The Bigger They Are, The Further You Have To Walk
These days, linear is for losers. Developers are turning their attentions to crafting free roam environments of immense size and beauty. These creations range from fantasy worlds filled with sorcerers and swordsman, to sun-baked prairies teeming with coyotes and cowboys. Some of them are vast wildernesses where a man can roam for miles and never see another soul, while some are considerably smaller in size and heaving with life. Then there’s the really big ones. Getting lost in these beasts may result in your in-game avatar being declared MIA and his virtual wife and kids holding a candlelight vigil. Here we are going to count down the games that boast the biggest maps, some of the results may surprise you. So, starting at number 10.
10. World of Warcraft – 80 square miles
World of Warcraft is the fourth game set in Blizzards Warcraft universe. With over 11.5 million subscriptions, World of Warcraft is the worlds most subscribed MMORPG. As with all games in the Warcraft series it takes place in the fictional world of Azeroth which, in this iteration of the franchise at least, is a modest size of 80 square miles.
9. Burnout Paradise – 200 square miles
The seventh game in EA/Criterion’s successful racing series, Burnout Paradise featured an impressive map. The game was released with over 70 cars to explore the 200 square miles of open road with and was later updated to feature motorbikes and a day and night cycle.
8. Just Cause 2 – 400 square miles
The original Just Cause was a less than gratifying affair. The map was pretty and the parasailing was cool but the island was far too vast with very little in it. To fix this problem and make the sequel Just Cause 2 more enjoyable Avalanche Studios decided there was only one thing to do, make the map even bigger. Interesting idea. It seems to have worked though as Just Cause 2 sold well and has received positive reviews from most critics. It sits here at number 8 on our list with a map size of 400 square miles.
7. Asherons Call – 500 square miles
Slightly older fans of MMORPGs among you may remember this title. Asherons Call was released in 1999 for Windows and was the third major MMO to be released. Set on the continent of Dereth, itself set on the fictional planet of Auberean, the game map covered 500 square miles. Along with Ultima Online and Everquest this was one of the “Big Three” of early MMOs but its subscription numbers fell when newer titles began to flood the markets. Never the less its servers still remain online, more than ten years later.
6. Test Drive Unlimited – 618 square miles
The Test Drive series is one of the longest running arcade racing franchises of all time and the ninth game in the series, Test Drive Unlimited, featured a map modeled after the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The map was a magnificent 618 miles long, all the better for getting the games collection of 125 cars and motorbikes up to dangerously awesome speed.
5. FUEL! – 5560 square miles
We’re into the thousands of miles now, this is where the maps really start getting big. Released in 2009 Asobo Studio’s Fuel is truly immense. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world and boasts a map that is 5560 square miles in size(roughly the size of the American state of Connecticut). This makes Fuel’s map the largest gaming environment ever to appear in a console game. Couple this with over 70 vehicles to cruise around in and you have one immense game.
4. Guild Wars Nightfall – 15,000 square miles
Guild Wars Nightfall is the third game in ArenaNet’s Guild Wars series. The game took place on the continent of Elona, in the Guild Wars universe. Elona was the biggest game map created for a Guild Wars game spanning a mighty 15,000 square miles(that’s bigger than Kuwait, Isreal, Jamaica, Cyprus, Barbados, Singapore, Albania or Macedonia. Just to give you some idea).
3. Lord of the Rings Online – 30,000 square miles
Released in 2007, Lord of the Rings Online completely one-ups the Guild Wars series. LotRO(as it is known) features a Middle-earth inspired map twice the size of ArenaNet’s offering. This means that theoretically you could fit the entire of Belgium into it 2544 times.
2. The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall – 62,394 square miles
If LotRO went one-up on Nightfall by doubling its map size, Daggerfall two-ups it by quadrupling it. The second game in Bethesda Softwork’s highly successful and much loved franchise, Daggerfall is thought by most to be the largest game map ever created with a colossal area of 62,394 square miles(and Bethesda claims it’s even bigger, twice the size of Great Britain in fact. This would make it roughly 181,008 square miles). Spread out across this land there are 15,000 towns, cities, villages and dungeons to explore. The games sequel The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind didn’t even come close to this, with its map being only as big as 10 square miles.
1. Midwinter – 160,000 square miles
As we get to the end of the list I’ve pretty much run out of decent adjectives meaning “large”. It’s just as well though as there really aren’t any that would do this game justice. Midwinter is a first-person action role-playing game with strategy elements. It was released for the Atari ST, Amiga and PC back in 1989, making it slightly before my time. The game is set(as so many are) in a post-apocalyptic world where a giant meteorite landed in Burma and caused nuclear winter. The impact also caused a lot of volcanic activity in the Azores islands, forming the isle of Midwinter where the game takes place. Midwinter is an enormous(found one!) 160,000 square miles stretch of ice and snow, that’s nearly as big as the state of California. The game was well received upon release but due to a very steep learning curve it never became the hit it could have been.
So that completes our rundown of some of gaming’s biggest maps, with sizes ranging from big, to immense, to ridiculous. As a bonus extra here a few maps that didn’t make it into the top ten.
GTA III – 3 square miles
GTA San Andreas – 13.6 square miles
Fallout 3 – 14 square miles
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – 16 square miles
Far Cry 2 – 19.31 square miles
Note: Most, if not all map sizes are approximations made by either the writer(based off some evidence) or the game developers. They should not be taken as gospel fact or as cause for a flame war. Chill out man.