One of the greatest pleasures in video gaming is the discovery (intentional or otherwise) of “Easter eggs”, those little jokes, secret levels, or hidden messages that game developers insert in their games for the players’ amusement. With a back catalogue spanning almost two decades and across multiple platforms, the Tomb Raider series has had its fair share of “Easter eggs”, ranging from humourous references to fan community in-jokes to visual gags that may be missed on a first playthrough.
If you’re looking for a list of Rise of the Tomb Raider Easter eggs, check out this article instead.
So without further ado, here are my 15 favourite Tomb Raider “Easter eggs” in no particular order:
1) The Ark of the Covenant in Tomb Raider (1996)
The developers of the original 1996 game made no secret of the fact that the Indiana Jones films were the main inspiration for Tomb Raider and they paid homage to these much-loved films by putting an Ark of the Covenant in Lara’s debut game. In case you missed it the first time around, you can find the Ark in the main hall of Croft Manor. However, there’s no sign of it in TR: Anniversary, perhaps due to copyright issues. Dr Jones must have access to some good lawyers…
2) T-Rex Valley in Tomb Raider 2
Some may argue that this isn’t really a true Easter egg but, trust me, stumbling upon the T-Rex valley in TR2’s opening level, The Great Wall, seemed like an astonishing achievement at the time (this was before the days of Stella’s Tomb Raider walkthroughs). The encounter with the T-Rex in TR1’s Lost Valley level was one of the most memorable moments in the series’ history so it seems fitting that Core Design put a “lost” valley containing not one but TWO T-Rexes in the sequel. *hums the Jurassic Park theme*
3) Lara’s Underpus plushie in Tomb Raider 2013
The 2013 reboot contained numerous references to the older games and one of them is in the form of a cuddly toy. When Lara makes her way to the shipwrecked Endurance and explores what’s left of her cabin, you may spot a familiar face amongst the debris: a plushie version of the Kraken (or “Underpus”) seen in TR: Underworld. Such an adorable little squiddy…
4) Indiana Jones skeleton in The Last Revelation
If you explore the ruins of Angkor Wat in The Last Revelation, you may spot a skeleton lying between some spikes. Hmm, that hat and whip lying next to it look familiar, don’t they? Looks like a certain Dr Jones may have beaten Lara to Angkor…though it seems that Ms Croft had the last laugh.
5) Football cheer in Tomb Raider: Legend
Ever wondered about that football lying around in Legend’s Peru level? If you use the Interact button and kick the ball into the makeshift goal (marked by flags over a gap in the fence near the market stall), you’ll hear an imaginary crowd cheering you on. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLL!
6) Maria Doria and Dagger of Xian references in Tomb Raider: Anniversary
Some people don’t really consider these true Easter eggs but they still made me smile. The books scattered across Croft Manor in TR: Anniversary contain references not only to Atlantis and Vilcabamba (both of which are locations in the game) but also to the Maria Doria and Dagger of Xian, which feature prominently in TR2. A transcript of all the passages read by Lara in Anniversary can be found here.
7) Majestic 12 reference in Tomb Raider 3
UFO conspiracy theorists might appreciate this little Easter egg in Tomb Raider 3’s High Security Compound level. The moveable crates that block Lara’s acccess to the level’s first secret bear the marking “MJ-12” (“Majestic 12”), which conspiracy theorists believed to be the codename for a secret government committee formed in 1947 by US president Harry S. Truman for the purpose of recovering and researching alien spacecraft. The truth is out there…and it turns out that documents referring to this allegedly top-secret organization were little more than elaborate hoaxes.
8) “Crystal Dynamics Rules” in Tomb Raider: Legend
This one is easy to miss but a phrase can be seen time and again throughout the King’s Crypt in Legend’s England level. You may need to use binoculars in some sections to zoom in for a closer look but take a good look at the inscriptions on the columns, above the archways, and on the rubble next to Sir Bedwyr’s crypt. In some cases, the text may be mirrored or seem to be missing a few letters here and there but the message is clear: “Crystal Dynamics rules”. Quite.
9) Indiana Jones whip and fedora in Tomb Raider: Anniversary
There seems to be no shortage of Indiana Jones references in the TR games. Indy’s iconic whip and fedora can be seen on a deadly rolling boulder in the Tomb of Qualopec (TR: Anniversary version). The only downside is that stopping to take a good look at the imprints may result in your death. But, hey, it’s worth it, right?
10) FeeFee the Crab in Tomb Raider 2013
Cynics may argue that Crystal Dynamics never listen to what TR fans want but this Easter egg is proof that they do welcome feedback and keep a close eye on fans’ discussions in the official forums. When the “Turning Point” trailer was released, sharp-eyed fans spotted a red crab on the rocks and christened it “FeeFee”. Crystal Dynamics got wind of this and incorporated FeeFee into the final game, going as far as awarding a bronze trophy/achievement named “Crab Cakes” to any gamer who shot a crab on Shipwreck Beach. How’s that for fan service?
11) Exploding Lara in Tomb Raider 2
Easter egg, cheat code, call it what you will. If you enter the level skip code from TR1 while playing TR2, poor Lara will be blown to smithereens. Pull yourself together, woman…
12) Nathan Drake skeleton in Lara Croft & the Temple of Osiris
OK, Temple of Osiris isn’t strictly a Tomb Raider title but Lara Croft is in it and that’s good enough for this list. But did you know that Lara isn’t the only famous treasure hunter in the game? I’m not referring to her new rival, Carter Bell, but another well-known video game character who goes by the name Nathan Drake. You can find the rotten remains of Uncharted’s protagonist on the floor of the Pyramid of Osiris. Better luck next time, Nate…
13) Chachapoyan gold idol in Tomb Raider 3
Gamers who are able to find their way into the treasure room in Croft Manor in TR3 will find some of Lara’s acquisitions on display. These include the Atlantean Scion (TR1), the Dagger of Xian (TR2), a T-Rex head, and a golden idol that looks remarkably similar to the Chachapoyan fertility idol Indiana Jones is searching for in the opening scenes of the 1981 classic Raiders of the Lost Ark. Whether the idol in TR3 is really supposed to be yet another nod to the Indy Jones films is open to debate, but given the number of Indy Jones references found throughout the Core Design games, I’d certainly like to think it is. I wonder if Lara can speak Hovitos…
14) Natla Industries crates in Tomb Raider: Legend
When fans spotted some crates labelled “Natla Industries” in Legend’s Bolivia Redux level, it created quite a stir within the TR community. Was it just a mere Easter egg or was there much more to it? At the time, there was no way to know that Crystal Dynamics were putting the finishing touches on a remake of the original 1996 Tomb Raider or that the disgraced Atlantean queen would later return to try and bring about the Seventh Age (or Ragnarok) in Underworld. Some people just don’t know when to stay down.
15) “Ah-ha!” in Tomb Raider 2013
When the reboot was released back in March 2013, many TR fans (myself included) were curious to see whether Lara’s latest outing contained any Easter eggs referencing the older games. While there’s a relative dearth of Classic TR Easter eggs in the 2013 game, this one more than makes for it. When you’ve successfully collected all of the GPS caches scattered across Yamatai, you’ll hear the very familiar “secret” chime from the Core Design games and Lara exclaiming “Ah-ha! There’s a note inside”. I may not be a massive fan of the reboot but this epic throwback to the games of my teenage years almost brought a tear to my eye… *sniff*
An Honourable Mention…
An honourable mention goes to my favourite Easter egg from the 2001 film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. When Lara runs into rival treasure hunter Alex West at the auction house, Alex puts her on the spot and asks her why they always need to fight. To which she replies “You stole my prayers wheels”. Now, if this isn’t a playful nod to my all-time favourite Tomb Raider game, Tomb Raider 2, I’ll be damned…
What are your favourite Tomb Raider Easter eggs? Feel free to share your comments below!**
** In case anyone is wondering why I didn’t mention the Legacy of Kain Easter eggs found in the LAU trilogy, it’s because I’ve never played any of the LoK games and thus didn’t feel any real connection to these. Apologies to all LoK fans who may be reading this. 😉