5 – Tomb Raider III (1998)
In some ways Tomb Raider III is sacrilegious; after two excellent outings focused on exploring old landmarks, TR3 added urban environments with stealth mechanics offering shorter paths to victory (though you could still take the scenic route). While that’s certainly something to take umbrage with, it was also a breath of fresh air for a series that stuck to single solutions in often-empty labyrinth-like levels. It’s still the most globe-trotting adventure Lara Croft has ever set out on, which likely had a big influence on the two blockbuster film adaptations that released in the early 2000s.
4 – Tomb Raider: Anniversary (2007)
In this day and age of slapdash “Definitive” editions (a practice the latest Tomb Raider has fallen prey to), it’s easy to forget that some remakes did so much more than just upres all the textures and modernize the UI. Every level from the original was redone in Anniversary while simultaneously keeping in mind Lara’s new acrobatic moveset from Tomb Raider Legend. While the old-school environments made the camera iffier than any other HD adventure, the nostalgia in a form conducive to modern controls makes Anniversary one of the most replayable Tomb Raider adventures ever. The only big issue? It came out a year AFTER Tomb Raider’s 10th anniversary. Womp womp.
3 – Tomb Raider (2013)
In some regards, the Tomb Raider reboot is the best game in the franchise. It’s the most fun to play, the most action-packed, and it makes the player empathize with Lara far more than any of her previous adventures. The crafting system also lends a sense of progression never before seen in the series. The big problem is that it’s hardly about raiding tombs. While you’ll enjoy the running, gunning, and jumping more than any previous Tomb Raider release, there are only rare opportunities to truly explore old locales, solve arcane puzzles, and collect cool treasure.
2 – Tomb Raider (1996)
Tomb Raider may be the most important franchise to come from the 32-bit era, and most of that was set in stone with the original that came out in 1996, establishing 3D exploration, combat, and platforming more than any game before. Few games were as open in all dimensions as Tomb Raider, and any game that promised an expansive world rarely delivered the verticality of Tomb Raider’s massive locales. Tomb Raider didn’t just give you levels that rivaled Super Mario 64 stages in size, it made them enthralling to explore and experiment within. While the gunplay is mostly muted (save for that legendary T-Rex fight), the original Tomb Raider makes a good case for being the best straight-up adventure of Lara Croft’s life.
1 – Tomb Raider II (1997)
In today’s gaming industry, Tomb Raider II would be run out of town on a rail for sticking so close to the original’s core concepts. With mostly similar controls and only minor lighting and character model upgrades, Tomb Raider II’s biggest strength is that it found a near-perfect balance of adventure AND action. The increased emphasis on human enemies made the combat a bit more memorable, and the otherworldly nature of the late-game stages set Tomb Raider apart from the original in the best way possible. And all these years later, it remains the pinnacle of Croft’s career.
What’s your favorite Tomb Raider game? Do you prefer Lara’s more action-heavy or exploration-based exploits? Is there anyone out there who likes The Angel Of Darkness? Sound off in the comments!