The End of a Survivor
The release of Shadow of the Tomb Raider has brought an end to the trilogy that began back in 2013’s acclaimed reboot of Lara Croft’s origins. While it has had a few shortcomings here and there, the humanisation of one of video game’s most iconic female leads has mostly been met with adoration from both fans and newcomers alike.
Now, with Lara’s actress Camilla Luddington stating that she may not return for a possible fourth entry, it looks like this generation’s depiction of the Tomb Raider legacy may be at an end. As such, we’re going to count down the greatest levels from across the franchise that depicted the Tomb Raider at her best!
#5: Shanty Town
“Tomb Raider” (2013)
Though perhaps not the most conventional of levels, it’s still exciting and in line with the series’ roots. After a spectacular set-piece involving a parachute, Lara winds up limping through the titular settlement in search of medical supplies. Things become more dire with the arrival of some aggressive island inhabitants, leading into a string of brutal firefights. It all comes together to emphasize Lara’s desperation and growing survival instinct, whether she’s riding on a life, clambering up ledges, or beating enemies into unconsciousness.
#4: Peru – Return to Paraiso
“Tomb Raider: Legend” (2006)
Painful memories, desperate chases and old-fashioned platforming abound here. “Return to Paraiso” has Miss Croft catching up with her old friend Anaya, only to have to intervene when mercenaries under the employ of James Rutland show up. Things move forward quickly from there, shifting from a motorcycle chase sequence, to a flashback scene, to finally a present-day exploration of a dig site. Few levels are as quickly paced or as varied as this, and it’s certainly impressive that the resulting level feels at home in the “Tomb Raider” franchise.
#3: City of Khamoon
“Tomb Raider” (1996)
Exploration is key here. Continuing her quest to obtain all the pieces of the Scion artifact, Lara Croft winds up entering the lost city of Khamoon, buried deep under the surface. What becomes clear upon starting the level is how large the level area appears. It features all kinds of nooks and crannies, sand is spread everywhere, and there’s plenty of room to run. Seemingly leaning towards the “platform” part of action-platforming, it works thanks to the designers being so dedicated to the approach. Though that doesn’t mean an animal or two aren’t waiting to strike.
#2: Floating Islands
“Tomb Raider II” (1997)
As headscratching as this one may be, it’s nonetheless a masterful blend of visual flourish and designed difficulty. “Floating Islands” puts Lara in the position of having to find two Mystic Plaques in order to progress further… while being stranded atop a series of floating landmasses. Sporting architecture unlike any known civilization, the level keeps pushing forward its distinctly odd disposition with difficult-to-kill Stone Warriors and a green-tinged palette. “Floating Islands” feels almost psychedelic in style, but it works for conveying how far down the rabbit hole Lara may be.
#1: Lost Valley
“Tomb Raider” (1996)
When you’re aiming to draw players into your game, spectacle and intrigue are excellent tools of the trade. Thus we have this magnificent level from the Peru segment of 1996’s “Tomb Raider”, in which Lara finds herself in a wide-open tropical area deep within a mountain. “Lost Valley” keeps a healthy balance between combat, puzzles and platforming; the player must climb up rock ledges and deal with stopping a waterfall while contending with various dinosaurs. Subtly, through its grand and mysterious nature, the level instils in gamers a sense of wonder and anticipation for what is to come.
Be sure to check out the video below to see our picks for the Top 10 Tomb Raider Games.