It’s been some journey for Lara Croft. It’s been some journey for Tomb Raider. The latter one of the most beloved and revered video game series in history, the former its iconic female lead. A heroine that broke into a world of heroes and taught them all a trick or two.
Tomb Raider debuted with a bang. The fledgling PlayStation console was ushering in a new cinematic, 32-bit, 3D era when the original game launched in 1996. Lara was an instant hit. She was the natural, organic next step for a generation bred on Mario, but older and looking for something more mature. More meaningful.
A female lead was at the time a big risk. The industry was largely skewed towards young males who identified with B.J. Blazkowicz, Duke Nukem, Chris Redfield, and Solid Snake. Samus Aran was the only other butt-kicking female of note and she was hidden in a suit. But with an emphasis on story, combat, and puzzle solving, she commanded respect.
In that initial period the Tomb Raider series was a huge success. Developed by Core Design, the first four titles scored 91, 85, 76 and 79 respectively on Metacritic. But at the turn of the decade things went south. The fifth game in the series, Tomb Raider Chronicles, dropped to a score of 70. Then Angel of Darkness in 2003 tanked to 56, nearly killing off the once great brand.
As a result, Core Design was stripped of the license, with publisher Eidos handing the reins to Crystal Dynamics.
The New Generation of Raider
Lara Croft’s second phase was solid, but not genre leading. Three adventure titles emerged between 2006 and 2008, scoring 82, 81 and 75 respectively, but the 2007 arrival of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune showed how far Lara had fallen down the hero pecking order. So Crystal Dynamics went back to the drawing board.
In 2013 the series was rebooted with Tomb Raider; a blockbuster, cinematic reimagining of Lara Croft that put the heroine back to the forefront of the series. The game was a hit, as was its sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider, both scoring high 8s and 9s across the board. Now we wait with baited breath for this new trilogy to close with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, out September 14 on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Tomb Raider the franchise, but what about Lara Croft the character? What is the Lara Croft timeline? What has she been through and how has she ended up where she is at the start of Shadow of the Tomb Raider?
The Lara Croft Timeline (Survivor Trilogy)
There are three separate timelines in the Tomb Raider universe: Original, Legend, and Survivor. While much of the core details around Lara Croft transcend across these universes, there are discrepancies that make it impossible to form one genuine combined Lara Croft timeline. The below focuses on the current Survivor Lara Croft timeline.
Warning: There are spoilers below for those who have yet to play the rebooted Tomb Raider or its sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider.
1992 – Lara Croft is born on February 14 in Wimbledon, England. She remains an only child.
1996 – Lara’s mother, Amelia Croft, dies in a plane accident. The plane crashes in the Tibetan mountains and before cold claims her, she manages to write a letter to Lara. Her father, Richard, places the letter on her mother’s tomb back in England.
1997 to 2003 – Following Amelia’s death, Richard becomes obsessed with finding the secret to immortality. Neglected, Lara turns to books for company and quickly shows herself to be extremely intelligent. She begins to accompany her father on some expeditions, meeting his colleague Conrad Roth and his girlfriend, Ana. However, the relationship between father and daughter becomes strained and Lara begins rebelling, acting out at school.
2003 – Lara and her father have a big fight, in which Lara accuses Richard of neglecting her. Moments later, Richard Croft is assassinated by an evil organisation known as Trinity in a manner made to look like a suicide.
2004 – The Croft family name is ruined following an article in the London Observer. Lara is more-or-less left to fend for herself, with only Conrad Roth to act as a father figure when he is in town.
2009 – Lara meets filmmaker Samantha “Sam” Nishimura at the University College London. Refusing to make use of the wealth bestowed upon her by her family, she begins working as a barmaid to pay her tuition.
2011 – While studying at university, Lara becomes quite fond of the reality archaeology TV show Whitman’s World.
August 2013 – Lara and Sam finish university. At the same time, Roth signs on for Whitman’s World’s third season, which is an expedition on a vessel known as The Endurance in search of a mythical island called Yamatai. Roth is told he can bring his own crew, so enlists Lara for the journey confident her skills will be of use. When the trip’s funding falls through, Lara gets Sam involved, whose uncle provides some money for a stake in anything that is found.
September 2013 – The Endurance is shipwrecked on the island of Yamatai, beginning the adventures of the first game. Roth does not survive the adventure, but Lara, Sam, Jonah (the ship’s cook) and Reyes (the ship’s mechanic) do.
Early 2014 – Lara Croft struggles with recurring nightmares and flashbacks. For a brief time she works at a museum, while other events in her life slowly get her on the radar of Trinity. Sam and Jonah begin suffering from severe mental issues, the former ending up in a psychiatric hospital. This leads Lara to go public with the events that occurred on Yamatai. She is discredited and called crazy.
Late 2014 – Determined to prove both her and her father‘s work meaningful, Lara starts looking through Richard’s research. She picks up where he left off and unravels the clues behind the key for immortality. Thus begins the adventures of the second game; Lara’s pursuit of the Divine Force. During this time Ana’s involvement with Trinity becomes clear as does the truth of her father’s assassination. Ana is killed shortly after by Trinity.
2015 – Lara gets word that Trinity is seeking a Mayan Dagger in the heart of Mexico. With revenge on her mind and assuming the Dagger will be used for evil purposes, Lara heads to Mexico and removes it from its resting place. Unfortunately, in doing so she triggers a number of apocalyptic events and sets humanity on a path for extinction. And so begins the story of Shadow of the Tomb Raider.