Greatest Game of 2000: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2

In my opinion, 2000 was a weak year for games. The Playstation 2 was released in the U.S. in the fall, and the original Xbox wouldn’t show up for another year. PC game sales hit their peak in 1999 and have been in a steady decline ever since. The consoles (Playstation, N64) were getting tired, and the quality of games just wasn’t great. Based on the quality of the game alone, I would probably say that Diablo 2 was the greatest game of 2000.  Although it featured a number of notable upgrades to the original Diablo, it just wasn’t enough to standout from the overall feeling of stagnation throughout the industry. On the other hand, I was in the middle of my freshman year at college, so gaming wasn’t my primary focus.

So I’ve established that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 isn’t the greatest game of 2000. I’ll also note that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 isn’t even my favorite game of the TH series; that would either be Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 or Tony Hawk’s Underground. A seasoned gamer (or anyone) might question the logic of calling Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 the greatest game of 2000, but I’ll try to make a case. Critically, THPS2 has the highest Metacritic rating, 98 out of 100. Wow!

The main upgrade from THPS to THPS2 was the addition of the “manual,” a balance trick created by Rodney Mullen where the skater rides the skateboard in any manner other than on all four wheels at the same time.

These tricks are obviously ridiculously difficult to pull off in real life, but in the game it was very simple. The addition of the manual allowed you to easily string together insanely long combinations. Pretty much any idiot could grind around a skate park and manual between grinds for 2 million points.

Even the idiot masked vigilante known as Spider-man:

It was a lot of fun! The game also featured levels which encouraged massive combos. The open world style of the levels encouraged exploration to find your niche for really racking up sick point totals. Yeah, dude!

Between the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise and Grand Theft Auto, there was a nice revival of games you could easily jump into for a few minutes of mayhem. Grab a six-pack and a few friends and pass the controller around for 3 minutes in the skate park. I generally place a heavy weight on the value of a story in a game, and THPS2 didn’t even have one. Not until Tony Hawk’s Underground was a story mode even included. It was just a fun game with a solid game mechanic and a favorable learning curve. The novice could pick up the controller and, in less than an hour, become decent enough to have fun with the game. It was almost an arcade throwback, where you simply try to get the highest score. Remember a numerical score in a game? Yeah, it’s been a while.

For fans of punk rock, just about every THPS game featured a solid soundtrack. Nothing goes better with skateboarding than punk rock. Maybe cigarettes, I guess, but punk rock is right up there. Bands featured in the THPS series: Dead Kennedys, Bad Religion, Motorhead, The Vandals, Lagwagon, Suicide Machines, Swingin’ Utters, Goldfinger, Bouncing Souls, The Clash… the list goes on. Come to think of it, I could probably use a search of “Tony Hawk Pro Skater” in YouTube as a substitute for Pandora.

The Tony Hawk Pro Skater series has released 14 games, spawned numerous knockoffs (including the nearly identical Shaun Palmer’s Pro Snowboarder), and sold many millions of copies. Despite its recent failings, it was a massively successful franchise (both critically and financially) and deserves a nod in the greatest games of all time.

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