Ranking Every Tony Hawk Game From Worst To Best

Ranking Tony Hawk games
Ranking Tony Hawk games

Ask anybody to name a famous skateboarder and 20 times out of 10 and you’ll hear the name of the eponymous Tony Hawk. The Birdman is a legend, an innovator, and (famously) the nicest guy you’ll ever forget the face of. He owes much of that notoriety to the staggeringly popular skateboarding video game franchise bearing his persona. Having sold over 1.4 Billion copies over the last 20+ years, Tony Hawk carved a place for himself in the hearts of millions of gamers and skateboarders alike with his addictive pieces of interactive software. Even if you’ve never owned a video game console in your life, you’ve heard of Tony Hawk through word of mouth alone.

A behemoth in the gaming industry, Tony Hawk’s decades-spanning skateboard emulators continue to flourish and inspire thousands of gamers to go outside and pick up a skateboard. With such a rich decade-spanning history, it should come as no surprise that the quality would ebb and flow over time. To this end, I’ve been entrusted with the task of ranking the entire franchise front to back so you can avoid the missteps and get a strong introduction to one of the best series of sports titles in gaming history.


16. Tony Hawk Shred

Tony Hawk Shred

Developer: Robomodo
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360, Wii

The worst crime a bad game can commit is being boring. Tony Hawk Shred, the second outing for Activision’s (admittedly awesome looking) skateboard controller, turned absolutely zero heads on release. At a glance it could be confused for its predecessor Tony Hawk Ride, and upon further distinction it reveals itself to be a sedative in the form of a video game. Levels offer little to no freedom as you ride along a preset path through uninspired locales, performing mind-numbingly simple tricks and fighting with the awkward controller. The art style, while clean and inoffensive, still manages to feel washed out and samey like so many games of the time. Pro skateboarding videos the series was known for have been replaced with poorly compressed live-action cutscenes featuring skaters who couldn’t act a single convincing scene if their lives depended on it.

With the removal of the ever-popular Create-a-Skater mode, a jarring lack of variety, and an overall 2 hours or less of content, not even the half-baked snowboarding mode could save this hot mess of a game.


15. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5

Developer: Robomodo, Disruptive Games, Fun Labs
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Propped up by Activision as the exciting return to form for one of gaming’s biggest names, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 prompted gamers to recall their fondest memories of the series in hopes of a stirring nostalgic franchise revival. Then almost instantly reminded them of the cost of getting your hopes up.

From the first minute playing THPS5, you can immediately feel something is wrong. Skaters don’t make contact with the ground, grinds now slam you to the ground and lock you in place as if magnetic, and that character model definitely doesn’t look like Tony Hawk. Ugly art design plagues every interesting corner of the game, lines make no sense, and confusingly placed obstacles are surrounded by fields of nothing. Create-a-Skater has been replaced with low quality cosmetics, and any sense of individuality the series had built its name on to this point was thrown out the window.

Ironically, the games’ saving grace lies in its deepest flaws. A YouTube compilation gem upon release, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is notorious for its many boundary breaks, glitchy mechanics, and insane ragdoll physics that would send the player flying. Much like Sonic ‘06 before it, the most fun you can have is through laughing at it with friends. Despite its attempt at replicating what made the iconic series so beloved, THPS5 is simply a game not worth loving. Any attempt to play it seriously will only end in heartbreak.


14. Tony Hawk Ride

Tony Hawk Ride
Tony Hawk Ride

Developer: Robomodo, Zynga Eugene
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360, Wii

Following the rollercoaster of success that was Guitar Hero, the hardware engineers at Activision went straight to work designing yet another expensive hunk of plastic designed to take up space in your local game shop and draw the eye. This resulted in the Ride Controller, a plastic skateboard that despite clearly being a gimmick, was loaded to the brim with impressive tech, slightly over-responsive motion controls, and an array of sensors. All they needed was a piece of killer software to accompany their expensive tat and Activision would be printing money. Robomodo answered with Tony Hawk Ride.

The Birdman himself led the charge, attempting to inspire trust that despite its lack of convention, the Ride board is just as fun and technical as riding a real skateboard. This turned out to only be part-true. The controller itself actually can be fun to use, but it’s longshot from being technical and precise. Ride never really offered a good reason for previously sedentary gamers to get on their feet and hop on a plastic skateboard. Linear levels ensured a lack of replayability, challenges requiring precision serve as perpetual roadblocks, and another story is shoehorned in through the use of ugly, piss-filtered FMVs.

Underneath the clunky peripheral, ugly presentation, and obvious gimmicks, Tony Hawk Ride isn’t a broken game. The illusion of skateboarding even manages to take hold on some occasions. But when faced with a lack of replayability, questionable levels of content, and a heavy plastic controller knocking against the floor every 5 seconds, it fails to hold up as a game worthy of the Tony Hawk franchise.


13. Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam

Downhill Jam
Downhill Jam

Developer: Blizzard Albany, Toys For Bob, Supervillain Studios, Visual Impact
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PS2, Wii, GBA, Nintendo DS

In the late 2000’s the Wii and PS2’s success caused a weird anomaly in gaming. While the major consoles moved forward with HD visuals, comprehensive physics systems, and expansive online features, the install base boasted by these underpowered machines ensured they were flooded with games long after their assumed obsoletion. Looking to milk the series for all its worth then, Activision called on Toys for Bob to make an all-new spin-off title exclusive to the Wii (and later the PS2) that would take advantage of the thousands of gamers still on last-gen. That game was Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam.

A stark departure from the series, Downhill Jam forgoes the objective-based affairs of the series proper in favor of a downhill racing game. On paper and even in its first few moments, this doesn’t seem all that bad. A harmless spin-off racing title with colorful SSX-esque characters and fast-paced gameplay could have worked amazingly well, if it weren’t so shallow. What you see is what you get with Downhill Jam. Even as the locales get more fantastical and interesting to look at, you’re still doing the same repetitive act of grinding down rails for speed on loop like a monkey taught to hit two buttons. It’s a fun game when you turn your brain off, but discerning players will more than likely be turning their consoles off first.


12. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD


Developer: Robomodo
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Robomodo’s first outing as the new developer of the Tony Hawk franchise acts as a sign of what would become of the series over the next several years. Wonky physics, missing features, and bland art design run rampant through their takes on the skating franchise, and it all started with THPSHD. A dream come true upon announcement, THPSHD was intended to bring the classic Pro Skater series to the PS3 and Xbox 360 for a new generation to enjoy while sparking nostalgia in those who grew up with the franchise. It was even reasonably priced as a downloadable title, and featured a $5 DLC that added in levels and features from THPS3, making it a compelling compilation of the PS1 originals for a killer price. But of course, every rose-tinted nostalgia grab has its Activision “V” shaped thorn.

Most of the problems we would see plague THPS5 started with HD. Ragdoll physics that would rather throw you into the ground than keep you on your board. Movement wobble that makes your sense of place in the level uncertain as you glide over its poorly textured floors rather than on top of them. A dismal art style trying too hard to be realistic while hiding its shortcomings behind a faux cel-shading. It’s all started here. To make matters worse, the game simply wasn’t as feature heavy as gamers were led to believe. Create-a-Skater is completely gone, replaced by the ability to use your bulky oversized Xbox Avatar. The soundtrack has been reduced to only 9 of the original songs. And of the 19 levels included in the original two games, only 10 made it to this HD conversion.

At the time, it seemed like a small hiccup for Robomodo as they took the mantle so valiantly worn by Neversoft, but now with the gift of hindsight, it’s plain to see that they set the standard for what to expect for the series going forward: a lack of content, stability, and creativity. This is definitely not the best way to play these iconic games. THPSHD’s one saving grace used to be making these iconic levels available on modern machines, but after being delisted in 2017 and fundamentally replaced by 2020’s release of THPS1+2, its reason to exist has all but dwindled.


11. Tony Hawk’s Project 8

Tony Hawk's Project 8
Tony Hawk’s Project 8

Developer: Neversoft, Shaba Games, Page 44 Studios
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PS2, PS3, PSP, Xbox, Xbox 360

The first game designed from the ground up to take advantage of next-gen, Project 8 succeeds in feeling like a substantial step forward for the series as the first true open world Tony Hawk game. Then new features such as Nail a Trick, which lets you make a flip trick in real time, the freeform Ranking progression system, and ambient rail/line challenges make for a unique game that feels familiar enough to the rest of the games without falling back on being just another Underground with new maps.

New locations are vibrant and have a real connection to them that leave the world memorable and easy to navigate with a new over the top set piece or landmark to grind around every corner. The straightforward premise has you make a name for yourself in the local skate scene and rise through 200 ranks to become one of Tony’s Top 8. The freeform progression system and open-ended gameplay feel ahead of their time, drawing eerie parallels towards modern open world affairs. Sadly, Create-A-Skater sees another nerf as you’re locked between 3 body types and a dismal amount of customization options, leading to any sense of self being lost when you finally reach the project 8 competition. Consoles also had problems running this ambitious title, making the lack of a PC port negligible to say the least.

Gripes aside, Project 8 is a breath of fresh air the series truly needed that far too many tend to sleep on.


10. Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland
Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland

Developer: Neversoft, Aspyr
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PC, PS2, GameCube, Xbox, Xbox 360

California lies at the genesis of skateboarding, so it only made sense that gaming’s leading skateboarding franchise would eventually base an entire game around the scattered wasteland that is the West coast. Taking place in Hollywood and all along Beverly Hills, American Wasteland sees you playing as your stereotypical runaway skater kid on a mission to find himself through the art and camaraderie of skateboarding. Along the way you’ll pick up valuable skills such as parkour, park creation, and extreme BMX biking. If it sounds unfocused, that’s because it is. But in being a follow-up to Underground, everything is tight and fun regardless of its relevance to skateboarding. Fun once you make it past all the tutorials, that is.

In a general sense, all of the story focused games feel like extended tutorials no matter what you do. You’re always doing something new and exciting, and the games really want to make sure you know exactly how to execute what they’re asking of you. American Wasteland takes this to a whole other level, offering more tutorial than game in some instances. Once you get down to the base gameplay though, you’ll find a Tony Hawk game here as clean as any other. Create-A-Skater has still seen better days, giving you a preset to customize rather than full creation, and the story is simple and unimportant as it tracks your progress in the production of a backwoods skatepark. But the level designs and the big moments in the game like the casino heist and dinosaur bowling create lasting memories that push this game into the same heights as its predecessors. It was also the last “story game” to have classic mode, featuring the welcome return of many classic maps from the series.

American Wasteland is fantastic game tied into one hell of a tutorial.


9. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

Developer: Neversoft
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PS1, N64, Dreamcast, Game Boy Color, N-Gage

Also known as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skateboarding, the first game in the franchise made definite waves upon release. In a time where sports games were getting more sterile and clean cut, Neversoft’s blast of attitude and personality cut like a hot knife through butter. Punk, Ska, alt-rock, and hip hop blasted the speakers of your mom’s CRT while you quickly came to grips with THPS’ intuitive controls and imposing time limit. It was like nothing else at the time.

Playing today, THPS seems archaic yet quaint. The skaters are slow and levels are grounded in an approximation of reality. Combo strings are unheard of, manuals aren’t possible, and special tricks hardly feel special. And yet, it’s these very limitations that make going back to the original game a unique, enjoyable experience. You simply cannot fault it for being the first to do what the series does so well: pure arcade style skateboarding.


8. Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground
Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground

Developer: Neversoft, Page 44 Studios, Vicarious Visions
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PS2, PS3, Nintendo DS, Wii, Xbox 360

The final game to be developed by Neversoft, and the last story-based game the series would ever see, Proving Ground proves to be a worthy conclusion but also a sad footnote on the rise and fall of this momentous franchise. Unfortunately released in the wake of EA’s Skate, a grittier, more realistic, and in many cases, more boring game than the average Tony Hawk fare, Neversoft opted to forgo the over the top, tongue-in-cheek antics the series had enjoyed up to this point in favor of their own take on Skate’s gritty monotone aesthetic. Everything from the low camera and industrial setting make the game look like a cheap imitation of skate rather than a distinct competitor, muddying the market for both games in the process.

It’s a shame, because underneath the soulless exterior, the soul of a Tony Hawk game burns bright. Many of the new features introduced in Project 8 return and they’re better than ever. Nail the Trick now includes manuals, the open world saw a massive boost in population and cohesion, and Create-A-Skater is back in a major way, once again letting you have a significant level of control over your appearance as you skate your way through Philly and its surrounding suburbs through the last story game Neversoft would ever develop, It’s a real shame Proving Ground lost the confidence the series had boasted up to that point, because this is one of the best games in the series, wistfully buried under layers of 2007-era concessions.


7. Tony Hawk’s Underground 2

Tony Hawk's Underground 2
Tony Hawk’s Underground 2

Developer: Neversoft, Beenox, Vicarious Visions
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PC, PS2, PSP (as THUG 2: Remix), Xbox, GameCube, Game Boy Advance

Also known as “the one with all the Jackass,” THUG2 is the first time the series ever truly lost focus. Up to this point, story or otherwise, the Tony Hawk franchise was always about skateboarding. Whether it was unlocking new moves, winning championships, or engaging in silly goals on your skateboard, everything revolved around the culture and love of the sport. THUG2 changed everything with its World Destruction Tour. Now instead of working towards a Pro Am competition or career progression, you’d be unlocking Steve-O on the back of a mechanical bull or a stereotypical painted aboriginal australian in a go kart with the sole purpose of unabashed property damage or pranks. Despite the departure from skateboarding though, Underground 2 managed to lose none of the polish or fun the series had built to this point.

Create-A-Skater is the best it’s ever been, skateboarding, while put to the wayside a few times, still feels fantastic and snappy, and levels are vast and varied, featuring way more verticality and secrets than those found in the first Underground. With the continued support of Classic Mode, even the most jaded Pro Skater purist can find something to love in THUG2.


6. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4

Developer: Neversoft
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PC, PS1, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, Game Boy Advance

Neversoft was on a roll by the time THPS4 rolled around. The gameplay loop was solid, the controls had been perfected to a science, and lifelong fans were already chomping at the bit for more arcade skateboarding action. In what should have been a conventional sequel then, Neversoft threw out the rulebook and took its first leap towards the future of the franchise.

Open sandbox levels filled with NPC’s and collectibles were the flavor of the week. Gone was the restrictive 2 minute time limit and goals list, as now you were expected to explore every city from top to bottom in search of cash, collectibles, and quest-bearing NPC’s. Progression in THPS4 was on a whole other level, adding the possibilities of temporary level design changes, self-contained set piece moments, and voicework created to verbalize the series’ tongue-in-cheek humor it had alluded to up to this point.

Absolute bangers of levels like Alcatraz and College stand out as memorable stages, and goals like the Kona Snake Run and Misty Flip Over the Big Hut walk the line between frustrating and fun so often that you’ll be thinking of them long after you’ve finished the game. As a series constantly being improved by Neversoft every year, THPS4 was a confident half-step up from the Tony Hawk games of the past, and proved it didn’t have to break pace to hit its stride.


5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2X


Developer: Neversoft, Treyarch
Publisher: Activision O2
Platform(s): Xbox

Prior to the launch of the Xbox, Activision made sweeping promises that the hotly anticipated THPS3 would be available on Microsoft’s first ever home console, designed specifically to take advantage of the hardware. To tide impatient players over, Activision enlisted the help of Treyarch to produce the first remaster the series would ever see: THPS2X. Everything is here. Every level, every gap, every customization option, every bit of the soundtrack. All of it laid bare in a glorious 5th generation sheen. As if that wasn’t good enough, Treyarch went as far as to include the entirety of the first game as an unlockable bonus. Seeing both of these PS1 classics with the draw distances and detailed grass voxels the Xbox is capable of feels as though a fog was lifted (pun intended).

However, being a remaster so soon after the original games has its share of disadvantages. While it’s great that Xbox players might get to experience these games for the first time, series veterans would find nothing new to enjoy aside from the fresh coat of paint. Treyarch’s solution? A set of 5 levels developed exclusively for the Xbox that completely misses the point of the series. You skate through places like a Eurobeat night club collecting phone number adorned napkins and a construction site that tasks you with skating up its single skyscraper, with the only way down to bail and drop your combo to fall damage. The new content is truly abysmal and some of the worst the series has ever seen. Including all 19 levels from the series so far in one release is no mean feat, and it’s a great look for those yet to experience the first two games in the series, but the exclusive levels and lack of new content drag the package down.


4. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3


Developer: Neversoft
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PC, PS1, PS2, Xbox, N64, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, GameCube

Two words: Endless combos. Theoretically anyway. THPS3 was a tour de force for the next generation, boasting bigger levels, bigger gaps, and bigger combos through the inclusion of the adrenaline-inducing revert. Now for the first time in the series a vert trick didn’t mean the end of your combo. At a smooth 60FPS, a first for the series, speed and precision became a priority. 2 minute time limits had the potential to mean nothing to a seasoned player, as the enhanced level of control provided by THPS3 invited players of any skill level to go for riskier maneuvers and gnarlier lines.

From a technical and gameplay standpoint, THPS3 is probably the best playing game in the series. Only in level design does the game slightly fall short of greatness. For every Skater Island and Tokyo, there’s an Airport and Rio. Nostalgia and aesthetics play a large part in their memorability, but when playing through each level, their shortcomings become more and more obvious with each run. Airport still leaves you high (low?) and dry once you reach the bottom of its linear downhill layout and Rio demands nothing of the player once you discover the endless grind combo encircling the park. That being said, very little will make you forget the smile on your face the first time you figure out how to trigger the earthquake in Los Angeles, or find the entrance to the haunted house in Suburbia.

THPS3 stands at the apex of Tony Hawk gameplay, while level design starts to show cracks when held up to the standards of its predecessor.


3. Tony Hawk’s Underground


Developer: Neversoft
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PC, PS2, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, GameCube

As far as we’re concerned, these top 3 spots can go in any order.

This is it. The big one. The one where Neversoft turned Tony Hawk into a story-based franchise and changed the series forever. No longer were you completing goals to fill out an arbitrary checklist, now every goal contributed to plot progression. Pro Skaters were now celebrities and characters in the world, with Neversoft now encouraging you to inject yourself directly into the drama with the ever-popular Create-a-Skater mode . Iconic moments like McTwisting over a helicopter in Hawaii and escaping Moscow under the cover of darkness define THUG and make it the best at what it does: pulling you into the irreverent world of Tony Hawk.

New passive RPG elements that level you up the more you perform certain tricks and the introduction of create-a-trick only help add to the deep personalization, crafting an experience that truly feels like your own. Taking a daring new direction on top of maintaining the high standard of quality fans have come to expect from the franchise, none of the story games have yet come close to topping THUG and its vy for the heart of every teen with a PlayStation 2.


2. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2


Developer: Neversoft
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PC, PS1, Dreamcast, N64, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance

No game is perfect. But THPS2 comes pretty close. From the first drop in at Hangar, every moment of THPS2 is nothing short of captivating. Combo lines seem to appear from nothing as you skate through its tightly designed, nuanced levels. Secret areas are hidden in such a way that beckon you to find them with obvious clues rather than demand a guidebook or map. Manuals ensure that street skating between goals is not only possible, but feels tactile as you maintain a balance and your score goes higher.

The tone the series would eventually adopt iss set here. Ollie the Magic Bum, a teleporting hobo, is set as a level goal with little to no explTHPSanation and you’re asked to just go with it. Create-A-Skater sees its introduction here, as does Create-a-Park. Spider-Man, Neversoft and Activision’s other big IP at the time, not only appears in graffiti and advertisements in-game; he’s unlockable as a playable character with his own swathe of web based flip tricks, grab tricks, and grinds. Future games in the series may have more features, but THPS2 stands the test of time with its perfect level design, tight game balance, and a healthy collection of secrets waiting to be discovered.


1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater Remake

Developer: Vicarious Visions
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & S, Nintendo Switch

THPS1+2 is the realization of the twice-failed dreams of Robomodo and Treyarch in the form of a remaster that’s successful at everything it attempts. The ultimate amalgamation of the best the arcade side of the series has to offer. The tight responsive gameplay of THPS3 matched with the nostalgic sights and sounds of THPS1 and the flawless execution of THPS2 combine to create the best versions of both games by a long shot. Taking liberties when necessary, the fresh coat of paint applied to the whole experience often leaves it feeling like an all-new game, only accentuating the craftsmanship and peerless design Neversoft injected into those games 20+ years ago.

Add to that the return of Create-A-Skater, featuring hundreds of customization options, the deepest Create-A-Park experience I’ve seen complete with moldable props and the ability to upload your creations online, and the overall polish of the entire beautiful package and it should be clear why THPS1+2 is the best the series has been. And seeing as it’s the most recent entry, we’re still holding out hope for the third and fourth games to get some love.

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