What to play while you're waiting for Rise of the Tomb Raider

The best part about timed exclusivity is that, by definition, it's destined to end. Such is the case with Rise of the Tomb Raider, the stellar follow-up to Lara Croft's 2013 reboot and a game that's currently - but not forever - locked to the Xbox One. We know that it'll inevitably come to PS4 and PC, we just don't know when. And unless Square Enix pulls a 'Sega Saturn at E3 1995' and makes an announcement that Rise is AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW, there might be even more waiting involved. But if you don't own an Xbox One and you're aching to guide Lara past ancient dangers on your platform of choice, these games will help tide you over. They all capture the adventurous spirit of the Tomb Raider series, and you don't need Microsoft's latest console to play them.

Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb

Indiana Jones clearly inspired much of the Tomb Raider universe, so it's only fair that Dr. Jones borrow some of Lara's game design in return. And unlike Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, Emperor's Tomb is a legitimately enjoyable adventure, with light, satisfying gameplay to go with its overgrown temples and colorful vistas. Indy's whip comes into play in both exploration and combat, and the fist-fighting mechanics are well-tuned, giving you ample ways to beat the snot out of Nazis and Triad goons. As with the older Tomb Raider games, the platforming can be a little finicky, but whip-swinging around the levels is tons of fun once you get the hang of it.

La-Mulana

This 2D platformer is the definition of hardcore, carefully tuned to evoke the punishing difficulty and ridiculously well-hidden secrets of games made for the classic NES and MSX systems. But if you can power through some initial pains and the total lack of any hand-holding, you'll find one of indie gaming's most challenging, rewarding adventures on the other side. Our hero, Japanese-American archaeologist Lemeza Kosugi, is incredibly fragile at the start of this non-linear expedition - and to make matters worse, you'll soon find that the tomb you're exploring is riddled with deadly traps. But once you've learned to treat every new obstacle with the utmost care, you'll feel like a legitimate explorer as you make your way deeper and deeper into this deceptively massive game.

The Ball

Behold: Portal by way of impossibly advanced Mayan technology. A mod-turned-standalone game, The Ball is a brief but thoroughly enjoyable first-person puzzler, in which your nondescript protagonist stumbles upon a skull-inscribed device that controls - you guessed it - a colossal stone ball. Figuring out how and when to push and pull your trusty, spherical companion is the basis for plenty of gratifying puzzle rooms as you explore deeper into a volcano-based temple. There's also plenty of action, like when you use The Ball to shield you from dart-trap volleys, bowl over hordes of ornery mummies, or take on a giant, zombified gorilla in a full-on bossfight. The gorgeous textures still look great by modern standards, and the puzzles are just challenging enough to make completion feel like an accomplishment, even when you can blow through the game in an afternoon.

Montezuma's Return

Like those high-velocity dart traps that only activate when you step on a pressurized stone plate, Montezuma's Return was remarkably ahead of its time. Like the original Tomb Raider, this 1998 rarity on PC renders a deadly temple in primitive 3D - but unlike Lara's behind-the-back camera, you control our hero Max Montezuma via a first-person perspective. Each level is essentially a giant obstacle course, riddled with flipping platforms, treacherous spike pits, and goofy enemies. And here's the best part: in the hands of a competent, bunny-hop-obsessed speed-runner, this effectively becomes an Indiana Jones-themed reskin of Mirror's Edge, right down to Max looking at his own feet while he bounds his way through each temple chamber like a parkour master.

Lara Croft GO

Lara Croft GO plays nothing like the core Tomb Raider games, yet still manages to capture their same spirit of treacherous adventure. As with every game on this list, the action all takes place in crumbling temple ruins full of killer creatures and deadly traps. The twist is that, like the equally excellent Hitman GO, this mobile game adapts Lara's trademark moves into a deeply satisfying turn-based puzzler. Even though you're given all the time you need to think between moves, there's still a palpable sense of tension when you're a single space away from a huge, woman-eating salamander, or being chased by a classic giant boulder. It also handles collectible treasures in an interesting way, hiding them in plain sight throughout the beautiful, diorama-style backdrops that trick your brain into thinking there's an expansive network of caves contained in your phone's screen.

Spelunky

There's more to this wildly popular 2D platformer than devilish difficulty. For all the roguelike randomization of its stage layouts, Spelunky is really a game about predictable systems leading to unpredictable results. Enemies, items, and NPCs can all interact with each other in surprising ways, often ruining your planned path to the exit in the process and forcing you to pull off a miraculous feat of dextrous improvisation. As you discover how each element in this treacherous cave works (typically through trial and error), you'll gradually build up the knowledge, skill, and courage to venture further than your previous best. And for all those times when you want to do some more traditional tomb raiding, you can always steal a precious gold idol (and hopefully avoid the giant boulder that subsequently tears through the entire level).

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

You knew it was coming. Nathan Drake and Lara Croft are two sides of the same ancient, golden coin, given their knack for tracking down treasure, incredible luck in repeatedly dodging death, and willingness to gun down their enemies without taking too much of a hit to their conscience. The entire Uncharted series is great, but Among Thieves is the pinnacle of Drake's adventures thus far - and it's got the best selection of ancient temples to boot. Drake's penchant for nimble climbing and last-second leaps rivals Lara's acrobatic prowess, and it's hard not to think of Ms. Croft when you meet the butt-kicking, Australian-accented Chloe Frazer. If you somehow haven't played Uncharted 2, there's no better time than now thanks to the enhanced PS4 port in Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection.

Metroid Prime

Whether you're playing it on GameCube, Wii, or the convenient downloadable version on the Wii U eShop, Metroid Prime: Trilogy offers some of the greatest action adventure gameplay imaginable. And the first-person escapades of Samus Aran actually share a lot in common with Lara Croft's tomb-raiding. You've got an intrepid, capable lead venturing into gorgeous, incredibly atmospheric locales, where your progress is dependent on exploration and item acquisition. One moment, you might be fending off rabid creatures or narrowly avoiding temple booby traps; the next, you've come to a standstill just so you can take in the tranquil beauty of the environment. The original Metroid Prime stands as the pinnacle of the trilogy, but all three games are well worth your time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucas likes his games like he likes his music: eclectic. With all the weird and wonderful stuff he's played over the years, the two of you are bound to feel the same way about something!
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