I love the Tony Hawk’s franchise. Ever since the day I first played the demo for Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding, it was an instant fascination. I’ve written about my life with the series on Truly Madly Dpad.
Anyway, now for something a little different. I’ve revisited the games recently - having completed a second run through of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 (I know and I’m sorry) and currently being partway through a third playthrough of Project 8. I’ve also touched on many other of the series’ instalments and levels recently thanks to THUG Pro. Armed with that knowledge, I’ve decided to rank the levels featured in the Pro Skater series (for my own sanity I decided not to delve into Underground through Proving Ground, and for my life, I didn’t consider Ride or Shred either).
A few disclaimers: this is obviously down to opinion. A few levels listed are not fresh in my memory, particularly THPS1 and THPS4 (neither of which I’ve done full playthroughs of in over a decade, although thanks again to THUG Pro, I do have fresh memories of many of their levels). I’ve included some weird levels, like exclusive-to-last-gen levels from THPS3 and 4, since I do own those, but I’ve not included levels exclusive to GameBoy versions or non-PlayStation versions except where those levels since reappeared in newer games.
Let’s get to it!
#52: [THPS2] Chopper Drop
It hurt physically not to have the awful Bonfire Beach at last place, but Chopper Drop is just a halfpipe and a landing strip.
#51: [THPS5] Bonfire Beach
Takes elements of THPS2’s Venice and turns it into a pretty awful and incoherent level that is far more closed-in than it makes you believe at first (you have to use trial and error to determine most of the level’s death planes). The earliest of several THPS5 levels to make use of the weird power-up mechanics of the game, in this case setting your board on pointless, pointless fire. Bonfire Beach is a sick self-burn.
#50: [THPS4] Little Big World
Stranded in the PS1 version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4, and if I were being cruel, rightly so. Little Big World sees you skate an oversized kitchen complete with oversized obstacles. There’s not much to do in Little Big World, and what there is to do is awkward – you have to wallride to get onto pretty much everything. It’s a shame this didn’t get an outing in a newer game, but only for historic purposes.
#49: [THPS5] The Berrics
Pro Skater 5, the runt of the litter already in game terms, starts off in a bad way. An extremely small and limited skate park, with a small open area containing only a single pool. Looks less interesting than The Berrics park does in real life, too.
#48: [THPS5] The Bunker
Imagine taking a chainsaw to Warehouse from THPS1 and Hangar from THPS2 and then incoherently sticky-taping them together, and you have The Bunker. It’s a functional level, at least for THPS5. But it’s worse than Warehouse and Hangar – which is basically criminal.
#47: [THPS2] Hoffman Factory
Technically a Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX level but counted here for appearing only in the N64 version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, I am basing this purely on the former game because I’ve not (despite owning it) tried out THPS2 on N64 yet. Hoffman Factory is, sadly, dull. An extremely basic bike park and an even more basic dirt track area (which makes sense in a BMX game but would be extremely skateboard unfriendly), this level was bland in MHPB and I can’t imagine it faring any better in THPS2.
#46: [THPS3] Downhill
While this level, a Rio De Janeiro-set linear downhill fare, is one of my least favourite levels in the series, I do feel sorry for this kind of level that sits around and is thrown into previous-generation Hawk games as bonus fodder. Featured in the N64 and PS1 versions of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, and then again in PS2 Project 8, Downhill is pretty annoying to skate and I’m pretty sure the statue of Christ the Redeemer is a lot bigger in real life than it is here.
#45: [THPS5] The Underground
THPS5 ends with a whimper. It started with whimpers too, but hey, why buck the trend? The Underground is a big level by THPS5 standards, but is also linear, long and confusing. It also seems to largely borrow elements from THPS1’s Mall… although with some added train tracks that do next to nothing of use and have next to no skateability.
#44: [THPS1] Mall
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’s first downhill level, a remnant of the game’s original racing premise, arrives in the form of The Mall. Features some great lines and some pretty-for-the-era set pieces, but The Mall definitely makes me glad how quickly the game’s developers found their footing and steered the game into its more open-area-based gameplay, especially compounded by how in the original game, reaching the bottom terminated the session outright (this was at least improved in classic versions where you warped back to the top).
#43: [THPS5] Mega Parks
THPS5’s second of two “blatant” skatepark levels fares little better than The Berrics, mostly because it has a secret area that is almost a smile-worthy surprise. Although the nuclear sewer isn’t MUCH of a secret area given many of the story level’s goals make use of it, and if you select one from the menu, you’re teleported into it.
#42: [THPS1] Downhill Jam
THPS1 gets its second downhill level after Mall, and in my opinion, it’s not much better. It has slightly better lines and more fun geometry, but visually Downhill Jam is somewhat uninteresting, and it’s so steep you’re always resigned to experiencing each of its quirks in the same order.
#41: [THPS5] Asteroid Belt
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 takes a rare foray into trying to look interesting with Asteroid Belt. It half works, half looks like they bought a stock asset pack and threw ramps into it. Asteroid Belt is also let down by being a pretty banal level in general with very little coherence, and lines just involve the same few actions repeated due to its modularity. If you want Hawk in space, stick with Skate Heaven.
#40: [THPS1] Streets
Streets from the original THPS1 attempts to cram everything noteworthy from San Francisco that isn’t a bridge or Alcatraz into one level, with mixed success. It’s kind of interesting, but the sort of idea that probably could have done with cooking and condensing… kind of like they did, in Pro Skater 4, with the San Francisco level. So yes, this is a pretty weak level geometry-wise, and completely obsolete theme-wise.
#39: [THPS4] Sewers
The better of the PS1 version of Pro Skater 4’s two exclusive levels, Sewers is nothing to write home about but it’s a shame you have to play through an otherwise inferior version of the game just to see it. Sewers is quite small but features a decent amount of verticality through ramps and wall-mounted grindable pipes.
#38: [THPS5] School III
One of THPS5’s better levels… because it’s just School II from THPS2 with a few configuration changes and about half of the original’s layout missing. Ridiculous that School III is 15 years and 3 consoles newer and a legitimate downgrade.
#37: [THPS1] Burnside
For some reason, I always confuse Burnside with the skatepark you have to break into in THPS2’s Philadelphia to unlock. Possibly because of their shared colour palettes, their wibbly wobbliness that recreations of real life concrete skating areas tend to have, and their “underpass” locations. Actually, that makes sense. Anyway, yes, because Burnside is a whole level of its own whereas Philly is part of a huge sprawling joyous place, I have to knock it down a fair bit. Burnside is not a bad level by any real means, but it definitely shows its age.
#36: [THPS5] Mountain
If it wasn’t so confusing, Mountain would be a pretty great level idea. It’s almost an SSX course, not a Hawk course – snowy downhill descent with a roughly linear path – but it contains quite a few warp points with extremely illogical exit locations, and the level is so samey (besides an absolutely baffling hockey pitch with cardboard cutouts that kill you) that you’re never quite sure whether you’re at the top, the bottom, or anywhere inbetween.
#35: [THPS2] Bullring
Who would have thought that ollieing off of a massive pile of bull poo would be mildly underwhelming? This is a weird level – THPS2’s final competition level features possibly the weakest actual skating area, but for whatever reason, is surrounded by a circling bull that constantly poops. It also has a loop-de-loop that was novel, riiiight up until you unlocked Skate Heaven and had the really long one that was easier to use. Bullring’s not bad but it’s not great either.
#34: [THPS3] Rio
THPS3’s first competition level, Rio, as with many of the other games’ similar levels, is fundamentally just a vanilla skatepark. It has some neat touches, such as being set in a city square with a relatively wide range of buildings you can see in the distance, but as it goes, this does its job and little else.
#33: [THPS1] Roswell
The original game’s ender takes place in Area 51, where the government scientists, when not dissecting green aliens (as actually seen in the level), decided it best to erect a skatepark. This one’s a bit of fun – far from THPS1’s best offering or the series as a whole, but a nifty full stop on the end of a great first sentence.
#32: [THPS5] Rooftops
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 doesn’t have many decent levels to its name, but Rooftops is genuinely decent. A series of interconnected and varied rooftops that makes rare decent use of THPS5’s shoehorned-in powerups (the double jump is handy for traversing between rooftops), if Rooftops wasn’t lumbered with 5’s awful engine and maybe had a little more visual life to it, it would be a pretty great time.
#31: [THPS2] Skatestreet
A fairly vanilla skatepark that, like many of its brethren, is based off of a real world one. Generally I find these to be a slightly weaker than more “invented” equivalents purely because their setups are made to suit real-world skating limits rather than the games’ exaggerated million-point combo opportunities. But that’s not to say Skatestreet is bad at all – it’s still a lot of fun to skate, it just doesn’t stand out much.
#30: [THPS4] Kona Skatepark
When I was going through the database of levels to make sure I didn’t miss any, I had to double take at Kona Skatepark. I genuinely forgot it existed for a while. Which is perhaps weird, because it’s far from a bad level – it’s the standard-by-now competition skatepark level, but it’s at least nice to see them start to be set in bright outdoor areas rather than in dingy warehouses. This level deserves a revisit when I plug my PS2 back in, I think.
#29: [THPS5] Wild West
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5’s best level, and one of only two that are actually enjoyable. Wild West is a manageable, well-spaced-out skatepark, with powered rails to give you a pretty great road to long lines, and an underground secret mining area that, while ridiculous to get to, is in itself better than most of THPS5’s entire levels outright. It’s a shame you have to trudge through almost the entire story to get to Wild West. (And that you’re stuck playing Pro Skater 5 while you’re in it.)
#28: [THPS1] Chicago
THPS1, and the series as a whole, gets its first competition level, set as they mostly are in a well-constructed, tight skatepark. As skateparks go in the Hawk’s series, these levels are great for technical play but not the most visually arresting or endlessly replayable; however, Chicago holds a massive soft spot in my heart for being the level the THPS1 demo disk contained, making it the first level I ever set foot, and board, into.
#27: [THPS1] Warehouse
An absolute classic – the first level of the first game. THPS1 is an introduction and little else, featuring pretty much one of everything. It also features the ramp drop at the start – for many, their first few seconds of Tony Hawk’s skating. THUG2’s rendition, now called “Training” added an extra unlockable chunk of skatepark – something I wish more classic levels would have received in the later instalments of the series.
#26: [THPS2] Marseilles
The first THPS2 level I played thanks, as with Chicago from THPS1, to the demo including a competition level as its sampler rather than a more fleshed out level, I have a lot of nostalgia for Marseilles and it’s a pretty fun level to skate. As with other competition levels, though, it’s on the plainer side, unless you count the funky little fountain secret area that serves only minor purpose but is a great discovery.
#25: [THPS4] Shipyard
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4’s level design did a lot right, and variety was one of its successes. Every level felt different – one day you’re in a zoo, another on Alcatraz, and another still, you’re on an industrial shipyard with more grindability than a thousand salt cellars. This is another self-contained area, an aspect I praised Alcatraz prior for, but I’m a little less up on Shipyard as it’s a lot less saturated, and I find it extremely easy to land in the murky waters or even just on your face with how irregularly laid out everything is.
#24: [THPS4] Chicago, Illinois
Completes a trio of what I would call “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 city levels that are slightly too open but still decent nonetheless”, along with San Francisco and London. This makes a comeback from Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX 2, a game I have never played (I only played the first one), and is perfectly skateable, but it’s a shame THPS4 ended on this as its grand finale where the previous games capped themselves off with some of the best levels in the entire series.
#23: [THPS3] Suburbia
The Tony Hawk’s series gets its first cul-de-sac level, a theme that returned a couple of times afterwards, in Suburbia. Featuring a spooky haunted house and a construction site, along with plenty of the usual skate ramps et al, Suburbia can be a little awkward to skate thanks to all its fences and walls and I personally find it’s a little harder to pull off longer lines in compared to some of its sisters. Suburbia’s still a fun one, with a few extremely interesting discoveries.
#22: [THPS3] Skater Island
At last, a skatepark level I can fully get behind! Skater Island is, like Skatestreet and many others before it, another warehouse-set skatepark that exists in real life, but unlike its sister recreations, goes a little beyond that. Not least of all that you can break out of the building and find a pirate ship, AND as a bonus that makes me smile every time, if you look in the distance you can see Cruise Ship, another THPS3 level.
#21: [THPS1] School
The start of almost a sub-legacy of Tony Hawk’s games, with so many School levels and areas following it for better or for worse. The original, THPS1’s second level, was fairly open, definitely a departure from Warehouse, and is a great level not just by the original game’s standards but by the series’ early days as a whole.
#20: [THPS3 / THAW] Oil Rig
I first played this in American Wasteland, although Xbox players got it back in Pro Skater 3. Oil Rig is a very “3D” map, featuring possibly the most verticality of any Hawk level there has ever been. For that reason, it can be a little punishing to fall down areas where you “safely” land at the bottom, if you were trying to remain in higher points of the level. Oil Rig is an intriguing level in any case, and I’m glad I got to see it in THAW finally.
#19: [THPS4] Carnival
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4’s first “secret” level is yet another thematically unique place, set in a ropey carnival complete with back-of-truck rides. Carnival is decent as levels go, with a good obstacle density and some fun unique events to complete, but purely for how awkward it is to unlock, it’s neither my favourite nor my most familiar of THPS4 levels.
#18: [THPS2] Hangar
Continuing the trend of opening levels with a mandatory drop down a steep ramp, Hangar makes far more of an impact than Warehouse from THPS1 for my money by being a bigger area with more visual flair, and also more dynamic things to do. Two secret/unlockable areas, and enough of each type of skateable object that learners can learn and regulars can still have a lot of fun, make Hangar for my money one of the best opening Hawk levels there ever was.
#17: [THPS4] London
Only took four Tony Hawk’s games to be set in an outwardly British location, and London is very, very British. Cabs and double decker buses aplenty, it’s all very daft. London suffers from the same issue I have with the San Francisco level before it – it’s a little bit too spread out – but this is another great level in THPS4’s strong roster.
#16: [THPS3] Foundry
Pro Skater 3’s opener, and by extension its then-next-gen opener, is a pretty fun one. Very pretty but very deadly pools of molten metal are dotted around this tight-knit level with multiple stories of skatability, a fun little openable area with a spiral rail, and a number of great line opportunities. A great little opener for THPS3, and it only got better from there.
#15: [THPS1] Downtown
I’m a sucker for an urban Hawk level, and this is a superb first urban Hawk level. Moody dusk lighting (for PS1 this level looked incredible), interesting nooks and crannies to discover, side roads and roof pools… Downtown is my favourite THPS1 level, and it’s not close.
#14: [THPS3] Tokyo
Tokyo, another competition level, differentiates itself from the regular ilk by being the flashiest level the series had seen. To me, it is also the best competition level from the first three games – it’s bombastic and incredible, allowing for some ridiculous possibilities.
#13: [THPS2] Venice
Based on a real-life location demolished the year THPS2 came out, Venice is a great example of why I loved Hawk levels from the early days – every level had a unique and wonderful feel despite functionally just being a series of rails and ramps in various configurations. Venice, a beachy location rife with graffitied concrete skating installations, does a hell of a lot with relatively little.
#12: [THPS4] San Francisco
THPS4’s second offering shows exactly how far the series came in three years by successfully doing with San Fran what Streets didn’t – making a wonderful level that felt exactly like the location it was emulating. This wasn’t the best level in the game for my money – it is perhaps a little too open and spread out – but it is nonetheless a lot of fun to skate.
#11: [THPS3] Canada
I’m fond of Hawk levels where, even if the level isn’t necessarily massive, it contains several distinguishable areas with different feels. Canada nails this with three – the parking area, the skatepark, and the forest with its treetop paths. It’s coherently laid out, fun to explore, and very fun to skate.
#10: [THPS4] College
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 makes a huge splash with its introductory level. Feeling like a “grown-up” game with its shedding of the 2-minute timed career mode (a change I welcomed with open arms), it was only appropriate that the first level itself was set in the grown-up equivalent of the school levels that were Hawk staples. And a great introductory level it was – far removed from the smaller dense experiences of Warehouse, Hangar and Foundry, College was a big, brilliant experience from the start.
#9: [THPS2] NY City
One of the most nostalgic levels for me, NY City established my love for urban Hawk levels with its vast explorability, incredible “secret” area that takes up nearly half the entire map, and swearing lively taxi drivers. One other weird quirk I remember about NY City, and I’m not sure how many other levels this affected, was that in split screen mode of the PS1 version, several chunks of the level were completely missing – and as a kid, I played it split screen more often than not.
#8: [THPS2] Skate Heaven
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2’s fully-fleshed-out secret level (cough Chopper Drop, cough) is an experimental expanse of weirdness, and it really pays off. Loop-de-loops, translucent halfpipes, a volcano, and half the level totally missing in split-screen on PS1, Skate Heaven is a great level marred only by the fact it’s squirreled away behind either a cheat wall or a ridiculously massive set of things to do.
#7: [THPS3] Airport
Following THPS2 having no linear downhill levels whatsoever, THPS3 gets one – kind of – in the form of Airport. And what do you know, despite me not enjoying any of THPS1’s offerings in that department, Airport is an exceptional level. If you’re good with your grinding balance, Airport is basically heaven for combos. It has some interesting discoveries, like finding a helicopter through baggage claim, great ambience with airline announcements occupying the air, and is overall an expertly-constructed level that deservedly got several revisits in later Hawk games.
#6: [THPS4] Zoo
There is a zero-level gap between the Hawk series’ first British level and its second, because right after London comes London Zoo! Zoo contains 0% as many Cockney vehicles and many, many more animals, that afford you some hilarious possibilities. And it’s all extremely tightly constructed, so between moments of amusement, you can get a lot of skating done here. Also features, for my money, the most memorable mission from THPS4 – the one where Bob Burnquist forces you to skate a broken loop-de-loop and do tricks while upside down at the apex.
#5: [THPS2] School II
Take everything that makes a quintessential Hawk level good, and School II has it. Rewarding secret areas, long lines, deep pools, even funny soundbites when you go to certain areas of the level. School II was as close as a PS1 Hawk level got to feeling alive with all its ambient sounds, too. This is just brilliant, easily one of the best levels in any of the games.
#4: [THPS2] Philadephia
Pro Skater 2 really got city levels right with both of its major locations, but Philadelphia wins out for its expanse, its range of things to skate (including a secret skatepark area that is pretty much Burnside from THPS1), and its discoveries to be made. For my money, Philadelphia is the best level in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2.
#3: [THPS3] Los Angeles
What a level. What a place, too. Los Angeles feels genuinely big, and features so many little nooks and crannies to find, spots to skate, and events to trigger – here’s to you, massive motorway-destroying earthquake – that this level can be enjoyed for hours.
#2: [THPS4] Alcatraz
I love Alcatraz for the same reason I loved Cruise Ship from THPS3 – it feels like a perfect, self-contained location with no fake boundaries. Besides being a great, tight level with supreme comboability, Alcatraz is also one of the series’ first “populated-feeling” places thanks to its smattering of tourists. And for an island that was once a prison, Alcatraz is extremely open. Doesn’t get much better than this, and it made me smile to randomly see it reappear, as a story level, in the (surprisingly great) DS Hawk game American Sk8land.
#1: [THPS3] Cruise Ship
There’s something about Cruise Ship that always gets a huge smile out of me. Nothing, for my money, is wrong with it at all. It’s great fun to skate. It’s extremely well thought out. Every area feels unique, and you always know exactly where you are and how to get to any other given spot. There’s a lot to do too – a personal favourite of mine was ruining the greenhouse. To cap all this off, Cruise Ship feels unlimited – by that, I mean if you go out of bounds, it makes sense that you’d be reset – you fell off the ship, rather than eg how the rural locations gate off roads that, in real life, you could totally just traverse. I adore Cruise Ship.