The heyday of action sports games is behind us, at least for now (though there are some great winter sports titles available). But while we’re waiting for the genre to rise again, there are a few classics still worth playing.
In particular, these five skateboarding games are some of the best out there. You might have to dig out an old console or fire up an emulator to play them, but it’s absolutely worth it.
1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (2001)
You could debate the merits of the various Pro Skater games all day. But many players will agree that the third title in the series reigns supreme. Even though it was released over 15 years ago, it’s still one of the highest-ranked video games of all time on Metacritic. It also holds the honor of being the #1 rated game on the PlayStation 2. If you haven’t played it, you’re missing out.
What makes it so great? It took the classic formula set out by Pro Skater and Pro Skater 2, and built upon it. There weren’t any big changes from the previous titles, other than the addition of the revert, which let players string even more tricks together. But delightful new levels like the Foundry, Skater Island, and the Cruise Ship made their first appearance. And a host of new secret characters showed up, including Darth Maul, Doom Guy, and the Demoness.
The game’s signature arcade-like feeling is perfectly on point in this game. It’s no big deal to throw a 900-degree spin or grind for miles at a time with a few button presses. Pick a level, choose a skater, and get ready to shred. Ridiculous tricks like the Human Dart grind, the Pizza Guy, and the Sith Saber Spin cement the fantastic, absurd tone of the game. It’s an absolute blast.
Your best bet for playing THPS 3 — if you don’t have a PS2 sitting around — is to grab an ISO and emulate it on your computer. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD and the Revert Pack give you some of what made the game great on PS3 or Xbox 360, but it’s not the full game experience.
2. Skate (2007)
When Tony Hawk was ruling the streets, Skate came in with something new. Its control system did away with simple button presses and replaced it with a more “organic” interface. By moving the left and the right sticks in specific patterns, meant to mimic the movement of a skater’s feet, you make your skater do different tricks.
While the control system can be challenging to learn, it has a unique appeal. Unlike the arcade feel of THPS, Skate tries to give you a more authentic experience. Landing a nollie heelflip is more difficult than just pressing a few buttons. If you’re used to the Pro Skater method of control, making the transition brings a bit of a shock. But it’s worth it when you pull off satisfying tricks.
The story-driven action mimics that of Tony Hawk’s Underground. You travel around the city, completing challenges and garnering acclaim. But the open-ended nature of the game means you can do whatever you want. Skate around San Vanelona to find the best spots. Learn a crazy new trick that you discovered. Just ride around and chill. It’s totally up to you.
Like Pro Skater 3, if you want to play Skate, you’re going to need to either dig up an older system or emulate it, which is more difficult for PS3 and Xbox 360 games. But it can be done. Alternatively, if you’ve got an Xbox One, you can check out Skate 3 via backwards compatibility.
3. Tony Hawk’s Underground (2003)
Skate may have redefined the genre, but Underground set the bar high for story-based skateboarding games. Playing as yourself instead of a pro skater was a departure from previous Pro Skater games, as was the “punk-to-pro” storyline. The environments of Underground were likewise different from previous titles, with an emphasis on street skating over parks and crazy dream locations like Area 51.
The story is entertaining (if a bit far-fetched), the skating is as fun as ever, and many opportunities for customization make you feel like the protagonist skater is really your own. The ability to explore a variety of cities gives you plenty of great skating options, but the replay value of Underground does feel quite limited compared to other entries.
You can probably guess what I’m about to say next: you should emulate this one if you don’t own an older console.
4. Skate 2 (2009)
By sticking with the same formula as the first game but beefing up pretty much every area, Skate 2 surpassed its predecessor in the series. Still challenging and rewarding, the flick-it control system continued to differentiate this series from the Hawk games. With a significantly larger bag of tricks than the first, Skate 2 will keep you practicing and learning for hours.
The slightly dystopian storyline also stands out among skateboarding games. Players take on Mongocorp, the giant corporation that has locked down San Vanelano and placed the best skate spots off-limits. You’ll have to take back the skate scene with new tricks, fresh challenges, and all-new contests. Released during a long Tony Hawk’s dry spell, Skate 2 propelled the series to the throne of the skateboarding video game world.
You can download Skate 2 on the Xbox 360, but if you don’t have one, you’re stuck with emulation again.
5. OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood (2015)
The first OlliOlli broke away from the very successful formula developed by Pro Skater and Skate. Instead of a 3D world packed with thousands of obstacles to skate and a seemingly infinite number of tricks and combos, it stood on simple 2D graphics and difficult, addicting game play. Gone are the days of throwing 1080 kickflip-to-indys. Land a simple 50-50 early on in the game and you’ll be elated.
The game keeps you on your toes by throwing new levels with surprising obstacles at you. And with gorgeous art, creative level design, and an almost unmatchable dose of adrenaline when you land the trick you’ve been attempting for the past hour, it’s really hard to put down. Don’t let the simple design fool you: you’ll sink many hours into this one.
And finally, this is a game you can easily buy and play on modern systems! Grab it for download on your PlayStation or Xbox for $15. It’s also a cross-play on PS4 and Vita.
Skateboarding Games Live On
These certainly aren’t the only skateboarding games out there. And you might disagree that they’re five of the best. But they’re certainly a ton of fun. So grab an older console, or a PS4 controller and an emulator on your PC, and get shredding!
It’s a shame, but we’d be remiss if we failed to mention that you should stay far away from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. Though it promises classic gameplay on modern systems, don’t be fooled — it’s unbearably bad.
What are your favorite skateboarding games? Do you still play them? What do you think of modern titles? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Image Credit: oneinchpunch via Shutterstock.com