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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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!