Lara Croft, one of the first ladies of video games, made her debut in 1996’s Tomb Raider on the original PlayStation console, a game that experienced such success that she almost immediately became a mascot-like character for the system.

Lara’s design has remained largely the same over the last 20-plus years; she generally sports either a tank top or crop top, wears her hair in a ponytail, and on occasion wears small sunglasses. She generally keeps two small pistols in holsters situated on her legs. Because of the simplicity of the design, Lara’s always been a popular choice for cosplayers, but it also meant that small variations on her design had a large impact in later games.

Like many leading characters of serialized fiction, Lara’s backstory went through some changes over the years. In her early days, she was an aristocrat, the daughter of an English Lord; following the events of a plane crash that left her stranded in the Himalayas for several weeks, she shunned her former life of luxury and opted to focus on mercenary and hunting work. Later games retconned the crash to involve Lara’s mother, who went missing following the crash, and the driving force behind Lara’s tomb-raiding expeditions became discovering what happened to her mother. The most recent games completely disregard any sort of aristocratic heritage and instead give Lara an interest in archeology from childhood, as she accompanied her parents – also archeologists – on a variety of trips. On one trip, her mother vanished (the only surviving detail from earlier backstories), and so Lara dedicates her time to becoming a good enough archeologist to uncover the mystery behind what happened.

The popularity of Lara as a character has helped to turn the Tomb Raider franchise into much more than just a video game series. With about a dozen main entries in the series – and about the same amount of spinoff games – she’s certainly been a constant presence on consoles and handhelds over the years. But beyond that, she’s starred in a variety of comic books, as well as been the focal point of three feature films. The films, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, featured Angelina Jolie in the title role, then Alicia Vikander played her in Tomb Raider.

Lara Croft may be one of the most influential characters in gaming history due to the fact that she’s still considered a major catalyst for bringing more female lead characters to the mainstream. It’s been argued that Lara helped to make this happen by redefining what a woman could do in a video game, that she could be just as tough as any male lead. Beyond video games she’s become recognized as a legitimate action hero, and currently holds the Guinness World Record as the single most recognized female video game character.