The lights are on
4. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 (2002)
The first three games in the series added crucial mechanics to the skating, but THPS4 opted to make a major change to the game's structure. Instead of being confined to two-minute runs in each area, players were now free to explore each level at their leisure and accept missions from NPCs. This hybrid of Free Skate and Career mode felt fresh after three entries in the classic style, but gameplay improvements were limited to minor abilities like spine transfers and skitching.
3. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (1999)
It's the game that started it all, and it came right out of the gate with an amazing entry. Each two-minute run challenged you to accomplish numerous entertaining objectives, whether you were going for a huge combo or finding a hidden VHS tape. Struggling to top your previous high scores was more addicting then it had been since the classic days of the arcade.
2. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (2000)
Activision wasted no time in getting this sequel on store shelves, but it was more than a quick cash-in. The simple addition of the manual had more of an impact on the skating gameplay than any other mechanic in the series. With it, players could link huge combos together by maintaining balance between them. It added another layer of strategy to the already-addictive gameplay, and everything from the stages to the visuals felt more polished than the original.
1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (2001)
After THPS3, the series began to run out of new, engaging gameplay mechanics, and the twists on the classic formula were hit or miss. Before THPS3, the games were incredible, but the gameplay could still be improved upon. Manuals opened up combo opportunities in THPS2, but THPS3's reverts (allowing players to spin out of ramps into a manual) broke the possibilities wide open. It was the last piece of the gameplay puzzle that felt like a significant, major improvement (later tweaks in the series were nice, but not vital). By refining the already-stellar gameplay seen in its predecessors and avoiding the mistakes made in the future, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 stands as the best game in the series.
You'll notice that the top five entries were all made over nine years ago. Is there a place for skateboarding games in the future? Check out our recent interview with Tony Hawk himself here.