In the late ‘90s, punk rock’s popularity was at an all-time high, people were saying “radical” with regularity, and skateboarding was experiencing a resurgence with the help of a certain athlete and his incredible skills. Skateboarding quickly found a home in video games, as well, with the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series letting anyone become the master of both vert and street in a matter of minutes. Other skateboarding games followed, and despite the genre nearly drying up by 2019, there are now plenty of fantastic skating games to enjoy across a variety of consoles.
Top ten best skateboarding games
For our list, we made an effort to showcase multiple franchises, including big-name AAA skateboarding games as well as smaller indie titles.
1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (consoles)
The second-best video game of all-time according to Metacritic, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is unmatched if you’re looking for a to-the-point skateboarding game that encapsulates the genre at the peak of its popularity and influence.
A perfect physics system, a great cast of professional skateboarders, and the introduction of the level editor gave fans endless options for how they could spend their time shredding, with the free skate mode just as entertaining and addictive as the more structured options.
Its soundtrack is nothing short of stellar, as well, with famous skate punk bands like Millencolin and Lagwagon included alongside the likes of Anthrax and Rage Against the Machine. The energy is enough to keep you skating and eating frozen pizza until 3 a.m.
2. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (Game Boy Advance)
Game Boy Advance ports of console games didn’t usually warrant much excitement on the part of players, and even less often did they find themselves on “best of” lists for anything. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, however, was not like most Game Boy Advance ports.
Developed by the extremely talented Vicarious Visions, the game managed to translate the feeling of the console games to the small screen with only the visual and audio quality taking a hit. Nailing a perfect grind or 720 on the vert ramp feels just like it does on the more powerful systems, and you can easily play one level until your Game Boy Advance battery completely dies.
3. Tony Hawk’s Underground
For the first several entries in the Tony Hawk’s series, the focus was entirely on skateboarding. With Underground, the series made the seemingly odd decision to let you get off the skateboard and run around its virtual worlds completing other activities.
It didn’t lose the older games’ knack for skating, however, and it even included a full story mode filled with celebrity appearances and betrayals you might see in a teen-themed CW show. Despite being partially responsible for moving the entire franchise away from its bread-and-butter skateboarding, Tony Hawk’s Underground remains a classic game that can’t be overlooked.
4. Skate 3
The last full-fledged AAA skateboarding game worth playing – we don’t talk about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 – Electronic Arts’ Skate 3 was the best version of the company’s own take on the genre.
More grounded than Activision’s own offerings but with a focus on skill-based skating gameplay, Skate 3 established a loyal following that is still asking Electronic Arts to invest in a sequel to this day, despite being released back in 2010.
The game remained popular in stores videos. In contrast to the punk rock tunes of the Tony Hawk games, Skate 3 featured an eclectic mix that included Dinosaur Jr., Beastie Boys, and even Steel Panther.
5. Skate It (Nintendo DS)
Instead of attempting to take the console versions of Skate and shrink them down for a one-to-one port, Skate It for Nintendo DS smartly uses the console’s unique touch screen features to create an intuitive trick system.
Swiping the stylus across the skateboard on the bottom screen makes your skate perform different tricks, without sacrificing the precision and breadth of tricks available in the console version. It was also a real looker, with 3D character models that are among the most detailed and best-animated on the DS, along with gorgeous environments that push the system to its limits.
6. OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood
Unlike many of the other best skateboarding games, OlliOlli2: Welcome to Hollywood isn’t about finding the best 3D environments to pull off your ultimate tricks. Instead, it’s essentially an auto-running platformer with skateboarding as your means of transportation.
Your goal is to get to the end of each level without wiping out, and you can pull off a variety of moves to raise your score and find secrets before you cross the finish line. Despite being in 2D and going for a retro-inspired, movie-themed look, OlliOlli2 is surprisingly deep, and it’s available on just about every system you can imagine at this point.
7. Skate or Die!
Despite Tony Hawk bringing skating video games into everyday conversation, the series wasn’t the first to try virtual skateboarding. One of the best early skateboarding games was Skate or Die!, a variety-filled skating game for the Nintendo Entertainment System and other late ‘80s systems that included a top-down obstacle-filled mode, downhill events, and a halfpipe to show off your best tricks.
Lacking in the customization options we’d see in later skating games, Skate or Die! nonetheless had the attitude we’ve come to expect from skating culture, mixed with just enough cheesiness to let its ridiculous name pass.
8. Backyard Skateboarding
Humongous Entertainment’s Backyard Sports series gives younger players the chance to try colorful and hilarious versions of baseball, basketball, soccer, football, hockey, and yes – skateboarding. Backyard Skateboarding offers a simplified 3D skating experience designed for kids to enjoy, with a focus on power-ups and over-the-top goofiness over realism.
In addition to 10 original Backyard Kids, the game also features an appearance from pro skater Andy Macdonald, as well as fictional sponsors and customizable gear so even the tiniest skaters can live out their dream of becoming a legendary rail-grinder. And yes, the famous Pablo Sanchez is playable in Backyard Skateboarding.
9. Touchgrind Skate 2
If you ever played with Tech Decks, then you already get the basic idea behind Touchgrind Skate 2. Using your fingers as your “legs,” you control a virtual skateboard and perform flips and spins by quickly swiping across the board. It’s presented in stunning fidelity on mobile devices, with the human-free board meaning you have a full view of the course and can plan your next tricks accordingly.
You can’t immediately become a pro-level skater, but a little bit of practice and some time with the game’s mechanics will have you doing kickflips and getting big air in no time. You can even grind a rail with the wheels pointing up, if you’re into that.
10. True Skate
Similar in premise to Touchgrind Skate 2, True Skate mixes touch and swipe-based iOS gameplay with real-world skating street spots so you can feel like you’re truly a professional skateboarder. Courses made from the ground-up are also included, with the game’s default course featuring quarterpipes, a halfpipe, grind rails, and even a bowl to shred. To push off and gain speed, all you have to do is swipe one of your fingers as if it were your foot, and the game’s physics system encourages clean landings in order to maintain momentum.