Which Zelda game has the best overworld?

Zed says: Wind Waker's flooded Hyrule is my favorite. To me, it has the greatest sense of mystery and adventure.

Tim says: I prefer the flat simplicity of the first game.

Uppa says: If Zelda titles are to be evaluated by their promotion of exploration and meticulous expansion, earlier titles seemingly possess the best over-worlds. Zelda III makes a convincing exhibition; the explorer inherent in any player is permitted to roam a well-realised world with few restrictions. Eking out the desert is accomplished with relative ease; Lake Hylia can be found with a dearth of items; the entrance to Death Mountain can be perceived from a distance; and the abode of the sleeping Master Sword, nestled in the depths of a foggy woods, can be discovered nearly from the outset--Zelda III does not demand traversing of a linear, prescribed route. The crucial qualifier, however, is the extent to which anything can be accomplished by finding these areas early. Zelda III unfolds with peerless meticulousness. A curious temple buried in the desert is plainly in view, but entrance is inhibited by an unusual statue formation--you‘ll need to locate a book to crack the riddle; the mouth of Death Mountain is equally as visible, but a gargantuan boulder blocks your route--you‘re not yet strong enough to lift the monolith; and when you find the Master Sword, it remains resolutely in its pedestal, awaiting one in possession of three magical pendants. Zelda III whets the explorer’s appetite at every possible turn, enabling the adventurer to develop their own reasons for conquering the order of dungeons. You might not care for saving Zelda, but if you want to find out what lies beyond that giant rock, you’re going to need to continue playing. Ocarina adheres to similar tactics: probing the Gerudo Valley you found as a child is going to require a horse in the future; reaching that strange shrine located above the Graveyard will require your maturation to an adult; and plunging to the depths of Lake Hylia, where a temple is submerged, will require some means of stabilising Link while under water.

Zelda I does things most interestingly, however. The bleak, barren and deserted world is seemingly wholly traversable from the outset--but your progress is encumbered by your relative skill vis-à-vis the world. Players in possession of few Heart Containers will likely not probe deeply into the grey lands lined with graves--but when they do, it’s the ambiguity of that land that proves compelling. The beaches stretch on endlessly, only the eerie sound of the waves to keep you company; an autumnal forest seems intent on repeating itself, suggesting a mystery long before anyone divulges it to you; and nine desolate sanctums can be located by an adventurer, themselves almost claimed by the land. You can enter Level 8 after finding a Candle--underscoring the marked lack of linearity present in the title--but the creatures inside will determine if you’re ready for it. For a child playing Zelda I, too, the mind fills in the blanks left by the game’s technical limitations--it, more than any other Zelda game, has an over-world that feels like your only companion; in the absence of many other citizens, it feels like the land, itself, is watching you…testing you. A haunting prospect, every bit as spell-binding as Zelda III’s intelligently structured world.

Amie says: Adventure of Link. I was young, and it took me a long time to get the raft. When I did, the overworld doubled, and it was an awesome feeling.

DnGh says: I'm probably biased, but I think the best overworld is Link's Awakening for GB. It took the formula from Zelda 1, making every screen meaningful. Zelda 1 was meaningful in the sense that every screen held a secret, and Link's Awakening was meaningful in the sense that every screen contained something interesting or something that would advance the plot along. I also appreciate how many mini-dungeons (dream house, molblin house, and more) that are packed into such a small space.

Anonymous says: ocarina of time. i cut my teeth on it and it's the biggest of all the old ones

Crono says: I prefer the Adventure of Link for its vast and active overworld.

Dan says: Dark world in ALTTP made the biggest impression on me. The difficulty was high and I spent so much time in the light world it ws like two games in one

Andy says: Z3 and Z5. Their like two fidderent versions of the same game.

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