Sports games have a long and storied history with video games, since the first game machines, digital sports quickly followed. These have always had a focus on team games, football, baseball, soccer, etc. However around the late ‘90s, everything started to change. In the advent of 3D so many more activities became gamified, the extreme sports genre being one of the most popular.
The undisputed king of that genre was the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. It’s hard to express the massive cultural influence these games had when they were first released. These skating games were a perfect mix of punk culture, popular rock music, and tight gameplay. It took over the world and became one of the best selling games of the late nineties.
Pro Skater 1 was a good introduction to the world of skating to millions of gamers, but it was the second one that truly perfected the formula and created a masterpiece. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 took everything that made the original and turned it up to 11. There were more maps, more complex trick systems, more pro skaters, and an even better soundtrack. The sequel received nearly universal critical acclaim at launch and sold just as well. It’s often considered one of the greatest games ever made.
Starting with tracks, this game had some of the most iconic of the whole series. Every single map builds on the next, offering greater exploration and challenge. There was also a huge variety and creativity in the themes of the levels. Everything from a giant empty warehouse, a school, NYC, to Venice Italy! It’s constantly a surprise what will come up next and makes unlocking levels a fun reward for completing objectives.
Speaking of the objectives, this title pushed the already inventive collectables and challenges to a new level. Often it seems impossible to complete challenges presented, but there’s always a way. It forces the player to really stretch their imagination and ability to pull off some insane combos and point chains. The collectables were deviously hidden and really encouraged complete exploration of the entire map.
These challenges often required the use of the game’s new mechanics, switching stances and performing manuals. This massively increased the depth of the gameplay, allowing players to create much longer lines then they ever could before. Manuals in particular, changed the whole dynamic of the moment to moment. It made not enough to just get one good streak, now you could connect tricks together.
In addition to these improvements, THPS2 added features that would become staples of the series. It was the first time that “create-a-skater” was introduced, at the time this was massively cool. Now not only could you play as your favorite established skaters, you could create your own guy to grind and ollie around the map. It made the game feel personal and it let you make all sorts of wacky creations. This was not a typical feature at the time and now hundreds of sports games let you do this.
Even better than that though was the ability to make your own skate parks to play in. Again, level editors were not a typical addition at the time. So to be able to make your own levels that you and your friends could skate in was huge. It greatly increased the replayability of the game.
The great part is that it’s so easy to play this game still, it came out on countless numbers of consoles over the years. Also there is an excellent remaster available in the recently released Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 bundle, that keeps everything that made the originals so great. It improves the visuals and keeps almost everything from the original game and is a great way to be introduced to this killer title.
You might be able to tell that I adore Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, but it’s for a great reason. There are very few titles that have the level of gameplay that this series has. THPS2 is arguably the best in the whole series, it’s an unbelievable great time. Even if you have no interest in skateboarding, if you like video games at all, do yourself a favor – celebrate its anniversary and play this undeniable classic. You won’t regret it.
Skate or die!