Tomb Raider is important for a myriad of reasons. The original was an action-adventure game that really felt like an adventure, living beyond being a mere imitation of Indiana Jones by putting a strong, clever Lara Croft up front as its protagonist and focusing on puzzle-solving and globetrotting. The original game was celebrated for its beautiful graphics and for the ways that the player could interact with the environment (climbing ledges, swimming). Tomb Raider was quite simply a revolutionary game. It’s a bit of a shame then that the quality of the series is so wildly inconsistent, with games that are fantastic thrill-rides and others that are just meandering bores.
With tomorrow’s release of Rise of the Tomb Raider, we’ve decided to rank the main Tomb Raider games from worst to best. As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments, or at least in the comments of whatever aggregation website brought you here.
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Honorable Mention:: Tomb Raider has had a number of spin-off games that are mostly duds. However, Lara Croft Go and Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light are some of the best games set in Tomb Raider's universe, and signs that there are still exciting, strange places for the series to go.
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10. Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness: Angel of Darkness isn't just a bad Tomb Raider game. It's also one of the most disappointing games ever made, hyped for years by an aggressive marketing campaign and a passionate fanbase. This was to be the first Tomb Raider game developed for a new generation of hardware (Playstation 2). It was going to be a big, unforgettable adventure.
It was awful. Just a mess. Lara was given a stamina meter that made progressing through the game a pain, exacerbated by the fact that simply moving around and getting where you want to go in Angel of Darkness was like trudging through a swamp. There was a secondary character, Kurtis, a silly looking Hot Topic type whose moveset was more or less the same as Lara's. And the story was just the absolute pits, killing off one of the more interesting side characters in the series for such little payoff.
This one is just better left forgotten.
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9. Tomb Raider Chronicles : Tomb Raider had remained basically unchanged for five years when The Last Revelation was released in 1999. Up until then Tomb Raider's frustrating quirks were easy to forgive in light of just how fun Croft's adventures were. However, The Last Revelation was the breaking point, when the series' quirks and its Game Overs caused by a frustrating control scheme finally became too grating. Chronicles was released right after The Last Revelation and brought nothing new to the table. It was just another Tomb Raider game in a world where most people were tired of the series because it refused to evolve. The game's framing story, focusing on a group of friends gathered at Croft's manor to reminisce about her adventures, shows promise but doesn't really go anywhere you can't predict within five minutes of its beginning.
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8. Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation: The Last Revelation is essentially Tomb Raider IV, and good lord does it feel like the fourth game in a series that's not interested in changing its formula. The game's one saving grace is that its story, concerning Croft taking on both her former mentor Von Croy and Set, the god of disorder, is pretty good in a goofy sort of way. Playing the game to experience that story is a big chore, though.
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7. Tomb Raider Legend: Tomb Raider Legend was the first main series game after the disaster that was Angel of Darkness, and it's pretty good! It doesn't dispel all the criticisms about Tomb Raider's systems being ancient and a pain to deal with, but the facelift and the game's perfect length makes it one of the stronger adventures of the lesser Tomb Raider games.
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6. Tomb Raider III: Tomb Raider III is the dipping point of the series, when the cracks in the wall started showing. Bloated and even more ridiculous than the previous two, III's focus on combat—showering Lara in shotguns, uzis and rocket launchers—means that the game is often the most divisive of the first three games, leaving those who prefer the puzzley elements of the first two games out in the cold. The third game's focus on modern environments (including Area 51!) and its rudimentary stealth also contribute to the game's reputation as a black sheep of the family.
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5. Tomb Raider Underworld: Underworld, a sequel to Legend and the last game before the series' reboot, is a fantastic little game that doesn't ever get the respect it deserves for implementing new mechanics, like the grappling hook and a hint system. While Legend showcased a desire to bring Tomb Raider's antiquated and frustrated mechanics into the modern era and polish them, Underworld built upon that foundation to create the first wholly good Tomb Raider game since /Tomb Raider II .
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4. Rise Of The Tomb Raider: Rise of the Tomb Raider, the latest game in the series, is a solid follow up to the 2013 reboot that lacks the complexity or great storytelling of its predecessor. There are a few too many sequences where you're running through corridors and along cliffs while explosions are happening all around you and Lara's unfortunately a less interesting character this go round. The best parts of the game lie outside of the story missions when it allows you to explore the Siberian Wilderness and raid tombs or take on missions like killing enemy leaders or collecting intel in the enjoyable-if-not-very-tomb-raider-like-at-all Expeditions mode. However, even a watered down version of the 2013 game is better than the majority of Tomb Raider games and in the end Rise manages to be a good time even if it's in desperate need of a better structure.
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3. Tomb Raider II: Released a year after the original game Tomb Raider II wisely built upon the foundation of original, telling a better story and giving players all sorts of goodies to toy around with, including a speargun and a speedboat. The second game struck the best balance of combat and puzzle solving and is in many ways the strongest game of the original three. The mansion level at the end of the game still holds up incredibly well as a tense standoff.
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2. Tomb Raider (2013): Several attempts to modernize Tomb Raider culminated in a straight up reboot in 2013. Not only did the reboot defy expectations, mine included, that the game would be a dud, it's damn near close to being a masterpiece thanks to its fantastic, dreary setting and visceral combat. There are some storytelling issues, specifically with Lara's hasty evolution from nervous archeologist to ruthless warrior, but it's a quality game that brings a classic series that had fallen on hard times into a new era. The sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, was released today.
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1. Tomb Raider/Tomb Raider Anniversary: Yes. It's aged about as well as milk (thank god for the Anniversary edition) but the impact that the original game had on videogames, the design of 3D games in the late '90s in particular, cannot be understated. Lara Croft, with her wit and deadliness, is easily one of the most famous, coolest protagonists of all time, and the level design of the game would serve as the template for many action-adventure games that followed in its wake. Like Super Mario Brothers, like Doom, like Civilization, Tomb Raider is an essential game, one that played an instrumental role in shaping gaming as we know it.