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The Overworld is the outdoor, "world map" area of the games in the Legend of Zelda series. Unlike the Underworld, which includes dungeons, building interiors, caves, and other isolated enclosed areas, the Overworld is more open to exploration. The Overworld fundamentally serves as the journeying part of the game, linking dungeons and other locations. It is filled with quests and interactions with other characters, including many of the nonessential side quests and items found in the games, such as Pieces of Heart and large Rupees. The only canon Zelda games to not feature a true Overworld are The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. Though these games do feature outdoor, Overworld-like environments, the gameplay is divided into isolated levels accessed via a world map.
The Overworld is composed of separate regions, each with their own environment, often connected by a central field or other land routs. In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass however, the Overworld is a vast sea scattered with islands of various sizes. Many times, certain locations will have a consistent placement on the Overworld between games, such coastlines being to the far south, and mountain regions lying in the north. In almost every game, Link can find some means of warping across the Overworld to certain predetermined points. In some games, these warp points become available after Link has visited the place in which they are found, thus allowing him to return to key areas without traversing the same portions of the Overworld multiple times.
In several games, time passes when Link is in the Overworld. Certain things will change depending on the time of day, such as the types of enemies which are present. Most games will pause time while Link is in towns or dungeons; however, the behavior of the inhabitants of towns is often different depending on the time of day Link enters. In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, time constantly flows, even while in the Underworld.
The Overworld of Hyrule spans sixteen screens from east to west and eight screens from north to south. There are Fairy Ponds, caves, and Dungeon entrances. Tektites, Moblins, Octoroks, and other enemies traverse the Overworld. There is no major population center, and instead the shops and characters of the game are found within individual caves. Many of the secret caves on the Overworld must be revealed by destroying a rock wall with a bomb or burning a tree using the Blue or Red Candle. Each screen of the Overworld has no more than a single cave.
Travel through the Overworld is made easier when Link acquires the Recorder, which allows him to warp to the entrance of each dungeon. Additionally, the Power Bracelet can be used to move certain rocks on the Overworld, revealing one of four secret caves which contain warps to the other three.
The Overworld is once again set in Hyrule. It is the only area of the game which does not use a side-scrolling perspective, instead acting as a top-down "world map" across which Link travels. Should Link stray off the main path, groups of enemies will appear and move around the map; if they touch Link, it will trigger an encounter in side-scrolling perspective, the contents of which which varies depending on the terrain and type of enemy group which touched Link. Towns, cave entrances, dungeons, and other locations are represented on the Overworld by small indicators, and Link will enter a full-scale side-scrolling version of the area when he walks into one. With the exception of the Candle, Handy Glove, Cross and Magical Key, all items obtained in the game affect the Overworld in some way by allowing Link to remove obstructions or access different areas.
This is the only game in which Link has no means of warping across the Overworld. If Link runs out of lives and suffers a Game Over, Link must start again from the North Castle, or the Great Palace if he has already been there.
A Link to The Past is the first game in the series to include an alternate version of its Overworld. The Overworlds are the Light World, which is the land of Hyrule, and the parallel Dark World, a twisted and dangerous reflection of the Light World. The first part of the game takes place in the Light World, which contains the first three of the game's main dungeons. The latter part of the game focuses on the Dark World, which contains a set of seven main dungeons. Link can travel between the two worlds using portals scattered across the land, and can travel from the Dark World to the Light World at any point on the Overworld using the Magic Mirror.
In the center of the Light World lies Hyrule Castle, surrounded by several field areas. To the west is Kakariko Village, and to the north lie the Lost Woods. North and northeast of the castle is Death Mountain, with the northeast reaches also containing the Waterfall of Wishing and Zora's Lake. East of the castle is a set of ancient ruins. The southeast contains Lake Hylia, and south of the castle lie the Swamp Ruins. The southwestern area holds the Desert of Mystery.
The Dark World has largely similar geography to the Light World, though several of its regions are of a different type. Where Hyrule Castle rests in the Light World lies the Pyramid in the Dark World. The equivalent of Kakariko Village is the Village of Outcasts, the Lost Woods are replaced by the Skeleton Forest, the north and northeast contains a dark version of Death Mountain, another set of ruins lies in the east, Lake Hylia's dark version forms the Ice Lake, the Swamp Ruins are mirrored by the Great Swamp, and the Desert of Mystery is replaced by the Swamp of Evil.
Traversing the Overworld is made easier in this game thanks to the introduction of the Pegasus Boots, which allow Link to run at high speed. Link can also warp between several whirlpools after obtaining Zora's Flippers, and can use the Flute to summon a duck to transport him to nine points across the Light World.
The Overworld in Link's Awakening is the island of Koholint. It has a layout reminiscent of the Overworld in The Legend of Zelda. For the first time in the series, the world map is composed of selectable sections which each have a name. After being shipwrecked, Link washes up on Toronbo Shores in the southwest, and is taken to Mabe Village. A prominent feature of the Overworld is the Tal Tal Mountain Range which spans the entirety of the island's extreme north. At its center is Mt. Tamaranch, on which lies the Wind Fish's Egg. Other regions include Goponga Swamp in the northwest, Tal Tal Heights to the northeast, the Mysterious Woods in the west, the north central region's Koholint Prairie, Tabahl Wasteland, cemetery, and Kanalet Castle, the rapids to the east, the vast Ukuku Prairie in the island's south central area, the Face Shrine to its east, the land between Mabe Village and the shore, the Signpost Maze, Pothole Field, Martha's Bay at south of the island and the area to its east, and the Yarna Desert in the island's extreme southeast.
Link can again use the Pegasus Boots to aid in travel across the Overworld. He can also play "Manbo's Mambo" on his Ocarina from anywhere on the Overworld to warp to Manbo's Pond. Additionally, a set of interlinking warp points can be found at Ukuku Prairie, Tal Tal Mountain Range, Tal Tal Heights, and East of the Bay.
The Overworld of Ocarina of Time is centered around Hyrule Field, which contains Lon Lon Ranch in the center. Hyrule Field serves as a hub, connecting all the game's major Overworld regions, which only interconnect directly through a few select passages. To the north is Hyrule Castle. To the northeast is Death Mountain, at the base of which lies Kakariko Village. To the east is Zora's River, and to the southeast is Kokiri Forest. To the south is Lake Hylia, and to the west is Gerudo Valley.
Link can learn six songs which allow him to warp to six temples across Hyrule. Additionally, this is the first game in which Link can ride the horse Epona in certain areas, allowing for fast travel across the Overworld.
The Overworld of Majora's Mask is the land of Termina. At its center lies Clock Town, which is surrounded on all sides by Termina Field. Termina Field also contains the Astral Observatory, and connects to the four regions of Termina, with their different terrain types protruding into the field itself. Aside from the river Link can swim through connecting Ikana Canyon to the Southern Swamp, the four regions are completely isolated, linking only to Termina Field.
To the south of Termina Field is the swamp of Woodfall, where the Deku race lives. To the north are the mountains of Snowhead, where the Gorons reside. To the west is Great Bay, a coastal region inhabited by the Zora, as well as the Gerudo Pirates. To the east lies a sparse canyon region, home to the ancient kingdom of Ikana. After a long history of bloody conflict, Ikana is now a wasteland where the dead still linger.
Link can warp to Owl Statues he has previously encountered using the "Song of Soaring". Epona also appears in the game, making Overworld transport easier. Additionally, Link can transform into a Goron and roll at high speed to cover distance quickly.
Labrynna is the land in Oracle of Ages, and makes up the game's overworld. Unlike most Overworlds in the series, a large portion of Labrynna is made up of coasts, islands, and seas. Link uses the Harp of Ages to travel between two different time periods. The landscape will change over the course of the ages, and Link can affect the present age by manipulating the past.
In the center of Labrynna is Lynna City, known as Lynna Village in the past. To the settlement's south lies the Black Tower. The shoreline is to the south. North of town is Ambi's Palace, which no longer stands in the present, instead replaced by the Nuun Highlands, which also extend westward. The northwest portion of Labrynna is the Talus Peaks, with Talus Lake taking up its northernmost reaches. East of the peaks is Symmetry City, and the Restoration Wall bellow it. South of this mountainous area is the forest which makes up the southwest corner of Labrynna's mainland, known as Deku Forest in the past and Fairies' Woods in the present. In the northeast lies Rolling Ridge. To the east of the village in the past, the mainland ends at the Coast of No Return, giving way to the isolated Sea of No Return and the island ruins therein. To the east of the city in the present, the sea has been covered by land, encompassing the Forest of Time and Yoll Graveyard further east.
Off of Labrynna's coast to the south lie several islands and seas. To the west are the Zora Seas, which encompass Eyeglass Isle. The central south contains the Sea of Storms, while the eastern ocean encompasses Crescent Island.
Link can move quickly across the Overworld using Pegasus Seeds, or warp himself to certain locations using Gale Seeds. He must acquire a raft at one point to cross the sea, and later obtains the Mermaid Suit, which allows for speedy ocean travel. Additionally, three animal companions appear in the game; Ricky, Dimitri, and Moosh. Each has abilities which can make it easier for Link to traverse the Overworld. In each playthrough of the game, a single flute can be obtained which allows Link to summon one of the animal companions from any Overworld region they are able to access. The Nuun Highlands will take one of three different forms, depending on which animal becomes Link's permanently summonable companion. Each form can only be traversed with the help of the animal companion it is associated with.
The Temple of Seasons was once in the north, before it sunk into the subterranean world of Subrosia. To the west of the temple's ruins lies the Northern Peak and the Tarm Ruins, and to the east is Goron Mountain and Mt. Cucco, with the Sunken City to the mountain's south. The middle of Holodrum contains Natzu, North Horon, and Eyeglass Lake. To the west is Spool Swamp, to the east is the Great Moblin's Realm and the Woods of Winter, and to the south is Horon Village and its Eastern Suburbs. To the far southwest is the Western Coast and graveyard. To the southeast is the Eastern Coast, which leads further east into Samasa Desert.
As in Oracle of Ages described above, Link can move quickly across the Overworld using Pegasus Seeds, Gale Seeds, and the assistance of animal companions. The Natzu region will take one of three different forms, depending on which animal becomes Link's permanently summonable companion. Each form can only be traversed with the help of the animal companion it is associated with. The name of the area will be Natzu Prairie, Natzu River, or Natzu Wasteland, for Ricky, Dimitri, and Moosh, respectively.
The Overworld in The Wind Waker is comprised of the Great Sea and its 49 islands. Link traverses the Overworld with the help of his boat, the King of Red Lions. Link uses the Wind Waker and the "Wind's Requiem" to control the wind direction, allowing him to sail across the Overworld efficiently. Additionally, Link can use the "Ballad of Gales" to warp himself and his boat to one of several points across the sea. Though the Overworld is largely water based, it is not lacking of secrets or dangers. The Great Sea contains various swimming and flying enemies, as well as Lookout Platforms, rafts, submarines, and other hazards. Treasure is also sunken in various places across the ocean, and can be found via Light Rings or Treasure Charts and retrieved with the Grappling Hook.
It is revealed later in the game that the Great Sea is the area above a flooded Hyrule, with the highest reaches of the land still protruding above the water. The event which left Hyrule in this state, the Great Flood, was caused by the gods in order to drown out Hyrule, where Ganondorf attacked unopposed after having escaped the seal placed on him in Ocarina of Time.
The Overworld centers on Hyrule Town, which is surrounded on all sides by fields. These areas interconnect while the other regions are mostly isolated. Parts of Hyrule Field border the north and south, the Trilby Highlands border the northwest, the Western Wood borders the southwest, Lon Lon Ranch borders the east, and the Eastern Hills border the southeast.
Beyond the fields lie more distinct regions. To the north is Hyrule Castle, with the Royal Valley slightly to the west and Veil Falls slightly to the east. In the northwest stands Mount Crenel and its base. To the southwest are Castor Wilds, with the Wind Ruins south of them. To the east is Lake Hylia, and to the southeast lie Minish Woods. The northeast corner of the map is taken up by the Cloud Tops which float above Hyrule.
The Overworld in Twilight Princess centers on Hyrule Castle, Castle Town, and the surrounding sections of Hyrule Field. The Overworld of Twilight Princess is distinguished by a number of large ravines which separate the various sections, and the vast bridges which span these chasms. Additionally, Hyrule is divided into provinces. The three main provinces are Lanayru, Eldin, and Faron. Several additional provinces exist further out from the castle.
Lanayru Province encompasses Hyrule Castle and Castle Town themselves, as well as the lands to the north and west. This includes Lake Hylia, Zora's Domain, Zora's River, and in its upper reaches, as well as parts of Hyrule Field. Outside of Lanayru lies the Desert Province to the west and the Peak Province to the northwest.
Many ares of the Overworld are covered in twilight at some point during the game. When exploring areas under this shroud, Link is trapped in his wolf form and faces enemies and people altered by the twilight. These regions must be restored to their original light by bringing Tears of Light to the Light Spirit protecting each area.
Link can ride Epona to cover distance quickly on the Overworld. If Epona is not available, Link's wolf form can run faster than his Hylian form. Midna can also warp Link to certain parts of the Overworld using existing Twilight Portals.
The Overworld in Phantom Hourglass is the World of the Ocean King. It is divided into four different quadrants, and, unlike other installments in the series, each of them can only be reached by finding its corresponding Sea Chart. Link traverses the Overworld using Linebeck's boat.
The Overworld in Spirit Tracks is New Hyrule. Link travels the Overworld by train. The eponymous tracks are spread over four regions; the Forest Realm, Snow Realm, Fire Realm, and Ocean Realm. As Link collects more Force Gems and the game progresses, the Spirit Tracks are slowly restored, revealing new areas and shortcuts.
The train is also equipped with a cannon to defend against overworld enemies such as Tanks, Cannon Boats, and Bulblins. The cannon is also used to lure out Rabbits and initiate a minigame in which Link must catch the rabbits with a net. Rail signs are also present among the tracks, which require Link to follow their instruction to satisfy any passengers that have boarded the train.
A series of Space-time Gates act as warp points between the four major areas.
In addition to the four main Overworld regions, the hidden Dark Realm is traversed near the end of the game, and is the site of the final boss battle.
The Oveworld is divided into three distinct regions; the forested Faron Province, the volcanic Eldin Province, and the desert ruins of Lanayru Province. Unlike in previous Zelda games, these regions are completely isolated from one another and there is no central area which connects them. Instead, Link falls down to these regions from The Sky, which acts as another form of Overworld. It contains the central settlement of Skyloft, surrounded by smaller floating islands and the three points through which Link can drop to access the provinces bellow. While in the sky, Link is transported by his Crimson Loftwing, and can use rocks with whirlwinds inside them to boost himself across the sky.
Link accesses the surface by falling through one of three openings in the Cloud Barrier and slowing his fall with his Sailcloth. When Link first drops down to one of the provinces on the surface, he lands in a predetermined spot. On subsequent visits, he is able to change his landing site to any of the Bird Statues he has already located. These statues can also create a powerful wind which catches Link's Sailcloth and sends him back to the sky, where his loftwing can catch him.
In Skyward Sword, the time of day only changes when Link sleeps in a bed, rather than gradually changing whenever Link is on the Overworld. Because Link's Loftwing will not fly at night, Link can only access certain islands of the sky at nighttime, and can not access any region of the surface during the night.