World Map

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Despite appearances, Crono is not the size of a house.

A map drawn to much smaller scale than the main areas of the game, used to allow the player to travel between areas slower than instant cuts but faster than "real time", as well as (sometimes) explore.

Largely an RPG trope. Stereotypically, eastern RPGs will show characters walking around no matter how gigantic they appear on the map's scale. In this case the map is often sufficiently large that walking from continent to continent can become tiresome after a while - one reason for the introduction of a Global Airship or Warp Whistle. Western RPGs tend to display the party's location more abstractly and spend much less time on the world map.

For the sake of convenience, most world maps 'wrap around' in all four directions; that is, no matter how far you go in a given direction, you'll always end up right back where you started (which means that, the inscription in Daryl's Tomb notwithstanding, the world is not square). This removes the need for the programmers to set up an Invisible Wall, and also prevents the players from getting lost in an unfamiliar area.

Generally, despite its apparent emptiness, you can't walk ten steps across a typical world map without hitting several Random Encounters on the way.

When the World Map is not navigable but you instead only click on the location you want to go, it's a Point and Click Map. If the game reveals it has a second world, or time period, or plane of existence, then it has an Alternate World Map. Non-RPG genres tend to go for the more abstract (sometimes purely cosmetic) Risk-Style Map.

Examples of World Map include:

Eastern Examples

Action Adventure Game


Role-Playing Game

  • Dragon Quest is the Trope Maker for the eastern style, and has yet to diverge from it.
    • Subverted when Dragon Quest VIII did, by featuring a full-scale world map across which you could travel and explore every hill and forest. The only places you couldn't explore were those you logically wouldn't be able to reach by foot, and even those could be traversed once you gained the ability to fly.
  • Final Fantasy used the standard eastern style for the first nine games. Final Fantasy X has an abstract one that's only used for selecting locations for your Global Airship, and XI and XII don't have any at all.
  • Games like Breath of Fire and Chrono Trigger have the world map loop at the edges, giving the impression that what you see is the entire world (and shaped like a donut.)
  • Chrono Cross features a strange world map—it's really tiny and has no enemies on it, at all. Then again, there were no enemies on Chrono Trigger's world map, but it was larger.
    • Chrono Cross takes place on only a single archipelago. So it's an “island map” rather than a world map.
    • It is comparatively small; however the map is quite rich and densely packed with visitable locations.
  • Skies of Arcadia had you literally fly around the overworld in whatever airship you had at the time. It was the only time you could save freely, almost everything was comically scaled down, and it was actually notoriously bad about the high random encounter rate, which the Gamecube port fixed a bit.
  • The Tales (series).
  • Golden Sun also features it: the first game only takes place on one-and-a-half continent with no other means of transportation than your feet, but the second lets you visit the entire flat world (apart from the parts available in the first): after a while, you gain a Cool Boat, then wings to put on your boat, then a Teleport Psynergy in the Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
  • Appears in Shin Megami Tensei. However, you are not shown like a giant version of yourself, but by an arrow pointing your position.
  • Pokémon has a map in all games. However, in Generations II-IV, it's not a seperate map, but a part of your current Schizo Technical gadget.
    • Although this is actually an aversion - instead of a world map, you have a thing called Routes. Instead of wandering through the world map from Pallet Town to Viridian City, you walk along Route 1.

Western Examples

Action Adventure Game

  • Metroid Prime 3 has a navigation map that allows Samus to choose in which planet and available landing area to reach when she's inside her gunship. This is necessary because, unlike the other games in the series, Corruption takes place on an entire galaxy, and thus various planets and ships instead of just one.


  • Toontown Online has a world map, but it's mostly covered in clouds until you reach that place. You also won't be able to have access to teleport there until you finish a (hard/long/tedious) task.


  • The Map Screen of Donkey Kong Country 3 became a World Map, as the player could roam around it freely, while in previous games in the series the player could only move from level to level on a linear path.

Role-Playing Game

  • In the Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale games, as well as Neverwinter Nights 2, when on the world map, the party's location is shown as a dot, and the player is unable to travel towards anything other than certain known destinations.
  • Prior to Ultima VI, the series used a world map that you walked around on looking for Clown Car Cities and dungeons to plunder.
  • Ditto the similar Exile series, which eventually got to the point of having an entire continent and several enormous cave networks riddled with points of interest mapped out in excruciating detail.
  • The first two games in the Fallout series have the world map covering about half of California and southern Oregon, cut up into nominal tiles which the player could move freely around. The positions of the player's party, locations of interest, random encounters and such are indicated by the same retro-oscilloscope graphics the PIPBoy uses. The third game in the series has a "map" that's a scale representation of the actual in-game play area. The difference in Fallout 3 is that every point on the map corresponds to some piece of actual terrain; in the previous games, the "wasteland" in between important locations was dynamically generated. To compensate, the third game is limited to the Greater Washington DC Metropolitan area, rather than the hundreds of miles of the previous two.
  • Arcanum uses a map that covers a continent that works much like the older Fallout maps.
    • Notably, you could walk from area to area without using the World Map, though that could get tedious since the game world is very big and the non-important areas are generic land with nothing of interest other than the occasional monster.
  • In keeping with its JRPG roots, Summoner has a very eastern-style map you walk around and drop into Random Encounters from.

Wide Open Sandbox

  • Utterly averted by Subnautica. You get a compass -- if you find enough scraps from which to generate a blueprint for one -- and that's it for tools to help you navigate your way around the two-kilometer-square caldera in which your starship crashed. Made worse by the wide and varied biomes under the ocean that outside of the shallows are undetectable from the surface, and the fact that you have exactly four landmarks above the surface (your escape pod, the wreck of your starship, and two islands).

Non-Video Game Examples

Western Animation

  • There is a talking, sentient world map in Wakfu the protagonists seek as the first step on finding the little boy's home. The maps like it are rare, but weak on the scale of talking, sentient items.
  • Another non-video game example... although, because of meta reasons, it isn't - Captain N: The Game Master.