Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark has been referenced into cultural ubiquity. Even if you haven’t seen the film itself, chances are you’ve seen one of the countless parodies of its opening scene–complete with a careful sandbag switcheroo and a boulder chase.
Nowadays, the franchise doesn’t hold the same popularity it used to, with its most recent installment, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, receiving middling critical responses. But it has influenced a number of independent projects–games, movies, and more–which has arguably created a new sub-genre of action adventure.
1. Temple Run
Developed in 2011 by Imangi Studios, Temple Run has remained a popular staple of the mobile gaming scene ever since. You’ve probably seen gameplay from Temple Run 2 in your TikTok or YT Shorts feed. It’s the kind of game that gets placed beside the actual content to keep our ADHD lizard brains occupied.
You play as a treasure hunter who steals a gold idol. Subsequently, you are chased by demon-like gorillas. Unlike other endless runner games like Subway Surfers, you tilt your device to navigate, dodging gaps and traps your path.
The golden idol, ancient temple, and jungle setting take clear inspiration from Raiders of the Lost Ark. In fact, one of the unlockable characters is named “Montana Smith”, a clear nod to the name Indiana Jones.
Created by developer Derek Yu in 2008, Spelunky remains a staple within the pantheon of classic rogue-like games. A rogue-like game is a video game in which levels are procedurally generated to be different every time. Upon death, the player must start over from the beginning.
Spelunky’s Indiana Jones inspirations are obvious. The main character, dubbed “Guy Spelunky”, is a fedora-toting, whip-wielding treasure hunter who is afraid of snakes. And the end goal is attaining a gold idol not too dissimilar from the one in the opening to Raiders.
Spelunky does shake up the aesthetic by adding elements from Egyptian historical sites, as well as the Ice Cave levels. This makes the game feel more visually rounded and distinct. But at its core, the spirit of the Indiana Jones films remains a central tenant of the experience.
From the creators of Crash Bandicoot came the Uncharted series. It remains a staple of the action-adventure genre, being one of the first video games to embrace a more cinematic style. You play as Nathan Drake, the wise-cracking, globe-trotting treasure hunter. Unlike Jones, he’s in it for the money but still has a heart of gold underneath the greed.
Gameplay is comprised of climbing, shooting, and the occasional puzzle section. It contains multiple semi-scripted set pieces, such as the chase scene in the third game. It is reminiscent of The Last Crusade‘s tank chase scene, where motorized vehicles and horses clash on long desert roads.
It’s full of fun, action-focused, globe-spanning adventures. If you wanted an Indiana Jones video game, the Uncharted series is everything you could ever ask for. Or it would be if it weren’t for…
4. Tomb Raider
No game embodies the influence of Indiana Jones more than Tomb Raider. Originally developed in the 1990s by Eidos Interactive, Tomb Raider is the story of Lara Croft. She is the akimbo-wielding archaeologist who, just like Jones, will defile any number of ancient sites to uncover mystical artifacts.
I can’t personally speak for the gameplay style of older Tomb Raider installments, but having played its 2013 remake, it’s a third-person shooting game with some survival elements and climbing sections. Players have to manage resources and craft upgrades for their weapons, navigate dangerous environments, and eliminate enemies through stealth or combat.
Unlike Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider puts more emphasis on the fantastical elements of its genre. The first game centers around locating the city of Atlantis, for example. Or in the 2013 remake, where Lara is stranded on a magical island off the coast of Japan. Indiana Jones has always explored the intersection of theology and archaeology, but Tomb Raider brings it front and center.
In this age of prequels, sequels, and remakes, many would argue the IJ franchise hasn’t recaptured the magic of the first three films. Maybe that’s true. But even if the franchise is a shambling zombie, summoned from the grave by an increasingly rapacious Disney, its spirit lives on in the many creations it has inspired.