The story opens with a prologue in Los Alamos County, New Mexico, when a nuclear test causes a great explosion which exposes an ancient device buried beneath the desert surface. The device unlocks and reveals a person in suspended animation. The story then continues in the present day.
In Tomb Raider, Lara Croft hunts for pieces of a talisman called the Scion, the first of which is found in the Tomb of Qualopec in Peru. At a hotel in present-day Calcutta, Lara Croft is approached by an American named Larson Conway, who works for the wealthy businesswoman Jacqueline Natla, owner of Natla Technologies. At Natla's request, Lara sets out on an expedition to recover a mysterious artefact called the Scion (/ˈskiː.ɒn/) from the lost tomb of Qualopec, in the mountains of Peru. After successfully retrieving the object, she is attacked by Larson who attempts to claim it. She beats him then questions him, learning that the artefact she has is only a fragment and that a man named Pierre Dupont has been hired by Natla to collect the rest.
Lara breaks into Natla Technologies to find out Pierre's whereabouts. She discovers a medieval monk's journal, which reveals the depths of an ancient monastery of St. Francis in Greece to house the tomb of Tihocan, a ruler of Atlantis, along with a second piece of the Scion. Travelling to the monastery, Lara descends through an expansive underground complex, pursued and attacked throughout by Pierre Dupont. At the tomb of Tihocan, Lara recovers the second piece of the Scion and finally kills Pierre. An inscription inside the tomb states that Tihocan was "one of the two just rulers" of Atlantis.
When Lara joins the two pieces of the Scion, she receives a vision of the three Atlantean rulers and their respective pieces of the Scion. One of them utilises it to create a mutant breed, but the other two confront her, and take her piece of the Scion. Then Atlantis is struck by a fireball from the skies, and the three pieces of the Scion become scattered as the civilisation is destroyed. One of them goes to Egypt, Lara's next destination.
Lara travels to the City of Khamoon, a temple complex in Egypt that houses the final fragment. Here she battles the fierce mutants seen in her vision, and is once again confronted by Larson, this time in a battle to the death. She then takes the final piece of the Scion from the underground sanctuary. Upon leaving the tomb, she is ambushed by Natla and her henchmen, who steal the three artefacts and nearly kill her.
Having escaped, Lara stows away on their boat, which takes her to a remote island where mining operations of Natla Technologies have partially exposed the Great Pyramid of Atlantis. After making her way through the mines dispatching Natla's goons and the mutant-infested interior of Atlantis, Lara reaches the heart of the pyramid chamber, where the complete Scion has been fused together as a source of power. Touching it, Lara receives another vision, where Natla is revealed as the previously seen third ruler of Atlantis. She betrays her co-rulers by abusing the power of the Scion for genetic experimentation, and as punishment is locked in a stasis cell by Tihocan and Qualopec, her resting place until the prologue of the game.
Natla enters the chamber and confronts Lara; having reclaimed the artefacts, she attempts to restore her former power with an army of mutants. Lara attempts to shoot the scion, Natla tackles her through the observation window. Natla falls into a crevasse, but Lara manages to land on the breeding platform, confronting Natla's largest mutant abomination. After defeating the monstrosity, she destroys the scion and attempts to escape the collapsing pyramid. As she makes her way out she meets Natla a final time, now mutated and winged. After beating her, Lara flees the island just as the place is destroyed.
The music for Tomb Raider was composed by Nathan McCree. Unlike most other games of the time, there was not a musical track playing constantly throughout the game; instead, limited musical cues would play only during specially-selected moments to produce a dramatic effect, such as enhancing tension during an action sequence or accompanying the discovery of a hidden secret. For the majority of the game, the only audio heard is action-based effects (e.g. footsteps or explosions), atmospheric sounds (like the roar of a nearby waterfall), and Lara's own grunts and sighs, all of which were enhanced because they did not have to compete with music.
The game uses a solo oboe melody for the main theme. Variations of this main theme have been used throughout all of the Tomb Raider games. The soundtrack of Anniversary was composed by Troels Brun Folmann, but loosely based on the original.
The symphonic sounds of the earlier games were created using Roland Corporation's Orchestral Expansion board for their JV series keyboards.
The game was developed in Derby, England by Core Design and Published by Eidos Interactive featuring Lara Croft the female British archaeologist created by Toby Gard.