Vice City might have the best licensed soundtrack of all time, but I think Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 comes in a very close second.
This article has been updated since its original publication.
Released 20 years ago, the game didn’t just ship with a whole bunch of famous skaters on the roster (and be an excellent sports title in its own right), but with an excellent soundtrack as well. Sure, it had some tracks that in hindsight are a little too Late 90s Mall Skater, but it also went way beyond that to include some more left-field acts that nevertheless end up being a perfect fit for the game.
What I think endeared it to me—and maybe you too, since early THPS soundtracks are still so fondly remembered—was that when viewed as a complete soundtrack it doesn’t feel like a marketing exercise, or sponsored content like modern sports games’ offerings do. Instead it plays like its a mixtape, a dirty old cassette that developers Neversoft made and played to death in a van they drove around skate parks.
THPS2's soundtrack in particular has long had a weirdly special place in my heart though, because as a kid growing up before Spotify and YouTube, it was my first exposure to artists like Mos Def and Fu Manchu, who as an adult I’d end up growing to love and seeing live a bunch of times. I can’t think of many other games that have had such a cultural impact on me outside the realm of video games, where I can’t just have fun playing them, but have them shape my interest in entire genres of music.
In honour of the game’s upcoming remaster, then, here’s the entire soundtrack laid out and ranked for your pleasure. Just note that, sadly, not all of these are making it into the remasters.
15. PAPA ROACH, BLOOD BROTHERS
14. BLACK PLANET & ALLEY LIFE, OUT WITH THE OLD
13. POWERMAN 5000, WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE
12. LAGWAGON, MAY 16th
11. MILLENCOLIN, NO CIGAR
10. CONSUMED, HEAVY METAL WINNER
9. SWINGIN UTTERS, FIVE LESSONS LEARNED
8. BAD RELIGION, YOU
7. STYLES OF BEYOND, SUBCULTURE
6. DUB PISTOLS, CYCLONE
5. NAUGHTY BY NATURE, PIN THE TAIL ON THE DONKEY
4. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, GUERRILLA RADIO
3. FU MANCHU, EVIL EYE
2. THE HIGH AND MIGHTY Feat. MOS DEF & MAD SKILLZ, B-BOY DOCUMENT 99
1. ANHRAX Feat. PUBLIC ENEMY, BRING THA NOIZE
This story was originally published in September 2017, and updated to reflect the game’s remaster announcement.