Retro gaming, four of a kind: top skateboarding games inc. Skate Or Die, Tony Hawk’s Underground and more

Posted on 6 August 2015
By James Brookfield
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Earlier this week, Lexus released a video showcasing their own hover board prototype being tested by skaters in a skate park. The demonstration set the internet ablaze and raised the hopes of those who believe that iconic Back to the Future II scene may finally become a reality.

As a result, this week’s Four of a Kind will blend the two together even more by kick-flipping through the top skateboarding video games.

1. Skate or Die! (NES)

Originally published by EA and released on multiple consoles Skate or Die! was ported to NES by Konami. The game features four playable characters to control in five different skateboarding events; two ramp, two downhill and a pool joust. With the exception of high jump and freestyle ramp, each event is competitive. Solo gamers compete against three AI characters (Lester, Aggro Eddie and Poseur Pete) with difficulty depending on the opponent.

Each event is interconnected by a main hub area, overseen by Rodney Decloose (both a reference to Rodney Mullen and sharing an uncanny resemblance to comedian Rodney Dangerfield) the proprietor of the local skate shop. Graphics are fine, frame-rate is consistently good and the music helps immersion. Gameplay differs between events offering enough maintain attention as well as an enjoyable experience.

2. Thrasher: Skate and Destroy (Playstation)

Thrasher: Skate or Die is one of the earliest attempts to dethrone Tony Hawk as the king of Skateboarding games. It divides opinions due to being an actual skater simulator and a steep learning curve that less hardcore fans will find extremely difficult. Essentially it is not a ‘pick up and play’ but for those who invest enough time the experience becomes very enjoyable.

Unlike THPS titles this game does not feature real-life skaters, instead opting for six fully customisable characters.

Visuals are blocky, textures are smooth, animations are solid but controls are challenging. The main appeal is the ability to be arrested by the police, resulting in a loss of score and having to restart the level.

3. Grind Session (Playstation)

Often perceived as a Tony Hawk clone (admittedly it does have similar aesthetics, control scheme and gameplay) Grind Session is a great game in its own right. The game does differentiate from Tony Hawk games owing to an in-depth trick list and more interesting gameplay achievements. Also comparable the Grind Session features actual skaters, though limited, as well as the ability to create your own character and also a hidden skater to be found, via collecting coins in ‘dream house’.

The game features eight diverse levels, modelled after real world locations, including the Burnside level from Tony Hawk though in Grind Session the area is more expansive and viable. In-game features are interesting including; respect points, tech lines (an occasional visible skate line delivering hints) and a first-person viewpoint.

4. Tony Hawk’s Underground (Playstation 2, Gamecube, Xbox)

Neversoft applies the same basic model of previous Tony Hawk games to Underground but improves upon it to create an even better game. Gameplay mechanics are similar to earlier titles however one new key feature is the ability to pick up the skateboard allowing tricks to be linked together in a new way, though this can be awkward sometimes depending on terrain. This new concept also allows for a more careful exploration of the environment.

Another positive aspect of Underground is the plot. Rather than focus on pro skaters, the story allows players to create a character and rise from amateur to professional level. The plot threads together previously disconnected levels generating a sense of flow and further emphasises key features, such as creating a deck or learning advanced tricks.

This ends both Four of a Kind’s retrospective look at skateboarding games and a strong attempt to include only one Tony Hawk title. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Honourable mentions: 720, Town & Country Surf Designs Wood & Water Rage, Skate Boardin’, Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure (Playstation 2, Gamecube, Xbox), Street Sk8ter (Playstation) Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (Playstation) and ESPN X Games Skateboarding (Playstation 2)