Skateboarding games have changed a lot since the 1980s. With new hardware comes new engines, which leads to better physics, fancier graphics, and new innovations like the genre-changing dual-stick controls seen in games such as Skate. But while the genre is seeing a resurgence thanks to SkateBird and a new Skate sequel on the horizon (footage of which reportedly just leaked), some of the best skating video game series are either obscure or long-dormant. There are also a bevy of new games that remind me why the skateboarding genre is so cool.
So let’s chart some of the best of the best. In no particular order, here are my top eight skateboarding games I think any fan of the genre should totally check out.
Session / Skater XL
Crea-ture Studios’ Session and Easy Day Studios’ Skater XL aren’t actually the same game, but they fill a similar void left by EA’s Skate franchise (which is making a comeback soon). Both games are hardcore skateboarding simulators that emphasise precision board control over huge tricks and long combos. Both games (mostly) forgo a narrative in favour of strictly shredding a spot. Both games even feature a control scheme in the same vein as Skate’s, with the left stick controlling your left foot and the right stick controlling your right. Until Skate 4 — which needs to be called Sk4te, you’re welcome, EA — comes out, these two are my go-to skateboarding games when I want to focus on trick mastery and understanding instead of just pure adrenaline.
Most would probably choose the OG Skate for how it revolutionised the skateboarding genre, with its dual-stick system that created an intricate setup for a technical experience that kinda mirrored the real-life extreme sport. I respect Skate, but EA’s Skate 3 has always been my fav of the series. It takes what Skate and Skate 2 do so well and throws you into an open world in which you can go just about anywhere and skate just about anything. Its overhauled trick system exhibits greater fluidity, the character creator’s expanded for more personalisation, and its narrative is charming if a bit goofy. Really, Skate 3 is OG Skate but bigger, better, and gnarlier — and that’s sick.
Mobile skateboarding games aren’t always fun or intuitive. Instead of giving you a skater whose feet you control, most games — like Touchgrind — turn your fingers into virtual feet, which isn’t the most enjoyable way to skate on a phone. Room 8 Studio’s Skate City solves this unintuitive control issue by mimicking Skate’s dual-stick system. What you get is a slick, side-scrolling skateboarding simulator that’s easy to play and goes with you anywhere. It’s also got this soft, low-poly aesthetic that pairs well with its lofi beat tracks, making for a low-key skating game perfect for quick flights or filling idle time.
If Skate City is the mobile version of Skate, then Hyperparadise’s The Ramp is the mobile skateboarding version of The Art of Rally. What I mean is that The Ramp is a minimalist skateboarding simulator about one thing only: vert skating. There’s no massive parks to trick around, no astronomical high score challenges to beat, no distractions. Just you, a board, and this big-arse ramp. It’s a cool, meditative experience about finding the flow of skateboarding, which is difficult to do when the sport itself is so technical and frustrating. The Ramp is both of those things, too, but thanks to its simple control scheme — there are just three buttons on the screen — it’s also one of the most soothing, least-stressful skateboarding simulators yet made.
Thrasher: Skate And Destroy
Probably the game on this list I have the haziest memory of, Z-Axis’ Thrasher: Skate And Destroy was pretty much proto-Skate. Released in 1999 for the original PlayStation, Skate And Destroy was a hardcore skateboarding simulator that, not unlike Skate nearly a decade later, honed in on precise board control over gravity-defying tricks. The control scheme was a bit clunky, with dedicated buttons for moves like 180s, but this complexity forced you to learn how to set up what’s known as a line — a series of individual tricks chained together in one line or spot. You couldn’t button-mash to a high score like you could in the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, but Thrasher: Skate And Destroy was a solid game that oozed all the cool you’d expect from its titular skateboarding magazine.
Tony Hawk’s Underground
The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise has gone through its myriad ups and downs since skating onto the scene in 1999. One of the more satisfying spin-offs, though, was the Underground series — colloquially shortened to THUG — for its silly campaign, oddball characters, newly added tricks, and open environments. Sure, the controls were imprecise, especially when roaming off your board, but the vast amount of customisation, the deep well of tricks, and the quirky challenges made up for some of the frustrations with board control. It also had one of the punkest soundtracks in the series, which always hyped me up to go skating and actually inspired me to start a band. Yeah, THUG’s dope.
I’ve already blogged my love for Roll7’s OlliOlli World, so I recommend checking that out. But to summarize, this action-platformer is colourful, fast-paced, and irreverent, with a banging soundtrack and tight controls. Not to mention it looks like Adventure Time on acid or something. It’s one of the most vibrant skateboarding games ever, which makes OlliOlli World also one of the most approachable for skating newcomers despite being such a challenge for vets.
And that’s that, eight skateboarding games I think you should definitely add to your never-ending backlog. Did I skip any of your favourites? Lemme know in the comments. But I think we can all agree that with exciting upcoming projects like Sk4te — it’s right there, EA — and Skate Story, the future is again looking bright for this uniquely engaging, once-thriving genre.