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Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Switch review – not in ruins

We take a look at the Tomb Raider I-III Remastered collection, diving back into one of the most iconic videogame franchises of all time.

Three versions of Lara Croft in front of a desert tomb

Our Verdict

While the controls and combat can be frustrating at times, this is due to the Tomb Raider I-III Remastered collection being the faithful trilogy of remasters that it should be, allowing you to revisit where the iconic franchise all started.

The year is 1996. We’re a year or two into the PlayStation’s life cycle (depending on where you are in the world), and stellar games keep coming out. So far this year, we’ve had Resident Evil, Crash Bandicoot, and Final Doom, but among the titles yet to come out that year is a legend in the making. On October 24, 1996, Tomb Raider burst onto the scene, instantly becoming a hit with players and critics thanks to the titular character, graphics, and gameplay.

This game is the reason we have Uncharted, folks, and guess what? The legacy of Lara Croft is just beginning, for Tomb Raider’s success spurned consecutive sequels in 1997, 1998, and 1999. The first three of these four games, Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider II, and Tomb Raider III, are back once more courtesy of the Tomb Raider I-III Remastered collection. It’s important to note that remasters and remakes are entirely different entities; a remaster merely improves graphics and brings a game to new platforms. There’s no discernable change to the gameplay or story.

With that in mind, it was my great, albeit frustrating, pleasure to revisit this iconic trilogy. Tomb Raider has long been one of my favorite videogame franchises. I own all of her adventures, from her 1996 debut to the 2021 Tomb Raider: Definitive Survivor Trilogy and 2023’s The Lara Croft Collection, and yes, I always buy each individual game as it comes out – I may have a problem, but her polygonal bosom did something to me.

So, it comes as no surprise that I jumped at the chance to play the Tomb Raider I-III Remastered collection on Nintendo Switch. Fans of the original games can likely guess how difficult the games are, not just because of the excellent puzzle design but also because of the controls. Look, all games from back in the ‘90s can be a huge pain in the butt today due to the controls, but Lady Lara takes it to a whole new level.

Lara Croft in a snowy tomb aiming her guns at a wolf

It’s honestly hard to slam a remaster of a PlayStation One game for blocky and stiff controls, for that was normal at the time, and remasters, as I said, essentially serve as faithful ports with shiny new graphics, so if you do dive into this collection, prepare yourself to tackle the camera and controls, particularly in the first game where changing direction and positioning yourself for a jump can be a tedious affair – as frustrating as the controls can be, it also adds an odd nostalgic charm that kids of the ‘80s and ‘90s will likely appreciate.

As for the aforementioned improved graphics, the improvement in lighting can make navigating the world much easier. You can see clearly and better understand the way forward. However, while I appreciate the updated graphics, there’s something about playing the game in all its original glory. Luckily, you can switch between the old and new aesthetic at the tap of a button whenever you like, just like you can with games such as the Halo Master Chief Collection on Xbox consoles.

Graphics and controls aside, I love Tomb Raider for its fun gameplay, with future games taking inspiration from it. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid playing one of Lara’s original games, including the anniversary remake from 2007, allow me to explain what you can expect from the gameplay. You get to explore various tombs (hence the name), all of which feature traps and puzzles with the intent to kill you – that’s the basic gist of Tomb Raider.

Lara Croft in a forest tomb looking at a crack in the roof with the sun pouring in

Don’t worry, there’s more to it than that. Lara has her iconic pistols for a reason. Not only do you need to navigate various areas throughout the levels while doing your best to avoid spike pits, but you also need to put those guns to good use in combat, as there are many enemies for you to face, including wolves, bears, bats, humans, and a dinosaur. Yes, you read that right; there’s a T-Rex in Peru.

The combat may take some getting used to for new players, but fans of the originals likely already know how clunky the roll and positioning can be. Again, this remastered collection serves as a way for you to experience the original game, so I’m pleased to see the combat remain intact. Yes, gunplay is a lot easier in later titles, but where’s the fun in that? Well, there’s lots, but that’s not the point.

Of course, each game features its own story, locations, and cast of characters, but the gameplay remains consistent, especially throughout this trilogy. To that end, you may feel fatigued if you play through all three with no break. You’ll be pining for something different, as were many critics back when Eidos Interactive released Tomb Raider III in 1998. It was its lack of innovation and changing of the formula that it let down, and even today, as enjoyable as the game is, you can see why.

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Still, Lara’s intelligent and sarcastic manner makes for some great entertainment, even if you feel the strain towards the trilogy’s climax. In fact, I attribute my sass to Lara Croft. As a gamer girl born in the ‘90s, I can safely say that I looked up to her in a lot of ways, especially during a time when there weren’t a great deal of leading ladies in videogames. Lara Croft offered me my first insight into the ‘I can do anything’ attitude, and that’s a huge deal for a kid, so thank you, Miss Croft.

Putting the titular character aside, the trilogy features some good villains, so much so you’ll shout with joy when you beat them. But arguably, one of the cruelest things you can do isn’t to the big bads; it’s to your loyal butler at Croft Manor in Tomb Raider II – you can lock him in the freezer. That isn’t something the developer planned for players to do in 1997, but knowing that it’s a staple of the game these days, Aspyr has ever-so-lovingly made it so the butler turns blue. You can literally freeze him now, and I’m here for it. No notes, ten out of ten.

On the performance front, Tomb Raider I-III Remastered runs really well on Nintendo Switch, both while docked and in handheld mode – I’d even go so far as to say this is the platform to play it on, thanks to the portability. Tomb Raider is a great game to play while traveling, though, if, like me, you love trophies and achievements, I’d suggest PlayStation or Xbox, as there are more than 200 trophies up for grabs across all three games.

Lara Croft pressing a button on a colomn in the middle of an oasis room in a tomb

The Tomb Raider I-III Remastered collection is a faithful homage to the original trilogy. While the controls and combat of the time may prove challenging, it’s more than worth the effort to experience one of the most iconic videogame franchises in all its glory. Whether you are a new or old fan, I do recommend giving the collection a try. Lara may hate tombs, but I don’t.

For even more great adventures from Lara’s era, make sure you check out our picks for the best Crash Bandicoot games and Resident Evil games. Yeah, 1996 was a cracking year for videogames.