Tomb Raider is definitely a franchise that needs no introduction – it is one of gaming’s longest-running franchises that has helped define the action-adventure genre, and it also stands out as one of the first major franchises to feature a female protagonist.
However, Tomb Raider has been around for over two decades at this point, so naturally, the games changed and evolved over the years. And in this article, we’ll be going over all the Tomb Raider games ever released, providing a brief overview of each one.
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Release date: October 25, 1996
Platforms: Sega Saturn, Sony PlayStation, MS-DOS, Classic Mac OS, N-Gage, iOS, Android
The very first game in the franchise is the one that set the tone for all the sequels and reboots that would follow over the years. Known simply as “Tomb Raider”, the game hit the shelves in 1996, published for the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation consoles, as well as MS-DOS.
Tomb Raider introduces the player to the series’ iconic protagonist, Lara Croft, and her signature dual pistols. The game features 3D levels that were quite something back in 1996, and while there was obviously combat involved, it was puzzles, acrobatics, and exploration that were the primary focus of the game.
Tomb Raider II
Release date: October 31, 1997
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Sony PlayStation, Classic Mac OS, iOS, Android
The second Tomb Raider game came out a year later, and it did what sequels usually do: it built upon the foundation established by the original and expanded upon it by introducing some new additions that help improve and streamline the experience.
Fundamentally, Tomb Raider II doesn’t differ much from the original, as it still focuses on the exploration of various locales and features plenty of puzzle-solving, though it is noticeably more action-oriented. There were many improvements, such as enhanced graphics and a variety of new gameplay mechanics that helped the experience feel more dynamic and engaging, not to mention the inclusion of new weapons.
Tomb Raider III
Release date: November 20, 1998
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Sony PlayStation, Classic Mac OS
Tomb Raider III, also known as Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft, kept the formula mostly unchanged, for better or for worse.
The game features a variety of locations around the world and it takes a step back from the trigger-happy pacing of the second game in order to focus more on exploration and puzzles, like the original Tomb Raider.
Naturally, the engine as updated once again, so the game featured even better graphics, but as mentioned above, it didn’t introduce any significant changes to the tried-and-true formula already seen in the previous two games.
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation
Release date: November 19, 1999
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Sony PlayStation, Sega Dreamcast, Classic Mac OS
The fourth game in the series, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, is the fourth game in the franchise and also the first game where franchise fatigue truly started setting in.
As you might have guessed, The Last Revelation added little apart from the usual technical improvements – improved graphics, smoothed-out gameplay mechanics, and some new gear. It is one of the weaker links in the franchise which really failed to stand out, and as you might have guessed from the title, it was originally supposed to be the final Tomb Raider game.
However, due to the franchise’s sheer popularity, more games had to be developed, and several mediocre sequels would follow before the series received its first soft reboot.
Tomb Raider (Game Boy Color)
Release date: June 8, 2000
Platforms: Game Boy Color
The GBC game titled simply “Tomb Raider” was released in the year 2000, and while it was obviously nowhere near as advanced and complex as the first four games, this 2D platformer was a welcome change of pace for the series, and it was the first Tomb Raider game made for a portable console.
Tomb Raider Chronicles
Release date: November 17, 2000
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Sony PlayStation, Sega Dreamcast, Classic Mac OS
As we have already mentioned, despite the devs planning to off Lara in The Last Revelation, there was still a high demand for Tomb Raider games meant there had to be more sequels. This led to the development of what is possibly the weakest link in the franchise – Tomb Raider Chronicles.
The game features more of the same gameplay that was already seen in the earlier games, and with the release of chronicles, there was no denying that Tomb Raider needed to change if it wanted to survive.
Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword
Release date: June 25, 2001
Platforms: Game Boy Color
Curse of the Sword is the sequel to the first Tomb Raider game made for the Game Boy Color, and it, too, was a 2D platforming experience that featured all the trademark elements of the series. But naturally, being an obscure GBC title that was never ported to any other platforms, it is little more than a footnote in the series’ history.
Tomb Raider: The Prophecy
Release date: November 12, 2002
Platforms: Game Boy Advance
Tomb Raider: The Prophecy was the third handheld Tomb Raider game which was released exclusively for the Game Boy Advance. Unlike the previous two games which were side-scrolling platformers, The Prophecy featured a top-down isometric view. Of course, it had better graphics and was more complex, as was fitting for the then-newer, more advanced platform – no pun intended.
Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness
Release date: June 17, 2003
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Sony PlayStation 2, macOS
The Angel of Darkness was the final Tomb Raider game to be developed by the original studio, Core Design.
As you might have guessed, the game was met with mixed reviews, though not for the reasons you might expect. The graphics were greatly improved compared to the preceding titles – courtesy of the PlayStation 2 – and the story was quite well-received.
However, rather than just “being more of the same”, the gameplay mechanics of The Angel of Darkness were a step down according to many. The controls felt clunky and unbecoming of a 2003 PS2 title, plus it was plagued by bugs, all the while the new stealth mechanics felt poorly implemented and superficial.
Needless to say, with all the mixed and negative reviews that The Angel of Darkness and Chronicles were getting, it was high time for Tomb Raider to get a makeover, and sure enough, it would get it.
Tomb Raider: Legend
Release date: April 7, 2006
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Sony PlayStation 2, Sony PlayStation 3, PSP, Xbox, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo GameCube
After the poor reception of The Angel of Darkness, the Tomb Raider IP was handed over to a new developer – Crystal Dynamics. As expected, the new team had a fresh perspective, and they delivered a game that successfully breathed new life into the franchise – Tomb Raider: Legend.
Legend was a soft reboot of sorts that kicked off a new storyline and brought Lara Croft into the then-new 7th generation of consoles. Of course, it was still released for 6th generation consoles, too, albeit it was only on newer hardware that the new engine and graphics could truly shine.
Apart from beautiful environments, Legend featured a good balance of action and puzzles, though the puzzles weren’t as challenging as those in some of the earlier games and the combat could get stale and started feeling very simplistic after a while.
In any case, Legend was an all-around solid Tomb Raider game that was met with generally positive reviews, and it was a definite step up from the earlier sequels.
Tomb Raider: Anniversary
Release date: June 1, 2007
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Sony PlayStation 2, Sony PlayStation 3, PSP, Xbox 360, Wii, macOS
A year after Legend, Tomb Raider made a bit of a return to its roots with the 2007 remake of the first game titled Tomb Raider: Anniversary. It was rebuilt from scratch using the new engine that was introduced with Tomb Raider: Legend.
But while it handled more or less the same as Legend, Anniversary took a step back from the flashiness and bombast that defined Legend and provided a more “old school” puzzle-oriented Tomb Raider experience, and it did so masterfully.
Sadly, despite being a high-quality remake that received a lot of deserved praise from critics, it remained the worst-selling Tomb Raider game to date, which is probably partly due to the more demanding puzzles and how different it was from Legend.
Tomb Raider: Underworld
Release date: November 18, 2008
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Sony PlayStation 2, Sony PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS, Nokia N-Gage 2.0, macOS
Tomb Raider: Underworld came out in 2008, and with it, Crystal Dynamics concluded the story started in Tomb Raider: Legend. However, Underworld was a bit of a mixed bag.
While it constituted a noticeable graphics improvement and the gameplay felt much smoother and more streamlined compared to Legend, it also felt somewhat oversimplified at times and featured some very uninspired-looking levels that stood in stark contrast to some others.
Ultimately, Underworld wasn’t quite as well-received as Legend was, but it was still a competent Tomb Raider game that did some things even better than Legend. The combat was fast and dynamic, the levels were less linear, open for exploration, and featured some good puzzles.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Release date: August 18, 2010
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Sony PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS, Android
Released in 2010, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light came out and constituted an interesting change of pace for the series. Notably, it didn’t carry the Tomb Raider brand in the title and it was a top-down game that placed an accent on 2-player cooperative play. But of course, the game can be experienced fully in single-player as well.
This fresh take on Tomb Raider was executed extremely well, which led to great reviews from critics, at least as far as the actual gameplay was concerned. But while the puzzles and the action were both great, the plot wasn’t this game’s focus, and that was probably intentional.
Tomb Raider (2013)
Release date: March 5, 2013
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, macOS, Nvidia Shield, Google Stadia
Next, in 2013, Tomb Raider saw its first real reboot in the form of a game known simply as “Tomb Raider”. The reboot included many features that became common for third-person shooters and action-adventure games at the time – a cover system, a crafting system, and an extra emphasis on a sense of realism, among other things, all taking place in semi-open levels on a lost Japanese island.
Though it was grittier and bloodier than any of the previous Tomb Raider games, calling the 2013 Tomb Raider a “realistic” game would really be stretching the definition. It has its fair share of spectacle, it is very action-focused and shootouts are remarkably fluid, fun, and engaging. However, there is far less puzzle-solving than in the previous installments, and nearly all of the actually challenging puzzles are completely optional.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
Release date: December 9, 2014
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is a sequel to Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, so it plays very similarly – a fixed-perspective isometric camera and a co-op mode, this time featuring a total of four playable characters. As you might have guessed, it didn’t add any major new innovations and wasn’t as big as The Guardian of Light, but it is still a very good game that’s a must-play for those who liked its predecessor.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Release date: November 10, 2015
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, macOS, Linux, Google Stadia
Next came a sequel to the 2013 reboot, and it was titled Rise of the Tomb Raider. There isn’t much to say about Rise apart from it being a competent sequel that adds a number of new improvements while still “playing it safe” by not making any major changes or trying out new innovations.
That said, Rise of the Tomb Raider features plenty of semi-open levels that can be explored, plenty of flashy action sequences, all the while being a big step up from a technical standpoint, featuring beautiful graphics that truly made its environments shine. Sadly, many felt the plot wasn’t the game’s strong point, though it made up for that in other departments.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Release date: September 14, 2018
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, macOS, Linux, Google Stadia
And finally, we have what is currently the latest main game in the series – a sequel to Rise of the Tomb Raider known as Shadow of the Tomb Raider. And no, that naming scheme probably isn’t going away any time soon.
The game was developed by Eidos Montreal, though you probably wouldn’t guess it, as the gameplay remains more or less the same as in the previous two titles. It featured an interesting mix of action and exploration, and it even placed a greater emphasis on puzzles.
All in all, Shadow of the Tomb Raider received generally positive reviews, though it may feel swamped by all the “checkmarks” that developers want to include in modern action games e.g. a trading system, stealth mechanics, etc.
Tomb Raider Mobile Games
In addition to all the main series games listed above, the Tomb Raider franchise has also received a number of mobile spin-off titles – four Java games and three games released for modern smartphone operating systems.
Tomb Raider: The Osiris Codex
Tomb Raider: Quest for Cinnabar
Tomb Raider: Elixir of Life
Tomb Raider: Puzzle Paradox
Lara Croft: Reflections
Lara Croft: Relic Run
iOS, Android, Windows Phone
Lara Croft Go
iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
That would be a brief overview of all the Tomb Raider games released so far! If you feel that we have missed anything important or made any errors, let us know in the comments and we’ll see about fixing the article ASAP.