It was a unanimous sense of joy among gamers when Tony Hawk tweeted Tuesday that Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 and 2 were getting remastered and released on Sept. 4. The offering will include some new features, but also the original maps, original skaters … and original music.
While many remastered releases experience possible challenges as it pertains to licensing, the fact that the much-beloved soundtracks from the games will also be included is a welcome surprise. Though there are countless playlists dedicated to the beautiful time capsule that was the Tony Hawk Pro Skater mixtape, it won’t quite compare to that sudden double dose of nostalgia you will feel when you hear those tunes while reliving the game in all of its glory.
We wanted to look at some of our favorite songs from the two games, partly because they are the ones being remastered, partly because the soundtracks across every game are so expansive and the first two are truly iconic, and partly because I’ll get tired of trying to give logical reasons as to why Ace of Spades by Motorhead (part of the soundtrack for the third game) is a worthy selection.
How did I rank these? In no particular order:
Crowdsourcing: I sifted through hundreds of direct messages and the songs I saw the most weighed in on the end result.
Personal taste: Anyone making a list like this would be lying if they didn’t add a little bit of their own preferences in the selections.
Impact: How connected are the songs to the franchise? When you hear the opening notes, what’s the first thing you think of? If Tony Hawk Pro Skater is high on that list, it belongs here.
5. “Jerry was a Race Car Driver” by Primus, THPS 1
This song just has a skateboarding vibe to it right from the get-go. The strong bass notes take as many turns and spins as the skaters in the air, with a pace that marries chill and urgency quite well. It’s one of those songs that wouldn’t be your first pick when you think Primus (“Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” is probably in the lead in that race), but it definitely is a song that made you discover Primus because of playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
“Primus told me that some people only knew ‘Jerry Was A Race Car Driver,'” said Hawk in an interview with Kerrang. “I think of Primus as a really integral part of our skate culture; they did a lot of songs that meant a lot to the skate community, and that song probably wasn’t the first pick that people would associate with them, but that was what they were becoming known for.”
Meanwhile, Primus co-creator and bassist Les Claypool looks fondly on being a part of the game. In an interview with The Ringer, Claypool said, “[guitarist] Larry LaLonde was our big skater. Primus shows were notorious for being very energetic, lots of moshing and stage diving, and I think it just appealed to that aggressive and somewhat rebellious sense of the skate community. We had a lot of friends that were skaters, so whenever any of these opportunities to be a part any of that stuff, we would just let them use the stuff, because we thought it was a cool association to have our music be a part of these things.”
Parts of this song truly feel like it is an instrumental music track created specifically for a video game about skateboarding. It fits so well that it’s no surprise it has endured in the minds of many for this long.
4. “When Worlds Collide” by Powerman 5000, THPS 2
Powerman 5000 has an impressive run of being a part of movies and video games in the late ’90s, including “Scream 3,” “Celebrity Deathmatch,” “Universal Soldier: The Return” (he returned?), “NHL Hitz,” “Gran Turismo,” “Blade II” and, of course, “Bride of Chucky.” But one of the more famous collabs was with Tony Hawk Pro Skater. It’s abrasive, punches you in the face and dares you to move — or, in this case, skate.
In an interview with Sound and Vision, Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD producer Ken Overbey recalled the impact it had on him as a kid playing the game.
“I was playing career mode and was having a hard time getting the objectives,” Overbey said. “I was just doing it over and over. And then that song would come on, and it was like, ‘Alright, I’m doing this. It’s on.'”
Lead designer of HD Patrick Dwyer points to its icon status within the game in the same interview, saying that when he hears it, he thinks of Tony Hawk.
It may not be your favorite song, but it gets an upgrade in your mind no doubt because it fits so well with the entire franchise. If “When Worlds Collide” showed up in every Tony Hawk release until the end of time, nobody would bat an eye.
3. “Bring the Noise” by Public Enemy & Anthrax, THPS 2
This is my favorite song on the entire list, but not necessarily because of Tony Hawk Pro Skater. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy it’s here — it appears in many video games, including the Die Hard Trilogy and multiple WWE releases — but this is a very special song for many people that grew up in the ’90s.
In 1991, years before bands like Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit pushed rapcore into the mainstream, metal and rap didn’t really overlap on the venn diagram of musical genres. Sure, there were some examples, like Run DMC covering “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith, with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry singing and playing guitar. Then, all of a sudden, Anthrax and Public Enemy joined together like a musical Voltron with a blistering, unapologetic collab of Public Enemy’s “Bring The Noise” (originally released in 1988). It was AWESOME.
“Nobody even had an idea that stuff could happen, and the next thing you know, we’re doing it,” said ANTHRAX lead singer Joey Belladonna in an oral history of the song to Loudersound. “It was a cool surprise. I loved that. That song was strong, it was heavy, it had a neat vibe, and it sure took off.”
You could say that this song was a big inspiration for an entire genre of music that became very popular years later. It’s almost as if its inclusion in the soundtrack was a respectful nod to the song’s legacy and impact among fans of multiple genres, or just music fans in general.
“That collab embodied the first real attempt to merge metal and hip hop,” Peter Rosenberg, host of Ebro in the Morning on Hot 97 and The Michael Kay Show on ESPN 98.7 FM New York, told me. “The content of the music may be completely different, but somehow the similarities in approach made for a dope blend that people really connected with.”
Though it might not be the first song you think of when you think Tony Hawk, it does belong on any list of best songs from the game. In fact, it’s such a great tune that Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD executive producer Josh Tsui fought for the song despite the expenses to license it.
“When we were trying to get music for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, that was the only song I really fought for,” he said. “It was prohibitively expensive to license, but I was willing to throw some money in. Luckily an agreement was reached so I didn’t have to do that … and also saved my marriage.”
2. “Guerrilla Radio” by Rage Against The Machine, THPS 2
Rage Against the Machine is in the Mount Rushmore discussion for ’90s bands, no doubt. Politically charged and in your face, Tom Morello’s unique guitar riffs and Zach De La Rocha’s unmistakable voice continue to be iconic. This song was on RATM’s third album “The Battle of Los Angeles,” which went double platinum. Many songs in the game’s soundtrack were discovered by gamers for the first time, but certainly not Rage.
David “Grand Poo Bear” Hunt, content creator, Super Mario speed runner and former semi-pro snowboarder, encapsulated to me what makes this track so special in the THPS world:
“Oh man, Guerrilla Radio by Rage Against the Machine was the song in THPS2,” Hunt said. “That song always put me in the right mindset to pull off silly insane multi-manual combos. It also led me into Rage as a band in general, which then in turn led me into questioning the real world, politics and other issues I hadn’t thought about before.
“It’s amazing how art can spark something inside of us like that. It’s kinda amazing how the first two game soundtracks specifically hit so hard with so many people, considering there was only about 15 tracks on each game. Beyond that, Tony Hawk games are what got me — and I’m sure a ton of others — into skating. Before that, I was a snow guy only, but that game made me want to learn how to skate, a love that I still have today.”
1. “Superman” by Goldfinger, THPS 1
Of the hundreds upon hundreds of passionate Tony Hawk Pro Skater fans that messaged me about this ranking, this song was overwhelming No. 1. Truthfully, if you’ve read this far, you will probably agree that if you could pick only one song that people associate with Tony Hawk Pro Skater the most, it’s this one.
The punk and ska vibes hit you fast — a blistering snare drum opening into an upbeat, familiar-feeling guitar riff into a brass section that makes the song pop. It’s the kind of tune that you just can’t help smiling at. It also seemingly had this special power to make you want to try to pull off a difficult trick. It’s just had that “X” factor.
But as much as gamers will associate THPS with “Superman,” the reverse is also true: Goldfinger will forever be linked with the series.
“We were at the Academy in Manchester opening for Bloodhound Gang, and it was the second time Goldfinger ever went to England,” Goldfinger lead singer/guitarist John Feldman said. “I don’t think anyone really knew who we were. We even talked about not playing ‘Superman’ (laughs). We hadn’t realized that the Tony Hawk thing had really taken off on a global scale, so it was just in the set halfway through and the crowd just went f—ing ballistic. And that was the moment. After the show, I started talking to these kids and they’re like, ‘Tony Hawk! Tony Hawk!’ and I was like ‘Oh s—, alright!'”
So, if you had to pick just one tune, one banger, one fire track that perfectly sums up Tony Hawk Pro Skater, that fans hear the first 3 seconds of and instantly think about sitting on the couch, PlayStation controller in their hand, ribbing their friends about missing a 900, backflip or Kickflip McTwist …
“I feel like the Tony Hawk soundtracks have stayed constant in my life. ‘Superman’ [by] Goldfinger is an absolute classic that comes to mind.” — Cole Irvin, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher
“‘Superman’ was pretty much the perfect song for my friends and me at 10 years old. It had this classic high energy that was great for crowding around a friend’s TV in their basement and then breaking free and riding our bikes around town all summer stirring up the stupid trouble 10-year-olds get into. I think we must have listened to it thousands of times on repeat.” — Brett Lautenbach, president of NRG Esports
“For me, growing up playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, hands-down the most memorable song in the game was ‘Superman’ by Goldfinger. It’s a song for me that defines a generation of young gamers — before esports were mainstream, content creators or influencers — when gaming was just for bragging rights and fun. Whoever landed the best tricks was king of the day!” — Joe Marsh, CEO of T1
… it’s “Superman.” No question.