On August 31, 1999, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater hit store shelves across North America and sparked a cultural phenomenon. The game introduced millions to skateboarding culture and while many were content to never set foot on an actual board, THPS inspired a generation of new skaters, including Paul Hilton.
Unfortunately, it also sparked a whole bunch of copycats. While Activision and Neversoft pumped out yearly Tony Hawk sequels for the next decade, dozens of other extreme sports sims of varying quality hit the market too. Join us as we count down the very best - and the worst - of THPS ripoffs from the last 20 years!
10 Best: Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure
Not to be confused with Disney Sports Skateboarding (Konami made that one and it was terrible), Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure is the best kind of shameless ripoff. Although, calling it a Tony Hawk ripoff is a bit unfair as, like Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX, this is another Activision-published game. As such, Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure runs on the Tony Hawk engine, so the actual skateboarding portion feels solid, though simplified - not really surprising considering this game was targeted towards kids.
The most disappointing thing about Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure is that it only features three Disney franchises - Toy Story, The Lion King, and Tarzan - but given the glut of terrible licensed games that lined store shelves in the early 2000s, parents could have done much worse picking this one up. Shame about the blatant in-game McDonald’s advertising though...
9 Worst: Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX
It’s probably not totally fair to call Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX a Tony Hawk ripoff given that it was also produced by Activision. On the other hand, MHPB also shamelessly apes the Tony Hawk formula and owes its very existence to the Hawkman so let’s just call this one a draw.
While “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater but with BMX bikes” was a pretty great idea for a video game at the time, Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX is an inferior experience in nearly every way. Level design is much more of a mixed bag and the trick system, while solid, never quite gels in the same way as THPS. If this had been any other ripoff, Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX would have impressed more but Activision could have done better with this one.
8 Best: Dave Mirra’s Pro BMX
While it used a different engine, Dave Mirra’s Pro BMX was arguably closer in quality to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater than Mat Hoffman’s game. At the time, we still hadn’t seen a ton of THPS ripoffs hit the market, particularly ones that gave us a look at a different extreme sport. What Dave Mirra had going for it is that it felt similar enough to THPS in terms of fluidity (though it was still not as smooth to play) but had a different enough feel in its gameplay to not feel like it was totally ripping Neversoft off.
The trick system, in particular, was quite addicting, as you could pull off nearly 1,300 moves, which was great because later levels ramped up the challenge quite a bit. Sadly, Dave Mirra passed away in 2016 but he left an impressive legacy in the extreme sports gaming space.
7 Worst: Razor Freestyle Scooter
While scooters never reached skateboarding’s level of popularity, they did have a moment in the early 2000s. Razor Freestyle Scooter (which, if you couldn’t guess, was officially licensed by the Razor Scooter company) attempted to cash in on both the scooter and extreme sports video game craze. The problem was, a scooter video game just wasn’t as marketable as skateboarding.
It’s hard to fault developer Shaba Games for targeting a younger demographic, as it was generally younger kids who were riding scooters at the time. Unfortunately, those kids were too busy playing THPS to take much notice of an awkward - though still better than it had any right to be - scooter game.
6 Best: Grind Session
The original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is synonymous with PlayStation for many, but it’s important to remember that it wasn’t published by Sony. What some may not realize is Sony actually put out a skateboarding game of its own in the wake of THPS, the mostly forgotten Grind Session.
Although Grind Session copies many elements of Pro Skater’s design, it brought a few original ideas of its own. The most prominent of these ideas were technical lines, which tasked players with pulling off tricks on every path of a preset line. Add in a stellar soundtrack featuring the likes of Jurassic 5, NOFX and Black Flag, and Grind Session is arguably the best skateboarding not bearing Tony Hawk’s name on the original PlayStation.
5 Worst: Evolution Skateboarding
Let’s not kid ourselves: Evolution Skateboarding was a pretty atrocious Tony Hawk ripoff. Konami’s second crack at a skateboarding title after X-Games Skateboarding was, unsurprisingly, also a clunky mess but it did have two pretty great things going for it: awesome unlockable characters and boss fights!
Yes, this is a skateboarding game in which Solid Snake of Metal Gear Solid fame can fight a tank by grinding all up on it (you know exactly what we mean). Unfortunately, reading that statement is more fun than the action itself, as Evolution Skateboarding was definitely not the bold step forward its title would suggest.
4 Best: Aggressive Inline
When it comes to extreme sports, rollerblades have never approached the popularity enjoyed by skateboards and BMX bikes, which is probably why there haven’t been many rollerblading video games. Fortunately, Acclaim and Z-Axis (RIP to both) delivered what is still considered the gold standard of rollerblading games (not counting Jet Set Radio of course) with Aggressive Inline.
Released in early 2002, Aggressive Inline actually pioneered the no timer structure that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 would later be praised for. More importantly, though, it was just a damn good game. In particular, its approach to skill-building was quite novel for the time, as you raised your stats by performing an action repeatedly rather than collect tokens like in THPS. Unfortunately, a sequel never materialized but Aggressive Inline still has a small but dedicated fanbase to this day.
3 Worst: MTV Sports: Skateboarding Featuring Andy MacDonald
One of the main reasons the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater caught on to the degree that it did is because its core gameplay was immensely satisfying. Whether you were grinding on a rail or launching off a ramp, the finely-tuned controls helped make every action feel seamless. It’s this, more than anything, that set THPS apart from the competition and there’s no game that drives this point home more than MTV Sports: Skateboarding Featuring Andy Macdonald.
The skating felt sluggish, while the controls were unresponsive and made pulling off tricks needlessly frustrating. The only real thing MTV Sports had over THPS is its level count but that was likely little consolation to Andy Macdonald, who saw his skating game franchise go up in flames with just a single bad ripoff.
2 Best: Skate
It’s probably unfair to call Skate a ripoff; in fact, it’s just plain inaccurate. That being said, we wouldn’t have gotten Skate if it wasn’t for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and given how few legitimately good skateboarding games there have been outside of that franchise, it only feels right to give Skate a shout out here.
This was touched on in our previous list of the best and worst games in the THPS franchise but by 2007, Activision and Neversoft had run out of gas. That year’s Tony Hawk game, Proving Grounds, was largely forgettable not only because it was more of the same, but all anyone could talk about was Skate. With its “flick it” control scheme and more realistic physics, Skate delivered a refreshing new take on skateboarding video games and pretty much took the crown from the Hawkman overnight.
1 Worst: The Simpsons Skateboarding
The Simpsons license has produced many video games of wildly varying degrees of quality. While The Simpsons Arcade and Hit N’ Run are considered classics, we’ve also seen the license attached to such rubbish as The Simpsons Skateboarding, which is arguably in the running for one of the worst games ever made. As a concept, a Tony Hawk-style game that lets you skate as Bart Simpson (and others) around the town of Springfield sounds like a great time.
The Simpsons Skateboarding was not that.
Instead, fans got an ugly, unfunny, broken skateboarding game in which even the simple act of performing an ollie feels off. Heck, they could have just slapped this scene on a disk and it still would have been a better experience than The Simpsons Skateboarding.