Happy birthday to the undisputed queen of iconic female videogame characters, Lara Croft (respects to the likes of Samus, Peach, and Nina Williams!!) February 14— Valentine’s Day— marked the fitting fictional birthday of a charterer who’s captured the hearts of many throughout her 25-year reign. Join me in this celebratory piece to acknowledge the lore, and overall existence of one of the most influential video game characters of all time.
Tomb Raider is one of gaming’s longest-running franchises and has helped define the action-adventure genre. It also stands out as one of the first large franchises to feature a female protagonist—Lara Croft. The iconic character was introduced to the world on October 25, 1996 in the franchise’s debut and has starred in each of its 16 titles ever since. (Note: 1996, was a pretty historic year in gaming with the introduction of Pokémon and Crash Bandicoot as well—alongside Tomb Raider, they’re all celebrating 25 years this year.)
Croft is an English archaeologist who ventures into ancient tombs and hazardous ruins around the world. The dual-pistol-wielding, highly intellectual, athletic wonder woman has gone on to become a very significant game character in popular culture. She is also among the first video game characters to be successfully adapted to film, and was portrayed by movie stars Angelina Jolie in the 2001 and 2003 Tomb Raider films and Alicia Vikander in the 2018 reboot. The character even holds a Guinness World Record for the “most official real-life stand-ins.”
Her arrival is often cited as a catalyst for more female leads in video games. As one of the first major pioneers of that very thought, she was specially designed to counter stereotypical female characters (even though in full disclosure, she was criticized early on for being obnoxiously “busty.”) Tomb Raider’s 2013 reboot further pushed the boundaries of the character as Croft was given a rich, complex backstory typically reserved for male protagonists. The game is highly regarded as the best, and is the most successful title of the Tomb Raider series.
Funny enough, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation—the series’ 4th title—was initially supposed to be the final Tomb Raider game way back in 1999. However, due to the franchise’s sheer popularity, more games were developed and Lara would star in several sequels before the series received its first soft reboot. In November of last year, Tomb Raider Reloaded was announced for mobile devices.
Ms. Croft is on a short list of video game characters who have stood the test of time to maintain relevance for at least a quarter century. Few can lay claim to having as much of an impact on gaming as her, and that’s facts. Happy birthday—and 25th anniversary—Lara Croft!