Ranking every Tomb Raider game from worst to best

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With Lara Croft about to embark on her eleventh ever exploration adventure, we’re counting down every console-based Tomb Raider game released over the franchise’s 19-year run.

It’s a bit of a minor miracle that the eleventh console-based single-player Tomb Raider game is upon us and that it’s still one of the year’s biggest releases. Where many of the 32-bit generation’s greatest franchises have fallen off the triple-A tier (Tekken) or become laughingstocks altogether (Tony Hawk), the Lara Croft-led exploration action-adventure series has been successfully resurrected to take its place among gaming’s most sure-fire franchises… and it’s done it more than once!

From Lara’s blockbuster beginnings to PS2-era malaise to HD rebuilding and modern-day renaissance, Tomb Raider has had the highest highs and lowest lows of any game franchises in the last two decades. We’ve ranked the 9 core Tomb Raider games from worst to best (portable games and multiplayer download-only spinoffs have been excluded). Read on to find out which Tomb Raider games are trash and which are treasures worth exploring digital storefronts for!

10 – Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness (2003)

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Every bad thing you’ve heard about this game is true. After years of delays, the PS2 revival of one of the previous generation’s greatest franchises arrived with an entry that disappoints in nearly every way a game can. Despite dual analog controllers becoming the status quo, the control scheme stuck to the archaic 32-bit style and was exacerbated by newly implemented camera angles. There were also countless bugs, a superfluous second playable character, and quite unnecessary stealth sequences. It was the last Tomb Raider game to be developed by Croft’s home studio at Core Design and it’s easy to see why another team took over for the HD-era reboot.

9 – Tomb Raider Chronicles (2000)

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Tomb Raider Chronicles had the dual indignity of running on a four-year-old engine on its last legs accompanied by the least-interesting Lara Croft story to date. While the original adventures were relatively plot-free, TRC attempted to inject intrigue into the series by pondering Lara’s apparent death and having her friends tell stories of Croft’s past adventures. So basically it amounted to a flashback episode of sitcom, one where nothing mattered because of a twist that everyone saw coming. SPOILER: Lara is still alive and we’re playing Tomb Raider games 15 years after this release.

8 – Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation (1999)

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Here’s where many gamers fell out of love with Lara Croft. After three Game Of The Year-caliber releases, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation was the final straw for critics and fans. Going back to the basics and sticking to ancient, treasure-filled areas should have worked wonders for Tomb Raider, but the long-in-the-tooth engine and samey feel just wasn’t enough for a fourth consecutive year of 32-bit exploration.

7 – Tomb Raider Underworld (2008)

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After the publishing of Tomb Raider Underworld, the franchise went on a five-year hiatus until the recent reboot. While that may recall the situation that happened after post-The Angel Of Darkness, Underworld was a perfectly serviceable game and hardly a franchise killer. While it may have been a bit too reliant on action-movie-esque “Adrenaline” moments (think Max Payne’s “Bullet Time”) and the dual-target aiming was a bit awkward, it’s still got the fun exploration and brain-bending puzzles that Tomb Raider fans crave. Still, if the franchise kept the course after Underworld, its likely we’d be comparing to the Hitman franchise which always delivers but never quite breaks out as the triple-A release that console manufacturers clamor for as exclusives.

6 – Tomb Raider Legend (2006)

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For a game that revived the series after a truly atrocious outing, Tomb Raider Legend is alarmingly subdued. Yes, the controls were brought into the 2000s with dual-analog movement and the jump to HD really brought out the best in Lara’s ancient excavations. But the action rarely tops what was already seen during 32-bit generation and the running time is far shorter than Lara’s later outings. There’s also an over-reliance on quick-time events, which was passe for Tomb Raider even a decade ago.

Where does the recent reboot and Lara Croft’s original adventure fall within our rankings? Head to the next page to find out!

16 thoughts on “Ranking every Tomb Raider game from worst to best

  1. Surely you mean Laura?
    Where is Uncharted, Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3? haha
    Good list Dave. Personally i would have Tomb Raider (2013) over Tomb Raider (1996)
    I played the original a month back and i couldn’t finish it. I did get to the T-Rex bit tho and it was….a thing. I never remembered the draw distance being about 2″ in front of Lara and just a black void beyond.
    Also was it 2 or 3 that had the quad bike and the dirt track outside of Lara’s mansion. I spent hours flying round that track.

  2. And boy that Tomb Raider Chronicles (2000) screen shot is priceless. Is that from an Xbox One remake? because the internet is constantly telling me Xbone games look like PS1.

  3. Great article. I’ve always been partial to III that despite what you say about urban settings, the variety as you also state is what was great. Some levels you have dinosaurs in the tropics then suddenly you’re with a London underground voodoo cult, but then you’re in Area 51 and of course all the rare animals you can endanger! You could also choose which order to visit these locations. Anniversary was great, I wish II and III got the same treatment.

    1. I still play though the first one alot and every time I do, it takes me back to me and my dad on Christmas morning of 1996 on the Sega Saturn.
      Was a true adventure and has brilliant replay value more so than any other game I have ever played.
      I recommend you have a crack at it. People do moan about the control system being awful but I don’t see it and never have.

  4. Good list, Dave! Though I would have put durpadurp as number durpadumb, and I totally disagree with number darbadumb. I say this only playing Tomb Raider (2013).

  5. I’ve only played Tomb Raider (2013) and sadly I’ll probably never go back and play anything before that, unless they update the graphics and streamline the gameplay and UI. Would that even be possible at this point with so many entries in the series?

    1. I still play though the first one alot and every time I do, it takes me back to me and my dad on Christmas morning of 1996 on the Sega Saturn.
      Was a true adventure and has brilliant replay value more so than any other game I have ever played.
      I recommend you have a crack at it. People do moan about the control system being awful but I don’t see it and never have.

  6. Tomb raider 2 will always be the best I’ve never played any of the classic tomb raiders but I have played enough and know that this is the best one underworld sucked and the tomb raider reboot out absolutely took away ever Core gameplay feature of the original I’m only 11 but still

  7. It’s pretty difficult to rank these games objectively, because that really depends on what you want out of a Tomb Raider title. We have three radically different continuities, with different Laras and gameplay mechanics. The reboot is a totally decent game in its own right, with the smoothest control by far, but it doesn’t really feel like a Tomb Raider game at all. It’s more like an Uncharted clone with better combat and a humorless tone. Crystal’s Tomb Raider games had truly atrocious control (despite upgrading the control scheme to an analogue system), but the overly automated mechanics and linear levels were quite disappointing to veteran Tomb Raider players like myself.

    Angel of Darkness has the dubious distinction of having the best story in any Tomb Raider game while simultaneously having the worst control, so ranking it has always been difficult for me. It’s clear that the product we have is only a pale shadow of what it was supposed to be, and reading about what was cut for time and left unfinished is downright depressing. Tomb Raider IV (The Last Revelation) definitely deserves a higher spot on this list, definitely above TR3. And Anniversary is just plain terrible. I personally want to murder everyone who thinks this was an improvement over the original game.

    1. Highly agree with you!
      In my opinion the original 5 are the best by far and like you say, TRTLR deserves to be alot higher on this list.

  8. I could not disagree with this anymore than I already am. Coming from somebody who has been playing TR since the Sega Saturn, the original 5 are by far the best in my opinion. To me the new ones are not TR as I feel they are to spoon fed.

    TR1 and TRTLR are neck and neck followed by TR2 then TR3, then TRC.

    The new ones to me would be awesome if they wasn’t called Tomb Raider.

  9. Never beat the first five and personally I quite liked Angel of Darkness also just because they seemed to capture a real atmosphere in the game in line with the first 5, it had spirit something the newer games just do not have at all,and are only tomb raider by name.Angel of darkness was rushed,came out a little too soon but I see what they were trying to do but still felt like an original tomb raider game trying for the next level which it slightly fell short of but I feel is still a classic.

  10. I can understand, you’re a HARDCORE Tomb Raider fan, you know your stuff. But let’s be honest, Tomb Raider 2013, should have been higher up on the list, maybe 1st. I understand the history and truly original steps that Tomb Raider took in the past, but Tomb Raider 2013 and Rise of the Tomb Raider, really blow every prior installment out of the water.

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