The Tomb Raider franchise needs no introduction. It’s a first on many fronts among them being one of the longest-running action-adventure franchises in gaming, and it also happens to feature a female protagonist.
With over two decades under its belt, the game has had to evolve and continually keep up with demand and keep gamers. There have been quite a few editions of the game released. In case you lost count, here is a recap of all Tomb Raider games ever released.
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Release date: October 25, 1996
Supported platforms: Sony PlayStation, Classic Mac OS, N-Gage, iOS, Android and Sega Saturn
Right of the gates, Tomb Raider wanted to set the tone for the ensuing sequels and editions that would follow. The game hit the mainstream in 1996 and revolved around the star of the game Lara Croft.
In the first edition, Lara Croft is contracted to search for the Scion of Atlantis. When Natla cancels Lara's contract, the hunt becomes personal, especially after Lara discovers that Natla has ulterior motives.
Lara sets out to get the Scion for herself. Some of the outstanding features in the game was some level of 3D which was quite a big deal back then, and there's plenty of combat for action lovers.
Tomb Raider II
Release date: October 31, 1997
Supported platforms: Classic Mac OS, Microsoft Windows, Android, Sony PlayStation
Tomb Raider was not wasting time. The second edition “Tomb Raider II” was released in a year. The second edition was simply a build-up of the foundation that was established by the first edition.
There were some new and exciting additions like more action, enhanced graphics, and new gameplay mechanics that brought a more engaging and dynamic feel to the game. Introduction of new weapons was also an excellent touch.
In this edition, Lara is off hunting for the legendary Dagger of Xian. Along the way, she ruffles the feathers of a mafia leader who is also looking for the same dagger.
Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft
Release date: November 20, 1998
Supported Platform: Sony PlayStation, Classic Mac OS, Microsoft Windows
Just like the second edition, the third release stays steadfastly in the steps set by the original. In the game, Lara is hired to recover four artefacts from an ancient meteorite that holds tremendous power. With time, she learns why her employer needs them so much.
Tomb Raider III tones down the fast-paced action witnessed in the second edition and places more focus on exploration and puzzles.
The engine of the game is updated in the new release. As a result, the graphics are better, but that’s just about it— no mind-blowing additions or new weapons for this one.
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation
Release date: November 19, 1999
Supported platforms: Microsoft Windows, Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation, Classic Mac OS
Until now, all the editions don’t have a problem sticking to the script of the original Tomb Raider. However, with the release of the fourth edition, fatigue starts to set in.
In this edition, Lara Croft goes toe to toe with her mentor when she accidentally opens the Tomb of Sets.
Save for the few tweaks to improve game mechanics, smooth out gameplay and enhance graphics, the fourth edition has nothing much to offer.
However, due to high demand and popularity, the few of the games that follow end up having nothing real to offer and the creators seem oblivious to this fact as they are more focused on advancing the sequel.
Tomb Raider (Game Boy Colour)
Release date: June 8, 2000
Supported Platform: Game Boy Colour
Since this edition was released for a different platform, it was not nearly as complicated or advanced as the first four games. It was based on a 2D platform, but it was a much-needed change for the series. It was the first Tomb Raider made for a portable console.
Tomb Raider: Chronicles
Release date: November 17, 2000
Platforms: Sony PlayStation, Classic Mac OS, Microsoft Windows, Sega Dreamcast
In the Last Revelation edition, the developers tried to off Lara Croft. Because the high demand for the game was still high, that decision had to be rescinded. Unfortunately, the plan wasn't clear, and as a result, the Tomb Raider: Chronicles became the weakest link in the franchise.
Not only was the game lacking in action, but it also lacked in its immersive puzzles and adventure. The storyline revolved around Lara Croft once more. However, she is missing, and now her friends are sharing stories about her past exploits and escapades.
The Chronicles exposed the cracks that were forming in the storied franchise and made it evident that Tomb Raider needed to change if it was going to survive and continue being successful.
Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword
Release date: June 25, 2001
Supported platforms: Game Boy Colour
Curse of the Sword was a remake of the first Tomb Raider game. It featured the same trademark elements as the first edition of the franchise save for the fact that it was on a 2D platform and was designed for Game Boy Colour.
The game never really took off, and it was never ported to any other gaming platforms. As a result, it is considered more or a footnote in the history of the franchise as opposed to being an essential part of its growth.
Tomb Raider: The Prophecy
Release date: November 12, 2002
Supported platforms: Game Boy Advance
The Prophecy was the third hand-held edition in the franchise. This edition was exclusively released for the Game Boy Advance. This new addition had some trend-setting improvements like a top-down isometric view.
The graphics were much better, more detailed and more complex, making the game a better fit for the newer, more advanced Game Boy Advanced platform. Nonetheless, the gameplay, features and storylines remained unchanged once more.
Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness
Release date: June 17, 2003
Supported platforms: Sony PlayStation 2, Mac OS Microsoft Windows
After a three-year-long hiatus when the franchise decided to focus briefly on hand-held devices, in 2003, the sequel was back with Angel of Darkness.
The graphics were a step up from the preceding titles thanks to the involvement of PlayStation 2, and the storyline deviated slightly from the usual treasure hunts to Lara hopping across Europe trying to clear her name after her mentor was found dead.
Interestingly, despite the game making several steps in the right direction, it receives a substantial amount of negative criticism. You would think it was because of the repetitive storyline, but surprisingly it was not.
It was actually because of clunky controls, it was bug-ridden, and the new stealth mechanics of the game looked superficial and were poorly implemented. Most users also felt the game needed a much better title. I mean, it was 2003!
With all the backlash that Chronicles and now The Angel of Darkness received, time was ripe for the franchise to consider a makeover or risk losing the firm grip it had on gamers.
Tomb Raider: Legend
Release date: April 7, 2006
Supported platforms: Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 3, PSP, Microsoft Windows, Sony PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance, Xbox
After the backlash from Angel of Death and Chronicles, the developers seemed to have heeded the call to give the game a breath of new life. It took about three years to remake, retool and retell the game, and the results were magnificent.
Tomb Raider: Legend hit the shelves in 2006 introducing Lara Croft to the 7th generation of gaming consoles.
The legend had an impeccable balance of action and puzzles, not forgetting an array of beautiful environments.
It’s worth noting that while some of the changes saved the game, the puzzles were not as challenging as in the previous games and the combat got boring and simplistic after a while.
The storyline for the new edition featured Lara Croft seeking for a key to a Stone Dais from her past. For most gamers, the few, but drastic changes were enough to restore interest and excitement in the game. It was a definite upgrade from the previous sequels with plenty of positive reviews to back it up.
Tomb Raider: Anniversary
Release date: June 1, 2007
Supported platforms: Microsoft Windows, Sony PlayStation 3, PSP, Sony PlayStation 2, Wii, MacOS, Xbox 360
The success of the Tomb Raider: Anniversary was built on a new game engine that was introduced with the Legend sequel.
However, Anniversary made a quick return to its roots with the game and with the new and improved engine, the game was able to iron out those slight squeaks like the easy puzzles and boring combat.
The result was a game that was masterfully put together and rekindled the glory and pomp that Tomb Raider lovers had become accustomed to.
Despite the excellent work put into the sequel, lots of praise from critics and the high-quality feel of the game, Tomb Raider: Anniversary remained the worst-selling sequel of the franchise to date. Perhaps the puzzles were a little too demanding this time around.
Tomb Raider: Underworld
Release date: November 18, 2008
Supported platforms: Microsoft Windows, Sony PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, Sony PlayStation 2, Nokia N-Gage 2.0, macOS
Underworld is driven by a storyline of Lara seeking the entrance of Avalon. It concludes a story that started in Tomb Raider: Legend.
The game had some high points, which included excellent graphics, the game felt smoother, and it was more streamlined compared to Legend.
However, there were portions of the new game that looked uninspiring and oversimplified. These included levels that were in stark contrast to some others in the game.
Despite the numerous changes and tweaks, Underworld was not received as well as Legend was, but was good enough to overcome the slump in sales experienced by Anniversary. Much of the success behind Underworld was fuelled by the fast and more dynamic combat, good puzzles, and more linear levels that encouraged more exploration.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Release date: August 18, 2010
Supported platforms: Microsoft Windows, Sony PlayStation 3, iOS, Android, Xbox
This new edition features some unprecedented but necessary changes that resonated well with gamers. Notably, the sequel did not carry the Tomb Raider brand in its title and featured a top-down game with an emphasis on a 2-player cooperative play without completely doing away with the single-player campaign as well.
The execution of the new sequel was immaculate. It attracted some gleaming reviews from critics as far as the actual gameplay was concerned. The game had great combat and puzzles. However, the same can't be said for the plot, which seems a little fuzzy. It was possibly intentional.
Tomb Raider 2013
Release date: March 5, 2013
Supported platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, macOS, Nvidia Shield, Xbox One, Google Stadia
2013 was an exciting year for the Tomb Raider franchise with the Tomb Raider 2013 edition. The new game was the first real reboot of the franchise, and it included a ton of new features that were common for third-person shooters and action-adventure games at the time.
Some of the new features included a crafting system, a cover system, and a sense of realism, among others.
The game was set on a lost Japanese Island and had semi-open levels. The game was bloodier and grittier than the previous versions, perhaps in a bid to capture the realistic approach the game was taking.
The game was quite exciting, and the action-focused and shooting approach was extraordinarily fluid and engaging. It could have used a few more compulsory puzzles though!
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
Release date: December 9, 2014
Supported platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One Microsoft Windows
This is a follow up of Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. It's very similar to its predecessor and has the same approach that uses a fixed-perspective isometric camera and co-op mode.
This time around, the game has four playable characters, but there are no major innovations or additions. It's not a surprise that this edition was not as big as the Guardian of Light. Nonetheless, it's still an excellent game, and a must-play, especially if you like Guardian of Light.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Release date: November 10, 2015
Supported platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, macOS, Google Stadia, Linux, Xbox 360
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a reboot of the 2013 sequel. There was not much happening in this new sequel, but it was a solid addition to the franchise with a handful of improvements. There was a sense that the developers were playing it safe and did not want to make significant changes.
The game features plenty of semi-open levels, flashy action scenes paired with excellent graphics and an upgraded technical standpoint.
Why not play it on your Fierce Gaming PC.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Release date: September 14, 2018
Supported platform: Xbox One, macOS, Linux, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Google Stadia
The latest addition to the main game series is a sequel to the Rise of the Tomb Raider. Despite changing developers, the newest addition remains the same as the previous two titles. It has an exciting mix of exploration and action and places more emphasis on puzzles.
So far, the game has received substantial positive reviews. However, the addition of the checkmarks that the developer adds to modern action games like stealth mechanics and the trading system might somewhat overwhelm the competition.
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The legendary Tomb Raider franchise is one to behold. While there have been a few kinks along the way, the general overview of the Tomb Raider remains unscathed, and it's one of those games that every gamer must try.