Tomb Raider: An NSFW Gamer Retrospective

Tomb Raider: An NSFW Gamer Retrospective

Once upon a time, Tomb Raider was just a video game. A combination of puzzles, platforming and slaughtering hundreds of wild animals helped usher in the burgeoning era of 3D gaming, but the developers at Core Design had the audacity to make the game’s protagonist female.

Over sixteen years later (Jesus Christ almighty, I am getting old), Lara Croft rose as high as pop culture phenomenon and sank to the depths of tired journalistic punchlines. If the reviews are an indication, Tomb Raider is back and better than ever. The journey to rebuild Lara and her world, however, was not an easy one. For the sake of this article, we will be looking at the series in phases that defined the games at certain given points.

Time for your history lesson, kiddies!

Tomb Raider 1 & 2: More Popular Than Jesus?

Tomb Raider: An NSFW Gamer Retrospective

In 1996, the culmination of years of work by six people inside a studio in Derby, England saw the light of day. The original Tomb Raider was released in October, and while it ran best on the PC, it brought a new dimension of gameplay and platforming skills to the world of console gaming. Along with Super Mario 64, the first game to feature Lara Croft and her disproportionate measurements crushed the hopes and dreams of anyone hoping to come out with the next great 2D platformer before the term “retro” could be utilized.

While Lara eventually became the star of the show in the same way Stephen King’s name is bigger than the titles of his books, it can be easy to forget how much fun the first two games were to play at the time. Archaic controls aside, Tomb Raider filled you with an urge to explore every nook and cranny that would accommodate the English Amazon and her twin pistols. Locales ran from caves, a lost world with fucking dinosaurs, the continent of Atlantis and the tombs of long-dead leaders. Throw in some stories about genetic modification and you have yourself one of the games that defined the mid 1990s.

Tomb Raider: An NSFW Gamer Retrospective

Less than a year later, Tomb Raider 2 brought arguably more of the same: exploration in bigger areas, secrets hidden in better-concealed areas, varied guns to mow down even more types of animals and human beings. I confess to fond memories of staying up until odd hours of the morning, wondering just where in the hell I was supposed to go next or if there was a switch I had forgotten to push. Like it or not, Core Design did a fantastic job of forcing you to retrace your steps and figure out what you missed. This could all be done while staring at Lara Croft’s increasingly curvaceous body that scored her a bunch of virtual modeling gigs outside of the video game world.

When the game was finished, Lara was as popular as she was going to get. A movie starring Angelina Jolie was in the works, she was touring with U2 and possibly developed a severe cocaine addiction. That final fact has never been proven, but fame and success will get in the heads of anyone who has a taste for it. Tomb Raider 2 made the series “cool” and Lara’s handlers would be damned if she would fade from the spotlight. What better way to get this point across than exploit the hell out of her?

Tomb Raider 3 – 5: Not Tonight, Lara. I Have A Headache

What you see above you are three separate console releases, fully priced and sold at retail outlets. I can forgive you if you cannot tell one from another. Whether you loved or despised the tried and true execution of a Tomb Raider game, you would be a sniveling ass to deny the fact that aside from a few cosmetic tweaks, nothing had been done to make Lara’s adventures feel like adventures. The novelty of exploring abandoned locales and burial grounds forgotten for centuries was gone, replaced by a feeling of “oh, look, a new TR game. All right, then.”

I am more forgiving of resting on one’s laurels than a typical internet commenter, but by the time Tomb Raider Chronicles was released, I just didn’t care anymore. Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Tomba! and even Rayman got sequels on the PlayStation that evolved their gameplay and generally made the games more fun and enjoyable. Lara was getting washed up and in danger of becoming nothing more than an attention whore, using her games as a desperate “Please acknowledge me!” ploy. As it turns out, it kinda worked; sales of the series never waned that much and would be considered successful even by today’s cutthroat standards.

Don’t worry, though. Core found a way to fuck it all up.

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