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Nightmare Fuel: Tomb Raider
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Tomb Raider (1996)/Anniversary
The centaur statue in Tomb of Tihocan, which explodes with absolutely no warning to reveal the skinless Atlantean demon beneath it, which then lets out an otherworldly scream as it starts shooting exploding balls of muscle at you.
The Hand of Midas (see image), a stone hand apparently broken off a big statue that turns Lara to gold, one body part at a time, if you stand on it. By the sound effects, she dies of suffocation just before her head is transformed. You need to use the hand to solve a puzzle. Original-to-Video Game Remakecomparison.
Some decorative objects in the levels were billboarded 2D sprites rather than 3D models. Meaning that when Lara moved, they would appear to spin around to face her. One especially jarring instance of this was a sprite of a mummified corpse seen in the Tomb of Qualopec.
The huge drop in the final two levels which gives poor Lara time to scream three times before falling to her doom. Oh yes, and the floor is made of magma that causes Lara's corpse to burst into flames as soon as she hits it.
In the Tomb of Qualopec, the room with the Scion piece, Qualopec's skeleton and his two mummified bodyguards can be seen on one side of the room. If Lara goes over to investigate, she'll notice that raw muscle is sticking out of the wrappings, foreshadowing the reveal of the Atlantean race. She'll also quickly notice that one of the mummies is turning its head to look at her. If she approaches it, it...falls over. This, with no background music at all.
The oversized rats that usually manage to sneak up on Lara are unnerving. They have a hideous screech and an unpleasantly wet 'n crunchy sound effect when you kill them.
The mummified creatures in the Egyptian levels, as well as the regular Atlanteans, are incredibly unnerving - even when they aren't actually attacking Lara. You can hear them stalking around, just out of sight, and uttering creepy, raspy groans. They're also fond of unexpectedly leaping around corners at Lara, shrieking, which usually succeeds in giving the player a good old Jump Scare.
The design of all Atlanteans is pure Body Horror. Strange, contorted creatures that mostly lack skin and instead expose their raw muscle, and explode into bits after being shot to death. Even the non-antagonistic ones seen in cutscenes look like this.
The now-primitive graphics in the first game actually makes things worse because you couldn't see the mummified creatures clearly. You look at them and think "What the hell is that?" And the groaning...
The various Atlantean creatures bursting out of their eggs. The fact that not all of the eggs explode when you approach them (some explode much later on, others do so when you pull a wrong lever in one particular puzzle) makes the sections of the game with the eggs even more tense.
The Abomination. A large, legless creature with random patches of skin, and just barely enough muscle to function. Watching it shamble about on it's arms trying to catch you is as sad to watch as it is horrifying.
And there's her death at the hands of the aforementioned Abomination where it scoops a terrified and screaming Lara in one hand while dangling her by one leg then proceeds to thoroughly wreck her stuff by brutally smashing her against the floor three times (all the while you hear the sickening, breaking and crushing of her bones). Once the Abomination, with a head turned 90º to the right, notices the now very broken Lara is dead, it just casually drops her body (which is now mangled enough that it easily contorts upon impact) to the floor as though she were some toy. Indeed, the scene seems to play out like a child given a very noisy toy trying to make it stop by breaking it adding to the Fridge Horror as the Abomination seems to very developmentally delayed. At the end of video (2:18) displays the scene in discussion.
The Playstation 1 versions were (comparatively) barely graphic when it came to Lara's many deaths. When it came to Tomb Raider Legend and the remake Anniversary, the death scenes were ramped up if players failed to keep her alive in a Quick Time Event. One gory example is Lara being killed by a T-Rex by being flung into the air and then being eaten alive in one gulp.
The Lost Island is pretty creepy in Anniversary... the flying demons were already bad, but where they come from...
The original Lara Doppelganger, A.K.A Bacon Lara which is basically Lara without any skin. It copies your movements perfectly, and acts as a puzzle, since you can't get past it. It's very firmly within the Uncanny Valley. In Anniversary, it not only looks more realistic, but the means of dispatching it (tricking it into jumping into a vat of lava) causes it to flail in a clear panic and scream in pain.
Just the way death by Falling Damage is represented in the series. "CRUNCH!"
The revised soundtrack for the PC version which cut out all of the musical cues from the PSX version, leaving only a few unnerving ambient sounds. This combined with the low draw distance ensures that Nothing Is Scarier starting right from the very first level.
Out of the Core Design games, TR 1 has the creepiest level ambiances.
Peru- mostly silence, broken by low drum beats and strange rushing sounds
Greece/Rome- howling winds
Cistern/Natla's Mines- strange shrieking sounds and water drops
The soundtrack alone for II... here's the one in particular that used to make the Floating Islands level so much worse.
In the Maria Doria levels, the main ambiance for the level features silent water drops and heartbeats. It's actually the ambience theme from Atlantis in the first game, which is equally or more creepy.
Most players when they get to the end of the first level will use a zipline to cross a massive pit and reach the finish. More inquisitive players may decide to climb down and check out what shiny powerups could be down there. When you finally get off the cliff and onto the pit floor, as you're about halfway across the pit, a T-rex pops out of the cave in front of you.
Then, should you kill (or just run past) the T-rex and find the secret hidden at the back of the cavern and start to run back, a second T-rex appears.
Even better? Unless you're using your flares, the cave is almost completely in the dark.
The giant eel in the Living Quarters level. It only appears once, but it comes out of nowhere & does huge amounts of damage.
The yetis in the Tibetan levels, hulking creatures that have loud stomping noises and loud roars.
Especially when you encounter them in a temple that is completely dark.
40 Fathoms. The level starts with Lara swimming at the bottom of the ocean in near-total darkness, with no way of surfacing for air or obvious means of escape while her Oxygen Meter rapidly drains and sharks are circling her. It's panic-inducing even if you know where to go. It also gets bonus marks if you've been using the level skip cheat to casually pass through the game, since you can only input the cheat when you're on solid land.
Tomb Raider III
The Damned; they say they are immortal and have tried suicide to no avail, along with the fact you have to find embalming fluid to stop them rotting, which is scary in itself. There's also Lara shooting them in the previous level, when using bullets it can be assumed they just got up later or something, but she can also blow them up with explosives, which comes with the idea that they are still fully conscious while blown to pieces.
The Temple Ruins where you go into a room and find one of the explorers suspended in midair with a hole through his chest. Cue scary music.
The Shiva Statues in the Temple Ruins. The first one encountered is an inanimate stone sculpture, holding up its 6 swords menacingly with an unsettling Slasher Smile on its face. In the very next room, Lara finds another statue...which glows with a strange orange mist, then promptly comes alive, turns completely black with red eyes, and chases her around the room with its 6 swords. They take forever to kill and can block Lara's gunshots with their swords.
Even worse, in the second time they appear as enemies, the player might try to find a safe spot by climbing a set of stairs and taking refuge on the higher ledge. Not a wise choice, as the statue is savvy enough to climb up the stairs after Lara.
Lara's death at the hands of these statues. They pick her up using the pointed ends of two swords, use the other 4 to slash her to bits, and throw her on the ground. The statues laugh wickedly when they through Lara to the ground.
The Xenomorph-esque enemies towards the end, who spit blue fire and take several rocket and grenade blasts to kill.
The unfortunate RX-Tech scientists, who have mutated horribly as a result of the energies from the meteorite. They come in two types: those who still look vaguely human aside from the fact that their legs have fused together and they can spit poison, and those who have become gigantic brutes who can pummel you to a pulp. The very first encounters with each type are huge Jump Scares, and the first type comes with a Scare Chord for good measure.
Towards the end of the All Hallows level, Lara is swimming through a set of flooded tunnels riddled with floating corpses.
The end of the level "Costal Village", where Lara ends up finding a mercenary who had his leg chewed off. While there are plenty of cannibals around, Lara notes that they don't eat down to a person's bones. As they continue to have their discussion, the tribal music starts and steadily gets louder. The mercenary mentions that the cannibal tribe's god lives up in the hills. Guess where Lara's heading next?
There's something spooky in that jungle.
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation
In the Cambodia levels, Lara finds many skeletons of unfortunate explorers, and later finds one impaled on some spikes near a plinth, with its backpack in a hand (which Lara takes). Keep in mind this is teenage Lara.
Von Croy being trapped in the Isis' defensive mechanism (and the tomb sealing itself afterwards). From the looks of it, he was trapped there for many, many years, as the next time he is seen is after Lara becomes an adult and completes her last 3 adventures at least.
For some reason the first level's ambience is a remix of the Floating Islands theme. This has predictable results.
In the first level, if Lara dawdles too long at the first slope, a jarring cutscene plays showing the point-of-view of an unknown creature swooping towards Lara, while strange wailing sounds play in the background. Granted, said creature is just a rabid dog, but from the cutscene one would be forgiven for thinking it was some kind of instant-death trigger.
The "entombing of Set" cutscene shows his host placed in a sarcophagus, as a spiked ceiling slowly descends on to the body. The camera cuts to the drains on the contraption, through which blood now freely flows.
When Lara herself finds this area and takes the Ankh, blood again flows...filling the pools in the next room. Lara can swim in this blood. Perhaps this scene served as inspiration for the 2013 version...
Tomb Raider 4 has giant scorpions in later levels.
Towards the end of the game, things begin to get much darker. By the time you are in the last few levels, the sky has turned to an unearthly shade of dark green to make it clear just how bad things have become. The enemies also go from being largely human and animal enemies, to undead beasts and mythological monsters.
Tomb Raider Chronicles
The entire Black Isle level. From the heartless corpse hanging from the tree to the pale imps that would follow you around.
Whatever the Spear of Destiny does. It's never really shown what exactly its power is, but it is implied that it is terribly destructive and, worst yet displays some sort of intelligence. On top of that, all we ever really see is a creeping white light, but whatever the characters that encounter it see visibly terrifies them.
Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness
One of the game's camera glitches allows the player to glimpse inside Lara's model while in look mode. In her head are things man was never meant to see...
AOD implemented ragdoll physics for death animations. While the results are often hilariously awful, sometimes you see Lara's body tumble down stairs, or fall off into pits... or stretch to impossible lengths...
The invincible sea creature found during the obligatory water stage. It can't be killed, is incredibly fast, and has an unusual looking mouth full of sharp teeth just waiting to gobble you up.
Wandering the deserted streets of Paris at the beginning of Angel of Darkness while that ominous music plays in the background is quite unnerving, especially since you've been hearing about the Monstrum and have no idea where it might be.
Coming across one of the Monstrum's victims in Bouchard's hideout. The loud gurgling noises he keeps making will give you nightmares for weeks.
The deformed prisoners in the Sanitarium. It doesn't help that they run at you pretty fast.
The fate of Boaz.
Tomb Raider Legend
As you're swimming towards the tomb of King Arthur, you hear an echoing growling/roaring noise. You don't see it, you don't know what's making it, and as such, Nothing Is Scarier.
Tomb Raider Underworld
The Kraken. The whole level around him is filled with Paranoia Fuel: you have be super careful and if you touch him, you're dead. The fact that you first meet his tentacle underwater (and you must follow it) and the noises it makes only add fuel to the fire.
Tomb Raider (2013)
The entire beginning of the game is this to Lara, seeing as she's still somewhat of a well off fresh faced British chick thrust into a terrifying jungle landscape with no survival skills whatsoever. Obviously she gets better at it, but still.
Some preview and review articles have mentioned that some of this game's particular death animations are EXTREMELY gruesome. The Kotaku review, in particular, has a very, VERY disturbing impalement animation planted in their review.
The entirety of the game has you trapped on an island full of insane, monstrous cultists that want to do horrible things to you and your allies.
The wolves that are sprinkled throughout the island that can leap out at you. In some cases, they'll leap at you in slow motion and if you're not able to put them down with a well-placed arrow, they will rip out your throat and break your neck.
There's one section in the game that finds Lara in a dark area that is littered with the various rotting remains of humans, blood splattered all over the walls.
The famous scene when Lara finds herself submerged up to her head in a standing pool of human blood.
An early section of the game finds you fleeing from a deranged madman. If you're not able to get away from him, a large boulder will fall upon your legs, followed by another crushing your head.
Really, the fact that the deaths are so startlingly brutal compared to the previous games.
It's not so much that they're more brutal, it's that Lara now looks photorealistic as opposed to more of an exaggerated cartoony type.
The series as a whole:
Core Design's games paid a lot of attention to the death animations, and the player is often treated to several seconds of Lara writhing in agony/falling over in exhaustion/burning up/drowning/turning to gold/stabbed with 6 swords/getting mangled by a T-rex, etc.
Falling onto spikes in games pre-AOD shows Lara being completely impaled through her body, probably the most cringe-worthy death animation of them all.
Diving/falling from too high is universally represented by breaking bones and an unnaturally-twisted neck.
Drowning was particularly more graphic in the newer games.
Winston, Lara's butler, followed her around in II and III when you played in her mansion, leading to some scares (and possibly Accidental Pervert). He also got in the way a lot, so many players ended up locking him in the kitchen freezer.