10 Best Tomb Raider Levels
Lara Croft has been around for quite a while. For many, a pointier Lara Croft was a part of their earliest video gaming memories. As the years went on, the Tomb Raider games came to be a lot smoother, both aesthetically and technically. Many things in the Tomb Raider series have gone through changes, like the complexity of the puzzles/levels which, over time, have become a lot more puzzling than just asking you to figure out which suspiciously textured blocks to move, and through progression in the level of immersion available, more awe-inspiring. It’s been 20 years since the first Tomb Raider game was released, and it’s got us thinking back. To help your nostalgia along, here are 10 of the best levels in the Tomb Raider series.
Tomb Raider (1996) – Tomb of Qualopec
As much as we may laugh at the obviousness of blocks with a different texture in old games, we have to appreciate how little that may have helped in the puzzles we strove to solve. Take the Tomb of Qualopec level in the original Tomb Raider back in 1996. You’ll probably find that the ornate decor you were greeted with isn’t quite so spectacular when you revisit it now, though it’s still just as surprising when the raptors lunge out from their hallway (the lack of detail and pixelated texture just makes them that much more unsettling). In this wild tomb, you’ll shoot at ancient reptiles, wolves, mummies and all so you can grab that Piece of the Scion. It’s a memorable Tomb Raider Level, and while it was redone well enough in the Tomb Raider Anniversary game a decade later, it cannot compare to the first time around.
Tomb Raider (1996) – The Lost Valley
Quite possibly the best Tomb Raider level, and the level that stood out for many of us was the Lost Valley, which held surprises none of the other Tomb Raider games in the series could match. Carried by the water, you enter a valley, seemingly guarded by mere wolves. “I’ve dealt with those before. Give me a real fight!” you thought to yourself as you ventured further into the valley. Suddenly, a raptor jumps out from above, “this is more like it!” you might have said to yourself. A few more raptors try to attack, but you’re too good a gamer for that. Then you see large footprints and hear the thunderous footsteps of a giant. Suddenly, you see a T-Rex emerge. That’s the heart-stopping moment we all had, right before we thought, “I take it back, I don’t want this”. It was so outrageous, we could scarcely believe it, which is why we all loved Lara Croft.
Tomb Raider II – Temple of Xian
The beautifully designed (for its time) Tomb Raider level encompasses everything Tomb Raider was about: Raiding tombs and dodging their traps. It’s a cavernous area with an abundance of secret areas, golden dragons, and timed runs through traps, and in the end, you get the Dagger of Xian! Or you would have, if that dastardly Bartoli hadn’t gotten to it first.
Tomb Raider II – Bartoli’s Hideout
All roads lead to Rome, and all waterways lead to Venice— known for its canals and potential for amazing virtually rendered shootouts as can be found in Tomb Raider II. Bartoli’s Hideout was a mix of high octane action and perplexing level puzzles, all atop the (adorably rendered) blue waters of famed Venice. It was a maze of a level and it was tough to figure out where to go next, especially since no one really expected those chandeliers to be so strong and stable!
Tomb Raider III – Temple of Puna
This Tomb Raider level, like the few preceding it, takes place in the South Pacific, which makes for some scary content. As soon as you enter the funnily named, Temple of Puna, your ambushed by two dart-blowing natives. After you took care of them you couldn’t help but notice how curved the temple was. It made dodging those traps and natives around every corner, that much more difficult, but you made it through feeling a little like Indiana Jones, right before you’re faced with the lightning-throwing Puna and his damnable lizard friends— Classic boss battle, a great way to end a twisting Tomb Raider level.
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation – The Lost Library
If you kept up with series until the fourth instalment, you’ll remember the Lost Library, which, as far as libraries go, though lacking in any actual reading material, and not exactly educational, probably isn’t the worst library in the world. Surely, there are libraries that house worse things than the mechanical murder bots and fiery horsemen found in this one, all of which try their best to cut you down as you climb up and down the entire building trying to unlock doors and rooms to get to a harp to unlock another door. If that’s not a proper Tomb Raider-style visit to a library, then what is?
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation – Temple of Horus
Many agree that this is one of the best levels in the Tomb Raider series (even though it would ultimately lead to the original series’ end). The first thing you have to get through is the water puzzle where you essentially have to correctly combine the contents of two water skins of different sizes to balance a scale which unlocks a door. If you fail, a hideous beast is unleashed, because that’s what good booby traps do. As if that wasn’t frustrating enough, you were given two more similar puzzles to complete before finally you come to the pedestal to free Horus, only to be ambushed by an angered Set (God of chaos, for those who didn’t know). It’s a taxing fight you can’t hope to win, so you scale back up a shaft and presumably seal the god inside, while the temple begins to crumble. The scene that follows is unforgettable, because this special little game ends with Lara Croft’s apparent demise. Damn it, Von Croy. You failed.
Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness – Hall of Seasons
There are an abundance of Tomb Raider fans that will readily condemn Angel of Darkness because of how un-Tomb Raider-like it was. The sixth instalment wasn’t so much about raiding tombs as it was about being on the run while occasionally visiting some ancient sites. When you did get to explore tombs however, it was magical. The Hall of Seasons for example, was full of everything we loved about the series— Ancient undead guards, mystical traps, shimmering jewels, the elements, and so, so many traps.
Tomb Raider: Legend – Ghana
The seventh Tomb Raider video game, and the first of many to be developed by Crystal Dynamics, is notable for making great use of a new graphics engine and for being the series’ return to form. Lara Croft had become a tomb raider again. This was made clear in the breathtakingly rendered Ghana Tomb Raider level which was both immersive and demanding in regards to thought and timing. There were plenty of puzzles to solve in the various chambers and halls filling the level, and it all begins with a phenomenal view and an incredible swan dive into the mist of a waterfall, which splits and unveils an incredible ancient mechanism behind it. That’s what we had been wanting, and Legend granted our wishes.
Tomb Raider: A Survivor is Born – The Hall of Ascension
Back with another Tomb Raider reboot, A Survivor is Born sought to show us Lara Croft before she became…well, Lara Croft. Barely at the end of her university years and already killing murderous thugs, and fighting mystical goddesses. What was missing was her experience with traps and puzzles. The great thing about the 2013 Tomb Raider game was that it offered more layers to puzzles and tried to bring something extra. If you don’t have the right equipment or upgrade, you’ll find that there’s always an area you may or may not notice on the side, hiding something behind it. That’s the case with the tombs here. The Hall of Ascension held treasure but required thought and timing. It’s fun trying to figure out how to get the unending storm outside to aid you in climbing the wall, or how to get the lift to just stay for a second! It looks beautiful and relies on physics the first Tomb Raider games could never have even dreamt of having. Our chandelier climbing days are over.