2016 is the 20th anniversary of the Tomb Raider series. The Sega Saturn version of the original Tomb Raider launched Oct. 25, 1996, in Europe. The game made its North American on Nov. 14 that year. The dauntless and cunning heroine, Lara Croft, stole gamers’ hearts and proved that a female character can kick butt using charm, intelligence, and finesse.
Over the past 20 years, Lara has taken many forms and so have the games. With such an enormous heritage and with the recent anniversary, it’s high time to explore the series legacy by studying seven lesser-known or unreleased Lara Croft games that are a total treat for all Tomb Raider fans.
Lara Croft GO
The traditional Tomb Raider games were always known for their mind-boggling puzzles and contrived level designs (*cough* The Last Revelation *cough*) that went hand in hand with the trigger-happy monster shooting. In 2015, developer Square Enix Montreal decided to take the series in an all-new direction. As with their previous mobile hit, Hitman GO, they took out the series’ signature action elements and replaced them with turn-based puzzle gameplay. In Lara Croft GO players control Lara like a puzzle piece through boardgame-like levels. The game is light on plot, but it’s definitely a worth a “go” from fans who’d rather challenge their minds solving puzzles than increase the kill-count of ancient mythical beasts.
Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword
Curse of the Sword came out for the Nintendo Game Boy Color in 2001. In the game, Ms. Croft becomes a target of a fanatic cult that wants to resurrect a New Orleans witch, Madame Paveaux. Through a series of unfortunate events, Lara gets struck by a sword that makes her a potential host for the voodoo magician’s damned soul. Not willing to part with her body, our heroine pursues the cult in hopes of retrieving the weapon and proving that he who lives by the sword also dies by it. It is an original and fascinating platformer that borrows from the original series with its calculated jumps and intricate puzzles. The game is available today for mobile phones through emulation-capable apps and is perfect for some on-the-go fun.
Tomb Raider: The Collectible Card Game
Like the rare artifacts Lara Croft is known to collect, Tomb Raider: The Collectible Card Game is a treasure for fans of the series. Up to four players use cards to impersonate either Lara Croft or her rival tomb raiders. The players embark on various quests during which they may explore dungeons, caves, or tombs, and fight various animals to gain lucrative rewards. Introducing rival players means you and your friends will often get into each other’s way. That’s why each competing player needs to have their own collectible deck to use in defense. It is a nostalgia-inducing title worth looking out for on eBay.
Tomb Raider: The Action Adventure
The Tomb Raider series has never been afraid to branch out and explore new platforms beyond just consoles and PC. In 2006 Bright Entertainment released a Tomb Raider title that didn’t require a console at all. The only thing you needed was a DVD player and a functional remote.
Tomb Raider: The Action Adventure is a recap of Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. In the game, the main heroine is accused of murder and needs to find the real culprit. The gameplay consists of several scripted movies you start using specific buttons on your remote. Two teams compete to score points in a system that rewards completing bonus actions (for example neutralizing a security guard).
If you more into the series’ plot than the gameplay, the DVD game may suit you. Get a friend to pepper in some snarky comments and it’s like having your own personal YouTube Let’s Play!
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
The Guardian of Light is yet another new direction for the series. Unlike previous installments, this game focuses on cooperation. You and a friend play both as Lara and a centuries-old Mayan warrior, Totec. The characters help each other climb and solve environmental puzzles.
The game is arcade-ish in nature. It features an isometric view that allows for better maneuvering during fights, which often get very hectic. Unlike the more puzzle-centric Lara Croft GO, if all you care about is shooting some monsters in ancient ruins with a plethora of funky weapons, Guardian of Light and its sequel, The Temple of Osiris, are perfect titles to play with a friend or significant other.
Tomb Raider: The Anniversary Edition
The 2007 title, Tomb Raider: Anniversary, wasn’t the only game that was going to celebrate the franchise’s 10th anniversary. Core Design, the series’ original creators, were working on a 2006 remake of the first game for the PlayStation Portable. Core’s game combined classic Tomb Raider gameplay with the acrobatic movements introduced in Tomb Raider: Legend.
Unfortunately, the game was canceled and the project was taken over by Crystal Dynamics. Still, the available trailers for the game give an interesting look at what the series would be like if Core was still working on the games.
Tomb Raider: Ascension
The final entry in the list continues the “what if” theme. The 2013 reboot of the series was going to be a completely different game. Lara was still stranded on a mythical island, but originally the title was much darker in tone. If you watch the early alpha footage from the game, you’ll see that Ms. Croft is facing several survival-horrific monsters, inspired by games such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil. The Alpha also featured large, agoraphobia-inducing environments meant for Lara to traverse on horseback.
Ultimately, Crystal Dynamics scrapped the ideas. Now, the only place where you could see the horror references is the Yamatai plot. However, given the number of monstrosities Lara has seen in her lifetime, maybe the survival horror genre would actually be a fitting reflection of her traumatic experiences.
A version of this article originally ran on Nov. 6, 2016.