Tony Hawk’s Pro Series (1999 - 2015): My All-time Favorite Skateboarding Game Franchises

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How old were you when the first Tony Hawk’s professional series came out? Or rather, how old were you when the millennium turned (1999 to 2000)? It was a very tensed time all over the world with fear of the world ending because of the Y2K compliance issues. This was the time when the digital world was just catching up.

I was a teen then, and looking back, I can still feel the fear and the tension that people had. It was said that computers will “die” and that planes will fall, governments will fall, banks will close and money will be lost. But this were just conspiracies with inadequate scientific backing. When the millennium turned, it was just like any other day!

People hid in their bunkers that they had built to safeguard them from the end of the world. But mothering happened. The computers were redesigned to accommodate the new calendar and year format and life continued as usual.

Yes, the digital world came with its fair of surprises and certain things that people really didn’t understand. The later ‘90s was when the computers were made available in homes as personal PCs.

In the gaming world, it was a period that also saw a lot of improvement in the games and the graphic user interface. The games evolved and many fans became serious with the gaming industry. Around this this, many people were open to try out the new games and all that it brought to the table. It was at this time that colored screen replaced the monochromatic gaming consoles.

During these times, the video games manufacturers were fighting for dominance and releasing even newer game consoles with a slew of features to woe the gaming enthusiasts. The PlayStation was a sensation during this time and a force to reckon with in the gaming world. I remember being introduced to the PS2 around this time.

The Evolution of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater Game Series
Today I want to share with you a complete history of one of my all-time favorite game franchise Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (THPS). It is a video game series that lets players skateboard around open-ended levels while performing tricks and completing challenges. The series is known for its solid gameplay mechanics, great control, tight level designs and iconic soundtracks.

But after Activision milked the series dry with yearly releases, the franchise became stagnant and never managed to recapture the glory days of the early 2000s. So what happened to this once iconic video game series?

Well, to answer that we will go way back 1999 with the franchises’ first outing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. In the later ‘90s, the skateboarding scene was building up a lot of attention especially with major pro skaters like Tony Hawk owning the spotlight. Activision wanted to jump into the skateboarding bandwagon and have their own series of games like SEGA’s Top skaters. The contracted the studio NeverSoft who brought over assets from the previous title Apocalypse to help reinvent the video game skateboarding scene.

Instead of making a skateboarding game with linear levels and a race mentality, Neversoft opted for a more open-ended approach with areana style levels and they focused on performing tricks and stunts. An early prototype build was made and featured a Bruce Willis character model that they had used in their previous game. To help sell this new skating game Activision and Neversoft contacted the biggest name in skateboarding at the time Tony Hawk. Hawk loved the work that was being put into the game and directly endorsed it. He was an asset, not only for his brand recognition but also his direct input that helps steer the game in the right direction.

Hawk recommended other professional skaters to be assed to the game and assist in the concept design of the game’s characters movement and style. The studio tried to utilize motion capture technology but it ended up to be more trouble that it was worth. A lot of the animation was done from scratch resulting to a lot of stiff animation seen on the game now.
The famous 900 moves was actually thrown into the game in the last minute as Tony Hawk only just landed the move that summer. A stunt that would go on to greatly help the video game series initial sales due to Tony Hawks massive boost in popularity. In the fall of 1999, Tony Hawk Pro Skater finally hit the shelves for the Sony PlayStation 1.

The game featured 10 playable skaters including Tony Hawk, Bob Burnsquist, Bucky Lasick, and Alisa streamer with a secret character office being awarded to players who completed the game 100% with a single character. There was another secret character called Private Carrera but she only was only unlockable using a cheat code. The game features some very basic moves like jumping or allying, grinding, flipping tricks, and grab tricks.

If a player managed to land several tricks without falling, they would build up a special meter, if when full could be used to trigger special high-scoring tricks like Tony Hawk’s 900. Some tricks could only be performed by certain characters requiring a mastery of each individual skater’s style. There were nine levels in total to play through including the classic warehouse, a school, a few skate parks and even some downhill levels directly inspired by the classic top skater arcade game.

The game’s main career had you using a pro skater and completing five increasingly difficult challenges across nine levels. Each with two-minute time limit completing a challenge earned you a VHS tape and earning enough of these tapes gives players access to newer levels and improved player stats. You could swap between different skateboard decks and adjust the tightness of the skateboard trucks to fine-tune your steering but outside of that, the original game didn’t feature much in terms of player customization. Outside of the career mode, you could pay single sessions which let you play any unlocked level with a two-minute timer or free skate which game you unlimited time to explore.

All You Need to Know About Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding Game

It seems just like yesterday when I first saw the game. Activision’s Tony Hawk’s is a skateboarding video game series promoted by professional skateboarder Tony Hawk. Before Activision sold the franchise to Robomodo in 2008, the series was produced largely for home consoles by Neversoft, who continued development until Activision and Hawk’s license expired in 2015, leaving the series’ future uncertain.
A recreation of the series’ first two games, developed by Vicarious Visions, will be released in 2020 as part of Activision reboot of the series. So far there are twenty games in the series. With the release of the first Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game in 1999, the series quickly became one of the most well-known and successful in the early 2000s.

From 2000 to 20002, three more Pro Skater games were released, then from 200 to 2005, the developers shifted their focus to more narrative driven games like Underground, Underground 2, and American Wasteland. Until Project 8 aand Proviing Ground, Neversoft was responsible for all the series’ games. In 2009 and 2010, Robomodo published the perifpheral-supported spoin-off Ride and Shred, respectively, taking the series in a new direction.

Both ventures were a financial and critical flop. Robomodo attempted in 2012 and 2015, but to no avail to bring the series back to its roots with the release of Pro Skater HD and Pro Skater 5. Sicne then, it has spawned a number of different spin-off series and sports, including Downhill Jam (in 2006), Motion (2008), and Shred (2014).

The Rise of Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding Video Game Series

Neversoft’s first five Tony Hawk games were lauded by critics for their distinctive gameplay, diverse soundtracks, and increased scope compared to what came before them. Critically, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 and Pro Skater 3 are two of the best PlayStation 2 games released.
In the end, Robomodo’s games were lambasted, and Ride and Pro Skater 5 were rated among the “worst titles of the year” by multiple sites. Robomodo developed both games. Once the licensing agreement had expired, Activision was left with no publishing rights. THUG Pro, an online multiplayer fangame that employs the Underground 2 engine in a comprehensive collection of levels from the series was developed by fans to honor the series’ heritage.

After announcing Tony Hawk’s Skate Jam for iOS and Android on December 2018, the company confirmed that it would not be published by Activision. On September 2020, Activision and Vicarious Vision, who previously made ports of other Tony Hawk’s games, launched a second high-definition remake of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater Game Play

In the beginning, The Tony Hawk’s games were designed to be played in an arcade. In most game variants, the objective is to get a high score. Aerials, flips, lips, manuals, grinds must be executed successfully by the player in order to earn the highest possible score.
The trick’s point value is based on several factors, including the amount of time it was kept, the number of degrees it was turned, the number of tricks it was performed in succession, the number of times it was utilized. Once the special meter is full, the player can do special tricks worth a lot more than conventional ones by suing the special abilities unlocked via success in the game’s tricks. Failure to land properly on one’s skateboard, such as by bailing results in no points being scored for the attempted trick.

As the series progressed, so did the game’s controls. While the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater had a fairly limited stet of moves, later entries allowed the player to switch between moves during the same grind or manual sequence, perform transfers, hold on and drive different vehicles walk on foot and scale walls, slowing time or performing more advanced tricks by repeatedly pressing buttons, for example a double or triple kickflip instead of a normal one.

American Wasteland and Motion and Shred featured snowboarding, while American Wasteland and American Wasteland 2 added support for BMX bikes.

Three of the first four Pro Skater games revolved around tan arcade mode in which the player had to complete various objectives and acquire various items in a limited amount of time in order to achieve a high score. By successfully completing these tasks at one level, the player advances to the next and gains currency that they may use to further their character’s development.
Other levels need the player only to perform well on a test of skill rather than collection anything in order to go on. Players have been able to construct their own characters and skateparks since Pro Skater 2. To make matters worse, until Pro Skater 5, all games included local multiplayer, although online multiplayer was available starting with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. Since the first Pro Skater, all levels have been open to players without completing any tasks or having to worry about running out of time. From Pro Skater 4 onwards, this concept was implemented in the career mode.

Instead of being free to explore the states of their leisure, the player is tasked by non-player characters with completing their tasks before time runs out. After the release of Underground, the series transitioned from having a career mode to having a dedicated story mode. Become a professional skateboarder was a significant plot point in Underground, Project 8, and Proving Ground. Underground 2, the only straight sequel to the original game, has the user join Tony Hawk and Bam Margera on a devastation tour throughout the world. One of the first games to use a single open environment instead of multiple levels was American Wasteland (2001), in which the player’s goal is to rebuild a Los Angeles skatepark from scratch.

Development of the Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding Video Game

Activision recruited Neversoft to create a skating game to capitalize on the growing popularity of skateboarding as a sport. A developer interview conducted in 2018 revealed that Activision had originally envisioned a skateboard racing game akin to Sega’s arcade game Top Skater. Activision changed its mind.
However, the racing concept was dropped in favor of a more free-flowing approach once Neversoft demonstrated the engine’s capabilities. To promote Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Activision signed professional skateboarder Tony Hawk to a multi-million dollar deal. Hawk had already been signed as the brand’s face for some time before the game’s release but his name and likeness were only added towards the very end of development.

After the success of the Pro Skater series, Hawk signed a licensing contract good until 2002, which was renewed unitl 2015. The game and the character were designed to represent Tony’s unique style an aggressive bled of acrobatics and hardcore technical skating.

The Rise and Fall of Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding Video Game Series

Hawk and Activision’s initial licensing agreement expired in December of 2015. In an interview with Hawk conducted in 2017, he revealed he is exploring the possibility of continuing the brand independent of Activision. He also mentioned that for his future game, he planned on using virtual reality. Even though Hawk agreed to support future editions under the Pro Skater moniker, he indicated in November of the same year that while Activision owned full rights to license, it controlled whether or not additional games would be created.

While this was going on, fans of Neversoft’s original series could play an online multiplayer fangame built on the Underground 2 engine called THUG Pro.

Final Thoughts

I have not done real skating yet, but this remains one of the best video games I ever played back in the early 2000s. I agree that Tony Hawk should consider reviving the game because skateboarding is still a thing that is loved by all generations. With the technological development that we see today, it will be amazing to see the new revised version of this game. Can’t wait.

What is your take?

Did you play this game back in the early 2000s?

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Omega Geeze
Jul 13, 2019
I LOVED these games so much... Started at THPS2 and stopped at Proving Grounds.... so many good memories!