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

2. Super Mario World

Amazing because it allows you to reshape reality

Super Mario Bros. 3 was the first game in the series to use a hub map for more free-form exploration of the game world, but to classify Super Mario World’s map as just an evolution of that idea is like saying that cocktails are just an evolution of the idea of drinking the fermented juice of rotten fruit. Where Super Mario Bros. 3's map simply provided a couple of different level options at a time in order to avoid repetition fatigue, and facilitated a few spot-challenges like the multiple one-on-one Hammer and Boomerang Brother fights, Super Mario World expanded and deepened its map to make it as much a part of the gameplay as the individual levels themselves.

The last word of Super Mario World’s title, you see, wasn’t just a throwaway addition. It was fundamental to the way the whole game was experienced. Super Mario World was a Super Mario RPG long before Squaresoft ever thought of suckling on the plumber’s pre-rendered teat. It was packed with secret areas (unlockable through clever play in the main levels) which could fundamentally reshape the way the game played. The giant Switch Palaces would put extra blocks into platform stages right across the world, opening up new routes, new power-up opportunities and creating whole new areas. In turn, navigating those new routes and areas led to new level exits, which themselves led to new levels and more new secret areas on the map. 

Above: And it's really pretty and everywhere is named after food. You would go here on holiday

The constant back-and-forth interplay between overworld and individual levels gave Super Mario World an almost Zelda-like sense of discovery and progression. Doubly so, when you consider that switching between the two parts of the game was made all the more easy via the ability to jump out of any completed level by pressing Start and Select together. This made tactical power-up harvesting a standard technique, promoting smart, RPG-style inventory management in order to tackle the different gameplay approaches needed to unlock further secrets.

And then there were the super-secret, often bitch-hard Star Road levels, which opened secret new paths through the map when completed, allowing completion of the game without even unlocking every level. You know, just like using a real map to work out a sneaky short-cut.

1. Driver: San Francisco

Amazing because of its insane upgradable real-time zoombility

There isn’t any real shock in Driver: San Francisco's humongous map – after all, pretty much every open world game involving cars has one. Just look at the GTA IV entry in this list for more proof. But this has one unique difference – it’s upgradable.

Yup, in the same way you can unlock speed boosts and ram attacks for your car in Driver SF, you can also heighten the powers of your map. Literally. It might not seem a like much, but being able to unlock different tiers of skywardness to reach the heavens and see more of San Francisco helps you to ‘shift’ (read: teleport) to new missions. And it's all played out with the style and satellite mapped aplomb of a real-time Google Maps.

The map contains so much detail that you can zoom right into individual cars travelling the roads, which is pretty special when you try to do it. You feel like a mighty hawk swooping in on its prey. Or, y’ know, just a comatose man imagining the whole thing. 


  • 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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