Extreme sports have always been ripe fodder for video game treatment. While others are content to hurl themselves from high places, endanger their genitals grinding sloping rails, and toss motorised vehicles about with wild abandon, there's long been a case for nestling into the couch, controller in hand, and letting your virtual avatar do all of the effort to a typically brilliant soundtrack
Here are some of the best and brightest extreme sports games from over the years. Games that we kept coming back to time and time again, beguiling titles that would encourage us always to have just one more go...
Honourable Mentions: Dave Mirra's Freestyle BMX 2, Amped 2, Aggressive Inline, Elastomania, California Games, AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! For The Awesome.
10. 1080 Snowboarding
One of the earliest releases on Nintendo's 64-bit box of tricks, 1080 Snowboarding took a relatively realistic shot at providing some snowboarding action, and succeeded in delivering jaw-dropping visuals (at the time), with an aggressive focus on speed rather than hangtime. One of the N64's first wave of killer apps.
9. Skate or Die
Vert contests, street racing, downhill jams, and utterly bizarre Gladiators-esque jousting duels, Skate or Die had it all. Belying its rather immediate name (there was no dying), Skate or Die took the Epyx model of extreme sports games and injected it with wild amounts of character. The theme tune on C64 was also amazing!
The granddaddy of them all: Excitebike was hugely popular, and came with a level editor for funsies...but only if you lived in Japan. Admittedly by today's standards it could be considered boring and repetitive, but in its simple fabric was the DNA that all of the best score attack and time trial games have come to follow. It offered simple gameplay, matched with user-defined goals to keep you constantly coming back to whittle away at that time. Even today, it's still got the power to devour a few hours.
Off-road, freestyle quad-bike racing? Yes please. Pure may have looked like a straightforward racer, with its juicy production values, but it had an anarchic sense of fun that allowed players to fling themselves and their four-wheeled chariots off of some hilarious silly jumps. A criminally overlooked game that's found some solace in the persistent Xbox 360 controller packs.
6. Trials Evolution
Trials HD was infuriating, maddening, and cripplingly addictive. It's sequel was exactly the same, offering even more of a challenge, and serving up a complete package. The balance between patience and precise execution was spot on, the community aspects were terrifically engaging, and it thoroughly rewarded the skilful hardcore. Beautiful in its simplicity, yet relentlessly compelling, Trials Evolution was a masterclass in design.
5. Joe Danger
Astonishingly addictive, full of charm, and packed with content, Joe Danger seemed like an old-school Nintendo title...just not made by Nintendo. Hello Games crammed ridiculous stunts, easy humour, endless replayability, and a fully fledged level editor into one of the finest little games in recent memory.
4. Jet Set Radio Future
The original was a classic, but its Xbox sequel makes the grade here for both refining the existing UI of the original game and giving the player much more control over the cel-shaded wackiness onscreen. The fully-stacked trick system proved integral to the gameplay, the graphics gleamed on Microsoft's new system, and you were now free to explore the areas around you to your heart's content. Masterful.
With Tony Hawk's video gaming legacy becoming ever more bloated and mediocre, EA took the opportunity to redirect the popularity of the skateboarding genre with a more realistic take on things. Black Box's innovative control scheme made for a steep learning curve, but once nailed, Skate was pure poetry in motion. A fully rendered city, a cracking soundtrack, and online play didn't hurt either.
2. SSX Tricky
SSX Tricky was basically SSX 1.5, but that's fine. Run-DMC did much to ensure this game's high standing, but it was also the smooth variations on the original's levels, the addition of uber moves, the cracking cast (Oliver Platt! Lucy Liu! Macy Gray?!), and the fact that you could bomb it down a mountain side as Mix Master Mike that made this game so utterly brilliant.
1. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
Everyone will have their favourites from the Tony Hawk series (my personal two shouts are the original and THPS4), but Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 really was the series high point. The original started something huge, but the second game bested it with perfect physics, more iconic, fantastically designed levels, and a phenomenally addictive focus on hardcore score attacking. And then there was the manual. If THPS had provided the opportunity for some serious vert skating (later developed with the addition of the revert in the third game), its sequel allowed us to fully conquer the streets, linking together huge combos. Subsequent instalments would take some of the hardcore challenge away with persistent gameplay additions, but with was pure arcade fun at its best.
THPS2 was also excellent across the board on all platforms, including the GBA version, which is still to this day one of the finest portable games of all time.
Did we miss one? Disagree with any of our entries? Are you actually a fan of Tony Hawk's Proving Grounds? Drop a comment in the box below.