Ever since she backflipped her way into our lives in 1996, Lara Croft has been a globe-trotting icon. She’s gone from an assortment of polygonal shapes to a ridiculously-proportioned action hero, and beyond. She’s been around for decades by this point, and there have been plenty of big missteps for the franchise, but there’s a lot of life left in the owner of Croft Manor—if not in anyone who crosses her path.
With that in mind, we’ve taken a gander at the 12 main games in her catalog and ranked them accordingly. Some are worthy of your time, some are borderline masterpieces, and some are best left buried in the tomb.
12) Tomb Raider: Angel Of Darkness
Let’s not beat around the bush here: Tomb Raider: Angel Of Darkness is an abomination of a game, a total car crash with zero redeeming features. Too harsh? Well, let’s look at the details. It was the first Tomb Raider that made it onto next-gen consoles, and yet it looked terrible. Despite all the power of the PlayStation 2, it handled like a drunk elephant with an attitude problem. It was rushed and unpolished and showed little care or respect for the IP. No wonder the series needed a reboot after this one.
11) Tomb Raider: Anniversary
Tomb Raider: Anniversary is nowhere as bad as Angel of Darkness—it isn’t really a bad game. Nevertheless, we find that it is held back by the fact that it’s a remake. Graphically it looks decent and plays pretty well, but it’s inherently unoriginal and lacks any inspiration that would set it apart from the pack. If you’ve never played the original, then it’s a fine place to jump in, but there are plenty of better entry points.
10) Tomb Raider Chronicles
There were a lot of things wrong with Tomb Raider Chronicles. The prior title in the series had attempted to kill her off, but Chronicles decided the franchise was just too lucrative to abandon. Bringing her back for a story told in flashbacks both undercut the narrative urgency and felt like a blatant cash grab. It didn’t help that it was rather uninspired in pretty much every other way, too. This was her final outing on the original PlayStation, a machine she helped put on the map; she deserved a much better send-off than this.
9) Tomb Raider (1996)
The game might have launched Lara Croft into the world and turned her into a cultural phenomenon, but it hasn’t aged all too well. It’s still a classic, but if you were to dust off the old PlayStation and put this one in for a spin, you’d find yourself confronted by a slew of unforgiving tank controls. Nostalgia might give it a boost for someone else, but let’s be real here: the fixed camera angles don’t help one bit.
8) Tomb Raider III
Tomb Raider III had a hard act to follow when it was released in 1998. Even though it sold like hotcakes, it was far from perfect. One of the game’s biggest issues was that it seemed like Lara Croft was suddenly made of glass. While the first two games might punish you if you did something dumb, Tomb Raider III is intent on murdering you left and right. It’s this difficulty imbalance that makes it hard to want to go back to Tomb Raider III after all these years.
7) Tomb Raider II
After the success of the first Tomb Raider, it was always interesting to see if Eidos would be able to improve on the formula or rest on their laurels. Fortunately for the world, it was the former. Eidos took the puzzle elements that made the original such a unique game to play and added in some enticing gun-play. Sadly, though, time waits for no woman, and like most of the early games, its tank controls are still a thing that will have your eyes rolling to the back of your head.
6) Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation should have been Lara Croft’s send off on the original PlayStation. It’s a superior outing to those that came before and had some really nifty and intelligent puzzles. It also introduced the ability to climb poles and swing from ropes, which is quite surprising considering that the series was already three games deep by this time.
5) Tomb Raider: Underworld
Tomb Raider: Underworld is the eighth outing for Lara, and it has held up surprisingly well. There are stunning environments and a smart story to boot. The camera was still sometimes a bit unwieldy, but when is it not in third-person games? Underworld was a great combination of old and new Lara that we still don’t mind returning to.
4) Tomb Raider: Legend
After Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness almost killed the franchise, it took a full-on reboot to resuscitate Lara Croft. Tomb Raider: Legend saved the series for a short while, with its ability to tell a tale that other games would’ve struggled with. It was also nice to be able to control The Croft without her running headlong into a wall. You might say the game-play finally made you feel “legendary.”
3) Rise of the Tomb Raider
The second part of the second re-boot trilogy, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a great game that only falls short of being a perfect one because everyone knew there was more to come. It suffers the middle-of-the-trilogy syndrome pretty blatantly, and you can feel narrative and mechanical elements being held back. Nevertheless, it’s fun to play, even though Lara Croft’s trajectory from reluctant killer to gun-totting sociopath was a little hard to swallow.
2) Shadow of the Tomb Raider
The final piece of the rebooted origins trilogy, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a game that doesn’t get anywhere near the love and respect it deserves. With more tombs than you can shake a Pharaoh at and stunning graphics, this game takes us from hunted survivor to ultimate warrior in one fell swoop. By now, Lara knows who she is and what she wants, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the perfect culmination of the three games. Again, the sociopathy is on full display, but the most recent trilogy’s Lara is head and shoulders the best Lara, and the conclusion to this series is a great one.
1) Tomb Raider (2013)
While it’s not a great sign when your franchise needs to be rebooted twice, Lara Croft finally got her due with her latest trilogy. There’s something especially magical about origin stories when they’re done right, and this one nails it. The game plays great, and the visuals are still stunning. It helps story-wise that Lara hasn’t yet transformed into a mass-murderer and that the writing is Tomb Raider in top form, All in all, it’s a great game, and one that hits all the right notes for long time fans of the series and new players alike.
Neil Gray contributed to this feature article.