Tomb Raider is one of best selling video games of all time. Managing to stay alive for over 20 years the franchise has seen some of the best games and some of the worst. Since the reboot of 2013 there has been a lot of controversy over the change in direction of the series to more action adventure and less of what made the franchise, it’s unique platform, puzzle approach. While many of the installments of the Tomb Raider franchise have explored different avenues, some did well and others, not so much.
With the upcomming release of Shadow of the Tomb Raider we’re taking a look back at the franchise ranking of the Tomb Raider titles form worst to best (excluding the forgettable mobile and handheld games). What’s most Important in ranking these titles is how true to the Tomb Raider essence does each game capture, Strength in story, character development, action mechanics, environment, and of course the supernatural, historical lore.
Let’s take a deeper look at Lara’s adventures and misadventures starting from worst to best….
(13) Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness
Taking on way too much with too little time, Core Design managed to deliver a game that just felt overall, half finished. While this installment showcased some of the best cinematic elements and innovative game features for RPG games of the time, including, conversation options that directly affect story progress, a stamina bar and skill point system, the execution of these elements just fell short. Set in such a modern environment, the lack of actual tombs was jarring. Many players reported glitches and bugs, and back in the days where patches didn’t exist, these bugs were permanent scars. Being too derivative from the original game’s concept sets this title as the worst. Angel of Darkness was such a failure that Core Design was removed from the franchise indefinitely.
(12) Tomb Raider Chronicles
Tomb Raider Chronicles had a real Interesting take on story telling. Starting with Lara’s funeral and reliving “old stories” is great, if they’re fully fleshed out. It was as if the team desperately tried to find a way to come back from how they ended the previous trilogy with a bunch of different stories they wanted to tell before they killed of their main protagonist. After four games of the same routine and the lack of an engine upgrade, this game just lack luster, but hey you got to see Lara in so awesome new outfits!
(11) Tomb Raider III
Tomb Raider III brought a renewed focus on puzzles and the game’s slight deviations from linear design made it stand out from it’s predecessor. The addition of weather affects, traversal options, and you can’t forget the quicksand, were much more more notable than the plot. While bringing Lara to a modern setting wasn’t the best direction; having her in such odd locations like London and Area 51 really isn’t where we’d expect to find our Tomb Raider. While traversing through water isn’t new to Lara’s adventures, the sheer amount and difficulty navigating through the endless seas in Tomb Raider III, really makes this tittle one of the worst. No one likes a water level, but at least this time Lara wore some pants in the frozen tundra.
(10) Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris upped the anti from its predecessor, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Because two wasn’t enough, they created a title where four people participated in an adventure. Solving puzzles was still a major focus and a larger world allowed for the progression of gaining abilities that unlocked new areas to explore. The unique and challenging puzzles that take more than one mind to tackle, make Temple of Osiris a perfect party game. However, the cooperative mechanics of this installment made the game quite difficult solo.
(9) Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation
Last Revelation finally brought a solid story to the franchise. Players finally get a form of an origin story as teenage Lara and her mentor start off this title. The use of an overall theme for the setting really brought a cohesiveness that the previous games lacked. The traversal options added were long overdue, levels contained multiple routes and could be revisited even after completion. Yet, by the forth installment, the age of Core’s engine really started to show; But hey, Lara finally lost the polygons!
(8) Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Although Guardian of Light isn’t a main installment, its successful adaptation from third person to twin-stick shooter merits mention. For the first time Tomb Raider fans were able to take on adventures together, giving an entirely new experience to the franchise. While still sticking to the true essence of Tomb Raider in such a alternative format places this title on the list.
(7) Tomb Raider: Legend
The first reimagining of the Tomb Raider series was a surprising success. Under the guidance of the Tomb Raider 1996 creator, the series came back from the dead. Lara finally equipped with full 3D movement, puzzles that utilized realistic physics, and even destructible environment. Legend gave players a glimpse at baby Lara establishing the well needed back story for a complete reboot, even though it was so short.
(6) Tomb Raider: Underworld
Building on the framework of the previous games Underworld was a successful expansion. For the First time full motion capture was used and new gameplay features such as dual-targeting, a multi-purpose grappling hook and a new melee combat system where Lara could take out enemies in the most stylish manner yet. Underworld only failed because it was unable to be as groundbreaking as Uncharted, the series that completely reinvented the genre.
(5) Tomb Raider 1996
One can’t simply disregard how groundbreaking Tomb Raider was in 1996. The original game, however outdated, established a believable, interactive environment in a time where grids and polygons were the only things at their disposal. Tomb Raider established staple gaming mechanisms such as, location specific music. The use of environmental puzzles that took timing and precision, and optical illusions to disguise hidden rooms or collectables were ingenious. However, the lack of character development for such an iconic protagonist is jarring for this debut title. With such ridged movement and easy combat, if any, makes the game drag on and for some of us, that lack the perseverance, will eventually give up entirely. Yet, Being one of the frontiers of 3D gaming, Tomb Raider set the stage not just for the franchise, but every other game that followed.
(4) Tomb Raider II
Tomb Raider II was a bigger and better version of it’s predecessor. Finally a fledged plot allowed for the development of Lara Croft into the epic heroine we know and adore today. The expanded environment and detailed maps allowed room for vehicles that used to be restricted only to cut scenes; Animators were even able to get Ms. Croft’s ponytail working in game. The increase in gunplay was well needed, but bringing Lara to a stage outside of caves took away from the Tomb Raider essence. The most memorable moments were exploring Lara’s mansion and pestering her poor, old butler. Tomb Raider II was extremely well rounded, even complete with a snarky forth wall break at the end.
(3) Rise of the Tomb Raider
Everything that its predecessor brought to the franchise Rise of the Tomb Raider embellished on. With the origin story out of the way, Lara was free to come into the Tomb Raider role; finally having Lara on a quest exploring an ancient civilization. This title was the most visually stunning of the entire franchise. Moreover, the revolutionary mechanics made gameplay fluid with high re-playability. Rise of the Tomb Raider was excellent in giving players a real open world adventure, however, the easy to see travel paths made exploration lackluster compared to previous titles. Although the removal of QTEs was favorable to most, it couldn’t make up for the un-compelling plot and absent puzzles. The lack of set pieces make the game drag on at points, however fun it is to play.
(2) Tomb Raider: Anniversary
Rebuilt with a new engine, Tomb Raider Anniversary was the HD remake of everyone’s dreams. Keeping the story from the 1996 Tomb Raider, Anniversary, with its upgrades, embellishes everything the original had to offer. Classic Lara, now fully equipped with the latest mechanics rebooted puzzles and environments, leaving you full of nostalgia.
(1) Tomb Raider 2013
With a fresh restart, Crystal Dynamics released their most drastic reboot yet. Tomb Raider 2013 finally gave players the origin story of the greatest video game heroin. Tracing her ascent from a frightened young lady to a mature, hardened survivor. With a realistic character design and strong emphasis on character development, the story Tomb Rider 2013 brought was visionary. The open world style broke the liner progression mold for the franchise and opened a world of possibilities. With options in exploration and variety in gameplay, each person could have their own unique experience playing the title. With the addition of free aim and stealth options made the combat challenging for the first time in the franchise. Even though tombs were optional tasks and traversal hazards were often plot driven, the captivating story and free roaming places this title as one of the best.
What’s so impressive is how the Tomb Raider games persevered for so many years. Very few video game franchises get as many chances for a comeback as Tomb Raider has. Yet somehow, Tomb Raider persists, continuously reinventing itself, pushing boundaries to bring your favorite heroine back.
Can the franchise continue to live up to the high standard of its predecessors? Where do you think Shadow of the Tomb Raider will fall on this list? Let us know in the comments!
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