An overworld is, in a broad sense, an area within a video game that interconnects all its levels or locations. They are mostly common in role-playing games, though this does not exclude other video game genres.

Overworlds generally feature a top-down view or a third-person perspective of the fictional world within the game. It often contains varied terrain (including caves, mountains, forests, and bodies of water) and a collection of towns and other locations (most commonly dungeons or levels). When the party enters one of these locations the world map display may remain on the screen, be replaced by the local geography, or be hidden until the party exits the location. In many games, the player is able to travel on the world map; in other games, the player uses the world map to select their next location. Typically, a dungeon houses a host of enemies, while a town usually is safe. In some games, there are a series of world maps.[1] Some games allow the player to view only a portion of the world map at the beginning of the game, with new locations becoming visible as the game progresses, whereas other games show the entire world map from the beginning. The opposite term "underworld" refers to the world underneath the ground.


Role-playing video games

Battle for wesnoth httt world map
Overworld map from the video game The Battle for Wesnoth.

The Ultima series of RPGs marks one of the first uses of an overworld. Many games have emulated Ultima's overworlds, especially fantasy-based ones. The most prominent example in this category is the Dragon Quest series. In each of this type of overworld game, most of the action (or at least most of the plot-advancing action) takes place in towns, forests, dungeons, caves, castles (and the surrounding area), camps, fortresses, mass transportation systems, celestial bodies (e.g. the moon), and other locations. In the Dragon Quest series, the overworld is used as a "travel map", and changes to a closer perspective for direct gameplay or confrontation. The overworlds featured in most of the 2D adventures of this genre commonly depict the character(s)' proportions as larger than they actually would be in the world being traveled, thus lending necessary visibility to the player. The characters' animation in this type of overworld is often simpler than that found in the game's menus and other areas, while more complicated movement such as combat, climbing or visibly handling objects sometimes happens at closer perspectives, and often involves cutscenes.

The Legend of Zelda series

While previous games have featured overworlds, one of the earliest console games to feature an overworld is the Nintendo Entertainment System game The Legend of Zelda. Gameplay in Zelda's overworld was virtually identical to that of its nine underground dungeon levels, offering a top-down perspective and including access to caves, bridges, mazes, shops and waterfalls as well as lurking dangers that range from enemies to tumbling rocks. Much of the immediate gameplay takes place in the overworld, and the diversity of terrain (as well as the sheer size of the overworld itself) ensures that the player will spend as much time exploring and searching above ground as they will below (or in any of the areas listed above). The concept of an overworld also offered a nonlinear gameplay experience;[2] some believed this would cause the player to become confused and not know where to go, a sentiment which has endured as overworlds have become larger and more complex.

The Zelda series is well known for these large overworld areas, such as Hyrule Field. Many enemies inhabit the various overworlds. The player can see most of these without any special tools, and most are easily defeated or avoided.

There are special items available in most of the overworld areas in the series, but these are often non-essential to completing the overall objective; the main purpose served by an overworld is to connect more important places.

Platform games

Although large-scale overworlds were popularized by The Legend of Zelda in 1986, the genre of platform games did not have overworlds (in the main sense) until 3D platformers appeared in the mid-1990s. The concept of an overworld in platform gaming prior to that time was limited to a "level select" style, which first was first featured in the multi-genre arcade title Dragon Buster,[3] and popularized by other games such as Bionic Commando and Super Mario Bros. 3.[4] In Spyro the first 3 games had a place called a "home world" that was like an over world. It contained portals to other levels of the game.

Previous titles like Super Mario Bros. and Castlevania revolved around the player completing levels in a linear order, with no option to return to completed levels. It is likely that the overworlds developed for 3D games, such as some of those listed above, evolved from the level-select type overworlds featured in prior 2D platform games, such as those seen in Super Mario Bros. 3 and Donkey Kong Country.[5] Beginning with Super Mario Bros. 3, every Mario platformer has featured either a level-select type overworld (e.g. Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros.) or a hub-type overworld (e.g. Peach's Castle in Super Mario 64 and the Comet Observatory in Super Mario Galaxy) - a central, usually enemy-free area - that connects to levels and other important places. As the genre evolved and became more popular, the overworld concept expanded into other platformers - from Kirby's Adventure to the Donkey Kong series - becoming a staple of the genre that endures as a prominent feature.

Home level

The town level in the roguelike game Angband.

A home level is an area found within a roguelike video game. It is usually a haven for the hero characters, where enemy hostility is minimal. In most cases, the home level features shops in which the player can purchase items, and is often the initial site of the story or game, although in some games it is a location discovered later. In some games, such as Destiny of an Emperor, as the story progresses, the location of the home level may change, or there may be other such places that serve a similar purpose. Larn, a 1980s roguelike game, was among the earliest to feature a home level.

Some games feature a home level that contains many different points of interest. The home level in Angband, for instance, consists of seven shops, the player's home (where characters may store unneeded items), and a staircase to the first dungeon level. Some variants of the home level add specialty shops, quest locations, or a wilderness through which additional towns can be discovered.


Many of the games that have an overworld feature a world map of some sort; these range from very basic - such as a gray rectangle with a dot indicating the position of the character in The Legend of Zelda - to an overworld map that can be toggled on and off, but shows only rough outlines of various locations, as well as the character's ever-changing location, such as in later installments in the Zelda series, or many Final Fantasy games.

Other games, including several installments in the Ultima and Wasteland series, include detailed, often colorful maps on cloth or paper that came bundled with the game and is meant to be used to navigate while playing the game. Games like Miracle Warriors even came with a little action figure in metal meant to be placed on your position.

Whatever the map style employed (if any), varied world map terrain such as mountains, rivers and deserts may prevent the character(s) from visiting an area until they have completed a certain task or acquired a special skill, vehicle or other key item.[6] Many CRPGs eventually allow the player rapid movement around the overworld, using such methods as flying,[7] sailing, or teleporting[8] to various locations. The map icon is often represented as a rectangle. Usually, flying or sailing across one edge of the map will bring the character(s) to the edge of the opposite side.

In some games, certain areas of the overworld map are hidden from the player, or at least difficult to reach; these "secret" areas often contain difficult-to-obtain items, or they might simply hold "Easter Egg"-style novelties or other such diversions. In some games, especially those that have a "level select" style of overworld (e.g. a lot of old-school 2D platform games), portions of the overworld become available for play as certain tasks are completed (e.g. beating a particular level or discovering a secret hidden within a level).

Audio design

In terms of Video game music, overworld themes are often orchestral in nature, and of greater length and complexity than other pieces in the same game, due to the amount of time spent traveling the overworld map. Because players will usually visit a single level or area a few times in a given play session, the music for any such section of the game will typically be shorter and/or less complex,[9] and thus less time-consuming for the designers to produce. The overworld theme frequently functions as a main theme of a game, often used as a motif for other tracks (e.g., a "romance" theme features the main melody of overworld theme, orchestrated in a different key).[10]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ In some Final Fantasy games, for example, the player can travel between the earth and the moon, each of which has its own world map. Additionally, in Final Fantasy III, once the player obtains an airship, they may leave their current world to find themselves in a larger world map with a selection representing the first world.
  2. ^ Long, Andrew. "Oldest School". RPGamer. Retrieved 2006-10-01.
  3. ^ Buster Overworld at AllGame
  4. ^ In these and similar games, the character doesn't actually travel on a world map (viz. freedom to move is strictly limited to linear direction); rather, the player only repositions the character on an adjacent location (a dot or icon that represents a level) that is connected by a rail (which may not be visible) to other adjacent locations. The Wild Arms series and the Super Mario series are popular examples.
  5. ^ PC World - Super Mario Advance 4 (GBA) Test Report
  6. ^ For example, in many Zelda games, Link must obtain an item hidden in one dungeon that will allow him to progress to the next dungeon. Often, these items can be obtained only after completing a side quest or reaching a certain point in the game.
  7. ^ Many games, most notably those of the Final Fantasy series, provide airships for flying. Other games will feature flying animals such as large birds, Chocobos or dragons.
  8. ^ Teleporting is commonly referred to as warping.
  9. ^ "The Evolution of Video Game Music", All Things Considered, July 28, 2008.
  10. ^ Early Video Game Soundtracks 2001 article on video game music, orig. published in In Magazine.
Blame Canada

"Blame Canada" is a song from the 1999 animated musical fantasy comedy film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, written by Trey Parker & Marc Shaiman. In the song, the parents of the fictional South Park, led by Sheila Broflovski (Mary Kay Bergman), decided to blame Canada for the trouble their children have been getting into since watching the Canadian-made movie Terrance and Phillip: Asses of Fire and imitating what they saw and heard in the movie. "Blame Canada" satirizes scapegoating and parents that do not control "their children's consumption of popular culture". The song also appears as an 8-bit remix in the 2014 game South Park: The Stick of Truth, in which it appears as one of the overworld themes for the Canada level.

Chaotic (TV series)

Chaotic is an American-Canadian animated science fantasy television series produced by 4Kids Entertainment and animated by Bardel Entertainment for Season 1 and Dong Woo Animation for Season 2-3. It is based on the Danish trading card game of the same name. Much of the plot is based on the original storyline of the Danish trading card game.

Cugel's Saga

Cugel's Saga is a picaresque fantasy novel by American writer Jack Vance, published by Timescape in 1983, the third book in the Dying Earth series, the first volume of which appeared in 1950. The narrative of Cugel's Saga continues from the point at which it left off at the end of The Eyes of the Overworld (1966).

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database calls Cugel's Saga "[t]wice as large and less episodic than Eyes of the Overworld", and catalogs it as a novel rather than a fix-up, but also qualifies that label. "This is marketed as a novel, but there is a table of contents, and some of the parts were previously published (although none are acknowledged thus)."

Dragon View

Dragon View is a side-scrolling role-playing video game released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in November 1994. Released in Japan as Super Drakkhen (スーパードラッケン) and otherwise known as Drakkhen II, it is meant to be a sequel to Drakkhen although it bears little resemblance to its predecessor. It uses the same pseudo-3D overworld system for which the series is most famous. Other features of Dragon View are its side-view action role-playing game (RPG) hybrid gameplay (used when exploring more detailed areas such as towns and dungeons), its well translated first person storyline, and its emphasis on player-driven undirected exploration.

The Drakkhen series' most recognizable feature is its custom overworld engine. First used by the original Amiga version of Drakkhen, it was later used in the PC and SNES ports. The Dragon View version sports basic terrain shading and mountainlike "boundaries" that enclose areas of the continent. While not "True 3D", the overworld engine simulates depth on its own (without the aid of supplementary hardware such as the Super FX chip) using sprite scaling and rudimentary rendering. This system is able to run smoothly on standard SNES hardware because little more than half of the total screen area is ever in use. Since the top and bottom panels are completely static during overworld navigation, all hardware power is focused on rendering the first person view. Even so, framerates can suffer as many sprites are sometimes present on a single screen.

Dungeon Keeper 3

Dungeon Keeper 3: War for the Overworld is a cancelled PC strategy game by Bullfrog Productions for Microsoft Windows. Dungeon Keeper 3 was set to be the next installment in the Dungeon Keeper franchise. Players were charged with managing evil creatures in an underground dungeon and protecting it against the stereotypical righteous and goodly adventurers that conventionally appear in role-playing video games. The series won praise from reviewers for its innovative design and devilish humor. The sequel to Dungeon Keeper 2, it was set to lead the player to do battle in the surface realm of the goodly heroes. A short trailer for the game is included in Dungeon Keeper 2.

Dying Earth

Dying Earth is a fantasy series by the American author Jack Vance, comprising four books originally published from 1950 to 1984.

Some have been called picaresque. They vary from short story collection to fix-up (novel created from older short stories) perhaps all the way to novel.The first book in the series, The Dying Earth, was ranked number 16 of 33 "All Time Best Fantasy Novels" by Locus in 1987, based on a poll of subscribers, although it was marketed as a collection and the ISFDB calls it a "loosely connected series of stories".

Fire Emblem Gaiden

Fire Emblem Gaiden is a tactical role-playing game developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo for the Family Computer. Released in March 1992, it is the second installment in the Fire Emblem series, and the last to be developed for the Famicom. It builds upon the basic turn-based strategy gameplay of the previous title, while including new elements such as a navigable overworld. Set in the same world as its predecessor, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, Gaiden follows the battles of two opposing armies on the continent of Valentia, which is torn apart by political strife involving the princess Celica and her childhood friend Alm.

The development began after the commercial success of Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light: original designer and writer Shouzou Kaga returned and assumed the role of director, while Yuka Tsujiyoko and Gunpei Yokoi returned respectively as composer and producer. Kaga's main concern was addressing pacing issues from the first game, and allowing for a greater connection between players and the characters. The game was a commercial success, selling over 324,000 units as of 2002. It received mixed critical reception and was later compared to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link in its short-lived innovations. Some elements would be used in later Fire Emblem titles. A full remake, titled Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, was released worldwide on the Nintendo 3DS in May 2017.

Keith Courage in Alpha Zones

Keith Courage in Alpha Zones is a 1989 science fantasy action platform video game that was released by NEC for the TurboGrafx-16.

The video game was originally released in Japan by Hudson Soft on August 30, 1988 for the PC Engine (The TG-16's Japanese counterpart), under the title Mashin Eiyūden Wataru (魔神英雄伝ワタル) which is adapted from the anime television series of the same name (Spirit Hero Wataru).

Koji Kondo

Koji Kondo (近藤 浩治, Kondō Kōji, born August 13, 1961) is a Japanese music composer, pianist, and sound director who works for the video game company Nintendo. He is best known for his involvement in numerous contributions in the Mario and The Legend of Zelda series of video games, among others produced by the company. Kondo was originally hired by Nintendo in 1984, becoming the first person hired by them to specialize in musical composition for games. Shortly after, Kondo was assigned as the sound designer on the 1985 game Super Mario Bros. His sound design for the game, more specifically the musical theme for the overworld, has often been cited as among the most memorable in video games.

Metroid Prime

Metroid Prime is a first-person action-adventure game developed by Retro Studios and Nintendo for the GameCube video game console. It was released in North America on November 17, 2002, and in Japan and Europe the following year. Metroid Prime is the fifth main installment in the Metroid series, and the first Metroid game to use 3D computer graphics. Because exploration takes precedence over combat, Nintendo classifies the game as a first-person adventure rather than a first-person shooter. On the same day as its North American release, Nintendo also released the Game Boy Advance game Metroid Fusion, marking the return of the Metroid series after an eight-year hiatus following Super Metroid (1994).Metroid Prime is the first of the three-part Prime storyline, which takes place between the original Metroid and Metroid II: Return of Samus. Like previous games in the series, Metroid Prime has a science fiction setting in which players control the bounty hunter Samus Aran. The story follows Samus as she battles the Space Pirates and their biological experiments on the planet Tallon IV. The game was a collaboration between Retro's staff in Austin, Texas, and Japanese Nintendo employees, including producer Shigeru Miyamoto, who suggested the project after visiting Retro's headquarters in 2000.

The game garnered critical praise and commercial success, selling more than a million units in North America alone. It won a number of Game of the Year awards, and it is considered by many critics and gamers to be one of the greatest video games ever made, remaining one of the highest-rated games on Metacritic. In 2009, an enhanced version was released for the Wii as a standalone game in Japan, and as part of the Metroid Prime Trilogy compilation internationally.

Overworld (Machinae Supremacy album)

Overworld is the third album by the Swedish metal band Machinae Supremacy, which was released on 19 August 2008.

Savant (musician)

Aleksander Vinter is a Norwegian musician. He has released a vast amount of work under numerous aliases but is best known for his electronic music produced under the alias Savant.

Sigma Star Saga

Sigma Star Saga is a 2006 hybrid science fiction role-playing-space-shooter developed by WayForward Technologies for the Game Boy Advance. The player explores a standard 2-D overworld but is transported into space for side-scrolling shooter random battles. In this game, Ian Recker goes undercover against Earth's enemies, the Krill, in a battle to save the planet.

System Shock 2

System Shock 2 is a 1999 first-person action role-playing survival horror video game for personal computers. The title was designed by Ken Levine and co-developed by Irrational Games and Looking Glass Studios. Originally intended to be a standalone title, its story was changed during production into a sequel to the 1994 PC game System Shock. The alterations were made when Electronic Arts—who owned the System Shock franchise rights—signed on as publisher.

The game takes place on board a starship in a cyberpunk depiction of 2114. The player assumes the role of a soldier trying to stem the outbreak of a genetic infection that has devastated the ship. Like System Shock, gameplay consists of first-person combat and exploration. It also incorporates role-playing system elements, in which the player can develop skills and traits, such as hacking and psionic abilities.

System Shock 2 was originally released in August 1999 for Microsoft Windows. The game received critical acclaim but failed to meet commercial sales expectations. Many critics later determined that the game was highly influential in subsequent game design, particularly on first-person shooters, and considered it far ahead of its time. It has been included in several "greatest games of all time" lists. In 2007, Irrational Games released a spiritual successor to the System Shock series, titled BioShock, to critical acclaim and strong sales. System Shock 2 had been in intellectual property limbo following the closure of Looking Glass Studios. Night Dive Studios were able to secure the rights to the game and System Shock franchise in 2013 to release an updated version of System Shock 2 for modern personal computers, including for OS X and Linux systems. OtherSide Entertainment announced in 2015 that they have been licensed the rights from Night Dive Studios to produce a sequel, System Shock 3.

The Eyes of the Overworld

The Eyes of the Overworld is a fantasy fix-up novel by American writer Jack Vance, published by Ace in 1966, the second book in the Dying Earth series that Vance inaugurated in 1950. Retitled Cugel the Clever in its Vance Integral Edition (2005), the book features the self-proclaimed Cugel the Clever in linked stories.

The components of the fix-up were five short works published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction from December 1965 to July 1966, and one original to the book.

The Legend of Zelda (video game)

The Legend of Zelda

is an action-adventure video game developed and published by Nintendo and designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka. Set in the fantasy land of Hyrule, the plot centers on a boy named Link, the playable protagonist, who aims to collect the eight fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom in order to rescue Princess Zelda from the antagonist, Ganon. During the course of the game, the player (seeing Link from a top-down perspective) navigates throughout the overworld and several dungeons, defeating enemies and uncovering secrets along the way.The first game of The Legend of Zelda series, it was originally released in Japan as a launch title for the Family Computer Disk System peripheral in 1986. More than a year later, North America and Europe received releases on the Nintendo Entertainment System in cartridge format, being the first home console title to include an internal battery for saving data. This version was later released in Japan in 1994 under the title The Hyrule Fantasy: The Legend of Zelda 1. The game was ported to the GameCube and Game Boy Advance, and is available via the Virtual Console on the Wii, Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. It was also as one of 30 games included within the NES Classic system, and is featured debuting among NES Switch Online’s library of titles.

The Legend of Zelda was a bestseller for Nintendo, selling over 6.5 million copies. It is often featured in lists of games considered the greatest or most influential. A much different sequel for the same system, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, was first released in Japan less than a year after its predecessor. Eventually spawning many more successive titles and a number of spin-offs in over 30 years, the series has been established as among Nintendo's most popular and beloved.

War for the Overworld

War for the Overworld is a real-time strategy video game developed by Subterranean Games, which changed its name to Brightrock Games based in Brighton, UK. The game started as a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, which ran from November 29, 2012, to January 3, 2013. In the game, players build dungeons containing deadly traps to kill adventuring heroes that enter. The game is inspired by Dungeon Keeper, StarCraft, Overlord, and Evil Genius. It includes a campaign, sandbox mode, and online multiplayer.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.