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Cowardly Mooks

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There goes the bravest man in the team.
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A type of Mook commonly found in video games. This is essentially the enemy equivalent of the Cowardly Boss: guys that (unlike most enemies) know very well that they don't stand a chance against you, so they decide to run away for their lives the moment you defeat enough of their allies, beat them up a little, knock off whatever armor they thought could protect them, or just get too close for their liking. Unlike a Cowardly Boss though, they're less likely to stop in their tracks to give you a chance to beat them down, but you're still free to try it if you're not feeling merciful enough.

These enemies often drop items of value or that you need to progress, encouraging you to go after them. In the latter case, this puts them in a prime position to be considered very annoying enemies, especially if they're good at running away and you can't easily trap them. Smarter examples will try to lure you into a trap or a room filled with more powerful enemies. Generally those guys won't put up too much of a fight when cornered, which is why they're often found in the early game. But there are exceptions, and sometimes they're even surprisingly powerful when forced to fight. This can make for Video Game Cruelty Punishment, at least if you didn't have to chase them to progress.

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With the growing presence and popularity of the Morale Mechanic, this trope has somewhat become more widespread in modern games, however, you're more likely to receive an Instant-Win Condition from the deserters than the ability to chase and mow them down (and sometimes, they don't even flee at all).

Compare Metal Slime, which may flee from you as well, but is far harder and more annoying to find, let alone take down. The Bandit Mook is a Sub-Trope, becoming this once it manages to obtain whatever it wanted from you. Long Range Fighters may also exhibit similar behavior, under the justification that they're trying to find a better aiming spot and/or suck at close combat.


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Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Action-Adventure 
  • The Legend of Zelda: When Link comes too close to a Spiny Beetle or removes the grass, bush or rock it's using cover, it will run around in a panic and only settle down after a while if Link isn't close by — if they do bump into and damage him, it's only through sheer chance as they flee randomly around the area.
  • Luigi's Mansion: Boos do not fight back. Instead, if Luigi fails to catch them, they will flee to the nearest room. And if Luigi takes too long to follow them to the next room, he will have to search for them in the furniture again.
  • Psychonauts 2: Enablers make other enemies invulnerable and boost their damage and speed, and will run from Raz or knock him back with a blast from their trumpets if he attacks them. Fortunately they can be slowed down with Time Bubble, and you can set them on fire with Pyrokinesis or stun them with an object flung by Telekinesis to keep them from buffing other enemies.

    Action Game 
  • Amorphous+ has two Gloople types that try to avoid/flee from the player:
    • Clutters will try to run away from the player while firing smaller copies of itself to stick on them (and said copies, if shaken off, will try to flee until they become full-size ones).
    • Fuzzles are normally aggressive, chasing the player and lunging at them, but when they're struck twice, they lose their fur and will attempt to flee the player since another hit will kill them if they lack fur. Compounding this is that they have a Healing Factor and will regenerate their fur if left alone for a short while.
  • Dying Light has Bolters, a type of infected who's backsides are covered in large numbers of pustules and who only come out at night. If they realize Kyle is nearby, they'll immediately run away.

    Action RPG 
  • Horizon Zero Dawn:
    • Striders and Grazers will often flee if they see you rather than attack. Emphasis on 'often'; turn your back or focus on a larger and more threatening machine and you'll tend to get attacked. It's also fairly common for most of the herd to run, but one or two individuals stay to hold you up.
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor: Uruks are typically brave enough to fight to their deaths, but they freak out and run if Talion Brutalizes an Uruk by viciously stabbing them more times than necessary or if Celebrimbor uses spoopy wraith magic to give off magnificent spirit explosions. They will almost always flee in packs if they see a Captain or Warchief killed off.

    Beat 'em Up 
  • Dynasty Warriors and its numerous spin-offs often employ this through a Morale Mechanic. Defeating area leaders causes the surrounding troops to instantly lose all their morale and start fleeing from battle. Other entries will have the troops falling backwards onto their butts in fear.
  • Final Fight has J and Two-P. Evasion mooks that are fast and move in to punch you the moment the player(s) turns their back or are distracted by other flunkies from Mad Gear.
  • Streets of Rage, has Y. Signal appear in each game. They are evasion mooks styled after J & Two-P. The difference being he can throw and slide attack. Though they are a more aggressive example compared to the originators. A new mook type in 4, called Dylan is a even better example. They almost only attack when the player is distracted, tends to move away when the player gets near them, and some with darker color palettes will try to jump up and combo kick you from across the screen. Sometimes from off-screen, if unlucky enough.

    Casual Game 
  • Iggle Pop!: Should the player touch a Zap balloon, the Zoogs will run away from them. Some of them even change their mean-looking expression to a worried one.

    Fighting Game 
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl: In the story mode The Subspace Emissary, Poppants are enemies that flee from the player while dropping healing items and trophies. They're difficult to kill because they tend to run off cliffs to avoid the player, but defeating them can reward one with a rare trophy or sticker.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • Deep Rock Galactic: The game itself refers to the Hoarder as an "abject coward" in the patch notes that introduced it. It quickly runs off screaming when hurt, and from there you have roughly ten seconds to actually kill it before it burrows into the ground and escapes entirely.
  • Halo:
    • If their leader is killed first, Grunts will usually panic and be easy to kill. However, sometimes this might backfire and instead the Grunts go suicidal.
    • Jackal snipers will flee if engaged at close range, sometimes even dropping their weapon while doing so.
  • Left 4 Dead 2: The Fallen Survivors in 'The Passing' campaign qualify as this since, unlike the rest of the common infected, they will typically flee from the players when attacked instead of rushing towards them.

    Maze Game 
  • The ghosts from Pac-Man will start avoiding the title character the moment he eats a power pellet.

    MMORPG 
  • A trait found in many World of Warcraft enemies is their attempt to escape once you deplete most of their health. This is problematic as those guys can reach other enemy groups and alert them against you.

    Platformer 
  • Ape Escape: Pippo Monkeys will generally run for it when they see you. Some are aggressive enough to stay and fight back, but even those will likely make a run for it if you let them.
  • Broforce:
    • The mooks aren't normally this, but certain actions like tossing a grenade at their feet, attacking with a flamethrower or chainsaw, or certain terrifying melee attacks, will cause any nearby mooks who see it to run for the hills. If they get far enough away from you, however, they will simply turn around and shoot you.
    • Shield mooks are unarmed mooks who simply stand around with a bulletproof shield and try to protect other mooks. If you manage to destroy the shield without killing them, it leaves them weaponless and defenseless in the middle of a war zone. From that point on, whenever they hear any sound of gunfire, explosions, etc., they'll do a Girly Scream and run around in a panic for a bit.
  • Crash Twinsanity: Shield Tribesmen will run away the moment you knock off their shields.
  • Kirby:
    • Kirby's Dream Land 3: The rabbit-like Polof do nothing except try to reach the safety of their burrows and vanish into them.
    • Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards: The penguin-like Emp enemies will comically run away at the first sign of Kirby.
    • Kirby & the Amazing Mirror: When approached by Kirby, Mirras escape by burrowing underground and taking their Mirror Doors with them. However, they don't react to long-range attacks.
  • Metal Slug: There are many cases where the (human) mooks make a run for it as you advance through the stages — or if you, say, destroy large machines or a boss.
  • Ratchet & Clank (2002): On the planet Kerwan, the Mine Layers are robotic enemies that run away from Ratchet and leave deadly mines behind them.
  • Spyro the Dragon:
    • The first levels always have The Goomba be a buffonish enemy that can't fight back and poses no threat whatsoever.
    • Spyro the Dragon: The green mages of the third world will panic whenever Spyro manages to get through their traps. The fifth world also has cowardly, harmless fools that you have to hit in order to activate certain platforms.
    • The first game and Spyro: Year of the Dragon has egg thieves that you have to chase down in order to retrieve dragon eggs.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario 64: Koopa Troopas will run away from Mario as soon as they spot him.
    • Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2: Flipbugs flee from the player in a panic until they tire out and flip over. On the flipside, they'll actively pursue the player if they're using the Bee Mushroom.
  • Wario World: Some mooks will run away, even popping out of existence if not killed.

    Roguelike 
  • FTL: Faster Than Light: Sufficiently damaging an enemy ship's hull may convince its crew to beg for mercy or spin up its FTL drive in order to escape. Enemy boarders with low health will also zip out from your ship the moment their teleporters become functional again.
  • Diablo:
    • The Fallen will temporarily retreat if any nearby monster is killed.
    • The Zakarum zealots from Diablo II, after you've completed the Blackened Temple quest, will flee when they see you, only attacking you when you corner them.
    • Diablo III has Treasure Goblins of various sorts, which drop great loot once killed, but always attempt to flee from the player, and have elite-monster levels of health.
  • Loop Hero: Starting in Act II, Scorch Worms have a 40% chance of retreating from combat when low on health instead of dying. The only way to prevent this is to place a Blood Grove nearby which will kill them before their retreat skill triggers.

    Role-Playing Game 
  • Dark Souls II: The Tower of Brume features Hollows who carry around Explosive Barrels and always back away as long as the player faces them. This can be used tactically to goad them towards stronger enemies and exploding their barrels from a distance.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Human enemies such as bandits will sometimes get scared of you and run away if you inflict enough damage.
  • Fallout
    • Fallout 2: While wanamingos are vicious in battle, should one of their limbs be crippled, they become utterly harmless and only flee, never attacking again.
    • Fallout: New Vegas: Giant rat pups will flee from players on sight, and will only attack if stronger specimens are around. Justified as, in-universe, they're still juveniles.
  • Final Fantasy IX: The Alexandria soldiers that are fought in a couple of levels will flee from battle when they're low on health.
  • Mother: In the later games, the Preexisting Encounters will actively avoid the Player Party once it manages to complete whatever dungeon or area they're found in. They'll also run away if the level of the party is high enough.
  • Pokémon:
    • Any Pokémon found in the Safari Zone is able to run away eventually, even the more common ones.
    • The Psychic-type Abra naturally only knows the move "Teleport", meaning it will always flee from battle the moment its turn comes.
    • Generation VII introduces Wimpod, a dual Bug/Water type that, because of its ability "Wimp Out", runs away from battle whenever they health drops below the halfway point. This extends to the overworld itself, where you have to chase the Wimpod down in order to start a battle with it.
    • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Any enemy Pokemon with the "Run Away" ability will try to escape battle once their Hit Points drop below the halfway point, similar to the above-mentioned "Wimp Out".
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Paper Mario 64: During chapter 4, Mario eventually encounters a squad of Shy Guys that will scream their lungs off and retreat once he breaks their barricade (their Girly Scream is also their Battle Cry, oddly enough). Some enemies are also prone to running away mid-battle like the Crazee Dayzees from chapter 6.
    • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars: Some enemies are prone to fleeing, especially if their more dangerous partners are defeated (like the Rat Funks from the Kero Sewers).

    Stealth Game 
  • Assassin's Creed: In certain games, the more low-ranked city guards will often retreat if the player character is good enough at showing off their badassery against them. Even some higher-ranked soldiers aren't immune to this, although again, it depends on the game.
  • The Last of Us: In the winter chapter, a bunch of Hunters will run away from Joel after they realize that he is the guy who killed a dozen of them at the university. They will still fire at you, but will generally try to get away as soon as possible.

    Strategy Game 
  • Empires of the Undergrowth: Harvestmen and jumping spiders avoid groups of insects and tend to attack lone ones. At low health, harvestmen drop their legs as distraction and run away, while jumping siders will run away when surrounded.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic:
    • Much like the Mother example, Pre Existing Encounters that have absolutely no chance of defeating your army will typically run away rather than face you. You may choose to let them leave peacefully or hunt them down for extra XP.
    • Goblins in the fifth game have the 'cowardly' trait, meaning they will almost always run away when hit with a melee attack rather than Counter Attacking, unless they are backed into a corner, surrounded or otherwise unable to escape.
  • Pikmin: A number of enemies — such as the leaf-insect Skitterleafs, the tadpole-like Wogpoles or the grublike Female Sheargrubs and Swarming Sheargrubs — are completely harmless and largely unable to harm either the players or the Pikmin. As such, they have the uniform tendency to run for their lives the moment you manage to harm or kill some of them, or — as in the case of the Skitterleafs — the moment you get within a certain distance of them.

    Survival Horror 
  • Dying Light: Bolters will run away as soon as they realize Kyle is nearby.

    Survival Sandbox 
  • Don't Starve: Mactusk will avoid the player as much as possible, firing away with his blowdart.

    Third-Person Shooter 
  • Ghost Recon Wildlands: Santa Blanca lieutenants will make a run for it once things get loud and will often grab the nearest vehicle to do it. Also, if the Ghosts manage to get close enough, they'll immediately surrender.

    Wide-Open Sandbox 
  • Saints Row 2: Most enemies aren't cowardly by default, and will continue to attack you until they're killed. Unless, of course, you spray them with a fire extinguisher. While the extinguisher's high-pressure foam can throw around and even kill NPCs, it also acts as a solid wall that will halt an enemy's charging animation until they finally turn around and run away in fear. Even some armed enemies, such as cops, will retreat or at least fall back to a safe distance when sprayed long enough.

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