Video game genres peak in cycles. A few great skateboarding and snowboarding games will release at the same time, and then fans have no new titles for years. The time when a new skateboarding, motocross, or other action sports game would appear every year seems long gone.
Still, there are many skateboarding classics worth checking out once more. Better still, a few new skateboarding games are hitting the market, filling the void. With that in mind, here are the best skateboarding games ever made—including a new skateboarding game you should try.
1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (2001)
You could debate the merits of the various “Pro Skater” games all day. But many players agree that the third title in the series reigns supreme. Even though it was released over 15 years ago, it’s still one of the highest-ranked video games of all time on Metacritic. It also holds the honor of being the #1 rated game on the PlayStation 2. If you haven’t played it, you’re missing out.
It took the classic formula set out by Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Pro Skater 2, and built upon it. There weren’t any big changes from the previous titles, other than the addition of the revert, which let players string even more tricks together. But delightful new levels like the Foundry, Skater Island, and the Cruise Ship made their first appearance. And a host of new secret characters showed up, including Darth Maul, Doom Guy, and the Demoness.
The game’s signature arcade-like feeling is perfectly on point in this game. It’s no big deal to throw a 900-degree spin or grind for miles at a time with a few button presses. Pick a level, choose a skater, and get ready to shred. Ridiculous tricks like the Human Dart grind, the Pizza Guy, and the Sith Saber Spin cement the fantastic, absurd tone of the game. It’s an absolute blast.
If you don’t have a PlayStation 2 lying around, your best bet for playing THPS 3 is to use a PlayStation 2 emulator on your PC
. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD and the Revert Pack give you some of what made the game great on PS3 or Xbox 360, but it’s not the full game experience.
2. Skate (2007)
When Tony Hawk was ruling the streets, EA’s Skate came in with something new. Its control system did away with simple button presses and replaced it with a more “organic” interface. By moving the left and the right sticks in specific patterns, meant to mimic the movement of a skater’s feet, you make your skater do different tricks.
While the control system can be challenging to learn, it has a unique appeal. Unlike the arcade feel of THPS, Skate gives you a more authentic experience. Landing a nollie heelflip is more difficult than just pressing a few buttons. If you’re used to the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater method of control, making the transition brings a bit of a shock. But it’s worth it when you pull off satisfying tricks.
The story-driven action mimics that of Tony Hawk’s Underground. You travel around the city, completing challenges and garnering acclaim. But the open-ended nature of the game means you can do whatever you want. Skate around San Vanelona to find the best spots. Learn a crazy new trick that you discovered. Or just ride around and chill. It’s totally up to you.
Like Pro Skater 3, if you want to play Skate, you’re going to need to either dig up an older system or emulate it, which is more difficult for PS3 and Xbox 360 games. The difficulty is emulating the specific hardware for each device and creating a stable environment for the game to run.
The emulators that do work—RPRCS3 for the PlayStation 3 and Xenia for the Xbox 360—cannot guarantee you game will work. Furthermore, emulating games at this level places the host system under a huge amount of strain because of all the components that must be reproduced.
3. Tony Hawk’s Underground (2003)
Skate may have redefined the genre, but Tony Hawk’s Underground set the bar high for story-based skateboarding games. Playing as yourself instead of a pro skater was a departure from previous Pro Skater games, as was the “punk-to-pro” storyline. The environments of Underground were likewise different from previous titles, with an emphasis on street skating over parks and crazy dream locations like Area 51.
The story is entertaining (if a bit far-fetched), the skating is as fun as ever, and many opportunities for customization make you feel like the protagonist skater is really your own. The ability to explore a variety of cities gives you plenty of great skating options, but the replay value of Underground does feel quite limited compared to other entries.
You can probably guess what I’m about to say next: you should emulate this one if you don’t own an older console.
4. Skate 2 (2009)
By sticking with the same formula as the first game but beefing up pretty much every area, Skate 2 surpassed its predecessor in the series. Still challenging and rewarding, the flick-it control system continued to differentiate this series from the Hawk games. With a significantly larger bag of tricks than the first, Skate 2 will keep you practicing and learning for hours.
The slightly dystopian storyline also stands out among skateboarding games. Players take on Mongocorp, the giant corporation that has locked down San Vanelona and placed the best skate spots off-limits. You’ll have to take back the skate scene with new tricks, fresh challenges, and all-new contests. Released during a long Tony Hawk’s dry spell, Skate 2 propelled the series to the throne of the skateboarding video game world.
You can download Skate 2 on the Xbox 360, but if you don’t have one, you’re stuck with emulation again.
5. OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood (2015)
The first OlliOlli broke away from the very successful formula developed by THPS and Skate. Instead of a 3D world packed with thousands of obstacles to skate and a seemingly infinite number of tricks and combos, it stood on simple 2D graphics and difficult, addicting gameplay. Gone are the days of throwing 1080 kickflip-to-indys. Land a simple 50-50 early in the game, and you’ll be elated.
The game keeps you on your toes by throwing new levels with surprising obstacles at you. And with gorgeous art, creative level design, and an almost unmatchable dose of adrenaline when you land the trick you’ve been attempting for the past hour, it’s really hard to put down. Don’t let the simple design fool you: you’ll sink many hours into this one.
And finally, this is a game you can easily buy and play on modern consoles. It’s available to download on your PlayStation 4 or Xbox One for a handful of dollars. It’s also a cross-play on PS4 and Vita, as are these other awesome cross-buy PlayStation titles
Buy OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood on Steam.
6. Thrasher Presents Skate and Destroy (1999)
The game with the unfortunate task of releasing after the meteoric success of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Thrasher Presents Skate and Destroy is a cult classic skateboarding game (and is also more commonly referred to as “Thrasher Skate and Destroy”). Where THPS focused on arcade skateboarding with flashy tricks and insane grind combos, Thrasher attempted to create realism between tricks and the player environment.
In that, Thrasher laid the groundwork for games like Skate, where the emphasis is on landing a trick to perfection and finding unique lines throughout a skatepark, instead of a button-bashing point-scoring trick-em-up. Not to say that Thrasher didn’t have a focus on high scores. You must accumulate enough points to rise through the 12 levels, dodging police officers, security guards, and more along the way.
Also, you cannot talk about Thrasher without mentioning the soundtrack, which features 13 of the finest hip-hop tracks ever produced.
Like the other options on this list, you’ll have to use an emulator to delve back into Thrasher. Check out how to download and install a PlayStation 1 emulator
if you want to start skating again.
7. Skate or Die! (1987)
Skate or Die! is a classic skateboarding game originally released for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Atari ST, and other hardware of the era. It received a port to the NES where it sold over 100,000 copies and, with its catchy chiptunes, planted itself firmly in skateboard game history.
In Skate or Die!, you have the choice of five events: a freestyle ramp, high jump ramp (a half pipe), a downhill race, a downhill jam, and a jousting event (which is as it sounds). Although the tricks are basic, the Skate or Die! gameplay is fun, especially if you have someone else to play with.
If you don’t have a NES kicking about at home, check out how to build a custom Raspberry Pi NES or SNES emulator
8. Skater XL (2020)
Skater XL is one of the newest skateboarding games about, offering an open-world sandbox on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch users. Developers Easy Day Studios are the team behind the massively popular Skater XL smartphone game and, realizing the popularity and demand for a more substantive game, have brought Skater XL to more powerful hardware.
The difference in hardware shows, as you might expect. Skater XL uses a similar control scheme to Skate and uses input from real-world tricks. That means practice makes perfect, and you’ll pick up and learn more tricks as you explore the Skater XL world. Adding to that, the Skater XL world is filled with awesome spots, including some real-world locations that mimic their counterparts, such as downtown Los Angeles.
At the time of writing, Skater XL is available on Steam Early Access and is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2020.
Buy Skater XL on Steam.
And One to Avoid: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is terrible, and we would strongly advise you to avoid it. Buggy, laggy gameplay, and no innovation within the game itself make THPS5 one of the worst entries in the series. An online hub, missions for skaters, strange decisions regarding the special bar and trick limitations, and some lifeless level design combine to assign this title to the scrap heap.
The Best Skateboarding Games of All Time
For us, Skate 2 remains the best skateboarding game of all time. It hit that sweet spot of freedom, sandbox play, a semi-storyline to guide you through, and heaps of tricks and spots to try out.
Looking to the future, Skater XL looks like it could ascend the best skateboarding game throne, knocking all other competitors out of the way. Skater XL isn’t the only skateboarding game on the horizon either, with the almost fiendishly difficult Session also under development and available in Steam Early Access.
If you’re looking for some new games that aren’t skateboarding related, check out the best free PC games
you can play right now.