Look to the Croft
Lara Croft was once the first lady of video games. While other mascots represented a single game or company, Lara epitomized '90s-era gaming as a whole. Her dual pistols, skimpy outfit, and cocksure attitude were the holy trifecta of escapist entertainment, promising Indiana Jones-style action with all the sex appeal that technology could squeeze out of 1996 hardware.
In her prime, Ms. Croft was poised to conquer the world. Her blocky visage started popping up everywhere. She appeared in comics, movies, had a street named after her, and was entered into The Guinness Book of World Records. Plus, she was one hell of a spokeswoman, hocking all kinds of wares, from credit cards to magazine subscriptions. These are some of our favorite examples of Lara's runaway popularity outside the realm of video games. Few others in our medium can claim such an eclectic list of accolades, sponsorships, and cameos.
Re\Visioned: Tomb Raider Animated Series
This 10-part compilation of animated shorts did for Tomb Raider what The Animatrix did for The Matrix. Each episode was produced by a different artist/writer combo who bring their own distinct style to the world of Tomb Raider. Re\Visioned was released in 2007 via GameTap - an online gaming service that appears to be defunct now in all but name - but if you poke around YouTube you'll find a few intrepid users have excavated this series from the digital ruins.
She's a Guinness World Records holder
At one point it seems Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider series held as many as six Guinness World Records, though today, Guinness' official website only recognizes two of them: "Best-selling videogame heroine" and "Most official real-life stand-ins for a videogame character." There's also an entry for "Largest collection of Tomb Raider memorabilia" held by Spanish collector Rodrigo Santos and his 2,383 pieces of Lara-related swag.
Angelina Jolie plays Lara in two movies
In a testament to Lara Croft's international popularity, two big-budget Hollywood movies were produced based on the Tomb Raider franchise. Angelina Jolie was cast in the leading role, and while popular opinion praised her portrayal of Ms. Croft, her acting prowess wasn't enough to rescue these movies from becoming a nonsensical mess. Both Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life received poor reviews, but they're still some of the best video game movies released yet (which really says something).
She's also an accomplished musician
At some point in the mid-'90s, Dave Stewart - who's half of the French pop duo Eurythmics - met up with Rhona Mitra - a model and actress portraying Lara Croft in various ads at the time - to co-produce two concept albums about the famous archaeologist. Mitra recorded the lyrics for Lara Croft: Come Alive and Lara Croft: Female Icon in-character and - as the story goes - the recording studio itself was a boat sailing down the Amazon river. We'd expect nothing less from this globetrotting adventurer.
Lara Croft had a spot on the Walk of Game
Created in 2005, the Walk of Game was the video game equivalent of Hollywood's Walk of Fame, honoring notable games, characters, and creators. Each entrant received his or her own custom floor tile featuring a little guy who looks suspicious like Commander Video from Bit.Trip Runner. However, in 2012, the area where the tiles were located was bought up by Target, who subsequently removed all those tacky stars. Who knows where they ended up.
There's a road in Lara's hometown named after her
Tomb Raider was originally developed by British developer Core Design, located in the city of Derby, England. In 2010, the citizens of Derby voted to name one of their new roads 'Lara Croft Way' in honor of their virtual hometown heroine. According to the BBC, Lara took home almost 90-percent of the vote, beating out an astronomer, a football star, and an engineer (all of whom are actual people).
She's been in several commercials, including Visa...
I'm not sure how a Visa credit card is supposed to help you fight off a gargantuan, heavily armored monster, and because this commercial ends of a cliffhanger, I guess we'll never know.
Along with Crash Bandicoot and Sweet Tooth, Lara Croft was part of Sony's roving band of de facto PlayStation mascots. This particular commercial perpetuates the disgusting stereotype that every guy in the '90s had spiky hair.
In this extremely bizarre mashup of survival horror, Lara Croft, and (of all things) Pringles chips, our hero gets a completely out-of-character striptease from Ms. Croft for seemingly no reason after all seems lost. Jesus Christ, Pringles, if there's one thing I don't need to be while enjoying your product, it's titillated.
In a very postmodern move, G4 Media decided to present Lara not as an action star, but as just a normal, computer-generated human being with thoughts and feelings. This didn't make the commericals any less awkward, however.
Okay, while the whole Pong gag was played out even by late-'90s/early-2000s standards, Lara's sudden angry face does make me chuckle every time. Also, what's going on with Lara's butler in the background? Dude looks like a gargoyle.
Now this is your classic Lara Croft advert. I'm pretty sure that if you could summon a SUV out of thin air while playing the games, this brand awareness ability would've made Tomb Raider a lot easier. Also, if you're planning on jumping a lot of chasms in your vehicle, make sure you go with the SEAT Ibiza.
Lucozade - a UK-based brand of sports drink - saved Lara's neck a few time with the power of brand awareness. But are we really supposed to believe that, before venturing into an underground temple, Lara only packed a sports drink, energy bar, and some generic cola? No wonder those dogs are always chasing her - she's carrying a backpack full of snacks.
...and a used game store, or something
Your guess is as good as mine on this one.
Voodoo 5 graphics card
This video tears at my soul. I physically recoil from the screen, my chest tightening in apprehension of the horrors that are about to unfold - and they are many. Here we find some woman (who I'm confident is not being paid enough for this) delivering a new graphics card to what I assume is the winner of some contest. Mind-shattering levels of cringe-worthy discomfort ensue as the two spend what feels like an eternity together giving each other awkward hugs. The video ends with Lara fleeing in her jeep from this waking nightmare.