A Tomb Raider history up to Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Every time I sit down to write an article and I start thinking about what I want to say in it and I tell myself that no matter what, this time I’m not going go into this whole emotional tale about what the game meant to my childhood, and every time, I do. When it comes to writing about Tomb Raider I feel like a flash to the part is almost inevitable, if you played games when you were younger then Tomb Raider was probably one of the ones you played and a big part of your childhood. I’ve always loved Tomb Raider, from the days of the first three games when I used to lie on the couch with my parents and watch them play, and they used to pretend that I was actually helping them solve the puzzles, to playing pretend games of “Tomb Raider VS Indiana Jones” with my friends, to experiencing the games myself as an adult, Lara Croft has always been a part of me.

Before I even sat down to write about Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I knew that I wanted to talk about the Tomb Raider games from my childhood. I wanted to go back and put together a timeline of events and figure out what order the games should be played in because apparently, I really like making my life needlessly difficult (I blame the influence that the original Tomb Raider puzzles had on me for this particular trait) so without wasting any more time, let’s find out where in the world do all of these Laura Crofts fit in:

The first thing you need to understand before we go into this timeline I’ve created, is that there are actually three entirely different Lara Croft ‘universes’ that the main games fall into and then there are a bunch of ‘side games’ that don’t really fall into any of these or help to carry the story, so for the purpose of this timeline, we’re ignoring those.

First, we have the original games, 1, 2, 3, Last Revelation, Chronicles and Angel of Darkness.

This universe starts off with Lara trying everything in her power to get back to civilisation after she is on a plane that crashes in the Himalayas. After managing to survive against all odds (and let’s be honest, no thanks to me) she begins the next chapter in her life as an infamous treasure hunter/cat burglar – eventually leaving behind her families riches and instead making a living writing books about her various exploits as an adventurer.

Second, we have the Legend trilogy, Legend, Anniversary and Underworld.

In this universe, Lara’s mother was with her on the plane when it crashed, but when Lara regains consciousness her mother is gone without a trace. In this universe Lara is driven by her need to uncover the truth, everything she does is about clearing her father’s name by finding out what really happened to her mom the day the plane crashed.

Lastly, we have the reboot series, these serve as the prequel to the rest of the stories, Tomb Raider 2013, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

This time around, Lara’s mother mysteriously vanishes when Lara is still just a child and her father’s obsession with finding the secret to immortality creates a rift between him and Lara and eventually drives him to suicide. After Lara graduates from university, she gets the chance to go and work on a special archaeology program and help search for the mythic kingdom of Yamatai where she discovers that her father wasn’t the madman she grew up believing that he was and she decides to set out to finish off his last work. Even though these three versions of Lara are pretty different from each other, there are still certain story lines that run through all of them, intermingling them, regardless of universe.

Keeping all of that in mind, here is the order that I suggest you play the Tomb Raider games:

Tomb Raider 2013

Released in 2013 for PC; PS3; Xbox 360; OSX; PS4; Xbox One; Linux and Shield TV.

This tells the new origin story of Lara Croft before she becomes the Tomb Raider and sets the stage for the games to follow. You play a young Lara who has just set out on her first expedition, by ship, to find the lost kingdom of Yamatai. Early on your ship is struck by a violent sea storm and everyone on board is forced to abandon ship, leaving the party separated from each other and stranded on a mysterious island.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Released in 2015 for PC; Xbox 360; OSX; PS4; Xbox One; and Linux

We start off almost exactly one year after the previous game ended and Lara is suffering from severe PTSD and struggling to come to terms with everything she experienced on Yamatai. Looking for anything that can help her explain what she witnessed she turns to her late father’s research, the same research that drove him to suicide and decides to continue it – starting with the lost city of Kitezh and the secret to immortality.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Released in 2018 for PC; PS4; and Xbox One

We start off 2 months after Rise of the Tomb Raider has ended, Lara and her friend Jonah have now dedicated themselves to stopping the organisation ‘Trinity’ once and for all. After tracking a cell phone belonging to the head of Trinity’s High Council to Mexico they follow suit and Lara unknowingly ends up triggering ‘The Cleansing’ a Mayan apocalypse which is said to end in a permanent solar eclipse.

Tomb Raider The Last Revelation

Released in 1999 for PC; PlayStation; OSX and Dreamcast

Still following the story of ‘young’ Lara we start this game off in 1984 when Lara is just 16 years old. Lara and her mentor Von Croy are exploring some ancient ruins when Von Croy ignores Lara’s warnings and disturbs an artefact causing the temple to close. Lara is forced to run for life, leaving her mentor trapped inside and with some major resentment for Lara. We then jump to 1999 and Lara is now older and a much more experienced adventurer, while in Giza she finds herself in the Great Pyramid with Von Croy as the temple begins to collapse around them. Von Croy tries to save an untrusting Lara but is forced to give up and run for his life and the temple crushes down on top of her.

Tomb Raider Chronicles

Released in 2000 for PC; PlayStation; Dreamcast and OSX

We start off just days after the events of The Last Revelation, Lara is presumed dead after she was buried under the collapse of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Three of Lara’s associates are sitting telling their favourite stories about her early exploits and you then get to go back in time to play those stories.

Tomb Raider The Angel of Darkness

Released in 2003 for PC; PlayStation 2 and OSX

Angel of Darkness follows on from the events of The Last Revelation and Chronicles and takes place ‘sometime later’ after she is found to be alive and well. Lara arrives in Paris to meet up with her former mentor Von Croy but they are attacked and when Lara wakes up she finds Von Croy dead next to her and she has no memory of what happened.  Now suspected of his murder Lara is forced goes on the run and once again, find the truth.

Tomb Raider Anniversary

Released in 2007 for PC; PlayStation 2; PSP; Xbox 360; Wii; PlayStation 3 and OSX

Anniversary is a hard game to talk about, even briefly. Anniversary is basically a remake of the original three games but the story was changed so that it would be the bridge between the original Tomb Raider games and the Legend trilogy. When you start playing Lara is already older and an established archaeologist and that’s actually all I can say without spoilers, just know that it’s very rich in story and ties a lot of other events in the series together.

Tomb Raider Legend

Released in 2006 for PC; PlayStation 2; Xbox; Xbox 360; PSP; Game Boy Advance; Nintendo DS; GameCube; PlayStation 3

Legend brings us a new backstory and tells us about the plane crash she survived in the Himalayas with her mother who disappeared shortly after. We find out that after losing her mother she starts going on expeditions with her father before he also mysteriously disappears in Cambodia when she is 16, also presumed to be dead. Lara is now much older and is infamous for her work as an explorer and archeologist and is driven by the need to discover what happened to her parents.

Tomb Raider Underworld

Released in 2008 for PC; PlayStation 2; PlayStation 3; Wii; Xbox 360; Nintendo DS; OSX and N-Gage 2.0

Another title that’s hard to discuss without spoiling anything, Underworld starts off with Croft mansion exploding and being engulfed in flames before suddenly taking you back in time by a week and just days after the events of Legend ended.


And there we have it, a flashback of the past and a working timeline for the Tomb Raider games.

Whether you are a super fan or not, and whether you want to replay all the old games or just play the new ones, Tomb Raider is and always has been a really amazing adventure game filled with mystery, intrigue and puzzles that make you feel like you really are an amazing mystery solving explorer and Shadows of the Tomb Raider is no different. It’s a visually stunning game set in a world that just feels so ‘alive’ that it’s easy to divert off the path and spend your time wondering around just listening to the people talk to each other and watching them live in this world.

My two favourite things that Shadow offers is the ability to customise your difficulty settings (other games, you need to jump on this please) so, for example, you can choose to have easy combat, but tricky puzzles and then you have the option to play the game using skins of all the Laras that have come before (and take photos using the pretty sick in game camera) so if you’re wondering how I’m going through the game, this is how:

Tomb Raider has always been a part of my life, and with a reboot as strong as this, it’s sure to be a part of all of our lives for a long time yet.

Do you have a favourite Tomb Raider game? Let me know below!

I'd love to chat to you some more.


I usually send out a weekly mailer with a recap of blog posts but also some personal anecdotes. If you want to know about competitions or just catch up in a more personal setting then you might like to receive the mailer.

Enter your email and get the scoop first: