Every single Tony Hawk game reviewed ... even the really bad ones!
Tony Hawk gets a bad rap. These days it's not hard to find people who have something bad to say about this aging franchise. In fact, the last time we saw a Tony Hawk game it was such a disaster that they decided to take a year off ... something Activision had never done before. But all of you naysayers be damned, because without the 1999 release of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater we would never have seen many of the classic "extreme sports" games that we've fallen in love with. Gone would be the SSX series, EA wouldn't have released Skate and Acclaim's Aggressive Inline. It would be a completely different world, one with a lot less bad attitudes.
But that's not the world we live in, because ten years ago Activision stunned the world by releasing the first must-own skateboarding game. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater broke all the rules and a nation of wannabe skaters fell in love with it. The game was so successful that for nine years straight Activision had a brand new entry. That's nine games in nine years, an impressive feat that is usually only attributed to sports games like Madden NFL and Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf. Like it or not, Tony Hawk is here to stay, even if it has hit a few bumps along the way.
To celebrate Tony Hawk's tenth year as a video game hero, Defunct Games has decided to take a look at the past ten years of the Tony Hawk brand. We're going to take a look at each of the nine games in the original series, along with the portable games, spin-offs, remakes and more. In all we're going to review 17 different games. To save on time and energy we don't plan on reviewing multiple versions of the same game, however there are some cases where the alternate version is different enough to warrant an additional paragraph. If you're one of those people who has yet to experience the Tony Hawk series, then take a look at this list and use it as a buyer's guide for what's good and what's terrible. Trust me, there's been a little of both in the past ten years of Tony Hawk!
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (PS1)
[ Release: 1999 - Developer: Neversoft ]
Little did we know how much our lives were going to change with the release of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. If you asked me what I thought back then I would have told you that Activision's skateboarding game would be yet another disaster, much like all of the other console skateboarding games (Skate or Die, etc.). But Tony Hawk's Pro Skater proved me wrong, and over the last ten years it has spawned countless sequels, ports and spin-offs, as well as inspired other developers to finally make high quality "extreme sports" games (SSX, Skate, and so on). Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was unlike anything we had seen before; it managed to offer deep gameplay and all the excitement you could want. Best of all, it was so over the top that it was impossible to ignore the game's endearing qualities. It offered fantastic graphics, great level designs and more tricks than would ever know what to do with. So why am I not giving this game a top score? It's simple, over the last ten years this Tony Hawk game has become less and less relevant. It's still a fun game, but practically every level can be found in newer, better iterations. What's more, most of the best ingredients are nowhere to be seen. You can't manual, there is no spine transfer and you can forget about all that Lords of Dogtown trickery you got in American Wasteland. Still, this isn't a bad game; it's just been outmoded thanks to the series' annual sequels.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (PS1)
[ Release: 2000 - Developer: Neversoft ]
If you're going to buy one Tony Hawk's Pro Skater game for the original PlayStation, make sure it's this 2000 sequel. While not as good as some of the later iterations, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 offers improved level designs, better graphics and some of the gameplay tricks that we've come to know and love. The original game was Neversoft figuring out what they could and couldn't do with the engine, so it makes sense that this sequel is all about the team polishing up what they had already done and making it even better. Sadly the game will still feel archaic to anybody who played Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 or 4, but it's not to the same extent of the first game. Ultimately you're better off buying one of the PlayStation 2 Tony Hawk games, however this 2000 installment is definitely the best version of the game on the original PlayStation. If you're a fan of the series but only own a PS1, then you shouldn't think twice about picking up Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2.
Tony Hawk's Game Boy Color Games (GBC)
[ Release: 2000-2001 - Developer: Natsume/HotGen ]
Just because you can develop your top selling franchises for every console doesn't mean you should. A perfect case and point for this theory is Tony Hawk's Pro Skater for the Game Boy Color. In two years Activision had the balls to release three different 8-bit entries. That's right, three games in two years. How could they do that? It's simple; all three of them were essentially the same game, with the same graphics, the same terrible sound and the same horrible gameplay. The only real difference was the background, which changed slightly from game to game. While nowhere near as bad as prior 8-bit skateboarding games, these Game Boy Color games were the first sign that not every Tony Hawk game was worth running out and buying. When the best thing you can say about a game is that it's in color, then you definitely know something's wrong. These days the only reason you should even consider buying one of these Game Boy Color titles is for pure comedy, as they don't represent the fullness of the console games in any way, shape or form. Assuming you own a PSP, Nintendo DS or even a Game Boy Advance, there are much better Tony Hawk games awaiting you.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (PS2)
[ Release: 2001 - Developer: Neversoft ]
If you ask the developers at Neversoft they'll tell you that working on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 was a hellish ordeal. For one thing they didn't have the engine done until late in the game's development, which meant they were limited in exactly what they could and couldn't do until then. What's more, the game is running on brand new hardware that was notoriously difficult to develop for (especially in the first few years). But Neversoft was up for the challenge, because what they made is not only one of the best Tony Hawk entries, but also one of the most forward thinking games of all time. Don't simply write this game off as nothing more than another Tony Hawk sequel, this third installment surprised a lot of series faithful by adding a lot to the gameplay, improving the size of the levels and, most importantly, offering online play. That's right, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 offered online play ... a year before Sony even offered the PS2 Network Adaptor. Gamers with a little know how could pick up a USB hub and get this skateboarder online. Still not impressed? Well, most of the moves you now take for granted were first implemented in this third installment. Given the troubled development, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 should not be this good. But it is, and that's why it's so damn easy to recommend.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2x (Xbox)
[ Release: 2001 - Developer: Treyarch ]
In theory Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2x should have been a slam dunk. Not only was this the first time the skateboarding series had made it to a non-Sony console (save for the portable games), but it was also a chance to see what the first two games looked like with drastically improved graphics. There was just one hiccup: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 was released on the PlayStation 2 months earlier. By the time Activision had this game ready for the Xbox launch; gamers all over the world had already fallen in love with the new levels and online functionality. Yet here is a quickie upgrade to games that are two years old? Worse yet, this remake didn't even come with online mode, despite the fact that the Xbox had a built-in modem. Couple these problems with the fact that Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 is a better game in every possible way and you're left with a game that is disappointing on every level. The game wasn't worth your money back then and it certainly isn't now!