Vice City might have the best licensed soundtrack of all time, but I think Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 comes in a very close second.
Released 17 years ago this month, the game didn’t just ship with a whole bunch of famous skaters on the roster (and be an excellent sports title in its own right), but with an excellent soundtrack as well. Sure, it had some tracks that in hindsight are a little too “late 90s mall skater”, but it also went way beyond that to include some more left-field acts that nevertheless end up being a perfect fit for the game.
What I think endeared it to me—and maybe you too, since early THPS soundtracks are still so fondly remembered—was that when viewed as a complete soundtrack it doesn’t feel like a marketing exercise, or sponsored content like modern sports games’ offerings do. Instead it plays like its a mixtape, a dirty old cassette that developers Neversoft made and played to death in a van they drove around skate parks.
THPS2’s soundtrack in particular has long had a weirdly special place in my heart though, because as a kid growing up before Spotify and YouTube, it was my first exposure to artists like Mos Def and Fu Manchu, who as an adult I’d end up seeing live a bunch of times. I can’t think of many other games that have had such a cultural impact on me outside the realm of video games, where I can’t just have fun playing them, but have them shape my interest in entire genres of music.
In honour of the game’s 17th birthday, then, here’s the entire soundtrack laid out and ranked for your pleasure.