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Which does Zelda do better; Overworld or Dungeons?

Some of us love dungeons and some of us love overworlds.

I myself am an overworld junkie, I'd much rather be outside and exploring the landscape than stuck in a cramped place looking for keys to open doors with an item i'm only gonna use once.

But what of their designs?

We've seen many overworlds and many dungeons by this point in Zelda and some of them have been radically different in concept and design (like the overworld in TP compared to WW).

But which overall have had the best designs?
Do dungeons have better designs and concepts than overworlds or vice-versa?
 

Lozjam

A Cool, Cool Mountain
Joined
May 24, 2015
Well, this can be objectively measured so-to-speak.
LoZ's biggest feature was its huge overworld, but the dungeons were also very good and advanced for the time, but this would have to go to overworld,
AoL biggest and most memorable achievements were of their dungeons, or palaces as we knew them. So they would have way better dungeon designs.
ALttP was pretty much equal in design with dungeons and overworld, and both were extremely well-paced and played.
Link's Awakening was very good on all regards, but I think it focused more on the dungeons, as each were unique, thoughtful and overall amazing.
Ocarina of Time is very similar to A Link to the Past in that it was well paced and equal on both sides.
Majora's Mask definitely favors overworld, as that is where the meat of the game is. The dungeon designs were unique and challenging, but also feel sort of rushed and lacked polish
OoS and OoA are equal out each other I think, with exploration, and combat in both terms.
Wind Waker is basically all overworld, WW's Dungeons were very bland and lackluster. Definitely goes to overworld with this one and the Great Sea is quite amazing.
Minish Cap is a unique case. As it's overworld is practically one giant dungeon. So, I think I will put it on the dungeon side. Even if this weren't the case, MC's focus was definitely with dungeons.
Twilight Princess has the opposite problem, the Overworld was bland and lackluster, while the Dungeon designs were very good.
PH favors overworld, and its dungeons were extremely bad.... Overworld exploring is bad too, mind you, but I think it edges dungeons out.
ST features Dungeons, with its most prominent feature being the Tower of Spirits. I love the dungeon desing in this game.
SS definitely has a similar issue to MC. The overworlds did feel like their own dungeons, not that it is a bad thing. SS also had some of the best dungeon designs we have ever had, so it was extremely good and ok for this.
ALBW is very similar to ALttP in the fact that it is well paced, yet I have to give dungeons the benefit of the doubt. They were so unique, so much fun, and very well paced.
I think that currently, dungeons beat the overworld, yet that is something Zelda Wii U hopes to change.
I really hope that it is well paced like OoT and ALttP though, so both can be as equally as great. That would make the most amount of people very happy. I love both equally, for different reasons, and I would love to have that work out equally.
 
Joined
Jul 14, 2015
I enjoyed the overworld in every Zelda game more than the dungeons except for ALttP. I preferred the dungeons in that one. Harder, trickier and a lot of fun to explore and solve!
 
Joined
May 4, 2014
Location
California
That depends hmm.

TLoZ-Has a big overworld with lots to see, explore and kill, there's a lot of dungeons, but not much variety. As this is the first Zelda and in the 8-bit age it gets a pass. Both

AoL-Has a big overworld but takes a linear path, the dungeons don't have maps, but they feel big and exciting. Dungeons

ALttP-The first Zelda to have a variety of dungeons, both overworlds are jam-packed with goodies, but feels cramped to me personally. Both

MC-Awesome overworld with lots to do, fewer dungeons but creative and neither too big or too short. Both

TP-The overworld isn't big but it sure is grand and there's tons of secrets to uncover. The dungeons are cool too. Both

SS-The overworld is sucky and feels disconnected, the dungeons while graphically amazing feel off except for one or two. Not my favorite set in the series. Neither

Oracles-Overworlds are awesome, they feel huge and alive with people, enemies, secrets and sidequests. Dungeons are big but mostly forgettable impo. Overworld

LADX-I have more fun in the overworld then in the dungeons. Overworld

ST-Linear and pitiful. Neither

ALBW-Overworld feels a little less cramped cuz its got that TLoZ feel running right through it. But the dungeons are amazing! Dungeons

OoT-Overworld feels empty and lifeless. Dungeons are okay. Neither

MM-overworld is vibrant and alive and has lots to see, do and interact with, dungeons aren't my favorite set in the series, except for one. Overworld


All in all, I guess it depends on what your preferences are. I like a healthy mix of both, but I'm not sure which it does better at.
 
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Zorth

#Scoundrel
Joined
Apr 22, 2011
I think the overworld should and is done better. The dungeons are just a part of it, the overworld connects them. Great examples of Zelda overworlds as loz, alttp, tmc, mm. Bad ones are tww, ss, oot. The first ones I mentioned are teeming with life and stuff to do, even though they are huge. The latter ones do have the huge part, but being 3D (except for MM) the developers had to compromise pure content to be able to have those huge worlds.

The great sea for example in the wind waker, is an amazing concept but the sea was way too huge. You had one tiny island in a single tile and the rest of it was the same blue sea that took ages to get by, and had literally no depth since you couldn't go beneath the surface. So the actual overworld of TWW would be all of the islands put together, which is tiny. OoT, even though it is the best game in the history of gaming duh, hadn't an overworld that had the same standards as the other aspects. It was beautiful for its time and amazing to finally see hyrule in 3D for the first time, but there was really not much to do there but ride Epona from one dungeon to the next.

TMC or MM for represent the best overworlds imo. They had great variety (looking at you TWW), and tons of stuff to do that never made it feel like a chore to get from one place to the next, and key point being that even to this day knowing them in and out I can still enjoy myself walking around in them.
 
I agree with just about everything you said, Zorth, but I did want to say that despite its themes, that have now become cliche, OoT has a very good overworld. Even though its miles behind Majora's Mask's' Termina, I still love returning to Ocarina of Time's Hyrule, because there are no artificial barriers to exploration. The franchise has been trending away from this, but A Link Between Worlds gave me hope that the series still has days of freer exploration before it.

I've always enjoyed dungeons, too, but I feel like few take risks nowadays. Nothing in modern Zelda quite stands out like Ocarina of Time's Forest Temple or Majora's Mask's Stone Tower Temple. I also want to see some smaller dungeon-like areas, such as Inside the Well and Ikana Canyon, that lead to actual dungeons.
 

Lozjam

A Cool, Cool Mountain
Joined
May 24, 2015
I agree with just about everything you said, Zorth, but I did want to say that despite its themes, that have now become cliche, OoT has a very good overworld. Even though its miles behind Majora's Mask's' Termina, I still love returning to Ocarina of Time's Hyrule, because there are no artificial barriers to exploration. The franchise has been trending away from this, but A Link Between Worlds gave me hope that the series still has days of freer exploration before it.

I've always enjoyed dungeons, too, but I feel like few take risks nowadays. Nothing in modern Zelda quite stands out like Ocarina of Time's Forest Temple or Majora's Mask's Stone Tower Temple. I also want to see some smaller dungeon-like areas, such as Inside the Well and Ikana Canyon, that lead to actual dungeons.
I disagree.
The two latest Zelda games had extremely remarkable dungeons.
In Skyward Sword, the Lanayru Mining Facility and Sandship take an extremely amazing concept and uses it in clever and unique ways. Not to mention Ancient Cistern, in which it not only makes one of the series only good water temples, but also a huge step towards atmosphere and telling a story using level design. Much like Stone Tower Temple actually. Then there was Sky Keep, in which the dungeon, was literally a puzzle in which you had to move rooms. SS had amazing dungeons, and that is why I love the game(despite some of it's terrible bosses, and horrendous filler and backtracking).

A Link Between Worlds also had great dungeons.
The Dark Palace alone makes itself one of the most unique Zelda dungeons, in which you risk whether to see around you, or turn off the lights to see another layer. This on top of its 2D layering mechanic.
ALBW also has great ones like it's Ice Palace, Thieves Hideout, and Tower of Hera. Some if these dungeons may have been too short or easy to some, but they were very fun, interesting, quirky, and amazing.

I totally agree that more Mini-dungeons should appear, especially in Zelda Wii U's big world.
 

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