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There are very few 90’s kids who don’t remember the impaled eyeball of Neversoft’s logo staring back at them.
It was the irreverent opening to an iconic game that, in time, became synonymous with the PS1.
Everyone played it. Everyone owned it. And everyone loved it. It was the bomb-diggity as the kids might’ve said back then.
And with that success Activision just kept going at it, putting out one rad game after another on an almost yearly basis, until… Until what?
You don’t hear much about the series nowadays. But this series was intense back in the day and it left its mark on gaming history.
Join me as I take a tour of the last 20 years in the franchise, reviewing and ranking every game and shedding some light on the rise and fall of the Tony Hawk’s video game series.
16. Tony Hawk’s Ride (2009)
One of the elements that prompted Tony Hawk’s fade into irrelevancy was developer Robomodo taking over work on the franchise.
Ride was the first of their installment. And to some people, the beginning of the end.
Released for the Xbox360 and PS3 consoles, Tony Hawk’s Ride discarded traditional controllers to focus on a skateboard peripheral that lets you move your skater by balancing yourself on it.
Frankly put, it didn’t work. And it only succeeded in making game-play complicated and uncomfortable.
The game also didn’t have much content to begin with.
It was supposed to be about the peripheral, and while it may have been fun to try at first the novelty wore off quickly and left you staring at a poor attempt at cashing in on the motion-control frenzy, and an insult to longtime fans.
15. Tony Hawk’s Shred (2010)
The next game developed by Robomodo was essentially the same as Ride, except it now had some snowboarding content.
Granted the peripheral worked much better as a snowboard than it did as a skateboard.
But the whole concept behind the game remained the same flawed attempt at reviving a franchise through gimmicky controls.
14. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 (2015)
Robomodo’s gravest offense has to be Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. The game that finished off the franchise.
It was released for Xbox One and PS4 promising to go back to its roots to revive the franchise.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
For Activision, this was simply a last-ditch attempt to cash in on the Tony Hawk name one last time before their rights expired at the end of 2015.
It was a rush job which used “going back to basics” as an excuse to leave out the need to develop a story mode and a wide array of other key features fans had come to expect at this point.
The graphics were mediocre for a next-gen title, the combo system is basic and uninspiring, and the stages(few of them as they were) were also bland and painfully simplistic.
Overall the term “disappointment” doesn’t begin to describe what this game is.
13. Tony Hawk’s Motion (2008)
Considering skateboarding is such a dynamic fast sport, it’s no wonder why Activision thought it might be a good idea to use their skateboarding franchise as a guinea pig for motion controls.
Tony Hawk’s Motion, developed by Creat Studios for the Nintendo DS, revolves around a cartridge that works as an accelerometer add-on for the system. This lets the player control their character by twisting and turning the handheld.
Janky, impractical controls that should never have seen the light of day.
Not only that, but the team at Creat Studios put all of their resources into developing the add-on and control scheme instead of crafting content for the game.
You’re left with a sorry excuse for a release that feels more like a proof of concept than a game with how little content it has.
The only reason I put it higher on the list than Ride is that you would have wasted way less money on this than on the skateboard peripheral.
12. Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam (2006)
After Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland failed to achieve the commercial success Activision had hoped it to in 2005, they tasked developers Toys for Bob with revitalizing the franchise and bringing it to the Wii.
Their response was Downhill Jam. A game that took the series into downhill racing.
Contrary to previous entries in the list, this game isn’t actually bad at all.
It has colorful graphics, acceptable controls, and can be a lot of fun… as much fun as any other racing game can be.
And that’s the thing about Downhill Jam. While it isn’t a bad Tony Hawk game, it doesn’t really feel like a Tony Hawk game at all.
It puts aside what made the franchise special in the first place to adopt a form that was already perfected by other games such as SSX: Tricky and snowboarding games in general.
11. Tony Hawk’s Skate Jam (2018)
Speaking of games that aren’t bad, here’s one you should definitely check out right now if you have a smartphone.
Skate Jam is the most recent release under the Tony Hawk name and the first one after Activision let the rights to the name expire back in 2015.
It was developed and published for iOS and Android systems by Maple Media who’ve been developing skateboarding games on mobile for a while now.
The game is essentially an improved version of their previous game, Skateboard Party, which was in turn inspired by the classic THPS series.
Although the controls feel a little clunky at times, the game offers a fun experience reminiscent of the old days of the franchise.
10. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD (2012)
One of Robomodo’s not-so-bad ideas was to simply make an HD remake of the classic games in the franchise for the Xbox360 and PS3 systems.
While not a perfect game, this effort to bring back the series’ original charm with updated graphics was a step in the right direction.
And it’s a great option if you want to re-live the glory days but can’t stand the dated graphics of the PS1/PS2 era.
9. Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground (2007)
The last installment developed by Neversoft came out for the Xbox360 and PS3 under the premise of having the biggest environments the series had seen to date.
Proving Ground is a pretty solid game and a worthy good-bye to the franchise from Neversoft.
The career mode follows a player trying to make a name for himself as one of three types of skaters: Career, Hardcore, and Rigger. Each one focuses on different aspects of the sport.
The game’s main addition to the formula is the sprawling areas you can skate in, which include several stages from previous games integrated into a larger space.
While it’s amusing at first, it doesn’t add that much to the game, which ends up feeling a bit uninspired and derivative.
Overall it’s a solid game, but far from the best. Worth playing if you have the time.
8. Tony Hawk’s Project 8 (2006)
Before there was Proving Grounds, there was Project 8.
It came out the same year Downhill Jam did. But unlike Toys for Bob, Neversoft succeeded in reinvigorating the franchise by building from the ground up.
The physics felt smooth and natural. And in general the game-play was as good as ever.
One of the main changes came with the addition of the Nail-The-Trick mechanic, a mini-game that involves moving the right and left sticks during big air moments to… well, nail the trick.
Regrettably the game didn’t do as good commercially as it could have, in great part because the series had lost a lot of momentum by this stage.
7. Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland (2005)
American Wasteland was the point in the series when it became evident Neversoft was lost as to where to take the franchise.
It came out for the PS2 and other 6th generation consoles offering a solid Tony Hawk experience.
But it was lacking anything new in regards to game-play that Underground 2 didn’t already have, other than the possibility of riding BMX. Which felt like an excuse to say there was something new.
Again not bad, but maybe not the most memorable title here.
6. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (1999)
Finally, the original PS1 game that started a revolution that would shape the future of extreme sports games as we know them.
It was the game that saved Neversoft from going broke at the time. Which made them pour all their passion, sweat, and tears into developing the best game they could.
This dedication becomes evident in how creative, engaging and, put simply, fun it is.
Tony Hawk was first pitched the idea sometime in 1998 and he was all for it, working as a consultant and tester for the game throughout its development.
The famous skater undoubtedly helped make it feel authentic and really reflect skating culture.
The levels were engaging and crafted so you’d always have one more challenge to overcome, one more crazy trick to land and one more secret to find.
All of this accompanied by what might have been the best soundtrack of its era.
Punk masters like Dead Kennedys and Suicidal Tendencies infused the game with energy and rebel charm, and Goldfinger’s “Superman” would have you restarting the stages until it was first on the playlist.
The gameplay was simple and intuitive for all ages. And while physics felt somewhat unnatural when examined from a modern perspective, it was more than enough for its time.
You just boot it up, do some tricks, get some points, grind some rails and that’s it. That’s all it needed to be.
5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (2000)
For the second installment in the series Neversoft simply grabbed what they thought was right about the first game and perfected it.
Where in the first one there was experimentation, in the second one was consistency.
The addition of a level-builder feature was a much-celebrated improvement and it easily added hundreds of hours worth of replayability.
The soundtrack continued to be stellar, including artists like Papa Roach and Rage Against The Machine that contributed to defining the franchise’s personality.
It was this game that put the series on the collective consciousness at large. And this is probably the one that had the most influence on pop culture by reviving interest in skating and inspiring shows such as Rocket Power(in which Tony Hawk even cameos at one point).
4. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 (2002)
Neversoft had already created, polished, and perfected the concept of a THPS game with the previous three installments. So this one saw the return of experimentation with a somewhat absurd combo system.
This system took air-time to the next level so it was a welcome change. But the dev team also made the bold decision to do away with the timer in career mode.
Level design continued to be excellent, including beloved gems like the Escape from Alcatraz stage.
It also built on the online capabilities of its predecessor, adding more modes such as King of the Hill, my personal favorite.
3. Tony Hawk’s Underground (2003)
After the small exercise in experimentation that was THPS4, Neversoft decided to take a step forward and completely reinvent the franchise.
This came with bold new additions such as off-the-board mobility and new RPG-like progression for your skater.
Graphics were also considerably improved and made more colorful to give Underground its own distinctive style.
The game features an engaging story that follows your character as he tries to become a famous skater like Tony Hawk.
Level design in the game kept the top-notch quality of the series, but added a whole new level of depth thanks to the freedom off-the-board mobility gave developers.
This was the game that truly defined the 6th generation console era of the series.
2. Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 (2004)
Following the resounding success of Underground, its successor improved on the new formula by adding more content and perfecting the engine.
This is considered by many to be a technical masterpiece and the single best Tony Hawk’s game for the experience.
In all honesty, this game is probably just as good(if not better) than the #1 spot on my list.
If it weren’t for the fact that the whole marketing scheme for it felt extremely… corporate.
Underground 2’s career mode revolves around Bam Margera of Jackass fame, and the whole game essentially follows the concept of the Jackass show but on skateboards.
Riding on a celebrity’s name to sell your game is already a bit questionable, but OK if done tactfully.
But just sticking a reality-TV star into it for added commercial value is downright cheap. Even if he’s a professional skateboarder as well, it just knocked this back a bit from what is arguably a brilliant game.
1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (2001)
After the commercial success and critical acclaim of THPS2 Neversoft was swimming in resources(read: moolah).
Their employees were all probably drunk on achievement. All of this energy and good vibes got poured into the development of their first game for the new generation of consoles that included the PS2, Gamecube, and the original Xbox.
THPS3 would go on to be the quintessential Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater experience in its most refined form.
The game featured pristine graphics, the smoothest game-play as of that point in time, and some of the best stages in the whole series such as the creatively-constructed Suburbia and the visually striking Tokyo level.
The soundtrack, featuring greats like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Xzibit, was also aptly chosen to accompany the feeling of skateboarding at the time.
This game may not be the most innovative, but it’s a game where nothing feels purposeless or out of place.
Even playing it today you’ll notice it doesn’t feel as dated as some newer entries on the list. If you want to get your THPS fix look no further than this masterpiece.