With Shadow of the Tomb Raider showcasing how far Lara Croft has come, we’re looking back on her groundbreaking 1996 debut. The archeologist first appeared on SEGA Saturn in a revolutionary 3D adventure deftly mixing action, puzzles, platforming, and the occasional T-Rex.
While a classic in its own right, Tomb Raider laid the groundwork for later entries and propelled Lara into pop culture royalty. Here are seven reasons it’s an absolute treasure.
1. The bad-tempered T-Rex
Lara’s first brush with this rampaging reptile is hard to forget. A firm fan favourite that went onto appear in later Tomb Raiders, nothing beats the original impact of seeing it roar out of the bush before inevitably chomping you between its jaws, nor the satisfaction of finally downing it with dual pistols.
2. The tricky St. Francis Folly
Your hunt for an Atlantis pendant takes you to the St Francis’ monastery, widely considered one of Tomb Raider’s all-time best stages. It’s divided into four compelling puzzles. The Damocles test, for instance, sees you navigate a room with swords hanging from the ceiling, with these booby traps becoming classic Tomb Raider staples.
3. Watching the impressive cutscenes
Back in 1996, Tomb Raider’s cutscenes were like being treated to a mini movie. Over 10 minutes of full-motion video showcased Lara braving Peruvian tundra, performing outrageous motorbike stunts, and outrunning an exploding pyramid. These were an impressive achievement so soon after 2D games.
4. Nailing your first leap
Whether running, climbing, jumping, or swimming, Lara was an incredibly versatile character to control. Her moves included acrobatic leaps across gaping chasms, desperate ledge grabs, graceful landings, and acrobatic flips when dodging angry enemies.
5. Heading around the world
You were let loose on a truly globe-trotting expedition in Tomb Raider. From snowy mountains, to imposing colosseums, to subterraneous Egyptian cities long thought lost, a diverse collection of indoor and outdoor environments put you in the well-worn boots of an international treasure hunter.
6. Meeting the Lara doppelganger
Thought Tomb Raider was simply about wandering about nicking ancient relics? Wrong! Inside the Great Pyramid of Atlantis you encounter walls covered in pulsating flesh, hatching pods that release basty mutants, and a skinless Lara doppelganger. Gross.
7. Lara Herself
In a ‘90s gaming landscape dominated by either burly male heroes or cuddly cartoon mascots, Lara Croft was a game-changer. She was among the first female protagonists, and that can’t be understated.