Best Games - SSX 3
The first SSX game was a banger right out of the gate. It could easily be in the running for a ‘best games’ write up. It had a solid but sort of complicated trick system. It felt fast and smooth. It looked and sounded great. It was fun to play. All good. I think though, the third entry in the series is really something special.
It was probably the Tony Hawk games that made extreme sports prime video game fodder. There were skateboarding and snowboarding games before that, but none of them had the same feeling of flow. The accuracy of control and speed and great looking tricks that make the player feel like they are floating from one obstacle to the next.
There were a lot of imitators to the Tony Hawk formula. Like a lot, lot. Way too many. SSX sort of goes it’s own way. The action sport element is there but after that, they are very different games.
SSX captures the speed of snowboarding. It is trivial to go fast. It’s not all about tricks and spins. It’s about speed. And not just simple acceleration. The way you turn is fast. the way you recover from crashes is fast. The way you get in and out of events is fast. Everything in SSX happens fast.
By the second game in the series, SSX Tricky, the core of the game was rock solid. You ride a snowboard down mountain slopes doing tricks and catching air. Do a big enough trick and you pull the board right off your feet and spin it around your head or something wild like that. But both the first two entries in the series still feel a little broken up. Each event is it’s own track and you learn them, beat them, and move on.
SSX 3 lets you ride a mountain.
It is a proto open world type game that borrows a lot from some of the racing games of the time. You can start a run from a few different points along the mountain and do pretty much anything you want on the way down. Flips, spins, ride rails, pickup bonuses, do side missions, enter races, compete in trick contests. Or you could just glide down to the bottom of the mountain, ride back up and do it again.
If you want to go to a race you ride to it. If you want to go to the shop and change your gear you ride to it. If you want to go to a different part of the mountain you ride to it. You can do any sort of grind, trick, or jump you want along the way.
Some of the races can be difficult and frustrating, but fun is only a button press away. Whatever you find fun, you can do. You are never locked into anything.
SSX On Tour would expand on the idea by making a single mountain that is massive and seamless from top to bottom, but SSX 3 got so much right already that it just seemed like a rehash of the same ideas.
SSX 3 does the same stuff as the rest of the series, only more polished and geared toward fun above all else.
In the years following, almost every sports or racing game that leaned toward goofy, fun, action would include an open world element. It might be a coincidence, but probably not.
This is just one of those games that gets everything right.
SSX 3 is one of the best games.