If you ever stepped onto a skateboard and dreamt of shredding massive rails and landing massive Ollies, then you’ve got Tony Hawk to thank for the inspiration of joining generation X. And I’m not talking about his cameo in Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol. No, it’s the Tony Hawk video games which are to blame for your scraped knees and excessively baggy pants. And some were great! Some were also beyond terrible! So let’s take a grind down memory lane, and examine every single one of them.
From the worst, to the best. That’s how we’re rating the Tony Hawk series of games. So let’s start right at the bottom, and scrape our way back up with a 1080 Benihana. At the bottom, we have:
Tony Hawk’s Ride/Shred
In the history of bad ideas, the concept for Tony Hawk’s Ride and Shred is a palatial 20 story bad idea hotel with an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a magnificent entrance that features 24-hour staff of terrible products that were actually made. On paper, the idea sounded fantastic. A Tony Hawk game, where you could actually physically control the actions of your skateboarder and do proper tricks with minimal risk to your bones. How could such an idea be a stinker?
Simple really. The stupid board that each game came with was about as responsive as a coma victim, with any trick attempted on it resulting in your in-game character being brutally murdered by your haphazard and poorly translated moves. It was a sloppy, poorly executed attempt at cornering a peripheral market that Activision’s Guitar Hero had found great success in, and the pair of of games will go down in history as some of the worst video games ever made.
Tony Hawk’s Motion
About as meaty as a vegetarian sandwich, Tony Hawk’s Motion was a mere shadow of former glory that hobbled onto the Nintendo DS and found no love for its paint by numbers ideas.
Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam
Take everything that you love about Tony Hawk, the open worlds, the massive library of tricks and the sheer recklessness of skateboarding. Now strip all of that out, throw in simplified controls and shout “SELL-OUT” at a severly-limited product, and you’d have the basic premise of Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam. It’s a game where the only thing lower than the goal at the end of the hill, is the overall quality.
Tony Hawk’s Proving Grounds
THPG had an interesting idea. Long before Minecraft or Disney Infinity was making custom levels a popular idea, players could also design and build their own skateboarding park. And once again, a great idea on paper turned out to be a poor idea when actually executed. Create-A-Park mode was a concept that resulted in players having to pause, adjust and constantly tweak their designs, thus creating various pauses in gameplay and ruining the all-important flow of skateboarding. And in a series where finding your groove was a key part to mastering the gameplay of such a genre, it resulted in a sloppy and jarring experience.
Tony Hawk’s Underground 2
After the first Tony Hawk Underground game was met with great acclaim, Neversoft decided that more craziness was needed for the follow-up. And it kind of worked. Kind of. While the core gameplay of skating, getting off of your board and exploring was still loads of fun, the Jackass-heavy cameos and stupidity of this game resulted in a distracted mess that lost the spark and groove of earlier games.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4
I dare anyone to not like either THPS 2 or THPS 3. Those are two of the finest games in the series, and landmarks of skateboarding entertainment. But Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4? Pretty much a carbon-clone of those games, that offered nothing new whatsoever to the franchise. Sure, all the crucial bits were there. But the game was otherwise just…boring, a sin for any THPS game.
Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland
Tony Hawk games had always featured distinct levels across various locals. In American Wasteland however, the doors were busted open and the skate park increased in size to form one massive world of half-pipes and grindable objects. And it was pretty decent! Loading times weren’t exactly an issue, the gameplay was solid and the idea worked. It wasn’t the best ever Tony hawk game, but it was an average start on new consoles. It was s’aright, s’aright.
Tony Hawk’s American Sk8teland
The classic Tony Hawk formula, ported onto the Nintendo DS and given a few new tricks. And you know what? It was actually the best skateboarding game ever put on a handheld console, even though the number of such genre games could be counted on one hand at that time. Still, at least the end product gave players a proper skateboarding game on the go, which was almost as awesome as skateboarding in real life.
Tony Hawk’s Project 8
Tony Hawk on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 era, won’t exactly be fondly remembered. But before the series really bowed out and started shredding the bottom of the barrel, it did manage to regain some of its spark back with Project 8. A nostalgic romp that returned the series back to its earlier roots, Project 8 focused more on pulling off a perfect trick and less on gimmicky ideas that were half-baked at best.
Tony Hawk’s Underground
After the stale release of THPS 4, the series was in need of some new ideas and fresh moves. And that’s where Tony Hawk’s Underground came in. Allowing players to get off the board and explore their hood, THUG also had a comprehensive story that dealt with the joy of skateboarding for a passion, and selling out in order to rake in some big sponsored bucks. It helped revive the series and kept it alive for a good many years afterwards, despite the fact that THUG was home to the biggest c*** of a villain since Hitler donned a warsuit in the Wolfenstein games.
Seriously, I hope there’s a digital hell for guys like Eric Sparrow.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1
The original, and some would say, one of the best. Neversoft hit the ball out of the park with the very first Tony Hawk game. Grinding on all four wheels and filled with a suburban culture that had been underground for far too many years, it’s hard to deny the impact that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater had on an entire generation of gamers. Kids were all of a sudden interested in skateboarding once again, and the extreme movement was reborn in a new era of attitude. And it was all thanks to one rock-solid game that set the bar for future releases.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD
Full circle baby! After years of sub-par sequels and peripherals that were about as responsive as the police force in a crisis, the Tony Hawk franchise went back to the drawing board. Re-engineering the original two games, players once again got to dash around completing objectives within a two-minute time limit, reliving classic but tuned gameplay that was surrounded by lush new visuals. And it was a stark reminder of how great a Tony Hawk game should be.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 and 3
The first Tony Hawk game may have set the bar, but the first sequel pretty much jumped that bar of quality and landed a perfect 1080 manual on touchdown. Everything was bigger, better and most importantly, focused. The Tony Hawk template was perfectly nailed, in a game that spread the generation X attitude across multiple platforms and featured dozens of new tricks, stages and goals to achieve.
But Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 took all of those accomplishments, and refined them even further with better online play, more interactive environments and amazing visuals for its time. It’s easily my favourite Tony Hawk game, while Geoff argues bitterly that THPS 2 is far more superior. We’re technically at an impasse here, with no amount of machete-fighting being able to solidify our choice properly. So which THPS do you reckon is the best?
Last Updated: April 24, 2015