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Tomb Raider Games Ranked from Worst to Best

I saw Lara Croft for the first time in 2006, right after the release of Tomb Raider: Legend. I was eleven years old and not fully into action-adventure games at the time, but I remember being stunned at two things in particular: this game had a girl as the main character, and she was so cool.

Although the Tomb Raider games never ended up being my favorite, Lara Croft will always be important to me. She’s the woman who helped me realize that female characters in video games could be more than just princesses or Valkyries in bikini armor (I still love you, Gauntlet). In honor of Lara and everything she represents, I’ve decided to rank the Tomb Raider main series titles. Feel free to read on for our breakdown of the top 11 games in the Tomb Raider franchise!

Tomb Raider Games Ranked Worst to Best

Starting at #11, let’s work our way down the list to review all Tomb Raider games ranked.

11. Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness

Tomb Raider Angel of Darkness
  • Developer: Core Design
  • Release Date: June 20, 2003
  • Platform(s): PC, PS2

The first game on our list is (chronologically) the final installment of the Tomb Raider series before the later reboots and remakes. The Angel of Darkness picks up some time after Lara Croft is thought to have died. But nope — she’s alive in well, visiting Paris on a search for the Obscura Paintings. With a mysterious serial killer threatening the city, Lara must collect these artifacts and thwart the evil plot hanging over the streets of Paris.

The Angel of Darkness introduces several new game mechanics to the series. In addition to new environmental moves, Lara also has the option to fight in hand-to-hand combat and use stealth to sneak up on her enemies and incapacitate them. The game also introduces a stamina bar for climbing segments and includes RPG-esque dialogue options as a way for Lara to get new information and progress through the game. A second playable character, Kurtis Trent, is also available.

Fans and critics alike consider The Angel of Darkness to be the worst of the main series Tomb Raider titles. The game has been criticized on multiple levels, with complaints covering everything from an underdeveloped story to slow, buggy, and uninteresting gameplay. Some of the new gameplay mechanics received positive feedback, but overall, the game didn’t fare well against other PS2 games that better utilized the platform’s capabilities and limitations.

10. Tomb Raider Chronicles

Tomb Raider Chronicles
  • Developer: Core Design
  • Release Date: November 21, 2000
  • Platform(s): PC, PlayStation, Dreamcast

Tomb Raider Chronicles tells a more episodic version of the Lara Croft story, with the campaign following a series of smaller adventures instead of one overarching plotline. In the wake of Lara Croft’s presumed death, her former acquaintances gather together to swap stories about her various exploits and adventures.

Gameplay is relatively similar to its immediate predecessor, The Last Revelation. Lara gets a few new moves and weapons, as well as a grappling gun that allows her to anchor to certain surfaces and swing across gaps. All in all, the numerous similarities to earlier Tomb Raider titles earned Chronicles mixed reviews, saying that it was a good game that simply didn’t build onto the formula enough to be considered remarkable.

9. Tomb Raider III

Tomb Raider III
  • Developer: Core Design
  • Release Date: November 20, 1998
  • Platform(s): PC, PlayStation

Tomb Raider III was built using an improved engine from the first two games. It was designed to combine the fun of the platform-based puzzle solving in the first game with the more intense shooter combat of the second. Though the dynamic gameplay and improved graphics were widely praised, the game was criticized for its lack of originality and devotion to the basic Tomb Raider formula.

In this installment, Lara Croft must hunt down four crystalline artifacts created from the remains of an Antarctic meteorite. The artifacts are scattered around the globe, meaning that Lara must deal with each new landscape’s unique challenges on her quest to obtain the artifacts and ensure that nobody uses their powers for nefarious purposes.

As mentioned above, much of the gameplay of Tomb Raider III remains similar to its predecessors. That said, the game does feature more underwater segments, and the new enemies (and obstacles) bring the puzzle-solving to a new dimension.

8. Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider
  • Developer: Eidos Montréal
  • Release Date: September 14, 2018
  • Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Stadia

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the final installment of the Lara Croft origin trilogy, concluding the story of both Tomb Raider (2013) and Rise of the Tomb Raider. The game follows themes of sacrifice and power as Lara holds off the apocalypse and becomes the fierce and fearless tomb raider we know from the franchise.

Gameplay combines the action-adventure, stealth, and survival mechanics introduced earlier in the trilogy with a few new features. Lara can now rappel down cliffs, camouflage herself, and spend longer periods underwater.

7. Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation

Tomb Raider The Last Revelation
  • Developer: Core Design
  • Release Date: December 6, 1999
  • Platform(s): PC, PlayStation, Dreamcast

Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation finds Lara Croft swept up in a story of mistakes and betrayal. After Lara is forced to leave her mentor behind in the crumbling ruins of their latest archaeological find, she finds herself needing to correct a potentially apocalyptic oversight.

The Last Revelation introduces new gameplay mechanics, including the ability to climb and swing from ropes. Certain levels offer multiple routes for completion, each with their own set of obstacles and puzzles. Since some levels can be completed in non-linear order, players can revisit earlier stages to try different methods for different rewards.

6. Tomb Raider: Underworld

Tomb Raider Underworld
  • Developer: Crystal Dynamics
  • Release Date: November 18, 2008
  • Platform(s): PC, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS, N-Gage 2.0

Set shortly after the events of LegendTomb Raider: Underworld focuses on Norse mythology and artifacts connected to Helheim. After a violent explosion leaves Croft Manor in ruins, Lara finds her father’s hidden study and the secret that may finally lead her to her mother’s fate.

Tomb Raider: Underworld was designed with a new philosophy in mind — one that imagined the potential capabilities of the franchise. If Lara Croft was meant to be a daring and creative tomb raider, her gameplay should reflect that, right?

As a result, players receive far more room to explore their environment and solve puzzles through trial and error. The world itself becomes more interactive as well, with added weather effects and permanent environmental damage. Lara also has a new melee combat system that makes clever use of range and dodging.

5. Tomb Raider: Legend

Tomb Raider Legend
  • Developer: Crystal Dynamics
  • Release Date: April 7, 2006
  • Platform(s): PC, PS2, PS3, PSP, Xbox, Xbox 360, GBA, DS, GameCube, Mobile

With the critical failure of The Angel of Darkness, responsibility for the Tomb Raider franchise was turned over to Crystal Dynamics, a development studio in the United States. The release of Tomb Raider: Legend breathed new life into the series, redesigning gameplay and the looks and origins of Lara Croft herself.

Tomb Raider: Legend joins Lara on her quest to learn more about her mother’s death, returning to the setting of ancient ruins from the franchise’s brief foray into urban landscapes. Although the gameplay is reminiscent of earlier titles, the controls and pacing are massively improved to allow for a more modern gaming experience. Traditional gameplay is peppered with minigames that increase tension and pacing while remaining true to the game’s spirit.

4. Tomb Raider II

Tomb Raider II
  • Developer: Core Design
  • Release Date: November 21, 1997
  • Platform(s): PC, PlayStation, Mobile

Tomb Raider II rejoins Lara Croft at the Great Wall of China, where her quest for the mythical Dagger of Xian leads to a prolonged run-in with the Venetian mafia. Lara must fight her way through Marco Bartoli’s henchmen to stop him from using the dagger to wreak havoc on the mortal world.

Tomb Raider II features many of the same mechanics as the first game, utilizing auto-lock combats alongside platforming-based puzzles. The game introduces new moves, weapons, and vehicles, and players get the option to save their progress at any point in the game, rather than only after they complete a level.

Later in its lifecycle, the game received a PC release called Tomb Raider II Gold, which includes four bonus levels as part of an additional mini-adventure.

3. Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider
  • Developer: Crystal Dynamics
  • Release Date: November 10, 2015
  • Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Stadia

Rise of the Tomb Raider is the direct sequel to the 2013 reboot of the franchise, once again following Lara Croft in her greenhorn adventurer years. In this game, Lara desperately searches for an explanation of the supernatural experiences she had on the island of Yamatai. She immerses herself in her late father’s research, questing for the lost city of Kitezh and the answers it may hold.

The game utilizes the modified gameplay introduced by the reboot (more on that shortly), with the addition of a few new moves that allow Lara to interact more fully with her environment and the unique obstacles it features. Players can also upgrade Lara’s abilities via new RPG elements, customizing their gameplay according to their preferences. The game’s Expedition mode rewards experimentation, allowing players to repeat levels with new goals and gameplay parameters.

2. Tomb Raider (2013)

Tomb Raider 2013
  • Developer: Crystal Dynamics
  • Release Date: March 5, 2013
  • Platform(s): PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Stadia

Tomb Raider (2013) is yet another reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. Jump back into the mix, as you explore the origins of Lara Croft from an entirely new perspective. In this installment, we join Lara before she becomes a battle-hardened adventurer. Instead, she fights for her life on an island populated by violent cultists.

Rather than being a puzzle-platformer like other titles in the series, Tomb Raider (2013) focuses more on action, exploration, and survival mechanics. Combat resembles that of Naughty Dog titles, allowing players to fight enemies head-on or with outmaneuvering and stealthy takedowns.

The game also introduces an online multiplayer option that pits players against each other in 4v4 matches across three different modes (Team Deathmatch, Private Rescue, and Cry for Help).

1. Tomb Raider I

Tomb Raider I
  • Developer: Core Design
  • Release Date: October 25, 1996
  • Platform(s): PC, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, N-Gage, Mobile

As you can see from other installments on this list, the original Tomb Raider has seen more than a few remakes in its twenty-four-year lifespan. Lara Croft and her debut story resonated strongly with players, keeping us returning to the franchise despite its myriad ups and downs.

As the game that founded the series, Tomb Raider also established the mechanics that would go on to become staples. Action-adventure combat meets puzzle-platform in the game’s intricate level design, giving players a wide variety of ecological interactions that they can use to avoid traps and uncover secrets. 

Despite all its remakes and the many spin-offs and sequels, Tomb Raider remains the most critically-acclaimed title in the series. It was largely praised for its balanced gameplay and graphics, and has earned the top spot on our list with a story that’s held up beautifully over the years.

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Related Reading

Thanks for checking out the best Tomb Raider games ranked! If you have any thoughts about our list — or recommendations for another series you’d like us to rank — please leave us a comment.

 

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