Follow TV Tropes


Cartography Sidequest

Go To

A type of objective within a game that involves completing a map of some kind. Typically, the game will have one or multiple minimaps with invisible, unexplored areas that will fill in as they get further explored. Once the map is 100% complete, the player might receive some sort of reward, although it may only count towards their overall mapping or game completion percentage.

On larger maps or games where the map only fills in small areas surrounding the player, this can quickly turn into a Last Lousy Point for each and every map, especially if the visual representation for the explored area is none too precise.

Even with no reward, maps that fill themselves in may show areas the player hasn't explored yet or missed for some reason, making them useful for finding or keeping track of potential items and treasure.

See also Crow's Nest Cartography, which may be employed as a related mechanic.


    open/close all folders 

    Action Adventure 
  • Avalon Code rewards you for exploring rooms completely with Book of Prophecy points.
  • In the Assassin's Creed series, visiting each and every Synchronization Point and renovating every shop, stable, tunnel, etc. is required for 100% Completion. Furthermore, in later titles, there are other ways of revealing the map: in Assassin's Creed III, merely moving around the map reveals it, which is useful in areas not covered by viewpoints; in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, conquering naval forts reveals entire regions of the overworld.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the map of the Great Sea has to be drawn gradually by feeding the Fishman in each insular square (there is a total of 49). To make up for the long time needed for this and the amount of Bait required, each Fishman provides useful information on how to complete other sidequests, and in some cases important clues regarding the main quest's objectives (i.e. the location of a Triforce Chart, or how to access a dungeon).
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, activating the Sheikah Towers gives Link a map of the surrounding region and a new teleport location for the Sheikah Slate. Only the very first Tower found on the Great Plateau is required to beat the game.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom has the Skyview Towers scattered across Hyrule. Like the Sheikah Towers in the previous game, they provide map data and fast-travel locations, and are also optional save for the first one. Unlike in the previous games, the Skyview Towers have the additional function of giving Link a quick way to get into the sky regions of the game.
  • In Horizon Zero Dawn, Aloy is able to find and override six 'Tallneck' machines, which scan the surrounding area and reveal it on your map. Like many aspects of the game, these sections are entirely optional, as the information they provide is useful but not essential.

    Action RPG 
  • Freshly-Picked Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland had a mapping quest: you first had to find the area map. Once you'd discovered it, there were three or four landmarks in each area, missing from the map. You had to add them on, then return the map to a store in the first town. You were paid for each landmark. If you completed the map, it was bought off you, and you had to buy it back. (if you wanted the map, obviously)
  • Visiting all 3000 rooms in Meritous nets the Infinity +1 Sword.
  • Shadow Complex nets you experience points for exploring new areas. This can be repeated during subsequent playthroughs.
  • Ys: Memories of Celceta: Actually the main quest is initially to complete the map, although it takes a backseat after certain plot events. This continues in Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, where Adol is tasked with mapping out the island that the characters are stranded on.

  • You get experience for each part of the map visited in an area in Waxworks (1992). This is the only way to level up in the London area. The same applies to Elvira 2: Jaws of Cerberus.
  • In the marine exploration Endless Ocean games, certain items and events will only appear/occur when certain percentages of the map have been uncovered. This also occurs in the sequel: Oceana starts a cartography business, and each map is completed as you travel to every part of the area, getting you a ton of money.

    Eastern RPG 
  • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, which had huge maps and lots of little crevices you had to walk into to complete the maps. Most people only bothered for the really good rewards, if they bothered at all.
  • The DS remake of Final Fantasy IV has this sidequest given to you by Naming... Er, Mappingway. Not only do you get rewards for each map completed, but you also get the Treasure Hunter augment if you complete them all.
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2 awards an achievement for getting 100% completion on all of the game's maps. It was made worse with some locations (specifically: New Bodhum and Academia) having different maps in at least one time period, while others (specifically: Bresha Ruins) having parts of them blocked off in each time period they appear in, so you cannot explore them fully until you unlock all time gates leading there. The level automap is supposed to make this easier by showing parts of the map you haven't visited yet but on some maps (New Bodhum again), the last lousy region appears as a tiny dark sliver even on maximum zoom, resulting in a lot of frustration.
  • The DS game Nostalgia (Red Entertainment) had a sidequest in which you look for landmarks on the world map based on clues from NPCs. Every ten landmarks you found earned you a reward.
  • In Uncharted Waters: New Horizons, this is actually the main quest for one of the six characters, Ernst von Bohr, whose life dream is to compile the map of the entire world. Other characters, especially of the Adventurer background, may take it as a side quest, too, if only to make a quick buck. Even Ernst, though, does not have to complete the map, so it is just a sidequest presented initially as your main objective.
  • Etrian Odyssey: The entire stated plot purpose in the games is to map the dungeons. There are also sidequests that involve reporting places to look for resources, and in later games you're rewarded by reporting a floor's map as long as most of it is accurately drawn.
  • Wild ARMs 3 had one for uncovering the entire map. Getting Lombardia makes it easier to complete.
  • Skies of Arcadia's "Discoveries"; it's the age of exploration and you can earn money by reporting all of the interesting things you find while travelling the world. Counts as cartography because you have to go *everywhere* to find all the discoveries, and because some of the discoveries involve adding whole new locations to the map (Lands of Ice, Yafutoma, The World Is Round). There's also another guy looking for them; the longer you take, the more he finds, and the more rewards you lose out on because he got 'em. At a certain point in the game, if you've found enough of them, he'll join your crew (which gives stat bonuses) and you won't have to worry about anyone else beating you to them.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1 rewards the player with bonus EXP, SP (skill points), and Ability points every time you discover a landmark and hidden locations on the world map, which also serve a waypoints that you can warp back to.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: One of BLADE's primary missions is to explore and map out planet Mira, in order to gather data on the indigenous wildlife, mine for resources, and to recover wreckage from the White Whale; particularly, what's left of the Lifehold. In return, you gain EXP, Miranium (the in-game currency), and SP that can be used to raise your skill level within your chosen field.
  • Tales of Vesperia gives an Achievement for exploring the entire world map.
  • This is the whole point of the DSiWare dungeon crawler Picdun. The layouts of each floor create little pixel images when they're completely mapped out, and a floor isn't considered "complete" until you've explored every space on it.
  • Persona 2: Eternal Punishment has a sidequest involving this given out by a rich sheik: completing each map he gives you nets you a lot of rare cards, which are used to summon Personas and teach them skills.
  • Resonance of Fate has a hex grid system for an overworld map, with hexes being used to unlock them which are dropped by enemies in combat. Players can see the whole map and can unlock a direct path to each necessary destination, but certain hexes off the beaten path can be unlocked which contain items. Unlocking all hexes on a given level will let energy stations constructed on that level give the player access to the home base, bypassing the cumbersome and time-wasting core lift elevators. And unlocking all the hexes in the game gives each character a bonus costume.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, a Dantalion in Sector Eridanus will reward you for mapping specific floors. He gives you five of every type of incense if you step on every tile in the game (and you get an achievement for it), but between hazard floors, dark areas, and the excruciatingly boring Trial-and-Error Gameplay pitfall maze in the New Game Plus area of Sector Grus, most players conclude that it isn't worth it. Especially since you only need to map out three floors from three separate sectors to finish the quest the game actually counts.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • A compulsory objective on some Marathon levels aboard the Pfhor starship where your mission is reconnaissance.
  • In Deus Ex finding locations in the world typically rewards the player with experience points. These range from small amounts with finding quest locations, to larger amounts for finding hidden entrances and secret areas.
  • The Borderlands series.
  • In Far Cry 3, parts of the map unlock when you destroy the signal jammers of the radio towers in the game world.

  • You get titles for exploring the map in Guild Wars — there's a series of titles, so you'll get a "reward" for considerably less than every pixel, but they're given for mapping out the entire game rather than one area, so it'll take a while anyways.
  • Retro Mud gives bonuses to gaining certain levels if the player explores a certain percent of the world(s).
  • World of Warcraft actually does this for each zone, giving a lesser achievement for each, and then an overall achievement for getting ALL of them, which also grants a title ('The Explorer'). You don't have to cover every inch of the map, though, just visit each named sub-zonal area; there are about 10-30 per zone on average. You also get a tiny bit of experience each time you discover a new sub-area.
  • The Lord of the Rings Online has dozens of deeds for visiting key points in every single area, anything from all the farms in the Shire to all the dungeons of Moria.
  • Most adventure areas in Dungeons & Dragons Online have an Explorer quest which awards experience for finding various checkpoints and a bonus for finding all the checkpoints in a single area.
  • The explorable zones of Guild Wars 2 contain features (including skill challenges, waypoints and points of interest) which can be discovered by the player, and an achievement and title are awarded when the player finds all of these. There is also a separate set of achievements which tracks the discovery of sub-zonal areas in each region.
  • Final Fantasy XIV:
    • The added the Sightseeing Log in patch 2.28. The idea is to view the Scenery Porn that is in the game, but was poorly implemented. It only gives cryptic clues as to the locations of the scenery (it at least tells you them by zone), and you don't get credit for simply arriving at said location. You have to be in just the right spot, with the right weather, and the right time of day, and use a specific emote (such as /look). However, the clues to the time/weather/emote required are cryptic at best and sometimes misleadingnote , and the only visual indication you are in the correct spot to use the emote is an easily-missed entry in the chat log. Also, the times the weather can change are often right before the start of the time a log entry can be completed. So, even if you know what scenery the clues are referring to it's very difficult to get credit for visiting it, making it very much a Guide Dang It!. All for a minion. Time will tell if SE decides to revamp this further.
    • The Heavensward expansion came with an update to the Sightseeing Log, adding additional pages for various vistas in and around the new zones. Although the clues were arguably worse than those in the original Log (using the exact same verbiage outside of changing the zone name), the spots were nonetheless a little easier to locate due to the glowing ground marker indicating their position. Unlike the 2.58 Log, getting credit for each vista only required the use of either the /lookout or /pray emote. Additionally, each entry conferred an XP reward that scaled with character level, and finding all of them granted both an achievement and a new title.

  • In ToeJam & Earl, each square on the map screen that you uncover adds a point to your score, and increasing your score is the main method of increasing your ranking. Squares that are made semi-visible by picking up telephones don't count; you have to actually visit the square. Fortunately, just visiting the very corner of the square makes the whole thing appear, so you can often get credit for a square that's mostly empty space if there's a tiny outcropping of land poking from an adjacent square.
  • The Castlevania series is fond of this trope.


    Western RPG 
  • Ultima Underworld awarded experience points for exploring the Abyss.
  • Fallout:
    • Fallout 2 has a couple small-scale cartography quests in Vault City: one is exploring the eight map squares surrounding Gecko; the other one is finding a route to the capital of the NCR.
    • Fallout 3: Reilly, a mercenary leader, will ask you to map out the Capital Wasteland in exchange for 30 caps for each spot after you save her squad. The unmarked quest, Geomapping with Reilly, can be made easier by using the "Explorer" perk, which reveals every location but doesn't discover them, or by using the Fallout Wiki and major landmarks to find your way without wasting a perk slot.
    • All the 3-D Fallout games award a small amount of experience per visited landmark. Fallout: New Vegas has an achievement for finding 75 landmarks, which gives you even more experience upon completion.
  • Superhero League of Hoboken gives you a small "Exploration Bonus" XP reward for uncovering every space in a sector.
  • The Elder Scrolls series' backstory has an in-universe example in Topal the Pilot. Topal was an Aldmeri Bold Explorer and poet, and the first to discover and explore Tamriel during the Merethic Era, encountering primitive versions of the Khajiit and Argonians, as well as a now extinct race of bird people. Aldmeri leadership tasked Topal, a skilled cartographer, to explore and document Tamriel's inland regions, which were very mysterious to them at the time. The details of his trip were compiled in the epic Father of the Niben, but many of the details were lost over time.