Imagine a game series that introduced one of the characters that every gamer will know immediately. Imagine a game series that led to three movies and one more on the road. That series will be none other than the famous Tomb Raider series. The series offered players to explore places all around the world and solve puzzles at the same time while doing incredible acrobatics.
In this list, all twelve main games of the series will be ranked from the bottom to the top. Before starting, as it is with my other lists, the ranking depends solely on my opinion, therefore it may be different for you. You are more than welcome to state your opinion regarding the ranking.
12. Tomb Raider: The Angel Of Darkness (2003)
The franchise’s black sheep and largely a disappointment because of its unfinished launch state, Angel of Darkness was infamously rushed by publisher Eidos Interactive so it could be promoted with the movie “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider-The Cradle of Life” The plot was good but the gameplay was boring and the game was full of bugs and glitches and, worst of all, you couldn’t patch a game back in 2003.
Angel of Darkness was such a disappointment that Core Design was permanently removed from the franchise, and a three-year break was granted to the series before the next game.
11. Tomb Raider: Chronicles (2000)
As the last Tomb Raider game on the original Playstation, it’s a title that doesn’t just go through the world, but through time as well. With Lara presumed dead following The Last Revelation events, her old friends recall her less-discussed journeys. These included the search for the Philosopher’s Stone in Rome, a destroyed U-boat off the Russian coast, and infiltration of a skyscraper in the city.
Although it’s definitely far from being the most innovative title in the series, it still has that great mix of combat, platforming, and puzzles. Some critics have even found the level design and gameplay repetitive both at release and in retrospect.
It should not go unacknowledged that Chronicles’ PC version included a level editor. This feature has brought a bit of innovation to the otherwise dull product offered. However, it, unfortunately, took a pretty investment of time to learn, let alone truly create anything.
10. Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation (1999-2000)
The Last Revelation also did something unique with its plot, offering Lara motives for chasing the treasure by having to compete against her ex-friend/mentor, Werner Von Croy. The two old friends were sent for the pieces of Armor of Horus, after unintentionally freeing from his grave the dark Egyptian god, Seth.
The Last Revelation did truly addressed the series’ main audience, overwhelmed city people in the search for some adventure. It featured never seen before emotional intensity in the series, and an unfair duel against the indestructible Seth, and even a level on a moving train. More importantly, Lara did not look any more like a disproportionate manikin. That being said, it was the fourth game in four consecutive years. Thus, the series had already started to feel a bit dull despite the new features offered in this game. Some people say that the community should realize how big of an improvement, the Last Revelation is compared to the Tomb Raider 3.
However, it should be noted that despite the improvements, the Last Revelation was still worse than its peers. On another note, the game did not let the players experience one of the main features of the series. To some, the time spent around tombs and puzzles were uncharacteristically and irrationally short.
9. Tomb Raider 3 (1998)
Many Tomb Raider players didn’t like the second game’s heightened action. This probably led the developer and the third game to bring back a renewed focus on puzzle-solving element into the equation. Interestingly, it was the first game in the series where players were to play levels that were not so linear. It also offered a little more variety in how to deal with them.
The engine used for all of the previous games still did not feel like it is out of date. The improvements regarding graphics and control mechanics ensured the feeling of playing an up to date game. Sadly, it was the last time the engine could achieve that.
Although it still had all the right ingredients to be Lara’s best journey, a couple of poor design decisions prevented it from achieving the ultimate goal. One of the main faults was how much of the game is spent underwater. The aquatic segments are the worst parts of most underwater video games. Therefore, it’s always a risky endeavour to have a game mostly relying on these segments. Stiff and unrealistic controls of Lara did not help Lara’s swimming. Especially when dealing with underwater enemies, the struggle was infuriating. Consequently, all that time spent swimming lead to the low position in my list of the third and last game of the original trilogy.
8. Tomb Raider Underworld (2008)
A small disclaimer here, as you read through the rest of the article, you will notice that the reason why Underworld is ranked so low is not its quality. Rather than that, Underworld did not fit in exactly. Developers decided to change the engine that they have used for the two previous games. This led to a very easy to notice differences between the experience Underworld offered and the other two did.
As for the game, Underworld is a decent franchise entry individually and further solidified the second coming of Tomb Raider as a viable gaming franchise. It develops on the solid structure stemmed from the two previous games. The game uses the-next-gen consoles added power to really expand Lara’s adventure’s depth. The only real issue is that Underworld was released in a post-Uncharted world. Uncharted had totally redefined this genre and had much better combat than Underworld. And to some, it had a better plot than Underworld. Resultingly, Underworld was a game in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
7. Tomb Raider Anniversary (2007)
Remakes and remasters are stops that every game series which spans multiple decades have to stop by at least once. And the Anniversary is the stop for the series. The first game from 1996 was half-remade, half-recreated and became Anniversary under Crystal Dynamics’ control. Anniversary is basically reconstructed the first game with the Legend engine. This also includes all the added gameplay wrinkles that come with it. Of course, the settings from the original game and its related puzzles had to be fully redone to allow for all the new mechanics available to Lara and the player.
Due to these similarities and the differences at the same time, Anniversary is generally considered as an expansion pack. An expansion pack with the first game’s mind but in Legend’s flesh and bones. However, as it does not differ from the first game, it basically lacks the required originality. Thus, the low position on my list.
6. Tomb Raider (1996)
The original one surpasses the remaster but not as much as you might think. The original Tomb Raider was epic and revolutionary in 1996. It offered a rewarding experience to anyone who played when it was still new and fresh.
After the arrival of 3D games in large 3D worlds announced by Super Mario 64, much of the rest of the industry took baby steps into the third dimension, with full-3D games not becoming the norm for several more years. Just months after Mario’s 3D debut, developers dove right into the difficult challenge. And it is safe to say they nailed it.
However, like any other original game of such long-lasting series, they are doomed to surpassed by their successors. Considering that, in my opinion, the sixth place in this list is a great achievement for a game from 1996.
5. Tomb Raider: Legend (2006)
The first game I played of the series. To some, it is arguably the game that saved the series. With this game, I think Lara has been resurrected and saved from the place that Core Design has sent her. The team achieve the near-impossible under the guidance of Toby Gard, Tomb Raider creator. He returned to the development after leaving the series during the second game’s development. And this time he crafted a game that brought the series back to life with one of best instalments ever in the series.
Of all changes to the classic formula, the most striking one was its being complete 3D movement. The engine was not offering any more linear, grid-based gameplay. The puzzles relying on practical physics was also introduced, which was revolutionary at the time for gaming.
4. Tomb Raider (2013)
The second reboot was not like the previous one. It changed almost everything other than Lara and the game’s mysterious puzzler formula. Starting afresh and it is telling the story of a young woman called Lara Croft slowly struggling to become a skilled adventurer. The game is an uncompromising look at a normal but very curious girl who is pushed to grow up into a toughened woman very fast. One of the most effective depictions of its kind, in video games, is the emotional aftermath of first time Lara is forced to take a life.
But beyond the overwhelming story and captivating development of characters, the game also fits just right in the formula of the series. Not only raising itself to the level of Uncharted but it actually surpasses it in some areas.
3. Tomb Raider 2 (1997)
Series’ second game manages to The increased emphasis on weapon usage was a slightly controversial decision, as it brought a lot of action outside of graves and caves. However, both design decisions were required to create an experience that did not feel like just an extension of the first game.
Lara was definitely a full-fledged celebrity. Yet, this was the last time she had long felt more like a real character in the video game. The difference matters since once she began to be a headliner of her games rather than just a part of them, the nature of what made the games enjoyable was forgotten. The series became a series of sets designed to make her look as glamorous and sexy as possible.
The game has still been built around the best gaming experience. It did not let the image of “pin-up girl” Lara affect the course of the series. This is one of the two main reasons what makes this game remarkable. The other one was Lara’s mansion. Spending hours walking around Lara’s house, studying commands, discovering clues and frustrating her poor innocent butler was one of the funniest things to have in the series’ entire history.
2. Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015)
All of the features of the previous game were not only back, but also greatly improved. Lara was now a full-time tomb raider rather than being pushed into it and trying to adapt. In that sense, Rise offers a more capable Lara to the player.
As with many positive criticisms were delivered for the game, it had other acknowledgements, too. As one of the best in franchise history, Rise made the Time Magazine’s list of “50 Best Videogames of All-Time”. It also should be noted, it is the only game in the series that made the list. Although Rise was released with one of the strongest competitions ever faced by the series, it was able to attract players all again and still take the lead 20 years later.
The only reason it is behind its successor in my list is not that any lacking point of the Rise. It is because Shadow was developed with better technical opportunities were available. So to speak, Shadow is the lucky child among the siblings.
1. Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018)
The last game of the second reboot trilogy. Eidos Montreal took over the development after the excellent 7 Tomb Raider games by Crystal Dynamics. The Shadow of the Tomb Raider focuses much more on the character of Lara as the last game of this reboot trilogy after 2 great games and it does a great job.
The game focuses on massive tombs with different creative puzzles, but still retains the trademark action/stealth/puzzler gameplay of the first 2 games.
With even greater graphics, more developed mechanics, tons of exploring and discovering opportunities and with a very well-written scenario Shadow of the Tomb Raider, definitely deserves the top place in my list. There is not much to say other than the game successfully managed to combine the Tomb Raider formula and modern technology.