Whether it was helping bring veteran bands to the ears of a new wave of fans or launching the careers of a bunch of new bands, the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater soundtracks had a massive impact on the shape of music and pop culture at the tail-end of the 90s and early 2000s.
We've taken on the uneviable task of ranking these soundtracks, assessing them not just on variety, length and suitability, but also, most crucially, on which songs feel damn good when you’re 900-ing through the window of an abandoned warehouse.
15. Tony Hawk: Ride (2009)
Ride replaced the game's iconic punk, metal and hip-hop mix with a more and zeitgeisty offering of 00s garage rock and indie. It’s as gimmicky and trend-chasing as the game’s plastic skateboard controller.
Key Track: Queens of the Stone Age - The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret
14. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 (2015)
Awarded Worst Game of the Year by Entertainment Weekly, Tony Hawks Pro Skater 5 nearly killed the series entirely. Hawk told Vice the songs were picked based on cheapness and what favours he could call in to get them. Killer Be Killed deserved better than this.
Key Track: Anti Flag - Stars and Stripes
13. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD (2012)
This cash-in featured 7 classic THPS songs diluted by seven anonymous new ones, the developers telling Sound and Vision, “We wanted… five years from now, people hear the songs and think of this game.” Next time we hear Pegasus XL, Apex Manor or Telekinesis, we'll let you know how that’s going.
Key Track: El-P feat. Trent Reznor - Flyentology
12. Tony Hawk’s Project 8 (2006)
Of all the soundtracks, Project 8 has the most variety, but lurches from the summery reggae of Damian Marley to Immortal’s visceral One By One, then on to The Klaxons for a disorienting listen.
Key Track: Bad Religion - Social Suicide
11. Tony Hawk’s Shred (2010)
Like Ride, Shred also leans heavily into insipid indie but at least punk made a return with GBH, Bad Religion and Braid, as well as smatterings of metal including Deftones’ Be Quiet And Drive.
Key Track: At the Drive-In - Cosmonaut
10. Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam (2006)
Activision anticipated a younger audience on this Wii exclusive so the Angel Of Death sample in Public Enemy’s She Watch Channel Zero?! is as heavy as it gets. There are also fewer underground bands than usual, removing the magical discovery aspect of other THPS soundtracks.
Key Track: Descendents - Myage
9. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 (2020)
We hoped 2020’s remake would uplift exciting underground bands like the originals (particularly given the rude health of punk and hardcore at the moment) but instead we got Chick Norris, All Talk and Machine Gun Kelly. It’s the hope that kills you.
Key Track: Pkew Pkew Pkew - Mid 20’s Skateboarder
8. Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland (2005)
If you like songs about LA, this is the soundtrack for you. It is also noteworthy for its commissioned covers album that includes everything from the sublime Thursday version of Ever Fallen In Love With Someone, to a somewhat tepid Search And Destroy from Emmanuel.
Key Track: Black Flag - Rise Above
7. Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 (2004)
Underground 2’s soundtrack is solid with Metallica’s Whiplash, Rancid’s Fall Back Down and Faith No More’s Midlife Crisis all highlights. Some weird choices, including Johnny Cash's Ring Of Fire and Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life, present immersion-breaking tone shifts though.
Key Track: Faith No More - Midlife Crisis
6. Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground (2007)
Proving Ground was the final Tony Hawk skateboarding game from Neversoft, so they splashed out on huge songs from Foo Fighters, Nirvana, The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash. It’s also the heaviest soundtrack in the series with Pig Destroyer, At the Gates and Darkest Hour all featured.
Key Track: Bad Brains - Banned in DC
5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (2001)
THPS3 delved back into the early days of punk and hardcore for the first time with Ramones' Blitzkreig Bop and The Adolescents’ Amoeba. It was a success and they sit comfortably alongside more contemporary cuts from AFI, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the unconventional Mad Capsule Markets. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a bit of Motorhead.
Key Track: CKY - 96 Quite Bitter Beings
4. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 (2002)
The fourth installment in the franchise might have been the first to overhaul the game’s format but the soundtrack team only made minor tweaks. Classic rock was introduced through AC/DC’s T.N.T, Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills and The Cult’s Bad Fun. Goldfinger also made their return to the franchise after Superman became inextricably linked with the first game, with the song Spokesman.
The skater's individual music affiliations also accounted more into the game soundtracks; CKY made the cut thanks to associations with Bam Margera, Chad Muska has three Muskabeatz songs, while Steve Caballero’s guest spot on Skate And Destroy also gets included.
Key Track: AC/DC - T.N.T
3. Tony Hawk’s Underground (2003)
Alongside a great selection of punk and hip hop, Underground introduced heavier material with High on Fire’s Hung, Drawn And Quartered and Entombed’s To Ride Straight And Speak The Truth leading the charge. The last level of this game is a Kiss concert so they have three songs featured - God Of Thunder, Rock And Roll All Nite and the now-nauseating Lick it Up.
Key Track: Refused - New Noise
2. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater II (2000)
THPS 2 is so beloved, it remains the second most critically-acclaimed game ever on Metacritic and a big part of that love extends to its bulletproof soundtrack. Hip-hop is introduced into the series via Guerilla Radio and Anthrax and Public Enemy’s Bring The Noise. The guitar music is more varied than its predecessor with Powerman 5000’s industrial banger When Worlds Collide and Papa Roach’s Blood Brothers joining Millencolin, Bad Religion and Lagwagon’s punk ragers.
Key Track: Rage Against the Machine - Guerilla Radio
1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (1999)
In 1999, Tony Hawk brought the sound of the skatepark to living rooms around the world and set a standard for video game soundtracks that has rarely been bettered since. Goldfinger’s Superman is the first song you hear as you drop in and then it’s an adrenaline-filled nostalgia trip until you’re nailing Christ Airs to Cyco Vision around San Francisco.
Most video game soundtracks aim to capture a specific cultural moment in time but THPS’s ended up creating them. The games made skateboarding mainstream and brought the music along too - from Primus and Unsane to the Dead Kennedys, these ten songs shaped alternative culture for decades to follow.
Key Track: Goldfinger - Superman