Tomb Raider is a beloved video-game franchise that has sprawled across comics and movies. The action-adventure titles are also coming to Netflix as an anime series.
The series follows Lara Croft, a fictional English archeologist who ventures into ancient tombs, hazardous ruins, and dangerous islands worldwide. Her goal, as well as the player’s goal, is finding secrets and treasures.
It’s a simple idea that has brought forward various elements: action-adventure, puzzle-solving, third-person combat, platforming, and outlandish events revolving around ancient deities and artifacts.
Tomb Raider Games in Order
There have been 12 Tomb Raider Games, plus two RPG spinoffs. Since its debut, the series has sold over 82 million copies.
Core Design created the first trilogy between 1996 and 1999. After a second, less successful trilogy, Crystal Dynamics rebooted the series in 2006.
In 2013, Square Enix became the series’ new publisher. They rebooted the series a second time in 2013. The last three games are the “Survivor Timeline.” These reached the highest sales numbers of the entire franchise.
So far, these are the Tomb Raider games in order:
- Tomb Raider -1996
- Tomb Raider II: The Dagger of Xian – 1997
- Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft – 1998
- Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation -1999
- Tomb Raider Chronicles – 2000
- Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness -2003
- Tomb Raider: Legend -2006 (Reboot)
- Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary (Remake) – 2007
- Tomb Raider Underworld – 2008
- Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (Spinoff) – 2010
- Tomb Raider (Reboot) – 2013
- Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris (Spinoff) – 2014
- Rise of the Tomb Raider -2015
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider -2018
Aside from the main game, there’re spin-offs for other consoles like Game Boy and mobile devices. We’re disregarding these titles, though.
Tomb Raider debuted in 1996 for the Sega Saturn. Later on, versions for PlayStation, MS-Dos, macOS, Pocket PC, N-Gage, iOS, and Android came out.
1996’s Tomb Raider introduced Lara Croft. Businesswoman Jacqueline Natfla hired her to find the Scion of Atlantis artifact.
The original title game set the series’ formula, and it hasn’t changed much ever since.
Its core elements deliver a third-person action-adventure game that revolves around exploring ruins and tombs. During your explorations, you’ll need to solve puzzles to go on, as well as fight against the wildlife, raiders, and other enemies.
Then, the gameplay sets levels with multiple areas, complex rooms, and challenging puzzles. Until now, puzzle-solving is a critical part of Tomb Raider’s single-player experience.
More importantly, Lara Croft packs her two classic pistols with infinite ammo on the back. These are her main weapons, but she can also fight in melee.
Lastly, the game features 16 extensive levels. It was a lengthy experience for a 1996 game.
The second installment of the Tomb Raider series debuted in 1997 for PC and PlayStation. The Sega Saturn version never reached the market. Instead, there were later ports for macOS and iOS.
The game sold over 8 million copies and became one of the all-time best sellers.
Its plot takes place on the Great Wall of China, where Lara must find the Dagger of Xian. The dagger belongs to the first Chinese emperor, which is why it holds incredible value.
Other than a new story and new areas, it’s the same game as before. Lara can jump, climb, push, pull, use ranged weapons, and fight with her fists. Climbing was a novelty compared to the previous game.
Also, there’re new weapons Lara Croft can use. At the same time, the game puts more emphasis on combat.
Tomb Raider II: The Golden Mask
Tomb Raider II has an expansion, The Golden Mask. It features a new mission across four levels.
The expansion tells a crazy story that opens up the Tomb Raider universe. As she looks for the Golden Mask, she faces dinosaurs and giant monsters.
Adventures of Lara Croft continued the series in 1998. It debuted for PlayStation and Windows. A port reached macOS a year later.
The third installment takes Lara Croft on a quest to find four meteorite pieces. These are scattered in different parts of the world.
Even though the gameplay is quite similar to Tomb Raider II, it presents various improvements. Notably, the game came with a new graphic engine that improved efficiency, graphics, and performance.
The engine also allowed developers to create more complex levels and puzzles. That’s the reason why Tomb Raider III puts more emphasis on puzzles compared to the first two entries.
The Last Revelation debuted in 1999 for PlayStation and Windows. A year later, a port reached Dreamcast and macOS platforms.
The new story adds more mystical elements. Lara Croft’s goal is to imprison the Egyptian god Set.
Revelation delivers similar gameplay to previous entries while improving enemy AI and graphics. Other than that, the game lacks significant innovation.
The game ends with the supposed death of Lara Croft.
Chronicles debuted in 2000 for PlayStation, Windows, and Dreamcast.
It follows The Last Revelation story. A group of friends attend Lara Croft’s memorial at the Croft Mansion and talk about Lara’s early adventures. So, the game happens as a series of flashbacks.
Players go through different levels, solve puzzles, and fight enemies. Lara Croft could now move with stealth and attack enemies from a stealth position.
Nevertheless, the last part of the game suggests Lara might still be alive below the Great Pyramid ruins.
The Angel of Darkness debuted in 2003 for PlayStation 2 and Windows. In 2003, a port reached macOS X PCs.
The plot continues both The Last Revelation and Chronicles. Sometime after Lara Croft’s supposed death, she arrives in Paris. Her mentor, Wener Von Croy, assigns her a new quest: finding the Obscura Paintings. Before the treasure hunting begins, an unknown assassin kills Von Croy.
Authorities believe Lara Croft is the murderer. So, the game turns into Lara trying to prove herself innocent. To achieve her goals, she must also find the Obscura Paintings.
The performance and visual upgrades were apparent because this is the first Tomb Raider game for PlayStation 2. Moreover, the developers implemented a stealth system reminiscent of the Metal Gear series. As Lara Croft had to hide from police officers, it was a core mechanic.
Legend is the next entry of the action-adventure Tomb Raider series. It debuted in 2006 for PS2, Xbox 360, PlayStation Portable, GameCube, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and Windows PC. In 2011, the game also reached the PlayStation 3.
Crystal Dynamics was in charge of the game, and they decided to reboot Tomb Raider. So, the game had a new Lara Croft origins story.
The new plot is about Lara Croft searching for the Excalibur sword across the world. The story happens across linear levels where Lara must defeat enemies, solve puzzles, and traverse dangerous environments.
Crystal Dynamics overhauled the graphics and the engine. As a result, the game brought a new design for Lara Croft, improved controllers, and better enemy AI.
It’s the game that saved the franchise.
Anniversary debuted in 2007 for Microsoft Windows, PS2, Xbox 360, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo Wii, and smartphones. A year later, the game reached PS3 and macOS X.
Celebrating 10 years of Lara Croft, this game is a remake of the original 1996 Tomb Raider game.
It brings back Croft’s original story with the graphical prowess of the time. If you remember, the plot is about finding the Scion artifact.
The levels and story are similar, albeit there’re some additions. First, Lara Croft’s creator Toby Gard came back to expand the narrative of the game. Gard re-designed Lara, co-wrote the story and supervised the characters, character movement, and cinematics.
Then, original composer Troels Brun Folmann remade the music with an orchestra.
Likewise, Lara Croft has new moves, close to what players can do in Legend. That impacted level design as the game became more complex and expansive.
For example, the dev team re-designed the puzzles to match the graphical engine. Also, the levels had branching paths, so the Anniversary version was not as linear as previous games.
Aside from that, the remake offered better gameplay, acrobatic movement, and improved overall performance and gameplay.
Underworld is the third part of the Legend storyline. It debuted in 2008 for PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, and Windows.
The game features new gameplay elements. Overall, the game improved gunplay, the inventory system, the map, and movement. Also, developers added a multi-purpose grappling hook.
Another addition was a hint system that guides players during puzzles and platforming sections. Also, Lara Croft could now kick and grapple-pull enemies.
The plot revolves around Lara Croft exploring a family mystery.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a spin-off. It doesn’t follow the main franchise story, and it comes with a different kind of gameplay.
This is an isometric A-RPG game that mixes character progression with platforming, puzzles, and exploration.
The plot takes place in Central America. Lara Croft and her team must face Xolotl, an evil spirit that’s raising the dead.
Overall, this is an excellent RPG game; it just doesn’t have much recognition. As the first game under the Square Enix umbrella, I guess the RPG masters were trying to take the series towards another genre.
The game debuted in 2010 for Windows, PS3, and Xbox 360.
Survivor Timeline Trilogy
After a four-year hiatus, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix came back with yet another reboot. The game debuted in 2013 for PS3, Xbox 360, and Windows. In 2014, the game reached macOS X and Linux as well. Currently, there’re versions for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series.
Tomb Raider 2013 tells a new origin story for Lara Croft. The plot happens in Yamatai, a fictional lost island of the old Japanese empire. Lara Croft and her team are searching for the island. However, a shipwreck leaves the ship survivors stranded.
The setting delivers a linear-cinematic action-adventure game. As this happens before Lara Croft had any combat experience, your goal is to survive, save your friends, and escape the island. Thus, you’ll slowly progress through the island to find what you need and those who need you.
Gameplay mechanics focus on the survival elements. While the game is linear, areas are wide and invite you to explore to find supplies, ammo, and secrets.
More importantly, the Survivor Timeline Trilogy added RPG mechanics. Lara Croft gains XP by combat, hunting, exploration, raiding tombs, and collecting artifacts. As Lara levels, players gain skill points to spend on various combat, survival, or exploration skills.
Tomb Raider 2013 received critical and fan acclaim. Many consider the reboot was ahead of its time. The graphics, sound design, music, atmosphere, gameplay, and storytelling still holds up today.
The game sold over 8 million copies by 2015. It was a new height for the franchise.
Currently, the game has a multiplayer feature, a 4v4 PvP combat on different maps. If you browse Steam, you’ll see a wide array of skins and power-ups for the multiplayer part of the game.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris continue the Guardian of Light with a similar isometric A-RPG gameplay. RPG elements, platforming, and puzzles are also present.
The game also allows a four-player co-op, either online or offline. If you play alone, you’ll control Lara. As friends join your party, they can play as Carter, Isis, and Horus.
The co-op works as a drop-in/drop-out feature. As more players join your party, the game becomes more challenging and more rewarding.
As for the story, Lara and her team go to an Egyptian underworld to defeat the evil god Set.
The game debuted for PS4 and Xbox One in 2014. Currently, there’re various DLCs and packs available for the title. There’s also a Google Stadia version available.
Rise of the Tomb Raider continues the reboot and keeps similar gameplay and design.
It debuted as an Xbox-timed exclusive in 2015 (Xbox One and Xbox 360). Then, the title reached the PlayStation 4 and Windows PCs in 2016. Nowadays, there’re versions for Linux, macOS, Google Stadia, PS5, and Xbox Series.
The plot happens in Siberia, where Lara Croft searches for Kitezh, a legendary city. Kitzeh holds the secret of immortality, but another paramilitary group is searching for its power as well.
As before, you travel environments, combat enemies, and solve puzzles. Stealth and survival elements are prevalent. However, the game delivers semi-open pocket worlds instead of linear level design.
On each of these hubs, Lara can raid tombs to unlock rewards. Additionally, she can complete side missions and scavenge resources to craft materials.
Eidos Montreal and Nixxes Software created a new game engine for the game. It improved the overall performance and graphics of the title.
Much like its predecessor, Rise of the Tomb Raider was a successful game. By 2017, the game had sold over 7 million copies. It didn’t beat Tomb Raider 2013, but it kept a high mark either way.
If you search the game on Steam or other platforms, you see various DLCs, packs, and add-ons.
The latest entry of the Tomb Raider saga came out in 2018 for Windows, PS4, and Xbox One. Nowadays, the game is available for PS5, Xbox Series, macOS, Linux, and Google Stadia.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the final entry of the reboot trilogy. It came out for Windows, PS4, and Xbox One. macOS, Linux, and Google Stadia versions are currently available.
The new plot puts Lara Croft in the Americas, searching for the legendary city Paititi. Lara’s goal is stopping the Mayan apocalypse that’s unleashing.
As before, you can raid tombs, scavenge resources, and complete side missions on each pocket semi-open world. Aside from that, gameplay tweaks include swimming, a grappling hook, and increased difficulty.
Finally, Shadow of the Tomb Raider added more complexity to the RPG features. There’re more skills and more progression pathways. Also, there’s a skill three players can unlock via a New Game+ feature.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider has various DLCs and add-ons. Nevertheless, you can buy the Definitive Edition to enjoy its full content.
Who Created Lara Croft?
Lara Croft’s creator was Toby Gard, a Core Design developer. In other words, he did not create the game. Instead, he was part of the Tomb Raider team, which started working in 1990.
He had creative control over character creation and storytelling. However, he lost creative control in 1997, and he left Core Design. Currently, he’s the owner of Cathuria Games.
Funny enough, he hasn’t had a very successful career. At least, Lara Croft’s popularity is far greater than his.
For example, he’s promoting Dream Cycle, an Early Access action-adventure game that looks promising…but has almost zero support.
Did Lara Croft Died?
The Last Revelation ends with the death of Lara Croft. Instead, developers added the plot twist as they didn’t know if the franchise would continue. After years of non-stop Tomb Raider development, developers were tired.
Eurogamer interviewed various developers in 2016. They revealed Core Design over-worked them to reach the yearly releases Eidos Interactive needed. Even though the titles were hits, and even though developers received royalties for their work, Tomb Raider took a toll on the dev team.
Why Did Core Design Stop Working on the Tomb Raider Franchise?
The Last Revelation and Chronicles had poor sales. Publisher Eidos Interactive scrapped the idea of a new trilogy and passed the game over to Crystal Dynamics.
Why Did Eidos Interactive Lose Tomb Raider’s Publishing Rights?
Eidos Interactive lost publishing rights after 2009’s Underworld.
Underworld had a fair amount of new features to feel fresh, plus a new story to follow. Even so, the sales were below Eidos Interactive’s expectations.
Its failure came perhaps to its bugs, low performance, and sub-par graphics.
In the aftermath, Square Enix bought Eidos Interactive and rebooted the franchise once again.
Why Did Eidos Montreal Develop Shadow of the Tomb Raider?
Crystal Dynamics had been at the helm of the franchise since Tomb Raider Legends. However, they moved on towards Marvels’ Avengers before 2017.
Hence, Eidos Montreal developed Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
Is the Latest Tomb Raider Movie Akin to the Games?
The 2018 Tomb Raider movie takes inspiration from the latest trilogy. For example, the movie takes place in Yamatai, and the primary antagonist is the Trinity Corporation.
Moreover, Lara Croft’s character is similar to Tomb Raider’s character (2013). Her physical and emotional attributes are akin to Crystal Dynamic’s first game, so she grows and learns over time.
Even some action scenes and set-pieces take direct inspiration from the game’s cinematic cuts. Moreover, the plot happens because there’s a shipwreck on the island.
Are There Unofficial Tomb Raider Games?
Yes. For example, there’s no official remake for Tomb Raider II. However, a group of fans and modders are creating their unofficial remake of Tomb Raider II. Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics authorized the title.
There’s already a gameplay demo for the game. I have to say it looks fantastic:
Are There Mobile Tomb Raider Games?
We recommend 2015’s best-seller Tomb Raider Go. It’s a puzzle and platformer game with gorgeous graphics.
If you’re looking for a free alternative, you could try Lara Croft: Run.