The 6 best skateboarding games ever

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater came out 15 years ago, but is it one of the top skateboarding games?
Written by Chris ScullionPublished on
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
A new star of video games was born 15 years ago this week. Okay, Tony Hawk himself was born in 1968, but his first video game – the excellent Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater – was released in August 1999 for PlayStation, making the Birdman a household name for gamers and skaters.
Of course, his games are no longer a permanent fixture on the shelves of video game shops around the world, but there was a time when he was a trailblazer, paving the way for other extreme sports games like Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX and Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer.
These days you’re more likely to see a man holding a gun on a gaming magazine cover than a dude carrying a skateboard, but back in the early noughties, it was Tony Hawk enjoying the spotlight as his Pro Skater series got gamers interested in skating for the first time.
Sadly, the Tony Hawk series eventually suffered a downfall as Activision kept introducing progressively more ridiculous gimmicks to keep the games feeling fresh, the nadir being the ridiculous full-sized Tony Hawk Ride skateboard controller you had to stand on. Following on from Guitar Hero’s successful plastic instruments, it probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was the beautiful simplicity of the original games that attracted players in the first place.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (along with Back to the Future) brought skateboarding to the masses, but it wasn’t the first great skateboarding game and, if Vita’s OlliOlli is anything to go by, it won’t be the last. Here are the best skateboarding games ever.
720 (Atari System 2, C64, Amstrad, ZX Spectrum, NES, Game Boy Color)
One of the first extreme sports games ever, 720 was an arcade game from Atari that was eventually released on a bunch of home systems, including NES and Commodore 64. Players had to visit a number of skate parks and take part in various contests, constantly pulling off tricks and stunts in order to keep an in-game timer replenished. If you stopped doing tricks and let the timer tick down to zero, your skater would be attacked by a swarm of man-eating bees and you'd be stung to bits. A very real threat that all skaters have had to encounter at some point in their lives, we're sure you'll agree.
Skate Or Die (ZX Spectrum, C64, NES, Atari ST, Amstrad)
A screenshot of Skate Or Die
Skate Or Die
EA's first attempt at a skateboarding game came in 1988. Skate Or Die consisted of five different events, each focusing on a different kind of skateboard skill. As well as the obvious trick-based halfpipe shenanigans in the Freestyle Ramp event, players also took part in a High Jump event, two downhill races against a rival (one in a park, the other in a street) and a Pool Joust event, in which two players skate towards each other and try to knock the other off their board. Skate Or Die was successful enough to warrant a sequel called Ski Or Die. Guess what that one was about?
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (PlayStation 2, PlayStation, GameCube, Game Boy Color, Xbox, GBA, PC, N64)
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 game mash-up
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
The Tony Hawk games were so successful that not only were they the best skateboarding games ever made, they were regarded as some of the finest games of that era in general. The first PlayStation Tony Hawk game laid the foundation, introducing jumping, grinding and combo runs, before the second game added the crucial Manual trick to enable much longer combos to be strung together. When Pro Skater 3 threw in the Revert trick to enable players to keep combos going after vertical jumps, the game's mechanics were complete. This was the highpoint of the series.
Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure (PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, GBA, Xbox)
Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure
Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure
After Tony Hawk, this choice may seem a little odd. After all, it is a skateboarding game starring the likes of Tarzan, Buzz Lightyear and a selection of real-life children who appeared in the game after winning an 'Extreme Skate Crew' competition. Yet, Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure was developed by Neversoft and used the same game engine as Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4. Grinding along vines in Pride Rock as Simba, or popping Ollies in Andy's Bedroom as Woody and Zurg is genuinely great fun. A hidden gem.
Skate (Xbox 360, PS3)
Noticing the success Activision was having with the Tony Hawk games, EA decided to get back into the skateboarding scene with the simplistically titled Skate. It boasted a unique flick-based control method in which players had to physically turn the board with their skater's feet using the analogue sticks, plus realistic 'ragdoll physics' which meant that if you messed up your trick and bailed out, your skater's fall would change based on the environment around them. Skate was so hyped, it outsold the Tony Hawk game of that era - Proving Ground - by two to one, and to this day it has a cult following from those who believe it was better than Mr Hawk's series.
OlliOlli (PS Vita, PC)
Screenshot of OlliOlli
It looked like skateboarding was dead on games consoles, but then came along an unassuming little Vita game called OlliOlli. It looks simple – it's a side-scrolling game and all you can do is jump, grind and perform a few basic tricks – but its difficulty is so punishing that it can quickly consume your life. The key is in the way it makes players not only pull off tricks but also perfectly time their landings, meaning a massive points-scoring run can quickly become a disaster with just one mistimed landing. This increased focus on risk and reward makes OlliOlli knuckle-bitingly frustrating when it goes wrong, but one of the most satisfying games around today when it goes so beautifully right.
What’s your favourite skateboarding game ever?