Much like the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Tomb Raider needs no introduction simply because it’s one of the largest video game franchises in the world. Tomb Raider didn’t only make waves as a video title, but we’re also talking about comics, movies, and novels. There are rumors of an upcoming Netflix anime adaption for Tomb Raider, but we’ll leave that be for now.
Even if you didn’t start Tomb Raider from the very beginning, you’ll know all about Lara Croft through Angelina Jolie’s adaptation of her in two Hollywood movies.
Who’s Lara Croft, you might ask? She’s an archaeologist/millionaire who loves to explore tombs, lost islands, and ruins. As the player, your goal is to help her find secret treasures while navigating your way through the many dangers. The premise of the franchise is simple: you roam around, kick butt, solve puzzles, and even take on some platforming activities.
Here’s The List of Tomb Raider Games In Order:
The Tomb Raider franchise covers 12 games and 2 RPGs. The entire series has sold about 82 million copies worldwide.
The first three Tomb Raider games in order were published by Core Design, spanning 1996 up to 1999. The second trilogy rested in the hands of Crystal Dynamics where it was their turn to take a spin at the Tomb Raider chronicles.
In 2013, the Tomb Raider franchise was handed over to a new publisher: Square Enix, the same publisher behind other successful franchises such as Final Fantasy. Their trilogy was dubbed as the “Survivor Timeline”, and generated the highest sales out of all the games in the franchise.
Tomb Raider -1996
The first Tomb Raider debuted for the Sega Saturn console in 1996 and introduced Lara Croft to the entire world.
The plot of the 1996 Tomb Raider was straightforward. Lara was hired by Jacqueline Natfla, a rich businesswoman, to help her locate the Scion of Atlantis. The first Tomb Raider then set the blueprint for the rest of the franchise.
Tomb Raider, at its core, was a third-person game with a combination of puzzle-solving and action and adventure. As you explored different tombs and ruins, you needed to solve puzzles to move forward. You also had to fight your way through jaguars, raiders, and other enemies.
This is where you’re also introduced to Lara’s trusty double pistols with infinite ammo. While she relies on her guns to solve most of her problems, she can also do hand-to-hand combat.
The first Tomb Raider game had 16 different levels, which was already comprehensive for a game during this timeline.
Tomb Raider II: Dagger of Xian – 1997
The second game of the Tomb Raider original trilogy followed in 1997 for Playstation and Microsoft Windows. Unfortunately, Sega Saturn never got their own version. The second game sold more than 8 million copies and became one of the best-selling titles for the franchise.
The second Tomb Raider game takes Lara to the Great Wall of China where she needs to locate the Dagger of Xian. According to the game, the dagger belonged to the first Emperor and is extremely valuable. The second game was as big as the first game, but the game mechanics remained the same. There was also more emphasis on combat than puzzle solving, which was somewhat of a breather for a lot of the fans.
Tomb Raider II: The Golden Mask
It wasn’t uncommon for games during this time-period to have expansions, and Tomb Raider II had one called The Golden Mask. This expansion featured a new mission with four levels. The As the title mentions, you’re tasked to locate the Golden Mask and fight your way through monsters and dinosaurs. This took some realism out of the Tomb Raider franchise, but who’s complaining, right?
Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft – 1998
Lara’s adventures continued on until 1998 with Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft. The game debuted for both Microsoft Windows and Playstation. The third installment of the original trilogy brought Lara to locate 4 pieces of meteorite scattered across the world.
There weren’t new gameplay mechanics here, but the game did run on a new graphic engine which allowed for improved performance and graphics. The engine also paved the way for more complex puzzles and levels, which is why the third installment of the original trilogy focused more on puzzles than combat.
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation -1999
Following the success of the first trilogy, it wasn’t long before more sequels were announced. The first Tomb Raider title of the second trilogy was titled The Last Revelation, with its release date in 1999. The game was slated for Playstation and Microsoft Windows, with Dreamcast and classic macOS getting a port a year later.
The first game for the second trilogy now introduced mystical elements into the game, with Lara’s goal of imprisoning Set, the Egyptian God. The entire game, however, wasn’t as impressive as the first three games. There weren’t new gameplay mechanics introduced, and overall, there were no significant innovations made towards the fourth installment of the franchise.
Spoiler alert: The Last Revelation ends with the death of Lara Croft.
Tomb Raider Chronicles – 2000
Following the story of The Last Revelation, the fifth installment was titled Tomb Raider Chronicles. Lara’s friends attend her memorial at Croft Manor and vividly talked about Lara’s earlier adventures so you were playing through flashbacks.
Tomb Raider Chronicles debuted for Sony Playstation, Sega Dreamcast, and Microsoft Windows in 2000. Much like The Last Revelation, no significant innovations were made towards the game. You still had to go through different challenging puzzles but ultimately, it was still the same game.
The last part of Tomb Raider Chronicles suggested that Lara could be alive below the Great Pyramid ruins.
Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness – 2003
The third installment of the second trilogy, and the sixth game for the entire franchise, was titled Tomb Raider The Angel of Darkness. This game debuted in 2003 for Microsoft Windows and Sony Playstation 2. Later that same year, there was a port for classic macOS X PCs. Since this was the first game for Sony Playstation 2, players welcome visual and performance upgrades as well as a new gameplay mechanic: stealth. The stealth system took inspiration from the Metal Gear franchise.
The Angel of Darkness followed the stories from both The Last Revelation and Chronicles. After her supposed death, Lara found herself in Paris. This time, her mentor named Wener Von Croy gives her a new quest: to find Obscura Paintings. But before the mission begins, Von Croy dies in the hands of an assassin.
The French authorities believed that Lara was the murderer, so this game now has you proving your innocence while trying to find the Obscura Paintings. All in all, the introduction of the stealth mechanic in the Angel of Darkness was something that the original Tomb Raider game needed.
Tomb Raider: Legend – 2006
Tomb Raider Legend is the first installment of the third trilogy, and the seventh game for the entire franchise. Tomb Raider Legend debuted for Sony Playstation 2, Playstation Portable (PSP), Nintendo Gamecube, Nintendo DS, Gameboy Advance, and Microsoft Windows. The game was also released for Sony Playstation 3 in 2011.
By this time, Crystal Dynamics was in charge for the Tomb Raider games so they decided to reboot everything including Lara Croft’s origin story. Tomb Raider Legend now has Lara searching for the legendary Excalibur all around the world.
Even though a new developer was behind the game, the mechanics from the original Tomb Raider games were still there. The graphics and the graphics engine were overhauled, so you were now looking at a newly designed Lara Croft with improved enemy AI and control.
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary – 2006
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary was the second installment of the third trilogy and debuted in 2007 for Sony Playstation 2, Playstation Portable, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and Microsoft Windows. A year after, there was a port for macOS X and Sony Playstation 3. The game was also a celebration of 10 years of Tomb Raider and Lara Croft.
The game was a remake of the 1996 Tomb Raider game so it brought back the origins story once more with improved graphics and the Scion artifact plotline. The game didn’t exactly deviate from the 1996 original version, but there were some additions to the levels and story.
Lara also had some new moves, which was similar to what she was doing back in Tomb Raider Legend. The overall game design for Tomb Raider Anniversary was a great improvement from the previous installments.
Tomb Raider Underworld – 2009
The third part of the third trilogy is Tomb Raider Underworld, which was released in 2009. The game was released for Sony Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS and Wii, and Microsoft Windows.
Because this was released for the PS3, the game had improved graphics, gameplay, inventory system, and movement. There was also the addition of a multi-purpose grappling hook and a Hint system where the game would guide new players when solving puzzles or platforms.
As much as there were more gameplay mechanics introduced, the story was a bit underwhelming for some players as they just worked their way through Lara’s own family mystery. Tomb Raider Underworld may not be everyone’s favorite Tomb Raider game, but it does not disappoint all throughout.
Survivor Timeline Trilogy
Tomb Raider (Reboot) – 2013
Tomb Raider came out of a four-year hiatus with Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix, the RPG giant, rebooting the series once more. The game was released for Sony Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Microsoft Windows. A year later, they also released for Linux and macOS X.
As expected from a Tomb Raider universe reboot, Lara Croft has a new origin story. The game’s plot takes place in Yamatai, a fictional lost Japanese island. Lara and her team were searching for the island but they end up being shipwrecked and stranded on an island.
Now the story for the third reboot Tomb Raider introduces a new kind of Lara; a Lara Croft with no combat experience at all. Your goal in this action-adventure game is to survive, help your friends, and escape the island. The game is more linear and focuses more on survival than combat/puzzle-solving, and the map grows wider as you explore it.
The first game of the Survivor Timeline Trilogy also introduces RPG mechanics where Lara gains XP (experience points) by hunting, combat, exploration, and of course, raiding tombs. You gain skill points every time you level up and use these points to increase survival, combat, and exploration skills.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris (Spinoff) – 2014
Following in the footsteps of the Guardian of Light, Temple of Osiris was the second Tomb Raider spin-off with A-RPG elements. There is a four-player coop online and offline where you play as either Lara, Carter, Isis, and Horus. The story is simple enough. Lara and team must go defeat Set, an evil Egyptian God in the underworld.
Rise of the Tomb Raider – 2015
Rise of the Tomb Raider is the second installment of the reboot and keeps the same design and gameplay. It was an Xbox-timed exclusive released in 2015 for Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Then it was released for PS4 and Windows a year later.
The plot takes Lara to Siberia where she needs to look for the legendary city of Kitezh, which hides the secret to immortality. But Lara is not the only one looking for this city. The game takes you to different countries around the world, and much like all the other games before, you had to fight enemies (some stealthily) and solve puzzles at the same time.
Rise of the Tomb Raider also ran on a new game engine developed by Eidos Montreal and Nixxes Software, which greatly improved the graphics and performance of the Tomb Raider saga.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider – 2018
The latest Tomb Raider game is titled Shadow of the Tomb Raider, released in 2018 for Windows, PS4, and Xbox One. The Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the third and final installment of the Reboot Trilogy.
For Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara explores the Americas for the legendary city of Paititi top stop the Mayan apocalypse. For the third installment, there were a few tweaks that Tomb Raider needed, such as swimming, increased difficulty, and a grappling hook. As usual, you solve puzzles, raid tombs, and scavenge for resources in a semi-open world.
Where Else Did Lara Croft Go?
There was an animated series released in 2007 produced and broadcast by GameTap. This was one of the series of reimaginings of video games series. Lara Croft was voiced by Minnie Driver and the show was titled Revisioned: Tomb Raider. The show ran between May and June of 2007.
Netflix announced an anime-style adaptation for Tomb Raider in January 2021. The series is in the works as of this writing, with Tasha Huo as the executive producer. The show will follow the events after the Reboot trilogy and Lara will be voiced by Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter from the MCU).
There were six novels written for the Tomb Raider franchise. The first three novels revolved around the original timeline and was published in 2003 up to 2005. The first novelw as titled Amulet of Power and was based after the events of The Last Revelation. The sequels, The Lost Cult and The Man of Bronze, followed the events after the first novel.
Another set of novels were released during the 2013 Reboot trilogy. Tomb Raider: The Ten Thousand Immortals was published in 2014 as a continuation to events of the first installment of the Reboot trilogy. The fifth book, Lara Croft and Blade of Gwynnever, was published in 2016 but it was a standalone adventure. The sixth book, Path To Apocalypse, was released in 2018 and tied in to the Shadow of the Tomb Raider game.
Lara was featured in a lot of comics starting from 1997. The comics were produced by Top Cow Productions and she made her first appearance in Witchblade. She then appeared in her first comic book series, which ran from 1999 to 2005. There was an attempt to reboot the comics back in 2007 but licensing issues stalled Top Cow Productions.
There you have it: all the Tomb Raider games in order, and to say that it was a journey is an understatement. Lara Croft is a video game legend, and the Tomb Raider brand is one of the biggest video game brands in the industry. We can’t wait to see what she’ll be up to for the next few years. We don’t know what the new Tomb Raider title will be, but next generation consoles running on the Unreal Engines will definitely be a new gameplay experience for old and new fans alike.