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Top five Tony Hawk video games

By John Sosnowski
March 2, 2017

Since the introduction of “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” in 1999, the franchise it spawned has generated over $1 billion in revenue according to Yahoo Finance, and more importantly left its mark on a generation of gamers over the course of 19 installments (enhanced remakes and portable adaptations counted.) Tony Hawk himself told Entrepreneur.com “Any time skating was featured in a video game, I ate it up. So around 1997-98, I was shopping this video game idea.” From this modest beginning, it is doubtful that he could have predicted the franchise’s runaway success and impact on pop culture. Herein, we count down one writer’s opinion of the top five Tony Hawk video games.

5. Tony Hawk’s Underground 2

Year of release: 2004

Systems: Xbox, Playstation 2, GameCube, Windows, Game Boy Advance

After its predecessor broke the series’ pattern by dropping the “Pro Skater” titles and adding a fully realized storyline, this game’s story picks up one year after the events of “Tony Hawk’s Underground.” The player-customized skater is recruited to a ‘World Destruction Tour’ in which competing teams led by Tony Hawk and Bam Margera trot the globe scoring points for stunts combining skating with outlandish vandalism and mischief. This game falls so low on the list because the Destruction Tour aspect played out much like a video game appropriation of MTV’s “Jacka**” program and at times seemed to overshadow the skating. But, “THUG 2” also offered intriguing new developments for the franchise. In Story Mode, the player could alternate between their custom character, a pro teammate, and two special guests unique to each level in order to complete objectives. The game also included “Classic Mode,” which replicated the more arcade-like gameplay experience of the “Pro Skater” games.

4. Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground

Year of release: 2007

Systems: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, Playstation 2, Nintendo DS

By the late 2000s, the Tony Hawk franchise seemed to falter in some ways. “Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground” and its immediate predecessor “Tony Hawk’s Project 8” felt somewhat cobbled together and lacked the plot development of the “Underground”/”American Wasteland” sub-trilogy. However, “Proving Ground” merits inclusion on this list for implementing innovative ideas. Set in an open world map incorporating Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington cityscapes, the game offers three categories of goals with their own miniature storylines and attributes. ‘Career’ goals emphasize the ‘Nail the Trick’ feature, which tasks players with landing tricks by manipulating their character’s movements with precision. ‘Hardcore’ goals emphasize specialized skating skills. ‘Rigger’ goals emphasize the rigging feature which allows the player to manipulate the gameplay environment with skateable obstacles such as ramps and railings.

3. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD

Year of release: 2012

Systems: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Windows

After a downward spiral in critical reception over the previous several Tony Hawk games, this game was released as a digital download and helped bring the series back to its roots. Featuring remastered levels from the first two “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” games (and levels from “THPS 3” in a later downloadable content pack,) this game brings back the arcade gameplay format of the franchise’s early installments in high definition graphics, along with new playable skaters and combo-building moves such as the revert and manual which were introduced after the first “Pro Skater.” This game receives its place on the list because it synthesizes the best aspects of the “Pro Skater” era of the franchise.

2. Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland

Year of release: 2005

Systems: Xbox, Playstation 2, GameCube, Xbox 360, Windows

Despite the distinct title and self-contained plot, “American Wasteland” might be considered part three of the “Underground” era of the “Tony Hawk” franchise. In this plotline, the player commands a runaway teen skater who has newly arrived in Los Angeles and falls in with a clique of underground skateboarders. Once the player-character is initiated, they help the group’s leader realize his dream of a ‘Skate Ranch’ – an ultimate skate park comprised of heavy objects dismantled from the L.A. cityscape through the use of skating techniques – while run-ins with the law and a corrupt real estate mogul prove to be ongoing challenges. This game did away with loading screens for Story Mode by implementing an open-world gameplay area and in-game skate shops, clothing stores and barber shops to facilitate character customization. It also introduced new moves like body flips, rolls and parkour techniques, and objectives which utilized BMX bikes.

1. Tony Hawk’s Underground

Year of release: 2003

Systems: Xbox, Playstation 2, GameCube, Game Boy Advance, Windows, mobile phones

After four “Pro Skater” games, the series had seemed to develop a tendency similar to the likes of Madden NFL games, in which a new game with some added features would come out annually, but nothing was drastically changed from the old ones. However, this fifth installment was a radical departure. The first installment to feature a fleshed-out storyline, this game had the player command a customized player-character whereas the previous games would allow the player’s choice of featured pros. The player then guides their skater on a renegade quest from being a local unknown to pro superstar, while their treacherous so-called friend Eric Sparrow proves to be a stumbling block the entire way. On the gameplay front, “THUG” introduced the ability to climb and walk over obstacles which would be problematic to skate over, and driving objectives with vehicles unique to each level. For being the series’ greatest watershed moment as well as arguably the most fun installment, Tony Hawk’s Underground ranks first on this countdown.

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