Every time a new Tony Hawk Pro Skater release comes out, we get to thinking: whilst the franchise is so fondly remembered and, even though it's not totally legit, looked upon as part of skateboarding's history, how come it's never really worked out that way for snowboarding video games, despite numerous attempts at doing so?
Maybe it's because whilst we're perfectly capable and very experienced in the whole business of 'selling out,' it still doesn't sit with us as well it does with skateboarders, possibly due to the fact that sums of money are an order of magnitude greater.
But whatever, over the years there have been many efforts - some valiant, others not so much - to make a playable and enjoyable snowboarding video game. Here, in no particular order, are some of the most memorable:
Steep's only just about to hit shelves, but there's already a lot of hype around it. We even got a chance to jump in and do some damage in an early Beta test.
In short, imagine the Freeride World Tour made a huge open world snowboarding game, then added the ability to wingsuit and paraglide around too... (you can also ski if you really want to). This
This almost recreation of a whole heap of the alpine landscape around Annecy may not have the biggest snowboard trick book in the world (rails are yet to be included), but it more than makes up for it with a combo of stunning terrain and addictive challenges.
Half simulation, half just-good-fun gaming, there's some slightly-odd welcoming sequences with voiceovers from the mountain's point of view, and more fancy dress options than student week in Tignes - but windsuit-hucking yourself out of hot air balloons, riding Red Bull Ultra Natural courses, and finally nailing a tight tree run on the umpteenth attempt help make this a whole heap of fun...
Mark McMorris' Infinite Air shares some traits with its 2016 counterpart above, but don't be fooled - this is a completely different kettle of fish in comparison.
They're both open-world, with gamer-tagged spots and a heli to help get you around - but where Steep's snowboarding is minimal and simple in its freestyle, Infinite Air goes to the other extreme.
If you're keen to spin endlessly (4000+ degrees of rotation is our current record), with a Bloody Dracula or chicken salad grab (standard indys or melons are mysteriously rare for us) then look no further than this.
"4000+ degrees of rotation is our current record"
The control system is kind of like Skate, but just different enough to make the switch-over difficult, so the subtleties take a while to get used to. Still, there is a level of satisfaction that only kicks in after you've been playing for a while.
The rail riding, in our mind at least, is a lot more advanced that we've seen anywhere else, with gamer-built parks adding a lot of spice to the pre-built options. Also, once you get the hang of the halfpipe flow there's a certain authenticity to mastering the timing on pop and pre-wind - so if you're after a whole lot of park/freestyle Infinite Air ticks a bunch of boxes.
Don't expect to jump in and feel instantly stoked unless heavy hucking is your bag, however - this one takes a bit of time to brew...
Shaun Palmer Pro Snowboarder
A direct attempt from the makers of THPS to recreate to harness the same popularity in the world of snowboarding video games, but like most stuff we've tried to poach directly from snowboarding it fell flatter than Flat Eric on stage at The Proms.
Non-sensical courses and confusing trick buttons meant Tony Hawk fans equated a kickflip with a back rodeo 540, putting off of real and virtual snowboarders alike, though the 'show the yuppies the bottom of your board' challenge on the Aspen level was a good yuk back in 2001.
Worst of all though - even more than the 'find a sponsor' gameplay segments - was the appalling soundtrack featuring such noughties nu metal classics as Papa Roach, Seether, Static-X and Alien Ant Farm. Even Fred Durst would shudder now.
Shaun White Snowboarding
Where Palmer has been, the Flying Tomato will surely follow - though Shaun White Snowboarding peculiarly featured predominantly big mountain riding over halfpipe. Maybe his assistants slipped up on that one?
Though it wasn't all that bad to play, it featured the worst kind of marketing team driven 'extreme sports' faux pas, including horribly-designed little badges popping up every time five seconds proclaiming 'Grabatron!', 'Sick Air!' and 'Speed Demon!' to your every move. Vomit.
Another soft metal-based soundtrack too, though that paled into comparison when you realised the creators had incorporated avalanches into the game play because - presumably - 'avalanches are cool, right?'
Cool Boarders 2
OK, so the above video is actually from Cool Boarders 3, which introduced the 'genius' premise of mid-boardercross fist fights, but the series really peaked with the previous instalment.
While later entries featured the superstars of the day (Ross Powers, Jim Rippey, JP Walker and Natasza Zurek among them), CB2 gave you a choice of cringeworthy snowboarder stereotypes with soul patches and names like ‘Yaggi’.
"CB2 gave you a choice of cringeworthy snowboarder stereotypes with soul patches and names like ‘Yaggi’"
Still, it looked like there’d been at least some involvement from riders in the making of the game - especially compared to the first one. You could do pretty much any grab, and most of them actually had the right names. A shame, then, that each one you did was punctuated by your character shouting stuff like “Yeah!", “All Right!" and “Woooo!"…
The gameplay was all about one thing: find the kickers with the longest run-up, hold down ‘X’ and a direction, then unleash hell when you get to the lip. Whether or not you’d actually land your 1980 indy-nosebone-to-method was down to pure luck, of course. You think THIS is spin-to-win?! Pah.
There might have been some time trial stuff too, but no-one cares about that. Much like in real life.
On paper at least, you would've thought this would be the best bet to make sense to real snowboarders, but in the end a stellar cast including Travis Rice, Wolle Nyvelt and Nicolas Müller, plus backing from Absinthe, and even our sister mag Onboard, was let down by absolutely horrible gameplay physics and endless, rock-filled terrain maps.
It did have some cool features though - you could choose to either go down the spin to win path by pre-winding and hucking every trick, or instead carefully cultivate a style-based career by spinning slow and landing clean.
The heli system was pretty neat too, unlimited virtual fuel tanks letting you pilot to anywhere on the digi-mountains, though unfortunately they were still shit when you landed.
OK, full disclosure: no one at WL HQ has actually played this, but in the same way that boardercross is the least popular-yet-sometimes the most entertaining-to-watch form of competitive snowboarding, this looks like it would be alright to play in a pinch.
Though, again, negative points for using avalanches as entertainment - poor form there.
Super Pro Snowboarding
Side-scrolling snowboarding for the iPhone generation - with backing from the likes of the Helgasons, Super Pro Snowboarding is all about trying to make tricks look 'legit' and proper, whilst at the same time trying to tease money out of your digital wallet by continuously offering you quicker ways to progress by means of making it rain. And if you thought our site was bad for pop up ads, this is a whole different ball game.
It does a fair job of representing snowboarding, though it goes through the familiar story arc of 'first you snowboard, then you get sponsors' that the world has probably had enough of by now, plus trying to mash tiny buttons on a sweaty screen whilst twisting and turning it is so hard you might as well go try and land a triple cork in real life.
Taken at face value, SSX Tricky is an abomination - a TV executive's crazed sex dream about snowboarding, thought up whilst sleeping off a coke binge in the back of their chauffeur-driven Jag on the way to work at Channel 4.
But somehow despite all the gratuitous ridiculousness including, but not limited to: a freestyle mode called 'Showoff,' mentally ill characters (that quote Macbeth no less), space-age courses, step-in bindings that allowed for hallucinatory 'special moves' and a techno-influenced soundtrack, this is by far and away this editor's favourite. C'mon, it even had mother-fuckin' Razhel commentating!
Essentially it learned from the likes of THPS by realising that if you limit video games to reality the best you'd was something that was, well, realistic. But fuck that, reality is boring! By force-feeding the game designers methamphetamines - which is clearly what happened here - they'd be able to go a step beyond and create something glorious.
If you’re looking for the snowboarding equivalent of Tony Hawk, Amped is as close as we’ve got. I mean, stick four wheels on that board and substitute those tree-covered mountains for the grungy surroundings of the Burnside skatepark and the gameplay is strikingly similar.
"Amped featured faithful recreations of parks like Brighton and some famously do-ragged Mormons to choose from"
You might say too similar. Because the problem with Amped was, seasoned veterans of THPS (like yours truly) always got confused and started trying to use familiar button combos that had been drilled into muscle memory – only to see the dude spectacularly fail to do what he was supposed to. This resulted in many a controller being smashed on the coffee table in frustration. Damn you newfangled X Box! And what’s wrong with an old-school joypad anyway?!
But fair play to the game’s creators: they did their homework. In fact they were based in the freestyle mecca of Utah, so Amped featured faithful recreations of parks like Brighton and some famously do-ragged Mormons to choose from – the soundtrack even included local bands, which is straying into geeky territory.
And there’s the rub. For try as it might to be as cool as its big bro Tony, Amped could never quite shake the stench of trying too hard. And while everyone and his gran played THPS, only some could afford the luxury of a mountain-based version.
Huh, they really did nail snowboarding then.