Welcome to the Overworld. This is the neutral unifying setting in a Video Game
. It's where you are when you aren't Dungeon Crawling
or visiting Adventure Towns
In Action Games
and Platform Games
that don't follow the Overworld vs. Underworld
format, the Overworld is sometimes referred to as a Ground Level. It's the "basic" themed Video Game Setting
as opposed to the more specialized levels or stages that employ special mechanics like swimming
. It usually overlaps with Green Hill Zone
or the Plains, but it can also be determined by the overall setting. Well lit, safe streets if the setting is confined to one city, or the thinnest part of the Jungle if the whole game takes place in the tropics.
In Adventuring games the Overworld may be a fully explorable world, like a Dungeon
or an Adventure Town
only much larger with less monsters or NPCs
. It will not follow the progression of a Dungeon but will have its fair share of puzzles, mooks
, hidden items, passable
and impassable obstacles
and occasionally a miniboss.
It's a good place to explore in between levels.
the Overworld may be a Fantasy World Map
(see Overworld Not to Scale
) used solely for progressing from one Dungeon or Adventure Town
to the next. Certain areas that require more nuance or have plot elements around them may shift it to an adventure like format. When crossing a certain bridge or a trekking up a specific mountain path, the camera may zoom in for the section to be drawn to scale and have more opportunities for exploration and solving small puzzles. Always expect random encounters to happen here.
The Overworld will typically play a rendition of the game's main theme. In older games, the song may become Bootstrapped into the main theme just because it's the one song everyone is guaranteed to hear when they play, especially if there isn't a save feature and you always start from the beginning.
A type of Fantasy World Map
. In terms of size and activity it is on the 3-part scale of Playable Menu
(small, interactive list of places to go), Hub Level
(mid size, warps you to other locations), and finally The Overworld
(large, environment physically/geographically connected to other places)
to Overworld Not to Scale
. Compare Green Hill Zone
(the most common type of Overworld) and Hub Level
- Hyrule Field for The Legend of Zelda, possibly the Trope Maker for the Adventure-style overworld.
- Hyrule and the Dark World in A Link to the Past serve as this collectively. In contrast, this is more directly in Hyrule's ballpark in A Link Between Worlds, where Lorule is made up in large part of Disconnected Side Areas.
- In The Wind Waker, the Great Sea serves this role, an interesting take on the concept being that you have to traverse by boat. There are small islands that have nuances you can explore but, its mostly just open seas.
- Twilight Princess features the largest, most detailed overworld of any Zelda game to date; featuring varied terrain, scores of enemies, and secret grottos. In fact, it's so massive that the game gives you Epona early on; otherwise, getting around can take a while.
- In Skyward Sword it's the Sky, which you have to traverse by giant bird. As in The Wind Waker there are small floating islands strewn out among the clouds.
- Brinstar from Metroid 1 and Metroid: Zero Mission, the area where you start out and which can access all the other areas except for Ridley's Hideout.
- The areas in Metroid II: Return of Samus don't really have names, but there is a clear overworld section that has the most melodic theme (the other areas generally use more ambient tracks to set the mood).
- Crateria and Brinstar sorta split the difference in Super Metroid; Maridia can be accessed from either, but the other areas can only be accessed from one or the other (Norfair from Brinstar, Wrecked Ship and Tourian from Crateria).
- Tallon Overworld in Metroid Prime has elevators to all but one of the other zones. True to form, it also plays the Brinstar theme from Metroid.
- The Main Deck in Metroid: Fusion is where you can find the main entrances to all the other Sectors.
- Temple Grounds in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes doubles as the Hub Level.
- Bryyo Cliffside in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, but only for that particular planet.
- The Main Sector in Metroid: Other M, which is very similar to the Main Deck from Fusion.
- The Shinshu and Ryoshima plains in Ōkami.
- Shadow of the Colossus has one shrine in the center of the map and then an expansive overworld with 16 bosses in it. That's it. And it's beautiful.
- Star Trek Online has "sector space", interstellar space which the player's starship travels through at warp to get from one star system to another.
Wide Open Sandbox
Non-Video Game Examples
- Ultima and their predecessor Akalabeth is among the first games ever to use an overworld. The overworld in Dragon Quest series was influenced by the Ultima series.
- Xenoblade's overworld is utterly massive. It has 20 maps, each of them absolutely sprawling landscapes teeming with wildlife, landmarks, sidequests, and hidden areas. It's a telling sign when the game enables a "quick travel" function from the start and even awards EXP simply for exploring the world map!
- Xenoblade Chronicles X expands upon the original with a world map that's approximately 400sq. miles, spread across five continents, floating land masses, and the islands out in the ocean. And the only way you'll be able to fully explore it is by unlocking your SKELLS' flight capability.
- Resonance of Fate takes place entirely within one tower. This tower is big enough to warrant having a hex-grid-based world map to travel between cities and dungeons. You can also activate terminals on the world map to give yourself bonus effects in combat, if you connect it to a dungeon or, better yet, the arena.
- Pokémon has the various Routes inbetween cities and caves. Unlike most overworlds that are extremely expansive with points of interests scattered, the Routes are more like connect the dots, each being a straight shot to one other place. Also Random Encounters only happen in Tall Grass.There are typically a few different Route themes. The early ones are more bouncy like you're out camping, as it progresses they get more noble as you're now on a true adventure.
- Earthbound has the Eagleland overworld, which actually has roads, just like in Real Life. You sometimes get to ride in the tour bus with a local band down them, but otherwise you walk like in other RPGs.
- Neverwinter Nights 2 got one in its second expansion, Storm of Zehir. Previously the game had you fast travel between locations.
- Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden parodies the Overworld Not to Scale type, with an overworld that only becomes accessible right before the end of the game, and only contains two locations, the place where you need to go, and the city where you've spent the entire game so far.
- Final Fantasy had the overworld until X, where they started to replace it with tube-like "road" locations.
- The Elder Scrolls series boast some of the largest Overworlds in gaming.