Skateboarding, or “Sidewalk Surfing,” was invented in the 1950s by some California surfers to keep them active when ocean waves were flat; not by Marty McFly. By the 1960s, skateboarding started becoming popular with the manufacturing of surfboard-like decks and competitions in Hermosa Beach,CA. In the 1970s, the uniformly-shaped boards were invented as well as the polyurethane wheels, creating the boards that are still used today. By the beginning of the 1980s, skateboarding had gone worldwide and a fourteen year old kid by the name of Tony Hawk turned pro.
Tony Hawk, or “Birdman,” has won countless competitions in both street and vert styles of skateboarding. In 1995, Tony Hawk got the call to be a major part of a little stunt show called the X Games. This brought new life to his career and made him a household name, whether you were a fan of skating or not. Less than half of a decade later, he would be in his own video game on the PlayStation console.
There have been nineteen Tony Hawk and Tony Hawk-related games (including ports of classics) over the past two decades. There is no doubt that you all must have played at least one of these to at least “see what all the fuss is about.” The Tony Hawk franchise of video games spans across all consoles since the late 90s, but they’re not all good by any means. Let’s take a look at the best of the worst and the worst of the best.
15 Best: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
At the end of the 20th century, the hottest consoles in the game were PlayStation and the Nintendo 64. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was released on both of these consoles, leaving the Sega Saturn in the dust; Birdman just may have been the final nail. The first installment in the legendary series was something people hadn’t seen before. The mechanics were fresh, the graphics blew us away, and the eleven player characters were nothing to sneeze it. If that weren’t enough, completing the game with each of these characters would unlock a live action video of them skateboarding, which was amazing for a video game in 1999; unlock them all and you can play as Officer Dick. Officer may have been a jab at the harassing cops, but playing as him unlocked the “bails” video. THPS isn’t the best one in the series by any stretch, but it’s still incredibly memorable.
14 Worst: Tony Hawk’s Ride
At ten years of age, the Tony Hawk video game franchise tried to yet again raise the bar in skateboard gaming, by putting the player in the action with the use of a sturdy peripherals that resembled a bloated skateboard. There were two games that this “controller” was compatible with and Tony Hawk’s Ride was one of them. It’s a good idea if you happen to be an amateur or professional skateboarder and it’s raining outside, but the rest of us hated this game. By the time you’re able to get the hang of using the clunky device, you are no longer interested in playing the actual game. Tony Hawk actually defends the game profusely, but then again he is a pro. As the worst rated Tony Hawk game of all time, Ride’s only redeeming quality is that the board peripheral looks good on the shelf of a collector, right next to their Power Glove.
13 Best: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Spanning across nine consoles and reigning as one of the highest rated sports video games ever, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is everything a sequel should be. THPS2 took everything right with its predecessor and improved it, as well as adding new features. The controls somehow got even smoother with this game and introduced us to a new feature that would continue even today; skate competition. The skate competition has you battling other skaters for a top spot in the ranking, as five judges scored you based on points, bails, and variation of moves, giving a more realistic feel to the game. Another much-appreciated feature was the create-a-skater mode, where you can fully customize your skater to look just like the real you, making you the greatest in the world. These two new features were the reason this game has continued to be the gold standard of gaming and destroyed all other skating franchises.
12 Worst: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5
With the name Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, fans thought there was no way this game would miss. The series’ main games have always been incredible and are constantly pushing the envelope in new and exciting ways. None of this is true for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, as after an eight year break, they seemed to have just phoned in this installment. THPS5 is the fifth lowest rated game on Xbox One and fourth for PS4 with good reason. Though this game is designed with Unreal Engine 3, the graphics seem the same as some of the later PS2 games and the controls are unresponsive to a point where you’re wondering if your controller's batteries are dying. It received a patch to fix the graphical issues soon after its release, but the damage had already been done. THPS5 isn’t the worst game ever, but by Tony Hawk standards, it is a true abortion and will forever be hated.
11 Best: Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground
As the last Tony Hawk game developed by Neversoft, Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground is a treat for the eyes as well as the ears thanks to 54 tracks of great music. Proving Ground is a bit of an enigma because of the different platforms it calls its home. As a next-gen game on PS3 and Xbox 360, it’s not all that impressive graphically or control wise; less than what you’d expect for the time. However, as a PS2 and Wii game, it is phenomenal piece of work that you can’t put down once you get the controls down. It has elements from the original, by segregating levels by section when selecting “classic” mode which gives it a great nostalgia factor. Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground was mildly better than its predecessor Project 8 and a great final product as they focused on ports for the next eight years.
10 Worst: Tony Hawk’s Underground 2
How would you like to shell out fifty bucks for a game you already own? Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 is really nothing more than a greatest hits album for past games; maybe that’s why there’s an asterisk by the “2” in the logo. The second game in this sub-series is really just the first game with a new story and levels from the first trilogy of games. It appeared to bring almost nothing new to the games, like they made it over a three-day weekend. Sure, there are a few new levels and a “wheel of loogies,” but all in all it’s just the best parts of four games in one single disc. If you’ve lost your copies of those games and you only want to buy one game, then this game is okay I guess. Make sure you put it on your shelf next to Monster of Rock.
9 Best: Tony Hawk’s Underground
When you hear the word “underground,” you think something new and off the beaten path; something that you’ll remember for a long time. Tony Hawk’s Underground did this and in the simplest way possible, by getting you off your board for once. Underground added a new feature where you can walk around while holding your skateboard, jumping off the board mid-flight, and even jumping on the board in mid-air. The create-a-skater is now mandatory, as you are playing his story (your) story, but there is a plethora of selectable characters in other modes including Gene Simmons. The story in this game is based on the lives of many professional skateboards, which truly adds a great element to it. Tony Hawk’s Underground is one of the best because of all of this, as well as the gritty “underground” feel it has, like it's you that’s becoming a legend.
8 Worst: Tony Hawk's Motion
You know that feeling when you’re being chased by a bee or walk through a spiderweb and you freak out for several minutes before realizing you’re being watched? That’s what it feels like every time you play Tony Hawk’s Motion for the Nintendo DS. As far as content goes, this spinoff has almost nothing to offer and has been called “bare bones” by the critics and the few people unfortunate enough to have purchased it. Motion uses a Game Boy Advance cartridge called the “motion pack” which turns your DS or DS lite into a motion sensor where you twist and turn your handheld console to manipulate the board. It’s a pretty interesting concept if it had succeeded, but it didn’t work all that well and most smartphones at the time were superior. You end up just looking like a crazy person as you scream and jerk your DS around; a must miss.
7 Best: Tony Hawk's Shred Session
With the advancement of mobile electronics, there was no doubt that Tony Hawk would get in on the app business with new and exciting games. Tony Hawk’s Shred Session is a truly sad tale of what might have been. Shred Session was one of two games in the franchise to show up as an app exclusive, but was postponed and then cancelled completely. Before its disappearance, Shred Session was available in just a few territories and could be best described as a Temple Run-style game, in which you are automatically propelled forward and do tricks by tapping and moving the mobile device just so. Think of it as a successful Downhill Jam. It was far superior to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 for iOS and Android which was also cancelled. Perhaps the mobile market just isn’t in Tony Hawk’s destiny.
6 Worst: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2x
Nostalgia can be a magical thing. It tends to make you remember things as being much better than they actually were. But one day, you relive them and feel utterly idiotic that you once found these things “amazing.” Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2x does a great job of ruining your childhood as you relive the first two THPS games with a few added levels and somehow worse mechanics. The only thing it did right was being released at the launch of the Xbox console, knowing that it would be the first Tony Hawk game on the “new generation console" from Microsoft. Replaying the levels from the first two games and a few from the third, with terrible mechanics, makes you wonder why you loved the originals in the first place. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2x gets a spot on the list for shattering childhoods.
5 Best: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
If there is any feature that makes a great game phenomenal, it’s online capabilities. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 was the first game in the series to offer online play, as well as earning a perfect score on GameSpot. Even today, THPS3 is the highest rated PS2 game on multiple websites and continues to be the gold standard of gaming. The E3 award winner for “best sports game” of 2001 didn’t add many new features, but still changed the genre with the addition of the revert. Reverting at the end of trick enabled you to link your moves together with a manual. This added a whole element to the game, as it was now possible to score in the 6 digits (or 7 for lunatics). With a ton of levels, characters, and unlockables (not to mention hundreds of gap to discover), Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 will live on in the hearts of gamers forever.
4 Worst: Tony Hawk's Project 8
The eighth game in the franchise, Project 8 centered around a familiar story done in the three games prior to it, where you’re an up and coming skater trying to make a name for themselves. Despite being played at the 2007 Cyber Games tournament, the game isn't as good as the rest of the series. THP8 was released on all three PlayStation platforms available at the time (PS2, PS3, and PSP), yet was completed devoid of any online multiplayer gaming, which was incredibly off putting since the Xbox 360 version thrived here. The game's controls felt a little unfinished and the frame rate was far inferior than many games that preceded it. These reasons, plus the newly added “nail the trick” mini game, where you fiddle with the joysticks are why this game wasn't really great. My advice would be to pick up the next game in the series, Proving Ground, as it feels like a complete Project 8.
3 Best: Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland
Some would argue that Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland is simply a third act for the Underground series because of its tone and style of gameplay. American Wasteland ditched the various levels and instead immersed you into one giant city with different areas; the city being Los Angeles. The story is centered around a ragtag group of misfits that cause havoc around the city of angels. The story is pretty simple and centers around skating, bringing the series back to its roots. The controls are spot on, the graphics are great for the time, and the emo-focused soundtrack is a nice change from the punk-driven music of past games. It’s one of the most street-oriented games in the series, in that you can skate on rooftops, grind on cop cars, and even do a little BMX riding as a break from your board. American Wasteland is without a doubt the best Tony Hawk adventure taking place away from the main series.
2 Worst: Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam
Just reciting the name of this game aloud is enough to anger the calmest monk. This abomination, which was initially released for the Wii, has you riding your board downhill as you race other skaters and do tricks. It’s still baffling to this day as to why they thought a skating/racing hybrid would be a good way to debut the Nintendo Wii and its capabilities. “Downhill Jam" was a level in the very first Pro Skater and was not developed by Neversoft; and it’s painfully obvious. The game has received mixed reviews on all consoles involved, but the Nintendo DS version ranked the highest, which really tells you something about the travesty that is Downhill Jam.
1 Best: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4
In 2001, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 was released as the first ever Tony Hawk game with online capabilities, but Pro Skater 4 took it a step further, as you could play with up to eight other skaters and battle for who is the best. Another first at the time was a free roaming mode opposed to the traditional “choose a level” we had seen since the game's conception and this gave it a feeling of realism as you traveled around, talking to people and getting missions. THPS4 introduced a new element called “skitching” where you could grab the rear bumper of a car and 'Marty McFly' your way around the town. As you play around the different levels, you ciykd find mini games like shooting basketball or playing a set of tennis that are a great breather in-between free skating and the inventive tasks given to you by your peers and townspeople. THPS4 gets the top spot as being the best because of its originality and evolution of the series.