Revealed during a Nintendo Direct, but in fact happening across all of gaming, the world has learned that the first three Tomb Raider games are returning with shiny new graphics, designed to work on modern consoles. Let me—an old person—gift you—presumably a young person—a piece of insight: You will want to play these games.
Tomb Raider has a bonkers history. It goes all the way back to 1996, almost 30 years ago, when Lara Croft first appeared on the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. And, yes, the cardboard cutouts of Lara and her generous bosom and concerningly narrow waist appeared in every gaming store worldwide. Tomb Raider was an instant phenomenon, and not just because of her tits: This was a genuinely brilliant game accompanying a groundbreaking use of 3D graphics.
Tomb Raider was a key reason a generation of PC owners upgraded to their first 3dfx card. It was a game that everyone heard of, and perhaps is more responsible than anything else for seeing our hobby break out from its specialist niche and find a mainstream audience. And it’s statistically probable that this all happened before you were born.
Like Grand Theft Auto and the itch-inducing belief that that franchise for some reason started with GTA III, there’s now some sense that Tomb Raider began in either 2006 with the excellent Legend, or even 2013 with the franchise’s total reset. Sure, everyone vaguely knows there were some earlier games, but they weren’t on SNES, there isn’t a theme park dedicated to the franchise, they were apparently some weird, archaic anomaly enjoyed by an ancient race lost to time.
Let me tell you something, young lady: The original three Tomb Raider games were absolutely bloody fantastic.
And no, not in a rose-tinted, “Ah I remember when...” way, but in the proper, “woah, this level design is absolutely spectacular,” sort of way. In fact, the main flaw you’ll find in these originals is still a problem in all three generations of the games released over the last three decades: the god-awful combat. At this point, tiresomely waiting for the section in which Lara incongruously slaughters crowds of humans to be over is frankly nostalgic.
Talking of nostalgia, all three games are being released with an option to switch between the original blocky polygon graphics, and lovely patched-over modern designs. If it’s anything like the Monkey Island remakes, this means I will spend the entire time obsessively switching back and forth, unable to cope without knowing how every scene looks in each incarnation. Please, I need help.
We old folk at Kotaku absolutely cannot wait to experience these games again, and even more, to see how all the young-uns on staff react to playing them for the first time. Not having the right cables to attach my PSX to anything with a screen, and the PC versions being such a pain to get working, it’s been so long since I returned to these three games. But every time I previously have, it’s been such a pleasure. Like going home. Literally, when you play Tomb Raider II’s training level in Croft Manor, which is an absolute treasure trove of detail and clattering crockery.
All three games will feature their expansions and secret levels, with the restoration being done by Aspyr alongside Crystal Dynamics (the series’ original developer, Core Design, has long since gone to live on the lovely farm where games developers get to run around with all the space they need). They’ll be out February 14, 2024, on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC, which means you have no excuse.