Old Tomb Raiders on Newer Macs Last updated April 8 2014

Dave, a longtime MacRaiding acquaintance of Kerrie's from England has kindly agreed to share his memory of their joint experiences of getting older Tomb Raiders (and by extension other games) to work on newer Macs despite changes in hardware and operating systems over the years. The result is the informative article below.

General Notes
Gaming peripherals

pre-OS9 games
OS9 games
Windows games

two OS, three libraries

OS9 games
Windows games


OS9 games
Windows games
OSX Intel games
MacIntel, Mac OSX, Mac App Store
Games dependent on optical disc

Gaming appendix - which TRs run on which Macs?
Technical appendix



General Notes:

This article is about getting PC/Mac versions of the Tomb Raider series to work on Macs they weren't designed for. The price of Apple's survival and ultimate turnaround over the last decade has been ruthless cutting of backwards compatibility: old apps, and especially games, no longer "just work" on new machines.

The main options are running pre-OS9 games in OS9, OS9 games in OSX, PowerPC games on MacIntel, and Windows games on Macs. The reverse options are generally not currently possible. A Motorola 68K-based Macintosh can't run any games but its own whatever its OS version.

There should be enough detail to cover most 2D/3D games of similar vintage and box specs: 2D is actually more stable over time than 3D. The early generations of games, including all the original Core Tomb Raiders, were written exclusively for 4:3 ratio monitors, and it may not be possible to avoid the 'stretch to fit' effect on some modern widescreen setups. YMMV.

Finally, if you don't recognise any of the terminology, Google and Wikipedia are your friends.

Back to top 

Gaming peripherals

I can't recommend any current Apple aluminium/chiclet keyboard, built-in, wired, or Bluetooth, for any form of heavy gaming. The older white ones are OK for native Mac games, but still affected by the different special key assignments, especially the use of Command as the attention key, when using Windows.

Older Apple mice with only one button (plus ctrl-click for right) are not particularly effective for FPS using standard two-button plus scroll wheel controls (e.g., Bioshock), Mighty and/or Magic Mice are too expensive to hammer. To date, I have no experience of Magic Trackpads for gaming, but the lack of "clickwheel" scrolling may be problematic.

In such cases, I suggest using a separate gaming USB keyboard and/or USB scroll mouse, or even a gamepad where possible. OSX Macs can handle multiple such peripherals, without Prefs changes or software installs, so there's no need to even unplug them when not in use if you have the space.You may need to change System Preferences->Language & Text->Input Sources to a -PC suffix setup if you use a keyboard designed for Windows.

Back to top 


PowerPC, Mac OS9, pre-OS9 games

Motorola 68K, and other pre-OS9 games, usually run in OS9 unless they are poorly coded to directly access hardware features that no longer exist, such as a specific resolution screen or a hardware FPU. Methods of dealing with this (vMac, Software FPU respectively) are outside the scope of this article. Try a search engine ,or an article such as 10 Greatest Early Mac Games (And How to Play Them)

PowerPC firmware includes emulation of the Motorola 68040LC chip, so almost all 68K games (and other apps), including the 2D precursor of Tomb Raider, the original Prince of Persia, are supported.

Technically, the original block-world Tomb Raiders are pre-OS9 games - TR1/2/3 min OS 7.x plus specific extensions, TR4 min OS 8.1, TR5/LP min OS 8.6 - but all require PowerPC hardware, and even PPC Macs prior to 1998 (say PPC G3s) usually shipped with inadequate CPUs and/or GPU VRAM to support these games well, or in some cases at all, so most useable machines will be running OS9 anyway.

Back to top   

PowerPC, Mac OS9, OS9 games

The game will run if your Mac meets its requirements. If it doesn't, even if upgrading is physically possible, at this stage the parts may no longer exist or cost more than it's worth; finding a newer computer and/or using one of the emulation methods below may be both easier and cheaper.

During the OS9 period, 3D (gaming) evolved rapidly. Originally just a routine within a program, generating very lowres and blocky images by today's standards, shifting this processing to dedicated graphics cards (GPUs) resulted, as usual, in several different 'standards' before the situation actually standardised ;)

Mac games flirted with three different systems, RAVE, 3Dfx, and QuickDraw3D (QD3D) before moving to OpenGL following Steve Jobs' return to Apple. Some, including TR1-3, supported more than one option. 3Dfx was not an Apple technology and required a graphics card and a matching 3Dfx system extension. A third-party translator, MacGLide, that converts 3Dfx calls to OpenGL, may be a fix if no such card or extension is available or supported.

Back to top   

PowerPC, Mac OS9, Windows games

If you don't already have working Windows 3D gaming emulation, forget it. The last viable method was Connectix Virtual PC 3.0.3, discontinued circa 2001, a guest copy of Windows 98SE, and a PCI Voodoo1/2 card in passthrough mode, which was obsolete even then, and could only be fitted in a machine with a spare PCI slot. You also need the card's Windows 98SE drivers, obviously.   

Later Voodoo cards or any other manufacturer won't work. Later versions of the software don't work with Voodoo cards at all. The Mac has to be bootable in OS9, which with one exception means pre-2004. Macs with replacement CPUs generally won't work. Expect about 20-25% of host machine CPU speed tops. 

All the Tomb Raiders playable at the emulation speeds achievable came out for OS9 anyway. Oh, and if you can't get it work yourself, I can't help you. Don't even ask. Anyone still here? ;) 

If you are, for completeness, Connectix also released Virtual Gamestation, which allowed you to play PS1 games on Macs of this era; after court cases proved it legal, Sony bought the IP rights and canned it that way. The TR emulation wasn't as good as some games, you needed USB-PS adaptors to use PS1 pads, and you can play PS1 games today on the PS3 either from the original discs or PSN downloads anyway. As I said, completeness...

Back to top   

OS9->OSX TRANSITION: two OS, three libraries

The changeover from OS9 to OSX created three classes of software:

Classic: ran in OS9 and the OSX Classic compatibility environment
Carbon: ran in OS9 with "CarbonLib" installed and OSX via built-in Carbon support
Cocoa: ran in OSX only

Additionally, Macs went through three phases of capability:

Boot OS9 only (generally because an existing machine wasn't or couldn't be updated to add OSX)
Boot OS9 or OSX at user's choice (by adding OSX to an OS9 machine or because Apple supplied it this way)
Boot OSX only (due to removal of the OS9 option by Apple at the end of the changeover period)


Some Classic games play (or just render) better in OS9 than OSX/Classic
Some Carbon games are very temperamental about which version of OS9's CarbonLib they worked with

If you have a dual-boot Power PC Mac, then obviously you can experiment to find the best environment for each game, but given that the overhead of booting between OS is significant, it's your call whether it's worth it.

Back to top   

PowerPC, Mac OSX, OS9 games

Carbon games should just play in OSX native as well. A few have Classic installers which must be run as below, but the game package can then be shifted from the "Applications (Mac OS 9)" folder to OSX "Applications".

If the installer, or game itself, is Classic, it will only run in the Classic environment, which is on the second OS install disc of capable machines, which typically means those running OSX 10.3 Panther or 10.4 Tiger; earlier versions are unreliable, later ones don't support Classic.

The Classic environment supports all three graphics systems from OS9, but 3Dfx games are even more likely to benefit from MacGLide, and RAVE games may exhibit missing textures. It also has the Motorola 68K emulator mentioned above, so those games should still work.

There may be minor variations depending on exact OS point release and hardware: Kerrie's Panther/Classic, with an NVIDIA GPU, seemed a little better than my Tiger/Classic with an ATI GPU. The only QD3D game I ever tried this way, Nanosaur, ran, but appeared (wrongly) to believe it hadn't enough VRAM for the fancier features. As usual, YMMV.

While not as dead as Windows on Power PC, Classic should be regarded as a dying art; development was killed by the switch to MacIntel at OSX 10.4.4, it was left out of 10.5, and almost all Macs appearing in web stats today appear to be that or later - although some legacy machines may be being used offline-only.

It is possible to reinstall an original OS on such machines, either on a separate partition of the internal HDD, or a bootable external HDD, in order to re-enable Classic for gaming without losing everything else, but a newer Mac will not run versions of the OS older than it shipped with even if you can find the discs.

Back to top   

Power PC, Mac OSX, Windows games

There are no workable options. Virtual PC was bought by Microsoft for use as a legacy OS host in Windows. The free generic emulator Qemu will install and run Windows, but is molasses slow (typically <5% of the host CPU) and has no 3D support at all.

Back to top   


Again, there are three types of program files to consider ("Kind" in a Get Info pane)

Application(Power PC) can be Classic or Carbon; see below for runnability on Intel
Application(Universal) contains both a Power PC Carbon and Intel binary; runs on either system
Application(Intel) runs on Intel only

Back to top   

MacIntel, Mac OSX, OS9 games

Carbon games should play in the Rosetta environment of Intel Macs running OSX 10.4 Tiger, 10.5 Leopard, or 10.6 Snow Leopard, but once again, your luck may decline on later versions due to Apple's lack of interest in back-compatibility. Rosetta was reduced to an optional install in 10.6 (you'll get a prompt if you need it), and completely removed from 10.7 Lion - versions from older OS can't be 'patched in'.

Classic OS9 software CANNOT be run on MacIntel, which means if you have the Classic installer problem above you must find a Classic or OS9-capable Power PC machine, install the Carbon game on that, and then copy it to your Rosetta-capable MacIntel. Tedious.

The Mac versions of Tomb Raider Chronicles/TR Level Player were released with both Classic and Carbon forms on their CDROMs, the latter may run in Rosetta on MacIntel prior to OSX 10.7 Lion. TR1-4 were released only in Classic versions, so cannot be played on MacIntel at all.

From 10.7 Lion onwards, OSX has no facilities for running any kind of PowerPC (or 68K) game. A legacy gaming partition, with an earlier Intel OS version that supports the Rosetta emulator, can be left on a pre-Lion machine when upgrading, but as usual, cannot be retrofitted to one that shipped with Lion or later.

Ironically almost all of the affected games have Windows versions which will usually still run on Macs (see below). In some non-TR cases the install discs are even cross-platform.

The lack of a free, bundled, accurate Power PC/OS9 emulator for modern MacIntel is, IMO, a pity. Apple could certainly afford one, and current Sony, Nintendo, and M$ systems all exhibit better back-compatibility.

Back to top   

MacIntel, Mac OSX, Windows games

The shift from Motorola to Intel chips has greatly simplified the installation and use of Windows on Apple hardware, but has financial and operational overheads that should be carefully considered. It may be that a games console will allow you to run the same games with less hassle for much the same total package cost.

There are two methods: Boot Camp, and emulation. Both require a legal copy of Windows, which needs activation or limits functionality after 30 days, plus Internet Security software if you plan to use it online. While Boot Camp is provided as part of OSX, all emulators that currently support 3D gaming adequately have to be paid for too.

Boot Camp adds a second partition to your Mac HDD (or can go on a second internal HDD of any Mac that can have one) to which you install Windows (with Apple-provided drivers), after which, your Mac doesn't just run Windows like a PC, when it's running Windows it is a PC. Windows is running direct on your hardware, so any game should run if its box spec is met. All the Crystal Dynamics TRs run 100% this way on most modern Macs.

The emulators are Parallels and VMware Fusion, which run Windows inside a virtual machine (VM). Both present it as a normal (windowed or fullscreen) Mac app that you can multitask with just like any other, and don't need special drivers since they translate all calls internally, but there are performance overheads compared to Boot Camp and 3D emulation is typically only of a specific DirectX/OpenGL release, not an actual video card. Parallels is now generally considered to outperform Fusion for gaming, and Parallels 9 supports DirectX 10 to Fusion 6's DirectX 9, but defaults to more access to the host Mac services than some may be comfortable with. Virtualisation programs may require management of Mavericks' Nap settings on laptops.

A third, slightly more industrial product, Oracle (née Sun) VirtualBox, is free. Its 3D support was originally weak, but improved rapidly, so may be worth trying: if what you want works, you've saved the cost of the commercial emulator, and you'll still need the copy of Windows for that anyway. As on Power PC, Qemu has no 3D support.

Both Boot Camp'd and emulated Windows games can use a USB Xbox 360 Controller to game with, which supports many pre-Xbox games, including most Core Tomb Raiders, as a basic gamepad.

For compatibility of various versions of Boot Camp with specific Mac hardware see: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht5634. Details of compatibility of versions of Fusion or Parallels with both host (OS X) and guest (Windows) OSes can be found at their respective websites. In general, any given version will work with at least the version of OS X current at its release, the previous one, and any version of Windows (and several other OS) released up to that time.

Windows 7 is almost certainly the best option if you can use it. Older versions are obsolete and Mac screens do not support Windows 8 Touch features. 32-bit versions have minor technical advantages for retrogaming. 64-bit versions do not support old 16-bit apps directly, and have additional overheads in VMs, but are compulsory in BC 5.

WARNING: The options below may be non-trivial to install and configure, and/or CPU-intensive.

DOS games in VMs/Bootcamp

Windows in any of the above environments only supports a subset of DOS games, even if run in the COMMAND PROMPT utility. The PC versions of the original TR, and its Unfinished Business expansion, are amongst those affected.

Current retro releases, whether in budget disc compilations, or downloaded from sites like GOG, supply this game embedded in a more complete DOS emulator, DOSBox, but even this only supports the very lowest resolution graphics modes. A commercial ($10) extension of DOSBox, Glidos, restores the higher resolution modes, and also supports replacement audio, FMV, and textures of higher quality than the original PC release. Thanks to Paul, the author, for assistance in confirming this works in Windows VMs. Glidos supports a number of other classic DOS games of the period in this way.

DOS games in DOSBox-for-Mac

DOSBox has been ported to OSX, and should be able to directly run the same PC-DOS games as DOSBox-for-Windows, but Glidos hasn't (yet), so the low resolution graphics issues with TR1 would remain. The PC equivalents of a number of Classic Mac OS games, including the first two Elder Scrolls, which are free from the Bethesda website, and the original Prince of Persia, can be played this way without the expense of emulating/Bootcamping Windows.

Windows games in WINE

The Unix/Linux WINE Windows interpreter project has been provided with an OSX interface. A reasonable summary of how this varies from emulation might be: compatibility is worse, but speed should be faster where it works, it's FREE, and you don't need to buy Windows either. Thanks to Manu for this news.

Wineskin isn't a true OSX Cocoa app (it uses the Unix underpinnings, including X-windows graphics which are no longer included by default from 10.8 Mountain Lion onwards; users must install XQuartz themselves) but if the games you want are in its compatibility database (the majority of Tomb Raiders are), then it may be an option.

A more polished, commercial version of Wine (Crossover) is available: http://www.codeweavers.com/products/

Back to top   

MacIntel, Mac OSX, OSX games Intel

The game will run if your Mac meets its requirements. TR Anniversary will play on most MacIntel computers, and with a PS3 BT controller, TR Underworld on a more restricted range of OS versions and graphics cards. See Feral Interactive's site for details.

Most other Feral games, and some from other publishers, should work with a PS3 controller under both Snow Leopard and Lion: see http://forums.macrumors.com/showpost.php?p=13033644&postcount=28

Back to top   

MacIntel, Mac OSX, Mac App Store

In late October 2011, Aspyr Media released a port of the original TR II (without the bonus Golden Mask levels) via the Mac App Store, access to which is limited to MacIntel hardware running at least OSX 10.6.6. Not all such hardware meets the game spec, and some fullscreen video modes may be distorted due to limitations of the port.

A more comprehensive makeover of the original 1996 TR, including the bonus levels, was released in the App Store, for iOS devices only, by Square Enix in December 2013. Given the long gap between these, it is not clear what plans if any either company have for the remaining games in the original sequence.


Back to top   

Games dependent on optical disc

Apple introduced the MacBook Air, without an optical drive, in 2007, and similarly, the Mac Mini Server in late 2009. The drive was then removed from the basic Mac Mini in 2011, and most other models during 2012.

Many games install from optical media, and/or require the disc to be in the optical drive to play. If you're trying to run OS9/Power PC games on Macs this new, then lack of an optical drive is likely to be the least of your worries, but for more recent games, including Windows in VMs, there are several possible workarounds, in likely order of convenience:

(1) Use Disk Utility on a Mac with a drive to make a mountable .dmg "disk image" copy that can go on the HDD of the diskless Mac, double-click to mount. However, DVD images can be so large they take a long time to mount, particularly annoying when the install phase copies all the game data to hard disk, and the image is only required for run-time verification of a few small hidden/encrypted files. Also, for a variety of reasons, including copy prevention technologies, some disks simply will not image.

(2) Use a program such as Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper! on a Mac with a drive to clone the disk onto an appropriate size of SD card, or even an external HDD or a partition of one, with the same name as the original optical; the installer and/or game itself may take that in lieu. As above, it's possible some disks will not clone, or that the game will not recognise a clone on different media as an equivalent.

(3) Buy the USB MacBook Air Superdrive; avoid any third-party equivalent that requires drivers, you're pushing your luck with old games already. This may also be necessary with some multi-disc games if the in-game disk swap routine can't cope with, or is confused by, methods 1&2.

(4) Share the drive of an OSX Mac or Windows PC with Remote Disc installed, via System Preferences->Sharing; this is obviously only worthwhile if you can't run the game on the other computer in the first place! http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5287 has links to any necessary downloads and limitations of this feature.

For disk-based Windows games in Bootcamp on a diskless Mac, (assuming you can install Windows on such Macs in the first place, see e.g., http://support.apple.com/kb/TS4599) (3) should work unchanged, but I don't have any experience of, or knowledge of equivalent utilities for, the other methods: Windows 8 will mount .img and .vhd files, but third party tools are still needed to create them. Other than that, you're on your own!

See Mac Help/Disk Utility Help, and the sites for the programs mentioned, for further details, and the "Windows on the Mac" and "Mac and PC games" sections at http://forums.macrumors.com/ for Windows equivalents. It's entirely your responsibility to check that these approaches are legal under fair use, legitimate backup, or other statutory provisions in your jurisdiction.

Back to top   


"If I was trying to get there, I wouldn't be starting from here"

While all the methods detailed above (can be made to) work, it is very hard to recommend them in retrospect. If I were given a list of games for non-current Apple hardware and/or operating system i.e., 68K, Power PC, or Wintel, TODAY, and told I had to run them, I'd try to obtain suitable hardware rather than attempt the above.

For 68K or Power PC/OS9, I'd look for a cheap secondhand OS9-bootable Power PC machine; that might be a G3/32MB VRAM iBook, a G4/64MB VRAM Powerbook, or a G5/128MB VRAM Power Mac, depending on the games; all the Core Tomb Raiders will run on any of these. Mactracker is your friend for specs here.

For legacy Windows, I'd similarly consider dedicated hardware (pretty much the cheapest modern laptop with a GPU will handle all pre-Crystal Dynamics TRs, and is available with Windows bundled for far less the price of equivalent Apple-branded hardware) rather than Boot Camp or emulation.

For current Windows, I'd see if the HD consoles offered acceptable alternatives; in particular the announcement of the Crystal Dynamics Trilogy pack makes the PS3 a serious contender for Tomb Raiding: it will also run the PS1-era games either direct from the original discs, or via PSN downloads (which also work on PSP, PS Vita and Playstation Mobile platforms, including Playstation Phone).

The Xbox360 versions of the Crystal Dynamics titles also include access to the Underworld DLC. The Wii versions are the least attractive: SD only, Anniversary has a poor Wiimote combat system, and Legend is a GameCube title so unless Nintendo migrate such titles to Virtual Console, won't run on Wii Slim/Wii U even if Underworld and later games eventually do.

The future of Mac gaming almost certainly lies with Steam, the Mac App Store, and similar. While emulation remains legal on OSX (FTTB...), emulators for other non-Apple gaming devices, including some like GBA that have 2D TR games available for them, are outside the scope of this article. Even without issues of legality, many have effectively been superceded by downloadable retrogaming on 7th-gen consoles and handhelds.

The emulators that support 3D gaming in Windows VMs do not currently support OpenGL gaming, or even hardware 2D acceleration, in OSX ones, and even if they did, Apple's EULA forbids VMs with Rosetta-capable versions of OSX Desktop. They do not support PowerPC at all.

 Back to top   

Gaming appendix - which TRs run on which Macs?

Assuming your hardware meets the specification, the following colour-coding applies:

PPC, OS9 or OSX/Classic (some best with MacGLide) [limit Tiger.]
PPC, OS9/CarbonLib or OSX native [limit Leopard], or possibly MacIntel, OSX/Rosetta [limit Snow Leopard]
PPC, OSX native [limit Leopard], or possibly MacIntel, OSX/Rosetta [limit Snow Leopard]
MacIntel, OSX only, plays with PS3 BT controller under Snow Leopard or later

TR (TR Unfinished Business is included on the CDROM)
TR II (TR II The Golden Mask, was available as download, requires TR II CDROM)
TR III (TR III The Lost Artifact, was available only in Trilogy package on Mac)

Mac TR Trilogy package contains all red games above, with minor fixes/enhancements

TR The Last Revelation (Times Exclusive Level runs in TRLP on Mac)
TR Chronicles (and TR Level Player)
TR Angel of Darkness

TR Anniversary
TR Underworld

Games listed in bold are also available in a MacIntel, OSX only version in the Mac App Store.
Underlined games are also available in an iOS-only version in the App Store.

All the above are also available for Windows/DirectX (except TR1 is DOS, with only limited HW3D support) and can ALSO be run via Boot Camp, emulation, or possibly interpretation on MacIntel as described in the main body of the article. Those below are Windows/DirectX9+ only, so can ONLY be run on Macs via these methods. The PC pack of the original TR/TR II/TR III Trilogy, and other budget PC bundles since, do not contain the bracketed bonus games.

TR Legend
TR Underworld (downloadable content is M$ exclusive)
LC and the Guardian of Light (and expansions) [download via Steam, very high graphics overheads]

Back to top 

Technical appendix

The above has been compiled over more than a decade using:


Power PC G3/300DT, 192MB RAM, 20GB HDD, 6MB VRAM, OS 9.2.2, 13" CRT monitor
PCI 16MB VRAM Rage Orion, with PCI 12MB Voodoo2 in passthrough, 17" CRT monitor
Connectix Virtual PC 3.0.3, 2GB Windows 98SE disk image
Connectix Virtual GameStation, PCI USB card, USB-PS converter, PS1 gamepad
TR1-5/TRLP in both OS9 and Windows environments


eMac G4/1.42GHz, 1GB RAM, 160GB HDD, 64MB VRAM, OSX 10.4.11 Tiger plus Classic
TR1-4, and earlier 2D Mac games, in Classic environment
TR5/TRLP/AoD in OSX Carbon environment


iMac Core 2 Duo/3.06GHz, 4GB RAM, 1TB HDD, 256MB VRAM, OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard Final
TR/Anniversary in OSX, PS3 BT controller
TR/Legend and TR/Underworld in Boot Camp Windows XP/SP3 environment, X360 controller
TRLP in VMware Fusion 3.1 Windows XP/SP3 VM environment, X360 controller and keyboard/mouse control
TRLP in VMware Fusion 4.1.x Windows 8CP environment, as above

Any errors are due to the fallability of memory, as I no longer have the older systems to check with.

Kerrie's equivalent machines during this period are fully documented as part of http://www.users.on.net/~macraider/lastmacintosh.html. At the time of her death she had switched to Xbox360 + HDTV for Legend onwards, rather than MacIntel.

I also transferred all my gaming off-Mac, initially to PS3+HDTV in 2011, adding PC+Steam+hires monitor at the end of 2012, reducing my iMac setup to email/browsing only, without VMs, in 2014, when I moved to OS X 10.9. Unless there is a major shift in Apple's current attitude towards back-compatibility, I would now recommend anyone interested in retrogaming Tomb Raider, or any other franchise, to look for alternative platforms to Mac/iDevices to do it on.

For similar reasons to those given by Trevor on MacRaider's main page, I have not yet played the latest game released under the Tomb Raider banner, and have no plans to do so.

Back to top   


In memoriam Kerrie, January 2011





Site contents Copyright © 1999-2015 Kerrie H Reay / T Liddle