Tomb Raider levels are not generally known for their tranquillity. Unless you feel a strange sense of calm drift over you every time a knife-wielding psychopath leaps out of the shadows. (I’m thinking Dragon’s Lair for the uninitiated. Hardly a snooze fest.)

That being said, the Tomb Raider series is peppered with moments of beauty. Remember the beach from Tomb Raider 2013? Heck, a countdown of the top 5 ‘prettiest’ Tomb Raider levels may well be a post for the future. I’m sure the beach would rank.

Anyway, I was introduced to the Tomb Raider series in 1999 at the tender age of 11 and, gripped as I was, it was a franchise that genuinely terrified me. Okay, I was arguably too young, but there were some levels that I frequently wanted to ‘level skip.’ I didn’t always, of course, and I eventually played them for real. But some of them genuinely gave me nightmares.

Anyway, this is a countdown of the top five scariest Tomb Raider levels in the series’ history, as voted for by me. It doesn’t include the expansions such as Unfinished Business and The Golden Mask, or the many, many spin-offs such as Curse of the Sword or The Osiris Codex. The focus is the main series.

So, if you’re in the mood for sweaty palms, sleepless nights and chest pains, this is the article for you! What are the five most terrifying places Lara Croft has ever visited?

(Disclaimer: I’m illustrating this post with videos from Badassgamez’s channel. I don’t know him personally – more’s the pity – but his Tomb Raider walkthroughs are top-notch, and will give you a good sense of what the levels are like. Unless you – gulp – fancy playing them yourself…)

Number 5: Guardian of Semerkhet – Tomb Raider The Last Revelation

Okay, so this might be an unusual choice, but whenever I reach the Guardian of Semerkhet in The Last Revelation I have to take a day off to mentally prepare. For the most part, the level is pretty standard TR stuff, but towards the end (spoilers) you end up being chased down a long corridor by a charging bull. You then have to lure it into a room and throw a number of levers to open up the exit, before you can (finally!) climb to safety.

Basically – I hate being chased by things, be it charging bulls, wasps or deadlines. And when you know you have to get Lara to perform a number of complex tasks, whilst trying to avoid instant death – well, it leaves me clamouring for an oxygen cylinder.

Number 4: Catacombs of the Talion – Tomb Raider 2

Now, you might not know what a Talion is, but the word ‘catacombs’ is pretty clear. Don’t be fooled by the frozen ponds, mountains of snow and fairytale ruins – Catacombs of the Talion is no Disney movie. Anyone who’s played this level will vividly remember the moment where Lara has to descend into a black pit that’s teeming with killer yeti. Stock up on the shotgun shells (or better still – grenade launcher!)

Number 3: Valhalla – Tomb Raider Underworld

A very creepy level. Who would have thought that opening the gateway to the Norse underworld would be fraught with such danger? Valhalla is a part of the game that takes place in the dark, frozen caverns beneath Jan Mayen Island in Norway, and at times the silence is deafening. Except for those moments when you hear the anguished cries of mega-sized zombies that are intent on dragging Lara Croft down into eternal damnation. A particular, uh, ‘highlight’ is the moment where the zombies attack you en masse in an unlit corridor. Fun times!

Number 2: Geothermal Caverns – Tomb Raider 2013

Tomb Raider 2013 is possibly the most stressful video game I have ever played. It never lets up for a moment. The Geothermal Caverns are no exception, as they act as a kind of asylum for the island’s mentally disturbed inhabitants. Expect creepy dialogue, poison gas, and people leaping out of shadows. If you survive, that is.

Number 1: Floating Islands – Tomb Raider 2

A bit like post-modernism, bristly hoover attachments and WHSmith, nobody quite knows what Floating Islands is or what it is for. At this point in the game, Lara has just witnessed the ritual suicide of a deranged cult leader at the heart of an ancient Chinese temple. His goons then carry away his lifeless body, and Lara follows him down a hallway into… Well, this. Whatever the hell ‘this’ is.

As the title suggests, this Tomb Raider level is made up of floating platforms that appear to defy the laws of physics. (They’re wrong on so many levels, aye aye.) *If* you somehow manage to navigate these platforms without falling headlong into The Abyss, you then have to contend with rolling storm clouds, unlit caverns, lava, and spear-wielding statues.

Theories abound as to what Floating Islands actually represents. Is Lara Croft on a psychedelic trip? Has she followed the cult leader through the gateway into another dimension? We’ll probably never know. The point is – in my eyes, this is about as scary as Tomb Raider gets.

Have you reached this point in Tomb Raider 2? Is the fear getting too much? Here’s some sound advice for moving past it unscathed.

Honorary mentions

In need of more Tomb Raider frights? Here are some other TR levels to test your resolve…

  • Atlantis – Tomb Raider
  • The Great Wall (dinosaur cave!) – Tomb Raider 2
  • Dragon’s Lair – Tomb Raider 2
  • RX Tech Mines – Tomb Raider 3
  • Burial Chambers – Tomb Raider The Last Revelation
  • Citadel – Tomb Raider The Last Revelation
  • The Sanitarium – Lara Croft Tomb Raider The Angel of Darkness

What do you think? Do you yawn your way through Guardian of Semerkhet? What’s your scariest Tomb Raider level? Let me know in the comments below!

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