UPDATE: check out the Tomb Raider Suite project, created by Nathan McCree, the composer for the music of Tomb Raider 1-3!

welcome to my Tomb Raider corner! here you will find my personal thoughts about all the classic (PS1 & PS2) titles, as well as a list of my favorite little details throughout the series, tracks from the ost, and so on! TR has been my absolute favorite game series since i was 8 years old, and i could go on about it for literally ever. please enjoy!


An iconic start to an iconic series! I found this game when I was 8 years old, and it effortlessly grabbed my very selective attention from the very beginning. The enigmatic first FMV sequence with grade-A voice acting, then the title screen with that beautiful opening theme. Twinkly harp, soaring synth, and mysterious choir. I immediately had to know more.

The very first level (Caves) is quite an experience. After an FMV of harrowing danger, one finds themselves hurled into the unknown, and you quickly come to understand the sense of isolation and vastness that this game inspires and is known for. The background ambient sounds drive home a chilly feeling, like you're really alone on a mountain somewhere with only your wits. And it's true -- this game will not hold your hand.

What can be said of the gameplay itself? Quite a lot! Personally, it set the bar astronomically high in terms of controls. They are very precise, if a little tight, for perfecting your 3-D platforming abilities. With no slipping or sliding, i found myself quickly coming to love navigating and exploring the worlds. The PS1 (or "classic") TR games are grid-based, with a standard unit of distance being one block. This type of level design (paired with the precise controls) lends itself to quickly and accurately traversing levels. Once you've got the hang of standing jumps and running jumps, the difference between them, and the timing of each running step, TR1 is very fun to speed run! A timer at the end of each level also drives the challenge to improve your time.

The puzzles are a treat as well! A memorable one is the cog wheel puzzle in the Lost Valley level, a good introductory puzzle that sets the stage for the types of conundrums to come. Another favorite is the Palace Midas puzzle... various pitfalls and hazards also await you, testing your speed and response times in a way that few modern games can boast. Ever run around in a room full of metal plates and an electric disco ball that fires lightning, or had to avoid swords falling from the ceiling? Get your fix here.

There are so many great locations in this game:

Incan ruins in the snowy Peruvian Andes, wherein lies a secret lush valley of greenery full of dinosaurs and ingenious waterway mechanisms.

Greek ruins with platforming of spectacularly dizzying heights, a feast of absolute vertigo I've never experienced in a game before or since. Also featuring the infamous Hand of Midas, where you can actually invoke a hilarious death scene in which Lara turns into solid gold.

Our first glimpse of Egypt in the series! Full of beautiful architecture, sphinxes dotted throughout the area, more lush PS1 polygon plants, and bizarre, lanky, semi-anthropomorphic mummies that run around on all-fours? Crazy.

And finally, my favorite depiction of Atlantis in any media, ever. A series of pulsating meat caverns full of mutant birthing pods and skinless centaurs that shoot exploding fireballs. Then behold, the accurately named second-to-last boss: The Abomination. An enormous muscular head and torso with giant arms and claws that will grab you like a ragdoll and slam you into the ground if it gets close enough. The stuff of "I-just-ate-spicy-food-before-bed-and-now-I'm-sweating-in-my-sleep" nightmares. All of these monsters were created by the maniacal main villain, Jaqueline Natla, who hired Lara to find one of the pieces of the Atlantean Scion, an artifact that once belonged to the doomed continent's three rulers. Natla, as we learn, was one of those rulers (along with Qualopec and Tihocan) but was locked away for abusing her powers and trying to create an army of mutant warriors with which to take over the world.

With its snarky history buff protagonist who makes no effort to be a heroine, and the colorful cast of enemies (Natla's dumb cronies Pierre and Larson mostly), the story follows a pretty simple Indiana Jones-esque treasure hunt but set in the '90s. Its charmingly tacky disregard for realism is balanced perfectly with its timelessness, and it's by far the world designs and immersive atmosphere that drew me in. This game means everything to me, and drove me to learn more about real archaeology, ancient ruins, and mythology. It's become a part of who I am, and I will continue to replay it well into my life.

Also worth noting is the "deluxe" Unfinished Business release (known as Tomb Raider Gold in North America), which features the original game as well as four new levels and expands a little on the story.

^ an excellent speedrun playlist of the entire game, and the full soundtrack! ^

TOMB RAIDER II: Starring Lara Croft (PS1)

Something I really love about the classic TR games is their consistency paired with ingenuity -- TRII runs on roughly the same engine as its predecessor, but we get some cool new features implemented as well. Lara can now climb ladders, light flares to illuminate dark areas, and even drive vehicles found in the environment!

Core Design stuck to a tried and true method of game development: stick to what works, and spruce it up along the way. Lara's in-game model and the FMV graphics improved marginally as well. Nathan McCree returned for the soundtrack, providing a fresh but reminiscent take on the title theme, in-game jingles, and sound effects.

Our second installment proves itself a worthy sequel in countless ways. A new story sends us into new locations, with ever bigger and more interesting world designs, all based on real places again. By far my favorite location is Tibet, particularly the Barkhang Monastery level, where we get a new AI feature: friendly monks who (as long as you don't shoot them) will remain neutral to your presence, instead defending their home against the bad guys.

The Monastery level is very special to me, as it piqued my childhood interest in Tibet and pushed me to educate myself about the culture there, as well as the struggles and unrest the Tibetan people have faced throughout history.

The ocean floor levels kept me entranced too, particularly Wreck of the Maria Doria and The Deck. These stages always strike me as by far the most dark and isolated of the entire series. There's something eerie, unsettling, and downright alien about them. Kid-Mue spent hours here, coming back to these levels was always exciting!

Also notable, the Opera House in the Venice section. I found myself even having dreams about it. Something about those balconies and sand bags... and random shards of glass everywhere. The entire design feels like a liminal space.

Another favorite is the Floating Islands stage in the second China section. Absolutely terrifying, and just as daunting to kid-Mue as the Atlantis levels in TR1. I feared falling to my death or being speared through the torso by diligent guard statues, enough that i put off completing this level for a good week before jumping back in.

Like the first game, you can visit Lara's estate, but this time you can venture outdoors and test your speedrunning skills on a specially designed obstacle course complete with its own timer. After beating your best score, congratulate yourself by locking the butler, Winston, in the freezer. A regular afternoon at Croft Manor.

Overall, this game is about as difficult as the first, though it tosses you into the fray much quicker (the Great Wall gauntlet... merciless...) and you encounter way more enemies as well. There are also more timed doors and reflexive events, as well as environmental hazards galore. The story follows the treasure hunt trope, this time racing against Marco Bartoli's mafia gang the Fiamma Nera to find the Dagger of Xian.

Like TR1, it had a "Gold" release titled The Golden Mask, however this add-on is an entirely separate adventure with a story unrelated to the Dagger of Xian story featured in the main game. Rather, it focuses on a new artifact (the Golden Mask of Tornarsuk) and a new location (Alaska). This new adventure is included because it reuses textures and features of the main game. Consider it a mini spinoff.

If all secrets are collected, one can unlock the bonus level (Nightmare in Vegas), which features a surreal level design and an almost humorous amalgamation of textures, giving a decidedly unreal quality. Additionally, the plot in which Lara must rescue Winston leads many fans (myself included) to speculate that this shenanigan is literally a nightmare she dreams up while sleeping. How else is she going to process all the crazy shit she's seen?

TOMB RAIDER III: Adventures of Lara Croft (PS1)

I fell in absolute love with this game, despite the complaints I have about it. Tomb Raider III was my definitive childhood love interest in the gaming world in terms of how much fun I had playing it, and to this day it holds an irreplaceable spot in my heart despite its flaws.

Let's start off with the story. First off, a meteorite? As an astronomy nerd, I'm already down. Then we find out that the crater, located in Antarctica, has weird properties and an extraterrestrial material embedded in it. Evidently, there's a busy history of ancient Polynesians settling there, discovering this crater, and using the alien material to create several powerful artifacts that can channel immense cosmic energy.

The element of other-worldly influence was a popular one in media during the mid to late '90s, so it was only a matter of time before TR hopped on the bandwagon, with all the charm and quirkiness the series is known for. One of my favorite features of this game is the cast of kooky characters you come across in your adventures, each one having a role to either aid or hinder Lara's quest. From the seemingly inocuous scientist Mark Willard, to his rogue associate Crazy Tony, the ever-ambitious Sophia Leigh, and the cool but tragic outcast Geordie Bob and his band of punk anarchists living in London's sewers. This game always keeps things interesting with all their personalities, personal ventures, and (in my humblr opinion) the best dialogue in the series.

Nathan McCree, hero of the people, returns for the soundtrack and completely -- I mean, completely -- outdoes himself, giving us absolute masterpieces such as "The Puzzle Element", which still stands as my favorite piece of video game music ever composed. The entire soundtrack does so phenomenally well with telling the story and setting the mood that I routinely find the songs stuck in my head as my mind's eye wanders around the levels.

Game engine stuff! Though TRIII reuses much of the same engine as II, including Lara's in-game model, you immediately notice a richer quality as you step into the first level. III introduced colored lighting to Lara's world, making it strikingly more atmospheric and beautiful. The first level, which takes place in India, has a subtle but incredible earthy orange glow to it, creating an early morning sunrise mood as you explore the jungles and ruins. Fire (including Lara's flares) now burns deep orange, creating a more realistic ambience in dark temples and caves. Later levels take advantage of this feature in ever more creative new ways. In London, the night-cloaked city is aglow with ambient purples and indigos to give a hip neon feel, while in Antarctica everything takes on a frosty blue hue. The way in which Lara's model now becomes enveloped in the colors of her environment leads to a much more immersive experience.

Other cool environmental details include new surface sound effects -- depending on whether Lara is walking on grass, gravel, wood or metal, her footsteps sound different to reflect that. Also, if Lara is attacked in water, the water will become cloudy with blood. Morbid, but cool.

As for moveset, Lara can now crawl through small spaces, monkey-swing across designated ceiling areas, and sprint for short distances before performing a diving roll if desired. Vehicles also make a return, this time in the quad bike, a kayak, and a motor raft. The quad bike, first found in India, can later be found in the Nevada section. Meanwhile the motor raft serves as Lara's only way to traverse the deadly cold waters in Antarctica, which will actually kill her via hypothermia if she stays in them for too long.

This is also the first time in the series where you can choose the order of your adventure. After beating the India stages, you can choose which location you visit next -- Nevada, the South Pacific, or London -- of course leaving the showdown in Antarctica for last.

The India section quickly proves, right off the bat, how much more difficult this game is compared to the two previous installments. With far more hazards, harder enemies, more gauntlets, and much larger levels, some diehard fans even found it a little too difficult. Kid-Mue was too excited to notice the difficulty level at the time, though playing it later on did get frustrating at times. The final objective of this locale is retrieving the Infada Stone, made of materials from the meteorite crater in Antarctica. The level design for this section is absolutely gorgeous, and once again piqued my interest about India, driving me to learn about the incredible history and many cultures of the Indian subcontinent. TR will never stand up as an accurate depiction of the many world cultures it uses for its presentation, but if nothing else it did at least facilitate curiosity in me as a kid. Though it was arguably potentially culturally insensitive that you fight statues resembling Hindu deities? I'm not sure if they were intended as specific gods or demigod-like warriors, so I'll stay out of this one.

Nevada evokes a real sense of isolation and dehydration, as you explore baked desert canyons, avoid quicksand, and battle vultures and snakes. Nevada Desert starts off as one of the less exciting levels but you're in for a treat when, upon climbing on to a specific cliff, a B-2 stealth bomber appears from out of nowhere and disappears loudly over the surrounding cliffs. What could this mean? Why, you're going to Area 51 of course! Sneaking inside the compound and exploring around was one of the coolest gaming experiences I ever had growing up, especially being an X-Files fan (and general UFO nut) since I was tiny. I'll never forget finding the alien autopsy room and FREAKING OUT that the aliens were going to come to life at any moment and attack. Also, why was there an orca tank? What the hell was the government doing? Last but not least, to retrieve the artifact of this level (Element 115), you get to climb inside a UFO parked inside a hangar. The interior is incredibly creepy (remember the flesh caverns from TR1?) and unnervingly dark, but I loved every moment of it.

The London levels introduce the most side characters (which isn't surprising since Core Design was based in the UK), and we learn that they're all intertwined. Sophia Leigh, the CEO of a cosmetics company (which is a front for creating immortality serum), has apparently been around for at least 3 generations, though she appears to be in her "late 20's, early 30's". We learn that the source of her immortality is another of the meteorite artifacts -- the Eye of Isis -- which we've come here to acquisition. Apparently, Ms. Leigh has quite a reputation as a mad scientist, putting out adverts for product testing jobs and then subjecting her employees to horrific experiments in her quest for eternal youth. Geordie Bob, now living with his band of rebels (called The Damned) in the sewers, is one such victim who had responded to the adverts. He directs Lara in her journey... for a price, of course. You go off on a quest for embalming fluid (which he needs for his ravaged skin), from the Natural History Museum's Egypt section. Bob allows you passage and you are able to confront Sophia, running around on the London rooftops and finally destroying her by electrocution.

The South Pacific levels stand out as the dinosaur levels of TRIII. TR wouldn't be the same without dinosaurs, right? Apparently, the people of this island have been living with velociraptors, I guess since prehistoric times? Sadly, there's a big catch here. I don't have room to go into it in detail, but it's beyond tactless (on the part of the game devs) that Lara allies with a bunch of stranded white dudes in killing the "savage cannibal" natives of the island. For all its accuracy flaws, TR usually at least attempts to treat the various cultures it portrays in a respectful manner. But they ENTIRELY dropped the ball here. The level designs are at least really pretty and there's a fun kayaking session where you get to fight river rapids, though it can get frustrating very fast.

Finally, Antarctica. You meet back up with Dr. Willard, produce the artifacts you agreed to find for him, and it turns out he's a maniac who wants to play god (big surprise), using the powers of the artifacts to create mutants... sound familiar? Have fun trying not to die screaming in these levels as you encounter dudes with flamethrowers and various research scientists who have morphed into... mutant seals? I still don't know what the hell and shit those things were supposed to be. These levels are absolutely gorgeous though (I'm a sucker for snow/ice aesthetic), and the Lost City of Tinnos (where the meteorite crater is located) is absolutely breathtaking. Once built by Polynesian settlers thousands of years ago when the climate was tropical and warm, Tinnos is now frozen over and eerie as all hell. The final level, the Meteorite Cavern, opens with a chilling audio recount of various dialogue from earlier in the game, distorted into a medley of terror as Willard willingly throws himself into the activated crater and turns into a giant mutant spider -- the final boss. Without a doubt, no TR game has filled me with more nightmare fuel.

Players who collected all secrets in the game are rewarded with a bonus level, All Hallows, which is presumably a church located in London since it uses the same texture pack.

As with 1 and II, there is a Gold edition titled The Lost Artefact (spelled Artifact in the U.S.), in which Lara learns there is a fifth object made of the mysterious meteorite glass, the Hand of Rathmore. In her quest Lara travels to various locations, most notably the deceased Willard's estate in Scotland, where you can see Loch Ness and Nessie herself! Another location features what are apparently catacombs in Paris, but look more like a bizarre liminal dimension made from various lumped-together textures and objects from TRIII. Complete with a revived Sophia Leigh as the final boss, and the meteorite itself hovering in the sky outside.

Lara's mansion is also accessible once again as a training level, with the inside training course from TR1 (remodeled to include her new moveset) as well as the outdoor assault course and a quad bike track reachable via the hedge maze. Also added are the attic, basement aquarium library, and a sweet treasure room featuring artifacts from previous games (as well as impending ones...).

TOMB RAIDER: The Last Revelation (PS1)

Give me a moment to compose myself. This game is a masterpiece. The crown jewel of the series. This game is my everything, this game will never be topped by anything, ever, in my world. I love it so much.

By far the longest and most cinematic out of the entire series, The Last Revelation really satiates the hunger for Egypt that the first game sparked -- and brilliantly. Before I get into all that, let's look at all the new details and features the fourth installment brings.

First off, a new music composer. Peter Connelly does a fantastic job of carrying on where Nathan McCree left off, also bringing a fresh new feel to the series. We also have a new voice actress for Lara, the talented Jonell Elliot, who REALLY brings our protagonist's attitude to life and still stands as my personal favorite.

We also get a new inventory setup, and the ability to combine certain weapons and puzzle items. For example, once you've obtained the laser sight tool, you can equip it to either the revolver or crossbow for the ability to snipe from afar or shoot certain objects to clear the way forward. This feature also comes in handy when you find an artifact broken into pieces and need to reassemble it.

This installment also comes with new abilities and interactive world features that previous titles couldn't support. You can now swing on ropes, climb up and down poles, shimmy around corners, and light torches to brighten up dark areas or solve puzzles that require flames. There is only one vehicle, the jeep, which also has its own special theme that plays when you engage it! Snazzy.

Unlike the three previous titles, the tutorial is non-optional, but creatively ingrained as the first level and backstory for our adventure. We start the game off with a teenage Lara in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, with her archaeologist mentor Verner Von Croy. As they make their way through the complex in search of an artifact known as the Iris, you learn the moves you'll need throughout the game while getting a good look at what an arrogant ass Von Croy is and how child prodigy Lara far exceeds him in every way.

Without divulging the entire rest of the plot and spending a year writing a scene-by-scene novel of it, the Egyptian bulk of the game takes place in five main areas: The Valley of the Kings, Karnak, Alexandria, Cairo, and Giza. Lara unwittingly releases the ancient Egyptian god of chaos, Set, by retrieving the Amulet of Horus from Set's tomb, and must travel across Egypt to find the Armor of Horus in order to rectify her mistake. The Armor is the only way to summon the god Horus, who is obviously the only one who can subdue and confine Set once again. However, under pressing circumstances, Von Croy becomes Lara's foremost obstacle in trying to set things right.

There are so many great new elements never before seen in the series! The Desert Railroad level, which concludes the Karnak section, takes place entirely on a moving train, crawling with Von Croy's hired assassins. Train heists are a staple in the action-adventure genre, so seeing it finally brought to my favorite series was superbly exciting. It's every bit as precarious as it should be, too. One misplaced foot, and you're dead as the train almost comically races along without you.

The Karnak levels are endlessly nostalgic for me, from the gorgeous Hypostyle Hall to the lovely music that plays in the Sacred Lake. And playing giant Senet with the ghost of the prophet-priest Semerkhet? One of the best moments of the entire series. I still have a savefile so I can go back and play Senet whenever I fancy. It's been the same exact savefile since 1999. I'm pretty proud of that.

One of the coolest (and sometimes most confusing) things about this game was the attempt to ditch the more straightforward linear path of past level designs. The Last Revelation brought a small taste of open-world to the table, requiring the player to sometimes revisit earlier levels in order to check out previously inaccessible doors, puzzles, and items. The Alexandria levels and Lara's mad dash to find Cleopatra's palaces immediately come to mind.

Alexandria also introduces one of the most legendary and gorgeous puzzles in all of TR history: the Planetarium Puzzle in the Lost Library. To solve this puzzle, one must arrange large statues of the Sun, Moon, Earth, and various other planets in their orbits, following the patterns marked on the sprawling ornate floor. Furthermore, one must do this bearing in mind that the ancient Greeks believed the Earth was at the center of the solar system, not the Sun. It's the attention paid to important cultural details like this that made me fall head over heels in love with this game.

The City of the Dead is where things really start to get spooky. Immediately, the bright desert sun and golden sand dunes are replaced by a dark, apocalyptic, thundering green sky amidst the hauntingly beautiful architecture of historical Cairo. Set's evil has begun to manifest locusts and demons all around, and the ambient soundtrack's eerie howls and groans serve to remind you of the quickly impending shitstorm. Right away, maneuvering around the tumultuous city proves perilous as you're forced to avoid monsters, trenches, and all manners of hazards (even lightning). Finally, Lara must ally herself with some native Egyptians to progress forward. Sergeant Azizus is one of my favorite side characters in the series. I really wish they'd have given him a bigger/better role, but he was a real badass while he lasted.

Finally, by the time Lara makes her way to Giza, the cursed sky has gone blood red and things are becoming ever more eerily frantic, yet beautiful. A real sense of "the calm before the storm" sets in here. Lara makes a stop at the Sphinx, and even reads the Dream Stele of Thutmose IV! Having always been enamoured with the Dream Stele story as an ancient Egyptian lore nerd since childhood, this part brought tears to my teenage self, and remains one of my favorite moments in the series. They didn't have to include it... it was non-essential to the storyline. But they did that, just because it would be cool. I love this damn game so much.

The next few levels are all about heavy platforming and traversing dangerous terrain, including edging around the smaller pyramids, some mastabas in the area, and -- finally -- actually climbing around on the sides of Khufu's Great Pyramid itself. Avoiding falling limestone blocks, and making sure not to jump on any inclines which would send Lara plummeting to her death in the chasm below. Turns out, Khufu's Pyramid houses the Temple of Horus, where the Armor is to be placed on a statue of the god himself. Making your way through the pyramid is a real treat, with gorgeous architecture featuring ethereal blue lights and celestial imagery, as well as one of my favorite puzzles in the entire series: the scale puzzle.

Entering a room containing a caged Ammit-type creature, one must pour just the right amount of water into an empty jar upon a scale, to balance it out. This harkens back to the Judgement of the Heart lore in ancient Egyptian religion. Upon dying and meeting with the god Anpu (or Anubis), one's heart must be weighed against the Feather of Ma'at (or Truth). A light heart that balances with the feather opens the doors to a blissful eternal afterlife. A heart heavy with sin that outweighs the feather will be devoured by Ammit. Likewise, if Lara pours too much water into the jar, the Ammit-beast is released and is free to snack upon her. Though veterans of the game may recall that there is actually a safe spot directly against the cage door where he cannot reach you. Game glitches are fun. Three scale puzzles bar your way forward, each one requiring a different amount of water. Using the item combining function, you must combine a small and large waterskin in order to measure out the correct amount.

Finally, Lara makes her way to the statue of Horus and places the Armor upon it, but of course Set decides to show up and ruin everything. The final boss fight is more like a mad dash to avoid him and finally use the Amulet to seal him under the pyramid. Seems like kind of a band-aid rather than a solution, but we soon learn that the storyline was originally set up to have continuity into the next game. As Lara tries to make her escape from the crumbling pyramid shaft, Von Croy shows up to aid her. Distrusting him due to his previous hostility, Lara hesitates and is thus seemingly buried alive under the pyramid. Is she dead, as the final somber scene of Von Croy mourning would imply?

All in all, The Last Revelation was a wild ride from start to finish, ending in a bittersweet cliffhanger and a huge can of worms to never truly be resolved. But that mess will have to wait for my last two reviews...

TOMB RAIDER: Chronicles (PS1)


TOMB RAIDER: The Angel of Darkness (PS2)