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A brief History of Tomb Raider

7 min read

Can you believe that it’s been 17 years since Lara Croft first bounced onto our screens, with her trademark pistols and her disregard for ancient burial sites. It’s been a long journey for the adventurous lass, as she’s braved everything from unstable tombs to death itself, all in the pursuit of truth and knowledge. To celebrate the release of the latest Tomb Raider game, we’re taking a walk down memory lane, as we look back at almost two decades worth of Crofty games.

Tomb Raider – 1996

Tomb Raider, 1996, Jeremy H. Smith, executive producer; Toby Gard, Heather Gibson, Neal Boyd, graphic artists; Jason Gosling, Paul Douglas, Gavin Rummery, programmers, SEGA Saturn, © 1996 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights<br /><br />

Sweet jiggly physics! The very first Tomb Raider game was a revelation for gamers. Action packed spectacles, ancient locations to plunder and a lead character that was comprised solely of ogle pixels. It’s pretty clear then that the first game was a blockbuster. Selling over seven million copies, the first Lara Croft game put developer Core Design on the map, and set a new benchmark for action games that would be followed by many an imitation in the years to come.

Tomb Raider II – 1997


Quicker than you can mouth Ka-Ching!, came a new sequel to further the adventures of Ms Croft. After a mystical dagger, Croft took on new challenges and foes, with new weapons, techniques and a few vehicles added to the mix as well. The quick development cycle for the sequel was thanks to Core Design having actually started work on a new game before the first was even released, as they implemented new ideas and technology based on customer feedback.

A sequel to one of the biggest games of the time, Tomb Raider 2 outdid the original, shifting over 8 million units in total.

Tomb Raider III – 1998


A fan-pleasing second sequel was an inevitability, and that’s just what gamers got in 1998. Following the template set by previous games, Lara Croft was once again defiling ancient tombs and burial places, as she criss-crossed the globe in a mission to put an end to a nefarious plot revolving around meteorites and forced evolution.

While still a big seller for publisher Eidos, Tomb Raider 3 was beginning to feel a bit too predictable, and it failed to shift as many units as the two previous games had, and was met with slightly lower review scores.

Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation – 1999


Going back to the roots of the original game, Lara Croft found herself entangled in  a more personal plot as she jetted across the globe to more distinctly authentic locations. Reviews were mixed though, and Lara found herself staring down a genre which she had helped create, but was now being shown how to do better by new rivals and competitors.

Tomb Raider (Gameboy version) – 2000


Tomb Raider in your hands? That was the dream of many a prepubescent kid back then, but instead, we got a portable version of the plucky adventurer. Debuting on the Gameboy Colour, Tomb Raider wasn’t exactly a departure from the formula. Side-scrolling action that highlighted the absurdity of her figure were just some of the hallmarks of this port, that went on to receive some positive reviews.

Tomb Raider: Chronicles – 2000


With Lara supposedly dead after the events of the fourth game (riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight), it was up to her friends and acquaintances to sit down and recount tales of her exploits. A slight departure from the tone of the usual game, Chronicles also shipped with a level editor on PC. Reviews were mixed, because in spite of some new visuals, the core gameplay of Tomb Raider had failed to evolve, resulting in a game that was beginning to feel as ancient as the relics that Ms Croft had retrieved throughout her many, many adventures.

Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword – 2001


Not exactly too much of a departure set by the first handheld Tomb Raider game, Curse of the sword soldiered on, pitting Croft against new hazards and foes in a decent sequel.

Tomb Raider: The Prophecy – 2002


While it didn’t actually have anything to do with Christopher Walken, the first and only Tomb Raider game on the Gameboy Advance did step the visuals up a notch, giving Croft a more three dimensional space to move in, while running and gunning down all the things on screen. However a repetitive triggering of traps to advance to the next stage, lack of any trademark characterisations and general clumsiness, resulted in mixed reviews for this solo game.

Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness – 2003


Realizing that they needed to grow the franchise, Core decided to add a darker edge to their latest Tomb Raider game. What gamers got at the end of the day though, was pretty much the very worst Tomb Raider game in the history of the franchise. Despite some decent visuals, Core had forgotten to program a game, resulting in a mess of bad controls, camera mechanics and a stealth setup designed in the seventh circle of hell.

It was also the final Tomb Raider game that Core got to work on, with Eidos handing development over to Crystal Dynamics.

Tomb Raider: Legend – 2006


Eidos needed a win to keep interest in Lara Croft alive, and that’s just what they got when Crystal Dynamics took over the franchise. A back to basics return, but with some much needed gameplay improvements and a more realistically shaped Lara Croft cemented the legacy of this new take on the franchise. Fans were happy, critics were positive and sales were good. All in all, it was a good time to be a tomb raider.

Tomb Raider: Anniversary – 2007


To celebrate ten (or 11) years of Tomb Raider, Eidos decided to release a remake of the very first game, built on the Legend engine. It was the same levels and enemies, but with a current-gen shine to it. Positive reviews followed, as gamers got all nostalgic for a trip down memory lane.

Tomb Raider: Underworld – 2008


A direct sequel to Legend, Underworld saw Croft on a new quest for a new mystical artefact, while uncovering a few secrets of her own. Generally well received, there were still a few stumbling blocks present though. A wonky camera and a temperamental combat system didn’t help the game, and neither did publisher Eidos when they attempted to stifle any low review scores for it before release.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light – 2010


The next game to star Lara Coft wouldn’t be one that fans were expecting, as Eidos and Crystal Dynamics traded big budget action for a smaller, more focused co-op adventure instead. More arcadey, and a lot more linear, the Croft took on new challenges and puzzles alongside Totec, a Mayan warrior who assisted her throughout the game.

Well received across the board, critics hailed Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light as the best Tomb Raider game in a long time.

Tomb Raider – 2013


And things have come full circle, as gamers finally get a chance to explore the true origins of Lara. A reboot of the franchise, the latest Tomb Raider is out tomorrow, and is already receiving rave reviews for it’s style, brutality and sheer ballsiness. Watch out for own review, tomorrow.

Last Updated: March 4, 2013

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