For the past 20 years, one special lady has been a formidable figure in the gaming world.
Princess Peach? Well, yes, but not her. Chun-Li? She’s awesome, but no, we’re not talking about her either. Samus?
Okay, so there’s plenty of incredible heroines across the gaming industry … but we’re focusing on just one today. One adventurer who’s managed to transcend her roots and star in movies, comic-books, and more. One brave soul who’s enjoying a new lease of life thanks to a stunning 2013 reboot.
That’s right. Lara Croft. She who raids tombs, kicks butt, and makes fighting a T-Rex look easy.
Fancy looking back at her best outings? Read on, friends …
Tomb Raider (1996)
When Lara debuted in 1996, she was a big deal.
Not only was Lara something of a breath of fresh air in an industry swamped with male stars, but the game’s structure and settings were highly original.
Basically, this was Indiana Jones for the then-modern age, starring a no-nonsense British aristocrat with a sweet pair of pistols rather than a whip-toting college professor.
While the game begins as a basic tomb-raiding adventure, it soon becomes a much darker, bigger quest. Remember how scary those mutants were when you first saw them? Remember that huge, final boss (and all that strafing you had to do to beat it)?
It was an unforgettable experience back then, and still stands up today despite its age and limited mechanics.
Though it was completely remade nearly 10 years ago (more on this later), the mobile port of the original has been available for some time now, for an obscenely-good price.
Tomb Raider (2013)
Some of us thought the Tomb Raider franchise was down and out before this mighty reboot came along.
Sure, Lara had starred in plenty of games, two movies, and spin-offs, but really, it felt like she might might have been done.
Well, Crystal Dynamics’ bold reimagining of the heroine’s origins was a huge hit, and exactly what the franchise needed.
When we first meet Lara, she’s far from the adventurer we know and love. In fact, the strife she gets into on the island of Yamati is way out of her comfort zone.
The aim of the game is pretty simple: find your pals, avoid the weird cult hunting you down, and get the hell out of there.
Co-written by Rhianna Pratchett, the script’s characterisation of Lara is spot-on, while Camilla Luddington does a great job on vocal duties.
With a strong emphasis on survival and exploration over action, Tomb Raider’s an incredible game that put Lara back on top.
Tomb Raider II (1997)
Given the first Tomb Raider’s immense success, a sequel was a total no-brainer. Luckily, rather than being just a quick cash-grab, Tomb Raider II turned out to be a great game as well as a strong sequel.
Lara herself looks a lot smoother and less, er, angular. She’s also got a neat braid with its own impressive mechanics, and plenty of new ways to get around.
Meaning? Vehicles, baby! While the first adventure was all on-foot, Lara’s second outing lets her commandeer a speedboat through Venice and hop on a snowmobile in Tibet. More weapons are available too, while there’s much more diversity in the environments.
Oh, and Lara changes her clothes to suit said locations, which keeps the visuals fresh. Remember those underwater areas, during which Lara dons a wetsuit, or that flight jacket in chilly Tibet?
Speaking of underwater gameplay, few things in the entire series are as terrifying as seeing that shark swim out of the shadows for the first time, heading right for you …
Tomb Raider III (1998)
For some fans of the series, Tomb Raider III’s use of Area 51 and aliens still stands as something of a mistake. However, there’s no denying the game introduced some great mechanics and features.
Lara can interact with her environments like never before, with swinging, crouching, and crawling adding extra depth to exploration. The settings are more perilous and organic, thanks to touches like quicksand and underwater currents, while the graphics are still impressive today considering the game’s age.
Just look at the South Pacific levels, which demonstrate just what the PS1 was capable of towards the end of its run.
Tomb Raider III also introduced the ability to sneak past enemies rather than facing them directly, as well as the freedom to select where Lara travels to next.
Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015/16)
Rise of the Tomb Raider builds on the genius 2013 reboot, making the experience feel even more real and immersive.
Lara can craft items using natural resources and components found within the environments: building Molotov cocktails, grenades, and arrows all helps to make Lara feel even more like a smart, capable survivor.
Rise of the Tomb Raider also grants Lara more stealthy mechanics, while the grappling hook adds more verticality to the action.
Overall, the game achieved a great reception, and proved again that Lara’s adventures can only keep getting better and better as evolving technology allows.
Tomb Raider: Legend (2006)
Before 2013’s reboot, we had Tomb Raider: Legend.
This was Crystal Dynamics’ first Lara outing after they took over from Core Design, and the team seized the opportunity to abandon what came before.
While this doesn’t have the highest scores and the most love of the franchise, it was seen as something of a return to form at the time.
Legend reinvigorated the Tomb Raider games, and led to the next game on our list – which went right back to the series’ roots.
Tomb Raider: Anniversary (2007)
Remaking the original Tomb Raider with updated technology was a smart move, and it really paid off.
Tomb Raider: Anniversary saw a smoother, shinier Lara Croft revisit the original’s environments, albeit powered by Legend’s game engine. While it may not have sold quite as many copies as hoped, Anniversary was classed as an improvement on even the mighty original, cleaning up the few flaws.
This is still well worth a play for fans of Lara’s first adventure, and can be picked up pretty darn cheaply today.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris (2014)
Ever wonder how well Lara Croft would fare inside an isometric puzzler? Well, here’s the best answer to your ponderment.
Following up from Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Temple of Osiris invites up to four players to get involved, with an option to choose between Lara and three other characters. This game may be short, but it’s beautifully designed and great fun, with terrific environments and engaging puzzles across nine different tombs.
For anyone looking for new Tomb Raider without having to set hours aside for a lengthy campaign and massive world, Temple of Osiris is a great choice. It’s also awesome to see such a long-running series branching off into a totally-different format, to expand its reach.
What’s your favourite Tomb Raider game? Let us know!