Gaming series known for their superior soundtracks often have one thing in common — a wide array of powerful or catchy music orchestrated to fit a specific environment. Though plenty of games (mostly annual sports series) have used popular prerecorded tunes as part of their soundtrack in the past, they rarely stand out from the crowd. But Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater did, and two decades later it remains one of the most iconic game soundtracks of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s.
While the popularity of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games may have made it seem like the only decent skateboarding series in existence, the first entry was actually inspired by games such as EA’s Street Sk8er for the original PlayStation and Sega’s Top Skater arcade machines. Top Skater, which featured a full-sized mountable skateboard as a controller, was an especially big influence for the original Pro Skater team at the now-defunct Neversoft Entertainment.
When it came time to choose the music that would accompany each two minute skate session, the Pro Skater team decided to follow both Street Sk8er and Top Skater’s use of legitimate alternative and punk rock tracks. Straying away from any unnecessary applause or obnoxious announcers, their game would feature the two types of audio that truly mattered — realistic skating sound effects and funky fresh jams by bands like Primus and The Dead Kennedys.
Growing up in a strictly Nintendo household, Pro Skater was far off my radar when it launched in the August of 1999. Luckily, a neighborhood friend with access to a PlayStation and a copy of the Jampack Summer ‘99 demo disc was already hooked on its arcade-style gameplay. After he acquired a true copy of the game we spent an entire weekend catching sick air and tracking down VHS tapes. Pro Skater’s realistic physics and showy tricks wowed me, but it was the upbeat soundtrack (with just a few swears thrown in) that really embedded itself into my adolescent brain.
And look, the Pro Skater soundtrack isn’t as hardcore or punk or metal as rock gets. I’m well aware of that now. But for a nerdy kid growing up in the suburbs of Indiana, it was far more extreme than, say, Air Bud or Rocket Power. Maybe not Rocket Power… those kids could shred.
In my mind Pro Skater was the epitome of cool, and when word got out that the game was coming to the Nintendo 64 in March of the next year, I began scrounging around the house for loose change. Featuring one of the few blue cartridge casings, the game was soon added to my small N64 library with the help of my older brother (who had taken up actual skateboarding at the time).
Though the tracks sounded much less crisp on the Nintendo 64’s compressed cartridges, and some of the vocals had been completely removed, Pro Skater was still a monster hit in my household. The game was one of the few games my family owned that required a memory pak for saves, a fact we realized only after we had brought it home. Instead of buying one, my brother and I decided we would just sit and play through the game in its entirety whenever possible. From the warehouse to downtown to Roswell, we knew all the best combos and the location of every secret tape.
Of course, playing a game that much really ingrains the soundtrack into your subconscious. Today, as an adult, I still find myself humming many of the Pro Skater tunes I listened to for hours on end as a child. Sometimes I even boot up my worn N64 copy and skate around for old times’ sake.
Having played through every Tony Hawk game up through Underground 2, none have stuck with me quite like the very first. Even though other entries may have featured improved skaters, venues, and tricks over the years, it’s hard to top the the soundtrack that started it all.
The three tracks embedded in this article were my favorites growing up. The entirety of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtrack can be found here.
The Tony Hawk skateboarding games changed a lot from the start of the series in 1999, through multiple sequels and spin-off, before its mediocre end with 2015’s Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5. Some games were open world, some were more grounded in reality, others were more over the top and some included crappy plastic board controllers you had to stand on top of in order to play. But while many things changed in the franchise over the years, there was one thing that always could be counted on, guest skaters.
Some of them were cool, some were really dumb and some make you wonder how the hell they even appeared in a skateboarding game.
First seen in Star Wars: Episode I, Darth Maul is an evil and powerful Sith warrior who was once the apprentice of Sheev Palpatine, better known as the Emperor. After killing Qui-Gon Jin, Maul was cut in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi and then came back, because The Clone Wars TV show needed a cool villain.
It seems, though, before he went and got cut in half, Darth Maul grabbed a hoverboard and hit some ramps and rails. Darth Maul’s force abilities seem like a great fit for skateboarding. However, he also decided to bring his dual-bladed lightsaber with him, which seems like less of a great fit for skating. Also, when you select him at the character select screen, the shop owner in the back of the store gets force choked. Quit being a dick, Darth Maul.
Spider-Man is unlockable in THPS2 once players have beaten 100% of the game using a custom created skater. Or he is unlockable if you just use cheat codes, which is what I did as a kid. The character model featured in the game is straight out of the PS1 Spider-Man game, which was also made by THPS2 developer Neversoft.
Spider-Man’s powers seem perfect for skateboarding. Enhanced agility, speed, and reflexes make him a formidable skating master. Plus, being able to shoot webbing at stuff sound useful too. Fall off your board, web-zip it over to you. Need something to drink, web-zip it over to you. Rival skater trying to beat your score, web-zip their board away from under their feet. Also, when you unlock Spider-Man in the game you unlock a video of a real-life skater wearing a Spider-Man costume and rolling around a skatepark. Which is..interesting.
Judy Nails is one the more popular and well-known original guitarists from the Guitar Hero franchise. She is hard rock and punk rocker and probably could kick the ass of most of the other guest skaters on this list. This model is directly inspired by her appearance in Guitar Hero III, which was developed by Neversoft, who also developed most of the THPS games.
I assume Judy Nails has a trick involving a guitar. I say assume because I can’t actually find much info about her Proving Ground appearance online. I found one short video of someone playing as her, but the video is mostly just the person zooming in on her face and body. Which is not what I was looking for, creepy YouTuber.
Gene Simmons is not a great person. He is an asshole and sleazebag who these days seems more like a grumpy old dude wearing cosplay than an actual rockstar. And for someone reason, he was included in Tony Hawk’s Underground. Not only is he featured in the game as a playable skater, but his whole band and a KISS concert appear in the game too.
I don’t hate KISS music, but as a younger boy, I remember not caring about finding KISS in my skateboarding game. The fact that they have an entire level dedicated to them is also odd. You even collect the letters KISS around the map, which unlocks a music video. I do like that the KISS concert level is basically empty, with like 4 random people shuffling around.
Honestly, including either Jango or his slightly cooler son Boba Fett in a Tony Hawk game isn’t as cool as some might think. I know folks might disagree with me on this, but I’ve never gotten the obsession with these characters. They both die after not doing much in the movies. I get their suits are cool, but they aren’t that awesome.
Including Jango is also funny to me. Nowadays this would be Bobba, but back in the early 2000s, as the prequels were being released, the Star Wars fandom was given Jango Fett toys, ships, and games. There was a time period where Lucasfilm was trying to make Jango a “Thing.” It didn’t work after folks saw the film and watched him get his head cut off in like a 20-second fight. Plus who wanted to skate as “Boba Fett’s clone dad.” He doesn’t even have a hoverboard, like Darth Maul.
Do you remember the game, True Crime: Streets Of L.A.? Probably not. Which means you probably don’t remember the main character from that game, undercover cop Nick. But because True Crime was published by THPS publisher Activision and Underground 2 included basically 100 unlockable characters, Nick was thrown into the game.
The actual details on Nick are a bit hard to nail down. Some folks believe he isn’t actually unlockable in the game, instead needing mods or cheats to access him. Others claim to have unlocked him. And some even claim he is only playable if you have save data from True Crime on your PS2 memory card. As it turns out, the Tony Hawk community isn’t that concerned with figuring out all the details about Nick. And honestly, can you blame them?
I’m not sure how much the Doomslayer’s abilities would help him in skateboarding. Sure he can hold a dozen weapons, survive massive falls, kill thousands of demons and beat people to death with his fists. However, none of that seems like it would translate into sick skateboarding skills. But also, if anyone makes fun of him or does better, he can just run over, rip their head off and look around the skatepark, sending a message. After that, he ends up winning most matches of HORSE.
According to the Doom Guy’s stats, he is really fast and nimble, but he can’t jump. Which is accurate to the older versions of Mr.Doom Guy. Back in the day, he could rip and tear for hours, but jumping was impossible. Which seems like it would make skateboarding hard, but again, use of violence makes it difficult for him to lose. Even if he just does flat ground tricks during a vert comp.
I like to think this bizarre character was created by a designer at Neversoft who was looking down at their hands and suddenly realized the next great guest character was right there. The Hand is, well, a giant hand. According to the Tony Hawk Games wiki, The Giant Hand is a large severed hand “that is somehow capable of skateboarding.” Even the most dedicated fans don’t know how this thing works.
Most likely The Hand is a reference to those mini-sized toy skateboards, like Tech Decks, which were very popular around the time THUG 2 was released. And it is funny to watch a giant hand pull off tricks on a skateboard. But it also hard to watch this thing move around and not feel uncomfortable, especially as you keep noticing the blood and bone sticking out. What was this attached to and will it seek revenge for us stealing its hand? No amount of skateboarding is worth angering a giant.
I don’t know much about surfing, but I don’t think being a good surfer makes you a good skateboard automatically. Maybe I’m wrong about that. Maybe surfing the waves does, in fact, make you a great skater. I do, however, feel very confident in assuming that a surfboard is not a great replacement for a skateboard. No matter how much you wax it. Yet, Kelly Slater doesn’t care about logic or reason. He was asked to join Tony and his friends and decided to just bring his actual surfboard.
Kelly Slater appeared in his own game, Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer, which was one of the many Tony Hawk-like games Activision was publishing around this time. So most likely he appears in THPS3 as promotion for that game. The only thing I remember from my time playing KSPS was that for some reason you could play as Travis Pastrana in it and he wore his entire motocross outfit, complete with helmet. Consider that a bonus guest character on this list.
From: Various Shrek Films, games, TV Shorts and memes
I know this is breaking the format a bit, but I also know that if I don’t include Shrek on this list there will be at least 500 comments telling me about Shrek. Stuff like “Did you know Shrek is also in THUG2?” or “Some fan! Didn’t know about Shrek in THUG2!” So here we go. Let’s talk about Shrek in Tony Hawk’s Underground 2.
He is included in this game as a promotion for the then-upcoming film Shrek 2. Activision was publishing Shrek games at this point and they also published the Tony Hawk games, so it seemed like a perfect fit to someone. It should be remembered that Shrek’s inclusion in this game pre-dates the more recent internet obsession with the character. So back then, when a younger me played this game and found Shrek, I was confused. I’m still confused today, but now I can also ironically laugh at it. Also, he uses ear wax while grinding. Fun.
This is not a complete list. There are so many other guest characters in these games that if I was to cover them all this list would become one of the biggest things I’ve ever written. But maybe I’ll revisit Tony Hawk guest characters in another post one day. For now, let me know who was your favorite guest character in the Tony Hawk games.
At around this time last year, an indie skateboarding game called Session became, through no fault of its own, the biggest letdown of Microsoft’s E3 press conference. In 2018, hope and enthusiasm for an imagined Skate 4 ran amok, an idea that was briefly fueled by the presence of a skateboard at the Microsoft show. All that hype was swiftly deflated when we learned that Skate 4 was not in fact real, and that Microsoft had acquired the previously-Kickstarted Session as a console launch exclusive.
Pitched as a skate sim that prized authenticity above all, Session looked a bit rawer than previous skateboarding games. Players wouldn’t be scored, nor would their characters improve via anything other than actual practice. Session, according to the pitch, didn’t just want to emulate skateboarding, but skate culture, right down to the ability to shoot and edit tapes of your best tricks.
After a brief E3 trailer pitching developer Creature Studios’ naturalistic, hip-hop-fueled take on a skating simulation, Session fell off the radar, with no other trailers or public looks at gameplay footage. For anyone who keeps track of promises made at E3, it’s natural to wonder if we’ll see it again this year. Here’s the verdict: the developers have said that they’re going to sit this one out in order to get Session released on Early Access and Xbox Games Preview soon.
That’s the latest word on Session, delivered via a Kickstarter update on May 22 that doubles as an apology for nearly a year of radio silence after a fairly regular series of updates. Scroll through Session’s update history, and you’ll see a solid 42 posts, —most exclusive to backers—stretching back to the project launch date in November 2017.
In October 2018, Creature followed up on Session’s E3 appearance with its first public update, stating it had signed a 3-month console exclusivity agreement that wouldn’t preclude the game also launching in Early Access on PC, along with a host of improvements to the game’s animation and physics. The next time Creature would give a substantial, public update would be in a February 2019 post summarizing news from a backer stream in December. They announced the departure of partner Sebastien Primeau, who had joined the studio in May 2018. And that, barring a pair of backer-only mini-updates in March, was the last time the studio would publicly share any info on the state of Session.
“We would love to have a talk with you guys,” creative director and studio co-founder Marc-Andre Houde wrote when Kotaku reached out to learn more, “but it is just a little bit too early for us.”
Creature isn’t saying exactly how soon it’ll before they’ll have more to share, merely “after E3.” Until it does, Session remains in a state of limbo that’s all too common among crowdfunded projects.
Professional skateboarder Tony Hawk tweets about a lot of stuff. He tweets about his kid. He tweets about skateboarding. He tweets about his skateboarding video games. And he tweets about people being surprised he’s Tony Hawk.
Tony Hawk, who’s 50 now, is famous for his prodigious skateboarding career. In 1999, Activision released Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, a video game inspired by his skating career. The games came out more or less annually through 2015; the most recent is 2018’s mobile game Tony Hawk’s Skate Jam, the first Tony Hawk game not published by Activision. The games mostly involve playing as different skateboarders who perform tricks for points in different areas, all accompanied by an awesome soundtrack.
These days, Tony Hawk still skates, and he also runs the Tony Hawk Foundation, which helps build skate parks in low-income communities. Because it’s the 21st century, he also tweets.
Much of Tony Hawk’s Twitter is taken up by encounters in which people don’t realize he’s Tony Hawk. In one tweet, he claims a car rental worker deleted his reservation because they thought the name “Tony Hawk” was fake.
In another, a TSA agent checking Hawk’s ID wonders what Tony Hawk is up to now, to which Hawk responds, “This.”
In a recent tweet, a worker at a drive-thru is excited to meet him, but no one else knows who he is.
Sometimes, people think he looks like Lance Armstrong. Another time, someone at a grocery store asks him, “You ever get mistaken for Tony Hawk?” Someone recognizes him and then is surprised, telling Hawk that he’s “not that recognizable.” “I’m not sure what that means,” Hawk replies, “but you recognized me, so here we are.”
In one tweet, someone recognizes Hawk, inspiring a guy who overhears the encounter to say, “I haven’t seen any recent pictures of you. You’ve gotten older.” Hawk replies, “It happens.” Encounters like this, Hawk writes, are “redundant…but they’re all true.” Whether they are or not, their redundancy points to the weird experience of someone living his life after being a household name. People remember Tony Hawk, kind of, but they’re confused that mostly forgetting about him didn’t make him stop existing. Rather than being annoyed, Hawk seems cheerfully resigned to this struggle, and even occasionally plays along.
These tweets are hilarious, but I also find them touching. Like many of the people in these tweets, I’ve always sort ofknown who Tony Hawk was. When I was a kid, he would be in the magazines and video tapes my twin sister and I would get from the owners of the skate shop, two guys in their 20s I both worshipped and was intimidated by. I didn’t know about the Tony Hawk games until years later, when a group of friends from college rented a ski house that had a PlayStation and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. The game’s roster let me feel like all the cool guys I’d eye at the snowboard park pulling off tricks I could never master.
Being like these guys wasn’t just about having the guts to hurl myself off the ramps at the trick park. Looking back at my infatuation with skater dudes after I realized I was trans, they embodied a masculinity I wanted before I even knew I wanted it. When I was young, being a skater was a rebellion against the masculinity of jocks. It was a manhood that was in reach for more people, though still not for me. When I was in early transition, I’d dress like those boys I’d admired as a kid, in torn jeans and punk band T-shirts. It’s funny to look back on those feelings now that I’m 37. Tony Hawk’s tweets resonate with me because they’re anticlimactic—he’s just some guy now. It’s comforting to stop taking yourself so seriously.
Now, I mostly feel like any other old man (or any other old man who’s a queer anarchist ex-chaplain who writes about video games for a living and rails at his young staff for calling things “cringe”). Being on hormones for years made some parts of masculinity easier, and being out as trans in my work and social life helped me value things I’d once seen as deficits. I used to have a mohawk; these days, I shave my head to deal with steadily encroaching baldness. A few months ago, one of my younger colleagues told me I looked like “someone’s punk dad” when I slouched into work in my standard outfit of black jeans, a black hoodie, and a black hat.
When Tony Hawk’s self-effacing tweets end up on my timeline, they feel like more than just funny jokes about fame. They remind me that these days, Tony Hawk also looks like “someone’s punk dad.” He’s patient and finds the humor in getting older, providing another model for what my own masculinity could be.
On Twitter, Hawk is good at living through the kind of irrelevance that comes for all of us as we get older. We’ve both hit ages where the world isn’t quite as about us anymore. I sometimes joke about looking forward to the day the trans youth eat me alive, but I genuinely love watching younger people do things better than I did. Hawk doesn’t seem bothered by his slide into semi-obscurity, and he performs it with a grace and gentleness that’s rare to Twitter. It’s an attitude I can strive to emulate more than the trappings of what drew me to guys like him when I was young.