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Iconic Video Game Characters: Lara Croft – The Rise and Fall of the Tomb Raider


Tomb Raider history is filled with iconic video game characters, but none have captured the hearts of gamers quite like Lara Croft. For decades, gamers have been enamoured with the fearless, confident, and intelligent adventurer. Her debut in 1996 was a turning point in gaming, introducing players to a woman who was just as tough and capable as any male protagonist at the time. However, as impressive as her rise to fame was, Lara Croft has also had her share of pitfalls and controversies. In this article, we will explore the Rise and Fall of the Tomb Raider, as we recount the history of Lara Croft.

The Rise of Lara Croft

In 1996, Core Design released Tomb Raider, introducing players to its lead character, Lara Croft. She was a confident, intelligent, and athletic treasure hunter who could dispatch any foe with ease. Lara Croft countered the preconceived notion of a weak and vulnerable female character in video games, setting her apart from other video game heroines of the time.

The success of the original Tomb Raider game paved the way for sequels, each building on the character of Lara Croft and her backstory. In 1997, Tomb Raider 2 was released with improved graphics and gameplay. In Tomb Raider 3, released in 1998, players were taken to different locations, including Antarctica and India.

It wasn’t just the gameplay and graphics that captured the attention of the gamers; Lara Croft’s sex appeal also played a significant role. Her buxom figure and trademark brown ponytail became iconic. In 2001, Angelina Jolie portrayed Lara Croft in a Tomb Raider movie, securing the character’s place in pop culture and cementing her popularity in the mainstream.

At the height of her popularity, Lara Croft became a cultural phenomenon, inspiring merchandise, comic books, and even a theme park ride. Her influence and impact on the gaming industry cannot be underestimated. She is one of the most recognizable and iconic video game characters of all time.

The Fall of Lara Croft

As with anything that enjoys too much success, a fall is inevitable. The Tomb Raider franchise began to suffer from the same formulaic approach to sequels, which saw the quality of storytelling and gameplay start to dwindle. Gamers became bored with the same old tropes and storylines. The release of Tomb Raider: The Angel Of Darkness in 2003 was a low point for the franchise, with glitches and bugs that made it almost unplayable.

To make matters worse, the franchise was also plagued with controversies surrounding Lara Croft, specifically her hypersexualization. Critics argued that the character of Lara Croft perpetuated negative stereotypes about women in video games. In response, Core Design tried to diversify the character’s image, with Lara Croft wearing less revealing clothing and having less emphasis on her sexuality.

However, the changes to Lara Croft’s image resulted in a mixed response from gamers. Some appreciated the new approach, while others felt that the character had lost her identity. It seemed as though the rise of Lara Croft had hit a ceiling, and the franchise was in a state of decline.

The Rebirth of Lara Croft

In 2013, Crystal Dynamics took over the Tomb Raider franchise and decided to take the character in a different direction. The game studio felt that in order to breathe new life into the character, they needed to “reboot” the franchise with a new game, simply titled Tomb Raider.

The 2013 game brought a new dimension of storytelling and gameplay, showcasing a much grittier and realistic portrayal of Lara Croft. The game gave players a glimpse into the character’s origins, showing her vulnerable side and exploring her emotional and psychological resilience. Critics and fans alike praised the reboot’s fresh take on the franchise. With the success of the Tomb Raider reboot, Crystal Dynamics released sequels, including the recently released Shadow of the Tomb Raider that concludes the series.


There’s no denying the impact that Lara Croft has had on the video game industry. She is a trailblazing character who paved the way for other female leads in video games. There have been highs and lows in the franchise’s history, but the character of Lara Croft remains iconic. The latest iteration of Tomb Raider brings an added depth and emotional range to the character, creating a fully-fleshed-out protagonist that resonates with a modern audience. Tomb Raider history has seen the rise and fall of the character, but the reboot has helped to reignite the franchise and she still remains one of the most beloved and iconic video game characters today.