With Activision teasing the possibility of a new Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game, we thought we’d revisit the once-stellar series. It’s undeniable that the franchise took something of a nosedive from the late ‘00s onward, but that doesn’t overshadow the brilliance of its early entries. We decided to rank the games in the series. Perhaps we’ll find just where Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater went wrong.
13. Tony Hawk’s Ride (2009)
As the typical Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater formula began to grow stale—and games like Guitar Hero were at the peak of popularity—developer Robomodo sought to revamp the THPS experience. The company introduced the “skateboard controller,” essentially a mock skateboard that players stood on. They used their feet to mimic the tricks performed by characters on the screen.
Unfortunately, the controller didn’t work well, and the game itself was bland, actually regressing from previous titles. For whatever reason, however, Activision still decided that a sequel was necessary.
12. Tony Hawk’s Shred (2010)
Tony Hawk’s Shred is basically the same game as Ride, meaning that it’s terrible. So why is it higher than Ride on this list? Well, to their credit, Robomodo sought to tighten the gameplay and even added a snowboarding feature. Still, this was not nearly enough to make for a game we’d call “quality.”
11. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5
Undoubtedly one of the worst video games of all time, fans had high hopes for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. It was marketed as a saving grace for the series, a revival of everything that made THPS great. However, due to Activision’s licensing deal with Tony Hawk being set to expire, the company rushed developer Robomodo to complete the game as quickly as possible. This resulted in a bland, buggy mess of a game that did nothing to push the franchise forward.
10. Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam (2006)
Do you remember the “Downhill” level in the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater? Well, this is basically an entire game modeled after that level. The first Tony Hawk game not developed by Neversoft, Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam was exactly what its title implies: a downhill racing game. It featured less emphasis on tricking/combos. While a new take on the franchise was refreshing, THDJ was clunky, uninspired, and, well, boring.
9. Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground (2007)
The final Tony Hawk game developed by Neversoft, THPG feels phoned in, to say the least. Its open-world map is forgettable, its “story” doesn’t even have the basic elements that make a story, and it adds no worthwhile features. It’s nothing but a rehashing of a tired formula. It’s a sad way for Neversoft to have concluded their contributions to THPS.
8. Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland (2005)
Following the over-the-top zaniness of Tony Hawk’s Underground 2, Neversoft wanted to tone things down a bit; American Wasteland was an attempt to pay homage to SoCal skateboarding culture. And on some level, it works. Unfortunately, for many fans, this was the point at which the franchise’s gameplay was showing signs of age. And adding essentially useless features (i.e. the BMX bike) didn’t mask the fact that little had really changed since previous installments.
7. Tony Hawk’s Project 8 (2006)
The last “good” Tony Hawk game, Tony Hawk’s Project 8 marked an even further step away from the series’ then-trademark absurdity. It felt like a return to the original Tony Hawk’s Underground, as it included a quasi-serious storyline. Also, the “nail-the-trick” feature was genuinely fun.
6. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (1999)
This is the game that started it all. So why is it not higher on this list? Well, while it features some of the franchise’s most classic levels, it’s missing some essential tricks: without reverts and manuals, players aren’t able to string together massive combos. Still, it created the blueprint for the greatest extreme sports video game franchise of all time.
5. Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 (2003)
The pinnacle of the franchise’s absurdity, Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 was Neversoft’s attempt to cash in on the success of Jackass. The game’s plot is centered around the World Destruction Tour, a competition between Tony Hawk and Bam Margera to determine who can wreak the most worldwide havoc. Yes, the story is utterly stupid, but that doesn’t mean the game is bad. It was even more customizable than the original THUG, and new features like graffiti, sticker slaps, and freak-outs—while unessential—were fun.
4. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 (2002)
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 was a stepping stone to Underground, as it got rid of the two-minute run system, allowing players to explore levels without worrying about the waning time before the fun was over. As a result, levels were made more elaborate to compliment the free-roaming elements.
3. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (2001)
THPS3 introduced the revert to the player’s arsenal of tricks. And it’s incredible how such a simple feature affected gameplay; players could now rack up massive vert combos, tying reverts to manuals. It also introduced many of the customization features that would become cornerstones of the franchise.
2. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (2000)
Introducing the manual, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 turned racking up combos into an artform. It also contained some of the series’ best-loved levels, including New York, Skate Heaven, and School II, the last of which would be redesigned in Tony Hawk’s Underground. Sure, the PS1 graphics don’t really hold up; but the fact that the game is still so fun to play is a testament to its quality.
1. Tony Hawk’s Underground (2003)
Some fans argue that Tony Hawk’s Underground was the beginning of the end for THPS. Others claim that it is the series’ finest moment. We subscribe to the latter belief. Unlike all the games that preceded it, THUG is narratively driven. And believe it or not, the story is not half-bad. Players found themselves actually invested in the rise and fall of their customized character. And the ability to get off your board and explore each level was a long-overdue feature.