The godfather of grinding is back! If, like me, you’re still reeling from the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 remaster announcement, then this should hopefully moisten the lips just a tiny bit more. The Tony Hawk’s games were a vital part of the late ’90s to early 2000’s teen culture, bringing with them a significant impact in terms of skateboarding and music. It’s fair to say that many of us become a giddy goose thinking about wall-riding the bells in the school, whilst bobbing along to the anthemic tune of “Bring The Noise”. The hype is already underway with the official soundtrack of the first games now available on Spotify.
Aside from my childhood wants being satiated with this wonderful bright note in an otherwise drab 2020, the remasters will bring with them some of the greatest gameplay ever created. That’s not just glorified sensationalist video game journalism, it’s an indisputable fact that these games are some of the highest rated games of all-time. Did you know that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, on the PS1, stands at 98 on Metacritic? The best game of all-time is only one point above it. There’s your fact of the day.
Whilst the series did tail off a bit towards the latter end of its releases, some of them were still just as enjoyable. Therefore, I will attempt to make my own list of the essential Tony Hawk’s games.
Dishonorable Mentions: Any of the Tony Hawk’s games featuring the skateboard peripheral device, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5.
9. Tony Hawk’s Proving Grounds
The final game to be developed by Neversoft before the disastrous reign of “Robomodo” began. I think this was the last “decent” Tony Hawk’s game before the series derailed spectacularly. There wasn’t anything fundamentally BAD about Proving Grounds, it’s just that it didn’t do anything to reinvigorate what was already becoming a stale franchise. When you consider the fact that this was the first proper Tony Hawk’s game for next-gen – Project 8 was also on the Xbox 360/PS3, but this one was specifically focused on the PS3 and Xbox 360 – it just didn’t really do enough, and the sales showed.
Nothing too memorable, nothing too bad, it’s just… there.
Notable level: Philadelphia.
8. Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland
American Wasteland was marketed on the game being a network of connected levels, making for one instantly accessible open-world. This was rather deceptive as the levels were basically connected by excessive loading times, masking the load time a la modern day games where your character fits them a needless, narrow crawl-space. You could also commandeer bicycles and some gameplay additions were added such as the Bert Slide.
Whilst I enjoyed American Wasteland, it didn’t have a patch on the Underground phase we’d just been through. It felt like Neversoft intentionally ditched some of that insanity in favour of restoring the status quo.
Notable level: Santa Monica Pier – I enjoyed riding the Ferris wheel, sadly.
7. Tony Hawk’s Project 8
Now, I actually enjoyed the concept of this game. Tony wants to form his own team of Avengers to sponsor and make into skateboard gods. I mean it’s good, but it’s got no chance of lifting Mjolnir. However, the levels were huge – combining many of the earlier levels in the franchise – and offered plenty to explore.
It was an improvement on the more generic nature of American Wasteland. It introduced a new “Nail The Trick” feature that shifted the spotlight towards the player’s feet and required the analogue sticks to land a sweet-ass trick. All-in-all, this was how the franchise should’ve gone forward. *sigh*
Notable level: The Capitol
6. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
Where it all began.
What a mammoth game in the grand context of things. It’s fair to say that this game helped to put skateboarding on the map and drive parents around the world insane. Australian Design Review had this to say:
In 2002, within a span of three years, the number of skateboarders worldwide increased by more than 60 percent – from 7.8 million in 1999 to 12.5 million in 2002
So you may be scratching your head furiously wondering why this is only number 6. It’s simple: this game was something else back in 1999. However, it’s now 2020 and we’ve had many Tony Hawk’s games in that 21-year span. Meaning that some of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater has become a bit dated. No real depth to its levels. NO MANUAL. Good god, the thought of having no manual to bridge the gap between tricks makes me queasy just thinking about it. How else are we supposed to get scores in the millions?! All jokes aside, this game is still fantastic, albeit overshadowed by the standards of future releases.
Notable level: Warehouse
5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4
THPS4 was the first attempt at venturing outside the restricted ‘level format’ of the first three games. Providing NPC’s to offer missions and quests for you to do. It was building the early framework for later releases that would become a lot more story-centric. The game was still more of an extension of THPS3 – the first release on the PS2 – and seemed like more of a safer release. Like Home Alone 2 to Home Alone 1 …not Home Alone 4 to Home Alone 1.
The game also evolved the core gameplay of the series by introducing spine transfers – no, the game didn’t become some sadistic early prototype for Surgeon Simulator – and hitching on the back of cars to build-up speed and propel players at light speed.
Notable level: Zoo – You can literally grind an elephant, wait what…
4. Tony Hawk’s Underground
Arguably the ballsiest thing the series has ever done. By 2003, Tony Hawk’s games were hugely popular, had already made a lot of money, and were highly regarded by professional publications with each release. But it’s clear that after THPS4, something needed to change. The format had become rigid and Underground was the water that needed to be added to help the series blossom.
With an intense narrative between ‘Unnamed protagonist’ and the evil Eric Sparrow, you actually had as solid a story as any sports game has ever had before. Starting with the muddy, almost desolate rags of New Jersey, to the celebrity highs of a tank in Russia, the game is anything but run of the mill.
The only minor drawbacks were the graphics – that were becoming a bit dated – and the janky on-foot/car mechanics that felt clunky and like you were carrying your own personal 16-tonne weight.
Notable level: Manhattan
3. Tony Hawk’s Underground 2
As a highly impressionable 11-year-old, this game was just the best. Some may argue that this game jumped the shark and spat on it, especially after the serious nature of Tony Hawk’s Underground. But quite simply, I don’t care; this game was HILARIOUS.
With Jackass and Viva La Bam being hugely popular around this time – Disclaimer: I may or may not have watched these programs that I was not old enough to watch, sue me – Underground 2 capitalized on this edgy market. With the duo of Bam Margera and Birdman embarking on a World Destruction Tour, performing outrageous stunts and gags, it made an already fun game funny.
Add in some new tricks and a full Classic Mode to enjoy, and you’ve got a hefty package of skateboarding goodness here.
Notable level: Barcelona – Listening to “Ring of Fire” whilst releasing a bull.
2. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
This decision was so close. But ultimately, THPS2 has JUST been edged out. But that’s no disgrace; this is a phenomenal game.
Packed full of varied levels from the Hangar, to School, to the Bull Ring in Mexico. The addition of the legendary ‘Manual’ move – an absolute game-changer by the way – and just generally took everything that made the first game so great and bettered it. An incredible soundtrack that influenced a generation and received maximum marks from many outlets cross the board.
For many people, this will be their no.1 choice. I would completely understand that as I’ve thought a couple of times that it would be mine.
Notable level: School – A million times yes.
But the honour goes to…
1. Tony Hawks Downhill Jam
The only racing game in the franchise. What a ride! It’s also probably the greatest game I’ve ever played.
You didn’t really believe me, did you?
The Real 1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3
Can’t beat some good, honest trolling can you?
Yes, THPS3 scoops the award. Whilst I’m over-the-moon about the first two games getting the remaster treatment, a part of me is crying out for the third one to get it ASAP. The first THPS game to come to the PS2, and I spent hours upon hours grinding my skateboard wheels into the ground of the airport and ending my combos in Canadian snow. The Suburbs, The Ship, Skater Island; honestly, this game was jam-packed full of creative levels that I spent much of my formative years on.
It also expanded upon the manual mechanic by adding the revert, another huge feature to utilize if you wanted to do ginormous combos of epic proportions. I truly feel that whilst later games added enhancements that would ultimately improve the skateboarding, this is the game that felt the most refined to me. Plus, it had “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead on the soundtrack.
So there you have it! The 9 best Tony Hawk’s games ranked. I can imagine the rage burning inside some of you right now, which is perfectly understandable. If you need to vent, then let us know in the comments below what your favourite Tony Hawk’s game is!