Ranking every Tomb Raider game from worst to best

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!

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. Tomb Raider (2013) is the only one I would recommend someone play today. “It’s the most fun to play” Nuff said.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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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