Nostalgia is a powerful thing, as evidenced by the widely positive reception to the release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. That package features remakes of the first two games in the series, which originally debuted in 1999 and 2000, respectively, and is available on PS4, Xbox One, PC, right now. No word on whether it will come to other platforms yet.
Since the original in 1999, there have been numerous entries in the Tony Hawk’s franchise, with critical reception ranging from excellent to outright terrible. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the games in the mainline series, ranked from best to worst.
In this list, we’ll be covering the mainline console entries (sorry mobile gamers). And let’s just try to forget about the two installments that required an expensive plastic skateboard peripheral — Ride and Shred.
It might seem insane to put the recent Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 remake at the number one spot, but it really is that good. It takes the foundation of the original games and modernizes them for current hardware — improving upon nearly every outdated aspect from the PS One revisions. Visually, the remakes are stunning, with a greater emphasis on realism thanks to the particle effects and lighting. On top of that, the controls have been updated, too, and are more akin to a contemporary game you’d play today.
Somehow, Activision and developer Vicarious Visions managed to keep all skaters and most of the songs from the original intact, making it look and sound exactly how you remember. The combination of fun, accessible gameplay, nostalgia, gorgeous visuals, and plenty of content (at a $40 price point, no less) make this the best Tony Hawk game to date. While playing, you really will feel like a superman, doing everything you can.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 took advantage of the new hardware with the PS2, expanding upon many of the beloved features from the first two installments. While it didn’t introduce any revolutionary new mechanics, its level design is beloved among most fans, and with a roster of insane characters like Wolverine and Darth Maul, it’s easy to see why this is such a fan favorite. Its trick system was redefined and still feels good to play today.
It was also the first Tony Hawk game to feature online multiplayer, as rudimentary as it was. Let’s cross our fingers for a remake of Pro Skater 3 sometime soon.
Realism and seriousness were never staples in the original Pro Skater games, but Underground 2 increased the silliness by adding a ridiculous story featuring Bam Margera, destructible environments, and even the ability to get off your board to explore on foot. It also featured Classic Mode, which allowed you to play many of the series’s previous levels, while keeping the feeling of Pro Skater 3. Underground 2’s exceptional level design make it stand out as one of the best in the entire series, even 16 year later.
Often considered one of the best PS1 games of all time, Pro Skater 2 refined many of the ideas introduced in the original. With an expansion of skaters, tricks to perform, and level sizes, this entry is nearly perfect in every way. Pro Skater 2 was the first entry to feature both Create a Skater and the beloved Park Editor features, which later became a standard in the series. It might not hold up in the visual department today, but we’ll soon be enjoying Pro Skater 2 again thanks to its remake, later this year.
Some seem to love this entry more than Pro Skater 3 — and while it is good, it slightly over-complicates the formula from the original three. Instead of the linear Career mode, which sent you across various levels, Pro Skater 4 has more of an open-world structure. This detracts from the solid gameplay loop and takes away from what makes the originals so great. Nonetheless, it’s still a fantastic Pro Skater game — from its large levels to its expanded roster and kickin’ soundtrack.
It’s hard not to love the original game that started it all. It somehow took the complexity of skating and morphed it into an accessible, arcade-style game with a killer soundtrack. Sure, many of its predecessors refined what the original set out to do, but this game still has a special place in the hearts of many. And it featured one of the most memorable video game soundtracks ever — that still resonates with fans, 21 years later. Like its sequel, we’ll get to see Pro Skater live again later this fall.
If not for its predecessor, the original Underground would have ranked higher on this list. Still, it’s an excellent evolution of the series, adding lots of new features, for better or for worse. It included a bit more of a gritty tone and gave its players an in-depth story with the goal of rising through the ranks as a skater. Some of the new inclusions were controversial, like the implementation of vehicles and ability to get off your board to explore levels, but overall, this is a beloved entry in the long-running series.
Many consider Project 8 to be the best of its generation, due to its modern (at the time) feeling. It was rebuilt from the ground up for contemporary consoles, with an emphasis on more realistic physics and a large open world. Much like many of the Tony Hawk games from this era, the series was in need of a break, as shown by this entry’s soft sales. It suffered from oversaturation, just like the Guitar Hero and Skylanders series. It’s still a solid entry, despite feeling stale at the time.
As the first installment on the seventh generation of consoles, American Wasteland touted its large Los Angeles open world with no loading screens. While it does succeed with this goal, the map is forgettable and bland, making the large map feel like a waste. This isn’t a bad game, but it’s left in the shadow of the memorable Tony Hawk games before it.
Proving Ground would be the last mainline Tony Hawk game to release until 2015, but unfortunately, it kind of left a bad taste in the mouth of fans. It wasn’t an awful game, by any stretch, but the main feeling at the time was that the series felt stale and was in desperate need of an overhaul. The addition of various difficulty modes was a neat idea, but not enough to make it feel fresh. It also suffered from many technical issues that made it more difficult to perform tricks.
Downhill Jam isn’t bad, but it most certainly lost sight of what a Tony Hawk game is supposed to be. It dropped the fun, wacky arcade mechanics from the previous entries and turned into a simple racing game. With an overly simplified control scheme and a lack of depth, it’s a game that feels forgettable more than anything. You’d hardly be able to tell it’s part of the same series that includes great games like Pro Skater and Underground.
The very worst mainline Tony Hawk game, without a doubt, is the feeble attempt to bring back the series — Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. The result was an uninspired, unfinished mess, with technical problems galore. Activision’s license to the Tony Hawk series was about to expire before this game launched, so the company rushed it out the door. Nostalgia alone was not enough to carry it, even if fans were desperate for more Tony Hawk.
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