The Best and Worst Moments in ‘Tomb Raider’ History
Although we’ll always have a soft spot in our hearts for Lara Croft, it’s no secret the long-running ‘Tomb Raider’ franchise has had its fair share of ups and downs. But on March 5, game makers hope to reboot the series with the simply named ‘Tomb Raider,’ an M-rated title that promises to graphically depict how iconic heroine Lara Croft makes the transition from inexperienced young woman to field-tested scrapper.
But can Square Enix, who purchased original publisher Eidos Interactive in 2009, breathe new life into ‘Tomb Raider’? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure — the flagging series certainly needs it. So, to mark the upcoming release of this new game and potential turning point in the franchise, we present the best and worst of ‘Tomb Raider’ over the past 17 years.
BEST: Tomb Raider
When Eidos and Core Design released ‘Tomb Raider’ in 1996 for the Sega Saturn, PC and PlayStation, it became an instant smash. Gamers were able to control gun-toting archaeologist Croft as she interacted with the environment in complex ways, including walking, running, jumping, swimming, diving, hanging and rolling.
It also sported an atmospheric soundtrack and a highly cinematic approach to gameplay. It sold a whopping 7 million copies worldwide and is credited today with contributing to the overall success of the PlayStation.
BEST: Tomb Raider II
Given how well the first game was received, a sequel was inevitable and ‘Tomb Raider II’ was released a year later. Croft’s second outing brought new moves and weapons, more detailed environments and character models, larger levels, vehicles, a greater number of enemies and dynamic lighting.
While it didn’t necessarily surpass its predecessor in terms of quality, it was a worthy sequel and flew off the shelves to the tune of 8 million copies worldwide. The ‘Tomb Raider’ craze was in full swing.
BEST: Tomb Raider III
‘Tomb Raider III’ was released in 1998 and further expanded on Croft’s moves by adding a crouch stance, crawling, sprinting and the ability to “monkey swing.” It’s at this point, however, where the series started to feel stale. Still, it sold remarkably well at 6.5 million copies and gamers everywhere continued to eagerly follow Croft’s adventures.
BEST: Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation
If some felt that ‘TR III’ was a rehash, 1999’s ‘Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation’ didn’t do much to dispel that. While the game admittedly gave fans more of what they loved, GameSpot said it “reeked of a ready-to-go game engine and of a level designer going through the motions, with someone else coming up with a new move for Lara all the while.” Still, gamers didn’t seem to care and made it a bestseller at 5 million copies.
WORST: Tomb Raider Chronicles
By the time ‘Tomb Raider Chronicles’ was released in 2000, the franchise had definitely become a victim of its own formula. Despite new moves such as tightrope walking and stealth elements, this entry was essentially more of the same and some said the series was failing to grow with the times.
It only sold a dismal 1.5 million copies and became the second most underperforming game in the series. Obviously, incremental improvements weren’t enough to keep gamers coming back for more.
BEST: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (Movie)
In 2001, Croft made the leap to the silver screen with the movie ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.’ While critics largely panned it and found the plot nonsensical and the action sequences silly, everyone agreed that Angelina Jolie was perfect for the role. The movie became a hit, grossing $274 million worldwide and was the most successful video game movie until ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.’
WORST: Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness
When ‘Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness’ was released in 2003, game makers sought to revitalize the brand on the PlayStation 2. Players loathed the game, however, and criticized its high degree of difficulty, terrible controls, glitches, bad camera and poor combat system. It sold only 2.5 million copies and as a result, the Core Design era came to an end. Eidos fired the game studio and went with Crystal Dynamics for future titles.
WORST: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (Movie)
The franchise’s woes continued in 2003 with the release of a second film, ‘Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.’ Critics disliked the sequel just as much as the first and moviegoers seemed to agree this time. It debuted in forth place to only $21.8 million, a 54% drop from the first film’s opening take of $47.7 million. Its domestic gross was only $65 million, making it a certified flop. Paramount, meanwhile, blamed the film’s performance on the dismal ‘Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness,’ which had been released slightly more than a month before the film.
BEST: Tomb Raider: Legend
With Crystal Dynamics at the helm, Croft’s fortunes took a turn for the better in 2006 with the release of ‘Tomb Raider: Legend.’ For the first time in a long time, Croft was fun to play again and it became the best selling game in the series since 1999’s ‘The Last Revelation’ with 4.5 million copies sold. This upturn wouldn’t last, however.
WORST: Tomb Raider: Anniversary
Hoping to capitalize on the fact that the series had turned 10-years-old, ‘Tomb Raider: Anniversary’ was released in 2007, but it turned out to be anything but a happy occasion. Sales were weak and the game only moved 1.3 million copies, earning itself the dubious distinction of being the worst-selling ‘Tomb Raider’ game ever. Although it was a serviceable remake of the original game, and may have been better in many ways, gamers weren’t willing to buy into the nostalgia.
WORST: Tomb Raider: Underworld
Touted as the first true next-generation game in the series, ‘Tomb Raider: Underworld’ was released in 2008 and it never looked better thanks to advanced visuals and motion capture provided by Olympic gold medalist Heidi Moneymaker. But a new coat of paint couldn’t save the game from technical issues, such as camera and clipping problems and bad enemy AI. It only sold 2.6 million copies sold worldwide, a far cry from ‘Tomb Raider’ in its heyday. Here’s hoping the new ‘Tomb Raider’ game reenergizes the long-running franchise.