Part of what makes video games so darn fun is the pure exploration. Us 90s gamers remember how huge Ocarina of Time’s Hyrule Field felt for the first time, or how realistic Grand Theft Auto III’s Liberty City seemed. While these games are still just as fun to explore today, modern tech makes it possible to take that exploration a major step forward, by allowing you to fly through the entire map on your own time.
Created by Jasper St. Pierre, the site, noclip, is unassuming at first. Once it loads, you’re greeted by an almost entirely blank screen, save for a list of 75 games in the top left, categorised by system. The list leans heavily Nintendo, with games such as Mario Kart Wii, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and Super Mario Galaxy, but there are plenty of other games here, as well, including Half-Life, Portal, and Dark Souls.
When you click on a game, you’ll see any and all available levels and areas for you to choose from. Some games have a ton of options; others, not so much. Think open-world versus the rest: Some games have one big world to explore, while others have many different areas tied together.
Let’s take a game like Skyward Sword, for example. It has a huge number of areas to check out. When you pick one, like Skyloft, the site loads it into place. Depending on the game, and the size of the area, it may take a minute or so to load. But once it does, you’ll find a true recreation of the chosen level in crispy high-resolution.
There are no NPCs, enemies, items, or any of the like, here. These are the areas in an empty form, as if you just finished developing them in the game engine. What you’re here to do is explore, to experience these areas as you couldn’t on your N64, Wii, PS2, or whatever system you remember them from. Using the WASD keys on your keyboard and your cursor, you can fly around the area, inspecting different parts of the map from above or below.
It’s below, and outside the main bounds of the area, where you’ll find the most intriguing views of your game. It’s fascinating to see how these maps were constructed, what the developers hid beneath the surface or behind walls (if anything), especially if those barriers lead to another area that you can explore later. It’s also interesting to see how they achieved certain affects, with specific shaders and textures you might not have been able to notice otherwise.
Skyloft, in particular, is interesting, because the main land isn’t itself very large, but the sky is. You can take your time flying around the area, looking at the different islands, as well as the three portals to the ground below. Head beneath the clouds, and you can see how far these portals go, and how far apart they are from each other.
The sheer amount of titles here, coupled with the endless exploration, makes this site one you can sink a lot of time into. You can check out Pokémon: HeartGold and SoulSilver’s entire map all at once, or compare the difference between the N64 and 3DS versions of Ocarina of Time. In short, it’s just really cool.