In its 27-year history, the Tomb Raider series has delivered some truly memorable levels. Who could forget the time Lara slid into an eerie mountain valley, only to face a herd of angry dinosaurs? Or the time its witty heroine had to dodge hungry sharks as she swam through the underbelly of a sunken ocean liner? Her pulse-pounding battle with a horde of Yetis in a pitch-black chamber? From ancient lost cities to nightmarish dreamscapes, Lara has seen some wild things in her day.
From the start, Tomb Raider’s levels focused on puzzle-solving, platforming, and navigating deadly traps. Hallmarks of the series also included breathtaking locations, inventive level design, and immersive atmosphere. When those elements come together just right, you have the recipe for a top-notch Tomb Raider level.
This list looks at some of the series’ most memorable levels and dives into why they are among the most iconic. Keep in mind that this is not a ranking. Instead, we listed the levels in chronological order. These are the top 25 levels in the Tomb Raider series.
1. “Caves” (Tomb Raider, 1996)
The level that kicked off a multimedia franchise, TR1’s “Caves,” is a quaint level by design. It purposely eases players into the game without throwing anything too difficult at them. The haunting and chilling ambient track is the only accompaniment as Lara searches caverns and ruins for the lost city of Vilcabamba. Combat is sparse—just a few bats and wolves, and one startling bear—but each area is instantly recognizable to any Tomb Raider fan. The chamber with the two wooden bridges spanning the room, with a hungry wolf pack waiting below? Iconic.
2. “Lost Valley” (TR1, 1996)
An all-time favorite among Tomb Raider fans, the premise of TR1’s “Lost Valley” is pretty straightforward. Lara needs to find and retrieve three cogs scattered around a mountain valley. The cogs activate an ancient mechanism that diverts a waterfall away from the entrance to the “Tomb of Qualopec.” The hitch? The valley is home to some not-so-extinct dinosaurs. They include an angry T-Rex, who lumbers around a corner in a shocking reveal that is still arguably the most iconic moment in Tomb Raider history.
3. “St. Francis’ Folly” (TR1, 1996 and TR: Anniversary, 2007)
No list of iconic Tomb Raider levels is complete without this gem from TR1 (which was also remade and enhanced in 2007’s Tomb Raider: Anniversary). In this Greek level, Lara must navigate a ruined central tower of platforms in an impossibly high vertical chamber. Her objective? Climb to different levels of the tower, so she can reach four challenge rooms inspired by various gods. Each room contains a key Lara must retrieve and use later in the level. Anniversary’s version even adds a fantastic water-based puzzle that ranks among the best ever created by current developer Crystal Dynamics.
4. “Palace Midas” (TR1, 1996)
Another Greek level from TR1, “Palace Midas,” is a sprawling subterranean ruin that spirals around itself. It combines god-tier level design with several ingenious puzzles (and a fair few traps). Discovering the base of the aqueduct early on, only to find yourself atop it much later in the level, is a pinch-me moment. Likewise, spying a high, unreachable ledge at the level start, and finding yourself on that very ledge later, showcases the creativity of the level designers.
The level boasts one of the series’ most memorable moments. As Lara explores, she comes across a ruined statue of King Midas. Only the statue’s legs and hand remain. Gee, I wonder what will happen if Lara stands on Midas’ hand? Go ahead. You know you want to do it. Just save your game beforehand!
5. “Atlantis” (TR1, 1996)
When Greek philosopher Plato described Atlantis around 360 BC, he wrote about an idyllic utopian society. It featured beautiful islands arranged in concentric rings, with a grand city at its center. TR1’s Atlantis is not that. Instead, TR1 reimagines the mythical land as a living incubator—a womb of sorts—deep within an ancient pyramid.
Complete with fleshy, pulsating walls and egg sacs that birth horrific mutant creations, TR1’s Atlantis is more body horror than utopia. One of the level’s most disturbing moments comes when Lara encounters a skinless, mutant doppelgänger of herself who mimics her every move. Adding to the unsettling atmosphere is the subtle ambient track of a heartbeat that’s just audible enough to send chills up your spine.
6. “The Great Wall” (Tomb Raider II, 1997)
The opening level of TR2 starts off fairly unassuming, with nothing but some simple platforming and a handful of tigers to give you trouble. But once the level reaches its midpoint, the action and danger ratchet up to a thousand. As Lara explores the catacombs beneath the Great Wall, she must use her skills to get through a gauntlet of blade and spike traps. And if that wasn’t enough, the level’s third and final secret is a sneaky addition that gives an iconic TR1 moment a well-deserved nod. It’s also an unexpected challenge that kicks off the game with a bang!
7. “Venice” (TR2, 1997)
Ah, Venice. Such a beautiful city, with its gorgeous Italian architecture, picturesque canals, and gun-toting cult members.
This level raises the danger in TR2 and gives players a taste of what’s to come. It introduces the thugs employed by antagonist Marco Bartoli, who pester Lara through the duration of the game. “Venice” is also the first level in the series to feature a playable vehicle. The speedboat—iconic in itself—allows you to speed down the canals and do some high-flying stunts!
8. “Barkhang Monastery” (TR2, 1997)
The crown jewel of TR2’s excellent Tibet section, “Barkhang Monastery” is a massive level that’s full of wondrous puzzles and diabolical traps. This level sees Lara on a quest to retrieve five prayer wheels scattered around the monastery. Complicating matters are Bartoli’s henchmen, who invade the monastery by force as you explore. Luckily, the resident monks are on Lara’s side and will fight alongside her. But if you accidentally hurt or kill one, they’ll all turn on you and make the rest of your visit a nightmare!
9. “Temple of Xian” (TR2, 1997)
Speaking of diabolical traps, the “Temple of Xian” is the big daddy of the entire Tomb Raider series. This gargantuan level is an unrelenting roller coaster ride. It throws everything at players: ingenious level design, instant-death traps, complex platforming, and head-scratching puzzles. Danger lurks around every corner. In other words, everything in this level is actively trying to kill you, even the koi fish.
Conquering this late-stage level requires the player to have mastered everything they’ve learned thus far. And the less we speak of that nightmarish, spider-filled cave roughly midway through the level, the better.
10. “Floating Islands” (TR2, 1997)
After navigating the “Temple of Xian,” Lara finds herself in an eerie dreamscape made up of jade islands floating above an endless void. Possibly based on a real-life mirage in China that makes it look as though islands are floating in the sky, its inspiration remains a mystery. One of the series’ oddest and most inventive levels, it’s also one of the franchise’s most dangerous.
One wrong step often sends Lara plummeting to her death, and the ground is a long way down. The level's imposing Xian warrior statues are among the game's toughest enemies. They spring to life when Lara ventures too close and attempt to slice her with their swords and skewer her with their spears. These bad boys are best dealt with from a distance!
11. “Temple Ruins” (Tomb Raider III, 1998)
It may only be the second level of Tomb Raider III, but “Temple Ruins” plays a lot like a late-stage level from the previous games. The level is quite large and requires a fair bit of backtracking. It also features some harrowing traps and pulse-pounding timed runs that give even expert Raiders a tough time. But the level’s highlight is the horrifying Shiva statues that awaken and attack Lara as she explores. Watch out for their arms—there are six of them!
12. “Aldwych” (TR3, 1998)
Tomb Raider III's London section is one of those “love it” or “hate it” sections. But this level is arguably one of that section's highlights. The level takes Lara into the London Underground, to the real-life Aldwych Station, which has been closed since 1994. As Lara explores, she finds a secret Masonic temple beneath the streets of London and eventually discovers the lair of a mysterious brotherhood called the Damned. It's so inventive and bonkers that it deserves to be on any list of iconic Tomb Raider levels!
13. “Lost City of Tinnos” (TR3, 1998)
The second-to-last level in Tomb Raider III (sort of) is another test of players’ mettle. Set in the bowels of an ancient lost city in Antarctica, Lara must solve the puzzles inside four arduous challenge rooms. Each challenge room draws inspiration from one of the four elements: earth, water, fire, and air.
Guarding the city are enormous wasps that spawn constantly and an army of monstrous, grotesque mutants. Add in an insane timed run, in which Lara must sprint across two-thirds of the level to reach a door before it closes, and you’ve got one iconic level.
14. “Furnace of the Gods” (Tomb Raider II Gold: The Golden Mask, 1999)
A gem from the underrated Tomb Raider II Gold: The Golden Mask expansion pack, “Furnace of the Gods” is a wonderful example of the Classic era’s creativity. After swiping the Mask of Tornarsuk from an Alaskan tomb, Lara must platform her way across a deadly river of molten gold—while battling gun-toting henchmen and bloodthirsty eagles, I might add. Then, she has to flood an ancient lost city to reach a prized artifact and make her escape. Just another day in the life of Lara Croft, y’all.
15. “Tomb of Semerkhet” (Tomb Raider 4: The Last Revelation, 1999)
The most unique level in Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation is also a series highlight. As Lara explores an Ancient Egyptian tomb, she finds herself face-to-face with the high priest Semerkhet in a chamber resembling a giant game board. But instead of fighting him hand-to-hand, Lara must play a game of senet—a real-life board game from Ancient Egypt—to progress through the level.
Lara and Semerkhet take turns casting their die and moving their pawns until one defeats the other. Different paths to the level exit open up to Lara depending on whether she wins or loses. The loser’s path contains a secret, so you may want him to beat you if you want to grab it!
16. “The Lost Library” (TR4, 1999)
As Lara crisscrosses Egypt to find the pieces of Horus’ armor, she casually discovers the Lost Library of Alexandria. No biggie, right? The level features not one, but two iconic puzzles. One requires Lara to use logic in igniting a circle of serpent-shaped braziers (much more complicated than it sounds). The other asks her to move planet statues into their proper places around the sun. It's a polarizing puzzle, as Lara’s block-pushing animation remains quite slow. But the concept behind the puzzle is quintessential Tomb Raider.
17. “Old Mill” (Tomb Raider 5: Chronicles, 2000)
Although Tomb Raider: Chronicles didn't earn critical acclaim like its predecessors, it still offers some noteworthy levels. By far the most inventive are the Ireland levels, set on a haunted isle off the coast. The levels feature a teenage Lara Croft exploring an island inhabited by ghosts and demons—with no weapons. The “Old Mill” level begins with a frightening encounter with a demonic horseman. It only gets weirder as Lara must use her smarts to defeat a terrifying sea hag without being able to kill her.
18. “The Hall of Seasons” (Tomb Raider 6: The Angel of Darkness, 2003)
Core Design’s final Tomb Raider outing, The Angel of Darkness, was famously released unfinished, with many of its planned locations scrapped. But one gem that made the cut was the sublime “Hall of Seasons.” The level requires Lara to retrieve four element-based crystals from four mini-levels that branch off from the main level. In “The Breath of Hades” side level, Lara must balance and hop across moving pillars while large, carved heads attempt to blow her into the lava below. Child’s play for Lara Croft.
19. Peru – “Return to Paraíso” (Tomb Raider 7: Legend, 2006)
The second level of Tomb Raider: Legend is a linear experience that offers a look into a harrowing event from Lara’s past. It also contains some nifty puzzles. One of them requires Lara to utilize boulders to solve a fun light puzzle, and a unique timed underwater puzzle helps open the path forward. This level is one of the reasons why Legend is still considered by many to be a rebirth of sorts for Lara and the Tomb Raider series as a whole.
20. “Coastal Thailand: Bhogavati” (Tomb Raider 8: Underworld, 2008)
Arguably the prettiest location in the series, Bhogavati in Underworld’s Thailand section also offers one of the franchise’s most memorable puzzles. In a throwback to the series’ classic era, much of the level requires its polarizing protagonist to platform her way across two large, adjacent areas to find two mirrors. Lara must then place the mirrors on the hands of a towering statue of Shiva and Kali. Once the mirrors are in place, and the statue’s arms are in the proper positions, a beam of light opens the next location. It’s Tomb Raider in a nutshell, and one of the series’ best puzzles.
21. “Shanty Town” (Tomb Raider, 2013)
One of the Tomb Raider reboot’s most beloved levels, “Shanty Town” lies in the shadow of a fortified palace. This eerie, deserted Japanese village finds Lara injured and in desperate need of medical attention. She earns the coveted fire arrows here and then must fight her way through waves of armed foes. The level culminates with a stealthy run across a bridge as her mentor, Roth, helps pick off enemies. The level also gives Lara access to two of the game’s challenge tombs, the “Well of Tears” and the “Chamber of Judgement.”
22. “The Prophet’s Tomb” (Rise of the Tomb Raider, 2015)
Though Rise of the Tomb Raider’s tombs are a mixed bag for some, “The Prophet’s Tomb” in the Syria section early in the game is easily Rise’s best. Though it’s linear, the feel and atmosphere are almost reminiscent of the ancient spaces in the early games. The multi-tiered level offers some Tomb Raider hallmarks, such as physics puzzles and flooding parts of the tomb to make progress. It ends with a fantastic, and action-packed, confrontation with the game’s main antagonist.
23. “The Wicked Vale – Baba Yaga: Temple of the Witch” (Rise of the Tomb Raider, 2015)
After the grounded approach of the Survivor-era games thus far, this supernatural-themed DLC side quest was a breath of fresh air. A young woman recruits Lara to investigate claims of a wicked witch terrorizing a nearby forest. As she explores, Lara experiences terrifying visions, including some involving a childhood trauma. Not long after, she encounters the legendary witch’s house stomping through the forest on two chicken legs. The level gets wilder and weirder from there as Lara must battle hellhounds and the famed witch herself!
24. “Trial of the Eagle” (Shadow of the Tomb Raider, 2018)
For those who worried that complex puzzles were a thing of the past in the Survivor era, Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s “Trial of the Eagle” was a breath of fresh air. It centers around a rotating, multi-tiered contraption that Lara must navigate. After Lara crosses the contraption, she must then solve a series of rope-based puzzles. It’s the most complex puzzle of the Survivor era up until that point, and rewards players handsomely. Upon solving it, Lara gains access to the path leading to the game's central hub: the lost city of Paititi.
25. “The Cenote” (Shadow of the Tomb Raider, 2018)
To be fair, Shadow offers several great challenge tombs, but you can’t talk about the game without discussing “The Cenote” level. This level is straight out of a horror film. A dark and gloomy mix of caverns and tight tunnels, with hair-raising shrieks permeating the air. Home to supernatural beings called the Yaxxil, “The Cenote’s” atmosphere is terrifying in the best way. To exit, Lara must solve a complicated water puzzle while battling the fictional humanoid beasts. A highlight of the Survivor trilogy, for sure!
Honorable Mention: “The Deck” (TR2, 1997)
Most of Tomb Raider II's underwater levels are great. “Wreck of the Maria Doria” and “40 Fathoms” could have easily made this list. But what makes “The Deck” fantastic is its wide-open feel. The whole level takes place in a handful of massive, interconnected caverns around the exposed deck of the doomed ocean liner. Much of the level requires Lara to reach various tiers of the deck via the adjacent caverns and passageways. Its non-linear design encourages exploration and trial-and-error, two hallmarks of Classic Tomb Raider.
Honorable Mention: “Home Sweet Home” (TR2, 1997)
Until Tomb Raider II‘s epilogue, “Home Sweet Home,” Croft Manor had been a sanctuary for players. It was a safe, cozy environment that allowed players to explore and practice Lara's move set with little risk of injury. “Home Sweet Home” turns Lara's humble abode into something out of a Hollywood thriller. The level sees Bartoli's goons show up in the dead of night and break into Lara's home to steal the Dagger of Xian.
What was once a safe, peaceful environment is now riddled with tension, and it's terrifying. The level's premise is simple—it kicks off with Lara admiring the dagger and her house alarm going off. Lara must quickly gather her shotgun and enough ammunition to fight off the intruders. Once the final enemy drops, the level ends, and fans are treated to an epic end cutscene.
Honorable Mention: “The Path Home” (Shadow of the Tomb Raider, 2018)
The last of Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s seven excellent DLC tombs is “The Path Home,” a level set after the events of the main game. This side quest in the “Mission San Juan” hub sees Lara exploring a series of ancient temples as she investigates a mystery involving the Yaxxil. The platforming, verticality in the level design, and complex central puzzle make “The Path Home” a standout among Shadow’s DLC.
Those are our picks for the top 25 levels in Tomb Raider, as well as a few honorable mentions. But now, we ask you: what are your favorite Tomb Raider levels? Did we leave off any of your favorites? Are there any we included that don’t make your list? Let us know in the comments below, or hit us up on social media!