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.
In RPGs 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)
- Every Assassin's Creed game game has an overworld, and they get progressively bigger with each game. They're also all based on real-world locations and very roughly match their geography:
- The Kingdom in Assassin's Creed I is set in the Levant, linking to the real-world cities of Acre, Damascus, Jerusalem, Masyaf, and the battlefield of Arsuf. Most of these places are in what is now Syria and one in Israel, with Lebanon presumably making up part of the Kingdom.
- Assassin's Creed II is the only one in the series that doesn't really have an overworld—it's instead divided into the cities and towns of Florence, Forli, Monteriggioni, San Gimignano, and Venice, with a very small area set in Rome at the very end and one intermediary section set in the Appenine Mountains, which seems to be a direct homage to the Kingdom from the previous game as a rural area, and even has the same area music.
- Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is almost entirely overworld—the only parts of the game that aren't set in Rome are an early sequence at Monteriggioni, the very last sequence set at Viana (in Spain), and the Da Vinci war machine levels, which are set in different parts of Italy and essentially act as dungeons.
- Assassin's Creed: Revelations continues the trend by blending "town" with "overworld" and setting almost the entire game in Constantinople. There's a sub-area in Cappadocia which could qualify as an underworld (it's a Byzantine-controlled city in a massive cave) and Masyaf returns from the first game as a special sub-area only accessed by Ezio at the very beginning and the very end, but the player revisits it as Altaïr several times.
- A "true" overworld separate from the cities finally returns in Assassin's Creed III in the form of the Frontier, set in New England. This region links to real-world cities Boston and New York and to the fictional Davenport Homestead. Through harbormasters, Connor can also travel to smaller areas throughout North America, as far south as Jamaica and Martinique and all the way up to the Northwest Passage.
- Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is almost entirely set in the West Indies with its major sub-areas being Great Inagua, Havana, Kingston (plus Port Royal), and Nassau, with others including the island of Principe (off of Africa) and the fictional Long Bay. There are also underwater sub-areas that Edward can access via diving bell and two different areas of the Carolinas which are only accessed in two certain sequences. Most of the overworld is open water that you sail between on your pirate ship with islands littered across it that make up both smaller towns and wild locations.
- Assassin's Creed: Rogue uniquely has three different sections to the overworld: the North Atlantic (actually the Gulf of St. Lawrence) in the Canadian Maritimes, basically a cold version of the West Indies; New York (bigger than it was in Assassin's Creed III); and the River Valley (an inland area that you can sail around in your ship that includes parts of New York state, Virginia, Canada, and regions). There are far fewer sub-areas than in other games, mostly limited to individual sequences, probably the most notable being Lisbon, Portugal.
- Assassin's Creed: Unity goes back to what the Ezio Trilogy had by the overworld being blended with a city and has two major urban center for its overworld: smaller Versailles, and gigantic Paris. There are no dedicated sub-areas to either city.
- And finally, Assassin's Creed: Syndicate has its main overworld as entirely being London. There are sub-areas in this one, specifically the Tower of London for a sequence with Evie and a few single-sequence areas from the very beginning before the story shifts to London, but there's also a larger sub-overworld set during World War I that follows Jacob's descendant Lydia Frye, set in a separate area of London apart from the Victorian-era overworld.
- 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 a large, detailed overworld; 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. The Surface, on the other hand, blurs the line between overworld and dungeon, by incorporating puzzles and more dangerous enemies than expected of traditional overworlds, though they still serve as areas that connect to dungeons.
- In Breath of the Wild, the overworld is more emphasized than ever before, with it not only being at least 12 times larger than Twilight Princess, but by also having various weapons, enemies, and treasures scattered about it. The dungeons largely take a backseat to the overworld, as most of the puzzle solving is divided into brief Shrines, while the main dungeons themselves are significantly smaller than dungeons in previous games.
- Metroid overworlds don't quite fit the mold of being open, easygoing areas with weak enemies, but the games usually provide combat-light central areas that connect to most other areas.
- 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.
- Victoria Island from MapleStory is where all players go to decide on which class they want to play as for the rest of the game and links to all major areas.
- The various homeworlds found in the Spyro the Dragon original franchise.
- The Mushroom Kingdom stages for the Super Mario Bros. series. Usually called Ground stages or Grasslands.
- Donkey Kong: Here Ground Stage is Jungle Japes instead of Green Hill Zone since it takes place on a tropical island. Still there are thicker parts of the Jungle, sometimes referred to as the Forest for differentiation, that are more equivalent to a proper Jungle Japes rather than The Lost Woods.
- 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. To note:
- The Iliac Bay area in Daggerfall is so enormous that travelling from one town to another without fast travel can take several hours or even days in real-time. Though the fact that most of it is randomly generated and reuses assets means that there's no real benefit in not using fast travel, and is probably why even the massive overworlds of the later games use Space Compression.
- In Morrowind, the Vvardenfell island is a single continuous explorable location, dotted with countless entrances to smaller dungeon and indoors levels.
- Oblivion is similar to Morrowind with its portrayal of Cyrodiil, except that entire cities are also rendered as smaller sub-levels accessible from the overworld, in large part so the unique designs for the cities can be rendered without crashing the game.
- Skyrim makes Skyrim around twice as big as Cyrodiil (it's actually the other way around in the lore, but they couldn't really avoid this contradiction without being at the expense of the gameplay) and also features the same "cities as sub-levels" approach as its predecessor. There is also the smaller underground overworld of Blackreach, which provides numerous back-entrances to dozens of Dwemer dungeons across northern Skyrim.
- One of the three dimensions in Minecraft, the other two being The Nether and The End.
- Red Dead Redemption has a positively massive overworld, comprised of three sub-areas: New Austin (the largest and most centralized), Nuevo Paraiso, and West Elizabeth (the smallest).
Non-Video Game Examples
- Ponyville in Sonic Generations: Friendship Is Timeless . It's not exactly "neutral", though, as that's where the changeling battle in chapter 13 occurred.