Need to stretch the story out a bit? Simple: Send the protagonist on a Fetch Quest.
A Fetch Quest is a subquest of the overreaching plot which must be completed in order to trigger a vital Event Flag. Find a key, save a kid lost in the cave, defeat the monster attacking the town, rescue the trapped workers, resolve an Adventure Town's problem ... each of these is a Plot Coupon. Fetching back the coupons is name of the game.
Games will often use a Broken Bridge to browbeat you into solving a Fetch Quest even if you should intuitively have more important things to do.
This is also known as a FedEx quest, since they often consist of little more than receiving an object from an NPC and taking it to a particular person or place or going to a particular place and bringing back an object. The people, places, and objects themselves are largely inconsequential — you're just their mail carrier.
Sometimes, however, a Fetch Quest - if done well - will provide essential exposition of the plot's backstory which would otherwise be awkward or obvious (or tedious) if delivered another way, say by a monologue delivered by an NPC.
Novels, episodic shows and games rely on these as subplots quite frequently.
Extend this ad infinitum, and you get a Chain of Deals. Twenty Bear Asses is the variant where you have to collect a given number of objects dropped by enemies, and is much more popular with developers than players.
Video Game Examples
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Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin has an NPC who rewards you with items and abilities just for doing nearly random fetch quests for him, such as gathering one of each of five item-drop playing cards from various enemies, entering in a button sequence, or buying a potion and the first castle map. Not to mention there are a total of 37 of these, and they make up just one of the many categories of things you can get 100% in in this game.
Order of Ecclesia also features plenty of fetch quests with a difference: Whereas in PoR they were optional to some degree, in OoE they're practically mandatory if you want to survive the rest of the game as said quests are the only way to get the equipment, health items and other stuff you'll be needing by the end of the adventure.
A lot of the Zelda games have at least one of these, but Majora's Mask is the only one that actually gives Link a day planner to keep track of them all.
Many forget the fact that the beginning of the game is, in itself, a huge, trial-and-error guessing game for those new to the game, requiring you to talk to pretty much everyone in Clock Town, remember what they say, and connect very vague and seemingly minor tasks with each other:
First: Wander around enough until you find the two fairies.
Second: Summon the Great Fairy to get the magic meter.
Third: Use new-found magic to pop the balloon.
Fourth: Find the kids.
Fifth: Use the codes the kids give you to get into the observatory.
Sixth: Look through the telescope.
Seventh: Get the Moon's Tear.
Eighth: Give the Moon's Tear to the very unmemorable Deku Scrub character in Clock Town.
Ninth: Use his flower to reach the tower.
Tenth: Wait until midnight on the 3rd night for the tower to open.
Eleventh: Knock the Ocarina out of Skull Kid's hand.
Twelfth: Play the Song of Time.
Even Navi's successor gives you only very vague hints on what to do here, and this is before you even have your freaking sword! Not to mention you have three in-game days to do it, after which, it's Game Over and you have to start from the beginning with no hint as to what you did wrong! This is probably why the game wasn't as popular as its predecessor - nobody could get past the first part!
The grand champion of fetch quests in the Zelda series is probably the one in Link's Awakening - completing this massive Chain of Deals is required to complete the game, as well. Most players don't even realize that they've started this quest until they're halfway through it...
First: Pick up a Yoshi Doll playing the Trendy Game (a crane game).
Second: Trade the Yoshi Doll to a child for a Ribbon.
Third: Trade the Ribbon to a vain Chain-Chomp for Dog Food.
Fourth: Trade the Dog Food to a canned-food loving alligator for Bananas.
Fifth: Trade the Bananas to monkeys - they'll not only build a bridge for you, but also leave a stick behind.
Sixth: Give the stick to Tarin (Marin's dad) who will then poke a beehive which results in you getting a Honeycomb.
Seventh: Trade the Honeycomb to a chef for a Pineapple.
Eighth: Trade the Pineapple to a hungry man for a Hibiscus.
Ninth: Give the Hibiscus to a woman who will then ask you to deliver a Letter for her.
Tenth: Deliver the Letter to Mr. Write to get a Broom.
Fourteenth: Use the Scale on the Mermaid's Statue and it will open up a cave which holds a Magnifying Glass.
Fifteenth: Use the Magnifying Glass on the small-print book in the Mabe Village library to find out how to get through the last dungeon.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has the Biggoron Sword quest which spans up to 10 items to trade, one after another, taking place through most of Hyrule. And Link cannot warp on timed trades, or else time will run out automatically.
Zelda II had a number of these which Link was forced to perform in order to be taught the skills he needed to complete his quest. At one point, he has to fetch a kid, who is held up in the air and stored in inventory like anything else.
Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons each have a Fetch Quest to get the first sword upgrade, which in addition to dealing more damage to enemies also allows you to smash pots with your sword and fire Sword Beams when your hearts are full, although it is not necessary to complete the fetch quest in Seasons, if you know what to do in the Lost Woods.
Skyward Sword is absolutely loaded with these, most of them needed to open up dungeons. While most of them let you explore the world a bit more and get to know the inhabitants, others are simply plain old padding.
Final Fantasy Adventure had its share of these required for plot advancement. The remake, Sword of Mana, retained these and added many more, mostly within the towns. It even keeps track of them all in a diary, and some can be easily failed. One or two of the townsfolk actually mock you for doing an early quest that requires handing out advertisements to 15 different people.
Travis: Straight up, this is a pain, man? Running around for some frickin’ color samples. What makes it worse? This town is a mess. THAT’S what makes it worse.
The Devil May Cry games often calls on these; in fact, many a Boss Battle kicks off when you retrieve the quest object, Nightmare in the first game being notoriously bad about this.
Chibi Robo is made of these quests (with a subverted storyline in the middle).
The "To D'ni" expansion set to Uru: Ages Beyond Myst is basically one of these. It leads to a bit of extra backstory and of course new areas to explore.
The 1999 PC adventure game Outcast was essentially a gigantic series of nested fetch quests, and played like a flowchart. For example, Level One required the player to visit a character who would ask you to find another character who would request an object and then ask you to see a third character who asked you to find an object from a fourth character; at that point you had to find a series of keys which allowed you to retrieve an object which you had to take to a further character who would ask you to retrieve some stones; and then you had to visit some more characters who would ask you to visit another character who would send you to visit another character who required a certain object before he would give you a message to deliver for another character who would ask you to find some dynamite. At that point you were roughly three-quarters of the way through level one. There were five levels, which continued in the exact same vein.
One of the first quests you get in Quest for Glory I. A healer living just outside the First Town asks you to retrieve her golden ring, which quickly turns out to have been stolen by a small reptilian bird living in a tree outside the healer's hut. If you're a magic user, the solution to this side-quest is to cast a "FETCH" spell on the bird's nest. Lampshade Hanging? Or just a coincidence?
Actually a lot of these in game are these, but not very obvious. This gets egregious in part 5, where most of the game seems to consist out of "Go over there, beat the shit out of people, get us proof that you did."
In Discworld II, Rincewind actually manages to complain his way out of an arbitrary fetch quest. The other character gives in and just gives him the item he's holding without having him bring him anything in return.
If you're not in court, this is the only other gaming aspect of Ace Attorney: Fetching information/items and presenting them to other people for even more information.
Parodied in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People. Strong Sad keeps sending Strong Bad on pointless fetch quests to find thing like "The Sigil of Dark Dampening" and "The Shimmering Trinket of Endless Bargain-Hunting." The reward for each quest? Another fetch quest, to fetch the next item! All of these are, in fact, the same item that keeps respawning in the same location. The only way to break this chain is to give Strong Sad a different item that will cause the King of Town to attack him.
Indiana Jones and His Desktop Adventures: You're going to meet a lot of people whose only function is to stand around (often surrounded by monsters and enemies who inexplicably ignore them), ask you for a specific item, and give you another in return.
The Night Of The Rabbit: You need to gather some ingredients in order to get the medicine and the cake, which are needed to advance the plot.
Used in the DS Snk Vs Capcom CARD GAME, of all places, because the AI is so poor the game would be over in about 2 hours without it (there's an exploit to defeat any opponent in 3 turns, including the final boss). A player cannot get past the gate keeper without spending hours farming for 3 rare cards. And then it needs to be done later on. Oh how fun.
This is lampshaded to hell and back in the Telltale Sam & Max: Freelance Police games, where half the gameplay is about getting or giving something. In one episode, Sam and Max hear the setup for a fetch quest (get ingredients for an exotic cake they need), and instantly accept it, but are told that it wouldn't matter anyway because the cake would take more than a day to make and they don't have time to wait.
Joni: I think we're gonna need to find some keys to open these boxes. LapTrap: Oh, of course! Why can't it be easy for once? Owen: Hey, it's no fun if it's too easy, dude. Joni: Yeah, the tougher, the better. LapTrap: Oh, great! Here we go again.
The Metroid Prime games are often criticized for the fetch quests they use (Chozo Artifacts, Sky Temple Keys, etc.) to increase play time before the final boss. Although it was only particularly annoying in Prime 2, where you couldn't get most of these Plot Coupons until the very moment right before the final battle. Prime 3 took a different option and had Samus collect energy cells. The trick in this game is that getting the cells is almost mandatory to finish certain tasks, so you'll only have to backtrack once or twice instead of nine or twelve times. Word of God says that the reason for the fetch quests was to allow you to have more time with the fully upgraded Samus, though probably padding too.
Both System Shock 2 and its Spiritual Successor, BioShock, feature many of these. Your very *first* objective in SS2 is: 'Find the guy who has the key to this section of the ship, which contains this other guy who has the code you need to go down a level, where you can fix the elevator so you can go up a level...' Naturally it only gains more layers of complications as you progress.
System Shock 2 actually gets less complicated as you progress. In fact, once you reach the sixth deck of the Von Braun, your objectives basically boil down to "Get in the escape shuttle, kill shit."
BioShock provides the player the opportunity to learn more about events before their arrival in Rapture by collecting recordings they encounter as they progress through each Fetch Quest. Collecting all of them nets you an achievement.
Annoyingly done in Stalker, your chance of finding said item is very low if you actually looking for it and each quest has a time limit. Generally you are better off finding a object and then seeing if anyone else is looking for it.
A few quests in Borderlands require fetching. TK Baha runs you on at least two: collecting food stolen by skags, and collecting brains in the Zombie Island of Dr. Ned DLC. The second one is tricky; any quest items you pick up before getting the quest(s) don't count toward the prerequisite.
Dark Forces. "Find the red key card" turns out you need three separate blue key cards to open the secret door that contains the red key card, which is locked in a hidden vault seven floors away from the door the red key card opens in the first place, but that's okay, since the only purpose in opening the red key card door is to get the green key card which opens the exit back on floor seven.
Subsequent game Jedi Academy mocks this:
Kyle: They always lock the door. You'd think they'd have learned by now. Doesn't look like there's a key — that would be too easy. The console to unlock the door is probably hidden in some room twelve floors up or something... how does that make sense?
Four X Games
Though all the X-Universe games have the normal variety of Fetch Quests (typically it's "pick up a delivery" or "gather up some materials from wherever"), X3: Terran Conflict ups the ante with a Fetch Plot. To repair the Hub, a control center for the game's Portal Network, Mahi Ma will have you gather (in chronological order) 400 computer components, 500 microchips, 10,000 energy cells, 150,000 teladianium (a ceramic used for structural components), 450,000 ore, 500 nividium, 250,000 crystals, 15 million credits (to pay a Paranid scientist for his help), 400,000 silicon wafers, and 75,000 more microchips. Finishing the plot in a timely fashion (as in, less than several months in Real Life) requires the player to build his own infrastructure to supply the materials. The good news is, the Hub is an extremely useful structure able to arbitrarily connect up to three jumpgate pairs through its sector, and the infrastructure you build to repair it will make ludicrous amounts of money afterwards.
Parodied (like every other video game trope) in Progress Quest. Quests are made from two randomized components, Action and Item. One of the possible actions is Fetch Me an [Item].
Makes up 90% of Heros Realm's final act. The player is tasked with fetching the ultimate equipment from every corner of the earth...for someone else to use.
In the first, while the protagonist is meant to obtain coins, there is by and large no real reason for collecting them. It's largely a But Thou Must sort of deal.
In the second, one person won't let the main character pass without gathering four of a certain item. The character is later told that said items don't actually exist.
City of Heroes has many of these, often as a part of a story arc or task force. City of Villains not nearly as many, but they're still there. Sometimes called "Bathroom break" missions when in a group because one person can usually take care of it.
The game often attempts to spice these missions up by having a group of enemy forces spawn to ambush the player. Since skilled characters with the right powers can move something like a hundred and eighty miles per hour in this game, the most common actual result is the ambush to spawn, be left in the dust without the player even noticing them, and ultimately make life very "interesting" for some much lower level character who blunders into them.
The freeware MMORPG Kingdom of Loathing frequently uses these, but also makes fun of them in the process. At the start of the Level 2 quest, the Council of Loathing tells you "We need a mosquito larva. Don't ask why, because we won't tell you." At one stage in the Level 11 quest, your character, upon being told he must paint a red door black to prove his worthiness for no particular reason, says "Are you sure you're not just taking the opportunity to have me do some menial jobs while I'm here?" Also from the level 11 quest, you are tasked at one point to retrieve fifteen pages from a book. After finding the first two pages, you find the third through fifteenth pages all at once, and the game remarks "Okay, I guess it's not going to take as long as you thought."
The last one is a sendup of a pair of particularly annoying fetch quests in World of Warcraft. In each one, every single enemy in the zone has a minute chance of dropping one of about 12 pages from a book. Add this to the fact that you can get multiples of the same page, and you have a recipe for aggravation.
You can auction those extra pages for much more than you can get with a sale to a vendor. That makes it a little bit less aggravating.
One of the Silverspring quest chains from Runes Of Magic is something along these lines. You have to retrieve pages of a history book that was stolen by bandits, and every bandit you kill yields a page. Sometimes you'll get the same page from different bandits, though the game does allow you to sell off any excess pages in any shop you can find.
Subverted in Guild Wars: Nightfall; while the entire series is filled with fetch quests, one NPC is more than happy to go and collect the item they need by themselves (also dodging a potential Escort Mission in the process) while leaving you with the relatively "easy" task of guarding the ruins that is supposed to be their charge. Needless to say, once the NPC is out of sight, you get to earn your quest reward.
World of Warcraft. If you're not killing something, you're killing something and stealing its stuff.
An especially silly example: One quest requires turtle meat from the nearby river and spices... which the Quest NPC sells to you.
Different, but no less silly: Shuttling messages between two questgivers that are anywhere from shouting distance to ten feet apart.
The same, and a complete pain in the ass: Killing something for body parts that it can't live without, and the amount of work you have to do is best summed up by: <# of mobs you have to kill> = <# required of the item that keeps the mob alive> X 100. Headless Raptors, although legless Zhevra and the many bird-species that sometimes lack any feathers at all deserve mentions (even though you just saw them flying or running).
Hilariously and mercilessly parodied in RuneScape's infamously long quest one small favour, which takes the adventurer from the far southern tropical continent of Karamja, literally from one end of the mainland to another. The quest text itself will taunt you about how mundane it feels for a mighty adventurer to carry around a rust bucket, a pot lid, sharpening tools worth pocket change, a few chickens, gnome tea, the medieval equivalent of aspirin (a taunt on how this part of the quest makes player sick of it, perhaps), a weathervane, the medieval equivalent to screw eight lightbulbs, and a mattress. Also averted, as out of 160+ quests in the game, there are 3 Fetch Quests (One Small Favour, Rune Mysteries, Cook's Assistant, the latter two being some of the first quests ever made)
If you want to see how bad this trope can possibly get, go sign up for the browser-based MMORPG Travians. The Fetch Quest is its bread-and-butter, and it's layered on top of Broken Bridges and Insurmountable Waist High Fenceseverywhere. Not to mention Red Herrings (if an NPC says he won't talk to you because you're a "swineherd," this does not mean you've finally found a reason to drop your pig off at the woman who keeps asking you if you want to leave your pig with her). Here's a sample:
Most of the quests are triggered by you being a certain age (in days). So if you've done all the quests up to a certain point, you may not be able to do another quest for three or four days. There is no way of telling this in advance from the game itself.
Also, maybe half the quests are revealed randomly by talking to NPC's. (Yes, yes, ''WorldOfWarcraft'' does this too, but then WoW manages to stick enough quests all over the place to make it worth your while; Travians has no Side Quests and only ever one quest at a time.) Most obstacles are either randomly cleared (which you don't know until you run over there) or randomly opened up by your presence (you've gained enough strength to move boulders now = believable; you suddenly possess the know-how to fix bridges but FYI can't fix the identical bridge on the other side of the map). So if you want to do each quest as soon as you can, and don't resort to hints, the only course of action is to log in each day and run around the entire map talking to each and every NPC and approaching each obstacle on the slim hope that one of them might possibly start up a quest or open up a new area for you. That is, if it's not one of those days when you don't have any quests at all (and the Support Chat moderators counsel you to "be patient").
Quest: Sell 20 bottles of Olive Oil.
Reason this is infuriating: There aren't anything like 20 NPC's in the entire game. And of the maybe five you can talk to, two of them respond to your sales pitch with "Never!" or "I hate olive oil!" It might appear that you're supposed to return to the three who'll (occasionally) buy once a day to sell them new bottles; certainly one of their responses is "I have enough for now" or "I don't have enough money for another bottle right now." No; the solution is to badger them into submission via the age-old tricks of telemarketing. That is, when she says "I have enough" or he says "Um, no, not right now," you simply ask them again. Until they buy. And then ask them again. Until they buy more. Ergo, your role in this quest works out to:
You: Want to buy some Olive Oil?
He: Not right now.
You: Want to buy some Olive Oil?
He: I don't have the money.
You: Want to buy some Olive Oil?
He: Okay, fine, I guess I'll take a bottle just to get you off my back.
Some olive oil will get that dirt right out. Buy a bottle.
Quest: Get the three parts of a password from three NPC's. Each NPC says "Not until you gather 5 of Resource X" (wheat, clay, ore, whatever - different for each NPC).
Reason this is infuriating: You have two occupations in the game, and having an occupation means you gather X resource way better than any other resource (something like 20-to-1 ratio). Gathering any resource outside your occupation is a total waste of OP (occupation points), all the more since you can buy any of the resources at the Player Market or NPC Market as needed. But the NPC's for this quest don't want you to bring them Resource X, they don't want you to use Resource X, they just want you to pointless waste 5 OP to gather Resource X. Which never comes into play during the quest. At all.
Quest: Talk to uppity girl in the southeast corner of the map. What Guide Dang It might tell you: You need to be wearing a Silver Cape to do so (she won't talk to you otherwise). So the quest is really: Find Silver Cape.
Reason this is infuriating: Firstly, without Guide Dang It, the way to discover the underlying quest is to return to an out-of-the-way NPC whose quest you just completed and who you thought you'd never mess with again. Secondly, the quest goes like this: Start with out-of-the-way NPC in SSE corner of map. Return to main tavern at North edge of map. Grinning git there actually has the cape, but won't tell you until you've run to five or six other NPC's at all corners of the map and returned twice to the starting tavern (the first time to talk to the innkeeper, who sends you off on another wild goose chase; the second time to talk to the grinning git and get the cape).
In EVE Online, your agent's division determines how many Fetch Quests you get. Note that the difference between Courier missions and Mining missions is the former is the typical A and transport (an) item(s) to B while the latter is go to location A, mine a specific mineral (usually along the lines of thousands of units of ore), and take it to B. Effectively, they are both Fetch Quests.
Taken to great lengths in Star Fox Adventures. At one point you need to recover cogs to get a bridge to work. Most items in the game are held over Fox's head as he stares at it in awe (likely a reference, mocking or otherwise, to the 3D Zelda games), and the bridge cogs are no exception. Each bridge cog, as you collect them.
Epic Mickey. Good lord. In order to advance to new areas, you need to supply the gnomes with Power Cells (or whatever those things are) to activate the machine. Several people in town have Cells, but they won't simply give them to you, sending you on your merry way to gather whatever they want. In the 2D side-scroller levels, you can also pick up film reels to trade in for tickets, Cells, or unlockable content. Not only that, but animatronic Goofy, Donald, and Daisy had their limbs/torsos torn off and scattered around in certain levels, forcing you to get them if you want the best ending. To put it simply, if you're not killing Blotlings or fixing/destroying the landscape, you're fetching items.
The majority of Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) has you spending time in a drab, lifeless, Dreamcast-era town completing brainless Fetch Quests for nameless, faceless NPCs. None of the quests have any storyline significance and are all there for the sake of Fake Longevity. They barely reward the player with anything vital for the main quest, and yet are all necessary to unlock main-story missions. It also doesn't help that even Sonic and his friends themselves have no story-significance to the human Damsel Scrappy's mysterious past!
The entirity of the first Tak and the Power of Juju game is a long string of fetch quests. First, you gotta get a staff from a nearby graveyard and collect a bunch of magic flowers in order to remove the sheep curse from Lok. Then go to the nearby village and get the Spirit Rattle. Then traipse around the entire game world to get 100 Yorbels, and then get Lok's spirit from the Spirit world to bring him back from the dead. Then go to the temples and collect the Moonstones. Then you can go and fight the final boss. That final fight is the only time in the game when you're not being told to go and collect something.
Subverted in Psychosomnium. A trio of rabbits demands carrots before they'll let you pass. They then mention, however, that carrots don't exist, and thus you're doomed to failure. The only way to get past is to kill them.
Cave Story has a few of these. In one early level, a robot asks you to bring three items so it can make a bomb. In the following level, an old woman makes you track down her five lost puppies one by one.
In Kirby's Dream Land 3, there's always at least one fetch quest per world which requires you to grab something and take it to the Quest Giver at the end of the level. The most intricate one is the black pyramid in Sand Canyon, which requires you to do some tricky puzzle solving to grab the pieces of Nintendo's iconic R.O.B. peripheral, but you have to do it in a specific order in order to complete it.
Puzzle Quest has quite a few sidequests of this type, but subverts it a bit by giving you the choice of returning the item for the reward... or keeping it yourself.
The 11th Hour takes this to a ridiculous extreme. Ostensibly, the point of the game is to run around solving puzzles like its predecessor, The 7th Guest. However, in T11H, all solving a room's puzzle does is open it up to examination; this is where the fetching comes into play, as Carl's GameBook is sent various messages which are supposed to guide him to touch a particular object and get rewarded with a clip of video showing some backstory.
If you want to become a mage in Planescape: Torment, your mentor sends you on a series of fetch quests. Depending on your character's wisdom, he may understand why or merely get angry. This is actually lampshaded thoroughly in your journal entries.
In Pokémon Gold and Silver/Crystal (as well as the remakes HeartGold and SoulSilver), you have to go to the pharmacy in Cianwood City to get some medicine for Jasmine's Ampharos, because Jasmine won't battle you until Amphy's better.
Slightly averted, in that you needed to go to Cianwood City anyway to fight Chuck (and encounter Suicune in Crystal and the remakes).
Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana had several, but the plot carries you right to almost all of them along the way, defanging a lot of the frustration potential.
Many players of the first game of the Baldur's Gate series complain that the game world is packed with lazy, lazy people who won't even walk down the street to the shop to buy themselves a book. It's also full of people who claim to be strong heroes who had something stolen but don't have the guts to get it back themselves. In fact, this player remembers the first chapter was nothing but fetch quests.
The second game is generally much better about this, and even when it really is "fetch me this guy's knife" it's a) part of something much larger, b) giving you a choice about whose knife to fetch or c) giving you a very, very good reasonto kill the woman, Lanthorn be damned. On the other hand, when your characters use the "Limited Wish" spell to ask for an adventure unlike any they'd experienced before, it's a particularly convoluted, tedious, and silly Fetch Quest.
In the expansion pack to the second game, your characters are above such petty concerns. Instead, you can send a group of low-level adventurers out on a fetch quest for you.
The player's character is sent on a FedEx quest so many times that he finally snaps and vents his frustration in an angry rant on the hapless NPC that (attempted to) assign the quest.
Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines, has such things as collecting the TNT from the botched drug deal (mandatory) or collecting the voodoo doll for the flesh-eating Vampire (optional).
80% of side quests are of the fetch variety in the first game.
The Chrono Trigger DS re-release has a new optional dungeon which is nothing but fetch quests. One particularly Egregious example, towards the end of the dungeon, is a fetch quest that requires you to traverse one dungeon (getting into three battles you can't avoid), then leave the dungeon, then go back through the dungeon, then leave the dungeon, then go back through the dungeon, then leave the dungeon, then go back through the dungeon...It reaches the breaking point when, for this one fetch quest, you become Genre Savvy and realize that the first item you grab is not going to be the item that was requested, but looking for the right item is impossible until you're told that the one you have is the wrong item. And then, because once isn't enough, the game does the exact same thing immediately afterwards. If Magus is in your party at a certain point during the quest, he'll state the current trope quote. It's as though the developers that made this quest knew about the repetitiveness, making Magus lampshade about how ridiculous the whole thing is, yet kept it as is anyway.
The original Dragon Quest has a biggie. You need to get the Staff of Rain, Stones of Sunlight, and Erdrick's Token to get the Rainbow Bridge. Getting the Staff of Rain requires getting the Silver Harp. You need a key to get the Stones of Sunlight. (And you might need more than one, depending on if you accidentally leave the castle.) Getting Erdrick's Token doesn't technically involve saving Princess Gwaelin, but it's a lot easier.
The original Final Fantasy. To move on with the game once you get the ship (at approximately level 4-5), you need to change one tile of the map from a small land bridge to water. To do this, you need a dwarven engineer to blow it up. He needs TNT. TNT is behind a magically locked door in the very first castle in the game. The door requires the mystic KEY, which is held by the Prince of Elfland. The Prince is cursed to sleep forever, until he's given the HERB. Matoya, a witch, has the HERB, but a dark elf stole her CRYSTAL. Astos has the CRYSTAL, but won't reveal himself as Astos until you get him the CROWN, which is at the bottom of the Marsh Cave, which you should be level 9-11 to attempt. Get used to grinding for a few hours.
Final Fantasy I is much more palatable when you realize the whole thing is the second half of a fetch quest. You've already fetched the orbs (or crystal shards, depending on the version) before the game begins. Now, you have to return the Cosmic Keystone to the respective altar. Only in the last 10% of the game is it revealed that the fetch quest was all designed to allow you to reach the Big Bad.
Final Fantasy XII actually subverts it ("Thing is, I'm gonna need some special tools to open the door ... Heh, I'm just messin' with ya. I've got everything I need ready to go!").
Although the long treks to find the various shards of nethicite and the Occurian sword can be considered this.
This subversion itself comes after you've spent an hour or so running around on various inane tasks.
Another subversion early in the game. Paraphrased:
Migelo: My courier didn't arrive with food for the banquet!
Vaan: Oh, you want me to go find him.
Migelo: Too dangerous. I'm getting food from Tomaj instead.
Vaan: So you want me to pick it up.
Migelo: No, I already sent Kytes to do that. But he's gone missing. Go find him.
Vaan: Sounds wild.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance features so many Fetch Quests that plot-relevant missions are the exception, rather than the rule. To be fair, most of them are completely optional — if you want to be slaughtered when you actually attempt to do a plot quest.
A substantial portion of Final Fantasy XIII-2. As in, much of the main game and most of the side content.
The trend continues in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. In fact, the majority of the game could be spent doing these kinds of quests. It's even the basis of one of the main story missions.
Knights of the Old Republic imaginatively conceals this by making the Four Objects you must collect Four Planets you must visit. So, if you're in a generous mood, you don't even notice that you've been FedExing.
For that matter, Lufia & The Fortress of Doom is essentially one big string of (often minor and insignificant) fetch quests loosely connected in a way that helps the heroes pursue their main goal of preventing the rebirth of the evil Super Beings defeated nearly 100 years ago. Only occasionally does a given quest directly involve the main adventure, and usually then it's only in hindsight; there are seriously about three directly plot-relevant quests in the entire journey, and the total length of the game springs from the fact that those relevant quests just happen to require the heroes to go on enough plot-irrelevant fetch quests to bring the game up to passable RPG length. To top it off, the bulk of those fetch quests are so random and ordinary (dungeon crawling and monster-fighting aside) that they seem almost mundane within the in-game universe. Basically, if the heroes didn't occasionally regroup and discuss their main goal, the player could easily forget that they're trying to save the world from a group of Big Bads as opposed to just looking for random good deeds to do. Despite this, it's actually quite an enjoyable and cult-classic RPG.
Example: trying to track down a scientist. When you arrive in town, the ever-so-helpful NPCs state that you just missed him and that he went to some cave. You go there, get to the end and find out that he went to another dungeon. You go THERE, get to the end and find out he went to some tower. You go THERE, GET to the end and find out the bastard went back to town. Cue screams of, "Why couldn't I just have waited for him!?"
In Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, you have these. General White is the PRIME example. To find him, you must go to Petalburg. He's not there, so you must check Keelhaul Key. Missing again. You are then sent to: Glitzville, The Great Tree, then Twilight Town in that order with the only clue being that he "looked tired." You are supposed to interpret this as "he went to Fahr Outpost," which is where you started.
An interview had Intelligent Systems called out on this - their response was that they wanted the player to see that not only was it possible to backtrack, but there were often new quests and such waiting for them if they did.
Once you reach Chapter 8 in The Thousand Year Door you have the choice to accept a trouble known as "Delivery, please." It begins by going to Poshley Heights to meet a bob-omb with a package, which he asks you to bring to Fahr Outpost for General White. He's not there, and you are directed to Rogueport. He's not there, and you are directed to Glitzville. He's not there, and you are directed back to Poshley Heights, where the requester tells you he sent General White to Fahr Outpost. You then must go there, then back to Poshley Heights to complete the quest.
The Mega Man Battle Network games love these. Battle Network 5 starts spamming them at the end. Just when you think you're ready to attack the evil headquarters, your buddy gets kidnapped, you have to do an errand to get a new office, then you have to hunt down and destroy five MacGuffins by going through five areas you've been to before, and fight five easy bosses you've beaten before. Considering the amount of postgame stuff, you have to wonder how much of this was really needed.
The first Mega Man Star Force lets our hero hack into any Transer, find out which silly problem the owner may have, and then helping them out. It wouldn't have been that bad, if there weren't over 60 people with Transers ambulating aimlessly through the town, wanting their problems to be solved. Worse, you can only take one problem at a time, by finding a person, then finding the nearest waveworld entrance, going back to the person to read their Transer, getting the quest, leave waveworld to solve the problem, and then go back to complete the quest the same way. And odds are good that the reward is not worth the effort.
Thankfully, in the second game it becomes obvious which NPC's have sidequests, by having the blue thing floating over their head when in visualiser/wave mode turn red.
The World Ends with You has one where the characters have to find a stolen microphone. After they've finished the quest, Neku calls it "the detour from hell."
Also an invoked example. The missing microphone belongs to one of the Reapers running them game Neku's a part of. When Neku tries to refuse to help, he puts up an invisible wall and declares finding the mic to be the pass condition.
In Suikoden I, you encounter a Fetch Quest with several steps in one of the later towns, when you are convincing one of the 108 Stars of Destiny to join you. After talking to about six different people you finally get the soap the Star in question wanted...but then she says she discovered she had some all along.
The Dark Cloud games tend to do this in a unique fashion. Moving the plot forward relies in restoring specific key buildings in the Georamas, usually yielding some or another item which is needed to do away with a Broken Bridge. And then there's the condition to revive the Treant in Matataki Village, which combines a very strange Fetch Quest with a broken river: you have to collect enough river parts in the dungeon to reconnect the waterfall at one end of the valley to the Treant's spring to revive him.
Oblivion includes several, such as retrieving the Amulet of Kings after the monk loses it (mandatory) or collecting various ingredients for a witch to brew a Cure for Vampirism (optional). Fetch quests are more common in Morrowind, which is full of alchemists who can't be bothered to gather their own ingredients and wizards who would rather wait around for a PC to show up and ask for work than go to the bookstore themselves.
In Oblivion, there's also the quest "Finding Your Roots", where you have to go around finding a very rare plant called Nirnroot to give to a guy who makes it into increasingly potent batches of a potion. There are over 350 placed in the game, usually near water, and you need one hundred of them to fully complete the quest. This one is best done by picking them up as you're doing other things.
Skyrim's Radiant Quest system consists of a large amount of fetch quests, particularly the mini-quests given by the Thieves' Guild and the Companions (which are largely "go here, kill/rob X, bring back sword/necklace/gold statue/etc. to quest-giver"). There is also the "No Stone Unturned" quest, which sends you seeking the stones of Barenziah all over Skyrim, and the "A Return to Your Roots" quest, which is a retread of the above "Finding Your Roots" quest from Oblivion, though at least this time you're collecting crimson nirnroot in one giant cavern instead of all over the world map.
"No Stone Unturned" is considered by many to be the most infamous of all Skyrim fetch quests, if not all quests in general. The stones are quite small and almost always hidden away in some nondescript dungeon or sitting on a desk in a some random NPC's house amongst various bits of junk. And once you pick up a stone it can't be removed from your inventory until you've found all 24 of them and completed the associated quest, which is a problem since the stones each have a 0.5 weight value (most other quest items are weightless). Worse still, one of the stones was placed in a spot that becomes completely inaccessible after a certain point, rendering it Lost Forever. Until the stone was moved by the 1.4 patch, it wasn't uncommon for players to reach the end of the game with up to 11.5 pounds of dead weight taking up space in their inventory.
Fable I: Collecting mushrooms as payment for a cure for the sick boy (optional).
Dragon Quest VIII is full of 'em. At one point, where you have to use a particular monster to power up a magic mirror so you can fight the not-so-Big Bad, if you pick that moment to talk to Jessica, she'll complain aloud that, if the rest of their quest has been any indication, the monster in question will have a toothache and your team will be forced to find the remedy (fortunately, that doesn't happen.)
Fallout 3 mostly avoids these, with the 'Nuka-cola challenge' being the only notable one that is listed as a quest. However a player may end up searching high and low for parts to make custom weapons and there are many NPC's who will trade you for items you may have run across. Other unmarked fetch quests include delivering twenty Chinese assault rifles to Pronto in Paradise Falls, and collecting Enclave gear for Protector Casdin to gain entrance to Fort Independence without the Outcasts turning hostile.
One quest in The Pitt requires you to collect 10 ingots from the Steelyard. If you go back and collect the rest after completing this quest, you get rewarded with a number of unique weapons and armors.
The whole of Fallout: New Vegas is basically about the Courier scouring the Mojave and New Vegas looking for a Platinum Chip. It's a bit subverted in that it is not meant to pad the game out at all (that's what the rest of the content is for) being that it's a main quest plot thing. Straighter than this is the Sunset Sarsaparilla Star Bottlecaps, the snow globes for Mr. House, and your companions.
During the quest "Come Fly With Me", once you've gained access to the basement, Haversam will send you to find the thrust controls and an ignition source. He will actually attempt to give you only one task at a time, so you'll have to go out, find the item, bring it back, then go out again for the other. However you can accept the first task, then tell him you want to do the other instead, then go out and find both things at the same time. Likewise, the quest to kill the three Fiend bosses tries to send you on only one hit at a time, but you can take them out in one swoop if you want.
New Vegas also allows the Courier to bypass some fetch quests by passing skill checks instead. For example, at one point a Mess Seargent asks you to repair an industrial food processor for the NCR's army - this requires a whole page worth of parts which are all Vendor Trash otherwise. Alternatively, if you have 80+ Repair skill, you can jury-rig the food processor to work again using "a couple of bobby pins".
Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku II has one after Trunks's warning from the future about the Androids. You (at this point of the game, Gohan) and Goku go to West City to meet up with Piccolo near City Hall. Goku can't see Piccolo anywhere so he decides to go to Capsule Corp. Just after he leaves, you find out where Piccolo is. City Hall's courtyard, which is being blocked by a float for the "Hercule Day" parade. Instead ofjust flying over the obstacle (especially since you already just flew halfway across the world map to get to West City) you must go get Hercule a an open faced club sandwich because he refuses to start the parade without one. So you go to the sandwich shop, but the owner refuses to make any sandwiches until he's read today's paper. So you go to the newspaper stand and the newspaper salesman isn't there because the local school bus crashed on a field trip leaving four kids, including the newspaper guy's son, lost in the wilderness. You must go out into the wolf and snake infested woods to save the kids. After bringing all four back safely, you finally get your newspaper which you give to the sandwich guy who gives you the sandwich which you give to Hercule. The parade is finally about to start when... What is this music!? Hercule specifically requested that Eye of the Lion be played!! ... Oh well, off to the record store then...
Romancing SaGa: In order to complete the Water Dragon Rite quest, you will need to get the Raincloud Armlet from Adyllis who is at the bottom of the Great Pit of Bayre Plateau, but when you ask her for the Armlet, she wants the Cyclone Shoes from Avi who resides at the top of Mt. Scurve, when you ask him for the Shoes, he wants the Ignigarde from Pyrix who dwells deep within Mt. Tomae, when you ask for the Ignigarde, he wants the Ice Sword, which can be bought for 20,000 gold, can be gotten by recruiting Galahad if your alignment is good enough/Killing him for it if your alignment doesn't match, or you can just beat up Pyrix for the Ignigarde.
However by completing the Obscenely long fetch quest you can do their ecology quests which net weapons that can summon them, and in Sub-sequential Play throughs, you can fight their corrupted versions when you fail the Ecology quests which give even more powerful weapons.
In Persona 3 there are several kinds of fetch quests:
The simplest usually involve talking to someone on a certain day to get an item from them.
The next simplest involve farming a common enemy from a specific location until you get the number of items you need, and the items go from rare (the original) to uncommon (FES) to guaranteed (PSP).
A level up involves finding "red" enemies... basically the same as the one above except the enemy is a little rarer.
Even harder involve hunting down a Metal Slime for the item.
The worst ones involve getting an item from a rare chest. Not only does the chest not always appear, but the odds on actually getting that specific item from the chest are very low.
In order to meet Mutatsu, one must first undertake one of these that involves delivering people the drinks they want.
Day Of The Idea: In order to be able to fly the helicopter, you need fuel, which can only be gotten in a specific town, in that town, the Oil wells are on fire, and Nitroglycerin is needed to put the flames out, to get the Nitroglycerin which is on a mountain far away, you need a truck which can be gotten from people wanting to capture a fish-man in a river. Once you get the Nitroglycerin, you have to take it back to the town, however you can't stop the truck in the forested areas, which covers most of the map and if the truck hits anything on the map, it explodes.
Hyperdimension Neptunia goes out of its way to insult fetch quests. Considering the entire videogame is spent with the characters fully knowing they're in a videogame they have Neptune talk to a mystical tome about collecting four keystones by defeating four bosses to save her. Neptune immediately calls it a fetch quest then says no because it sounds boring. Histoire, the tome, then pumps her up by saying it'll save the world, to which Neptune decides that she will now partake of the fetch quest.
Nastily subverted at one point in Dragon Age II. One of your own party members sends you on a Fetch Quest, claiming he needs ingredients for a potion to separate him from his Superpowered Evil Side. The ingredients are actually components for a bomb he's building. Inverted elsewhere - you find various objects lying around and can return them to their owners for cash and XP.
Kingdom Hearts has TWO in the beginning of the first game spanning 2 days in story time. The first, you must gather items required to build a raft (Logs, rope, cloth) in order to proceed. Likewise, the second forces you to gather provisions (Water, fish, mushrooms, coconuts, and a Seagull egg) before continuing.
About two-thirds of the many, many sidequests in Xenoblade are these, and it's absolutely shameless about it, naming them things like "Collection Quest 2" or "Materials Quest 3". Fortunately, you don't actually have to return the items (simply meeting the requirements completes the quest) and doing them unlocks the more story-driven quest chains (which are by no means free of fetch objectives, but at least they're more engaging).
Eternal Sonata has a maddening example involving a key needed to open a temple. The key is part of a much longer trading sidequest throughout the game, though you don't actually have to participate in the full sidequest in order to get it, and doing so only results in getting an extra accessory of the player's choice. The maddening part is that after you get the key, the temple turns out to be unlocked, at least in the PlayStation 3Updated Re-release anyway. In the Xbox 360 version, it was played straight, but in the Rerelease, when the party gets to the temple and actually tries to use the key, they find that the door is unlocked. Yet the game still makes you get the key anyway, because if you try to use the door before having obtained the key, it is locked!
Shepard: Just once I'd like to ask someone for help and hear them say, "Sure! Let's go right now! No strings attached."
In A Knight's Quest for Milk, the main plot is basically about the protagonist searching for a carton of milk to give to his mother for turtle soup.
In Robopon, talking to Rena of the Elite 8 will start a trading quest with the other Elite 8 members; completing it gets you one of the game's Olympus Mons, Golden Sunny/Silver C-Cell. Thankfully, you don't have to fight them for it.
60% of Animal Crossing is nothing but long, drawn out, randomly generated fetch quest where someone borrowed something, and lent it to someone and then someone stole it from them, etc. Which leads you through almost everyone into the village to get someone's [random Nintendo product] back in exchange for the original guy to give you some throwaway carpet or piece of furniture that you probably didn't want to begin with.
Thankfully toned down in the sequels, which now only has you go from person A, to person B, then back to person A with the item in tow.
In The Sims Bustin' Out for the GBA, some quests have you involve grabbing something like an urn to give to a ghost in order to proceed. You can also ask others for an errand, and upon completion, you get a bit of money. Helpful when you begin the game and have little cash, but next to useless later, because you get better jobs eventually.
Many quests in The Sims Medieval have "get Object X" as a step. Sometimes Object X can be acquired in the village shop, but often the Sim will have to harvest it or obtain it from an NPC.
Shaun White Snowboarding had the player traipsing around the mountain for coins in order to unlock the next mountain. Seriously.
In Backyard Skateboarding, you must find the key to Shark Belly Shores in the Boardwalk before beating the Tour Guide Challenge, which unlocks the next level.
This actually happens many, many times in the game.
Assassin's Creed I is positively loaded with pointless and mindlessly repetitive fetch quests, a flaw nigh unforgivable to some in an otherwise excellent game. The most blatant example is probably the "informant" quest where you have to gather up approx. 10-15 Masyaf flags scattered around the general area. This can be partially justified in that one of the informants seems to genuinely hate the main character's guts and would no doubt relish the opportunity to make Altair's life needlessly complicated by sending him on pointless fetch quests. But then there's the informant who claims to have "dropped" his massive bundle of Masyaf flags which somehow scattered them all over an entire city block, including a few that launched themselves onto the rooftops of several buildings.
Brotherhood brings them back, but fortunately as sidequests for Tiber Island shopkeepers. The stuff you get from completing them, while nice to have, are optional.
Thief had one in the level "Return to the Cathedral". Your goal in this level is to steal a gem called the Eye from a church full of undead. This is, on the whole, pretty simple and takes maybe ten minutes if done properly. Then if you try to exit out the door you unlocked to get in, you find it's sealed for absolutely no reason. You have to spend a further twenty or thirty minutes wandering around the monastery behind the Cathedral, dodging more undead, as you collect the necessary items for a consecration ritual for a dead priest. Only after doing this will the priest's ghost give you the means to escape the area.
Used throughout Penumbra's trilogy, and lampshaded by Clarence in Black Plague
Clarence: Christ! Go here, go there, fetch this, run me a bath... typical broad, atypical circumstances.
The Resident Evil games were basically one huge Fetch Quest until Four came out and went full action. Each game consisted of finding keys or random items to open locks and traps, while trying to stay alive in the meantime.
Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword has one of these around the late middle of the game: you have to find the Fire Emblem so that Prince Zephiel's coming-of-age ceremony can be held and the Bernese nobles will tell you where to find the Shrine of Seals, where Bramimond (who is the only one who can unseal the sealed legendary weapons lies. It's really not much more than an attempt to get the Fire Emblem into the game, since it has to be in every game, as well as show us Zephiel before he becomes a warmongering maniac who wants to wipe out humankind in FE6, since 7 is a prequel.
Wide Open Sandbox
Overtime Mode in Dead Rising is almost all Fetch Quest. Like the rest of the game, it's also a Timed Mission. What makes it bad is that while the first half of the Fetch Quest is gathering key items, the second half requires you to collect ten queens, which are inventory items, and therefore the special forces will take them away if they get you before you get them back to Isabella.
In Dead Rising 2 - Case Zero, the overarching fetch quest is gathering parts to fix a motorcycle so you can get out of zombie-infested Still Creek. The drawback here is that every bike part is treated as a large item, meaning that you'll drop it if you get grabbed or cycle through your inventory on the way back to the garage.
The Xenon Hub mission from Egosoft's X3:Terran Conflict. The development team in charge was definitely up against a looming deadline and the executive powers-that-be responsible for approving or vetoing the idea looked at the proposed mission and said, "Seeing as how no one has a better idea, let's put this in the game." The player has to provide: 400 units of microchips; 500 units computer components; 450,000 units of Ore; 150,000 units Teladianium; 500 units Nividium; 750,000 crystals; 400,000 units Silicon Wafers; 85,000 more microchips; and pay an NPC 15,000,000 credits.
Even the developers have had to admit that the Hub mission is over the top — several of the game's patches have reduced the requirements. A little.
Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns has a "requests board" in both towns, with several classes of requests ranging in rarity, quantity and quality of the items requested. Anything "B Class" and above is a Luck-Based Mission, as villagers will often ask for items that aren't in season, can only be procured under special circumstances or that you simply aren't able to manufacture yet. Presumably, you're supposed to use the Wi-Fi connection to try and trade for such items.
Non-Video Game Examples
Bizarrely, this seems to be the plot of The Matrix Reloaded. Visit this guy, go to this guy to get this guy, get this guy to that thing...
This is actually noted. The Merovingian mocks the heroes for mindlessly following the Oracle's orders, Persephone mocks the Merovingian for calling everything "a game", the Keymaker fatalistically states that he has no purpose but to expedite the quest, and the Architect mocks Neo for believing he "chose" anything in his life. The "revolutions" of the last movie are when both humans and machines break off the fetching.
King Arthur: O Knights of Ni. We have brought you your shrubbery. May we go now?
Subverted in China Miéville's Un Lun Dun. The Unchosen One Deeba tries to follow the path her friend (the true Chosen One) would've followed. Upon learning that the tasks required are merely a Fetch Quest for retrieving the Infinity Plus One Gun (and with their attempt to get the first item costing them two of their party members), Deeba declares that they're going to skip all that and head straight for the final item on the list.
House: Bring me the thong... of Lisa Cuddy. This turns out to be a subversion: while the other applicants try to get the thong by trickery or fake getting the thong by using their own underwear, "Big Love" gets the thong by simply asking Cuddy for it. When it becomes clear that Big Love only got the thong by agreeing to eliminate who Cuddy wanted eliminated, House chastises him for playing by Cuddy's rules instead of his and promptly eliminates Big Love instead.
The Amazing Race: Get Object A, take to Location B to receive your next clue, return to starting point to retrieve your teammate.
The Irish legend of The Sons Of Tuirenn. They are tricked into a series of dangerous fetch quests by Lugh the Long Hand, for having murdered Lugh's father Cian. The brothers forget the last item, and things do not end well.
Battle Of Olympus has a few. But since pretty much everything is just a way to get into Tartarus to confront Hades, yeah.
This submission to a Cracked photoplasty contest. In case the link doesn't work, it's number 18.
An old Foghorn Leghorn cartoon perfectly demonstrates the multi-layered Fetch Quest (a kind of Chain of Deals) years before computers games started using them. The chicken hawk wants to capture Foghorn, and the dog says he'll tell how to do it if he'll just get him a bone. The cat knows where a bone is, but he wants a fish for his troubles. The mouse will provide a fish, but he needs some cheese first, leading to:
Chicken Hawk: I wonder what the cheese will want!
Ed, Edd n Eddy has an entire episode revolving around the Eds getting things from one person, to the other, to the next, sometimes traveling to someone's house again for something completely different, all so they can get an egg. So they can grow a chicken. So they can get more eggs. So they can have an omelet for breakfast.
Similarly, an episode of Chowder has the title character losing his Nice Hat and having to go through a chain of deals to get it back... the last item in the chain being the very hat he was trying to get back.
In one episode of Total Drama Island, the challenge requires the contestants to capture an animal of assigned type and bring it unharmed to a cage at the camp.