The entertainment industry has always had a fascination with that bizarre genre niche that sits at the cross-section of action-adventure and archaeology. To really get to grips with where this entire micro-genre comes from, one needs to understand how significant the 1920s and 30s were for this field. During this short window of time, a range of stunning archeological finds was unearthed, from the Ancient lost Sumerian city of Ur to the uncovering of the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Suddenly, the likes of Leonard Woolley and Howard Carter were global celebrities, and archeology was briefly incredibly popular and exciting. This period of time, often called Egyptomania, led to the rise of popular fashion and design trends such as oriental beadwork, Cleopatra-Esque make-up, and mystical iconography. What’s more, the colonial desert khaki and sun-hat took on a popular appeal.
Suddenly, seeking out hidden tombs in far-flung lands was the peak of cool, and Hollywood was more than happy to feed this appetite for exotic adventure tales. Gunga Din (1939), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), The Secret of the Incas (1954), and Valley of the Kings (1954) are all core examples of this genre as it concretized and took on familiar tropes in popular cinema.
Of course, nowadays, when one thinks of this type of film one thinks of the blockbuster trilogy that was directly inspired by these 30s and 40s popcorn flicks – Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones films. It’s undeniable that any film with these themes made since can’t help but take some inspiration and influence from these iconic thrill rides. More recent examples, such as National Treasure and The Mummy, have kept the Archaeological-Adventure trope alive and well.
Yet these films have also inspired a whole other sector, that of video games. Below we’re going to take a look at some of the best examples of this genre as it has shown up in the world of the games industry, a medium that is a perfect fit for the high-stakes adventure and mystery this genre has always promised to deliver.
Still regarded as the Greatest of All Time by many, Tomb Raider and its legendary lead Lara Croft were among the first true breakthrough video games targeting a more mature audience when the first 3 games launched back on the original PlayStation in the late 90s. Since then, Croft and the Tomb Raider series have gone through several reboots and multiple story arcs, all while keeping the captivating core gameplay of the originals intact. That’s no mean feat, and the latest game in the series, 2018’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider, is considered by many to be the best yet.
Rich Wilde and the Book of Dead
This next one belongs to the thriving online slots genre, demonstrating just how adaptable this aesthetic can be. Rich Wilde and the Book of Dead serves up a compelling gameplay experience over its 5-reel, 10 pay-line formats replete with all the mystical symbols and iconography you’d expect from a game based on the tombs of the Egyptian Pharaohs and their sacred text, The Book of the Dead. Join Rich Wilde, a hero cut from the same cloth as Jones himself, as you embark on this journey into the inner sanctum of the great pyramids.
From the outset, developer Naughty Dog’s intention with the Uncharted games was to deliver the kind of action and thrills that were more commonplace in summer blockbuster movies than games. For that reason, it must be quite fitting for them to have witnessed Uncharted make the leap onto the silver screen in 2022’s adaptation of the franchise. The Uncharted games center on the character of Nathan Drake, a happy-go-lucky treasure hunter conceived of as a blend between Harrison Ford and Johnny Knoxville. The games are well-loved for their dynamic gameplay, stunning visuals, and captivating storylines, and still, hold up today as some of the best games made across any platform over the past 15 years.