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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.
Action Adventure Game
- Zelda II the Adventure of Link was a fairly straight example, in keeping with its RPG Elements.
- The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass and The Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks ended up making the sailing/train driving like this. There are a few interesting things out there, but they mostly serve purpose of getting you to the places where things actually happen while fighting off Random Encounters.
- Super Mario Galaxy 2 used a combination of the Hub Level system in the last game with this; Mario could traverse his fairly small Face Ship in order to collect extra lives, talk with other characters, and switch with Luigi, but once he steps in front of the steering wheel, he accesses the levels themselves from a map.
- Super Mario Bros 3 was probably the first in the series to use this, and Super Mario World and Yoshis Island took it further.
- And both New Super Mario Bros and New Super Mario Bros Wii.
- This trope somehow made it even outside the main Canon thanks to Bill Mudron's Fan Art, whose Arc Welding blended Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, Yoshis Island and Super Mario RPG into a single World Map for all of them. For those curious, he did the same for Hyrule, the setting of The Legend Of Zelda.
- 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).
- Though Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World uses a point-and-click map due to budget constraints.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
Non-Video Game Examples
- 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.