The Raider without the whip first side-flipped into our hearts with her dual-wielding pistols in 1996 when the debut title Tomb Raider was released for PC, PS1, and Sega Saturn. Right on the cusp of the home-console boom, Lara Croft and her lofty adventures through caves, battling tigers, and solving puzzles, really couldn’t have clambered into our lives at a better time.
Graphically, that first trip into the life of a Tomb Raider doesn’t hold up well. Nor do the clunky tank controls either. But there was something about the capable, intelligent, and interestingly hush protagonist that struck a chord in a landscape with minimal female heroes.
Tomb Raider, and its leading lady made (and continue to make) videogame history. The so-called “Queen of Gaming” holds more Guinness World Records than any other videogame character, and her impact on pop culture and entertainment has made her nothing short of a global icon.
“Lara Croft is not just a group of pixels to me. She taught me how to be persistent, and get what I really want,” says a fan in the celebration video.
Core Design—a British video game studio—and Eidos knew they had a hit on their hands, pumping out TRII, TRIII, TR: Last Revelation, and TR: Chronicles, in each consecutive years following the inaugural title.
The franchise was burnt-out. Big time. The flocks of copies weren’t flying off the shelves, and most of those still stock the bargain bins at game retailers to this day. Core Design, seeing their darling age in popularity, even claim they attempted to kill off the staring character.
After a few years of resting, Eidos gave Core Design another shot, and it fumbled. The 2003 release of Tomb Raider: Angels of Darkness was a critical, and commercial flop. Core Design state they were never fully invested, and it showed. So Eidos did the only thing it could; remove Core Design from the intellectual property.
In 2004, Crystal Dynamics began developing their first Tomb Raider game, Legends, and in 2006—the same year Core Design closed their doors forever—fans were delighted at the revamp of a familiar face. The team at Crystal Dynamics had minor success with Legends, and must have impressed Eidos with their revitalization of the franchise, as they remain the soul developers of the Tomb Raider series today.
Crystal Dynamics, and Eidos paired to release Anniversary, and Underworld in the following years respectively, before the pistols were hung up, seemingly forever.
Alas, in 2009, Square Enix—the multi-headed dragon behind such prosperous franchises like Final Fantasy, Hitman, Deus Ex, Kingdom Hearts, Dragon Quest, Ogre, Thief, and Star Ocean—purchased Eidos and absorbed the teams and ips they held.
Lara and company remained on ice for half-a-decade, before Square Enix decided to Captain America it, and thaw the sucker out. Making what can only be seen now as the smartest move they could have, they propositioned Crystal Dynamics to develop the reboot.
It was gold.
The gritty, youthful, and ideally unsexualized new Lara Croft was inexperienced, in deep trouble, and surrounded by an amazing game. Tomb Raider—as the reboot was titled—knocked it out of the park. The three-plus years of development showed in it’s near immaculate controls, and excruciatingly painful to watch plot. It drew some criticism for being “torture porn” as the often brutal deaths of the main character (usually due to player error) were shown in gory detail.
Crystal Dynamics had done it again, and the Tomb Raider reboot remains one of the highest rated Tomb Raider games ever made (with its flood of high-eighties scores).
Immediately the team began working on the follow-up, the 2015 title Rise of the Tomb Raider, which grew in ratings by the slightest of margins.
This year, 2016, marks the 20th anniversary of the fateful Playstation-era tromp through the jungle, and Square Enix / Crystal Dynamics have announced that they will be celebrating in righteous fashion.
Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration includes the original game (on next-gen consoles and PC) along with an all-new adventure/story titled Blood Ties. The game also comes with Playstation VR support (which we know nothing about right now), all the previously released DLC, and a brand new expansion that brings the first-ever co-op experience to the Tomb Raider reboot.
Coming in October of this year to Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC, celebrate Lara’s 20th year as a video game icon in the most bad-ass fashion you could imagine.
I’ve been enthralled with the adventures of Ms. Croft for decades, as most people have, and this celebratory milestone only helps to cement Tomb Raider in the history books.