Bafta Games Awards: Lara Croft voted most iconic character ever

Lara Croft has been named the most iconic video game character of all time to mark the 20th Bafta Games Awards.

It's been 28 years since Tomb Raider introduced gamers to Lara and she's changed quite a bit in that time.

"She's gone from being very pointy and childlike in drawing to very filmic," says Shelley Blond, the actress who voiced the original Lara.

The character beat the likes of Mario and Sonic for the title in a poll of gamers.

Shelley tells BBC Newsbeat she's not surprised, even though she admits she's never played the game herself.

"What is so iconic about Lara Croft is the fact that she is [a] female lead in a video game," she says.

"She's all about girl power and female empowerment. She's at the forefront, she is what the adventure is."

The video game launched the wider Lara Croft franchise - multiple video games, as well as blockbuster films starring Angelina Jolie and even a Netflix series expected later this year.

Mario fist pumping the air. Mario is an animation based on an Italian plumber, wearing a red hat and top with blue overalls. He wears white gloves and has blue eyes and a bushy brown moustache.
Mario's creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, said he had to create the first version of the character from just a "16x16 pixel square" [NINTENDO]

When Shelley first landed the job of voicing Lara, she was told to take inspiration from a certain fedora-sporting explorer.

"The direction I got in the studio was she's a female Indiana Jones," says Shelley.

"So she's gutsy, sassy, similar kind of dress, similar kind of adventures - but British.

"The girls could relate to her and girls can do everything that Indiana Jones can do."

Gamers play in front of a huge mural of Sonic The Hedgehog at Paris Games Week in 2022.
Sonic the Hedgehog ranked as the fourth most popular character of all time [Getty Images]

Shelley will be at the Bafta Games Awards on 11 April to present an award, but despite voicing the most iconic video game character, she says the only game she's ever played herself is Pac-Man.

"I've never played Tomb Raider," she tells Newsbeat.

"My original copy is still in its box, wrapped."

But her beloved Pac-Man wasn't forgotten, charting a respectable sixth in the rankings for most iconic character.

Pac-Man ghosts on the video game. Pac-Man is a yellow circle missing a triangle which acts as a mouth. The animation follows small pink dots around a black and blue maze and is pursued by four animated ghosts - one blue, one red, one yellow and one pink.
Pac-Man, which sees players chased through a maze by ghosts, was first released in 1980 [Getty Images]

The hungry yellow hockey-puck was pipped by Mario, who ranked second, Hitman's Agent 47 in third, Sonic the Hedgehog at number four and Sackboy from Little Big Planet who came in fifth.

Making up the rest of the top 10 were Link from Legend of Zelda, HALO's Master Chief, Kratos of God of War and Shadowheart from Baldur's Gate 3.

Bafta says more than 4,000 gamers around the world took part in the poll through its website.

Shadowheart from Baldur's Gate 3. Shadowheart is a filmic animation of an elfish woman with cropped brown hair and a short fringe. She wears metal plated armour and looks down at a glowing orb she holds in her hands
Shadowheart was only introduced to gamers in 2023 and is one of the "youngest characters", Bafta says [Larian Studios]

The games and franchises which created the top 20 most popular characters have collected 44 Bafta Games Awards between them over the past two decades, according to the Academy.

A spokesperson says they aren't just loved as video game characters, but are "some of the most memorable characters of any medium".

Screenshot of Tears of the Kingdom with silent protagonist Link pictured alongside villagers and monsters from the game. Link is an elfish character with blonde hair and blue eye. He wears traditional blue and green robes and carries a shield and weapons.
Link has appeared in 20 games in the Legend of Zelda franchise [Nintendo]

Shelley says while they might be "terrific fun", it's harder to relate to them.

"But you can be this phenomenal character of Lara," she says.

"And what I've noticed over the years is how Lara has helped so many people.

"I've heard so many stories and that is a magical thing, which I don't think a little yellow face eating circles - or a hedgehog - could do."

The full top-20 list is available to see here.

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