For hundreds of years our culture was enriched by countless imaginative worlds that came from the creative minds of writers and other artists, but despite the fact that there are literally thousands of worlds capable of taking us to a journey across fantasy lands rich with lore, history, culture, and all kinds of civilizations, just a few of those works went a step further and came with rich and detailed maps that made sinking into their life-filed worlds even more immersive. And for some fantasy books, maps are definitely needed (for some of us map lovers anyway) because they can greatly help us when imagining those worlds in our heads and for the better understanding of the plot and the world itself.
On the other side of the line, we have modern works of art that are video games, each with its own world and each with its own set of ways to make players immerse and forget about the world they are living in. And lots of those come with maps because you know, a video game is an interactive art form and there map is pretty important. But only a handful of video games came with worlds that deserve for their maps to be remembered and for them to become an important piece of lore. Today, we will explore the most famous maps found in books and video games and through that journey, we will explain why each of them deserves to be on this list.
Middle Earth from Lord of The Rings
Probably the most famous of them all, the map of the Middle Earth is a perfect example of a fantasy map done right. And while for some books a simple map that doesn’t feature all settlements, towns, and places mentioned in books is better for Lord of the Rings a highly detailed and rich map is a must.
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The trilogy (and the Hobbit and Silmarillion) follows dozens of characters and their interconnected stories that take place across hundreds of locations so having a map that puts all of those in perspective is great for readers because by looking Middle Earth map they can understand many events and get to know why certain characters came up with certain decisions throughout the books.
And aside from being a huge help for readers, the map is simply beautiful and a proper work of art. It’s rich in detail and has that old school map charm that takes us back to times when maps were made by hand and when they were invaluable to explorers and navigators. And its huge number of locations, mountain ranges, rivers, different lands, and other marks is capable of making readers to sink in it for hours, to get lost in Tolkien’s lands that still manage to capture the imagination of millions of readers across the world.
Westeros and the known world from A Song of Ice and Fire
While the original Game of Thrones book didn’t come with a corresponding map, fans decided to create one as soon as the series continued with A Clash of Kings, and it’s easy to understand why. Hundreds of characters, dozens of interlocking storylines, hundreds of locations, multiple continents, events happening over the course of thousands of miles, and all that happening in a huge world with its own history and its own permanent geography simply screamed for a quality map.
When reading novels from the series you simply have to have a map beside you because you can easily get lost in the events and, if interested in locations and the general geographical authenticity of the world of Ice and Fire, you will become greatly frustrated because you will lose the thread of events (at least when it comes to their geographical locations) in a matter of hours.
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J.R.R Martin recognized that and he published The Lands of Ice and Fire in 2012, which basically is a detailed atlas of the world. And the world map in it is a work of beauty featuring the known world with hundreds of cities and ports, most locations mentioned in books, and faraway lands that are only shortly mentioned in books or aren’t featured in any book from the series.
This gives the world of Ice and Fire much-needed authenticity and the map of the world with its highly detailed and stunning art presents itself as a mandatory companion for all of those who want to read one of the best (and probably the most popular) fantasy series of all times.
Cyrodill from the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Cyrodill is the central region of the world of Tamriel, the location of all Elder Scrolls video games. These games are part of one of the oldest and most known RPG series in video games and each of them comes with a detailed map of the region the said game takes place in. And while Morrowind and Skyring (the third and fifth game of the series) also feature incredibly detailed maps of their respected regions, we included the one found in Oblivion because it simply looks the best.
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It features a uniquely stylized art style that makes it similar to classic maps of old when the known world was limited to Europe, parts of Africa and Asia along with east coasts of North and South America and to famous fantasy maps such as Middle Earth and Earthsea. And the map is highly detailed and can be used while exploring the game’s Wikipedia page in case you haven’t played the game. One of the prettiest maps found in video games, and a map featured in one of the most famous games in the whole history, map of Cyrodill certainly deserves to find its place on this list.
Terry Pratchett was a pure genius and everyone who read his magnificent Discworld book series imagine the lands and wondered how cool it would be to roam them freely. The legendary flat world that sits on top of a giant turtle and a couple of humongous elephants hosted hundreds of stories and was a home for hundreds of characters but Pratchett didn’t bother with coming up with a map until 1993, when he published The Streets of Ankh-Morpork, a collection of maps of the famous city featured in many books of the series.
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The first book was followed by The Discworld Mapp, a rich atlas of the flat planet that included many detailed maps of the world. But this world map is the one we’re presenting today because its style superbly follows the books. The map looks like a pretty but obvious knockoff of the original map of the known world but it still has lots of charm. And the drenched colors in combination with caricature-like illustrations are totally in the spirit of Pratchett. Excellent piece of fantasy cartography.
Velen, Skellige, and the world map from The Witcher 3
One of the best games ever and one that features the most immersive world of them all (that’s maybe topped by the world of the new Red Dead Redemption 2) certainly deserves a worthy map. And the two maps depicting Velen and the Islands of Skellige sure are majestic. The thing is that Witcher games always included subpar maps. They were too complicated or not detailed enough and never managed to show locations of the previous two games in the wider context of the world of the Witcher games and novels.
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But these two maps did that because they are part of a wider map of the world on which you can clearly see the location of Nothern Realms, the south of the world where the Empire of Nilfgard resides, and the location of the famous White Orchard, the region in which we meet Geralt and the world of the Witcher back in 2007.
Earthsea from 'The Earthsea Cycle'
Ursula K. Le Guin was another master storyteller and her Earthsea world hosted many stories that affected lives of millions of readers. This magnificent water world dotted by island archipelagos is ancient, futuristic, mundane yet magical, and with the map of the world drawn by Le Guin herself, we finally received a perfect companion map for all those fantastic books.
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Now, each event can be traced across the map of the world and each book found its place in the greater worldview. The map isn’t as famous as those made by Tolkien and Martin, but it definitely deserves to be included because it is incredibly detailed, true to books and stories depicted in them, and extremely pretty in its simplicity.
Azeroth and Kalimdor from World of Warcraft
The world of Warcraft games is known for almost every gamer on this planet and for a reason. This world is one of the most richly created fantasy location in video games. Each of the two continents (during the course of World of Warcraft game the world received two new continents but Azeroth and Kalimdor are here from the beginning) possess rich lore and detailed history and both are filled with major cities, important locations, and many geographical points that are featured in one or more Warcraft games.
And the map first seen in World of Warcraft perfectly depicts the war-ravaged world of Azeroth (while the eastern continent is known as Azeroth, the name is usually used as the name of the world with the continent called Eastern Kingdoms) with its mountain ranges, different kingdoms, notable locations, and surrounding islands. Surely one of the most detailed and most famous maps of the whole history of video games.
The Stillness from the Broken Earth
While N. K. Jemisin stated she doesn’t really like maps in fantasy novels, she did draw one to accompany her incredible Broken Earth trilogy. And the map is a perfect example of how a map of a fantasy world should look like. It is relatively simple, depicting just the most important settlements along with most notable geographical locations, thus preventing readers to always rely on it when following the course of events thus leaving lots of scenes and locations to the imagination of readers.
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Next, it just looks beautiful. The huge continent of Stillness and the surrounding oceans follow the type of visual aesthetic that immediately make readers imagine the world of Broken Earth like a tough, barren, and inhospitable place which it really is. And finally, the map also includes information about its size and distances between major cities along with a couple of locations that are important to the story such as the great ridge below the Arctics region, with a huge scar of broken land left after one of the most disastrous Fifth Seasons.