Tony Hawk Brought Skateboard Gaming To New Heights

John Argirovski,

June 16, 2023 7:32 AM

How many pro skateboarders did you know in 1999? Of course we all knew Tony Hawk, and then there was...well, there was everyone else.

Prior to 1999, Tony Hawk wasn’t a household name outside of the small world of skateboarding. Skateboarding events like the X-Games, were not quite main stream at that time and they did not get much media coverage by sports networks. These were the wild west days of pro skateboarding.

I still remember the first time I heard the name “Tony Hawk”. Maybe you share a similar experience like the one I had back in 1999? I was at my local Blockbuster renting a game for the weekend, and I saw a game sitting on the shelf that I had not seen before.

It read “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” and had a gnarly cover art picture of an unknown skateboarder getting some serious air time on the half-pipe (NOTE: I did not know any of this terminology prior to playing the game).

Front Cover of THPS for the Playstation
[Image Source Wikipedia]

THPS Back Cover

I took one look at the back of the box and I thought, “This might be a waste of $5 but 007 Goldeneye isn’t available so I guess I’ll take a chance on this unknown skateboarding game”.

Needless to say, that game rental choice changed my trajectory in life. Shortly after that weekend of playing the game:

  • I all of a sudden became a wannabe skateboarder
  • I started listening to more punk rock tunes like “Superman” by Goldfinger
  • I began to needlessly flex my amateur skateboarding lexicon by subtly dropping words like “kick flip” and “ollie” in conversation whenever the opportunity presented itself

    After playing the game for 10 minutes, I knew it was something special. The game was unbelievably unique in comparison to the other skateboarding games that came before it.

The First Skateboarding Game to Change People's Lives?

Of course Tony Hawk's Pro Skater wasn’t the first skateboarding game ever, but it was definitely the first skateboarding game to make some serious revenue. Tony Hawk self admittedly said in a recent interview that "the game changed my life" and that the game sold "way bigger than anyone ever thought" it would.

As stated by Tony Hawk, by the the time THPS4 was being developed, the first three titles (THPS 1-3) were still on the top 10 list in sales.

What made Tony Hawk's Pro Skater different?

The Soundtrack

It was amazing. I would even argue that this game "changed the lives" of a lot of unknown punk bands.

Not a Racing Game

Other skateboarding games of the 90's played more like a racing game. THPS on the other hand, had some objectives for each level (like finding the hidden VHS Tapes) but the game was truly all about the high scores and how best to maximize the score multiplier. Pulling off a trick combo like flying off the vert ramp with a nose grab, landing and grinding the guard rails with a 50-50, and finishing the combo with an unexpected nose grind off of the lip of the ramp… It seemed like the multiplier combinations were endless!

Tony Hawk in Mid Air off the Half Pipe
[Image Source Wikipedia]

Great Unlockable Content

If you cleared the game with all 10 pro boarders in the game, you could unlock short clips of their skateboarding promo videos. There were also unlockable characters too!

Rebuilt from the ground up – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2

Released in 2020, the first two Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games live again in "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2".

Finally, us “skateboarding wannabes” can relive our punk rocking days, but in HD this time around.

You can compete against players from around the world by submitting your scores to the
online leaderboards. After taking a quick look at some scores, I realized “maybe I wasn’t a top 100 player like I always thought I was"

Final Thoughts

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater paved the way for many future games for the genre. Some examples include Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX and Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX, which are both great games that also had killer soundtracks but they certainly didn’t leave a mark on history in the same way that Tony Hawk's Pro Skater did.

THPS also piqued a new found interest for many of the classic skateboarding titles from the past. Classic skateboarding games like "Skate or Die" and "California Games" still live on today because of the new found success of the skateboarding game genre.

Which skateboarding games do you have fun memories playing? Which would you recommend? 


You need to be logged in to post a comment.

Join us