- The Tomb Raider video game franchise has provided gamers with engaging gameplay and unparalleled storytelling for over 20 years.
- The series has weathered its fair share of challenges, notably the failure of The Angel of Darkness, but rebounded resiliently, continuing to enthrall players worldwide.
- Tomb Raider (1996) was a groundbreaking game with stunning graphics, exciting gameplay, and a memorable story.
- Tomb Raider: Legend (2006) marked the revival of the Tomb Raider franchise after the relatively poorly received Angel of Darkness.
- Tomb Raider (2013) is a pivotal reboot of the classic action-adventure franchise developed by Crystal Dynamics, serving as an origin story for the iconic character, Lara Croft.
The Tomb Raider series is a monumental franchise in the realm of video games, boasting over two decades of engaging gameplay and riveting storytelling. Since its debut in 1996, the series has maintained a consistent presence in the industry, navigating the shifts in gaming technology and consumer expectations with dexterity.
The series has weathered its fair share of challenges, notably the failure of The Angel of Darkness, but rebounded resiliently, continuing to enthrall players worldwide. Tomb Raider games have seen two significant continuities.
The initial one spanned from the original game in 1996 until The Angel of Darkness in 2003. The subsequent handover of development from Core Design to Crystal Dynamics led to a revitalized series that started with Tomb Raider: Legend in 2006.
The second continuity started with the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider, which marked a significant shift in the franchise’s tone and the characterization of its protagonist, Lara Croft. The revitalized franchise released Rise of the Tomb Raider in 2015 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 2018, forming a trilogy with widespread acclaim.
Tomb Raider Game Order by Release Date
|1997||Tomb Raider II|
|1998||Tomb Raider III|
|1999||Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation|
|2000||Tomb Raider (Game Boy Color)|
|2000||Tomb Raider Chronicles|
|2001||Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword|
|2002||Tomb Raider: The Prophecy|
|2003||Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness|
|2006||Tomb Raider: Legend|
|2007||Tomb Raider: Anniversary|
|2008||Tomb Raider: Underworld|
|2010||Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light|
|2013||Tomb Raider (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)|
|2014||Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris|
|2015||Rise of the Tomb Raider|
|2018||Shadow of the Tomb Raider|
|2023||Tomb Raider Reloaded|
1. Tomb Raider (1996)
Tomb Raider (1996) was the game that introduced the world to the fearless archaeologist Lara Croft and began her legendary series of adventures. The game takes place in various tombs and archaeological locations worldwide. It blends action-adventure gameplay with platformer and puzzle-solving aspects.
The game follows Lara Croft, a British archaeologist. A business tycoon hires her to retrieve a mysterious artifact called the Scion.
However, as the plot unfolds, Lara realizes that her employer has ulterior motives for wanting the Scion. The journey takes her through the lost city of Atlantis and other stunning but deadly locations filled with traps, puzzles, and enemies.
Tomb Raider (1996) was a groundbreaking game with stunning graphics, exciting gameplay, and a memorable story. It set a new standard for action-adventure games and made Lara Croft a gaming icon.
2. Tomb Raider II (1997)
- Tomb Raider II, released in 1997, follows Lara Croft's quest for the Dagger of Xian.
- The game offers improved graphics, sound, and expanded gameplay.
- Locations include China's Great Wall, Venice, an ocean liner, and Tibetan mountains.
- New features include extra vehicles, weapons, and character moves.
- Praised for larger levels, challenging puzzles, and a more detailed story.
Tomb Raider II, released in 1997, is the second installment in the Tomb Raider series, featuring the intrepid archaeologist Lara Croft. The sequel was better than the first game, with improved visuals, sound, and gameplay. It kept the successful mix of action, platforming, and puzzles that made the first game popular.
In Tomb Raider II, Lara embarks on a mission to locate the legendary Dagger of Xian, an artifact that, legend claims, transforms its bearer into a dragon when they plunge it into their own heart. The search takes her through a range of diverse locales.
This included The Great Wall of China, Venice, a shipwrecked ocean liner, and even the heights of the Tibetan mountains. The game also introduces new vehicles, weapons, and an expanded set of moves for Lara.
The game had more action but still had the challenging puzzles from the previous games. Tomb Raider II received high praise for improved graphics, larger levels, and more intricate backstory.
3. Tomb Raider III (1998)
Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft, the third installment in the series, was released in 1998. It maintained the series’ signature blend of action, adventure, and puzzle-solving.
The new version of the game has improved Lara Croft, with more modes of transportation, weapons, and landscapes. It also utilized a new graphics engine, improving weather effects and more detailed environments.
Furthermore, the Tomb Raider III narrative centers on Lara’s globe-trotting quest to recover four meteorite-infused artifacts, each with a unique power. The adventure takes her to the jungles of India, the South Pacific islands, the urban landscapes of London, and even Area 51 in Nevada.
The game had non-linear gameplay, letting players choose which locations to explore first. Despite its difficulty and similar formula, Tomb Raider III received praise for its intricate levels and captivating story.
4. Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation (1999)
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation was the fourth entry in the Tomb Raider series, released in 1999. Fans can expect the most advanced gameplay experience with improved game mechanics and level design.
First, Egypt adds a unique atmosphere to the game with new gameplay features, including item combining, improved environment interaction, and rope swinging. The Last Revelation explores Lara’s past and early expeditions with mentor Werner Von Croy.
The main storyline revolves around Lara inadvertently unleashing the ancient Egyptian deity Set while searching for the Tomb of Seth. Despite having fewer locations, the game’s story, puzzles, and plot are top-notch.
5. Tomb Raider (Game Boy Color, 2000)
- Tomb Raider for Game Boy Color, released in 2000, was the series' first handheld title.
- This game features an original storyline about retrieving the Nightmare Stone.
- The gameplay is adapted for handheld limitations but includes exploration, puzzles, and combat.
- It's a 2D side-scrolling game with a more linear format than the 3D console versions.
- The game was praised for its challenging puzzles, difficulty, and successful translation of the Tomb Raider experience.
Tomb Raider for Game Boy Color, released in 2000, marked the iconic series’ first foray into handheld gaming. This title presented a different side of the Tomb Raider franchise, offering an original storyline separate from the mainline entries.
The game adapted graphics and mechanics to capture exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat successfully. Encouragingly, this was despite handheld device limitations.
In this installment, Lara Croft is on a mission to recover an artifact known as the Nightmare Stone from the ruins of a temple in South America. The game captured the essence of Lara Croft’s character and her adventurous spirit.
However, the game format was more linear than the exploratory and 3D environments that players had grown accustomed to.
To continue, the 2D side-scrolling action-adventure game had a distinct taste compared to its console and PC equivalents. Despite being on a handheld format, the game was praised for its challenging puzzles, difficulty level, and impressive execution of the Tomb Raider experience.
6. Tomb Raider Chronicles (2000)
- Introduces new moves: tightrope walking, parallel-bar swinging, and a hand-to-hand stealth attack
- Enhanced inventory system
- Features the Tomb Raider level editor, which lets you construct custom levels
Tomb Raider Chronicles, released in 2000, marks the fifth installment of the famed series. Following Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, the game presents Lara Croft as missing and presumed dead.
Initially, her dearest pals come together to recall her past escapades when she’s not around. This allows players to delve into four unique tales from Lara’s history that were previously undisclosed.
Tomb Raider Chronicles takes players to unique locations like a New York high-rise and a German U-boat. Players also glimpse Lara’s younger days, offering a deeper insight into her development as the legendary adventurer.
Despite mixed reviews, the game was praised for its diverse settings and fresh perspective on Lara’s character. The game still has the series’ exploration, puzzles, and combat, making it a great addition to Lara Croft’s adventures.
7. Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword (2001)
- Lara Croft is wounded by a sacred sword while trying to stop a robbery in a museum
- The gameplay takes you from New York to New Orleans
- Released in 2001
Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword, released in 2001 for the Game Boy Color, continues the handheld adventure of the iconic Lara Croft. Lara’s encounter with a thief at a New York City museum leads to a dangerous and exciting journey involving an ancient curse.
After some time, she realizes she has become a victim of the notorious Curse of the Sword. The curse has the potential to cause chaos and destruction if not stopped.
Curse of the Sword requires players to guide Lara through diverse environments, including city streets and hazardous tombs. The limited yet efficient palette of the Game Boy Color beautifully depicts these surroundings. This handheld title offered a unique Tomb Raider experience designed for on-the-go gaming.
It maintained the franchise’s core gameplay mechanics of exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat, albeit in a simplified form, ensuring it felt authentically Tomb Raider. The 2D side-scrolling perspective added a new dimension to the gameplay, making it a fresh experience even for series veterans.
8. Tomb Raider: The Prophecy (2002)
Released in 2002 for the Game Boy Advance, Tomb Raider: The Prophecy is yet another handheld adventure for Lara Croft, this time on a new platform. The storyline draws heavily from Nordic mythology, with Lara attempting to prevent the unleashing of Ragnarok by the ancient god Loki.
To do so, she must find the eponymous prophecy within the Nordic runes. Tomb Raider: The Prophecy showcases the GBA’s isometric viewpoint. The game combines puzzle-solving, exploration, and combat while adjusting it to fit the handheld environment.
Players guide Lara through various landscapes, including haunted forests, treacherous mountains, and ancient castles, each filled with dangerous traps and hidden secrets to discover. The game is a blend of action and adventure that continues the Tomb Raider legacy in an accessible, pocket-sized format.
9. Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness (2003)
- Lara has been accused of murdering her mentor, Werner Von Croy
- Features the ability to interact with other characters
- There's a new combat system (stealth attacks and last-chance grabs, and more)
Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, released in 2003, represented a major shift in the Tomb Raider series. This game saw Lara Croft in a grittier, darker setting than in previous entries. The story opens with Lara accused of murdering her former mentor, Werner Von Croy.
To clear her name, she needs to steer clear of the law and conduct an investigation into the Lux Veritatis and Cabal. Both groups are on the hunt for potent occult artifacts and are embroiled in a foreboding ancient plot.
The gameplay in The Angel of Darkness showcased some new and different mechanics compared to the previous titles, leaning into RPG-like elements. The game also introduced a second playable character, Kurtis Trent, who had his own set of abilities and skills.
10. Tomb Raider: Legend (2006)
Tomb Raider: Legend, released in 2006, marked the revival of the Tomb Raider franchise after the relatively poorly received Angel of Darkness. Lara is on a mission to locate Excalibur, which is linked to her mother’s vanishing.
The narrative takes Lara across exotic locations like Bolivia, Peru, Japan, and England. Tomb Raider: Legend returned to the original style with exploration, puzzles, combat, and new interactive features.
The game engine was developed completely from scratch, enabling better graphics and smoother character movements. Tomb Raider: Legend received high praise for its skillful revival of the iconic franchise, striking the perfect balance between nostalgia and innovation.
11. Tomb Raider: Anniversary (2007)
Tomb Raider: Anniversary, released in 2007, is a special game in the series as it is a remastered version of the original 1996 “Tomb Raider” game. The remake’s purpose was to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the franchise.
This game tells the story of the original adventure that launched Lara Croft into fame. The main character embarks on a journey to find the Scion, a magical item split into three parts and hidden in different places worldwide.
While maintaining the storyline and key elements of the original game, Tomb Raider: Anniversary enhances the gameplay with new mechanics introduced in Tomb Raider: Legend. The gaming experience has become more engaging and immersive thanks to the updated graphics that meet current gaming standards.
12. Tomb Raider: Underworld (2008)
- Introduces a new, interactive environment (eg. footprints are left in the mud)
- Melee combat system
- Improved AI allows enemies and animals to make decisions based on surroundings
Tomb Raider: Underworld, released in 2008, is the final entry in the trilogy that began with Tomb Raider: Legend. The game tells an epic tale revolving around Norse mythology.
Lara Croft is on a mission to find the mythical hammer of the Norse god Thor, Mjölnir. The story in Tomb Raider: Anniversary connects directly to the current game. Lara is trying to uncover the truth behind her mother’s vanishing and the mysterious artifact she’s been pursuing.
Regarding gameplay, Tomb Raider: Underworld is a step forward from its predecessors. The game introduces an evolved combat system offering more variety and strategic options.
Lara can now dual-target combat and melee enemies using her climbing axe. Crystal Dynamics uses a unique lighting model in their game to highlight the importance of light and shadow in gameplay.
The environment plays a crucial role in this aspect of the gameplay. This is in addition to greater freedom of movement, which allows Lara to interact with her surroundings more effectively. These improvements provide a more realistic and immersive gaming experience, closing the trilogy on a high note.
13. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (2010)
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, released in 2010, is a unique spin-off from the main “Tomb Raider” series. The game shifts from the traditional third-person perspective and solo adventuring style to adopt an isometric view and cooperative gameplay.
In this exciting adventure, we follow the brave Lara Croft and her ally, the Mayan warrior Totec, as they unite to retrieve the Mirror of Smoke from the clutches of the wicked god Xolotl. Their mission is crucial as it holds the key to saving the world from certain destruction.
Unlike previous games, Guardian of Light focuses heavily on cooperative play. Lara and Totec have unique abilities that must be used in tandem to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. For instance, Lara’s grapple line can be used by Totec as a tightrope, while Totec’s shield can provide Lara with a platform for jumping to higher areas.
The isometric viewpoint and arcade-style gameplay in this game create a unique experience that sets it apart from the main Tomb Raider series. It showcases the versatility of the Lara Croft character and universe.
14. Tomb Raider (2013)
- Tomb Raider (2013) is a reboot and origin story for Lara Croft, developed by Crystal Dynamics.
- The game focuses on Lara's first expedition, ending in a shipwreck on the mysterious Yamatai island.
- The gameplay introduces survival elements, combat focus, and an upgrade system.
- Lara's character is portrayed as vulnerable and relatable, enhancing narrative depth.
- The reboot was acclaimed for cinematic storytelling, character development, and new gameplay mechanics.
Tomb Raider, released in 2013, is a pivotal reboot of the classic action-adventure franchise developed by Crystal Dynamics. It serves as an origin story for the iconic character, Lara Croft, and presents a younger, inexperienced Lara just starting on her adventurous career.
At the beginning of the game, Lara sets out on her inaugural expedition on a ship. However, she is unfortunate enough to become shipwrecked on the enigmatic island of Yamatai, located off the coast of Japan.
Lara must traverse the perilous terrain and battle against menacing residents to reunite with her lost crewmates and escape the island. Tomb Raider 2013 is darker and more combat-focused, with a survival element and an innovative upgrade system.
The game’s narrative is also notably deeper, portraying Lara as a vulnerable and relatable character facing real peril. The reboot was met with critical acclaim for its cinematic storytelling, character development, and revamped gameplay mechanics, setting a new direction for future games in the series.
15. Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris (2014)
- Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, a 2014 release, is a sequel to the Guardian of Light.
- Set in Egypt, Lara and three allies aim to defeat the god Set.
- The gameplay has an isometric view and combines puzzles, exploration, and combat.
- Cooperation between players is crucial to overcome challenges and progress.
- Despite its short length, the game was praised for its multiplayer mechanics and challenging puzzles.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, released in 2014, is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. This installment expands on the cooperative gameplay elements introduced in its predecessor and supports up to four players simultaneously.
The game’s story unfolds in Egypt. Lara Croft, fellow treasure hunter Carter Bell, and the imprisoned gods Horus and Isis embark on a mission to defeat the malevolent god, Set. In the Temple of Osiris, the players traverse through ancient tombs filled with deadly traps and hordes of supernatural enemies.
The gameplay maintains an arcade-like, isometric perspective, including puzzle-solving, exploration, and combat. Each character possesses distinct abilities that are essential in overcoming challenges.
Cooperative gameplay is at the core of the experience. Players need to work together to solve puzzles and progress through the game. Despite some criticism for its short length, the Temple of Osiris was generally well-received, and lauded for its fun multiplayer mechanics and challenging puzzles.
16. Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015)
- Rise of the Tomb Raider, released in 2015, is a sequel to the 2013 reboot.
- The story follows a more experienced Lara Croft seeking the city of Kitezh in Siberia.
- The gameplay combines action-adventure, exploration, survival mechanics, and increased stealth elements.
- The game features larger hub areas and numerous optional tombs with unique puzzles.
- Its story, characters, visuals, and gameplay mechanics were highly praised.
Rise of the Tomb Raider, released in 2015, is a sequel to the 2013 game Tomb Raider. In the rebooted series, the game picks up where the previous one left off.
The story follows Lara Croft, now more experienced, as she travels to Siberia in search of the fabled city of Kitezh. According to legend, the city holds the key to immortality.
As she takes on the challenge of uncovering hidden city secrets and fulfilling her destiny as the Tomb Raider, Lara must face both the formidable Trinity organization and the harsh wilderness.
The Rise of the Tomb Raider gameplay combines action-adventure, exploration, and survival mechanics. Lara can use firearms and improvised weapons to fight enemies. Plus, the game places a heavier emphasis on stealth compared to its predecessor.
Additionally, it features larger ‘hub’ areas to explore and numerous optional tombs that provide unique challenge puzzles. The game received great reviews for its story, characters, visuals, and gameplay.
17. Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018)
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider, released in 2018, is the final part of the reboot trilogy
- Lara journeys to Latin America to stop a Mayan apocalypse she accidentally triggered
- The gameplay features stealth, wall-climbing, and 360-degree underwater exploration
- The hub world is expanded, offering more side missions and challenge tombs
- The game was lauded for its visuals, level design, and narrative, concluding Lara's origin story
Shadow of the Tomb Raider, released in 2018, is the third and final installment in the reboot trilogy of the Tomb Raider series. The game sees Lara Croft on a journey to Latin America, where she is on a quest to stop a Mayan apocalypse that she unintentionally unleashed.
Faced with deadly jungles, treacherous underwater caverns, and deep, ancient tombs, Lara must become the hardened Tomb Raider she’s destined to be. This is in addition to trying to halt the sinister plans of the paramilitary organization Trinity.
The gameplay in Shadow of the Tomb Raider builds upon the foundations set by its predecessors. Lara can utilize stealth to take down enemies, climb walls with a pickaxe, and explore underwater environments with full 360-degree movement.
The hub world is larger than previous games, offering more side missions and challenge tombs. The game was praised for its visuals, level design, and compelling narrative, successfully concluding Lara’s origin story.
18. Tomb Raider Reloaded (2023)
Tomb Raider Reloaded, launched on 14 February 2023, is an action arcade built for iOS and Android devices. The title represents a throwback to the original design of Lara Croft, evoking nostalgia.
This is a departure from the darker portrayal in the Survivor reboot trilogy that began in 2013. This game was initially released as a soft launch between 2020 and 2022 in certain countries as a free-to-play game. It includes the option for in-app purchases and was fully released in 2023.
As for the gameplay, Tomb Raider Reloaded employs a top-down shooter approach, marking a new style of play within the Tomb Raider series. The narrative revolves around archaeologist Lara Croft’s mission to discover the lost kingdom of Atlantis, seeking three parts of an Atlantean artifact called the Scion in three different countries.
The initial campaign was incomplete upon release, containing nine chapters spread over two acts in Peru and Greece. An update on June 12th added a final chapter for Greece, set in the tomb of Tihocan.
Additionally, it teased three more chapters in Egypt for the upcoming third act. A unique feature of the game included multiple voice options for Lara Croft, allowing players to choose from Keeley Hawes, Shelley Blond, Judith Gibbins, and Jonell Elliott’s performances.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Stefano Chiacchiarini '74/Shutterstock.com.