I never played any other Fire Emblem besides Sacred Stones, so I am not aware of the better map designs that put Awakening's maps to shame.
Rather than sift through every past game and all their maps, can someone give a few examples of really good map designs?
It's sort of a combination of difficulties, enemy strength and design. In my opinion the best map designs(if you include the saves spots) can be seen in Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem on Lunatic mode, though excluding chapters 3 and 12.
Thracia in the sense of it being evil. A little unfair, but way more interesting than FE13. http://ofsteelandsteam.sandwich.net/fe5/FE5_whatisthis.png
FE8 did it decently, I'd say. Not everything is a giant open field. Both of the tellius games had interesting maps with a pretty wide variety of objectives. Hell, as much as I hate RD, I loved maps like 3-13.