Tomb Raider, originally released in 1996, is an action-adventure game starring Lara Croft: a beautiful and fiercely independent archaeologist. True to the game's name, the game involved Lara exploring tombs and ruins in search of ancient artifacts. The game was developed by Core Design and published by Eidos Interactive. It was released first for the Sega Saturn but became available soon after for the PlayStation, PC, and Mac. The game proved extremely successful and spawned the now legendary Tomb Raider franchise. The game was re-released with two extra chapters in 1998 as Tomb Raider Gold, and was later remade by Crystal Dynamics with updated graphics and gameplay in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary.
The game opens with a short cutscene in Los Alamos, New Mexico. A nuclear test in the dessert causes an earthquake which reveals an ancient artifact. The game then jumps forward to present day, where Lara is given a cryptic mission by Ms. Jacqueline Natla through a laptop delivered to her by Natla's assistant Larson. Lara's interest is piqued when she is informed that there is an ancient artifact -- the Scion -- in the unexplored tomb of Qualopec in Peru. Lara takes the job, and the game begins.
The gameplay takes place in ruins across four locations: Peru, Greece, Egypt, and Atlantis. The player must navigate Lara through these ruins in search of three Scion artifacts. The game is presented from a third-person perspective with the camera following directly behind Lara. She has an array of moves and abilities which she can use to navigate tricky platforming obstacles, combat indigenous wild life, and solve puzzles. Some of these basic skills include running, jumping, dive rolls, scaling ledges, swimming, and firing weapons.
Lara has two stances which she can flip between; holding weapons and not holding weapons. In her weapon stance she can fight her enemies but must put them away to pull switches and climb ledges. Her default weapons are the dual pistols, which have infinite ammo, but she can also use dual magnums, dual Uzis, and a shotgun.
If injured, Lara can pick up small and large medipacks to heal herself, and the game provides a save system that allows players to return to a previous points in the game if they die. The Saturn and PlayStation versions use blue orbs that are scattered sparsely throughout a level for save points. The PC and Mac versions, however, allow for players to save at any time, which relieves the frustration of retracing large portions of the game after dying.
Tomb Raider was widely lauded by the public and press. The cutting edge graphics, atmospheric, intuitive gameplay, and almost unheard of use of a female protagonist caught the public's attention. The game was a huge financial success that turned Eidos Interactive's financial woes around over-night. Lara Croft herself became an icon even outside of video games, appearing on magazine covers and eventually branching into Hollywood. Two Tomb Raider films were made featuring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft.