he's very slow (presumably because he hasn't eaten since he got lost) and the mobs are plentiful.
There is an escort quest inside Razorfen Kraul. Unlike most escort quests the player has experienced, he will take off running instead of walking like most other escorts. And if you fall too far behind him, you fail the quest — even if you later catch up and successfully defend him from monsters. Entirely new kind of screwing the player up.
Horde players will find a blood elf in the Den of Haal'esh in Hellfire Peninsula who needs to be freed and escorted back to the nearest settlement. The required distance is perhaps the longest of any similar quest, and of course, she walks unbelievably slowly. To make matters worse, she will draw the attention of pretty much all of the tightly-packed enemies on the way out of the den and will be ambushed several times on the long road back.
The Lord of the Rings Online: At the end of one of the early chapters in the epic storyline, your character has to escort an old lady named Sara Oakheart from some bandit caves. Trouble is, she's slow as dirt, meaning you have no chance of getting out without fighting every last bandit in the cave. (But then again, it would be unrealistic for an ordinary senior citizen to be able to keep up with a well-trained warrior...)
Sara shows up in some later epic storyline missions as well. In one of them, she runs around actively opening doors with clusters of enemies trapped behind them. Her pacing here is particularly annoying because she moves slowly (or not at all) through enemy-filled areas, but as soon as you've downed the last one, she's off like a shot to open the door to the next, usually leaving you disoriented for a few precious seconds while you try to figure out which way she ran off and get to her before the group she's just released kills her. Luckily, protecting her is usually optional, and you can let her die with no consequences other than failing the optional objective.
There's a plot-related reason to hate "Sara Oakheart" as well, but by the time you find out what it is her "slower than molasses" or "suicidal Kenyan on meth" pacing in the (several) escort missions you've done for her will have rendered it entirely superfluous.
Flash Back has the obligatory escort mission in the second level. It's not so bad; the NPC simply walks forward slowly, so this feels more like a timed mission than anything else.
The mobile HQ in Starscape has firepower and health comparable (if not superior) to the player's ship, but it's so big and slow that it doesn't even bother trying to dodge enemy fire. It also has problems with swarms of weak enemies, as all five guns target the same enemy at the same time.
G-Police had plenty of those. You had to escort various vehicles as they ssslllooowly made their way through the city to their destination, apparently oblivious to the clouds of enemy fighters swarming around them (evasive maneuvers? What evasive maneuvers?). The most infuriating thing was that most of the vehicles you had to protect were NPC-controlled version of generic vehicles you'd see all the time in normal traffic, and those sure could go fast.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: The Game has several Escort Missions. Thankfully, the NPCs shoot at the enemy, they stay out of your line of fire, and are generally helpful. The only downside is that it's sometimes hard to keep up with them, since they like to charge ahead of you. A lot.
Dead Rising 2: Danni, Randy's hostage, is one of the slowest survivors in the game; you have to wait for ages for her to catch up with you, and holding survivor's hands have been removed from the game, so don't try to do that.
Dean is even worse. He's injured, and Chuck even asks if he needs a shoulder back to the safe-house. Dean refuses to be carried. He'll slowly, slowly limp, and while you can use a wheelchair to make things go faster, it's still annoying.
Boom Blox has the Mitten Kittens levels near the end of adventure mode. In the first, you have to deal with shooting every enemy around them as they slowly walk towards a giant pumpkin. In the second? One walks slowly forward while a million grim reapers spawn. You have to defend them by putting blocks in the way. Blocks that the fucking kitten will attack, no matter how out of the way they are. Goddammit.
Dirge of Cerberus has a lot of escort missions, but the first one is following this little boy who runs at your walking pace... this wouldn't be so bad if he actually ran the entire time, but he walks even slower for no reason when he shows he can run. On the plus side, he crouches in a corner whenever enemies attack, making it easier for you; on the other hand, he stands frightened for several seconds before the snipers take a shot right in front of the final door... meaning if he had kept going, you needn't have bothered wasting bullets.
Another plus point is that none of your escorts have to survive for you to finish the game.
The PC version of Assassin's Creed I had missions where you had to escort a friendly NPC to the edge of town and would inevitably be attacked once or twice along the way. As if it wasn't bad enough that the inclusion of these missions was being promoted as the "Director's Cut," the NPC will walk at a pace which is naturally faster than your walking speed, but of course slower than your running speed.
This can be an occasional problem in City of Heroes, caused by the running speed of the player being incredibly variable. Some builds aren't able to go slower than thirty mph at a light jog, and can easily lose the NPC repeatedly.
There is a "walk" power, but nobody uses it because... well, it's too slow. Most NPCs will at least call out when they've lost you.
There's also one weird version of this which can happen (still happening as of November 2011) if an escortee is targeting an enemy which teleports out of the area... and decides to pursue said enemy (the AI can track even long-range teleports, which players can at best get a general direction). This results in the escortee unexpectedly taking off for a probably unexplored and populated region of the map, and possibly making jumps some players can't copy.
Command & Conquer: Renegade is infamous for two escort missions where the escortees are always ahead of the player: They wait for him at a waypoint and boldly run to the next one when the player catches up to them. However, both escort missions can be handled with a minimum of frustration.
Though the first case involves escorting Dr. Moebius, that suit of powered armor he wears pretty much puts him on the same level as battleships, major geological formations, and small planets in terms of how little concern he gives for small arms fire (in all seriousness, he can take fire from nearly a dozen enemies armed with tiberium and laser weapons and several ceiling-mounted chainguns for about thirty seconds and only have his health depleted by about a quarter). He actually makes the level easier because his armor lets him tank enemy gunfire and draw it away from you, letting you kill the enemies shooting at him with impunity. Don't hit him though, because friendly fire will shred his armor like paper.
The second case is a lot worse because Sydney is unarmed and unarmored, and dies pretty quickly. However, you can run out ahead of her before even getting the escort objective and clear enemies out of the rooms beyond. When you reach the silo, Sydney won't raise the elevators until you step on them, letting you stay on the lower levels and snipe badguys on the upper levels before moving up each floor. So if you fight intelligently, the escort mission becomes pretty easy.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga has you escorting Princess Peach through Teehee Valley to Little Fungitown. You have to keep her onscreen at all times, make sure there are no enemies heading towards her, and work quickly to open the gate at each section of the valley. If you don't do one of the first two, she gets kidnapped. You must rescue her and try again (the gates reset themselves, making this even more annoying), because the next boss fight won't start if you go through the valley yourself.
The final level of Aquanox was an escort mission in which all of the enemies use stun weapons. You could spend upwards of 30 minutes waiting for the transports to leave without realizing that they were already disabled and you had failed.
Escortees in Soldier of Fortune II and Payback like to run blindly ahead of you before you've cleared the way.
That One Level of Metro 2033 is an escort mission. You and Miller have to make it through a room full of Amoebas and the pores that spawn them. Miller is a hardened veteran equipped with a good weapon, but will only shoot the Amoebas (not the pores) and move at a steady walk. If he would either shoot the pores (stemming the tide of Amoebas) or run (reaching the goal much faster), the sequence would be much easier.
"Blood Runs Deep", a quest from Runescape, has you escort King Vargas throughout a series of caves full of dagganoths. He is explicitly stated to be wounded, so he moves slow. The good news is that the monsters will ignore him and focus on you, except for one of the caves. The worst part is where you are in the cave that is just before a trio of bosses called the Dagganoth Kings (you don't actually go in there during the quest, just near the cave), where you're getting blasted by all sorts of dagganoths, rock lobsters, and magical walruses. Waiting for Vargas to catch up.
In Metal Gear Solid 3, you must escort EVA after she is injured. She moves slow and loses stamina very fast, causing her to crouch down and tell you she can't continue until you feed her. To make matters worse, whereas other jungle areas seemed full of edible wildlife, this one is sparse in it. You can, however, knock her out and drag her body, then wake her up when she is needed. She can fire a weapon, although at a very slow rate.
Far Cry 3 has an especially sadistic example. You have to escort a friendly NPC as he rushes into a burning village. Through a minefield. Straight into enemy fire. He is actually smart enough to avoid all the mines, but he rushes towards the enemy guns at such a relentless pace that the player will likely detonate them as they struggle to keep up, killing him with the blast. Once into the village, he will suddenly rush off around corners and will die very quickly if there happens to be an enemy there, forcing you back to the checkpoint in the middle of the minefield. If he would just remain calm and keep his head down to allow the player to methodically eliminate the assault-rifle wielding psychopaths that are looking for him, then the mission would be much less frustrating.
Escortees in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind are mostly extremely slow. They run slower than you walk. The inarguably most frustrating one is the escaped argonian slave in the middle of nowhere. As I said, he's in middle of nowhere, is really slow, and to make matters worse, you can't use transportation like teleportation or ships or stilstriders with him.
Most people you escort/follow in Oblivion have the horrendous trait of moving faster than your walking speed but slower than your running speed, so you're constantly dancing around them either catching up or waiting for them to catch up. The worst part comes when you get too far ahead, and they stop and yell for you to catch up with them, despite you being closer to their destination than they are.
There is one like this in Skyrim in the village of Dawnstar. Unlike most people you travel with, he will walk at a deliberate and slow pace, will require you to stay with him or he won't continue, and he likes to stop and talk a lot, but you need him to open a few doors and dispel a magical barrier protecting the artifact. Thankfully, he's invulnerable and can handle himself in a fight, but the pathfinding can glitch.
In Project Firestart, after you rescue Mary in the cryogenic chamber, you must protect her from harm while leading her to a safer hiding place. She walks instead of running like Jon, so you don't want to get too far ahead of her. Possibly justified in that she was hiding because of injuries, though she doesn't elaborate. Also, once you know where you're supposed to take her, the trip is actually fairly short.
Star Trek Online has a few escort missions in its storylines, and the ship is invariably slower than molasses in January. Thankfully it's invincible.
Fade To Black, a sequel to Flashback, has one segment where Conrad must escort an old man. He moves slowly and will stop when you are at a far enough distance and asks you to come back. Justified as he is an old man, and he makes sure to lampshade it too.
Of course you could shoot him, but then the alliance will just abandon you to your death.
Escorting Too Dumb To Live
The targets might as well be trying to get themselves killed, since they seem to go out of their way to run away from you and right into enemy fire as quickly as possible.
Escort missions in the Pokemon Explorers don't seem too bad- until you realize that the NPC is ridiculously underleveled compared to you, your partner, and the NPCs in the dungeon you're venturing into. The real reason that this game is in this category, though is that if the NPC can't see you, it will often turn around and walk in the opposite direction and get immediately destroyed, costing you the mission and making you start all over again. And, their IQ is usually lower than yours, so the NPC has an affinity for trying to attack through walls and walking right up to a sleeping Pokemon and waiting for it to wake up so it can attack it.
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together doesn't have many missions where failing to protect the escort is a Game Over, but there are a LOT of missions where a recruitable character will be a NPC starting near the enemies and you must protect it if you want to recruit it later. However, regardless of their strength, the NPCs will follow only one strategy: to see hwich enemy characters are in their range and attack the weakest of them. And there goes the Squishy Wizard who happens to have no MP at the moment to try and hit that scary, heavily armored Terror Knight with his wooden stick because the Knight is the only enemy in his range (wich fills the "weakest enemy" quota).
The Amoeba escort section in Metro 2033; the previously invincible Captain can suddenly take damage, and while he can take a fair amount before being killed, you can neither see his health nor tell him to wait. As a result, he blindly walks forwards while the amoebas suicide rush him, and he waits until they're right in front of him before shooting them, so he always takes damage. What makes this escort mission even worse is that there are infinite amoebas unless you destroy their spawn points, which of course your escortee never tries to do despite having an excellent weapon for the purpose. If the mission had you facing virtually any other enemies, his normal AI - or even the slow-and-steady walk of this level - would keep him alive admirably even having lost his prior Gameplay Ally Immortality, but the Action Bomb amoebas make his AI nearly suicidal.
From The Lord of the Rings Online, the mission where you have to rescue a trader named Pengail from some Goblins. He tried plying his wares with them only to end up a prisoner, shockingly enough. When you go to rescue the fool, he insists on searching every goblin camp in the vicinity for his father's sword instead of running to safety. Naturally, you search through five different camps, assuming you can keep him alive, only to find the sword in the last one.
There's also a quest in the Barrow-Downs that has you escorting a little hobbit-girl (Layla? Lalia? Something like that) through the Downs. She takes you into some of the most populous spots in the area (not that the Downs isn't fairly well covered in hostile creatures anyways) looking for her coat, turns even the small number of non-aggressive creatures hostile while you're on the quest, and even spawns extra enemies along the way.
One of the hardest missions of the original Syndicate involved escorting a NPC between two buildings in a city. Said NPC quite happily wanders out in his own time, completely oblivious to your Badass Longcoated, cybernetically enhanced, mini-gun wielding agents having a battle with similarly equipped enemy agents.
The climax of the first island's plot in Grand Theft Auto III involves an escort Sniping Mission, where you have to provide sniper cover for an associate who has a penchant for walking calmly into massed automatic rifle fire.
No One Lives Forever parodies this in a sniping Escort Mission with a nearly blind and nearly deaf NPC so oblivious that he doesn't even realize he's being escorted, even when enemies start shooting at him from mere feet away. Since he doesn't realize he's in a firefight, he doesn't bother taking cover. Even worse, he'll often walk straight at enemies thinking the sound of their shells bouncing off the floor is a dime.
The helicopter simComanche 4 had a terrible example of this, where you had a helicopter that would insist on flying high and in a straight line, a perfect target for ground missiles.
In Perfect Dark, a mission in which the player must escort the President of the United States through a hostile traitorous NSA-controlled Air Force One becomes greatly problematic for many reasons. In addition to having a penchant for running aimlessly into walls, the President is also commonly killed if the player doesn't first escort him to an escape pod before attempting to complete another mission objective... which is to set explosives on the Skedar warship that has latched onto the aircraft. While the player is aware that the explosion is dangerous, the President, on the other hand, does not. This is made even worse as this section of the level is a Timed Mission.
The following mission, where Air Force One crash lands and you have to escort the President to an extraction point, is even worse. He simply loves to run in front of your semi-automatic rifle while you're sniping someone far away.
There is also the chapter where, as Mr. Blonde, you must find and "escort" Cassandra to the helipad. While the area between her and the helipad isn't too large and enemies don't actively go after her, one of the enemies has a N-Bomb that will easily kill Cassandra if he throws it. Not only that, but Cassandra will often ruin your aim as she runs right in front of you, and considering how fragile she is, you'll most likely kill her if you accidentally hit her.
The trick to that level was to go upstairs and clear out all the enemies first, then come back and get Cassandra once the coast was clear. You'd have to do the whole stage pretty quickly to make it to the end before the time limit was up (especially on Perfect Agent), but it saved you a lot of headache in the long run.
Any level where the player is accompanied by Jonathan or Elvis also amounts to an escort mission. They're ostensibly there to help you, but they're dumb as hell and it's game over if they die.
Front Mission 4 features an escort in which your suicidal chipmunk is driving a tank. Unfortunately, a tank is on the low side of the food chain when everybody else is driving mechs. You lose the mission if he dies and he charges the enemy's well-fortified, long-range missile heavy defensive line as fast as he can. You basically have to mimic his suicidal behavior and cut down wanzers with 40% dodge rates as fast as he approaches them while sucking up the missile hits!
Although not technically an escort, the heroes of Final Fantasy Tactics must prevent the death of one or more characters in specific fights; if they fall, it's an instant game over. This is especially irritating in the infamous Riovanes Rooftop mission, where the character in question has a tendency to charge directly at the opponent and get stabbed to death before your team can catch up. If the dice don't land just right, you can lose the game before your first turn. It's not even terribly unlikely that this will happen; it's not unheard of for some players to spend hours retrying the fight (with accompanying cutscene to be sped through) before finally getting a turn off.
On the other hand, another mission forces you to escort Agrias, who can (and usually will) cut a bloody swath through a good chunk of the battlefield full of mooks solo, which is a lot more satisfying to play. There's also the mission where you have to protect Olan Durai from bandits. Olan has the power to freeze every enemy on the map with a single move, and it takes no MP to cast. Who's protecting who, exactly? Granted, he's a Squishy Wizard, but the enemy can't kill him when they can't even move.
Tactics Ogre is quite similar in this respect. However, in this case, saving the NPC is actually optional, and only affects whether it joins your group or not (and some subsequent dialogue), so it can be seen more as a challenge than artificial difficulty.
Wild 9: One stage really makes this annoying, you have to escort one member who can only move when touched by light and will practically walk off the ledge if you don't set up a platform to catch her; it doesn't help matters that there is a Giant Goddamned Steamroller chasing her.
One of the levels in Stinkoman 20X6 pokes fun at this concept, by giving you an escort mission where your escortee is actually supposed to be an idiot. This doesn't make it any less Nintendo Hard.
XIII has General Carrington, who insists on standing in the open taking on the AK-toting baddies with his pistol and getting cut to ribbons; frustration is alleviated slightly by his being a cigar-chomping Father to His Men voiced by Adam West, so at least there's some Plucky Comic Relief factor.
Reti in Star Wars Starfighter. At one point, you have to escort him through a twisty canyon. The problem is that even if the entire Trade Federation army is in a part of the canyon, he isn't going to stop and hide for even ten seconds while you eliminate the AMT missile tanks. Did we mention that said canyon apparently has a glass roof stuck over the top, since you can't leave it for even a second?
In Ys I & II Eternal, you have to escort Feena in I, and Tarf in II. In The Ark of Napishtim, you have to escort both Olha and Terra while escaping from the Romun ship.
Resonance of Fate has you escorting an idol of Reanbell/Leanne on a floating platform through an "Open-Air Studio" containing possessed wooden dolls equipped with everything from flamethrowers to bazookas to a giant woodchipper. The idol is uncontrollable, goes on a preset path no matter what danger is in its way, can be damaged by enemies or even accidentally by your party while you initiate a heroic action, and cannot be healed unless you happen to have 50,000 Rubies. Good luck.
However, you can stop the idol by placing one of your party members in its path, making this level much more tolerable.
This scenario makes a return as a stage in Project × Zone, though it's made much easier (the statue is invincible and its movement is abstracted as a turn limit with the objective at the end of the tracks). The best part, however, is Zephyr's reaction, which is a more wordy but extremely pained version of "Oh no, not this again."
In Phantom Dust, a female NPC is literally suicidal; wanting to die and be punished is her MO, and in addition to running head first into a team of enemies, she'll use attacks that use her very finite health bar as fuel. There are multiple team missions in the game, but most don't require your partner to survive, and they can be revived if they fall. Many of the game's true escort missions, where you lose if your partner dies, involves said female character.
In F/A-18's escort missions, the pilots of the planes you have to protect are about as dumb as posts.
In Frontline's Rough Landing level, you have to protect Cpl. Barnes while he blows up tanks. Both he and the Redshirt that accompanies you tend to charge straight into the fray. If Barnes dies at any time, even after he completes his objective, you fail.
Most escort missions in World of Warcraft (and there are dozens of them) fall under this category. Fortunately, most of them are easily skippable owing to the nature of the game.
A memorable one is in Grizzly Hills; a little girl and her pet rabbit have wandered too far from home and need your help to get back. Fair enough. The most aggravating part isn't even that the quest is bugged, and dear Mr Floppy can get himself killed through no fault of yours. Oh no. Emily manages to set the tone for the next little while (and indeed virtually all escort quests) when she initially looks like she's heading for the road, and then veers off into the forest. The entire quest consists of guiding some suicidal moppet and her pet past bears and wolves while still in clear view of the road.
Magwin on Azuremyst Isle, who despite knowing that the forest on the small sub-island is full of vicious moonkin and the beach to her house on the other side of the island is almost uninhabited, she still opts to walk through the woods.
In Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage!, one orb task has you escorting an alchemist to Hunter though a field full of indestructible rock monsters (the only thing you can do is delay them for a few seconds by ramming into them). The thing is, he seems to be blind, since he just charges stupidly ahead regardless of whether or not one of said monsters is right in front of him, and if he gets hit once, you have to start all over. It doesn't help that he has to stroll through the entire field despite the fact that Hunter is literally ten feet from where you start.
And if you don't have the Headbash skill yet (which you're supposed to acquire in a later level, meaning you most likely don't) you can't complete the mission that comes immediately afterwards. So if you want 100% completion, you have to come back... and do the escort mission AGAIN.
In Spyro 3, there is another — this time you play as Sheila and have to escort two haiku-spouting guys through a mushroom field so they can blow up a cage containing a dragon egg. That would be all well and good... except they make sure to take a path that has them run into all the mushrooms unless you stomp them into the ground first, and if they do, their bomb explodes before they reach their destination. Which begs the question of why they decided to light the bomb BEFORE they set off for the cage, rather than when they got there....
To make matters worse, you can't even run ahead and clear out the whole path, because the obstacles regenerate after a short period of time. The first time doing the mission, it seems easy because you can run ahead and destroyed everything, only to fail because the mushrooms popped back out of the ground.
In several missions in Halo: Reach, you're tasked with the survival of civilians. Luckily, their survival isn't actually mission critical, considering they have no sense of self-preservation. The rebels in the mission "Nightfall" will blow themselves up if given the rocket launcher, stand right under enemy dropships, and bum rush Hunters. In your first escort mission with them, they usually get wiped out right at the start.
Robotech: Battlecry has you escorting a "Cat's Eye" airborne radar craft which is under constant assault from spawning fighters from all directions. It flies straight and level the whole time, taking no evasive action whatsoever.
Then again, it can't possibly outmaneuever a fighter anyway, so its pilot probably figured that straight and level flight at least meant you, the defender, would know where it is. It's not a combat aircraft — based on the real-life E-2 and E-3 AWACS aircraft, it's a cargo airframe with a giant, cumbersome radar antenna stuck on top.
Then there's the level with the ground transports. They actually stop when there's a sniper nearby, but they're completely oblivious to battle pods and get ripped apart in 5 seconds or less by their guns.
Izzy is even worse — she has weapons, but she also has the crappiest AI on the market, nonexistent armor, and a tendency to think that she can take on the entire rebel army at once.
The icing on the cake is that you have absolutely no support in any of these missions. Except for Izzy when she's in a Veritech, but she's absolutely useless, and even worse when she sticks herself in a Cat's Eye.
At one point in a particular Spider-Man computer game, you have to save a random civilian, who, after witnessing you battle a Super Villain, starts talking calmly on his mobile phone and becomes oblivious to the fact that the building you're in is collapsing around him. Then he just stands there while you run around trying to save him. Sure, he's not running into trouble, but he's not running away from it, either.
In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, you have to escort a comatose prince from a huge, fortified city to a small mountain town's shaman/doctor by fighting off raiders that try to light his wagon on fire (your tornado-spewing boomerang can take care of that). Fortunately, it's a resilient little wagon. Unfortunately, the driver seriously needs a lesson in Instant-Win Condition — just run past the bomb, don't swivel off the track.
Jan needs to be escorted a couple times in the levels before you gain Force powers, but except for one time when she's attacked before she can regroup with you, she's not in any serious danger.
The last two of the aforementioned levels have, respectively, an Imperial officer you hold at gunpoint and a bunch of escaped prisoners. The former is only endangered by some of those annoying crabs at one point, and after he opens the door you need him to open, he calls in an ambush and attacks you. The prisoners manage to hold their own against stormtroopers, but when they call in an AT-ST, you have to find a turret and destroy it before it can kill them all.
There are brief sections in a level where you have to protect Lando. At the end, it's more of a general defense mission, but to start with you're running around the map together.
The next level after the above, you need an R5 unit to survive long enough to open two doors. The droid stops once, before both doors, and after that will not change direction, pause, slow down, or do anything that suggests that it has a sense of self-preservation. Oh, and the hallway between the two doors has five or six snipers and enough trip-laser mines to blow the droid away ten times overnote This one particular instance has a trick to it. While the R5 is single-minded, he can be properly maneuvered by the player. Namely, by Force Push and Force Pull.
Jedi Academy features one level where the player has to escort groups of prisoners, four at a time, through an arena that houses a Rancor. The difficulty here depends on your power set — if you have Mind Trick, you can keep said Rancor standing in place without bothering anyone for the entire level.
There is also a very brief, very easy tutorial Escort Mission in the very first mental level of the game. It involves guiding another kid through a minefield, complicated by the fact that he will always walk right towards you in a straight line regardless of what's in-between, and that he frequently panics and has to be reassured to stop him running over a mine.
The RoguelikeElona grants the ability to the player to do various escort quests, which are also Timed Missions. Most of the time this is no problem, as most escortees are solid enough to survive while you kill the various random encounters that appear on the world map, and sometimes even hep you do so. However there is a special case: the Random Number God can sometimes decide that the person you need to escort is a 'Kamikaze Samurai', an ally whose only attack was to charge and blow himself up on an enemy. Good luck on not getting any random encounter!
This has actually been solved in the latest patch.
Every once in a while in New Super Mario Bros.. Wii, a Toad icon will appear at a level you have already beaten. If you retry that level without any other players, you get to try to escort a Toad retainer across the level for an extra 1-up or three and an extra mushroom house.
Unfortunately, Toad starts as Super, so he dies in two hits, and is completely brain-dead, strolling back and forth where you leave him with no AI whatever ("NO! Don't walk into that Goomba..." "Ouch!" "Dammit!") Plus, you have to carry him, rendering all level 2 powers (Fire, Ice, Propeller) useless except as an extra Hit Point. It's easier in levels with Yoshi, since you can have him carry Toad in his mouth and jump off to fight enemies. Still, it's a good thing the rewards are great for saving the boneheaded 'shroom.
A particularly hair-pulling variant: the MMORPG Final Fantasy XI features an escort mission in which not only must the (underpowered and at least somewhat suicidal) escortee survive, but if at any time he sees you, you fail the mission.
Enough to make you rip your hair out in Dead Island. NPCs tend to be armed with only the bare minimum of equipment and for some reason prefer to charge head first into Thugs and Butchers, the twin Demonic Spider types of the game — or allow themselves to be surrounded by the Goddamned Bats.
Runescape has a minigame called Temple Trekking/Burg de Rott Ramble, where you escort refugees out of a country that is ruled by vampires, or escort mercenaries to the front lines. If you pick the hard escortee, it's basically this. They go down in a few hits, and actively try to fight enemies, even though they themselves say before the trek that they aren't good fighters. The hard escortees unlock the ability to tell you what enemies you face on each path pretty quickly, but they need it. If you get snails, the hard escorts fail. Period.
Except Smiddi whatever her name is. She won't tell you what to expect on the trails until she gets to level 92, which is ridiculously high for how weak she is.
Dragon's Dogma has several escort requests that function as dates of a sort (makes sense when they ask you to take them someplace nice, like a healing spring, less so when it's an ancient, overrun fortress). The escortee's AI is programmed to stay as close to you as possible, which makes sense... until you run into enemies and they're still sticking close to you, even as you climb up a cyclops and they run around under its feet and get squished. It's best to know where they'll ask to go, get the lay of the land and where large monsters like to ambush you, and then kill said large monsters and take the person on their escort mission before they respawn three days later.
Even that isn't a guarantee, though, as occasionally your escortee is simply Too Dumb to Live and jumps off a cliff, all on their own. Pawns are also known to do this, but at least they can be revived or rehired easily and their death isn't a Mission Failed condition.
Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes, sequel to Kingdom Under Fire The Crusaders, has a level where you have to escort an elf with a particularly dim AI across a desert to find an artifact. This wouldn't be a problem, but across the middle of the map, there is a giant war going on between two forces, making it a hassle to get through them. Not only does this elf have extremely limited combat skills, he loves to charge into enemy Swamp Mammoths, getting killed instantly, and ending the level. In addition to having to babysit this NPC the entire level, you are also under constant bombardment from enemy mortars, archers, and mages, making your process to the other side of the map incredibly arduous. If you manage to make sure that your escort didn't run into the multitudes of enemy forces, and you managed to get to the location of the artifact alive yourself, you now have to face off against four incredibly difficult Fire Wraiths. Good luck with that.
Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain has a mission in Belarus where you have to escort steel mill workers to a bomb shelter, and they tend to run into your line of fire, resulting in collateral damage.
Escortees in Quake IV typically stand in the line of fire or bumrush Strogg squads, getting themselves shot to pieces, and don't stand a chance against fast bruisers like Berserkers and Grunts.
Terror Missions in XCOM: Enemy Unknown are a pain to complete because the civilians you are supposed to save are dumb as hell. They will barely move, and will stay hunkered down even when there is a Muton standing several feet from them in a flanking position. They won't even make an effort to get closer to your troops, even if they are in plain sight, forcing you to risk at least one of your soldiers by sending him to stand right next to the civilian. Thankfully, once you reach them, they will automatically run to the extraction point and be out of your hair.
These people probably couldn't cross a crowded room without requiring a bodyguard, let alone the war zone they've found themselves in. Either that, or the "armored" transport they've chosen to ride in was made by the lowest bidder out of corrugated cardboard and spare parts.
Armored Core tend to have the people be escorted in rather flimsy mechs or even flimsier tanks or APCs.
This is made easier by the fact that most escorts take a few seconds to get started on the field after you, with the easiest ones taking up to a full minute. Enemies also rarely spawn in Armored Core — the field is what you've got to deal with, and nothing ever sneaks up on the back of the escort. As such, a fast mech can tear ass ahead and start gutting the oncoming waves far ahead of the escort without any real concern for the escort. It still can't ever take a hit though.
Blast Corps features a plot where a truck carrying nuclear missiles has gone out of control and has become an unstable One-Hit-Point Wonder that explodes if it so much as hits a pothole. In a way, Blast Corps is an escort game: you can't stop the carrier, so you have to destroy everything between it and the safe detonation zone.
In Forbidden Siren, the escorts are slower than the main character, unable to defend themselves in any way (other than ineffectively trying to escape the enemies), and very, very weak. Snipers are found from almost every level and they can each kill an escort with a single bullet.
Scarface: The World is Yours has one in the mission to take over the Babylon Club, which required Tony to protect a VIP who acted in the typical "stupid escortee" manner.
In Gundam Vs Gundam NEXT Plus, some missions involve protecting a wet tissue of a mech. One grating task involves fending off a barrage of nuclear missiles aimed at Akatsuki. He can't fight back, he only has a pitiful amount of HP, and he is subject to friendly fire rules, so bringing a mech with a Wave Motion Gun is asking for trouble.
Federation vs. Zeon in Campaign mode gives you these every now and again, and the escortee is always either big and unmoving (God help you if you bring a beam weapon to defend these guys, half the damage it takes will be from you shooting it through your targets), or fast but extremely easy to kill. On the plus side, this isn't some sort of Fake Difficulty on the part of the player - you get just as many missions where you're tasked with destroying columns of these sorts of targets, and they're just as fragile as they would be under your care, making these some of the more fun missions.
Mech Warrior 4: Mercenaries features a few escort missions. All of them typically involve tanks, which would be easy enough in any other game without 100 ton behemoth war machines of destruction. These tanks are SO weak, you and your allies can actually accidentally kill them by simply stepping on them! It typically only takes the enemy mechs one well placed shot to kill, and in most of the escort missions losing even ONE tank is a fail.
Fortunately, it also averts this trope in two mission where an objective is to make sure a certain mech doesn't die. Thankfully, these are Heavily armored assault mechs in both cases, so the only time this would happen is if you just simply did nothing.
However, the Mechworks defense is no cakewalk, while the Davion is willing to put the guns to bear on their Templar, you are stuck defending the Fafnir from possible attack. Against what is several assault lances gunning for you and just straying too far from your team is asking to be killed.
Averted in the third game; despite having to defend your Mobile Field Base vehicles for 17 out of 20 missions in the game, they're reasonably armored, get repaired after each mission, and most missions don't require you to move them as they're reasonably safe in the starting area of a mission.
X3: Terran Conflict sees random freighter pilots offer you missions to escort them to a station in the neighboring sector, often for a nice reward. The correct answer is "Hell, no." The freighters are built from wet newspapers, piloted by first-grade Artificial Stupidity, and attract Respawning Enemies like flies. At high combat ranks the mission will spawn multiple destroyers, and the freighters are just fast enough to force you into at best a corvette or fast frigate to be able to keep up.
It also has some interesting examples of Inverted Escort Mission: In some plot missions, you may get an order to escort a convoy that starts in another sector, where the convoy spawns the moment you get the order, but the enemy only spawns when you arrive in the sector the convoy is in. So if you stay away and never see the convoy, the enemy never spawns and they get to their destination unopposed. Mission complete.
The exception that proves the rule is the single escort mission in the Terran Plot. This is the only such mission you can reasonably complete without the above exploit, because the enemies spawn once at a scripted location, and you have additional naval forces backing you up.
Command and Conquer: Zero Hour, the GLA campaign starts with you having to escort a car which can only take 2 shots from anything more than an assault rifle, and that's on Easy mode. It's also fun because every enemy automatically targets the escort as a first priority over all of the other units in the area, INCLUDING artillery, which means that the escort can be killed by artillery platforms that the player cannot even see yet. Needless to say, players around the world hate this mission.
In WolfQuest, the final mission is to take your pups to the final rendezvous point. The fact that they walk much slower than you, need frequent feeding, can only cross the river in about three spots without drowning, and are very vulnerable to hungry eagles and coyotes, can make this task difficult. (Of course, if you have only one or two pups left at this point, you can just carry them all the way.)
An early mission of Starcraft II tasks you with defending APCs filled with colonists from Zerg. Given the setting, they're reasonably resilient but not altogether well-armed: they'll barely survive an assault by a handful of Zerg units and go down in seconds against heavy opposition.
Air Force Delta Strike has you escorting various things from VIP aircraft chased by air battleships, to trains under attack by armed trains, to a Humongous Mecha artillery cannon. None of them can take much punishment.
In a way, the large bomb from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past should count, too. You cannot finish the game without escorting it from the bomb shop (you have to pay for each try) to the pyramid. Don't run and don't get hit — or it'll explode beforehand.
The Jump Ultimate Stars protect missions: Imagine a 2D Super Smash Bros. Imagine having a defenseless 'ally' who stands still and dies in a single hit. Imagine having at least two enemies focused on beating the crap out of him from every angle, and starting on either side of him. Imagine having to protect that character for at least 30 seconds to clear that stage and up to a minute to unlock the bonuses and finish the game 100%. It was quite common for the mission to end before the first second was even over.
Jeanne d'Arc, a strategy game, only has one escort mission. Unfortunately, it is quite frustrating. The character you are escorting has the worst armor and no weapons. He also follows a preset path, which puts him in line with an archer that will instantly kill him with one shot. If you do not rush your units to kill the archer before he gets there, it is basically impossible.
There is a way to cheat in this mission. Move your characters so that his preset path is blocked, forcing him to move much slower. This gives you more time to intercept things.
Great Leaders in Civilization require constant protection to move them from the scene of the battle which created them to a friendly city where they can actually do something useful. Good luck if the battle took place deep in enemy territory!
Driving the truck with the explosive crate in Driver.
Naval Ops: Warship Gunner has a balance related one. Ships you have to escort are resilient at first, until you beat the game and get to what is essentially the game's "second quest". You still have all your fancy warships, and now enemies are upgraded with better weapons, equipment and hit points, but now this tends to kill your charges with one or two hits, because no one bothered to compensate these ships against the enemy's new lasers and lightning guns.
Wing Commander in all its sequels has had escort missions aplenty, though thankfully most of the ships are relatively durable. One exception to that was the Ralari in the Kurasawa 2 mission, in the original game, in which the player had to escort a captured enemy ship. Going strictly by the book, it's theoretically possible to beat this without cheating, but exceedingly frustrating.
Even worse than the skipper mission example above is the first Oxford mission in Wing Commander Privateer, widely acknowledged as the most difficult mission in that game if not the whole series. You see, when you arrive in the mission area, the ship you're supposed to escort (a Drayman freighter, with all the durability of a soap bubble) is already there being attacked by 3-4 light fighters. If you kill the fighters and land before you get the "Mission Complete" radio message, you still fail the mission.
Metal Gear Solid 2 contains a segment in which the player has to escort the previous game's main character's best friend's sister (yes, really) through several water-filled levels on piggy-back, as she is phobic of water. The player also has to spray bugs with coolant in order to scare them out of her path, and if she is seen by a guard, she is identified as a "possible hostile," causing an attack squadron to descend on her — she will curl up into a fetal position and scream loudly as she is shot.
Gratefully, there is a cathartic way of circumventing the bug problem; just knock Emma's silly arse out and drag her onto the elevator.
The escort mission is a Shaggy Dog Story — you manage her through the dangers, after which she promptly gets stabbed to death.
In the original Pokémon Ranger 1, you are forced to lead a mechanic. And he's scared of bugs. Every time he sees one, he runs to the beginning of the mission. But... you have to guide him through a dense jungle! Well, if you're scared of Caterpie and the like, can't you just stay outside the jungle and I'll go and bring the part to you! And when you get to the part, he pisses off a Gyarados (of all things!).
What makes this mission even worse is that Bug types will target you incessantly. There is nothing more infuriating than getting the mechanic to the other side of an area only for an Ariados to tackle him and send him scurrying back to the start.
One of the most infamous Escort Missions ever occurred in Phantasy Star Online, where the player could be hired by a scientist named Mome who wanted to study the lifeforms native to one of the sections of the game... which involved dragging him through the entire dungeon, including the boss battle. Mome didn't fight and had about as much endurance as a wet tissue, and his death meant that the mission was a failure and you would have to start all the way from the beginning. Sega acknowledged the players' frustration in Version 2 by having him voluntarily play dead during the boss battle.
A few also show up in the Spiritual Successor, Phantasy Star Universe. Most aren't as infuriating — helped by the fact that their dying just hurts your end-of-mission rating, instead of ending the mission as a failure — but the one in Chapter 10 of Story Mode is quite annoying, if for the sole reason that one of the escortees is Karen... who was a capable fighter and ally earlier in the game, but is now as fragile as wet tissue paper and barely capable of using her weapons.
Mech Warrior 2 features one of the more annoying examples. For the Wolf campaign, you had to escort a dude in a hoverlimo to the opera. Through a war zone. Believe it or not, this half-made sense in the game, as the Clans tend to limit fire only to actual battles and deliberately avoid places of art. And the mission briefing hung a lampshade on it, with the final line being, "[Character] loves the opera." So much that he would apparently go in a tiny unarmed and fragile vehicle through a war zone escorted by a single Mech. It also had an escort mission where you had to guide a prototype Tarantula mech to waiting dropships. Jade Falcon campaign involved you responding to a Distress Call to help a Hellbringer, but it was a trap. You still have to bring him back to base and take out the other Mechs.
The one with the Tarantula doesn't really count. It's more of a Hold the Line scenario. You're escorting the repair vehicle and have to wait for repairs for fifteen minutes. Doesn't help that it's just around eight weak Mechs you can easily kill.
Escort NPC's in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault can die in as little as one hit. The tank you later have to drive and escort is rather flimsy too.
Anytime there are civilians on the battlefield in the Fire Emblem games. Since they have no combat abilities whatsoever, they die in one or two hits from the enemy. Even though their survival is generally not required in order for you to complete the chapter, most of the time, they provide you with some nice rewards if you save them; for example, in Seisen no Keifu, they would give you a free Level-up when you save them.
In Level 4 of Quake IV, you escort a demolitions expert carrying explosives that will detonate if hit by weapons fire. "If these puppies go off, they'll take out you, me, and half this mountain." Later, you have to protect the same demolitionist from several waves of Grunts and Berserkers while he disarms landmines.
Samurai Warriors 3 Murasame Mode provides one of the most infuriating escort missions in the game. In the stage that is two away from the end, you have to escort Ayame to "safety" while fending off ridiculously over-powered mooks while she practically CLINGS to you and doesn't even lift so much as a finger to defend herself; to make it all the more frustrating, she runs away and you have to start over if her health is reduced to half.
In Front Mission 3, there's an escort mission where you have to rescue some scientists. Your team are in Humongous Mecha. The enemy are in Humongous Mecha. The scientists are not. Guess how well the scientists stand up to weapons designed to blow up giant walking tanks?
The new XCOM: Enemy Unknown has several of these in the form of randomly-assigned Council missions. They're a bit easier than most examples, given that you can actually control the VIP that you have to protect, but that doesn't change the fact that they can be killed in a single hit with the aliens' most basic weapon.
Freespace: any point at which you have to escort freighters and transports. They are lightly armored, and possess very few weapons, but are often mission-critical targets that absolutely cannot be allowed to die. You also have to escort warships fairly often, but this isn't nearly as annoying, because after all they're warships, and have plenty of point defense weapons to help out.
Escorting Leeroy Jenkins
At least these people are genuinely insane or stupid. Some might even be out to pick a fight, no matter how ill-advised...
Lampshaded in the MMORPG Tabula Rasa; an escort mission specifically tells you the NPC has gone nuts and is about to blindly charge a huge enemy lair, and your job is to escort her to the entrance.
In Far Cry, during the closing levels of the game, you're stuck teaming up with Val, who had previously only existed in cutscenes and radio dialogue. The trope is played straight when you actually have her with you. She sticks close, but only stands, which is annoying when you're trying to keep low and use foliage to move undetected, and has a tendency to shoot at enemies the moment she sees them, blowing your cover.
The Xbox remake Far Cry: Instincts had an even worse one as its penultimate mission. You have to escort Doyle, a One-Hit-Point Wonder, it's dark, he doesn't fight, and he will relentlessly keep going along his predetermined path.
Many in Guild Wars; though despite the sheer number of them during the subsequent chapters and expansion, everyone remembers Prince Rurik's "famous" charges. There's a reason why he's known as Captain Suicide, y'know.
Of special note are several missions where you must escort an NPC that will charge heedlessly into battle shouting his name, "Kiiiiillroooooy Stooooonekiiiiin!!". Not only is the character a hilarious homage to the Leeroy Jenkins video, but his shout is also a gamebreaking buff that cuts your skill costs and cooldowns in half.
A major problem is that the inside of the tower you go through is one room with 3 levels. However, the companions don't know that and only know that there's a Scamp on the 3rd floor and by the Nine they're gonna kill it. So they charge through the entire building and usually run into stronger enemies in the hallways. It's a shame that one of the few times a game's pathfinding is good it ends up screwing you. An alternative is to run across the lava to avoid the suicidal morons and just finish the mission solo. Sure, the lava will hurt you, but it's preferable to escorting them.
The annoyance factor is mitigated a little by the fact that the quest is optional and the quest-giver is aware of the Leroy Jenkinsness of the situation. Even if you accept the mission, you are not necessarily expected to succeed. However, there are some long-term consequences based on the outcome.
In the mission "Engine of Destruction" in StarCraft II: Wings Of Liberty, TychusFindley is in control of the Odin, a Super PrototypeHumongous Mecha of incredible power. Unfortunately, he doesn't notice that his communication device is stuck on "transmit", which means he can't get any commands from Raynor (IE the player). After a short period of bafflement, he decides to just "have some fun" and charge on a maniacal rampage through the Dominion's super-high security weapon testing facility. The Odin is, admittedly, ridiculously strong, but it will be overwhelmed by enemy forces if you don't give it proper support.
Proper support being a few SCVs or science vessels, so it's more or less just "stick a group of science vessels on the guy, autocast repair beam, watch fireworks." Higher difficulties may require the help of other units (especially those with strong anti-air capability), but this is actually a very well-implemented mission (to the point that it is also listed under Exceptions, below).
One mission in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn turns Elincia, Queen of Crimea (and of course a mission-critical unit) into an NPC. She has an annoying tendency to make a beeline directly into enemy crossbow users, whose damage modifiers versus her flying mount ensures that she will die in one or two hits.
In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, failure leads to loss of all money and half the items in the inventory every time an escort is killed. Said escort is always level 1, so they only have to be placed in the line of fire once for failure to occur. They will automatically move on any terrain available, often placing them next to you rather than behind you when you face an enemy. If they can fly, they will do so over lava, even though that gives it a burn that will quickly take their Hit Points away. And just to piss you off, if they have a move that doesn't involve contact with the enemy, they will use it every single step. And even long after that move can't be used any more, the message saying so will continue to annoy you every single step. Thankfully, it is possible to avoid the escort missions for most of the game. Unfortunately, the developers decided to force you to complete two dungeons with a ghost escort — the worst kind, since they can wander away through walls and get attacked by other ghosts — in one of the post-credit sequences.
Red and Blue seem to acknowledge the difficulty of escort missions. An escort mission will always be one rank higher than a rescue mission on the same floor, in the same dungeon (which means the mission rewards will be better, provided you can complete it).
And if you're doing an escort mission in Mt. Faraway or somewhere similar, many of the enemies have area-effect moves that can and will take out your escort in one hit if they're in the same room as the enemy, even if you've been very careful to keep them behind you at all times.
The final dungeon (post-credits) of PMD2 forces you to bring an escort along — Cresselia, a legendary Pokemon. She sticks with you for the final battle, too. This makes finishing the post-credits content of the game a nearly intolerable inexperience to some due to her unbelievable stupidity.
To give the game credit, this was somewhat fixed in the second iteration of the games (Time/Darkness/Sky) and most of the mons are no longer an obligatory level one and can occasionally be helpful. But it is still a Roguelike, they will still wander off on occasion, and that Cresselia mission is still terrible.
To clarify: Cresselia is a Pokemon with the ability Levitate, which has the environmental effect of being able to travel across terrain that stops other Pokemon—eg, water. However, in Cresselia's mission the dungeon is full of lava terrain. Cresselia can still cross the lava—but as she's not a Fire type, she gets burned every time she does so. Cresselia also comes with an IQ skill that prompts her to "protect" you—take damage from a move in your place—if you're running low on health. Normally, not a bad thing, but it can ruin you in the final boss battle. You're completely surrounded by enemies, so you're often attacked by three or four Pokemon at the same time. You may have prepared for your death by using a Reviver Seed, which restores you to full health and PP. However, Cresselia may decide to throw herself in front of you when she's at low health, meaning she dies. Since she can only protect you from one attack, that means you will still die from the other Pokemon's turns, and she may die again from the turns of the Pokemon attacking her, and you end up burning through your supplies very quickly.
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam features several missions requiring you to escort another character to an escape point, and many others where you can't allow them to be shot down. These usually tend to be annoying rather than difficult, as the NPCs aren't so much suicidal as they are more likely to get bogged down clearing out Every. Single. Mook. in the field. The one exception: when a giant mecha cuts you off, your ally is prone to pulling a Leeroy Jenkins no matter how many times he or she gets smacked down by a Beam Spam.
World of Warcraft: One of the worst escorts in the game is a Night Elf druid at Firewatch in Terrokar Forest. The area is densely packed with several groups of mobs, that quickly respawn so it's difficult to clear the area before hand. She will charge in, aggro a group, and then veer off to a completely different group. And she apparently didn't train any healing spells.
Face it, this has also happened in random dungeons. With random, real-life players.
Post-Cataclysm Hillsbrad Foothills parodies this by having the player escort an NPC who is designed to act like a typical n00b player. He will gleefully rush any enemy that comes anywhere near him, hostile or otherwise. After a few seconds he will realise he is in trouble and scream for help, before repeating the procedure for the next enemy. Luckily you don't have to escort him far and the enemies are deliberately spread out enough to accommodate his Suicidal Overconfidence.
Wing Commander: One wingman (Maniac) from the original game was particularly obnoxious, though. He's a hotshot who ignores your orders and has a tendency to fly directly into the crossfire and generally screw up missions. Fortunately, if you "accidentally" shoot him down, the only penalty is that you have to fly the rest of the missions from that arc solo. Not a big loss, given the wingman AI, beyond him giving the enemy someone else to shoot at instead of you or the ship you and he are escorting.
In fact, at one point, your CO tells you that if Maniac acts up, you have permission to shoot him down — and advises you to do it with your guns rather than waste missiles.
The Starship Troopers FPS game has a number of horrendously annoying escorts where your engineer decides that the computer/fence/etc in the middle of the bug horde needs to be repaired.
Dealing with Genera Hauser isn't all that bad though, as he knows when the waves of bugs are coming and rarely gets in the way.
A fair number of the missions in Devil Survivor qualify, making the game's battle save feature a necessity.
Made even more necessary by the fact that the characters you're trying to escort might have a tendency to attack opponents they can't beat or even attack you.
Any mission with Lance Vance in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City automatically became an escort mission due to his unerring incompetence. Hell, even Tommy lampshades this when he tells Lance "he always keeps screwing things up"! He's a fairly good shot, to his credit, but that's about his only redeeming quality. Any mission he's in is pretty much a babysitting mission: get five feet ahead of him, and "You left Lance behind", shoot at enemies while he runs around in front of you like a maniac, "You killed Lance!"... if you DON'T shoot at enemies while he runs around in front of you like a maniac, "Lance was killed!". His only competency is shown when he fights you as the final boss, in which he can take two rockets to the face without flinching.
Earthworm Jim has the stage "For Pete's Sake". You have to keep Peter Puppy from getting hurt on his walk through a ridiculously dangerous area. If Peter Puppy does get hurt, he turns into a giant monster, beats you up (dragging the two of you backward in the level for good measure), and then continues marching directly into danger. (Yes, it's a hard level.)
Earthworm Jim 2 has the "Puppy Love" sublevels, in which Psy-Crow drops Peter Puppy's children out of one house, and Jim must use a giant marshmallow to bounce them to Pete's house. Let 3 children fall splat onto the ground and Pete will become the aforementioned giant monster.
In Koei's Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors games, you will fail the mission if your commander dies. Some iterations of the franchise, such as Dynasty Warriors 3, avert this trope - commanders will only engage in battle if they are attacked or if it's just you and them left on the stage. In others, like Warriors Orochi, though, the commander will throw themselves at every enemy general on the map — even Lu Bu — with reckless abandon, turning the game into a series of Escort Missions.
Any stage where a NPC has to reach an "escape point" (usually the vicinity of one of the game's reinforcement-mook spawn points) or has to be escorted to the location of an event trigger (most likely a fire attack), or even just has to be picked up along the way.
Guan Yu's Escape in Dynasty Warriors 3, 4, and 5 is the Dynasty Warriors series' pure Escort Mission... on the other hand, it's literally right out of the book.
There is one level in Dynasty Warriors 3 where your commander decides to close in on the enemy. He'll stay back and avoid the front lines, BY STANDING IN A POISONOUS SWAMP, WHICH SLOWLY DRAINS HIS HEALTH.
Lady Cai Wenji in Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires. A series of three escort missions with the same frail escortee. It does not help that at one point, she gets ambushed by at least 3 different officers (pulled at random) and numerous mooks. Bringing along AI allies is NOT a good idea, as it just tends to INCREASE the number of named mooks that appear (bringing along 2P, though, is another story).
The one good thing about Lady Cai Wenji is that there's only one of her, and she does tend to haul ass across the field. Unlike the "deliver supplies" missions, in which two separate groups of villagers (an unholy combination of Suicidal Chipmunk since they always run into the bases where enemies respawn, AND wet tissue) are approaching the escape point from opposite sides of the field. Unless you plan the mission well, you'll end up running back and forth frantically trying to prevent them from getting killed. Did I mention that if either one of them dies the mission fails? And that they're frequently ambushed by the Dynasty Warriors equivalent of Goddamned Bats? Scrappy Level doesn't begin to cover it.
Some commanders are better than others about not getting in your way, and usually there's some historical precedence as well, most notably Ma Su. Yuan Shao is probably the worst of the bunch, though, since in one battle he just stands there while Lu Bu is coming after him. Luckily, Gongsun Zan and Sun Jian can probably hold Lu Bu off long enough for you and Cao Cao to go around and win the battle.
In Dynasty Warriors 6, playing Chang Ban on the Shu side requires that you escort at least one group of defenseless peasants to the docks. Your target for 100% Completion is to escort all four groups of defenseless peasants to the docks, and naturally, they're all way the hell on opposite sides of the field from each other and the terrain is a bitch to navigate. Playing on the Wei side inverts this, but Liu Bei's AI becomes very focused on getting to the escape point... and you have to deal with or bypass "hyper mode" Zhang Fei on the way. Don't be surprised if you end up defeating Liu Bei more or less right next to said escape point!
One unfortunate example in Samurai Warriors was Oda Nobunaga at the Battle of Honnouji, an escort mission on the Oda side in the first game. (In the second, you have to defeat Akechi Mitsuhide at the end, when Mori Ranmaru sallies forth.) Like most named NPCs, he wasn't half-bad in combat so long as you remained within "visual range" of him (if far enough away, he'd be subject to morale modifiers), but his AI would absolutely insist on killing any and ALL enemies in an area, even ashigaru (aka the lowest mooks), before proceeding towards the escape point.
A most annoying example is Nobutada Oda in Warriors Orochi's Samurai Warriors campaign, mission seven. The mission has a huge map, a metric ton of Mooks and Officers, and contains three powerful bosses — Keiji Maeda, Masamune Date, and Da Ji. You must protect Nobutada, but, instead of staying inside your base where he can be protected easily, he idiotically rushes out of it, usually leading to his untimely demise at the hands of some Mook. Even worse if you're trying to get a thousand kills in order to unlock the final gaiden chapter, since you have to babysit him as well as doing that.
In the first Super Robot Wars Original Generation game, there's a mission where Katina Tarask is an NPC and insists on charging straight towards every enemy that comes her way, even ignoring her captain's orders to retreat. She dies in a few hits, and if she does, it's an instant game over. The challenge of the mission is not so much defeating the enemies (which are still fairly weak) as it is making sure she doesn't get herself killed.
A few missions of Super Robot Wars L have Kouichi Hayase go berserk and charge right into the enemy army and multiple bosses. If his Linebarrel mech hasn't been upgraded enough, or Kouich is under-leveled, these missions can be very frustrating.
Achron pulls this, rather annoyingly, in the seventh mission of the second campaign. Not only is your escort just as squishy as normal infantry, he actually heads his own army (as in runs a full 50 meters in front of it). To top it off, this AI is actually deliberately programmed to do every last one of these things.
In one of the Midnighter Arc missions in City of Heroes, you have to meet with an NPC named Lady Jane in a tunnel system (filled with Circle of Thorns demons and mages) under Steel Canyon, and then escort her to a chest located somewhere else in the tunnels. The problem is, every time Lady Jane gets within sniffing distance of a horde of bad guys, she whips out her pistols and starts blasting away. And if the bad guys run, she chases them... thus aggroing all the other hordes around her. And if she dies, the mission is over.
This is so bad that several players just take the hit, fail the mission on purpose, and move on because in the long run, Lady Jane's survival is not relevant to your success in the rest of the mission arc.
Dungeons & Dragons Online has a couple of these. One involves protecting the captain of a squad of mercenaries while you fight off droves (literally over TWO HUNDRED) monsters and keeping her alive — problem is, if she sees or hears monsters nearby, she WILL go and attack them. Your safest bet is to hide her in a corner of the fort facing a wall and guard the two entrances to keep anything from getting through. A second one involves keeping a stupendously weak wizard from dying while you escort him through an entire chain of quests — fortunately, you can whack him over the head to set him straight, and if he does die, you can just start over the current quest.
Another quest (The Weapon Shipment) has a part at the beginning where you escort a mage to an area where you have to fight off many enemies (several hundred on elite, making it extremely difficult without crowd control). This isn't the worst part, because the mage can't die then, but the mage tends to run through the beginning area, meaning your party has to rush to make sure she doesn't die, especially on elite.
In the Sacred saga, specially in Sacred: Underworld, escortees tend to cause nervous breakdowns to the player, often by running into the most dangerous enemy and attacking him at the sacrifice of their own life. This counts for all kinds of escortees, to the point that you can see a maid merrily going to punch a orc warrior.
Thankfully, these NPCs aren't actually in any danger from dying (usually). However, this does not mean that the game can't find some way to make their missions incredibly frustrating...
in The Lord of the Rings Online there's a quest chain where you are escorting an orc prisoner name Mazog. He will deliberately run you into every hazard he can find, trying to get you killed so that he can escape. After completing several "legs" of one quest, he'll suddenly run away from you, trying to get to the next objective before you do. If he does, he'll kill the person you're supposed to meet, and you'll have to start over. Oh, and you're not told where the objective is, exactly; just given some markers you need to look for. Plan on starting this quest over at least once.
In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, you are tasked with escorting two Sages through their respective temples. They are required to solve the temples, but that doesn't make it any less annoying when a Floor Master grabs them and hauls them to a designated drop point near the start of the dungeon.
Lagoon does this as your first real mission. It's rather sweet, considering how easy it is for you to die...
Several times in Star Trek Online; however, the example that stands out the most is that of Admiral Zelle. Admiral Zelle is unarmed and follows you through an allegedly dangerous Romulan base. However, the Romulans shout that they're not warriors, but scientists, and when you reach the central computer, it's clear that this was a Medical Research Base, not a military outpost. Of course, by this point, the woman in charge of the base is dead - and Admiral Zelle reveals herself to be a Species 8472/Undine infiltrator, who thanks you and takes the woman's identity so that the Undine can manipulate the Romulans into war. Indeed... Oftentimes, the invulnerable NPC's behavior in the level can be quite indicative of their general character.
This gets aggravating because the player(s) can suspect that something extremely fishy is happening. Nominally being Starfleet Captain(s) (well, commanding a ship, anyway,) they should be able to pull the "it's my ship, I'm relieving you of duty and locking you in my brig" card and terminate the mission; or, if they want to Sisko it, step back and let Admiral Zelle charge on ahead, into mooks, and get killed. Except that she's invulnerable.
The Banshee/Scarab sequence in the final mission of Halo 2.
In the MMORPG for Gaia Online, one quest has you find a rather ditzy girl who somehow has wandered onto a high cliff in the middle of a jungle. While she follows you back to the entrance, she herself cannot be hurt and enemies don't target her at you. This means that you just have to concentrate on staying alive, because if you have to leave the area, then you have to find her again.
In the Conker's Bad Fur Day mission "Saving Private Rodent", Rodent wears a completely impenetrable koopa shell-like suit, making him effectively immortal — he actually protects you, as you'd be killed by the carpet-bombing destroying the area and robotic mines that run at you without taking cover behind him.
In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, there are a few missions where you escort a fellow trainer. These trainers heal your and their Pokémon after every battle, are moderately helpful in battle (in particular, you keep getting attacked by two opposing trainers at once, and having an ally makes it closer to fair), and don't pass out and cause a Game Over when their Pokémon faint. Completing one of these missions nets you the ability to partner up with the trainer again in the Battle Tower. More than that, by the end of the mission, you'll sometimes receive a rather good reward. The only reason they could possibly irk you is if you're trying to catch 'em all; not only do wild Pokémon start coming in twos (and you can't catch one Pokemon unless you faint the other), but Cheryl's Chansey doesn't know the meaning of the phrase "please stop using Egg Bomb so I can capture this thing alive". Of course, you can just knock your partner's Pokémon out yourself.
This also happens three times in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2. First, you escort Hugh in the Castella City Sewers. Later, you escort Bianca in Reversal Mountain. Finally, after you complete the main storyline, you escort Cheren in Pinwheel Forest. In each case, unlike Diamond and Pearl, each partner has more than one Pokémon. Otherwise, it's the same as before.
Avoided in First Encounter Assault Recon, where the Point Man must escort Alice Wade to a helicopter pickup on the rooftop. Alice is invincible, always stays behind the Point Man, and when they ride up the elevator, she stays inside the elevator during the subsequent ambushes. The ambushes themselves can be completely avoided by simply staying inside the elevator, as the Replica soldiers won't throw grenades into it and will stay back behind cover until the doors close and the elevator continues on.
Portal's world-famous Companion Cube is the star of an escort mission that can't actually be solved without it (or him. One of the side effects of Enrichment Center testing is believing inanimate objects to be alive, after all.) The Cube is even used as a bullet shield in some parts of the level, and can't actually be destroyed at all. Except in the incinerator at the end, into which the player is required to throw him.
Except we learn in Portal 2that he wasn't really destroyed. Yay!
In the second half of Silent Hill 4, you have Eileen, who is injured. You can give her a weapon and she can fight and take damage, but she can't die. How much damage she takes, however, determines how fast she walks towards Walter's Death Machine in the final battle. Whether she walks into it or not determines what ending you get.
In episode 2 of Kens Labyrinth, you have to escort your dog Sparky to the end of the level. The "invulnerable" designation is partially subverted because while neither enemy bullets nor your own bullets can harm Sparky, he can fall down a hole, and everything that falls down a hole dies.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass has the most annoying escort mission of all time. The escortees can't get hurt, but if a spider shows up, they freeze and scream, attracting the immortal phantoms to murder you. They also freeze if you walk too far away. When you're done, there is a BOSS FIGHT WITH THE ESCORTEES.
The worst thing is that they barely even try to pretend to be on your side. They were actively trying to get you killed, gave you the wrong information, and became a boss battle afterward. If anything, this game invokes the annoyance of an Escort Mission. At least you can use the boss fight to vent your frustrations on them as they richly deserve.
Team Fortress 2's "Payload" mode has one team have to lead a mine cart carrying a bomb through a predetermined path to the other team's base. However, it moves slowly, and only moves when a member of the team pushing it is nearby. If no one pushes it for 30 seconds (or if it's let go of while on an incline, in some of the newer maps), it starts going backwards. However, it's the escorter that finds themselves being shot at, and if the player is on the other team, the goal is to get the escort mission to fail. The bomb itself is completely invulnerable, is useful as cover (as most classes can still keep up with it while crouched), and even dispenses health and ammo. Players are also just as capable of "pushing" it by standing on top or even in front of it. Many players consider it to be the best mode in the game.
Cave Story has a scene where your escort has a better weapon than you (unless you traded for it earlier, although this barely makes a difference), and is invulnerable. The AI, while a bit random, isn't too bad either. Then, in the Bonus Dungeon, you strap her to your back and she shoots anything in the opposite direction you're facing with one of the game's best weapons.
Guild Wars finally fixed in Guild Wars: Eye of the North; whenever you are accompanied by NPCs in a dungeon or on a mission, they regularly get hacked down without mercy — but automatically resurrect with no ill effects as soon as the area is clear of enemies.
Guild Wars 2 modified the previous approach where a downed escortee must be revived by a player or another NPC. They are effectively immortal, making failure likely only if the player cannot defeat the attacking enemies.
In Freelancer, at least two missions are openly presented as Escort Missions, and your unarmed sidekicks always manage to get caught in your fights, usually against entire wings of fighters. Fortunately, the AI is competent enough to let them have a chance.
This has little to do with AI competence and more to do with the fact that just about every story relevant NPC will never have their health drop below 1 HP, no matter how badly they are damaged.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Indeed, at least a few of the Oblivion escortees are invulnerable plot-important NPCs and can be used as impromptu companions/party members by enterprising players. Most notable is Martin Septim, who you can go adventuring with throughout Cyrodil for months before finally bringing him back to Stormhold to become Emperor.
The badass of Boromir — I mean, Martin is useful, true ... but accidentally jump on the wrong horse one time on the long, long road to Cloud Ruler Temple? Yeah, he kills you dead.
Unfortunately, his invincibility runs out near the end of the game, when he decides to participate in a huge battle.
In June 2011, Kingdom of Loathing finally got an escort mission, as part of a quest involving space elves living on Loathing's moons unlocked by the Li'l Xenomorph familiar. The little blonde elf girl you're escorting is in fact unattackable, and you're in no serious danger — the monsters scale to your level and should be consistently beatable. The problem is that Axel Ottal, your escortee, has issues with you bleeding and tends to run off screaming if you get hurt too much, requiring you to be specifically prepared to fight monsters whose combat ability scales to yours without getting hit. (Although it turns out she's running off to protect you from herself, as she's really a xenomorph resisting the urge to eat you.) The trope is lampshaded anyway:
Player: Wait, so you mean, I have to escort you there?
Axel:(nods, smiling in a way that curdles your blood) Uh-huh. And I'm real fragile, and I'm real likely to run off and get myself killed. But we ought to hurry. It's gonna be dark soon, and the mean men chiefly hunt at night. Chiefly.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption has two of these. For the first, Samus has to escort a nuke to the Leviathan while the Pirates try to shoot it down — some of them land with the sole purpose of stalling her. Losing the "escort" is certifiably fatal for Samus; if the fall and storms don't kill her, the nuke will. Once the Pirates are chased off, Samus has five minutes to fix and activate the escape pod before she rides the bomb into the Leviathan.
What makes this escorting an invulnerable, by the way, is that Samus is riding the nuke's transport. If the pirates shoot it down, you die. The nuke itself is immune to basically anything.
Silent Hill 2 — Although Maria usually stays right behind you, the problems may occur when entering another location. Sometimes she appears in an untoward place - f.ex. just between you and a monster. That may cause nervous or impatient players to accidentally shoot Maria, meaning game over. I personally haven't any problems with this escort mission, but many people do.
In Silent Hill: Homecoming, there's three of them. The first one, the girl won't go into the pool filled with monsters until AFTER you've taken care of them, also she really runs quickly enough to escape some of the monsters (unfortunately, sometimes it doesn't work). The second one, the guy has a gun, unlimited ammo, and good enough aim that he can shoot enemies in their weak points and one hit kill them. Third one, you're equipped with minimal weaponry and your escort dies with a couple of hits.
The Mega Man Zero series has a few escort missions. Most of them don't allow the escortee to die, but you always lose rank points for any damage they take. The most infuriating is a desert rescue in the first Zero game — you have to make it across the desert, defeat a boss, and then bring an injured Reploid back (all the minor enemies having respawned in the meantime). If he takes more than one or two hits, kiss that S-rank goodbye. The only saving grace of this mission is that he's immune to Zero's own weapons, so you can stand "on top" of him swinging the saber and create a kind of force field. The injured ally CAN die if you become careless enough.
PAYDAY: The Heist has a few levels where you must escort an important person to a specified location. While the escorts cannot be harmed, they will refuse to move there's too many cops attacking nearby.
Carrie's minigames in Kirby's Epic Yarn involve you carrying her to a certain spot within various levels while on a time limit. She can't die, but letting her fall down a pit or get hit by an enemy takes precious seconds off the clock. Bronto Burts also like to hang around and try to carry her off if given the chance, wasting even more of your time.
During the Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3, you take one squadmate in addition to newcomer Maya Brooks to a casino charity event, where Maya will keep out of sight and hack her way into a secure location while you and your other partner provide distractions to security. This wouldn't ordinarily be annoying, as nobody is ever in any real danger, but Maya often reminds you to Continue Your Mission, Dammit! while you're trying to disable any given piece of tech.
The second Knights of the Old Republic game has an optional escort mission on Telos. A Twi'lek asks you to lead him out of a droid-infested military base. Fortunately, at the point you meet him, all droids behind you should be dead already, and even if they aren't, they seem to have no interest in the guy. The problem? Because of the poor AI, you have to be very lucky to stand in the right spot so then he realizes he should start moving and follow you. But there might be crates in his way, and sometimes he runs in the opposite direction entirely. Frankly, you can just kill him and loot his body, or leave him be, all this mission is worth is a few light side points.
Instead of you escorting the NPC, the NPC escorts you. The bad news is: This usually means that YOU are the squishy bullet magnet in need of protection.
In Ōkami, Kai of the Oina Tribe escorts you through Yoshpet, the forest of confusion. She isn't really necessary—unless you lose all sense of direction. However, she stops and waits for you if you get sidetracked.
Halo 3 actually inverts the Escort Mission during the final assault on Truth's sanctum, where the Master Chief is being protected and escorted by wave after wave of Flood.
Gothic likes to invert escort missions by having other NPCs escort you. When the normal order is the mission, if your NPC partner gets too far away, however, his character can go spastic trying to find you or may even un-spawn. For some missions, the tendency of this NPC to vanish accidentally was anticipated and he will appear at the last waypoint, waiting for you (Escort to the Sect Camp and Escort to the New Camp missions).
The solution to one "get someone's support" mission in the Sect Camp is to instigate another person to "escort me to [this part] of the camp".
In what is possibly the first example of the "being escorted" concept in flight sim history, "Grand Flight" from Ace Combat X2: Joint Assault has the player flying the personal Boeing 747-200B of Olivieri Life Insurance CEO Andre Olivieri in order to get the man through the Turkish region of Mora, which is filled to the brim with Valahian forces. This mission may be the game-stopper of the Ace Combat series, outclassing even Four Horsemen from The Unsung War', because 1) The 747 is slow and has average armor, 2) you're forced to fly into a ravine to avoid the insta-kill SAM network in the area AC 5 style (Ghosts of Razgriz), 3) there's gunboats & choppers everywhere, and 4) if you manage to escape the Mora ravine, you have to survive a fighter jet ambush at the end. Yes, it's as difficult as it sounds. And don't even get me started on Ace difficulty...At least, Olivieri gets the dubious honor of being killed by you, the player, at the end of the game. While he's on foot. With man-sized anti-vehicle weaponry.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon has a mission where the player's squadron is assigned as the dedicated anti-ship wing for an air-to-sea mission, meaning your plane selection is limited to dedicated attacker aircraft. While they carry all the bombs you'll expect, they also handle terribly, have very limited air-to-air abilities, and most damningly cannot enter Dogfight Mode or counterattack if an enemy initiated DFM on you. Fortunately they have decent armor, and your AI escort wings place appropriate priority on taking out anything focused on you. Amusingly, the player actually plays the part of a Leeroy Jenkins Escortee during this mission, as your airstrike paths tend to plow right through the enemy's defenses headlong and clearing objectives is the best way to make enemies leave you alone.
Final Fantasy VII has this for the flashback in Kalm. Cloud is a twig, while Sephiroth nukes everything.
Final Fantasy XII has this for the tutorial level. Reks is with a small army that contains several generic soldiers that have infinite potions and will instantly use them on you if your HP is low and a captain that hits very hard with his sword. It's practically impossible to die for this part.
The first tutorial level in .hack//INFECTION has Kite being escorted through a basic dungeon by his friend Orca, who's teaching him how to play The World. Orca is level 50 and can basically 1-hit kill anything you meet. This pleasant state of affairs continues until you come face to face with Skeith...
In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, you go up against Jarod and two cronies, with Micaiahalone. However, immediately after the battle begins, the BlackKnight appears, and proceeds to wreck the shit out of the enemy reinforcements; your task is to use the Black Knight to protect Micaiah. Unfortunately the enemies who have ranged weapons will prioritize attacking Micaiah if they can reach her, and unlike most Fire Emblemescort missions, you can't simply have the Black Knight carry Micaiah through the mission.
It can be made better if you know how to cheat the CPU. How the CPU works (and this works almost all the time, however it now brings in the luck factor), a character would rather attack BK than Micaiah if BK is unequipped. However, ths makes Micaiah the only one able to attack, and this changes the entire chapter. One strategy is to give most of the exp to your other important characters in earlier chapters, then when this chapter comes around you can usually get Micaiah up about 10 levels, if not max her out.
You may want to keep one of your earlier saved games in Infinite Undiscovery around, because there's an inverted Escort Mission near the beginning of the game, where you are rendered completely unable to attack due to carrying an injured companion, and the AI must escort you to your destination. Too bad they only escort you halfway to your destination. Then they all leave and you're stuck having to run through the last area totally helpless...with a dragon shooting fireballs at you.
In Mass Effect 2, there is a sequence during the Suicide Mission where you have to take a path full of seeker swarms. In order to not be attacked and captured by them, you have to pick a squadmate to keep a biotic barrier surrounding you and two other squadmates. If you pick the wrong escort, however, one of your team is taken by the swarms.
In Grand Theft Auto IV, after you become friendly with Dwayne; you can call some guys to escort you.
King's Quest III - Rosella is escorting Alexander back to the palace. She's perfectly fine with the stairs and the crevassas in the landscape. He can still fall to his death. This is cranked up in the AGD remake with firepits and an unstable rock bridge.
Half-Life 2: Episode 1 is noteworthy for containing a dark, underground level with, at least to begin with, very little ammunition for the player to use (Alyx, of course, needs no ammo)... which means that you spend the first half of the level illuminating enemies with your flashlight so Alyx can shoot them.
Alan Wake has this happen to you twice. The first is when Alan is escorted in the woods by Mott Alice's kidnapper after Alan loses his stuff when the lift crashes. And because you don't like each other, he doesn't give you a weapon, only a flare, so you really need to rely on him. The next time is when you're escorted by Sheriff Breaker, who totes a pump-action with unlimited ammunition to escort you. But before that, she gives you two guns, a flashlight and plenty of ammunition and batteries.
In Fallout 3 the Lyon's Pride faction of the Brotherhood of Steel will likely be escorting you through the DC Ruins during the quest "Following in His Footsteps". The quest comes early in the game, so you probably aren't likely to survive against the numerous Super Mutants (and a Behemoth) otherwise. If you sequence break the story, though, you'll have to go it alone when you decide to pay a visit to GNR later.
It looks like it's going to be an Escort Mission, but then something happens. Either the NPC can find his own way back to base, thank you very much, or he explodes in a gory messright in front of you when you finally reach him. Either way, he's not your problem any more.
In Jets'n'Guns, you are led to believe that a certain stage will be an escort mission... but the escortees are merely background elements.
Player: I'm just here to escort you back to the Sea Monkee Castle. Grandpa Sea Monkee asked me to find you.
Grandma: You're going to escort me? That's wonderful! I mean, I'm a little slow, and I'm sure I'd be useless in a fight, and I'll probably get lost over and over and you'll have to double back and find me, and I can't get over even the smallest obstacle, but I'd love to have you escort me!
Player: Huh. On second thought, can you find your own way back? I think I've thinned out the Mer-kin enough for you to get back okay.
Grandma: Oh, that'll be fine, dearie. Don't you worry about me — this Grandma's still got some life left in her old bones!
Player: Phew, that was a close one.
Army Of Two subverts this shortly after you get to your escort target. His copter goes boom and it's "go back to kill every living thing in sight."
When you are asked to escort the new Waterdhavian ambassador to Neverwinter in Neverwinter Nights 2, it turns out that your task is to break him out of the orcish prison in which he is held, after which he insists he can make it on his own.
Viciously averted in Project Origin, where at first glance it looks like you're going to be stuck escorting Terry Halford to safety. Then a Replica Assassin decapitates him.
Lampshaded in World of Warcraft with one quest in the late-game area of Uldum. You are asked to accompany Brann Bronzebeard to The Halls of Origination, which is a long walk from where you are. He starts walking ... slooooooowly ... in that direction. Before you've gone 20 paces, he announces he needs to stop for a rest and pauses for a moment. Then starts walking for a few more paces ... and stops. Again. Then he begins laughing uproariously and says, "Ah the old slow-walk trick. Gets 'em every time. I'll meet you there." and runs off.
This is also a Shout-Out to his appearance in the Halls of Stone. Early on, he would walk at an infuriatingly slow pace to his destination; it was later patched to make him a bit more spry.
In Medal of Honor: Allied Assault's second mission, you are assigned to escort Grillo once again, but he gets gunned down at the beginning of the mission.
In the first level of Underground, Manon has to escort her brother Jacques, but he gets killed at the end of the level before he can complete his objective.
In one of the rescue missions in City of Heroes, the hostage, upon being rescued, says "I will follow you to the exit", and then runs off. Turns out his translation system is having trouble, and he's quite capable of making his own way to the door.
This was mostly played straight in The Matrix: Path of Neo, and the AI was pretty good about it. However, one mission hung a lampshade: one particular escort character just walks along a scripted path, not caring about getting caught in the crossfire, because that character is immune to gunfire and the bullets bounce back at the enemies. Neo comments on this.
God of War II had one very brief Escort Mission in the Temple of the Fates, where Kratos has to forcibly drag a translator about 100 feet to an inscription, protecting him en route and while he reads. Of course, after you take care of all the enemies, Kratos immediately kills the translator by bashing his head into the altar (it's required, though; the inscription ends with the reader offering himself as a sacrifice to prove the subject's worthiness).
The original had a particularly sadistic take on it, as the escortee was a man trapped in a cage, and you were pushing him up a slope to burn him alive as a human sacrifice. He begs for his life the entire time you're pushing him. Even Kratos seems unhappy with what he's going to do.
This scene was unfortunately Bowdlerized in the European version by replacing the man with a regular undead enemy, with no explanation why it was even in the cage.
God Of War has a more notable escort mission in the form of the second stage of the final boss, where you must protect a stationary target from a horde of enemies.
God of War IIIfeatures two escort portions. Get ready to hear Pandora calling for help for the last leg of the game, because she likes to walk into a room and stand on the giant X marked beneath the room's newest deathtrap. It's somewhat subverted in that during combat sequences, the escortee will do lots of dodge-rolls to make sure she gets out of the way.
Doom 3. You have to escort a scientist carrying a lamp through the demon-infested darkness. You can manage it easily enough without him; he just provides another source of light in a pitch dark area. If push comes to shove you can use your flashlight to spot enemies and your instincts to guess where they are once you switch to your gun. Helpfully, the enemies in question are mostly Imps, who throw fireballs around, which light things up. On the other hand, the game also has Sentry Bots, powerful little buggers who escort you through a few sections of the game. The one time they might actually die, you need to get them to the end of the area anyway and can make more.
In Metal Gear Solid 3, one of the central plot point is to rescue a scientist, and 'Escort' him back to the US. The first time you meet up with him, you only manage to escort him for a few minute in cutscene only, before being ambushed by enemy, resulting in him running away instead of the usual protect mission. The second time where you have to rescue him again from another enemy base, after meeting up and preparing to escape, you are captured and separated from him for the rest of the game.
Dead Rising 2:Case West is a subversion of this. There are still survivors in the game, complete with requests (arguably less ridiculous than the main game). But once you deliver what the survivor needs, they'll make their way out of the facility on their own. Justified in that they work for Phenotrans, so they'll know their way around the facility.
In Thief the second mission tasks you with sneaking into a prison so that you can jailbreak a certain character and escort him out again. Once you get inside you discover that the prisoner is already dead, so your objectives are changed accordingly. The second game does something similar, in that your task is to help someone reach a certain room and leave. Since he waits for your signal, this generally involves clearing a path and then signalling him before looting the rest of the building.
When the player meet up with Brick, you must follow him to find and destroy a series of mortar beacons around while a bunch of Hyperion loaders attack. It may seem like you have to protect Brick at first, seeing as how he's unarmed, but it turns out his fists are more than adequate for cutting through the wave of mooks.
Brick and Mordecai show up in the final level giving you some assistance against the loaders. However they both suffer a Disney Death soon afterwards, leaving you to fend for yourself. If you happen to quit the game before making it to the checkpoint, you'll realize that you needed their help, as the enemies are so ridiculously powerful that making it back there on your own is a pain in the ass
Lampshaded with Axton's backstory, when he was ordered to escort someone he instead let the guy get captured by enemies, then tracked him to the enemy's base and destroyed the whole place. With the guy he was supposed to be escorting still inside.
Desperados has a mission which begins when the heroes (who are carrying the freshly captured Sanchez) have to cross a canyon in which they spot an ambush being set by El Diablo's men. The subversion is that the intended way to play this mission is to leave the prisoner in a safe spot and to slay each of the ambushers.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein features a sub-mission where you must escort a scientist to safety, as part of a bigger mission which even has you escorting a tank.
Wolfenstein (2009) features a subversion: sometimes you come across prisoners whom you need to free. However, freeing the prisoners involves simply untying them; they then tell you that they'll find their own way to safety from there.
In Terminator: Salvation for the arcade, the second mission has your "main objective" to escort humans away from the machines. You don't have to protect them as their deaths are all scripted events, and they don't get hurt at all if you accidentally shoot them. And it's a good thing too- the game is already very hard on its own.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution has the Tang mission over half way in the game where you must rescue Tang's son from mercenaries. When you find him, you think you'd play an escort segment, as even Adam tells him to stay with him. However, the device Tang gives you is actually a cloaking device and his son takes advantage of it so he can escape on his own.
This covers any examples that don't neatly fit into one of the above, either because they fall under more than one category or because they put a twist in it of their own unique variety.
Face it, any time you play co-op with someone else and your skill levels are different one of the situations above will come up.
In Final Fantasy III, the DS version just has the Escorts pop into battle and cast a spell now and again.
Max Payne 2 had an Enemy Mine situation where Max had to protect a whiny, helpless mob boss stuck inside a giant cartoon character costume with a bomb. Annoyingly, this situation turns out to be a Shaggy Dog Story - if Max turned around and walked away the moment he met the guy, the overall plot would have been EXACTLY the same.
The third game has a section where Passos is making a run for it and you need to protect him by sniping enemies. Not only will he die instantly in a cutscene if an enemy gets too close, he seems to have picked up an Idiot Ball as he won't even try to pick up a gun to defend himself despite normally being able to handle himself in a fight. The previous chapter also has an Unexpected Shmup Level escort segment where Max covers the escaping Giovanna from a helicopter.
One famous example is the 'Protect Natalya' objective in GoldenEye, where not only do you have to escort the eponymous character into the Janus base (though she does get to help you with a Cougar Magnum during that phase), but you have to keep her alive by shooting up bad guys while she tries to guide the eponymous satellite into the earth's atmosphere and stop it from destroying London.
The first level she appears in is also designed as an escort mission, but thankfully there's an easy way around it: leave Natalya locked in her cell until after you've taken care of all the enemies.
Plus, in that level enemies don't shoot her. Even the automatic guns don't touch her. The only person who can shoot her is you.
Natalya fits almost all of these sub-tropes: she has little health, runs into your line of fire and goes Leeroy Jenkins at times. (Whenever she says "Cover me", it's a bad sign.) For some reason though, she's a better shot than you.
Command & Conquer: One GDI mission in the original game has the player not only facing off against a formidable Nod installation, but having to protect the eccentric Dr. Moebius from the enemy while doing so. This in itself wouldn't be so bad (the player can even control the good doctor and keep him out of harm's way), except the orders also extend to protecting the local civilian population in general - civilians whom Nod likes to attack for no adequately explained reason, and failing that, they have an inexplicable habit of wandering into nearby Tiberium fields and dying themselves.
In Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, while most of the escort vehicles—such as the MCV—are tough enough to survive, the bonus objectives for the Escort Missions include the words "unharmed." The worst are undoubtedly the Nod Australia missions.
Fabletoys around with this; escort missions are a mandatory part of your Guild Quests, but there's also a steady stream of traveling merchants you can assist in crossing a specific part of Albion for some quick cash (which has no impact on the storyline whatsoever). Also, there are mercenaries you can find later on in the game that you can hire to escort you, to a degree. However, for these latter two examples, there is greater reward in killing them off than to complete the escort; that same path the merchants need to get through houses a demon temple that, if you sacrifice your charges there at a specific time, grants you mucho evil points and some of the best bows in the game. If they're on too low health they won't pay you at the end, if this happens, kill the ungrateful bastards.
Final Fight Streetwise has one of the worst. First, you must escort two people, only one of whom can attack, and they both share a lifebar. Second, the escort path is loaded with mooks, including big ones that tend to knock you down and are tough to kill, and ones that carry grenades.
Comanche 4 was full of them, often where the escortee was able to get through unharmed but the way was lined with men with heat-seeking rockets. Or they were very hard to see and moved very fast. Or you had to stay within a certain distance or lose automatically.
Crash Twinsanity includes two Doc Amock sequences, wherein Dr. Cortex is forced to run down a preset path (while being harassed by bees, their nest and a honey-hungry bear the first time around, and by Crash's evil duplicate in the second), while Crash must take another path whilst disabling the hazards on Cortex's route. The sequences were generally well accepted, thanks to its exhibition of the game's excellent Cortex-abuse-centric humour.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion features some quests that, upon conclusion, give you the option to escort a (usually defenseless) NPC out of a dungeon. It also usually gives you the option to tell the poor sap to find their own way out.
The Caverns of Hope level in Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future had an Escort Mission, which thankfully wasn't all that tough, but still fairly annoying. That green Outcast dolphin is fairly good at keeping your pace, but for being a part of the Resistance, which is supposed to be the only thing standing in the way of those ugly Clan dolphins, he's kind of a wimp. His job is to guide you to the end of the level, and your job is to make sure he and those annoying Clan guards don't come within ten feet of each other. If one gets near him, he'll squeal and try to go back to where he came from, and you have to track him down and sonar him to get him back to the task at hand.
The original series had a few of these as well, with guiding dolphins and baby orca back to their podmates. For the most part these aren't too bad—the NPCs can't be harmed and can't drown either, however the baby orca hunt in hard mode of Tides of Time approaches Scrappy Level proportions due to the sheer number of lost calves.
One optional early-game quest in Ancient Domains of Mystery is to find the cute puppy and bring it back to the little girl in Terinyo. Naturally, the puppy has managed to find its way to the bottom of the most difficult dungeon in the area. Also, the puppy dies automatically after a few days of in-game time. There's a reason it's sometimes called "Kenny" by the community.
ADOM also has a weirdly inverted version. The First Town's carpenter has wandered into a nearby dungeon, so you have to go there. A few levels down you find a healer. At the bottom of the dungeon is the carpenter, altered and driven mad by The Corruption, so now he's on the side of the monsters. You have to catch his attention, then start running back upstairs to the healer, with him following and taking potshots at you all the while, hoping that you don't get stuck in a corridor between him and another monster.
Although it may be not be such a 'traditional' escort mission, each world in Billy Hatcher and The Giant Egg starts with one of these. Sure, you may be actually (indirectly) controlling the Elder's egg, and it may not be so bad at first.......but just wait until you get to Blizzard Castle and onwards.
Some Team Fortress 2 servers have the "Spy Crab Migration" mission, where one team is made up of Spies who must use the Spy Crab glitch (crouching and looking up with the disguise kit open) to make it to the other side of the field, and the other teams is full of Huntsman-weilding Snipers whose job it is to prevent the same. Since only one Spy Crab has to make it to the end for the Spy side to win, some people play it like an Escort Mission. Some maps make this harder for one side or another by adding instant death traps (like high voltage power lines for the Spy Crabs, or the Train of Death for the Snipers).
Team Fortress Classic has an oft-overlooked gamemode called Hunted, wherein one player is the 'civilian' (an utterly useless class whose weapon is an umbrella) and the defending team (with a limited class selection) must protect him against the offending team, which is made up of snipers.
Quake Team Fortress had similar custom maps. One in particular featured three teams: one full of civilians with axes trying to get to the other side of the map before time ran out, one team of two people armed with explosives trying to kill all the civilians, and one team of two people trying to help the civilians by killing the second team. The civilians usually had unlimited respawns, but always had very low health. It was messy.
In Warzone 2100's Beta Campaign there is a sort of reverse escort mission where you have to prevent the Collective's Commander from escaping from the ports where he starts at to the opposite edge of the map. The AI has a convoy of heavy units to escort him, an elaborate and well-defended fortress which he can retreat to, and strong air cover from a squadron of VTOL strike fighters. But the Collective Commander is a complete moron who panics at the first hint of trouble and clumsily rams into buildings and defensive structures that were meant to protect him, getting stuck and getting killed. As of the latest release, his air cover and fortress are the only things that can really save him from himself.
In Perfect World, high levels generally "escort" lower levels through their dungeons. Just a bit of friendly advice for you... If you're a high-level Axe Blademaster on a PvP server, and you're helping somebody level 30 and up, don't useHeaven's Flame.
Left 4 Dead 2 has you getting cola to the gun shop owner so he can clear a path for you. If you get the cola, you are escorted by your team mates as they protect you from the infected rushing in to attack. If someone else gets the cola, you have to protect them. The roles can easily switch if someone fumbles the cola or passes it to someone else.
In the Dark Carnival level of Left 4 Dead 2, you can play one of the carnival games and, if you score high enough, win a prize of a lawn gnome. If you manage to get the gnome (named Gnome Chompsky) to the end of the level, you get a special achievement. Since one of your party members has to carry the gnome in lieu of a weapon, this winds up being an ersatz escort quest of sorts for whoever is gnome-carrier, although he can be dropped and exchanged for a weapon at any time, then picked back up after carnage has ensued.
inFAMOUS contains a variation. Some of the Good missions require you to escort captured prisoners to the nearest Police Station. Occasionally, they'll try to make a break for it, and you'll have to chase after them.
Let's not forget the evil counterparts where you lead Dust Man to a place so you can blast them into the ocean. For an escort mission, the reward is satisfying.
Tron 2.0 has infuriating sequences where one must guard Ma3a while she does something. This is annoying when she basically tells you "Go up into that tower and shoot anyone who comes near me" At that point, the LOL (basically a sniper rifle) takes up the most weapon energy of your weapons and no quick way of replenishing weapon energy. Another is set at the Progress Bar where you must guard Ma3a while the Tron Legacy program is compiled into her. Infected programs come after her near constantly and she gets assailed by some sort of mega-virus.
Later in the game, Jet is also escorting his father through cyberspace hell. Alan does have the good sense to duck or otherwise stay out of the way for the most part, but he's got laughably low hit points which means that he can't take a single hit without game over.
Catherine has a segment where you have to go through a stage where Katherine is with you. You need to create paths that allow her to follow you and she's slower than Vincent, which is understandable considering she was just thrown into this unexpectedly after accidentally killing someone. Other than that, it's a fairly (and surprisingly) simple level.
The Sonic 3 & KnucklesromhackThe Challenges has a mission in which Knuckles has to get to the end of the level while making sure Tails never dies or gets left behind. What's nice is that Tails still can be controled by a second player. Another mission has you play as Tails instead, while the CPU as Sonic couldn't care less about escorting you (Ironic, isn't it?). The objective is to keep up with Sonic until he reaches the end.
At one point of VVVVVV, you have to escort a fellow crew member through a level. While you're on the ground, the crewmate will run to be under you, wherever you are, but he won't move while you're on the ceiling. It's quite hard to do, but then again, so is the rest of the game.
Mario Party 9 has a unique take on the escort trope for single player mode. The game plays like a normal multiplayer game, but there is always one player that is working against you and if that player wins, you lose. If you or any other player wins the game, you still win. If you are losing by a long shot and have no way to win, you can "escort" the other players on the team by helping them win or sabotaging the enemy player so that you can still win.
The hack-and-slash RPG Sacred is littered with every bad example of this. Early on, you find yourself wandering around with a soldier named Wilbur who is slated to die at a specific point in the plot. To ensure this happens, the game renders him immortal — the worst that can happen to him is that he'll get knocked out for about a minute. The problem is, a lot of side-quests require you to escort people who are about as durable as toilet paper, and have a bad habit of running right up to demons and skeletons and just standing there as if to say "Take my picture". (The worst ones will actually run up to the nearest enemy and start punching them.) Often, the only way to safely escort one of these morons is to know ahead of time that they need escorting, thoroughly clean the area in their path, THEN talk to them.
Throughout roughly half of Fatal Frame II, you're accompanied by your twin sister. Of course, you're the one with the spirit-warding camera, so she can't fight off any ghosts that attack. The ghosts seem split evenly on whether they attack you or her. When they attack her it's a bit easier, since it allows you to carefully line up a devastating shot without worrying about your health. However, if she gets attacked enough she can die, although this is really only an issue on the higher difficulty levels.
The LEGO Adaptation Game have parts where one character can't climb a cliff or the terrain is dangerous for a character and the others have to clear out paths and puzzles to bring another character to that spot.
Cannon Fodder has Escort Missions where you have to release and escort civilian prisoners. They're invulnerable, but the problem is that some of them are so pissed off that they'll attack your soldiers.
Bad Piggies has some screens where you need to carry the King Pig over the obstacle course, the problem being his great size and weight.
The Fleshstorm 2mod for BattleZone II has a particularly brutal escort mission. The Recycler you are escorting is mostly competent, there aren't a whole lot of enemies, and you can order the Recycler and the other escorts around. The twist is that the planet's atmosphere is on fire and you're trying to escape before the hull of your tank melts and your dropship leaves you behind. You have a single repair truck and a pair of hover tanks to assist you, making the level a juggling act between repairing yourself, your Recycler and your (disposable) allies. If you forge too far ahead to kill enemy static defenses, you will die before you can reach the repair truck. If you don't forge ahead enough, your Recycler will be overwhelmed by enemy fire and be destroyed. If your craft is destroyed, you will die upon ejecting because a skintight spacesuit doesn't offer much protection against a flaming atmosphere.
The mission "Second Chance" in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is an odd example. You have to rescue an important person and escort them to the evac chopper. The person is about as smart as the rest of your team (read: randomly switches between fairly competent and Leeroy Jenkins) so it's important to guard them well (or order everyone to haul ass to the chopper). Or you can take control of the person rather than escort them and hope they don't die.
The Original Campaign from Neverwinter Nights 1 had several types of escort mission. Some were straight escorts where the NPC would follow you until close to safety and then would leave automatically (giving you experience points). Others were averted in that once rescued, the NPC would leave to make their own way "home" (you still got XP). Interestingly, the NPCs you needed to escort were always at least reasonably good fighters and although they could die, they had enough health to survive long enough for you to rescue them.
Escort Missions that actually aren't too much of a hassle.
In Final Fantasy III, the Escorts in the NES version don't even participate in battle. And only Sara, Elia and Cid are really escorted - Desch doesn't even know what he's doing until his last dungeon, and Unne is just telling you where to go.
The aforementioned Resident Evil 4: not only is Ashley smart enough to get out of your line of fire, and not only can you order her to stay back while you go ahead and clean out the enemies, the game even provides the occasional place to hide her from view entirely until such time as the coast is clear. Capcom seems to have spent some time making sure having her around wouldn't cause players to throw things at the TV.
There is even in the PS2/ Wii versions of the game a suit of armor for Ashley as an alternate outfit - this renders her invulnerable to bullet fire and makes her impossible for the enemies to carry off which turns her into an amazing trap for your enemies. If you're getting mobbed, put her in the center of a room and your back against a wall. They'll pick her up and immediately fall over which won't stop them from trying while you slowly pick them off.
The suit of armor also makes her surprisingly invulnerable to rockets and explosives as well, making her invincible to just about everything in the game. Humorously, aiming at her in this suit no longer cues her to crouch, but to shut the visor on her helmet instead. You have to earn your Gameplay Ally Immortality though.
In Dark Messiah Of Might And Magic, the player has to escort Leanna at a couple of points in the game, firstly in nearly all of these points she can be told to wait while you clear the enemies out first, she can instantly heal herself and you during combat, she can do decent damage to enemies and she tries to keep a distance between herself and said enemies, sometimes even positioning behind the player to heal you while you block them.
In Wild9 you can escort Pokkit, who has an arsenal of weapons which can blow away any enemy, the same goes for Nitro, who by just moving him will cause him to explosively sneeze, which is actually required to open some doors, thankfully, it does not damage you.
Defanged unconvincingly in Neverwinter Nights 2. When the main quest requires that you escort an NPC, said NPC will gleefully engage any enemies in combat, quite beyond your control. However, they can't actually die (or "fall unconscious," as it is); some even have an infinite supply of healing potions. It's a testament to just how annoying the Escort Mission is that you won't care that this is unrealistic.
The quest My sister, the rebel proves the exception to the exception, as Lisbet can and indeed does die if you're not careful. And she stays dead, too.
Although in this case it's mitigated somewhat by the fact that you actually can order her to stay put while you clear out each room.
Also averted with the quest to protect Lord Tavorick, who can be killed by demons storming his estate. However, his portrait is in the party roster at all times, so you can see when he needs healing, and his death doesn't actually fail the quest, as he'll reveal — either with his dying words or when you escort him to safety — that he already passed the MacGuffin elsewhere, but you get additional XP for saving him.
The protectees in Half-Life tended to be reasonably close to where you need to take them and you often got a chance to clear out the area before you even met them; all NPCs could be told to stay put while you went on ahead — and, in the case of the skittish scientists, occasionally did so whether you wanted them to or not ("I refuse to take another step!") In the expansion Half-Life: Opposing Force and from Half-Life 2 on, mission-critical characters (besides the scientists in Opposing Force) were often more than capable of defending themselves.
The Counter-Strike mod features a couple of "rescue" maps, where one of the counter-terrorist team's players was a VIP armed with just a puny little gun, and the rest of them were his escort. As a multiplayer-only game, the VIP's intelligence or stupidity depends on whether the VIP player is a skilled player, a Noob, or God forbid, a Leeroy Jenkins. Likewise, in the hostage rescue maps, the CTs can ask the hostages to stay where they are before entering a room.
Half-Life 2 Episode 1 and 2 both pair the player off with Alyx Vance, a NPC sidekick who is Nigh Invulnerable. She can still be killed if the player makes absolutely no attempt to fight the enemy at all (or inadvertently blunders too far away from her, given the difference in firepower between her and Gordon Freeman). She hangs back or is otherwise separated from the player for large boss battles. It's even worse if you're going for the achievement "One Free Bullet" where you're not allowed to use anything besides your crowbar, gravity gun, grenades and RPG. All of which do low damage or have limited ammo.
In The Thing, various levels had one or more characters that you have to keep alive. This is made slightly easier by the fact that you can give them spare guns/ammunition, which they will use.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion contains several rescue missions, but only two where the NPC cannot be told to hang back. And in one of those two, you can simply ignore the NPC until you clear the place out. A large majority of these missions are Fighters Guild for some reason.
Which is a great improvement over Morrowind, where escort missions have been likened to suicide watch: if you get within sight of a hostile, the (usually unarmed, unarmored) person you are escorting will charge to the attack.
In one early Mages' Guild assignment for Morrowind, you're likely better off standing back and letting your charge do all the fighting - he's a wizard of modest power who starts blasting away at any baddies he sees, is more than capable of killing most threats, and doesn't care if you're in the way.
Both Morrowind and Oblivion had monsters that would level with your character, so a high-level character exploring a certain dungeon would encounter, say, liches and demonic dinosaurs, whereas a lower-level character would find nothing but giant rats. Most escorted NPCs, in contrast, had fixed levels.
Lampshaded in a Mage's Guild mission where you meet someone who tells you to follow him and then charges straight into a deadly trap. You don't fail the mission, it's just there for color. (Red, mostly.)
Daggerfall escort missions were very controllable due to the limitations of the game engine - your escort's mug appeared in the upper corner of your screen and he went wherever your character went until the time limit was up. The only way to kill the escort was to die yourself.
However, the most famous escort mission of any The Elder Scrolls game occurs when the Fighters' Guild sends you to help someone get somewhere and you fail. What starts as a simple escort mission turns into a no-time-limit political conspiracy minor story that can net the player a constant flow of resources until completed.
One Morrowind quest deliberately invokes this, by making the escortee as annoying as possible. She's an uptight snob, always talks down to you, and demands you get her to where she needs to go within two days' time. She reminds you of this after every twelve hours in the most obnoxious way possible. She also moves painfully slowly, and won't hesitate to rush into battle despite being equipped with nothing more than fancy clothes, no armour or weapons. The journal updates as you progress through the quest make note of how irritating she is, and the quest is even called The Annoying Pilgrim.
This quest is also a subversion because she only gives 100 gold as a reward upon reaching your destination, but you can loot 500 if you "accidentally" let her die, meaning that you don't have much incentive to protect her.
Metal Gear Solid 3 forced Snake to protect EVA for a while, but she had a gun on her, and she was pretty good about staying behind him.
If you don't feel like dealing with her at all, you can also tranquilize EVA, take out all the sentries, and just drag her to safety.
In Metal Gear Solid 2, towards the end, Raiden and Snake go for a last charge down the halls of Arsenal, killing everything. Either Snake or Raiden's death causes a game over. On easy difficulty levels Snake brings an M4 and effortlessly slaughters everyone under his own steam, leaving Raiden with not a lot to do other than pick up boxes of ammo and watch. On hard difficulty levels, Snake only brings a handgun and is a liability, requiring constant protection, and on Extreme he's an outright moron, standing perfectly still while the enemy soldiers hit him with their swords. Raiden can either encircle him, deflecting bullets and chopping up anyone who approaches, or knock him out and drag his unconscious body through the level.
Super Robot Wars Original Generation series was pretty good about Escort Missions. Almost always, the people you had to keep alive were fairly powerful and under your direct control. Sometimes, though, they had to pass through a heavily fortified position with multiple enemies aiming for them, without taking a single hit. This was alleviated, though, by incredible dodging skills.
However, there's one mission in the second game where you have to guide an NPC transport ship carrying a prototype mecha through a literal swarm of enemies. The ship has only average HP and defenses, never defends itself (despite being listed as carrying missiles on-board), can't dodge for beans, and isn't controllable. The ship itself can take six or seven hits before going down, but that's considerably less useful when there are twenty or so enemies aiming for it at once. Adding to the dilemma is that, if you want the Skill Point for this stage, you can't even let the thing get SCRATCHED. The only way to achieve this is to send all of your mechs as far forward into the enemy as possible, causing them to attack you instead of the transport. Oh, but if any of THEM die, you fail also.
Super Robot Wars 3 pulls this straight with a kick in the balls, where you have to keep Ryune alive while she's surrounded by enemies... And she will attack you. The version of that battle in the first OG game is far more merciful: You don't have to protect her, and if she dies, she just instantly regains her full health. Oh, and she doesn't attack you until after the bad guys are all gone.
Urban Chaos Riot Response sits somewhere in the middle. Partners in need of rescue will be killed in short order unless you help them; but once they are saved they'll stick close to you, enemies don't consider them top priority, and if armed they'll provide cover fire for you.
In S.T.A.L.K.E.R., you have to escort a scientist through an enemy infested area to a transition area. While he does lead, you have three major advantages than most other games: 1. He knows how to take cover. 2. You can give him an assault rifle to upgrade his pistol. and 3. He is wearing one of the best armor suits in the game.
Various Fire Emblem missions are based around protecting key units. Most of the time, you can have one of your more-armored party members go over and "rescue" them — removing the protected unit from the map as long as their carrier survives.
Chapter Three of Radiant Dawn, forces you to keep two civilians protected, but one of these civilians has much higher HP and defense than anyone on your team at that point. Even though he's unarmed, he's nearly immortal. The only complication preventing you from using him as a meatshield is that the second escortee is not nearly so durable and you cannot separate them without crippling your limited offensive options. On Easy mode you can even let them die with no penalty but the loss of bonus exp.
Sometimes (especially in the GBA games) the NPC you're supposed to protect is in a well fortified location, or is so insanely overpowered that they can rout the entire map (or at least as many enemies as their weapon durability will allow) by themselves. The challenge is not in protecting the NPC from the enemies, but in protecting the hordes of enemies from the NPC long enough to get EXP for your own units!
The Nintendo Wars series has missions in the campaign modes revolving around either protecting or destroying key units. The fact that the units follow your orders (only moving and attacking when you order them to) rather than moving around dumbly makes this a lot more tolerable.
In Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, they tend to be AI-controlled, although the AI is smart enough not to rush to their doom.
Except for a certain Heroic Sacrifice, where you could've done the mission more easily if you had kept control of the megatank.
In most Battalion Wars missions, you have to capture some enemy point. This requires you to have at least one infantry unit alive. Since you can command said units — Attack mode, Sentry Mode, and Follow — this is a lot easier than it sounds.
In Evil Dead: Regeneration, Ash's half-demon midget sidekick Sam generally makes himself useful by weakening enemies - when he isn't being used to collect Plot Coupons. Then you have to keep him from being killed before feeding enough Plot Coupons to the demon blocking your way until it goes to sleep.
In Warcraft III, there are some escort missions, but the caravans you escort come with a few of their own defenders. The first time you escort some Tauren, who who have some pretty tough troops, and the other you help some Blood Elves, who can protect their own caravan as well as heal your units and themselves.
The expansion also features the reverse in the undead campaign, you need to stop human caravans from escaping into the mountains at various key positions.
The Hour of Twilight instance offers a surprisingly painless version in World of Warcraft. Thrall moves just slow enough that the party can stay ahead without waiting excessively, and he's tough enough that you don't really need to pay attention to his health.
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings has a large number of them, with a fair number of AI types. The developers seem to have known how much gamers hate these missions, the ones with suicidal allies have weak enemies.
Though, because only two members of your team have the ability to revive fallen allies, in any difficult mission, it's usually an unofficial escort of them, because if they die, the rest of your team will probably follow shortly afterwards.
In The Suffering, Torque has the opportunity to engage in a few of these. The escortees are usually (but not always) armed, reasonably tough, and able to defend themselves pretty well. Torque can simply gun them down to skip the mission, but this seriously dings his Karma Meter - allowing them to die via monster does not change the Karma Meter, and completing the mission increases it.
In the Shadowrun game for the Sega Genesis, the client you escort won't even be attacked by enemies, they go after you instead. These missions were near identical to carry a package missions except that they can get caught up in area of effect attacks like grenades or explosive fireballs.
There are several escort missions in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), all incredibly simple. The AI waits behind you (far behind you) until you clear out the next section of enemies and catches up. Usually enemies will be concentrating more on the player than them and they can still take multiple rockets to the face without dying.
In the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare mission "Hunted," the informant Nikolai will have to be escorted through a wilderness; fortunately, he's good enough at defending himself with his AK-47u and gains Ally Contractual Immortality (not too shabby for an emaciated guy captured for God-knows-how-long). In the "One Shot, One Kill" mission an injured Captain's support fire is apparently quite effective... however, he can be killed, and he is immobile; he can't move around unless you carry him, leaving you unable to do anything except walk around (no sprinting) and putting him down.
Happens in Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner. Con: You have to protect a soldier's mech, meant to help out in a battle later, that for whatever stupid reason, can't fight back, on top on YOU having carry it all the way to its destination. Pro: You can heal said mech by carrying it, making said mission a cakewalk, on top of being able to swing him like a bat and even FLING him at your enemies. FUN.
Later, you actually have to escort an entire army, while taking down hundreds of enemy mechs. Thankfully, you have the hero of the first game to help out.
Also, said army can also fight against BAHRAM well enough, although they're pretty well outnumbered.
The PC port of the game James Bond 007: Nightfire. The player must protect Mayhew, an unarmed man, but he's smart enough to stay behind you and not move on until an area is cleared.
In a game as hard as Jak II, the number of difficult escort missions is surprisingly set squarely at 1. The hardest escort mission in the game involves escorting a kid though the city, made difficult by the automatic movement of the escort NPC and his completely understandable lack of intelligence. All other escorts are either carried by vehicle or armed with weaponry, allowing them to hold their own for a long enough period for you to do what you have to do, whether it be killing enemies or solving a door puzzle.
Subverted in the Tabletop RPGParanoia adventure Me and My Shadow, Mark IV, where the players have to escort an enormous cybernetic combat tank. The problem the players face is not so much to protect Mark IV as to keep themselves from being crushed between various potent assaults and Mark IV's Nigh-Invulnerability.
World in Conflict has an interesting inversion. In one mission, you only initially have command of a small force consisting of light units and repair units. Later on, you hook up with another allied force under AI control which has much heavier weaponry able to stave off Russian assaults. A good portion of the rest of the mission involves you relying on the AI to protect your vulnerable units while you keep the AI's units repaired and ready to fight.
Grand Theft Auto IV has some missions where you're accompanied by a few partners in crime. All three of Patrick McReary's missions, for example, have him accompanying you, and if he dies, you fail. While this can occasionally be a recipe for annoyance because Patrick tends to charge headlong into enemy fire, he can take quite a bit of damage (more than you can, in fact), and helps to draw the enemies' fire, letting you pick off enemies and cops without getting shot at as much. He's an expert at using the game's cover system (one case where the computer actually cheats in your favor), and is packing serious heat of his own, meaning he'll be able to take out enemies as fast as you can. Another case of the Escort Mission adding a slight bit of difficulty to the game without being overly frustrating, and sometimes actually being helpful.
Also, any mission where Little Jacob joins you. The situations feel similar to Patrick's missions, except he never charges into certain death, usually advancing as you do, and it somehow feels like he's the one escorting you than you escorting him.
GTA4 also includes a Co-Op multiplayer mode called "Hangman's NOOSE," which requires the team to escort an NPC mafia boss to safety. Because the boss is somewhat intelligent, the mission is short, and the case rewards are very high, this might be one of the few escort missions on this list that players seek out and play repeatedly.
Some of the Spider-Man games have variants on this trope, where the player must protect an NPC from a supervillain. In Ultimate Spider-Man, for example, Venom must keep Electro from frying an unconscious Spider-Man, made more bearable by the fact that Spidey's unconscious, and won't do anything stupid, so it'll be only your fault if you let him get roasted alive. The first Spider-Man game for the Playstation requires Spider-Man to protect J. Jonah Jameson from a rampaging Scorpion, but fortunately Jameson has the sense to run like hell while the player stalls the Scorpion.
EarthBound: Just as the plot begins, Ness must escort his neighbors and an alien home. The alien, however, is exponentially stronger than then-level-1 Ness, and in fact does most of the fighting for you during the mission. He renders the 3 humans temporarily immune to PSI attacks as well, so you're invincible against the mini-boss, too.
Crysis. The main plot of the first half of the game requires you to rescue several hostages, who are escorted away by allies arriving Just in Time. Any allies you have will stay well away from any fighting and let you do all the work.
The escort missions in Joseph Hewitt's mecha roguelike Gear Head have you using your mecha to protect a transport truck from raiders as it drives along a short road. Unfortunately, as you progress in the game, all your opponents become stronger, greatly increasing the range, accuracy and power of their attacks. As a result, the defenseless truck will generally be targeted with a barrage of powerful, expensive, area-affecting missiles before you can even spot the raiders' mecha, inevitably being destroyed by the first hit. Luckily, these missions are all optional.
During one level of The Force Unleashed you are told to protect a Jedi from Imperials at all costs. Things look bad. He's old. He's blind. This is surely going to be a hard mission right? Wrong! He's a Jedi! What kind of Jedi can't take care of himself?
The game can bug out during that mission: halfway through the old man forgets how to walk. He'll still kick the ass of anything that gets close enough but force choke and force push are required to move him forward.
Star Wars: Republic Commando had a somewhat amusing mission in which you had to escort a Wookiee past a pair of General Grievous's bodyguards. It is possible for him to die, but he can take so much damage that it's practically impossible for the MagnaGuards to kill him, as they spend most of the time focusing on you and your squad.
Vega Strike has it. The good thing, the random generator tend to assign heavy fighter / superiority fighter as an escortee and they don't hold against the player what minor damage pirates may inflict before being ripped apart. With less protected ships and/or Aera it's much trickier, since you need to stay reasonably close, keep an eye on the escortee (they currently don't try to fly as a formation) and preferrably have both a long-range laser to "distract" the attackers and more powerful weapons to destroy them quickly.
Siren: Blood Curse Considering you play as 7 different characters across the 24 missions, you have missions where you have to snipe to protect a defenseless man and then lead him to safety, snipe to protect a little girl who's afraid of you and "lead" her to safety (i.e. approach her until she runs off in the safest direction), escort said little girl to safety while killing anything that would kill her, lead your ex-wife to safety (thankfully she's armed and does a great job of fighting on her own), and protect a woman who can't fight but can thankfully take a ton of damage.
Siren 2 has some too, but most of the time the escort is armed, durable, or smart enough to get out of the way. Ikuko is a pain, though, because she keeps using her sightjacking ability to slow enemies and sometimes stays like that for a little while.
When the first part of the last mission (or "quest") in Fallout 3 actually starts, you quickly realize you aren't really "protecting" Liberty Prime from anything; you're just trying to kill some enemies before the unstoppable giant robot nukes, vaporizes, or steps on them (possibly depriving you of much-needed XP). You still have to wait for the robot at two different points, though. Also, Paladin Vargas, one of the previously invulnerable characters that assisted you during Following in his Footsteps, has his Gameplay Ally Immortality removed for this quest, and does not appear in Broken Steel, implying that his death is canon.
In an earlier level, you need to escort scientists trying to escape Enclave soldiers. Fortunately the soldiers have the good sense to target you instead of them, the scientists will usually stay behind you, and you can tell them to stay put while you clear out the room ahead. Also, of the four scientists, only one is required to survive, and she has Gameplay Ally Immortality and can only be briefly knocked unconscious by enemies. You can also give another of the scientists a gun, but this only makes things harder as he'll now hold his ground and fight enemies instead of sensibly running away, causing him to die very quickly as he is very weak and can only survive a couple of hits.
There was also the immensely suicidal Sticky, an outcast of Little Lamplight you could escort to Big Town. Unfortunately he is a complete idiot who would willingly attack Super Mutants and Radscorpions with his fist despite having given him a revolver.
However, Sticky is extremely easy to escort because you can use fast travel to get to Big Town, thus bypassing any combat.
Speaking of Big Town, you have to rescue Red and Shorty from a Super Mutant stronghold as part of the "Big Trouble" sidequest. Saving Shorty is optional, but you fail the quest if Red dies. You only have to get them out of the Police HQ, then you can quick-travel back to town, provided you killed any enemies outside.
Final Fantasy VI has an escort mission involving Guest Star Party Member Banon. If he dies during combat, the game's over. He has somewhat fewer HP than your other characters, but is fully controllable and has a free healing ability, making this not only much less odious than most Escort Missions, but a great way to Level Grind if you set up the controls just right.
Seems like the makers of Magical Battle Arena has had bad experiences with Escort Missions in the past, since the Protect Hayate with Vita mission, the one Escort Mission in the Lyrical Pack, isn't the hair-pullingly frustrating kind. Sure, Hayate is a sitting duck here, but she can take a lot of hits and her attackers are just three easy to kill Joke Characters who are quick to choose you over Hayate as their target. Essentially, the Escort Mission's only hard if you're bad at using Vita.
One of the early missions in the PC game Imperium Galactica was to escort the Admiral. You could completely ignore him and all that would happen was to get a "Where the hell were you!?" message at the end of it. Later escort missions you did have to turn up for, though.
One of the missions in Hostile Waters has you escorting a group of scientists escaping from the Cabal. They proceed to patiently wait in their base while you clear the entire map of everything that moves and set up turrets at their destination, make sure to stay behind your tanks once they get rolling, and even once the enemies start growing out of the ground (literally), they will target your units before they turn on the convoy. It's... refreshingly not frustrating.
Alone in the Dark: Inferno. Sarah, who accompanies the hero in the first half of the game before finally deciding to remain in a safe place, acts more as a tag-along rather than an actual escort mission, even though you do need her help in certain places. Thankfully, bullets in the head are only minor annoyances for her, and she rarely actively gets in your way. Her comments make you want to mute the TV, though.
An optional sidequest in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines involves saving former actor Ash Rivers from hunters; there are a couple of ways to go about it, and one of them is to escort him through the sewers. Fortunately, he tends to stay a few metres behind the player, and is capable of defending himself if a hunter gets too close.
In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the player controls the Prince fighting through mythical monsters to escape the Sands of Time; his only ally is a princess stuck in the same trap. For most of the game she is in the background, nudging you along the right path, like a fairy but not as annoying. She will occasionally enter battle with you, but if she dies in battle, the game is over. You may think about focusing some of your attention toward her, but the monster AI prioritizes you and the princess AI prioritizes on keeping her away. While she is accurate with her arrows, she is not a sniper and may occasionally hit you (with apologies). Her health is also fairly high and will regenerate over time.
There are three exceptions to the exception: the first is a room where the only initial entrance/exit is a hole in a wall which is partially blocked by stone debris. Once Farah enters the room, she can't get back out and the enemy AI evenly splits focus between the two of you. The second is one of the times you are separated; she runs into a bit of sand monster trouble and calls out for help. You have to find her before she dies, and the area is somewhat confusing. The third, and worst, is the Tower of Dawn elevator sequence, which simply has so many enemies jammed into a small area that some of them will inevitably target Farah. She doesn't really have that much health when being intentionally attacked, causing her to be killed easily, and there's really nowhere for her to run.
Clearly you never encountered the bug where, in the library section that has spike pits, she endlessly walks off the edge and dies. Over and over. And Rewinding doesn't help.
In Prince of Persia (2008), the Prince (controlled by the player) is escorting Elika on her quest to remove corruption from the fertile grounds. The devs have done their homework, so Elika never gets in your way, obstructs your view or does anything dumb, and follows you well. It also helps that neither of you can die. Since Elika saves the Prince's life whenever he is about to die, in reality, it is Elika who is escorting the Prince.
Fortunately very little escort action in Rise of Legends, and perhaps the only notable one is actually pretty easy. You have to escort multiple of the same caravan unit across a relatively small map while enemies spawn magically around you, but the caravans have a decent number of hitpoints, provide area healing, and you only have to move one caravan unit at a time, meaning that the next one always comes in fresh.
There's also one where the main character Giacomo goes on a heatstroke-induced Mushroom Samba and you have to protect him while he totters around the landscape. This one's somewhat harder.
StarCraft featured a brief "escort" segment of an early Terran mission, where you had to get through explored territory with a limited number of military units, SCVs, and a unique unit that would result in failure if he died. On the other hand, it was pretty much done in the first thirty seconds.
There is also an escort mission for the Zerg campaign, in which you are equipped with Hydralisks with twice the HP and attack power of normal Hydralisks and a bunch of Zerglings. You are fully in control of the escortee, who can cloak and OHKO most of the units on that map. Also, this being a Zerg campaign, your entire force also regenerates health over time. Talk about overpowering.
Earlier on, there is another escort mission for the Zerg campaign, with the escortee being a mere Drone holding an egg. Of course, it was an early mission, which means both your forces and the enemy Protoss blocking the way only have access to basic tech. Combined with the fact that there are few enemies actually guarding the destination, the mission can be done in under ten minutes.
The expansion, Brood War also had an escort mission during the Terran campaign. The player had to escort a group of unarmed pilots to steal a fleet of battlecruisers. Fortunately, the player is given full control of the pilots and can just keep them in the rear, and since this is an early mission, it has a relatively easy difficulty. Plus, if you're inept enough to actually lose any pilots, your commander will just simply chastise you and send replacements.
StarCraft II finally has a mission in which you steal the Super Prototype mecha Odin. The guy who does the actual stealing happens to destroy his com so he can't hear you anymore and decides to go for a walk... through the enemy bases. While this sounds like prime Escort Mission material, it's actually pretty fun since:
The Odin has over 5,000 HP (more than any of the buildings in your base, by far);
You can repair the mecha, and the enemy usually doesn't target your SCVs in combat;
The Odin moves slow enough that your forces can easily keep up, but not so slow as to be frustrating;
He pauses between bases so you have time to prepare for the next one; and
On the lower difficulty grades, you don't actually need an army to make it - just send a few SCVs along and watch the Odin hurt people and break stuff.
In Manhunt you have to escort a vagabond and later a journalist. Since players can ask them to stay hidden, they aren't very annoying.
In Kingdom Hearts II, there's a part where you need to escort Minnie to a throne in her castle, while being attacked by a horde of enemies. Minnie moves fairly slow, and must be ushered forwards with reaction commands. Luckily, standing next to her and pressing triangle will call upon a semi-powerfullight spell (completely devastating if you play on easy) that knocks all enemies away. It's actually harder to reach the throne without it.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep plays this a little straighter with Jaq the mouse, Snow White and Cinderella, but still not completely straight. Each character will move forward on their own, and if they get attacked, you can use a reaction command that will damage all enemies around them.
Assuming of course, you are close enough for the reaction. If not, prepare to game over again and again while you got sidetracked combo-chaining enemies.
The Simpsons Game has an escort mission in Medal Of Homer. Sargent Abraham Simpson explicitly tells you "I know what you're thinking. Not an escort mission. Well deal with it!" This also gets you a collectable cliche which Comic Book Store Guy even goes as far as to say "Worst Video Game Cliche ever!"
Front Mission Gunhazard's escort mission with Luven Al-Habi is a bit of a mixed bag. While he and his wanzer may be easily damaged by enemy fire if he's under-leveled, he has no trouble surviving when he's given a better wanzer to work with. On top of that, he isn't throwing his own bombs around in the escort mission, resulting in much less friendly fire and needless self-damage.
The game Traffic Department 2192 is generally not very difficult, with the exception of one mission where you are expected to guide five unarmed trucks filled with medical supplies from one base to another while swarms of enemy crafts attempt to destroy them. Because of the locations that the enemies come from, it is not as simple as merely following the trucks; you have to preemptively destroy the enemy before they even get there, or they will swarm the trucks and easily demolish them. Worse yet, if even one truck is destroyed, your mission is considered a failure.
The arcade game GHOST Squad has a variation of this, where you defend your squadmates from attack instead of actually escorting them anywhere. Played straight (well, strait-er) in mission 2, where you escort Hostages and Presidential bodyguards to safety.
Luckily, the escort missions are all optional.
Goes both ways in Left 4 Dead. When it comes to the bots, you have to keep an eye on them because they have a bad habit of wandering into any fire you created or always getting themselves ambushed by special infected when they had a clear shot. It also becomes an escort mission when someone is going to die in the next hit and there are no healing items around. When playing with friends, if you are going to die soon, they will escort you.
Admittedly, it helps that the bots, while stupid about how they behave, have ridiculous aim and skill at taking down special infected at a distance. Let's face it, though. Left 4 Dead is one big 4-player online Mutual Escort Mission.
In The Lord Of The Rings The Two Towers, you're evidently meant to protect Frodo as Aragorn in the first level, Weathertop. Any sense of actually protecting him is thrown out the windows since the Ringwraiths have long wind-ups for their attacks, and Frodo scampers about Weathertop like a rabbid squirrel until the plot catches up to him and he gets stabbed, at which point it still takes several further blows for him to actually die. It's you that's in danger, not him.
In Allegiance, a team-based multiplayer flight-sim/strategy hybrid, players must escort mission-critical spaceships such as bombers and troop transports — not because the game has an artificial "requirement" for players to do so, but simply because it's a necessary tactic to beat any competent enemy team. Most ships needing escort are flown by actual human pilots, so Artificial Stupidity does not apply (though the old-fashioned natural sort still might). The only AI-controlled ships requiring escort are miners and constructors, and team commanders can keep an eye on them and order them around to counteract their suicidal tendencies.
In The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, as one point you must escort the Hulk's ally Leonard Samson through the city while it is under lockdown. The mission isn't annoying however, because your attacks can't hurt him, at several points he stops while you take care of the enemies, and because the military is smart enough to realize that they should focus their attention on the big green monster trying to kill them, instead of the little man driving a car.
In Warhammer40k: Dawn of War: Winter Assault, the penultimate Imperial Guard mission involves an escort mission. The thing is, you're escorting a Land Raider and a contingent of Ultramarines supporting it — although there's too much for it to handle by itself, it's far from helpless, and it can sometimes make it nearly halfway across the map without any player intervention before finally being destroyed.
In Prototype, one mission had you escort a prototype tank while it clears out Hives on it's way to the final objective. Thankfully, the game gives you a Gunship for this stage and the tank is escorted by additional Gunships and other normal tanks that help alleviate some of the work.
Subverted halfway through the mission when the tank driver is killed and the player has to drive the tank himself to the final objective while fighting off both the infected and the military.
Another mission featured you "escorting" a Leader Hunter to a location where you could keep it contained. You had to attack it, or else it would get bored and lash out at passersby, but still keep it alive. The Leader Hunter is about the size of an elephant and durable enough so that the abuse you and the marines dish out shouldn't even severely damage it, meaning the only problem you should have is the fact that your "escortee" is attacking you and hits like a train.
There are a couple of points where one has to escort a human, but they realize how fragile they are and demand an armored transport to go anywhere, turning them into much more tolerable forced vehicle segments.
One mission features you escorting a specialized pump vehicle, which has paper-thin armor and practically every infected rushes towards.
Final Fantasy Legend's escort missions have, specifically, useful NPCs that completely help you through spells.
There's a mission in Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy where you and Kyle visit a hostile planet. Kyle ends up escorting you through most of it, as he can make short work of pretty much every enemy that shows up, even the newly-introduced, ultra-durable Hazard Troopers.
It's a bit schizophrenic for this trope, however - in combat he's an unstoppable force that will kill everything you come across (even you if you aren't careful), but when there's nothing around for him to murder he has the required idiotic tendencies, such as being unable to climb up a set of stairs if you aren't waiting for him at the top, or, in one particular case, telling you to look out for a pair of TIE Bombers blocking the way to the level's end and then immediately running under them as they're dropping bombs if you don't hurry to where you need to go first.
Syphon Filter Dark Mirror includes an escort mission involving an (initially) unarmed UN peacekeeper. If faced with enemies, he freezes in terror as they open fire. Happily, you can command him to hide or take cover, at which point they focus on you. (Who is heavily armed.)
RuneScape has escorts in the Temple Trekking minigame. The hard ones are a pain, but the easy and medium, which do offer good rewards, can be enjoyable, and as the escortees level up, they can be pretty helpful. With the exception of snails, swamp snakes, and vampyres (which you need certain weapons to even hurt), they could probably do the trek themselves.
While it's not really an "escort" mission because you don't have to take him anywhere, Archangel's/Garrus' recruitment mission in Mass Effect 2 involves Shepard & Co. infiltrating his base and making sure he survives the giant masses of mercenaries and freelancers all attempting to kill him, which involves leaving him at his sniper perch and sealing the base. He takes damage over time (like 20% of his health bar every minute or so), turning it into a Timed Mission with a Nonstandard Game Over at the end of it, but you can leave one of your two party members with him to slow this rate. Bizarrely, his AI actually seems more competent during this mission than when he's actually in your party: he doesn't run blindly into hordes of enemies with a sniper rifle, for one.
As to your business, at one point you have to reach a button on the other side of a flood of krogan, varren and vorcha. Depending on your playstyle, you might clear the room faster (and thus limit the damage to Garrus) if you have both squadmates at your side.
Another strange example comes at the end of the game at the Collector Base. In this section, you're required to follow your chosen biotic specialist across a long and largely exposed bridge. Despite this, in an odd subversion the specialist is escorting you at the same time; they protect you from being eaten by seeker swarms while you protect them from the hail of bullets and nasty aliens trying to do you all in. Unlike many, many other escort missions, this one isn't irritating, as the specialist has the good sense to take cover whenever the shooting starts, and only moves when you move. (They may also be invincible.) For an escort mission, it's a surprisingly enjoyable and atmospheric segment of the game.
At the end of that mission, the specialist can turn around and shoot a shockwave to clear the brunt of the pursuers, leaving only a few for Shepard to pick off at the end of the very satisfying cinematic.
Another example from the "Arrival" DLC. It's similar to the Archangel example above, but this time you have to protect Dr. Amanda Kenson while she hacks a security console. There's two main differences between the two missions: Dr. Kenson won't fight back, unlike Garrus, and you have to fight all of the enemies completely alone. Luckily, there aren't as many enemies to fight.
BioShock puts you on the other side of this conflict, with the Big Daddies escorting the Little Sisters while they go to harvest ADAM from corpses. You, as the player in both games, will seek to emancipate the Little Sisters from their watchers. Unfortunately, the Big Daddies take offence to this, and will endeavour to either gut you with their enormous drill, stud your brain cavity with rivets, or turn you into hamburger with missile volleys.
A particularly unpopular lever for many players was the Proving Grounds, where in order to get to the final boss, you (while Dressing as the Enemy) have to escort a Little Sister (a rescued one, without the usual Infant Immortality) through a series of twisting corridors while protecting her from waves of splicers. On the plus side, you had effectively infinite Little Sisters for that run-through - on the other hand, if you let them die, it would take forever. (And you'd miss out on an achievement.)
And then in BioShock 2, you get to be a Big Daddy watching over the Little Sisters. As in the first game, the Sisters are invulnerable and enemy splicers target you instead, and this is simplified further by having the Little Sisters ride on your back instead of wandering around, leaving you free to decide where the two of you get to go.
In BioShock Infinite, Booker DeWitt's goal is to get Elizabeth out of Columbia. However, the game tells you early-on that you don't have to worry about Elizabeth during combat since enemies more or less ignore her and focus more on the player. While Elizabeth doesn't directly fight alongside Booker, she does make herself useful by either tossing him supplies or by using her ability to open Tears to create useful items for him.
The escort missions in Assassin's Creed II weren't too bad. Most of them allow Ezio to tell the escortees to stay put while he clears the way first. Even wet tissues like his mother and sister are surprisingly resilient and don't have to deal with direct threats for very long, and others like Lorenzo Di Medici are competent enough to defend themselves from attacks for a short while, helpfully flanking opponents so you can Back Stab. There are a handful of Leeroy Jenkins, notably Caternia Sforza from the Battle of Forli DLC, but as long as you've mastered the counterstrike, no escort mission should take you more than two attempts.
An intriguing one had you escorting a gondola through Venice, protecting it from archers. The gondola is an easy target, but every single one of the archers is close to the water, making disposing of them simple.
Red Dead Redemption has a few escort missions (unsurprisingly since it's a Western and you're literally able to ride shotgun on stagecoaches or wagons.) For the most part, though, they're not that bad. Either the NPC you're defending has enough brains to stay back while you run ahead and clear the path, or they have sufficient durability to last more than one repeater hit. Or, especially when you're manning Gatling Guns on moving trains, you're given adequate firepower to do the job properly. They're done so nicely a couple of them double as Crowning Moments of Awesome.
There are a couple of scenarios in the campaign setting of Warhammer40000: Rites Of War that require you to move a specific unit to a specific hex, and which you lose if the specific unit is killed, but the units in question are very powerful and are under your complete control, like any other unit, so the frustrating aspects of an escort mission are avoided.
One of the missions in Home Front is to escort three fuel trucks that you've stolen from the North Koreans to the U.S Military. It's listed under exceptions because even though the fuel trucks can't defend themselves, you get a combat helicopter to protect them.
Deus Ex presents the player with a number situations in which hostages, prisoners, or other NPCs need to be escorted to safety. However, not only does the game present you with the option to tell them, "Wait here while I clear a path," but failing to protect them does not result in losing the game in the strictest sense - certain plot elements may change, but the player is still allowed to advance.
In Dungeon Fighter Online your character must escort an old man (GSD) through a tower of darkness. The catch? This old man is probably the most badass character in the game that is more capable of wrecking the enemy's shit than you are. Note that GSD is not only 40 levels higher than all of the monsters in the stage, but has all the skills that a level capped Asura would have, but also with no cooldown.
There is a grand total of one escort mission in Fallout: New Vegas, as part of an optional bit of Beyond the Beef. However, it differs from others because:
It's short. Less than a minute.
You encounter no enemies unless you take a very wrong path that is hard to find.
The person you're escorting will follow you closely. He is also pretty sturdy, and isn't bad in a fight.
There's a mission in Wing Commander 2 where you have to escort a destroyer through several encounters with Kilrathi Grikath fighter-bombers. These are not infrequently the bane of the player's existence, but in this mission the destroyer being escorted is apt to take out more of them than the player. This is one of the less joystick-tossing escort missions.
The end of the 'Truth and Reconciliation' level in Halolampshades this in the sublevel title ("Shut Up And Get Behind Me... Sir"). The scene was less odious than many escort missions, as Captain Keyes is able to fight back and usually has enough sense not to get in the way, but it is still one of the more exasperating fighting sequences in the game.
Halo 3: ODST features another escort mission in the endgame, of a Covenant Engineer housing an AI. It has enough health to not become a hassle, and gives you a layer of shields if you stick nearby.
The VIP multiplayer game type in later games is also an escort mission in most forms: one player on one or every team is the "VIP." Depending on the specific game type, the VIP will have different characteristics, and in some cases gives nearby teammates a boost.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance also have a few, but the difficulty isn't as high and they actually manage to be useful most of the time. Which is a good thing considering they always count towards your maximum party size.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2 has some, too, and while the characters aren't suicidal, they refuse to do anything but move, even if they happen to have a prototype über-sword and the enemy is standing right next to them and attacking every round. They also don't necessarily count towards your maximum party size.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask has one if you save a ranch on the dawn of the second day. On the third day, you help a milk cart get to town, and must fight off two men from a rival ranch who try to attack the cart with your arrows. Success gets you entry to a bar, and some Marshmallow Hell.
This then becomes laughably easy if you wear a certain one of the game's many masks. The attackers won't even do anything except ride after you.
Keep in mind that you can only get said mask after completing said escort mission
The second of these in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption has Samus escorting GF Demolition Troops to a certain door so they can blow it up and let her through. Naturally, the Pirates will try to gun them down every step of the way. Of course, the GF troops fire back, but still... It's even more jarring that the demolition troops rush into the Pirate filled room BEFORE Samus enters.
But this is made up in their combat abilities. A lot of them are really good at combat, to the point where it's almost them escorting you.
Unless you use Hypermode the whole way, in which case they're kinda pointless and you start to wish that they stay in Admiral Dane's flagship until Samus fully clears the way, due purely to poor pace.
What makes this one really nice is that there are twelve of them, and you only need four. This is pretty lenient that you forget how bad most Escort Missions are. Then you learn that there's a Token for doing it with all twelve surviving...
The old text-based The Hobbit computer game required Bilbo to ensure Thorin's survival (and for maximum points, Gandalf's) until everyone returned to Bilbo's cottage. Odd in that both characters are stronger and more capable than Bilbo, though frequently weaker than some of the more dangerous monsters. Fortunately, Thorin (who's critical to opening the side door to Smaug's lair) is programmed not to wander off the way Gandalf does—unless Bilbo is wearing the Ring, and thus invisible. Both characters are also prone to tell Bilbo "No" when asked to do important things like protect him from Orcs or help him out of a window he's too short to reach. Fortunately they don't attack powerful enemies much, but are often captured by both Orcs and elves and thus out of reach when needed.
Parasite Eve 2 gives you Kyle, who is only armed with a pistol and has no special powers like Aya, but is an excellent shot and can help kill enemies fairly quickly. However, while he has good defense, he only has 100 HP and you can't use any healing spells or items on him at all, so if he gets killed, Game Over. There's one part at the start of disc 2 where Kyle gets mortally wounded and his HP is reduced to 5, making him a One-Hit-Point Wonder until the next cut scene forces him to flee.
There's another NPC towards the end of the game Aya has to protect, but thankfully, there are no monsters to protect the NPC from. However, the room the two are in is being filled with gas, which will sap the girl's HP over time if you take too long. Every time her HP drops, she coughs and stands still. It's also made more frustrating since she will refuse to move until you examine something she is looking at and you have to literally hold her hand by slowly walking to the elevator since running will not make her follow you.
The characters you escort in Link to the Past (Zelda, the old man, the blacksmith, and Blind) can't take damage and the path you need to take is fairly straightforward.
Allied characters in Second Sight know to take cover, often know how to handle a gun, and are generally fine with letting Vattic run ahead and take care of things himself. Missions when Vattic has access to psychic powers are even easier, since there's only one ally at a time and they can be healed.
Caeden Dunwald from World of Warcraft knows that he's heading into a trap because he's been through it four times already. For fun. When you do it with him, be sure to stay close to the guy, because he knows damn well what he's doing and the twilight ambushers will fall like flies around him. He's escorting you.
In L.A. Noire, the last Traffic Desk assignment ends with an escort mission. Luckily the person you are escorting has the common sense to stay in cover while you (and eventually your partner) fight the mooks through various stages.
One mission in Guild Wars requires you escort a group of survivors during their escape from a hostile nation. The eight survivors will actively heal themselves and you, reducing the burden on your party, and only one of them needs to survive until the end.
In the Saints Row series, a lot of missions are technically Escort mission since if your plot-critical homies die then the mission fails - however personnel can be revived after death instantly and without limit so long as 30 seconds have not passed since their death, and vehicular escorts are generally very durable.
Bayonetta will occasionally have you protect the little girl Cereza. These missions, however, are usually very short and Cereza's health goes down very slowly. It even regenerates! The enemy angels not even aiming for Cereza doesn't hurt either.
In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, you are paired with both temples' respective sages, Medli and Makar. Although they follow behind you at a snail's pace, you have the option of carrying them instead. They also have no life meter, which means that they can't be killed.
Battlestar Galactica Online has some plotline missions where you need to defend a Raptor or Heavy Raider, but the things are reasonably durable. You can also invert this trope! You may randomly encounter Freighters belonging to the other side with their escort complement that you can blow away.
In-universe in Halo, the Spartans were told they'd receive a hacking escort for a mission. They immediately objected on the grounds that, civilian or elite soldier, they couldn't possibly keep up with a Spartan. Que Cortana.
The Last of Us has you accompanied by a young girl named Ellie throughout most of the campaign, and unlike other Tagalong Kids, she happily and helpfully assists you by distracting mooks and getting in and out of cover without being prompted. She also recognizes your play style and reacts accordingly; she'll gracefully avoid conflict and stay out of sight if you chose to be stealthy, but she also assists with combat, providing supporting fire and incapacitating enemies that you're struggling against in melee combat. This also goes for other allies you meet throughout the game.
A manageable example in one of the early levels of OgreBattle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber where you have to escort Prince Yumil. Yumil himself can't fight, but he's got four black knights with him that are WAY stronger than anything you'll face on the map and anything you have access to for a decent portion of the game. While the black knights aren't invincible, pretty much the only way Yumil will die is if you ignore him and let him wander into repeated fights, which you shouldn't do anyways because it means no experience for your troops and Yumil leaves the next mission.
Might and Magic VII has an (obligatory) quest where you have to rescue seven petrified dwarves from the Red Dwarf Mines and escort them to their king in Stone City. Since the dwarves can't be killed (they don't even have sprites once they're un-petrified) and don't say anything after their being-freed comments unless you choose to talk to them, the escort part is no more of a hassle than getting from the Red Dwarf Mines to Stone City would be without someone to escort. Keeping track if you've found six or seven dwarves, on the other hand...
In Sniper Elite V2: At one point during the misson "Opernplatz," you have to save a defecting German scientist from execution, and cover him from your location so he can escape to where you are, by sniping every enemy (who are all unaware of you at the moment, by the way) between him and you. He's got a gun of his own, uses it fairly well, and knows when to take cover. It's surprisingly fun.
In Gun, there is the mission where you have to protect the Coolies (Asian laborers) from Apaches while they build a bridge. However, the Coolies are all armed, you have an additional posse of men from town backing you up, and nothing happens even if all the Coolies die. It's actually a ton of fun.
In Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, there are 4 levels in which you need to escort Toads to Pixelator screens. Each Toad has a phobia, and will refuse to go near certain things. The first one dislikes water, the second one is afraid of clocks/giant gears, the third one doesn't step on cracked ice, and the last ones (the final escort has you taking care of two toads at once) won't go near carnivorous plants, which any human being with a bit of sense would avoid. What stops their levels form being annoying is that a) They stay away from ghosts when you engage them (Ghosts will still use them as shields sometimes), b)They can get items for you, including gems and a clock rotor,(needed to open a door leading to the boss fight) and c) You can suck them with the Poltergust, allowing you to carry them over their fears and even USE THEM AS PROJECTILES.
In DuckTales Remastered, Bubba Duck and Gizmoduck need to be escorted, the former to destroy icy blockades in the way, and the latter to break a tough barrier. They're both invincible and smash/rocket enemies in their way with much ease.
In The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, you have to escort a young thief out of the Thieves' Hideout she was imprisoned in. She can't defend herself (Her weapons and armor were taken away from her), but she follows you at about the same pace you run, you need her help to activate switches, and because the monsters who are after her are very slow, there's nothing preventing you from taking her somewhere safe when they pop up, or temporarily leave her behind to do the stuff you can do on your own. And even if she does get captured and you have to start again, you don't have to do the puzzles or kill the enemies again, provided you stay in the dungeon.
Almost all of ICO is an escort mission, requiring the player to escort a mysterious girl around a giant castle, with the game ending if she's captured by the various shadows that attack you. Fortunately, her AI is fairly competent (the player can even just grab her by the hand and pull her along with them,) there's a practical reason for keeping her around (her presence removes various barriers that the player can't get past otherwise) and the game actually does a good job of endearing her to the player.
Likewise, all of CIMA The Enemy is an Escort Mission, with the player having to escort about a dozen settlers through various dungeons while keeping them safe from monsters (the game ends if even one of them dies.) Fortunately, only a couple of them are completely useless while the rest are able to serve some purpose, from being able to fight back and defend themselves and others, to solving puzzles, to healing, to causing monsters to Fail A Spot Check and not notice nearby settlers.
Non-Video Game Examples
Anime & Manga
In episode 2 of Tokurei Sochi Dantai Stella Jogakuin Koutouka C 3 Bu, Yura is assigned as a guard for the C3's club president Sonora. The latter makes the game more interesting by handicapping herself by not using an airsoft gun while Yura protects her. If they make it out of the building without Sonora getting hit or Yura defeating all the other girls, they wouldn't force her to join the club. However, if they do hit her, then Yura would have to join, and they would make Sonora clean the guns in a swimsuit as punishment. Although with Sonora's help, Yura does win, she decides to join their club afterwards after seeing how much fun they had together.
Inverted in With Strings Attached during the quest for the third piece of the Vasyn, where the Hunter has to escort the four across a lot of dangerous territory to get them to the Twisted Temple. He is underwhelmed by their appearance (and they “live down” to it) and is sure they'll get themselves killed at the first opportunity. For their part, they detest him, and the trip quickly turns into a pissing contest. And then it turns into something else entirely....
One of the most famous and best-known examples worldwide of an escort mission isn't in a video game at all - it's on, of all things, The Price Is Right. The goal of the Cliff Hangar pricing game is to prevent a hiker from falling off a cliff - the disparity between the actual price and the contestant's guess inches the poor guy that much closer to doom.
Many of the The Lord of the Rings examples in the games listed above were of course inspired by the original plot of The Lord of the Rings, which was essentially a giant Escort Mission to get Frodo and the Ring to Mt. Doom to destroy it. Subverted in that Frodo's escorts, except Sam, go off and do something else at the end of the first book, but Frodo still makes it.
Unsurprisingly, given the previous example, The Sword of Shannara was also one big Escort Mission, this time to get Shea Ohmsford to Paranor to get the eponymous sword, and then to get him to the Warlock LordBrona's lair to use the sword to kill Brona. Again, he loses his escort right before getting to Paranor, but then acquires a new one in the form of Panamon Creel and Keltset.
The next book in the series, The Wishsong Of Shannara, consists of two escort missions. Allanon and Rone Leah have to escort Brin Ohmsford to the Maelmord to destroy the Ildatch, while Slanter, Garet Jax, Edain Elessedil, Elb Foraker, and Helt have to escort Jair Ohmsford to Heaven's Well to heal the Silver River and save Brin. Considering that, at the end of the book, only the Ohmsford siblings, Rone, and Slanter are still alive, this one was a real bloodbath.
The follow-up series, The Heritage of Shannara, had at least one of these also: the plot of The Druid Of Shannara was essentially an escort mission in which Walker Boh, Morgan Leah, Pe Ell, and Horner Dees had to escort Quickening to Eldwist, lair of the Stone King. A little different in that, once there, they also had to find a way to defeat the Stone King. To put it bluntly, Terry Brooks really liked this plot.
The Ender's Game prequel Earth Unaware featured one of these as part of the pre-screening process for potential MOPS recruits. Captain Wit O'Toole played the part of a diplomat that a group of SAS troopers interested in joining MOPS had to escort to a safehouse. Mazer Rackham surprises everyone by giving O'Toole his gun instead of treating him as The Load.
The Pathfinder scenario "Night March of Kalkamedes" is one of these, the twist being that the escorted person is a sleepwalker, and the PCs are trying to find out where he is trying to get to during his nightly walks.
Ethereals in the fourth edition of Warhammer 40,000 was designed with this in mind, with a decent buff around him but also potentially causing part of (or all of) your army to run if he dies and you get a bad roll. However, being a melee-centric unit in a shooting-heavy army means that his buff was not worth the points he took out of your army, since you had to escort him all the way to the enemy and pray he does something other than dying (he's one of the few HQ melee choices that does not have an access to a power weapon in any way or form). On top of that, the special rule he grants upon death was only usable in melee (which, again, is something most Tau players avoided). In 6th Edition (prior to the new codex) this got inverted, where the buff he grants upon death is actually one of the game breakers for the army, so most people would take him for the explicit purpose of finding some way to kill him off to gain the advantage.
In the Mobile Frame Zero Alpha Bandit playtest document, the traditional objectives - stations - are replaced by "Liabilities", ships with a movement modifier and no other upgrades that can be captured much like stations. As a result, a major part of the Alpha Bandit strategy lies in finding ways to collar your opponent's escorted Liabilities without leaving yours open.
Two Best Friends Funtime Adventures: "Escort Service" involves Pat complaining that escort missions in games are always painful and annoying. At the end, he and Matt leave to get ice cream. Matt starts acting Too Dumb to Live, just like the escort mission characters Pat had just been complaining about.
Noob has the titular guild doing such a mission in Season 2. The charges are Insufferable Genius alchemists that keep complaining about their escort's idiocy and slow pace. The guild's Blood KnightHonorary True Companion had failed the mission several times before they came to help because she had killed the charges herself out of annoyance.
The plot of part two of the pilot to My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, "The Elements of Harmony," was essentially an Escort Mission in which Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity had to get Twilight Sparkle through the Everfree Forest to get the eponymous artifacts which were the only thing that could defeat Nightmare Moon. Of course, it turned out that the real purpose of their accompanying Twilight was to get her to open her heart to friendship, without which she could not unleash the power that was within her all along.
Likewise, the plot of "Dragonshy" was essentially to escort Fluttershy to the dragon's lair so that she could persuade it to find somewhere else to take its nap.
Any number of cartoon characters have had to protect someone who was sleepwalking without waking them up. One example is Popeye attempting to keep Olive Oyl safe as she wanders through a high-rise construction area.