Tomb Raider levels ranked

All the levels from the OG Tomb Raider, ranked from miserable to masterpiece

Palace Midas is my happy place

Like most people born in the 1990s, I have fond memories of Tomb Raider. I think in retrospect I barely played the first two Tomb Raiders at all, at least not properly – giving the fact I was born the same year Lara Croft debuted to the world. I hammered the Survivor trilogy of the 2010s and have always considered myself a Tomb Raider franchise fan, but it wasn’t until this year’s Remastered trilogy where I really got to play these games as a seasoned gamer who can actually platform. Well, kind of – I was not prepared for the unforgiving but (mostly) fair difficult of these games, and I wasn’t prepared either for how much the level design of the OG Tomb Raider would charm and impress me. With that in mind, here are all the levels from the OG Tomb Raider ranked from worst to best based on a play through that changed my life and made the game one of my instant all time favourites.

15. Natla’s Mines

Scum. Not only is Natla’s Mines scum, it is scum that isn’t fun. I know a lot of fans love this level for the way it takes away Lara’s weapons and switches up gameplay and whilst I enjoy that novelty, I don’t think the path to get them back is very fun. The backtracking! The tedious block pushing! The very, VERY ugly environment! I just hate it. Why are the bosses a cowboy, a skater dude and a bald man? The ending with the gold blocks near the pyramid honestly gave me such a headache. Not for me.

14. The Great Pyramid

As you might be able to tell, I just do not like the entire Atlantis chapter. Ugly! No fun! The Great Pyramid is two boss fights and a gauntlet, and I didn’t find any of the fights very difficult. The battle with the mutant torso is just pumping endless bullets into it and the Natla fight is anticlimactic (although perhaps I was just lucky – I’ve seen a few fans say they found it harder and she was more aggressive in the remaster). The gauntlet pyramid escape is great fun and challenging, though – but I’d honestly have rather this just been the conclusion to Atlantis rather than its own level.

13. Atlantis

The first tomb we make it in to, and it’s fine! It’s good! It’s just super short. You sort of puzzle about for a short while, get the Scion part and then go back through the waterfall into the Lost Valley to fight with Larson. I like that you revisit a previous level and I like the mummy jumpscare in the Scion room but it’s all over before it properly gets going.

11. Tomb of Tihocan

The Cistern is obviously divisive, but at least it’s its own thing. Tomb of Tihocan feels more like The Cistern 2: This Time It’s Personal than it does its own level until right near the very end. Nobody needs more of The Cistern. At least the big shock of the Atlantean centaur mutant is a proper terrifying shock – it kind of saves the level. And you get to finally wipe out Pierre Dupont.

10. The Cistern

The cruel Cistern is a bit of a downgrade from the majesty of the Greece levels that come before it, and that’s putting it lightly. It’s extremely difficult and the puzzle has the ability to soft lock your game if you do the water stuff in the wrong order – so good luck not using a guide and even more good luck with actually being able to see the keys you need to proceed on the grey, sewage ridden floor. Just a grim place full of rats. I can understand why it’s hated – and Pierre is a pest.

9. Caves

The simplicity of Caves is its brilliance. This was the first time many gamers in 1996 ever navigated an 3D environment before. Can you just imagine strolling through a fully realised world with bats swooping to kill you, wolves, a hidden bear – just awe inspiring. It’s like a tutorial compared to the rest of the game but for an opening level it does its job perfectly.

8. City of Vilcabamba

Forget the near tranquility of Caves, here’s level two to throw you right into the absolute chaos of Peru. As soon as Vilcabamba starts you’re set upon by four wolves at once and the game is no longer holding your hand, and never will again. It’s the first time you really feel like you’re exploring and you get to swim for the first time. When Tomb Raider really becomes Tomb Raider.

7. Colosseum

Honestly, the first time I headed up those stairs and entered the colosseum area for the first time my breath was taken away. It’s truly amazing – awe-inspiring. I love the Greece chapter and this just feels so vast and like you’re really in somewhere truly lost to civilisation. The gameplay is so fun even if the endless animal slaughter gets a bit questionable, and you really feel like you’re in competition with Pierre. The puzzles are really fun, too.

6. St. Francis Folly

Perfect level design. When you get to that central chamber and platform up and down it, every jump feels meticulous. The offshoot rooms each being themed after different entities from Greek mythology is just such a joy – you kind of know what to expect in each room and yet the way the game implements the gimmick feels so satisfying and fun to play through. Instant classic.

5. Lost Valley

Tomb Raider levels ranked

The first classic Tomb Raider level you get to and honestly perhaps the most iconic of the entire series. I can’t stress enough how much this level shook everyone to their core in 1996. The clever waterfall puzzle is great on its own, but when you emerge into the titular valley and fight off a couple of raptors, then round the corner to be confronted by a T REX – it’s the moment where a game changing game made it clear that it was not playing around and you were going to be in for a wild ride. A masterpiece, and one that is in everyone’s top five Tomb Raider levels ranked if they know what they’re talking about.

4. City of Khamoon

Of all the Tomb Raider levels ranked here, it’s the OG game’s Egypt chapter that’s probably the most beloved and fondly remembered. Tomb raiding in Egypt just feels… right. After The Cistern and Tomb of Tihocan, Khamoon’s oranges and blues and decadent Sphinx heads makes exploring a pleasure – even when the mummies are absolutely terrifying. So much fun to be had here, even if it gets outdone by the other two Egypt levels.

3. Sanctuary of the Scion

Tomb Raider levels ranked

I don’t think there’s any area more impressive in Tomb Raider across all the levels ranked here than how it feels being in the room with the giant sphinx in Sanctuary of the Scion. It’s a room that even after nearly 30 years of gaming since the OG Tomb Raider still manages a sense of wonder. The platforming here is nail biting, and the fact you’re set upon by an increasing number of mutants and mummies adds to the terror. I love how the level wraps around to where you start. I love the uzis secret being on the inexplicable invisible platform. But most of all, I love how just when you’re impressed with the sphinx room, you drop into the chamber below with the huge statues underwater and are blown away all over again.

2. Palace Midas

Tomb Raider levels ranked

WOW. It’s all I can say, honestly. Perfect, truly immaculate level design. When you see the title and know who Midas was in history and the myth surrounding his touch turning everything to gold, the level clicks. You need to find iron bars to unlock a door but to do so you have to turn them to gold – so when you find the statue of him and a big hand it all makes sense. This level famously has the most perfect death ever – if Lara stands on the hand, she turns to gold. Just genius. A huge, sprawling but logical level that tests everything you know so far. Amazing.

1. Obelisk of Khamoon

Tomb Raider levels ranked

My favourite of all the Tomb Raider levels ranked in the OG game is the quietly brilliant Obelisk of Khamoon. What I love so much about it is how it’s so puzzle focussed and despite the challenge levelling up, it all makes so much sense and feels so satisfying as you work your way round the obelisk to get the relics. Then when the level takes you back to the previously explored section of City of Khamoon, instead of feeling like retreading it feels like clever world building that makes Egypt feel like a place you’ve really cracked and raided. Just an absolute thrill – and the most beautiful level in the game. Cherish it so much.

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