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Tomb Raider is an undeniable classic name in gaming. Hitting the scene way back in 1996, Core Design introduced the world to an icon. The often mispronounced Lara Croft (it’s Lara, not Laura!) Tomb Raider had it all. Exotic adventures, dinosaurs and a figure that inspires chronic back pain. I grew up with Tomb Raider being quite a big thing.
However, it is only recently that I’ve gone back and actually played all the games from the original series. Before this, my main experience was with Crystal Dynamics‘ reboot of the franchise. So now that I’ve finally played them all I’m going to put them all in ranking order.
I won’t be including Crystal Dynamics hard reboot of the franchise in my ranking. I got about an hour into Rise Of The Tomb Raider before giving up. It’s just not Tomb Raider anymore, is it? What it really is is an unholy amalgamation of Uncharted, The Last of Us and Far Cry. Not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s just not classic Tomb Raider. Don’t even get me started on the horrible ways you die in these games — it’s like watching a snuff film!
This list is gonna be pretty subjective, so please don’t murder me. Without further ado, here is my ranking of the classic Tomb Raider games.
9. Tomb Raider: Chronicles
First up is Tomb Raider Chronicles — but I should quickly explain how I’m ranking them. It’s from worst to best, and trust me this one is the worst. Split into four chapters that explore previous adventures in Lara’s career, it’s easy to see Core Designs’ exhaustion with the franchise. Five games in five years could be pretty tiring, especially as they originally planned to kill her off in the previous game. Chronicles isn’t terrible, just also not exciting — with no coherent overarching plot.
8. Tomb Raider III
I spent a lot of time deciding which game would be ranked worst on this list. Tomb Raider III very nearly made the bottom entry before Chronicles took the dive. Yet again, this one isn’t terrible. It’s just a bit dull, with a rather boring story. In Tomb Raider III, you jump across the globe to four different areas searching for old shards of a meteorite. This game really loves instant death traps around every corner — and it gets old fast.
7. Tomb Raider II
I feel like I may have agitated much of the Tomb Raider fandom simply by ignoring the new trilogy and then again by not putting Angel Of Darkness in bottom place (it’s going to be a little while before you see that one, sorry!) And now I go and put Tomb Raider II seventh, of all places. What am I like?
Why is it here? It didn’t have much of a story. Seriously, what was going on in this game? I had no idea why anyone was doing anything or even who any of them were. I don’t even know who the main villain is. What was his name and where did he come from? Was he Italian or Chinese? I have no clue!
6. Tomb Raider
And now for the game that started it all, Tomb Raider! Fun fact here, originally the game had two protagonists for you to chose from. A male and a female! Ultimately, the devs decided that the female character was far more interesting so developed her into the Lara we know today. Can you imagine a parallel universe where they went with the male instead? We’d have Larry Croft or whatnot! Weird. Anyway, Tomb Raider is pretty good. Fun set pieces, interesting story, and a solid atmosphere.
5. Tomb Raider: Underworld
Rounding off Crystal Dynamics soft reboot of the franchise was Tomb Raider: Underworld and it’s pretty good — but could have been so much better! Continuing on from Legend, Underworld offers a similar experience, but one that lacks some of its most entertaining features. Gone is the awesome ability to jump off enemies, gone is much of Lara’s charm, and also mostly absent are Alistair and Zip. Still, it lets you wield Thor’s mighty hammer Mjolnir at the end — so that’s cool!
4. Tomb Raider: The Angel Of Darkness
Okay so putting The Angel Of Darkness this high up on the list is pretty damn controversial, but I’m biased and if you think about it, so might you be. Angel Of Darkness was a rushed disjointed and buggy mess but it still has charm! The story is fascinating, the set pieces are breathtaking and the music and characters and voice acting are brilliant. That just leaves the bugs — and thanks to a dedicated community, they’ve all been fixed! It’s still a bit clunky, but so were all of the original games and out of all of them, Angel Of Darkness plays best. I personally adore this game, I only wish that it hadn’t been rushed out the door by Eidos.
3. Tomb Raider: Anniversary
Now that Angel of Darkness is out the way, I promise things won’t be so controversial. I think.
Here we have Crystal Dynamics loving remake of Core Designs original game. While I’m not personally a massive fan of Tomb Raider: Anniversary, I still appreciate that it’s pretty great and it’s also very faithful to the vision of the original. Basically its the same game but with better graphics, gameplay, writing and voice acting.
2. Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation
Back to the Core Designs games now — and out of all the originals that I played for the first time, this is the only one I think I might replay. Coming with a facelift and a new voice actor (Jonell Elliot), Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation really works to establish a deeper character for Lara. And it really works! This is a much more personal story than the games that came before, and it’s also much more interesting. Apart from a lacklustre final boss, Last Revelation is pretty damn great.
1. Tomb Raider: Legend
And finally, we have what I consider the best in the series: Tomb Raider: Legend! The game introduces a new Lara, voiced perfectly by Keeley Hawes, and a new bunch of fun characters for her to interact with. Zip and Alistair are both great, and their interactions with Lara are always fun to hear. Lara herself is energetic and full of humour and wit, while still remaining an intimidating force. The story and gameplay are also immensely entertaining and the music is fantastic in this one. My only complaint with Legend is that it’s pretty short, only taking around five hours to complete, but still it’s the best. You get to wield Excalibur, so that’s awesome!
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