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The Top 7... Amazing video game maps that do more than just show the way to go

The two purposes of a game map are to show you which direction you should be heading towards and more importantly, to indicate which area you’re yet to loot for power-ups and collectibles.

But some maps are made with so much love and serve up so many with original ideas that they deserve to be listed alongside the game’s bullet-points on the back of the box. Or at least detailed in a special online journalistic list-article comprising an arbitrary number of entries. Say… seven? Yeah, let’s go with seven.

7. Mass Effect 2

Amazing because of it makes us feel like Vangelis-listening children

Not only is Mass Effect 2’s galaxy map an absolute visual treat, it’s also delivered in such a way that it feels like an integral part of the whole game and fits in seamlessly. When it all boils down, it’s simply a map, but it’s a bloody good ‘un.

You access the galaxy map aboard the Normandy and then pilot the tiny replica spacecraft over a superb intergalactic backdrop of stars and planets. There’s even a sci-fi soundtrack loop that contains shades of Vangelis, that provides a seriously soothing atmosphere for your planet-hopping. Even the much-maligned resource mining – where you suck planets dry of their precious metals to buy stuff - is an enjoyable and relaxing experience. For us anyway.

It’s the attention to detail that’s piled into the map that makes it so special and ultimately secures its place on this list. Each of the planets has a unique look and description/history attached to it. And of course, the map also allows you to visit our own solar system – complete with a little easter egg when you <ahem> probe Uranus.

But our favourite thing about Mass Effect 2’s galaxy map is that it takes us back to happier, pre-pubic times. Steering the tiny Normandy over the map reminds us when even a TV remote could be turned into a spaceship as we embarked on another game of ‘spaceman’ and spun round the living room before ‘docking’ with a startled cat – or Fur planet - as our imaginations ran wild.

If you’d told our innocent minds that we’d be able to do this very space travel twenty years from then, via a video game, then we’d have laughed and possibly reported you as a stranger danger. Well done, BioWare, your galaxy map really is out of this world. 

6. Doom

Amazing because it is a bloody terrifying meta-game

Doom, eh? Scary game. You don’t go around with a name like “Doom” unless you’re intending to be scary. “Ultra-Blood-Kill” is another good idea for a scary game name. As is “Monster Face-Eating Party of Despair”. Or “Seething Bloody Carnival of People Getting Power Drills Shoved in Their Eyes”. But no game title says “This is going to be bloody scary” as simply, succinctly and powerfully as “Doom”. Dictionary.com defines the meaning of the word as “unavoidable ill fortune”, and no-one likes that. It also mentions ruin, death and the end of the world. And if that was the sort of ill fortune you were looking at, you’d bloody well want to be able to avoid it.

So, Doom’s scariness established, it would only make sense for Doom’s map to be bloody scary too. And it is. All too often, the video game map is the refuge of the weak and cowardly. The paper or PDA-based shield against all of a game’s stressful horrors. The mother’s skirt for hiding behind, if you will, only with more geographical information, and less gingham than the twee nostalgic, 1950s variant of that metaphorical image we currently have in our heads.

But in Doom, the map screen isn’t a safe place you can run away and hide in when it all becomes too much. In Doom, the map screen is even scarier than the main game. Because in Doom, the map screen is a playable, real-time, overhead wire-frame version of the in-game action. A big, empty, black wire-frame version, with none of the detail, none of the clearly visible monsters, but all of the horrible sounds of your impending – or currently occurring – death. In fact, with the “iddt” cheat (which shows the entire map immediately, without the need for exploration-driven draw-in) it’s probably technically possible to play the entirety of Doom on the map screen, and doing so would make it the hardest, darkest, most confusing, and ultimately manliest survival horror game ever made

It’s debatable whether it would be any fun, but that’s just how scary Doom is. Too scary to bother considering anything as petty as your positive human sensations like “fun”. Some versions allow you to overlay the map on top of the main game, yes, but that's just Doom's way of drawing out the wussy cheaters. So that it can eat their weak souls.

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54 comments

  • Fox_Mulder - January 20, 2012 12:59 a.m.

    Great article. I especially loved the changed *Or made up jargon obtained by infiltrating Miyamoto's e-mail. The Driver: SF map looks essentially like the Skyrim map, being rendered in real time, but is way cooler because of it's upgradeability. Keep up the awesome Top 7 features guys!
  • winner2 - January 18, 2012 4:26 p.m.

    The map/gps from farcry 2 and I had a love/hate relationship. That game felt pretty real for farcry as well. No mutant animal powers, no pause map, and random malaria attacks. But they took out the option of going prone, and that was where I was shocked.
  • TheRevLives - January 18, 2012 2:59 p.m.

    Didn't GTA IV use the same map from the first Saint's Row? Also, Surprised Oblivion's or Morrowind's isn't here.
  • mothbanquet - January 18, 2012 8:16 a.m.

    I remember Operation Flashpoint. A bog-standard OS map, a watch and a compass. You get lost, better brush up on your orienteering skills...
  • armerus - January 17, 2012 4:08 p.m.

    I knew when I saw Matt Cundy's happy smiling face on the featured article, that I was going to enjoy it. I agree, maps are a good part of a game. Without them it is inevitable that I would be a balled up wreck by the end of the day. These maps are truly great, but I especially love the games that come with map posters, cause I find them a lot more awesome, not only because you can hang them up and shizz, but you can also see where your going without having to go through a menu.
  • sleepyMexican45 - January 17, 2012 11:01 a.m.

    Cundy looks like a drunken tramp.
  • A9entOfChaos - January 17, 2012 7:56 a.m.

    No love for the Skyrim map? I know it doesn't help you get up the various mountains and it does not calculate a route like GPS. But there is something about looking at that map and thinking wow! How the **** do i get there? IT adds to the adventure IMO.
  • Gyaruson - January 17, 2012 7:43 a.m.

    Saints Row 1 had a turn-by-turn guidance system in their game, and that was before GTA4 by over a year and a half. It didn't have voice directions, but it had the same "follow this line to reach your destination" in the minimap. Plus it didn't have a cell phone, which made it infinitely better than GTA4. So, there's that.
  • A9entOfChaos - January 17, 2012 7:54 a.m.

    Cool Story
  • Gyaruson - January 17, 2012 9:36 a.m.

    Thanks! It makes me happy to know that my quest for factual awareness has brought you a little bit of joy in your life. HAVE A GREAT DAY!
  • Rowdie - January 17, 2012 8:36 p.m.

    And we have yet another reason why GTA IV is so overrated.
  • ColinKapow - January 17, 2012 5:50 a.m.

    Teetees! I love it when there is a really obscure top 7
  • Zeos - January 16, 2012 11:18 p.m.

    Lol. Awesome article as always, guys!
  • brizzie - January 16, 2012 8:51 p.m.

    In GTA IV I actually used the physical map to mark all the armor, weapons, pigeons, rare locations (like the sports car shop or the motorcycle shop or the "Rich House"<-- House with a chopper, motorcycle and a sports car) and I used the street names to find the cars for "Steve".
  • FOZ - January 16, 2012 4:46 p.m.

    ME2 didn't have a map so much as a pointless little flying mini-game. Odd. Metroid Prime's is one of the most detailed and actually useful maps ever. Far Cry 2's magic map was a pain, because it was all you had to look at unless you wanted to get lost. Make awesome visuals, no GPS or arrow system. This brown piece of paper sure is more appealing than all that jungle and sprawling savanna.
  • A9entOfChaos - January 17, 2012 7:57 a.m.

    Let me guess.. someone stole your sweet roll?
  • archnite - January 16, 2012 4:05 p.m.

    I'd add the Just Cause map for when you first open the map up and think "wow this game is pretty big" and then pull back and realize you were only looking at like an eight of the whole thing. Plus it did the Driver: San Fran thing first.
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - January 16, 2012 2:59 p.m.

    Mass Effect 2 should be 6 and Doom should be 7. Just saying.
  • TURbo - January 16, 2012 1:06 p.m.

    Skyrim map interface was one of the most weakest parts of the game.

Showing 1-20 of 54 comments

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