It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since the original Tomb Raider released for PC, Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. With it, video game fans were introduced to a bold new heroine named Lara Croft, an explorer who who faced a variety of dangers (including a live T-Rex dinosaur) in a search for lost treasures.
This year, her legacy lives on, thanks to the release of the critically acclaimed Rise of the Tomb Raider, which is a big hit on Xbox One and PC. Square Enix, the game’s publisher, recently announced that it has big plans for Lara’s 20th anniversary, which kick off next month at the PAX East event in Boston.
“Since its introduction, Tomb Raider has held a significant place in video game history, and further cements with this milestone,” said Ron Rosenberg, co-head of studio for the development team at Crystal Dynamics, in a blog post. “We look forward to celebrating with fans, and honoring the iconic Lara Croft with special events, retrospectives, giveaways and other surprises throughout this year of Tomb Raider.”
The original game was a smash success for the then-publisher, Eidos Interactive. In the years following, sequels continued to perform just as well, even though the original developers at Core Design were eventually replaced by Crystal Dynamics, who created the best-selling 2006 release, Tomb Raider: Legend. Since then, the game franchise has sold into the millions. The game was also made into a couple of films, featuring actress Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft.
Lara also managed to leave her mark on real-world culture. She was named “most successful game heroine” in the Guinness Book of World Records on different occasions (including 1996 and 2010); she ended up getting her own stamp in France; she was the first (and only) video game character to appear on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, and she appeared on-screen during U2’s PopMart Tour.
Tomb Raider saw several sequels, but it was the 2013 reboot Tomb Raider that brought the franchise back to true form. It introduced the world to a younger Lara as she fought for survival on an enemy-laden island, in the hopes of fulfilling the legacy of her father left. It has sold over 8.5 million copies since its release, making it the best-selling game in the series to date.
That led to Microsoft inking an exclusive console deal for the sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider. The game released in November 2015 with some very heavy promotion, and managed to sell one million copies over the course of the holiday season. Its sales success continued with the game’s release on PC earlier in January.
“Tomb Raider has become a cultural phenomenon over the last 20 years, selling millions of copies worldwide, sparking one of the most successful video game film adaptations in history, and inspiring our amazing fans of all ages,” said Scot Amos, co-head of studio with Crystal Dynamics. “It’s incredible to be part of this legend and to see how much the series has evolved over time, and think about what’s yet to come. Here’s to 20 more years of adventure together.”
Square Enix already has promotions in full swing, offering a free digital copy of the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot to those who donate to GameChanger Charity, with plenty of prizes to those who donate in higher amounts.
A special panel titled Lara Croft: The Undisputed Queen of Gaming will be held at PAX East in late April, followed by a special cosplay event where fans can celebrate their own Lara Croft legacy.
Square Enix hasn’t gone into much detail about what it has planned for later this year, as we approach the October 25 anniversary date, but we’re likely to see announcements like the release of Rise of the Tomb Raider for PlayStation 4 come out of E3. There’s also talk of a new movie in the works, with Daisy Ridley from Star Wars: The Force Awakens negotiating for the role of Lara.
Lara just keeps getting better with age.