Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Review — Back to the Future

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Review

The 90s is back in style! Specifically, pop culture icons and influencers impact us directly through the latest fashion trends and a resurgence of musical groups reforming, playing their greatest hits for fans across the world. Even our beloved hobby of video games is not immune, as some popular franchises laid dormant are now being re-released and remastered back into this bold new world.

One of the biggest icons of the 90s in gaming is none other than Lara Croft. She returns in Aspyr’s ‘Tomb Raider I-III Remastered’ available now on pretty much every platform available. But are these titles treasures begging to be uncovered from their slumber? Or are they better left alone in tombs, forgotten, and left unopened?

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Review

Lara Croft is a character as iconic as Mario and Sonic, forever etched into gaming lore. Growing up in the 90s, I can vividly recall that Lara was everywhere, leaving an indelible mark on the PlayStation generation. While I may have been a Nintendo 64 kid myself, Lara’s presence was impossible to ignore.

She was on the cover of every gaming magazine, transcending into mainstream culture like no other character at the time. So, when they announced that the original 3 games were being remastered and myself having little experience with these games, I couldn’t resist the chance to delve deeply into Lara’s world and uncover the secrets to her enduring popularity.

After spending a lot of time with this collection. I can understand that these titles are historically important games, albeit frustrating and sadly aged quite harshly. The most important thing you need to tell yourself before you play this game is that the original alone is 28 years old. These are old games.

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Review

For younger gamers, understand that there was a time when games were not as user-friendly as they are today. These games were the originators of video games within a 3D space and pioneers of 3rd-person adventure games. Obviously, time has evolved the genres to what we currently experience, games such as the Uncharted series and even the Tomb Raider reboots by Crystal Dynamics. Obviously, there will be some glaring issues coming back into the past.   

There are really two big factors that both greatly hinder and support the need for remastered games. The first is the best part, which is the technical and graphical overhaul.

This game looks great. It’s funny how it works, but it looks like how I imagined it back in the old days. That is until, with a simple press of a button, you can revert to the original PS1 graphics. This simple click is my favourite part of the package. It is very much the same feature also available in the Master Chief Collection.

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Review

Aspyr has done an amazing job upscaling and detailing textures, adding key lighting and bloom effects to scenes, and creating additional art direction and assets that accentuate the ambience on screen.

An example of this is that the sky outlines are now clearly visible. One spot offered a vista full of dense clouds that gently danced around the moon. The moonlight shines brightly below, paving the way through the dense jungle and highlighting where Lara can safely explore and engage with dangerous beasts.

Yet, with a simple button click, you’ll be transported back to the 90s to an old-school pure black sky that signifies that it is indeed night while you traverse through the choppy, blocky trees that make up the components of the jungle.

I’m in no way stepping on the past and its technical limitations. I am, however, overstating that these simple graphical changes completely change the experience. Aspyr did a great job in balancing respect for the source material while adding additional detail to areas, enhancing the context of scenes and ambience. An update to the games for a more modern audience. Their love for the game and brand shows in the lengths of effort they put into creating this graphical overhaul.

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Review

One thing that the modern audience may have the biggest issue is my second big factor. The controls.

This game has tank controls. For the uninitiated, tank controls are the control method where you press the directional buttons in relation to where the character is facing, not to where the camera is placed. The inclusion of tank controls and grid-style movement, a hallmark of ’90s gaming, may frustrate those unfamiliar with the era’s conventions.

This was the way the game was designed and the way it should be played, it takes some getting used to, if you aren’t familiar with this control scheme, you might have a very rough experience. You will need a great degree of patience to learn.

Initially, I suffered immensely with the control scheme, but after some time of trial and error, I gave up and reverted to modern controls. This is a welcome reprieve for those seeking a more accessible experience.

This allows you to direct Lara in a more traditional sense, according to today’s standards, using the control sticks in relation to the camera. It is a great inclusion for those who may struggle with the steep learning curve.

Coupled with the fact that Lara can be quite cumbersome and slow to control, it’s important to note that the pace at which you control her will affect your overall enjoyment of the game. In my haste wanting to try out Tomb Raider as a newbie, I went in with expectations of all guns blazing and envisioned the confidence to jump, flip, and burn through all the puzzles and defeat enemies with relative ease. That was a rookie error on my behalf that dampened my enjoyment of the game. In the beginning, I died. I died a hell of a lot.

I quickly adapted to the way it was meant to be played, taking that step back and learning to truly understand the game’s mechanics. It is meant to be played slowly, methodically paced, and with purpose. Even though it was originally marketed as ‘high action,’ it is the complete opposite.

Puzzles litter the game, and action and shooting are secondary to adventuring. Although Tomb Raider 2 had more action than 1, the shooting felt a little out of place. Enemy encounters boiled down to a simple solution: Just strafe around in circles, lock on, and go all out unloading your twin guns. Enemies were never the issue.

Puzzles ranged from simple and easy to understand to just downright complex. If I was stuck on a puzzle, it’s usually because they don’t explain anything. As I have mentioned, it is methodical and purposefully paced. You will need to explore and unravel the secrets alone to overcome the challenges ahead. There is no hand holding here, there is no 100s of markers highlighting in your mini map where to go, there is no dreaded yellow walls of climbing showing what you can scale. Think of it as contained sandboxes with its own unique solutions that you can overcome. The sense of discovery and self-reliance that comes with solving each puzzle is undeniably rewarding.

The music was sparse but highly effective. I loved the score, and when it hit at the right moments, it really made the experience much more alive with a grand sense of scale. There were lots of unintentionally funny voice acting, I think it’s just the day and age it was created. At the time, it probably made it feel more akin to an action movie experience. Listening to it today, it’s glaringly obvious that it has aged. In between levels, CGI movies would play as an intermission between destinations, adding further detail to the story; these throwbacks were fun to watch.

Nostalgia wears rose-tinted glasses. Personally, I am a big proponent of video game archiving and preservation. It’s important to have easy access to retro titles without the need to spend large sums of money. The Tomb Raider package is perfect for both older and newer gamers alike at a great price point. Yes, games have evolved for the better, but that’s not the purpose of this title.

Remasters are made so you can take a step back into the past and experience, like me, what the big deal was with the Tomb Raider series, removing all the marketing nonsense and hype of the past. They serve as a time capsule of gaming history, allowing us gamers to truly appreciate the titles for what they were and their impact on video games as a whole. They are an important part of video game history.



Nostalgia is best served hot, and Tomb Raider I-III is serving it hot. Aspyr has done a great job in balancing respect for the original Tomb Raider trilogy while adding additional detail to areas and enhancing the context of scenes and ambience. While some aspects of the games have aged poorly to today’s standards, Aspyr’s fresh coat of paint and polish remedies these shortfalls.


  • Contains all 3 games including the DLCs
  • Graphical updates
  • Ability to change to retro graphics on the fly
  • Modern controls
  • Easy access to experience old games
  • Great value for money


  • Tank Controls
  • Camera can be clunky
  • Can be difficult to navigate through environment puzzles
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