Right now in we are going through a strange time, to say the least. Just as spring is springing. While we are all bummed that the skateparks are closed, and we cannot have a parking lot session with our homies, it is a perfect time to battle boredom by playing the best skateboarding video games.
Dust off your game systems, pick up your controllers, and let’s take a trip down memory lane and have a quasi-chronological look at the top games through history.
720 is the first skateboarding video game. Published in 1986 by Atari, it was originally an arcade release, but was later ported to consoles and PCs. By today’s standards, 720 offered a really simple set of tricks, where you skated around, collected money, bought gear, and tried to get to different skateparks.
The skateparks represent the 4 different levels:
- Ramp- Skate vert and try to get the big air
- Downhill- Navigate the downhill course to cross the finish line as quick as you can
- Slalom – Navigate the slalom gates to cross the finish line
- Jump- Jump off ramps before time runs out, or you cross the finish line
720 is a really simple game, but for its time was revolutionary and offered smooth gameplay in a pretty big open world.
2. Skate or Die
If you had an NES, you probably played Skate or Die. Skate or Die had basically 3 game modes:
- Ramp – a trick mode, and a big air mode on a vert ramp
- Downhill – A downhill street mode, and downhill skatepark track.
- Pool Joust – rolling back and forth in a pool trying to knock the other skater off their board.
The graphics are pretty standard 8 bit quality, and the Ramp modes were pretty tricky to get the hang of, but we didn’t have a lot of options at the time. The Joust, and downhill modes were wicked fun to play, and spent many thumb-numbing hours playing this game.
3. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
After a big lull in skateboarding video games, Tony Hawks Pro Skater dropped in 1999, and a new genre of video games was created. One of the top selling games of all time, THPS completely changed the way we viewed skateboarding, and video games in general. THPS Franchise has spawned over 9 different incarnations, of varying quality.
Ever wanted to skate as Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist, Elisa Streamer, or Jamie Thomas? In THPS, you picked your pro, and skated
While levels were still timed, and you had to complete challenges to advance, THPS felt like each level was an open world. You could hit any obstacle, grind rails and ledges, hit quarter pipes, jump off buildings, and do impossible tricks, all with an insane mount of speed.
As you successfully landed tricks your SPECIAL meter would fill. Once full, you were able to perform a SPECIAL trick. Some of the special tricks were pretty ridiculous, like the Front Flip, and the Primo Grinds, which very few skaters had actually done. But most of them are drawn from actual maneuvers the pros were know for, such as Tony Hawk’s 900, and Geoff Rowley’s Darkside Grind (aka Darkslide).
To top it all off, when you beat the game with a pro, you unlocked a video edit for that pro. This alone had me beating the game with every pro, just to watch their 411VM footage at the end of the game. Not to mention the game featured a fully licensed sound track filled with punk and ska music.
4. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
THPS2 greatly expanded the already fantastic THPS. THPS2 smoothed out the graphics and gameplay, added more tricks, more levels, more skaters, and greatly enhanced the already great THPS.
The structure of the game is not much different than the previous game. THPS2 is still an arcade mode based game, where you have to collect items and do specific challenges before advancing to further levels. You still get to play as your favorite skater, and when you finish the levels with them, you get to watch their sweet, sweet video clip.
THPS2 added one element that really changed things: the Manual. The Manual completely changed the game. Now you weren’t just doing lines of individual tricks, now you were performing almost endless combos of flip tricks, grinds, grabs and manuals, allowing you to fill your special meter easier, and pull off the dope special tricks.
There was one thing missing when you aired on transition, it ended your manual line. It is definitely frustrating, and one thing that Activision aimed to fix.
5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3
They added Reverts!!!! Now you can manual up transition, air a trick, land and revert to manual. This allowed you to create endless combos. I probably spent more time trying to create a 2min long combo, than I did actually playing the challenges. This feature completely changed the series and opened up the world of skateboarding video games.
Aside from the new Revert feature, THPS3 was still essentially the same arcade-style gameplay, with new levels, new music, and additional pro skaters. Still, THPS3 is such a fantastic, and revolutionary game. Arguably the best of the THPS series
6. Thrasher presents: Skate and Destroy
Once THPS came out and the industry noticed the insane number of sales, it seemed that every video game company came out with a THPS clone, all of which paled in comparison to the original. But, Skate and Destroy was not an exact clone.
Skate and Destroy took a lot of heat in the video game press, but mostly because it had a very steep learning curve. Skate and Destroy is more of a simulation, than THPS. It was fairly difficult to learn the controls of the game and get used to controlling the player, and using the “Bail out” feature, and not breaking your board.
One let down of Skate and Destroy, is that the playable characters are not real pros, but fictitious characters, trying for the best trick to get on the cover of Thrasher Magazine.
Once you get used to the gameplay, Skate and Destroy is actually a really fun game to play. But, It is definitely not THPS. Its not worse, or better, its just a different gameplay experience.
7. Tony Hawk’s Under Ground
Once again, the Tony Hawk franchise has revolutionized skateboarding gameplay. They have ditched the Arcade style gameplay, and give you a massive, more open world experience. You travel through real world locations, skating for a team, and meeting pros throughout your journey.
A couple new features added to the game are that you can now jump off the board and run around to get where you want to go. This was the first skateboarding game to allow this feature. It definitely took a lot of innovation by the designers to achieve this feat.
On the whole THUG, and THUG 2 were great games to play through the story mode. I felt the stories were compelling enough to hold my attention, and they challenges suited the story. I did not find that they had the replay value of the previous titles in the Tony Hawk franchise.
8. EA Skate
If THPS created the Skateboard video game genre, EA Skate perfected it! The first in the EA Skate series, Skate lets you take your customized skater and try to get enough coverage to make it to the X-games, doing challenges given to you from a wide roster of pros.
Skate is a full open world environment where you can skate on any obstacle you find throughout the city. You are followed by your own personal filmer, who makes some pretty witty comments on your skating.
The controls in Skate are a bit difficult to master, but simple enough to learn if you understand the premise. Turning is done with the Left Stick, and tricks are done with the Right Stick. Using different “flick patterns” with the right stick gives you different tricks.
Combining the left stick with the right stick makes your character rotate. You can do a Nollie BS 360 Laser Flip! Ollie onto a rail or ledge, and adjust your character with the analog sticks, for grinds and slides. Yes, you can also manual by using the right stick. Flip in, Flip out; the trick possibilities are almost endless.
The soundtrack for EA Skate is massive, and does not disappoint. Loads of Punk, Hiphop, and things in between. The pros that you run into have a little chat with you, and give you challenges to do. Their individual personalities all come through perfectly.
EA Skate is pretty much a perfect skateboarding game.
It is a very close simulation. It can be played as realistically as you want, but you can also do a crazy of things as you want. It has almost all the elements you want in a game. Almost….
9. EA Skate 2 and 3
Yes, I’ve lumped the two together. Aside from the different stories, and a couple technical things, the gameplay in the Skate series is almost the same.
What separates Skate 2 and 3 from Skate? You can walk off your board, and jump. This is a huge addition to the franchise because it now allows you to run and throw your board down to gain some speed, do cavemen/acid drops/ bomb drops/etc, and it allows you to easily get to places you would otherwise not be able to get too (climbing stairs!).
One big addition to Skate 2 was the ability to do late flips. Skate 3 added the ability to do under-flips. FS 180 Late Kickflip-underflip? Yep. You can do that!
The EA Skate games offer unlimited re-playability. I personally have been playing Skate 3 pretty consistently for the past 10 years, since it came out. They are basically the perfect skateboarding video games. Just like skating in real life, in EA Skate games, you go looking for a new spot, and you will find it, and can spend hours just trying to land one trick.
The beauty of this is the Video Playback feature. “Did you actually land that sick Switch 360 flip over the waterfall to BS bluntslide on the ledge below?!” Now you can provide video proof through the video playback.
TrueSkate is a game for your phone. It features real life courses that you can skate. There are many Street League courses, the Berrics, as well as courses that are made by the designers. You do have to buy the courses, but there are so many that you are guaranteed hours and hours of fun.
TrueSkate offers a pretty realistic simulator experience. Not so much in the obstacles, because you can get ridiculous amounts of air, but the physics of the game are quite realistic. You must be sure that you are flicking the proper amount, and catching the board right to be able to complete that perfect Tre-Flip and not wipe out.
Skater is yet another simulator for your phone. This is, in my opinion, the best, and most realistic simulator available on your phone. Skater lets you skate legendary spots, and skate fresh gear. Pick out your shoes, and setup from some officially licensed options, and hit up that spot you’ve always dreamed about.
Wanna switch flip 180 the Love Fountain Gap in eS OG Accel on a Deathwish deck with Shake Just griptape? Skater has you covered.
The gameplay in Skater is best done with your 2 thumbs to manipulate the board to do the tricks you want. The physics are true to the actual physics in real skateboarding. You have to do a BS pop shuvit with your back thumb, and slide your front finger like a kick flip to nail a 360 flip. And yes you can manual and grind. The physics are pretty true for that too.
Session is a new skateboarding game that is still in the beta testing stages. It is available on Steam and Xbox One as an early release, but has no official release dates for any other platforms.
Session offers a very realistic simulation in that each analog stick on your controller controls each leg. To ollie, you push down on the back foot (right stick for regular stance) and slide up the front foot (push up on the left stick) and with perfect timing, like real life, you will get a nice boned ollie.
Session is not going to be like other skateboarding video games with points, or missions or arcade type things. Session is a full skateboarding simulation. Like skateboarding, it is hard to do. You need to work on kick flips in the game to get better at them. If you slide a rail too much on your wheels, you will slow down. They are even putting wax into the game so you can wax up a crusty ledge.
One cool feature of Sessions is going to be the Filmer mode. You can act as the filmer for your friends. This will definitely be an exciting feature to explore with your friends and clans.
Sadly, there is no release date on the horizon for Session, once it is announced, Session is going to shut up those of us who have been begging for EA Skate 4 for the past 9 years.
14. Skater XL
Skater XL is another new skateboarding game, that in the vein of Sessions offers the most realistic simulation yet. Each analog controller stick represents a foot on your character. But, Skater XL has a cross platform release date in July 2020!
Skater XL will feature real life locations in downtown Los Angeles, and has 4 pros in the game. I cannot wait to make Tom Asta do a SW Flip SW Manny on the courthouse stage.
Skater XL is not trying to be Skate 4. They are trying to create a canvas for your skateboarding creativity. You can flick your heel flip really fast, or you can kick it really slow. You can do a back foot catch, and land in a power slide. The style possibilities are endless in Skater XL. I cannot wait for it to drop!