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Tomb Raider I-III Remastered
Tomb Raider (1996)

Tomb Raider (1996) Top 5 Levels

Feb 26, 2024

Lara Croft in Egypt on her Norton Streetfighter motorcycle

The original Tomb Raider changed the industry forever, setting a new precedent for action-adventure games. The control scheme and level design gave players full command of Lara's movement and complete freedom of exploration, thanks to its grid-based system. There were no pointers, objective markers, NPCs with clues, or hidden documents pointing the way. It was Lara, you, and the environment. This combination allowed players to be fully immersed in the levels, relying solely on their own wits. Today, we'll explore the top five most memorable levels in the original Tomb Raider, known for their remarkable level design. 

5. Tomb of Qualopec

Tomb of Qualopec  is the first level to use the word ‘tomb’ in its name and is home to the item that sparked Lara’s journey - Qualopec’s piece of the Scion. Entering the tomb through a stone cave that was previously hidden behind a waterfall, the level greets you with a warm and welcoming color palette, as if trying to disguise the traps and challenges set for explorers. Early on, the level introduces a trap players will be seeing more of in the rest of the game, namely the famous rolling boulder (we see you Sabatu). Before Lara can reach Qualopec’s resting place, she has to go through three puzzle rooms and pull the levers to open corresponding doors. While the level is relatively short, it doesn’t detract from the enjoyable experience that establishes the concept of solving multiple puzzle rooms to open a path in the level’s main hub area. 

Lara Croft in the Tomb of Qualopec, looking at his Scion piece trhough the closed gate

4. Obelisk of Khamoon

The Obelisk of Khamoon is the second level set in Egypt. Its use of vibrant gold highlights and colorful pillars contrast perfectly with the green foliage, immersing the player in its atmospheric surroundings. The entire level feels like one giant puzzle with huge rooms spanning multiple vertical floors. The goal of the level is to lower four bridges around the obelisk and obtain the four key items needed to open large doors in the previous level - the City of Khamoon. This is the first time we see interconnecting levels in a Tomb Raider game, requiring Lara to revisit a previous area to progress. The idea of interconnecting levels was further explored and developed in Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation

Level Obelisk of Khamoon showing the roof shining the light down on the obelisk

3. Palace Midas

Palace Midas is a leading example of what makes a great Tomb Raider level. Its intricate design encourages players to thoroughly explore each corner in search of three lead bars. Right from the beginning, players encounter multiple passageways, providing a sense of the level's vast scope. While it might seem disorienting initially, advancing through the level unveils familiar locations visited at the beginning, but now seen from a different perspective. Palace Midas is notable for featuring one of Lara's well-known death scenes involving Midas' hand and its deadly golden touch. Midas’ hand serves more than just a stylish means to reach the game over screen; anything it touches turns to gold. Clever puzzles and platforming provide a fun challenge. However, the level introduces additional challenges beyond the usual traps, with the number of enemies occasionally becoming overwhelming. 

Lara jumping from a square pillar in Palace Midas in the room with Greek letters (omegas and upsilons) and five levers.

2. The Lost Valley

This level garners the most attention, and for good reason – it features the iconic encounter between Lara and the T-Rex. However, beyond the thrilling boss fight, the level offers much more. The objective is to find three machine cogs to block the river flow, stopping the waterfall and granting access to the Tomb of Qualopec. Navigating the beautiful, but dangerous valley, exploring its caves, and leaping from the top of the waterfall create an unforgettable experience that has remained in fans' memories for years. 

Lara fighting the T-Rex in the Lost Valley

1. St. Francis' Folly

With its exceptionally original design, St. Francis’ Folly stands out as a quintessential Tomb Raider level. Upon completing the initial room with columns and pressure pads, players progress to the next area where they drain water from a passageway. Proceeding forward, players are rewarded with a spectacular sight of a multi-floored central structure. Serving as the primary means of traversal, this structure conceals levers that Lara must find to access four challenge rooms: Neptune, Atlas, Thor, and Damocles. In each room, Lara encounters a unique challenge designed to align with the room's theme. Completing each challenge rewards Lara with a key. Gathering all four keys unlocks the grand door at the bottom of the structure. However, Lara isn’t alone in this location as fellow raider Pierre Dupont tries to make her life more difficult by attempting to dispose of her to reach the next Scion piece before she does. 

Lara in the central structure in St. Francis' Folly

Special Mention - Atlantis

Atlantis unveils the true essence of Tomb Raider, exposing its horror aspect. Following vibrant explorations through the ancient locations of Peru, Egypt, and Greece, Tomb Raider’s portrayal of Atlantis diverges from convention. Atlantis is gruesome; a mix of stone, pools of lava and flesh. Its walls are alive, pulsating and giving birth to monstrous entities at every turn, including a flesh Doppelganger (named Bacon Lara by the fans) who copies Lara’s every move. Lara faces the daunting challenge of reaching the top floor of the Pyramid, where she must destroy the Scion, ensuring Natla can never harness its powers again. 

Lara approaches the assembled Scion, which is floating on the pedestal in Atlantis

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Video Games
Tomb Raider I-III Remastered
Tomb Raider (1996)

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