Tomb Raider I-II-III Remastered review

Tomb Raider I-II-III Remastered review

A remaster collection that succeeds in capturing the best of an era

Tomb Raider was a series that felt like it owned the 90s. I couldn’t go anywhere within the gaming sphere without it popping up. Lara Croft was THE pixelated heroine, an icon on the same level as Mario and Sonic. And thinking about it now, nearly 30 years later, it still holds that same nostalgia. I don’t just think of the games, I think of the era.

Tomb Raider has changed since then, a lot. It took on more modern gaming themes and storytelling, it borrowed (back) from games like Uncharted and even Enslaved: odyssey to the West. It needed to evolve, and it did, but it also lost a little of that charm in the process. There was a lot of gaming purity in that original trilogy. It was just about action and set pieces and the idea of “levels.” There were cinematic sequences, sure, but the game really was about how we made our way through, what treasures we picked up, how fast we beat areas. The “gamey” things.

So the moment I start playing Tomb Raider I-II-III: Remastered… whew! It’s like the 90s all over again. I’m back in front of a 13” CRT with a PS1 plugged in and raiding tombs, girl. Remastered is built on that nostalgia, to a tee. It carries the same original gameplay backbone, updating all the visuals to sort of create what we “thought” the games looked like back then because of our short term memory. Everything feels pixel perfect, even though it’s greatly advance. It’s actually a really impressive way to update a game without breaking it. It feels modern without trying to be realistic, adding in things like new dynamic lighting and shadows and updated textures. It’s also super easy to flip back and forth between the visual styles just by pushing a button. This actually helps in some areas because the visual updates make some of the areas really dark, whereas the original game had a smaller color palette so it tends to be brighter. It even runs at 60 FPS on Nintendo’s Switch, which is kind of amazing?

It’s perfectly smooth.

There are a bunch of collectibles and modes too. Plus all the expansions are there, which we didn’t get if we only played the games on console. It’s kind of amazing the devs have fit everything in and made that nostalgia really rip through, but it’s almost to a fault. For one the camera is still kind of janky. To preserve a lot of the feel and control of the games, the cameras retain the positioning from 1996, but unfortunately that means I keep finding myself stuck in corners or against walls based on how I close I was standing to them. The other, and this is the big one that irks me the most, is that the controls are REALLY stuck in that era. We can play with the tank controls (yay! not) or we can switch it to what the menu calls “modern controls,” which are somehow still not great? In modern action games we can still maneuver when we’re in jumps, like turning mid air or pushing forward to land ourselves. But in Tomb Raider Remastered the modern controls rely on momentum, which means that we kind of need to know exactly where we’re going and how big the ledge is where we’re standing to be able to jump properly. Falling into pits becomes the norm early on because my goldfish brain can’t comprehend going backwards in time to analog-less controls.

So the controls are technically more “modern,” but the character doesn’t actually control more “modern” because that would break the game.


Anyhoo, it’s still a really great compilation of the original games. I know there have been Tomb Raider collections in the past with improved visuals, but this actual remaster brings a ton of cool touches to the series. I JUST wish that there was the opportunity to make the character actually feel a little more modern than she does, but that would probably break the experience. Regardless, Tomb Raider I-II-III Remastered is the definitive way to play the original series. It really is cool to relive this era again, and done so well.

This review is based on a Nintendo eShop code sent to SideQuesting by the publisher. It originally appeared on The SideQuest Live for February 13, 2024. All images and video courtesy Aspyr.