With Shadow of the Tomb Raider just one month away, the internet has been a flurry of excitement over the fact that Lara Croft can finally swim! I say “finally” – Lara has been proficient at the breath-stroke since 1996, but the current iteration of my favourite archaeologist has been a little slower to master the skill. Anyway, this seemed like the perfect time to look back over the TR series and come up with a list of the 5 best underwater Tomb Raider levels. Let’s see if we can make a splash…

(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’re feeling ‘aquatic’ enough to try them for yourself…)

Number 5: Deepsea Dive – Tomb Raider Chronicles

This is a very short level. In fact, it may be the shortest in the history of the Tomb Raider series, so even if you detest underwater Tomb Raider explorations, this one at least has brevity in its favour. As the stage begins, Lara finds herself in an Extreme Depth Suit; she has just disembarked from the Russian submarine on which she was a stowaway / prisoner, and is now on a daring mission to recover the Spear of Destiny from the seabed. A puncture from falling debris means that – towards the end of the level – you may feel a pang of breathlessness, and there are homing torpedos to watch out for as well. Gulp.

Number 4: Niflheim – Tomb Raider Underworld

A first for the series! Tomb Raider Underworld opens with a completely underwater number, which is an arguably daring way to introduce new players to the control system. (Although there is a short Croft Manor prequel before the opening credits…) However, the Niflheim section involves considerably less swimming as the water has yet to breach the temple, but there is the occasional pool to relax in. The main objective, though, is to dispose of the giant octopus that is blocking the way to the prize beyond (that is, one of the Norse god Thor’s gauntlets. So definitely worth the effort.)

Number 3: Pharos, Temple of Isis – Tomb Raider The Last Revelation

This is another mini level, nestled in a family of levels around the city of Alexandria in Egypt (join the video around the 7:31 mark.) I chose this one simply because of the colours, which are lush – the underwater lighting effects wash over the vibrant greens and oranges, and there’s a gorgeous pyramid-like structure sitting in the base of a sunken cavern. I love it. Alas, there isn’t a huge amount of time to stop and admire the scenery owing to the huge hammerhead shark that’s stalking you, so it’s maybe best to just watch the video and pause on the bits you like 😉

Number 2: Helheim – Tomb Raider Underworld

Tomb Raider Underworld is apparently the game to play if you want to get your underwater Lara fix. Join the video around the 1:10:30 mark for a large-scale aquatic puzzle which requires you to un-jam a drawbridge-type mechanism and use various power stones to make your way into the ruins of Helheim, the Norse underworld. Fortunately, you have unlimited oxygen so you’re not up against the clock, but there’s a heck-a-lotta swimming to do, and a number of pesky sharks that are determined to bring your swimming adventures to an abrupt end…

Number 1: Living Quarters – Tomb Raider 2

For my top underwater Tomb Raider level it just had to be the classic Living Quarters section from 1997. In this part of the game, Lara is exploring the sunken remains of the vessel belonging to Gianni Bartoli, farther of the leader of the Fiamma Nera cult. She’s hunting for the Seraph, which is the key to an ancient temple hidden beneath the Great Wall of China, and the Seraph was on the Maria Doria when it was attacked by the warrior monks of Barkhang. Phew!

When the boat hit the ocean floor, it actually landed on its head, meaning that Lara’s exploration of its ruin is a fairly topsy-turvy affair, which is cool. Living Quarters is actually very similar to the level that precedes it (Wreck of the Maria Doria) but I particularly like this section because there’s a moment where you get to explore the remains of the boat’s sunken theatre, which appeals to my inner thespian. All in all it’s a real work of art, and surely one of the defining moments of 90s video-gaming.

So there we are – these are what I believe to be five of the greatest aquatic moments of the Tomb Raider franchise. “I feel damper now.” Are you excited to go for a dip in the upcoming Shadow of the Tomb Raider? Do you agree with the choices on this list? Am I a heretic for omitting 40 Fathoms?? Let me know in the comments below!

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