We’re big fans of Mr Hawk here at GR. Not only for his skateboarding skills, or his (mostly) excellent video games – but for his excellent Twitter game as well.
That aside, we mainly love him for the games. The early 00’s were a magical time thanks to the THPS series; which informed an entirely new generation of the addictive potential of high score chasing. I feel like I can speak for more than a few, as well, whose tastes in music were helped along by the near immaculate soundtrack selection of the first few games.
THPS as a series still holds up astonishingly well, so we’ve decided to do a deep-ish dive into the main series and rank the efforts from worst to best. Please keep in mind that this is only our personal preference, so there’s really no need to get upset. Anyone up for a civil debate, we’ll happily join in. Anyone being rude or aggressive, well, you’re just a bit pointless aren’t you?
There will be no peripheral based shenanigans here though, so our apologies to the broken and unplayable Tony Hawks Ride, nor will there be any looks into the handheld ported titles, as…well they’re a bit naff too. Anyway.. *grinds away playing a sick guitar solo*
10 – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 (2015)
The only truly bad as opposed to stale game in the main series, and honestly really sad to see. Word has it that the deal between Activision and Mr Hawk was about to run out, so this was rushed out of the door as one final cash grab. Rushed is the imperative word there, as THPS5 is buggy to the point of being almost unplayable, features no new ideas, and having the stone plated temerity to mess with the time honoured control scheme. A real shame, as some due care and attention here could have revived the franchise and stopped dorks like me from replaying the same 20 year old games.
Best song on the soundtrack : Killer Be Killed – Wings Of Feather & Wax. A belting tune from a decent side project on a meh soundtrack
9 – Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground (2007)
So now we’re into the point of personal preference. The thing is, none of the games from the original run are bad. Some of them just started to wear thin, or had a few puzzling design choices. Proving Ground is a perfectly serviceable title, and if it was the first THPS game you played, you’d probably think it was a revelation. As it stands for veterans though, the ability to stop skating to build ramps mid-run just proves a little cumbersome. It’s an unnecessarily busy game, adding a few too many bells and whistles where you just want to skate.
Best song on the soundtrack : At The Gates – Slaughter Of The Soul. Easily. That album rules, I wont budge on this one.
8 – Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland (2005)
The REALLY story based one. THAW takes place in “one massive level” – it doesn’t. There’s bland corridors taking you from one area to the next, so it’s hardly seamless. Again nothing truly wrong here, just an over-reliance on a hokey story mode and a fairly hideous art style throughout.
Best song on the soundtrack : Del The Funky Homosapien ft. The Hyrogliphics – Burnt. LOVE that dude.
7 – Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 (2004)
The Jackass one. Bam Margera was featured in the games beginning with THPS3, but due to the burgeoning popularity of the critically acclaimed neo-noir arthouse project Jackass, he took centre stage here. The really dumb story mode focuses on a rivalry between his team and yours, with a real focus on lowbrow toilet humour. Some of it hits, most of it does not. I played this to death at launch at age 19 and felt like it was too immature even back then. Again, a solid title, but it comes across as an in-your-face attitude designed by a committee.
Best song on the soundtrack : There’s some real bangers on here, and I nearly went for Metallica’s Whiplash. BUT. It has Midlife Crisis by the ALMIGHTY Faith No More, so it’s that.
6 – Tony Hawk’s Project 8 (2006)
This felt like a palate cleanser. After all the zany over the top antics of THUG2 and THAW, Project 8 was a return to a focus on skateboarding as an actual sport. Nail the trick mode was a fun little diversion, even if it did just feel like a reaction to the Skate series, and often came across as too clumsy to organically work into your combos. And Jason Lee was in it, and we like him. (He’s what?…A SCIENTOLOGIST?!)
Best song on the soundtrack : Iron Swan by The Sword. Good song, takes too long to get going though. But for full clarity – this soundtrack is probably the weakest of all the games.
5 – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (1999)
A prime example of an exemplary game that has only been lessened due to it’s sequels. For an absolutely pure THPS high score experience, it has to be the original. The only drawback is that you’ll miss reverts and manuals from the later titles, so going back to it can often result in a bit of a bail orgy. Still though, absolutely iconic, with some of the tightest level design of the entire series.
Best song on the soundtrack : Don’t even act like it was going to be anything other than Superman by Goldfinger. It might be the song most identified with the series as a whole.
4 – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 (2002)
Now for clarity, I adore this game, and I’ve arguably spent more time with this than any of the others due to the wealth of content and fantastic personalised end of career goals for each skater. But looking at it objectively, this is where things started to go off the rails (pun not intended, but I’ll take it) in terms of realism – and I feel like the move away from realism is what hurt the franchise in the long term. Still though, it’s arcade style thrills are a joy, and this is where C-O-M-B-O runs were introduced, adding a fiendish challenge for people who were beginning to find the template a bit too easy. On a personal note, it also added manual tricks, which are an integral part of my high score game.
Best song on the soundtrack : I’m a big metalhead, and there’s some great offerings here in that regard, but Hip-Hop firmly wins this soundtrack, with superb additions from Delinquent Habits & De La Soul. The personal favourite has to be the near-as-damn-it perfect Non Compos Mentis by Haiku D’Etat
3 – Tony Hawk’s Underground (2003)
Agonised about this one. AGONISED. So as a rule, my personal feeling on story modes in THPS games is that they suck. I hate them. They’re cheesy and feel antithetical to the type of game you’re playing. But the challenge on offer here is sublime, the level design is pretty damn immaculate, and the ability to get off your board to chain combos further is a real shot in the arm to the chasing of high scores.
Best song on the soundtrack : Rise Against – Like The Angel. This is one of those ones I won’t budge on, I love(d) Rise Against.
2 – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (2000)
This seems to have been the jumping off point for most, as the word of mouth regarding the THPS series began to grow. The soundtrack is perfect, the level design is perfect, the level of challenge is perfect. Literally all that holds this back is the general choppiness of the game if you go back to it now, and the comparative (and it is only comparative to the other titles) lack of content. But it remains one of the most iconic games of not only the series, but of all time.
Best song on the soundtrack : THPS2 has arguably the best soundtrack in the series. It feels meticulously sculpted, but this could simply be it’s relevancy to the time it was released. My pick is Millencolin – No Cigar. What a tune.
1 – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (2001)
The champion. The don. The absolute sweet spot. Everything that has been mentioned up to this point is refined to perfection in the third outing. The challenge is perfectly weighted, the amount of content is large without being bloated, it features a handful of the greatest levels in the history of the franchise, it started playing around with being a bit more cheeky and mischievous without jumping the shark completely, and it added the legendary revert technique for longer combos. Didn’t even consider putting anything else in the top spot, this is by far my favourite game in the series.
Best song on the soundtrack : The Adolescents – Amoeba. Perhaps a bit of a left field choice, I just really love that song.
That’s your lot! Comment below and re-rank at your leisure, and we’d be really keen to hear what your favourite soundtrack songs are. Now if you’ll excuse us – *hits a wicked 1080 Christ Air*