When Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark landed on cinema screens in 1981, it forever changed the world of action-adventure films.
Harrison Ford was already a big star thanks to his role as Han Solo, but he took center stage in Steven Spielberg’s epic. Viewers were glued to the screen as Indy ran, jumped, and fought his way to the film’s conclusion, setting off a chain of canonical events still producing films, but a chain of real-life events that saw hundreds of imitations spring up across digital media.
There’s no denying that without Indiana Jones, there would probably not be a Lara Croft. The fantastic Tomb Raider character first appeared on home consoles as early as 1996 and has since become an action hero in her own right, but the stories and themes borrow heavily from the Indiana Jones series. That’s only the tip of the iceberg, particularly in video gaming, where Indy has become so aped, copied and mimicked, he has almost created his own game genre!
Some characters are loosely based on Indy, the first being Rick Dangerous. Interestingly, Rick Dangerous was a game developed for Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari St and that era of home computers, but it came from Core Design, who were also behind the original Lara Croft. The similarities here are striking; Rick Dangerous, the star of the game, travels to the Amazon Jungle to search for a lost tribe. His plane crashes, and he has to outrun a boulder to survive; it’s a game bordering on copyright infringement as it’s so heavily laden with Indy themes and plots.
Rick Dangerous came out in 1989, and there was a sequel, Rick Dangerous 2, and it seemed they tried to shed the Indy vibe; his iconic hat was even blown off in the game’s opening sequence. Still, six years later, Core Designs had refined the idea of a tomb raiding hero with Tomb Raider.
It isn’t just direct platform games that we see the Indiana Jones inspiration either. A visit to the Gala Bingo range of online slots reveals a game called Book of the Fallen, featuring a character who looks suspiciously similar to Indiana Jones. It isn’t the only title from the provider that leans on themes from the film either; Book of Ra Temple of Gold has a similar character, albeit female, wearing Indy’s iconic hat. Elsewhere on mobile devices, titles such as Temple Run lean heavily on themes thrown up in the Indy films, as does the recent release Secrets of the Temple.
Some games make no apology for their Indy influence. La-Mulana, from 2005, was developed for the Wii, PC, Mac, Linux and PlayStation Vita but was designed to feel like a platform game from the time of the Indy films. There’s a definite Indy clone on the cover with that recognizable hat. The game was a huge hit, to such an extent that Destructoid revealed a sequel was crowdfunded and released to a waiting audience.
We could go on and on. Spelunky, another platform game, featured a protagonist with a whip exploring caves full of enemies. Flight of the Amazon Queen was set just after World War II and featured a protagonist afraid of snakes. Pitfall, released on Atari 2600 in 1982, clearly sought to cash in on the film’s success before licensing became such a thing. There have even been direct interpretations such as Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures. In fact, the only action film of the era that is likely to compare is Star Wars, again featuring Harrison Ford.
Most action movies do influence video games; everything from Die Hard to Lethal Weapon has had a video game, and the influence of some films can be seen in games such as Grand Theft Auto. However, it seems unlikely that any action movie has had the same cultural impact or lasting effect as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.