A Brief History of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Games in Order | History Hit

A Brief History of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Games in Order

Tracking the journey of the Tomb Raider franchise in chronological order.

Rise of the Tomb Raider
Image Credit: Square Enix

Blending enthusiasm for the ancient world with contemporary action-adventure sensibilities, Tomb Raider is many people’s idea of a historical game. The titular tomb raider, Lara Croft, is a video game icon. Since its origins in 1996 the franchise has become one of the best-selling video game series of all time.

We’ve traced the travails of Tomb Raider by listing the main titles of the Tomb Raider games in order below.

1996: Tomb Raider

Adventuring archaeologist Lara Croft makes her debut on the Sega Saturn, Sony Playstation and MS-DOS in 1996 with Tomb Raider. Inspired by the explosive exploits of Indiana Jones and the aesthetics of Egyptian tombs, Tomb Raider impressed players with its 3D levels, acrobatic combat and puzzles.

Tomb Raider I

Image Credit: Square Enix

1997: Tomb Raider II

After the success of Tomb Raider, which sold seven million units worldwide, a sequel for Playstation and Windows expanded the original and doubled down on its action.

1998: Tomb Raider III

The third title in the Tomb Raider series swiftly followed and depicted Croft’s adventure around the world to secure fragments of a meteorite. More advanced software permitted greater detail thanks to graphical features including triangular polygons.

1999: Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation

The fourth instalment in the Tomb Raider series has Lara confronting the Egyptian god Set. Though it sold five million copies, it didn’t beat the sales expectations set by the first three titles.

Tomb Raider Chronicles

Image Credit: Eidos / Square Enix

2000: Tomb Raider Chronicles

Developers Core Design had attempted to kill Lara Croft off in The Last Revelation, but a direct sequel was ordered by Eidos. This emerged in Tomb Raider Chronicles. Lara is presumed dead, and her past adventures are traced through the reminiscences of those at her memorial service in a curious anthology formed from previously cut ideas.

2003: Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness

While Tomb Raider Chronicles was in development, another team worked on Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness for the Playstation 2. After a difficult period of development, the game failed to satisfy players or build on the success of the 2001 film adaptation starring Angelina Jolie.

The disappointing showing of the film’s sequel, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003), was linked to The Angel of Darkness, and proposed sequels for The Angel of Darkness were scrapped.

2006: Tomb Raider: Legend

Development duties for Tomb Raider were transferred to Crystal Dynamics, and their overhaul of the series was the first in a critically successful trilogy.

Tomb Raider: Anniversary

Image Credit: Eidos / Square Enix

2007: Tomb Raider: Anniversary

Just one year after Legend, Anniversary was released as a complete remake of the original Tomb Raider. It didn’t sell as well as Legend, though it did shift 1.3 million units.

2008: Tomb Raider: Underworld

Tomb Raider: Underworld released simultaneously for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 using a new game engine. This lent it more impressive environments and supported animation modelled on Olympic gymnast Heidi Moneymaker. Keeley Hawes continued to voice Lara Croft, as she did in Legend and Anniversary. By 2009, it had sold 2.6 million copies.

2013: Tomb Raider

Crystal Dynamics began developing the next iteration of the Tomb Raider franchise soon after Underworld. It was conceived as another reboot, with the origins of Lara Croft rewritten under the direction of lead writer Rhianna Pratchett. Lara was performed by Camilla Luddington. It sold over 11 million copies, making it the most successful Tomb Raider title to date.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Image Credit: Square Enix

2015: Rise of the Tomb Raider

2013’s Tomb Raider had reset the formula for the series and emboldened it to borrow elements from role-playing and survival games. Rise of the Tomb Raider continued this trend by elaborating the game’s skill trees and crafting mechanics. It followed Lara Croft as she battled a paramilitary organisation in Siberia.

2018: Shadow of the Tomb Raider

In place of Crystal Dynamics, Eidos-Montréal became the lead developer on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The game concluded the origin trilogy that began in 2013, and depicted Lara Croft assuming her masterful ‘Tomb Raider’ persona in a South American setting. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the last of our Tomb Raider games in order, and sold over 4 million units. In 2021, Netflix and Legendary Entertainment announced that an animated series would continue where Shadow left off.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Image Credit: Square Enix

Because of the great number of entries in the series and a handful of reboots, remasters and definitive editions, there’s often confusion about the order in which the Tomb Raider games were released. We’ve answered some common questions below.

Is Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider the same game?

Rise of the Tomb Raider is the second game in the most recent reboot trilogy, developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix. It’s distinct from Tomb Raider, which can refer to both the original game from 1996 and the game of the same title from 2013.

Is Tomb Raider Definitive Edition the first game?

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is an updated version of the 2013 game. This game was developed in order to get the most out of the new generations of consoles at the time, the Xbox One and Playstation 4, while also enhancing the experience on PC. It includes an visual improvement as well as additional content.

Should I play Rise of the Tomb Raider before Shadow?

If you want to experience the narrative of the Tomb Raider franchise as it was intended, Rise of the Tomb Raider should be played before Shadow of the Tomb Raider. However, they are both self-contained stories. Shadow of the Tomb Raider explains its mechanics to the player and does not require any previous knowledge of the franchise.

Which Tomb Raider game is first?

Thanks to the strange quirk of video game re-releases, there are at least three entry points into the Tomb Raider series. The natural start is Tomb Raider (1996), which is the true first game in the series. However, this game was remade in the form of Tomb Raider Legend in 2006. The version that came out in 2013 is the first game in the most recent Tomb Raider timeline.

Kyle Hoekstra