Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, the newly titled next video game starring everyone’s favourite whip-wielding archaeologist, is set in the year 1937. But where does that place it in the grander Indy timeline? Well, we know it’s set in-between the Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade, the first and third films in the original trilogy respectively. But it’s a little more complicated than just that, with other films and games coming both before and after Dr Jones’ latest adventure. Let’s take a quick look at his story so far, the artifacts he’s already discovered, and the relationships he’s forged (and broken).

What’s Come Before

The first Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, is set in 1936, but it isn’t actually the earliest chronologically. That would be The Temple of Doom, which takes place a year prior in 1935. Indy’s journey to deepest, darkest India would see him go in search of a mystical stone in order to help a nearby village from a dangerous cult who have been kidnapping their children and practicing black magic.

Along the way, Jones would survive attempts to have his heart stolen by the cult in honor of the Goddess Kali, but would eventually have it taken (figuratively) by Wilhelmina “Willie” Scott in a short-lived romance. Willie would not be mentioned again in the Indiana Jones series, apart from a photograph seen in the 1957-set Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, so it’s unlikely we will see her resurface in the Great Circle.

Indy was seemingly very busy in 1935 though, with video game Indiana Jones and The Emperor’s Tomb also set in that year. Acting as a prequel to The Temple of Doom, it follows Indy as he goes looking for the titular tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. It also sees Jones take on what will become an all-too familiar foe for one of the first times: the Nazis.

The Nazis would once again be Indy’s opponents in the race to uncover the Ark of the Covenant in Harrison Ford’s first appearance as Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Set one year after Indy’s Asian expeditions of 1935, he would actually lose the race to find the artifact, but ultimately win by remembering to close his eyes and keep his face. This would lead to the destructive powers of the ark being stored away for safe-keeping in a cavernous government facility.

On this journey Indy would reconnect with Marion Ravenwood, a former romantic interest who would become a current one again after the two get tied up fighting the Nazis in Egypt during 1936. Despite the reigniting of their feelings, the couple wouldn’t last long together, with developer MachineGames confirming that they have separated just before the events of The Great Circle. They would eventually rekindle their relationship years down the line in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but for now Marion is out of the picture and almost certainly will not feature as part of the game.

What to Expect

That leaves Indy in a particularly lonely place in 1937 when it comes to the beginning of the Great Circle, then. Marion is nowhere to be seen and at this point in his life he’s still estranged from his father, Dr Henry Jones Sr., who he won’t reconcile with for another year yet until the events of The Last Crusade.

One familiar face who can be spotted in the reveal trailer is that of long-time friend and confidant Marcus Brody. A museum curator with a shared passion for archaeology, Brody appears in both Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade, so we know that he’ll survive the events of the Great Circle no matter what happens. Also, the Nazis are back to ruin Indy’s day. He loves those guys!

But what will be the objective on Indy’s adventure this time around? The circle itself seems geographical in nature rather than referring to any specific artifact. Here’s what Jerk Gustafsson, game director at MachineGames, says can be inferred from the title in an interview with Lucasfilm:

“A “great circle” is any circle that divides a sphere in half. On Earth, the most well-known one is obviously the equator. But they can exist from any point really, and are used heavily in aviation when plotting your course. It turns out there is a very real and mysterious great circle that is not the equator, but one that connects many of history’s greatest historical sites such as Giza, Easter Island, Sukhothai, Nazca, and many more. Their connection has remained a mystery, and this provides the perfect adventure for our game.”

What’s to Follow

1937 remains a mysterious chapter in Indy’s life for now then, but what we do know is what will happen the following year. The Last Crusade is the next part in Indy’s story after The Great Circle and takes place in 1938. It sees him once again facing off with the Nazis as they race to find yet another lost treasure in the lead up to World War Two, which will start one year later. That treasure is, of course, The Holy Grail, the cup of Christ that is believed to be the source of immortality. It’s an interesting choice of relic for the Third Reich, but it would be Indy who chooses wisely in the end, however, with his Nazi captors paying the ultimate price for their greed.

So, could the Great Circle somehow link to another very famous mythological item in the form of The Round Table from Arthurian legend? Could this very tangential link I’m creating to King Arthur’s Knights and the knight who guards The Holy Grail in The Last Crusade be something that triggers that quest one year later? Probably not, I’m just having a bit of fun with it.

Will the Great Circle end with Indiana Jones confronting a mob boss on a stormy Portuguese coast just like how the first 1938-set scene of the Last Crusade plays out? That’s perhaps a little more likely.

Either way, the early signs of MachineGames’ new Indiana Jones adventure look very promising and – crucially – faithful to the thrillingly adventurous nature of the two fantastic films it is bookended by chronologically. There’s plenty of 1937-set blank pages left to be filled by the Great Circle, then, when it releases later in 2024.

Simon Cardy loves Indiana Jones more than most things in this world. Follow him on Twitter at @CardySimon.

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