Developer: Core Design
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Whether you loved the game or hated it, you can't deny that the first game in Eidos' Tomb Raider series is one of the most influential games in PC gaming, although some critics would argue that it was simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time. The 3D-hardware craze was still in its infancy in the months leading up to the release of Tomb Raider, but the seeds had already been planted with the release of Quake in May 1996. However, as the months drew on, the PC game players clamored for something other than a first-person shooter that would push their CPUs to the limit and bring them into the three dimensions of gaming once again.
Eidos released Tomb Raider in October 1996. Not only was it a 3D game, but it also offered something the PC gaming community had not seen before - a third-person shooter with gameplay elements drawn from 2D platform games. The console-game market experienced a similar phenomenon just a few months earlier with the release of Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64, but for many PC game players, Tomb Raider would be their first foray into the newly established subgenre.
On its most basic level, Tomb Raider was influential because it offered a different experience, but that's not to say it was entirely original. Tomb Raider borrowed a number of different gameplay elements from other games to construct Lara Croft's world. From jumping puzzles similar to those found in Prince of Persia, Out of This World, and Flashback to more-generic elements taken from first-person shooters - and to a lesser extent, role-playing games - Core Design managed to balance these ingredients and brought them into the three dimensions. The settings in games such as MDK, Soul Reaver, Rayman: The Great Escape, and the recently released Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2 are all vastly different from those in Tomb Raider, but in each game you can see the recipe that made Tomb Raider a success.
In addition, Tomb Raider had a strong impact on the PC hardware industry. When game players witnessed what id Software was able to accomplish with GLQuake, they demanded that other games receive an upgrade for 3D hardware-accelerated visuals. Tomb Raider was one of the first games to receive a hardware acceleration patch developed by 3dfx Interactive for use with its Voodoo cards. Many jaws dropped to the floor when game players saw the new, enhanced version of Tomb Raider - a version that showcased much cleaner textures and smoother edges. Indeed, Tomb Raider helped fuel the fire of an industry that would grow at an alarming rate.
Although the Tomb Raider property has lost its luster due to the number of sequels that didn't offer much innovation, Tomb Raider remains a cultural and marketing phenomenon. The game's heroine became one of the most popular characters of all time, appearing time and time again in ads, commercials, and pop-culture fiction. Hollywood has even followed suit with a motion-picture film based on the game, and Lara remains very much the spokesmodel for digital entertainment today.