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Escort Game

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Your friends need you. They always need you. They will never stop.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Fortune #36 (Referring to Star Fox)

A game where protecting or guiding someone or something is an intrinsic part of the gameplay.

Essentially, this is when the Escort Mission is made into the whole game. It may not be the premise of the game, but either way you're going to be spending most of your time escorting something or other.

The Escort Game usually comes in two different variations: those where the player controls an in-game character, guiding and/or covering for their partner, and those where they just manipulate the environment (taking cues from Puzzle Games), allowing the escortees to traverse it safely. The latter type was popularized by Lemmings.

Expect loads and loads of Artificial Stupidity from your escortee, assuming it's a person. If lucky, the escortee will not get in your way and, in fact, might even become a valuable ally in fighting the hordes of Mooks you'll inevitably meet, but don't hold your breath. Let anything happen to them, and it's either a Non-Standard Game Over for you or a Downer Ending once the game is finished.


  • Choplifter! may be considered the Ur-Example; the entire game is based on transporting 64 hostages out of enemy territory in your helicopter.
  • Lemmings. There's no player avatar to do the escorting with, but it still fits the premise.
  • Transformice may look like an odd physics-based Lemmings knock-off, but all the mice are actually controlled by real players. Not that that makes it any easier to babysit them through the levels.
  • For most of the game, ICO is all about escorting Yorda to the next set of magic statues. Probably the best example; it's not unreasonably difficult to protect Yorda from being captured by the shadow creatures, Yorda herself is pivotal to your own progression so you literally wouldn't be able to proceed without her, she doesn't do anything stupid or suicidal, and she grows on you so much that you actually want to protect her.
  • This is pretty much the entire premise of the game Disaster Report.
  • An excellent example would be Galapagos, where you have to manipulate the environment of a Death Course in order to save a suicidally stupid little cute robot named Grendel.
  • The SNES Rocko's Modern Life game, Spunky's Dangerous Day is entirely composed of escort missions.
  • The FPS Vietcong is essentially a giant escort mission, as none of your 5 squad members are allowed to die during a mission, even if said mission is, say, a hopeless Alamo situation pitting 6 good guys in the fort against what seems to be the entire NVA. It's not as bad as it sounds, since they're fairly competent at taking cover and marksmanship, but considering the game is about the Viet Nam war, where American soldiers on random jungle patrols died like flies to ambushes, it's kind of jarring. On the other hand, the few missions in which you don't have your team are absurdly Nintendo Hard, possibly subverting the trope.
    • Vietcong doubles as a subversion in that much of the game has your squad escorted by Lay Dui Nhut, your point man, who will detect traps and the like.
  • Yoshi's Island is one big Escort Mission, with the Yoshis trying to reunite Baby Mario with his brother. Mario is knocked off Yoshi's back whenever you take a hit and floats around wailing bloody murder until your Life Energy runs out.
  • The platformer Sleepwalker requires the player character, a dog named Ralph, to escort a sleepwalking boy around a series of improbable landscapes. For some reason, you have to avoid waking him up, even though he'd probably be able to find his way back to safety if conscious.
    • This is probably due to the myth that waking up a sleepwalker can cause him to have a heart attack.
    • This was later dolled up into Eek! The Cat for SNES. It's quite literally the same game with Eek stuck in it.
  • This is the whole point of Pikmin; Captain Olimar has to recruit and lead a whole army of Pikmin.
  • In Pokémon Colosseum once Wes rescues Rui early in the game, she follows him around constantly, and is able to see Shadow Pokémon for what they are, pointing them out whenever an enemy uses one in a Pokémon battle. (This is why the villains were trying to kidnap her in the first place.)
  • Sheep is a puzzle game in which you play a shepherd and have to lead sheep to their safety. Of course, what makes it hard is that they act like sheep.
  • Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures is an adventure game with a twist: you're not directly controlling the title character. You only tell him what to do, but whether he follows your instructions is another story entirely.
  • ChuChu Rocket!, in which you must place arrows on the ground to lead mice to the exit while keeping them away from cats.
  • This was the premise of the arcade shooting game Crossbow, where you provide cover fire for a group of adventurers moving from one end of the screen to the other while being attacked by monsters, lightning bolts, and other things. Your friends weren't very resilient and would die in one hit, although they would occasionally kill a monster they met if you were lucky, rather than the other way around which is what usually happened.
  • That was the entire point of the 8-bit game "Bubble Ghost", which had the merit of making the player character completely invulnerable. Which is quite useful when you're escorting a soap bubble, the kind of thing that has Everything Trying To Kill It even in Real Life.
  • Technically LocoRoco is an escort game since you control the planet instead of the character.
  • BioShock Infinite is a subversion. While it's obvious from the start that you're going to be escorting Elizabeth to safety, it is only an escort game in a Storyline-sense; Elizabeth cannot be harmed in gameplay.
  • The Half-Life mod Azure Sheep has you in the role of Barney the hapless security guard, in the first half of the mod searching for a female guard named Kate, and in the second half (after she finds you), escorting her to safety. She is armed with a Glock and can and will use it to defend herself, but if she dies you lose. (Also, interestingly, she's smart enough to fall back out of the line of fire to reload.)
    • There's also an unsatisfyingly short episode in the mod where you escort Corporal Adrian Shepard (of Opposing Force fame) from one end of a parking area to the other just so he can kick down a door for you. He then gets teleported away by two alien slaves.
  • Half-Life 2: Episode One and Episode Two both feature Alyx fighting by your side for the majority of the game. Listening to the Developer Commentary reveals how much work went into making Alyx a useful and endearing companion, ranging from ensuring the player is always allowed to progress at their own pace, to building new animation and scripting systems to ensure her behaviour remains dynamic, and even fine-tuning the lighting of one scene so a joke from her doesn't come off as mean spirited.
  • Pingus, a free cross-platform clone of Lemmings with funny graphics.
  • Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee and Abe's Exoddus are based upon rescuing literally hundreds of your pals, which means you have to escort them to the nearest teleporter. At least they do what you say, even if they are rather dumb about it (and, in some cases, angry, blind or drunk).
  • In TimeSplitters Future Perfect, every level after the first has someone you have to keep alive. Whether it's an original character or a past/future version of yourself. They're generally capable of defending themselves, the AI prefers to target you over them, and they have an invisible health bar which is restored after every cutscene. Should that health bar become visible, however, they become a whole less competent. Can someone say "fuck THE HOODED MAN - 2401 level"?
    • Co-op mode allows the escorted character to be played by player 2. Finally, someone who doesn't run in your line of fire!
  • Robotech: Battlecry. Cat scan missions from hell. Heck the whole game period is one giant Escort/Defend mission.
  • Project Sylpheed is practically overloaded with them. You must protect your HQ ship in nearly every mission, and many other missions assign you to escort other ships as well. Most of the time these ships have enough HP it's not too annoying, but there are exasperating missions where the entire enemy fleet will swarm one ship.
  • In Dead Rising, although most of the Escort Missions are optional, they do constitute a large portion of the game. Especially while waiting for the next plot mission to become available. Protagonist Frank West finds himself rescuing survivors who range from marginally combat-capable to nearly helpless to injured (requiring Frank to carry them piggy-back) and taking them back to the safety of the security room. In some cases this requires a trek all the way across the mall through hordes of zombies. It's saying something about their Artificial Stupidity when the ones you have to carry are the easiest to save.
    • On the other hand, it is possible to gather seven out of the eight combat-capable survivors early in the game. Survivors are also reasonably good with guns and as NPCs, they have Bottomless Magazines. They can be a great help when facing huge zombie hordes, providing the clueless bastards don't blow a hole in your back. Just don't go too far, they tend to get caught up in fights instead of following and if left alone, will quickly die.
    • In the sequel, the survivor AI has improved A LOT. They'll follow Chuck efficiently and intelligently, and they can even knock any zombies that grab you, too. In fact, if you equip them right, they can defeat psychopaths like crazy. Of course, there's still a few problems with some of the survivors.
  • Lucas Arts' Star Wars-themed space combat sims do this just enough to make you really hate it. One of the TIE Fighter expansion packs had a mission where you had to escort Darth Vader's fighter. He would insist on joining in the combat, and could be given orders as any other member of your wing. However, actually giving him orders had very bad results as he didn't appreciate it. The most extreme case is probably the first Rogue Squadron game, in which thirteen of the game's nineteen levels have you escorting, defending, or otherwise having to ensure the continued existence of something.
    • Both X-Wing and Rogue Squadron will make you hate the Gallofree GR-75 medium transport.
    • Also, the medical Nebulon-B Frigate in the later Rogue Squadron games. Almost without fail, the ship gets assaulted every time it accompanies you on a mission. About the only sane way to handle these missions is to kill everything that moves and let the Frigate save itself.
    • In the original X-Wing you escorted the Nebulon B frigate Redemption as it takes on wounded personnel from other vessels, and you have to protect it from an Imperial ship of the same class (their Nebulon B, however, is heavily armed and flies around the vicinity while spewing out TIE Bombers). The same mission is referenced in the X-Wing Series as being a simulator training mission reenacting an actual battle, and comments are made on its difficulty.
  • The game adaptation of The Phantom Menace seemed to have one of these every other level. Many's the time a game-over dialog will pop up saying "Queen Amidala/Jar Jar/Anakin/Padme/the T-14 Hyperdrive Has Been Killed".
  • World of Warcraft has many, many escort missions, all with various degrees of difficulty. Depending on the specific mission, the NPC may be relatively competent in combat or completely inept; they may handily follow you or charge blindly ahead. Missions may also require a team effort or a strict time limit, or any combination of the above. It's not unusual to find that the escortee is in fact a Ghostly cow. The rescue of Marshall Windsor in the prison of Blackrock Depths was easier to complete if the player's group killed all the bad guys in the prison before ever releasing him.
    • However, it was a nice test of ability under pressure to do it with all the enemies still there.
    • There was one quest in Felwood, where the caged NPC is inside a demon-infested cave, very close to the entrance. Unfortunately, she chooses to take another 20 minutes to delve into the cave and recover her gear, and THEN you gotta take her back out again. (Thankfully, when that NPC recovers her equipment, she winds up escorting you out of the dungeon.)
    • Another fine example is Escape from Durnholde, a dungeon where you go back in time to when Thrall was imprisoned. While Thrall is pretty sturdy for an escort, he rushes headlong into the next group, denying you the careful engagements that are usually required. And makes up 3/4ths of the dungeon, split into three parts. If he dies, you need to redo the current part. But at least you're given several chances before you fail and have to restart the whole thing.
    • Of particular annoyance is escorting the Druid in Darkshore, the one whom you not only have to defend because he slaps like a sissy, but you have to wake him up because he's constantly falling asleep on the path. Fortunately he follows you, rather than going off on his own, and if you know where the ambushes are (the first isn't too bad, as it's just a bunch of furbolgs, but the second has a bunch of mages attacking from long range, and all of them are targeting the escortee with fireballs before you can do anything), you can walk around them and avoid them completely.
      • Similarly, there's the goblin in Un'Goro Crater who faints and needs to be revived. While less frustrating than some of the examples here (he follows you, and thus doesn't blindly wander into any and every unfriendly NPC in your path), it's still a pain to be constantly waking him up—especially when you're twenty feet away from the quest-giver.
      • Then there's the Night Elf in Feralas that is so flighty she will forget what's happening and simply wander off unless you ring a bell to call her back.
    • Feero Ironhand, the paladin in Ashenvale, is almost equally as annoying to escort. While he (at least) doesn't constantly fall asleep, he's only level 20 and, along the way, has to fight five level 24s that suddenly spawn.
    • Akuno has to be escorted out of the Shadow Tomb in Terokkar Forrest, but can't be healed (?!) or buffed during combat. Fortunately, he regenerates health quickly out of combat, wields chain lightning, and he will use it.
    • On the other hand, the draenei quest "Ending Their World" is almost a subversion of the traditional Escort Mission. It is considered a group quest, but it's not impossible (although hard) to solo it at its nominal level. Legoso is tough, and it often feels like he's escorting you, not the other way round. He doesn't blindly rush into hordes of enemies, regenerates quickly between battles, and heals himself and you in battle. He can almost clear the way to the final boss alone, and should you die before he attacks the boss, he waits for you to resurrect. And even better than the actual reward is the epic celebration at Blood Watch in the end — the quest is worth doing for this reason alone.
      • Similarly, escorting Kinelory through Go'shek Farm in the Arathi Highlands often feels like she's escorting you as well. She bear tanks most of the escort mission, and will toss you a heal here and there as well. She probably could have soloed that one.
      • Unfortunately, Cataclysm severely nerfed Kinelory, as she no longer pulls, making her about as effective a tank as a candy wrapper, and you'll always be fighting at least two mobs. Also, when the quest boss dies, she takes off running. Very fast. If she gets too far away from you, you'll fail the quest.
    • And then there's the infuriating test of patience that is "The Absent Minded Prospector." Our escortee in this case has annoyingly low durability, piss poor combat skills, and a lemming's sense of self-preservation — He doesn't even appear to notice that he's wandering around in a Golem infested death-pit, leaving your sorry ass to deal with everything while he pokes his nose in that one tent for the eleventh time. However, the worst is at the end: that fossil that he was supposed to be looking for while you saved his ass? He already sent it off to be examined, and just forgot about it. Yep, you just slogged through that monotonous and difficult escort quest for no reason at all.
      • Made somewhat worse in the Cataclysm expansion - the dig site is now in ruins and sunk under water, and the mission now involves you having to escort the same person as he LEADS YOU IN A CIRCLE AROUND THE RUINS UNTIL YOU GET BACK TO THE CAMPSITE.
    • A breath of fresh air, Father Kamaros in Icecrown. A priest escort who buffs you, stays in the back, and will actually heal you if you need it. A wonderful deconstruction of the trope, since many many people would actually prefer this NPC to some actual players...
    • Another one is simply that Tauren and Night Elf newbies would start in a backwater zone that was cut off from the other major capitals by a higher level zone. Often, new players would simply ask higher level players to escort them through, so they could unlock the flight points that would allow them to skip it.
    • There is an escort quest in Searing Gorge where you have to escort an injured Dwarf to the Loch Modan gate so he can get to Ironforge. Now, the problem is not that he is weak. He can actually help fight off mobs with little problem. Searing Gorge is a rather barren area, so there are few mobs to deal with besides the mobs near where he is found, some spiders, and these two dark irons assassin who appear out of nowhere that aren't very strong. The problem is he spends the entire quest complaining about how he shouldn't be helping you fight off mobs, and how he needs to quit smoking. At the end of the quest, an unknown assassin snipes him dead. He drops a 'If you are reading this, I am dead' letter you take to Ironforge to get the reward.
    • It does a weird mix of Lampshade Hanging and playing it straight with a daily in Tol'barad, an NPC you escort out of a prison wanders aimlessly looking for the exit to a keep (which was dead ahead when you get out of the prison area) and insists on checking the bunks, the stairs, and then finally leaving the right way, this was obviously made as a spoof of your basic escort, but it was still every bit as annoying as they usually are.
    • An escort mission to save a ranger from Firewing Point in Terokkar Forest would be aggravating just because your charge walks agonizingly slowly in a large half-circle around Firewing. The kicker, though, is that her aggro radius is larger than the nearby enemies', resulting in her launching herself faster than your best running speed at any opponent she sees. By the end of the mission you've slaughtered most of the encampment just to protect her from her own bloodlust.
  • Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza. Try to protect Argyle as he drives through the parking garage, and protect hostages in the upper floors.
  • The Ace Combat series frequently requires the player to escort allied aircraft, usually bombers or transports. Occasionally, you're required to protect civilians, ground forces, or ships. Just as often, you make the enemy fail their escort mission.
  • Many, many, many examples from Descent: Freespace and its sequel, FreeSpace 2, babysitting all sorts of stuff, from transports packed with evacuees to freighters carrying exotic weapons prototypes to freshly-captured alien warships to huge spacegoing aircraft carrier/battleship hybrids.
    • This is one of the first games where AI ships competently could shoot down bombs and defended themselves, making them actually viable combatants.
    • One particular mission sticks out. You're required to escort your carrier ship through an asteroid field, taking out asteroids along the way. You have yourself and maybe one or two other fighters to help you. You'd think that the carrier would launch every fighter they have, as well as man every turret, but it's basically up to you and your wingmen.
    • By the way, the first AND last missions of Freespace 2 are escort missions (the last one is actually 2 escort missions in 1).
      • Fortunately the first one basically plays itself; it's almost impossible to fail.
  • Most of Dragon Ball Origins has Goku escorting Bulma through the levels. Since she can't jump, it's entirely possible that Goku can easily reach the end of the level himself, with most of the challenge being pushing blocks or opening the doors that will let Bulma reach the end, too. And while she has a small handgun for combat as well as an assortment of special weapons, in the later levels, almost all of the enemies require one of Goku's special moves to damage, leaving Bulma unable to do much to them by herself. And you lose if she dies.
  • Champions Online has its fair share of escorts, some more aggravating than others. Some escortees can defend themselves reasonably well, others cower at the sight of villains but at least don't go out of their way to get in a fight... then there's the police officer in Millennium City who insists on chasing down every enemy within 50 feet of his patrol route.
    • The game also includes an item - the Bag of Contraband - which stuns its target for a few seconds when thrown at them, but which has the curious property for a weapon of only being usable on allies. I other words, it exists specifically to get the people you're escorting to hold still for a moment so you can try to heal them, catch your breath, pick up something an enemy dropped, etc. It makes your escortee seem extra-suicidal when you realize that the mission that's so urgent that they're not willing to slow down long enough for you to tend to their grievous wounds isn't so urgent that they can't pause to examine random objects you lob at them.
    • The new adventure pack has an extremely irritating example in the Demon Key during the final battle with Luther Black. The Demon Key will travel around the stage, unlocking treasure chests that basically serve as the boss' true hit points. Said boss and his minions are programed to attack your demon ally at set intervals, such as when he's opening a chest. If you don't draw aggro back immediately, the Demon Key will die and will have to respawn. Aggravatingly enough, the Demon Key will fight back when attacked despite having weak attacks, very limited hit points, facing an enemy that can't be killed conventionally, and knowing that he, the hero, and the whole of the world will die if the chests aren't opened within the time limit.
  • The Lord of the Rings Online has a bunch of those, some with actually useful NPCs, others... less so. One of the most notorious is an optional quest in the dungeon Garth Agarwen, where the NPC has to be followed closely through doors closing behind her, into snake pits (the game lacks AoE) and as an additional Bug Bonus, has to be cashed in before logging out or you will lose the quest.
    • There are several other quests in the game involving escorting the same notorious NPC. Which turn out to be Justified, as the NPC in question, Sara Oakheart, is in fact Amarthiel, Champion of Angmar, and she was trying to get PCs killed
    • There is also a NPC escort quest a little earlier in that same zone. The NPC is taken captive by goblins, which after being freed, he informs you that he has to find his father's sword. This NPC will then rush into each and every goblin camp in the area, choosing to fight everything he sees - completely barehanded. Yes. He will run into goblin camps unarmed, and proceed to throw punches at them.
  • A number of missions in the MMORPG City of Heroes involve finding someone who's been captured by bad guys and leading him back to the mission "door" without getting him killed. (These are a strange counterpoint to the far more numerous missions where you simply have to free the victims from their captors, after which they automatically find their own way out.) One notable variation requires that you find and rescue multiple individuals, lead them to a special location, then defend them against waves of attacking villains for a set amount of time. Conversely, in the game's Expansion Pack City of Villains, there are missions where you have to kidnap somebody, which works essentially the same way.
    • The difficulty of escorts in City of Heroes often depends on how big your team is. Because missions scale to the number of teammates you have with you, but the power of the escortee (usually) does not. With less enemies, your ward is more powerful by comparison.
  • The survival horror game AMY inverts this premise: your player character, Lana, is infected with a virus, and has to rely on the title character (a young autistic girl who develops Psychic Powers over the course of the game) for survival. While there are some puzzles that require Lana to send Amy off to do something, if the two of them get separated for too long, the virus begins to wreak havoc on Lana's body, turning her into a Mutant and ending the game.
  • Enemy 585 by Nitrome: the player is a group of blocks that helps escort the slow and fat titular character escape, via platform puzzles.
  • Mario & Wario, where Mario has a bucket dropped onto his head by Wario, and as a result you had to help a fairy get Mario to his brother Luigi in order to get the bucket off his head.
  • Blast Corps has you destroying buildings in the path of an out-of-control truck carrying defective nuclear warheads. If the truck hits anything, the warheads explode. No pressure!
  • The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince has a shapeshifting wolf (the eponymous liar princess) guiding a prince to a witch to heal his eye injury (that the wolf was responsible for). Unlike most examples, he won't wander off when you aren't holding his hand (unless you specifically tell him to for certain puzzles).
  • Flicky: Every level starts at the exit, and it's Flicky's job to guide all the Chirps there. Touching a Chirp makes it follow Flicky in a row, but if a Tiger touches a Chirp, that Chirp and all the ones behind it will scatter.
  • Gilligan's Island has you play as the Skipper with Gilligan following you everywhere, contributing nothing but asinine comments like "Isn't this beautiful scenery, Skipper!" You can't be apart for more than 2 minutes, and he needs to be with you whenever you talk to an NPC to get the next Fetch Quest. To make things worse, he has a tendency to get stuck on obstacles and fall into pits leading to previous areas.
  • cloudphobia tasks you with protecting an off-screen mothership, by destroying enemies before they escape the screen. This mechanic is due to the game being a Timed Mission where the player must reach and defeat the boss within three minutes in each stage, to ensure they don't just boost their way past all the enemies without fighting them.
  • Produce is a rather twisted version of an escort game, considering that the escorter is a Villain Protagonist willing to sacrifice two of the escortees to an Eldritch Abomination so he can have the last one all to himself. Your objective is to strategically summon monsters to force your victims to keep ascending the building, while being careful to not scare them too much, accidently cause them to flee downstairs, or provoke them into fighting back.