Celebrating Lara Croft and 25 years of raiding tombs
Everyone’s favorite adventurer celebrates their 25th anniversary
In 1994, development began on a new type of game that hadn’t really been seen before. The game would focus on a British archaeologist who travels the world but would end up in dangerous tombs during their journey.
A man was envisioned as the titular character but fears about associations with Indiana Jones were soon brought up and thus Lara Croft was born. Created and developed by Core Design, the first Tomb Raider released in 1996 to universal acclaim with 91% on Metacritic. From that moment on, the world had a new action hero to look to and Lara Croft completely changed adventure video games.
To celebrate her 25th anniversary and her outstanding legacy, we’re going to look back at the Tomb Raider series and towards what the future could hold for this divisive feminist icon.
The game that started everything, Tomb Raider, released just 18 months after development began and kick-started Lara Croft as a pop-culture icon. For the next seven years, Core Design released a Tomb Raider game each year.
Of course, the core gameplay of exploring environments, solving puzzles and fighting enemies all remained the same but the locations were changed up. Naturally, Lara kept her wit and charm but soon became an even bigger star.
Amazingly, the name and image of Lara Croft grew so much that she starred in multiple commercials from the late 90s to early 00s which bizarrely even included her being the spokesperson for energy drink Lucozade. Not just that but she graced magazine covers and exploded across the world.
In new hands
Sadly the development team were constantly burning out and the publisher, Eidos, was not happy with the critical backlash of The Angel of Darkness, so Eidos gave the Tomb Raider franchise to Crystal Dynamics instead. They wanted to put Lara Croft back into tombs and away from the controversial urban setting.
Lara Croft was given a facelift through upgraded graphics and this opened her up to a new audience. Under development from Crystal Dynamics, the franchise saw Tomb Raider: Legend, Tomb Raider: Anniversary and Tomb Raider: Underworld released to mostly positive reviews.
Despite this, Eidos was eventually bought by Square Enix and the franchise was rebooted again. Rebranded as Tomb Raider in 2013, the series reconstructed Lara’s origins to showcase her as a more inexperienced explorer rather than the indestructible model shown before.
The series even got a spin-off Lara Croft series with Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light and Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris which saw a different type of gameplay involving cooperative play mixed non-linear gameplay for a more arcade experience.
Transcending video games
It may come as no surprise that the universe of Tomb Raider isn’t resigned to just video games. She found life on the silver screen in 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie as the titular character. Whilst the film may have not been certified fresh, it was popular enough to deliver a sequel in 2003 called Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.
Sadly, Jolie didn’t want to reprise her role as Lara Croft, so Alicia Vikander took over the mantle in the reboot Tomb Raider film released in 2018 with a planned sequel in the works. The legacy of Tomb Raider is still so popular that she’s appeared in both Brawlhalla, Astro’s Playroom, and Fortnite Battle Royale’s sixth season in 2021.
Not only did Lara expand to film, but the legacy of Tomb Raider spread across the iGaming community starting with the Lara Croft Tomb Raider video slot that adopted the classical Tomb Raider model from the first two games. In 2019, the rebranded Lara Croft got her own slot with Lara Croft Temples and Tombs – which ended up being one of the best video game themed slots out there.
There’s no denying that Lara Croft is an icon who has divided fans for generations on whether she’s a feminist icon or just a sex symbol. Lara has been through so much growth (and developers) that there’s no reason why she can’t be both! There aren’t many other female heroines who can say they have raided tombs and uncovered hidden secrets across the world!
As for new games, the world has yet to see a new Tomb Raider game on the next-gen consoles or even a port on the Nintendo Switch. There is an upcoming arcade game called Tomb Raider Reloaded which is expected to release on mobile later this year – but little is known about this at the moment.
Aside from video games, Netflix is set to release a new Tomb Raider anime series which takes place within the world of the 2013 reboot series. Sadly, there’s still no date for release yet but we’re hoping it’ll be released to coincide with the 25th anniversary.
The celebrations for Tomb Raider’s anniversary are only halfway through and we’re certain that Square Enix will have even more prepared – heck they’ve even made a special website just to cement this momentous achievement.
So, a huge thanks to the developers for all the incredible memories within the Tomb Raider series (especially locking Winston the Butler in the freezer) and we can’t wait to see what the next 25 years will look like for Lara Croft.