It's hard to choose the best Tony Hawk games, but since the man himself is kick-flipping his way back into the world of video games this September as part of a gorgeous remaster of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2, we thought it was time to pick our favorites.
So what’s so special about Tony Hawk? Well, alongside developer Neversoft, Tony Hawk sent skateboarding into the stratosphere back in 1999, as hundreds of kids donned knee pads, wrist guards, and helmets in an attempt to emulate their heroes. With every release, millions more got hooked on Hawk’s brand of trick-centric skateboarding (and discovered some truly amazing punk rock bands in the process).
There’s never been a better time to jump onto your virtual board and hit the half-pipes. So with that in mind, we’ve rounded up the very best Tony Hawk games for you to play.
Oh, and if you’re wondering why entries such as Tony Hawk’s Ride and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 are missing from this list, it’s because they’re firmly where they belong: wallowing in the depths of mediocrity, never to be spoken about again.
1. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (2001)
The pinnacle of the Pro Skater series, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 tops the list because of one game-changing trick addition: reverts. That solitary word might not seem like much, but reverts completely transformed how a Tony Hawk game worked, as players could now string multiple combos together without ever slowing down.
Previously, players would lose their combo once they landed a set of tricks after coming off a half-pipe. With this change, though, you could perform a revert straight into a manual, and keep your combo chain going for incredibly high scores.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 would go on to draw incredible critical acclaim, earning an average score of 97%. That makes it one of the highest-rated PS2 games of all time, and it still holds up remarkably well today. Take a bow, Tony.
2. Tony Hawk’s Underground (2003)
Skaters could step off their board for the very first time in Tony Hawk’s Underground (or THUG), which opened up a new element to the tried-and-tested THPS formula. You could start a combo, jump off your skateboard, and finish it in a different location as long as you kept within a certain time limit.
THUG was praised for its suite of editing tools, as players were able to edit almost anything in the game and share content with other users online. Unfortunately for THUG, this superb sharing feature was way ahead of its time, as online was still in its infancy on PlayStation 2.
3. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (2000)
A terrific sequel that broke new ground, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 improved upon its predecessor in a number of ways. It had superior graphics, a level editor, character customization options and added manuals, which made chaining combos together a lot easier.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 doesn’t hold up quite as well, due to the simple fact that once you’ve played the third game in the series, it’s hard to go back without being able to revert. Thankfully, the upcoming remasters of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Pro Skater 2 will fix that annoying issue by retroactively adding reverts into the games.
4. Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 (2004)
Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 turned out to be a pleasing refinement over the excellent THUG. The game revolves around Jackass star Bam Margera, who’s also an excellent skater, and successfully apes the MTV show’s ridiculous formula with fantastic results.
THUG 2 is arguably the most technically accomplished and feature-packed game in the series, and could almost be regarded as a “best of” game for the franchise as a whole. However, in terms of breaking the mold, it didn’t move the needle as much as other entries in the Tony Hawk series, hence its position.
5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (1999)
It might be the oldest game in the list, but Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater deserves an enthusiastic fist bump for putting skateboarding firmly on the map. If it wasn’t for the success of the first PlayStation game, publisher Activision might have turned its attention elsewhere. It was also the game that saved Neversoft as a company, who were close to going out of business before its collaboration with Tony Hawk turned its fortunes around.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater also established one fundamental feature that would continue in every future game: an amazing soundtrack. From punk rockers Dead Kennedys to Goldfinger’s instantly recognizable ‘Superman’, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games are home to timeless soundtracks which capture the heady days of so many older players.
6. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 (2002)
How do you top the best Tony Hawk game? Truth be told, you probably can't. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 was experimental in the fact it removed the timer from the game’s Career, which was a controversial change. This encouraged players to explore more, a feature that would become more of a focus in later titles, but took something away from the frenetic, point-scoring nature of the first three games.
There were some hilarious unlockable characters, though. Star Wars’ Jango Fett was playable, as was Iron Maiden’s beloved mascot, Eddie. Still, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 is usually largely forgotten about, despite being another solid entry.
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7. Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (2005)
What do you make when you begin to run out of ideas? Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, that’s what. It was becoming abundantly clear that, despite delivering an incredible run of games, developer Neversoft’s creativity was starting to run dry. Nothing really stood out over Tony Hawk’s Underground 2, other than Neversoft adding BMX bikes to the game, which did work, admittedly.
Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland isn’t a bad game by any means, but the cracks on Tony’s board were certainly beginning to show. It was also the penultimate game that developer Neversoft would work on before handing the rails to Robomodo, who sadly drove the franchise into the ground.
8. Tony Hawk's Project 8
Tony Hawk's Project 8 might not have been a commercial success, but it's 'Nail-the-trick' mechanic was an interesting idea. The feature required players to move the analog sticks in the correct way to land a gnarly trick, and the idea was expanded upon and improved in games like Skate.
Despite being rebuilt from the ground up, Tony Hawk's Project 8 is largely forgotten about. It was a rather vapid experience in hindsight, and missed a lot of the spirit that make Tony Hawk games stand out. Still, it deserves a mention in our best Tony Hawk games list, even if it does reside at the very bottom.
Roll on the remasters
A truly superb series, then, we’re eagerly awaiting Tony’s return in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 remastered this September. Let’s just hope the soundtracks remain intact, and that developer Vicarious Visions can recapture the magic that so many of us felt when we first pushed off all those years ago.
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