Sports games have a long history, but culminating in the first installment of 1999's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, which elevated the genre to popular status. As we know, almost every sports game has predecessors, and this one is no exception. Gamasutra has published an exclusive excerpt from Vintage Games: An Insider Look at the History of Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario, and the Most Influential Games of All Time, which describes the complete history of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series. In honor of the release of the remake of the original game, let's see how it began.
Sports simulators such as 720 Degrees and Skate or Die !, have delighted many gamers, but it was Tony Hawk's Pro Skater that successfully brought this genre to the masses. The game offered a high level of control and fluid movement, so important for these games.
Of course, in terms of presentation, it was not the first. Even before it, there were many games that bore the title of sports simulator. From early sports video games like the Epyx California Games , which featured skateboarding, freestyle, surfing, rollerblading, and the classic NBA Jam  and the NFL Blitz . However, these were a series of highly simplified arcade sports video games.
Another merit of this particular game is the extraordinary level of realism. With a focus on technique over style, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater has expanded its audience to far more players than any other game of its type before.
The popular arcade game Sega Top Skater [also known as Top Skater Sega Skateboarding] from 1997 was one of the first 3D skateboarding simulators, with a skateboard attached to the arcade for control. It also focused on tricks.
However, lost in the shadow of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Top Skater never got a home port.
Neversoft's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater [also known as THPS] was released by Activision for the first PlayStation in late 1999, and for the Nintendo 64 and Sega Dreamcast in 2000. Flexible game control scheme, smooth animation and goal-oriented progress immediately became cult icons and were imitated in similar games for many years.
Single player options include Career Mode, Solo Session, and Free Mode. In career mode, the goal is to complete as many stunts and score as possible. There are nine levels in the game, where competitions are held on some, while on others you need to knock out medals, gaining as many points as possible.
Initially, only one level is available, but the rest are opened in career mode as you explore the location.
In addition, the game had two player modes, including "Graffiti", "Trick Attack" and "Horse". In graffiti mode, there is a split-screen race to see which player can mark the most obstacles in a two-minute period.
Players can steal their opponent's obstacles by performing even more serious tricks. The player with the highest number of objects after several minutes wins. The second mode offered players to compete in who will score the most points, and the last - a one-on-one competition for the best trick, the goal of which is to beat the opponent's result.
While this depth of game modes is impressive, it is the sense of movement and authenticity of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater that really captivated gamers. The famous name on the cover also gave weight.
Tony Hawk himself did not join the development immediately, but only after a contract was signed with him. Tony was actively involved in the creation. With each new build of the game, he was given a copy, and if something didn't match skateboarding or looked unnatural, he reported it to Neversoft. This attention to detail really gave the final game a flawless look.
Also, the first game had a motion capture feature that Hawk participated in. During this process, Tony donned a suit with sensors. By following their standard tricks, the developers were able to build a working 3D model based on them. By the time the second game was released, this process was largely abandoned. However, it has been used in future games.
In 2000, Pro Skater was adapted for the Nintendo Game Boy Color. Although it was a 3D and very interactive game for the console, in this version it became a bit of a downgrade, 2D and more limited, allowing for significantly less tricks.
However, this version introduces two new modes. The first allowed players to compete in one track at speed, and in the confrontation mode, the enemy could be created by a computer or a player on a second Game Boy Color connected to a connecting cable. The goal is to score as many points as possible by performing ollies, flips, or any of seven other possible tricks.
While the tricks in Game Boy Color are not as varied as in the console versions, they are well thought out, the backgrounds are colorful, and the animations are fluid. The controls are also easier to learn than on consoles and consisted of a series of D-pad presses and the A and B buttons.
However, the game was criticized and only received average reviews. Regardless, there weren't many handheld skateboarding games available at the time and the brand was popular so the game still sold well.
Pro Skater 2, released in 2000, was very similar to the original version but offered some notable innovations such as "Create-a-Skater" and "Park Editor". They became the main products of the Tony Hawk franchise.
The sequel also offered new tricks. The game was very well received and had significant success, with 5.3 million copies sold by 2007. It is considered by some to be the best game in the series to date.
Pro Skater 3 introduced a "return" to the basics of the first part. The game allowed making combinations much longer than it was possible in the previous game.
You can also perform variations of standard tricks and discover hidden combinations. It was the first game to feature non-skateboarding ads in the form of in-game billboards. For example, mobile phone manufacturer Nokia was one such advertiser.
Pro Skater 4 of 2002 was the last in the Pro Skater series, and some feared it would be the last real game in the series as we know it today. This version removed the two-minute time limit in Career Mode, so players were free to explore the levels at will.
Many players saw this game as truly fresh and with the greatest replay potential, because instead of completing a goal in a certain period of time, they were now free to explore many new locations, including Alcatraz and London.
Also, since the game uses a completely different engine, there have been certain improvements that become apparent as the game progresses. For example, boards wear out, clothes or knees wear out, and there are other subtle details that add a new level of realism to the game.
Of course, the growing success of the Tony Hawk series has not gone unnoticed by competitors, although few of their products have been able to gain any close critical acclaim or market popularity.
A game released shortly before Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Street Sk8er, based on a Japanese game released a year earlier, had few features and quickly became secondary.
Another very similar game, Thrasher: Skate and Destroy [from Rockstar Game], was released shortly after Pro Skater and was betting that it would be the superior skateboarding simulator it was.
Unfortunately for Rockstar, players have opted for the more user-friendly approach that Pro Skater has over the hardcore Thrasher simulator. Other games such as Acclaim's Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX changed the way they move, but still relied on the same playstyle.
Others like Sega Jet Grind Radio have mixed stylized aesthetics with unusual gameplay mechanics - in this case roller skating and spraying graffiti. The game has even been a hit with critics and gamers.
The fifth game, Tony Hawk, began the Underground series, which consists of two games: Tony Hawk's Underground and Tony Hawk's Underground 2. These games are sometimes referred to as THUG and THUG 2.
They represent a radical departure from the other games in the Tony Hawk series, as they focus more on the storyline than the rigorous gameplay. Players can create a skateboarder to be promoted to professional skater status.
For the first time, players had the ability to step off their board and walk, run, climb and even drive vehicles, which is actually required to reach certain locations. While the game is replete with vivid characters and interactive experiences, some have criticized it for its lack of quests.
However, along with them, one problem arose called "Tony Hawk's syndrome" - the game began to fizzle out and all subsequent experiments led only to a logical end.
In 2005, Tony Hawk's American Wasteland was released. This game was also known as THAW and was a sequel to THUG 2.
The goal in Story Mode is to gain the approval of the pros by mastering various tricks and obtaining items from Los Angeles and the surrounding area to build a skate park called the American Wasteland.
This game is the first to be played on one large level, and the game world is much larger than any of the previous Hawk games. It also has classic mode.
Two more games were released in 2006: Tony Hawk's Project 8 and Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam.
Project 8 has completely redesigned the graphics with all new motion captures to make the animation even more realistic. Created one big city in which you can ride, and all levels are linked without loading. We've also added new controls for tricks to the game.
Another unique feature is to control the character during a fall in order to injure him as much as possible and get a large hospital bill, which leads to monetary rewards in the game. Downhill Jam is a spin-off of the Hawk series and does not have a story mode. The goal is to overtake opponents, achieve your goals and score points.
Tony Hawk's Proving Ground was released in 2007 and received mixed reviews. This is where the end of the history of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series is considered, since after that Activision took a year off from the franchise, and then transferred the development to another studio. All subsequent games in the series, one way or another, received mixed reviews.
However, it's safe to say that Neversoft games have left a powerful sports legacy for games in this genre.
The Topic of Article: Ollie, Grabs, Grinds: The Story of the Tony Hawks Pro Skater Series.