Lara Croft is a woman who wears many masks. Sometimes, she’s a confident and sassy globetrotter. Others, she’s a violent sociopath who finds new and creative ways to murder people. Over the years, writers haven’t really known what to do with her following the original games, which results this incoherence. For a character as iconic as Lara, there just doesn’t ever seem to be a consistent characterization behind her.
However, it wasn’t always this way. The original quintet of Tomb Raider games presented Lara in a fairly consistent manner, with her attitude remaining mostly unchanged from 1996 to 2000. She was confident and curious, with a playful streak lurking behind her rugged exterior. It was on those merits that Tomb Raider was marketed, with Lara always being the centerpiece of each and every advert.
Now, it’s hard to see Lara through the weeds of her peers. After 2013’s gritty reboot, she became virtually indistinguishable from every other thin, white brunette woman with a ponytail in AAA gaming. Gone were the iconic double pistols or the cool outfit – in their place, some tattered pants and a dirty tanktop. While I still love these reboots, and do think they were pretty vital in keeping the series relevant, the new Lara ultimately feels like a weaker and less interesting character than her original incarnation.
With that new trilogy in the rear view, then, there’s never been a better time to tap back into what made the series soar in the first place. Bring back that original Lara, with the same razor-sharp wit, innate curiosity, and impeccable fashion sense. In a world where every single female protagonist has to get roughed up, give us a game where a beautiful, confident woman easily solves ancient riddles and takes down dinosaurs with sidearms.
There’s never been a better time to do it, either. Crash Bandicoot opened up the floodgates for retro revivals, and soon followed seemingly every other gaming icon from the ’90s. Within the past few years, we’ve gotten new Crash, new Spyro, new MediEvil, new Tony Hawk… the list goes on.
Why not Lara, then? She’s arguably the most iconic female lead in gaming history, with two successful comic series and three hit movies to her name. Her games revolutionized 3D platformers, and set the stage for Naughty Dog to pilfer from years down the line. When it comes to properties that defined gaming in the ’90s, it’s not a stretch to say that Tomb Raider was among the most important ones.
Problem is, those old games are a bit archaic by today’s standards. I still love them, and revisit them yearly, but the grid-based platforming and tank controls don’t necessarily appeal to modern gamers. This is why, instead of rebooting the franchise yet again, it would be wise to bring those games up to modern standards. Rebuild them using the originals as a starting point, with snappier controls, prettier visuals, and gunplay that isn’t as finnicky. Those games, and the stories and levels within them, are some of the most well-designed things I’ve ever played, and modern players should be able to rediscover them with a fresh coat of paint.
Because, in my book, Lara doesn’t need to try and fit in with her modern peers. She doesn’t need to star in her own gritty Uncharted riff. Instead, developers need to realize that her series was already on the right track. The sublime trilogy of Legend, Anniversary, and Underworld were steps in the right direction, and applying that same “improving what’s already there” approach to the series would help it stand out in 2020. Nobody’s making games like that anymore, so what better to time to… well, make games like that?
Instead of watching Square Enix try to reinvent this character again, I’d be much more interested in this return to her roots. In 2020, Lara deserves a bold reintroduction to the world, and the best way to do that is to reminds us what made her games so special to begin with.
Next: Why Lara Is My Middle Name
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Bella Blondeau is a lovable miscreant with a heart of gold… or so she says.
She likes long walks in dingy arcades, loves horror good and bad, and has a passion for anime girls of any and all varieties. Her favorite game is Nier: Automata, because she loves both robots and being sad.
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