It’s the middle of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, and in some places the heat index is in the triple digits. When heading to the beach sounds too hot, why not stay inside with the AC cranked up and play some of the best skiing and snowboarding video games on the market. You can set a cool atmosphere conjuring up images of winter, snow, and the kind of biting cold you need to be wrapped up to brave. And unlike the real thing, you can speed down these virtual slopes all year round. Here are some of my favorites.
Ski Resort Tycoon II
This little gem might’ve escaped your notice when it came out over a decade ago, but if you’re familiar with the Tycoon series (of which the infamous Roller Coaster Tycoon is a part), then you should immediately recognize the potential this game has. You can build your own ski resort empire with slopes, lifts, and shops included. This sequel weeded out some bugs from its predecessor and added new features like night skiing and the ability to save stranded customers via the helicopter ski patrol. It’s managing the larger picture and the business strategy of how to build a successful resort rather than worrying about navigating the dips and turns of a trail.
The concept for Line Rider is simple: draw some lines, press play, and a rider will attempt to traverse the slope you just created. Despite this easy method of input, the canvas can turn into some complex and often hilarious situations. And since it’s a Flash game, you can play Line Rider online. So while it may be more of a physics playground than ski or snowboard simulator, it’s still fun nonetheless. There are actually a decent number of a online games in a similar vein, the most noteworthy of which is the cleverly titled Solipskier, because of it’s incredible sense of speed.
SkiFree is the oldest game in this list, having come out on Windows in 1991. It may not look like much now, but playing it back then can best be described as just “fun.” With only the arrow keys to worry about you could crash your little 2D character into trees or send them bombing straight down the hill. It was an easy way to waste time and just laugh at your own antics. You can relive the nostalgia and still download it for free today from the Most Official SkiFree Home Page.
SSX was the first game I ever played on the Playstation 2. It did an excellent job showcasing the new console’s abilities in the areas of graphics and speed. But it was the gameplay where SSX really shined. The tricks you could pull were utterly unrealistic, which inevitably led to moments of pure joy when landing that impossible quadruple-front-flip-1440. What’s more, successfully landing those tricks would help you go faster – that’s a great concept that hadn’t been done well since Uniracers. SSX had it all: unlockable riders and boards, a smooth-as-silk control scheme (that its sequels never quite lived up to), and just plain awesomeness when launching into the air out of massive half-pipes.
Before Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater had defined what it meant to be a successful arcade sports game, 1080 arrived on the scene and wowed N64 players. The graphics and physics were both top-notch, forming a solid technical base at a time when draw distances were tiny and polygons went through each other without regard for collision detection. 1080 is also the first game I can remember where you actually got to do anything resembling a misty-flip (or the namesake 1080 for that matter). The game had a bit of a learning curve, but once you got the controls down it was insanely fun to pull stunts and race all day long.
Those are the skiing and snowboarding games that really stick out in my memory. Did I miss any of your favorites? Let me know!
Snowboard Kids 2 – N64
I still pop in SSX 3 on my Xbox from time to time. What a great game!
I used to play Cool Boarders 2001 all the time – I think it was one of the first games where you could shred as real pros such as Todd Richards, Scotty Wittlake, Tara Dakides, Jussi, Kevin Jones, etc.
I also was a huge 1080 fan, though I remember it being insanely difficult and counter-intuitive to pull off a spin greater than a 720.