Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft isn’t the most succinct video game title out there, but at least it certainly lets you know what you’re getting. Launching in early 2024, it collects the original Tomb Raider trilogy — as developed by Core Design and released annually between 1996-98 — but buffs out all of the angular polygons in favour of a fresh lick of graphical paint. Lara won’t look quite as realistic as she does in the recent Survivor Trilogy, but her appearance will be a lot more in line with the modern mobile and spin-off games that still work off of her original character design while looking a bit less… alarming to the contemporary eye.
You can still play the ’90s originals quite easily on PC via Steam or GOG, but there are a number of good reasons why this remaster appeals, even putting aside the fact that the games will be coming to current- and last-gen consoles for the first time. There’ll be quality-of-life improvements like camera locking, for instance. Even if you were good at these games back in the day, it’ll be nice to have the option to play them again without having to unlearn over two decades’ worth of muscle memory developed since tank controls ceased to be standard.
Really though, I’m here for the nostalgia hit. Core Design’s original Tomb Raiders were the first video games I ever played not aimed solely at children, and their influence on me as a young girl in the ’90s can’t be overstated.
Now, I really do mean this next part: Lara Croft being an iconic female video game protagonist — a violent, imperialistic Byronic hero from a time when women in games were still only rarely allowed to be any kind of hero — is very important to me. But it’s also completely incidental to why I’m excited for this particular re-release. What really has me thrilled is that Tomb Raider II and III in particular are still up there among my top games of all time — not because of Lara, but because the peerless level design compelled me to play my favourite sections of these games over and over and over again as a child.
I know the grounds of Croft Manor from the original trilogy’s tutorial sandboxes like I do my own childhood home. I spent hours of my tweenagehood in front of the family PC mastering the trickiest and most perilous snowmobile jumps, and learning how to dodge away at the last second from every hidden trap in the tribal village. I’ve rejoiced in pulling off the perfect swan dive, but at the same time, I’ve thrown myself into that river full of piranhas just to watch one of the series’ best death animations more times than I can count.
The problem is, I’m in my 30s now, and like so many childhood delights, it’s hard to justify going back to the original Tomb Raider trilogy at this point in my life. There are so many other things to play and, unfortunately, even some non-video game-related responsibilities to attend to. There’s a very real, very sad chance that I never would have revisited these games for myself again.
But, happy days, this remaster presents a perfect excuse to slip these classics in amongst my catalogue of next year’s new game releases. And honestly, I think the series’ new publishers at Aspyr have played a bit of a canny one here. The game’s February 14th release date has in-universe significance because, as the real ones know, that’s Lara Croft’s birthday. (She’d be turning 55 in 2024 according to the original timeline, which had her born on Valentine’s Day 1969, although Crystal Dynamics have presumably rolled that back a bit for their latest reboot.)
But aside from lore appeal, releasing in mid-February is just pretty smart, if you ask me. The literal hangovers of the holiday season will have worn off by then but the financial hangover will still be felt by many, not helped by the cold and dark of the winter months driving up regular household expenses if you live in the northern hemisphere. Most big games don’t launch in this period, unless they have the cocky self-assurance of a GOTY shoe-in like Elden Ring; which means that more modest offerings like indies and remasters have a clearer shot at gaining the attention of people looking to be entertained on a budget while it’s miserable out.
And indeed, the Tomb Raider I-III Remastered collection will cost £25/$30 on every platform except the Nintendo Switch in the UK, where for some reason it’s £27, making it just a bit pricier on there if you’re a Brit. There’s currently a 10% pre-order discount across all platforms, bringing it down to £22.50/$27 (or £24.50 on Switch in the UK). And there’s also an extra 20% discount for PC players who own the original games via Steam or GOG and choose to buy the remastered trilogy on the same storefront.
All this equates to 60 hours of some of the best action-adventure games ever made for well under half the cost of a modern AAA release. And, as something of a connoisseur of classic game re-releases, I can confirm that it’s quite a bit less than you pay for trilogy remasters from more recent decades.
Furthermore, anecdotal sources suggest that buying the latest Tomb Raider game cost around £30-£35 in the 1990s, which adjusting for inflation would equal about £60 per title in 2023. The fact that the ’90s are officially back in style as “retro” might signal the onset of my first midlife crisis. But at least there’s one silver lining when I can replay some of my dearest childhood favourites on the modern gaming system of my choice at six-times-better-than-retro prices.
Tomb Raider I-III Remastered releases on February 14, 2024 on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch.