The Tomb Raider series is legendary for a variety of reasons. For one, it gave us a strong female protagonist that goes toe-to-toe in popularity with the likes of Mario and Sonic. Furthermore, from the outset, the series successfully melds together three key aspects of gaming that everyone enjoys, namely exploration, combat, and level design. Almost every Tomb Raider title can be appreciated by a broader spectrum of gamers, which makes it one of the most broadly appealing franchises in history.
Now that the series is continuing to enjoy high popularity, we figured we would break down the six best Lara Croft games of all time.
6. Tomb Raider: Legend
Legend has to be included in every self-respecting Tomb Raider list because of one key point: it essentially kept the series alive after Angel of Darkness nearly destroyed it. Without this Lara outing, we would likely have never seen the rebooted series from 2013. Legend corrected course on so many things AoD did wrong. From an excessively campy story to a host of missteps in the gameplay department, Legend had a ton of wrongs to make right and it nailed them by the skin of its teeth.
5. Tomb Raider II
The sequel to the original Tomb Raider had two jobs to do: capitalize on what made it predecessor great and let us finally ride vehicles. And it delivered on both accounts. The gameplay is every bit as solid as the original, albeit with similar janky platforming. This time around, it introduced more outdoor environments that break up the claustrophobic monotony of being in tombs all the time. Being able to also control vehicles instead of watching Lara ride them in cutscenes was a welcome addition.
4. Tomb Raider: Underworld
One of Lara’s initial delvings into freer gameplay came in the form of Underworld, an approach to Tomb Raider that felt like a solid effort towards upgrading the series. Although the game has its flaws and never truly feels as open as it could with its level design, it still hit a ton of high notes a Lara Croft game has us accustomed to. Its gameplay feels snappy and the story in many ways feels elevated from the rest of the series. Some may contest this as not one of Lara’s finest adventures but we contest that it does pretty much everything you expect from a Tomb Raider game competently.
3. Tomb Raider (2013)
Lara Croft was called out big time when Naughty Dog made a splash with the Uncharted series so Crystal Dynamic went to work. And boy, did they deliver. Tomb Raider’s return to the limelight hit all of the high notes of what made the series great in the past while wisely sacrificing its campier aspects. Its darker setting made Lara feel like a protagonist developed for a more modern and sophisticated gaming audience without forgetting her roots. On top of all that, the 2013 reboot finally fixed everything wrong with the original’s platforming.
2. Rise of the Tomb Raider
Of all of the rebooted games in the Tomb Raider series, this has got to be Lara’s best. For one, it takes everything that made the 2013 title great and amps it up to 11 while also introducing a lot more freedom. More importantly, it’s a game that truly modernizes the multi-gameplay elements that the series was known for while at the same time looking absolutely stunning. Story-wise, it’s got a ways to go but that’s always par the course with Lara’s adventures so we give it a slight pass.
1. Tomb Raider (1996)
For most people, the best Tomb Raider game is a toss-up between Rise and the original game. For us, though, we never forgot our first love so the 1996 title that started it all deserves the number 1 spot. It’s one of the most influential video games of all time, particularly because it starred a female protagonist that became iconic seemingly overnight. On top of that, it combined exploration with genius-level design and amazing combat situations. For its time, Tomb Raider was way ahead of its time, combining most aspects of what made gaming great. It stands the test of time despite having stiff controls and relatively janky platforming.