It's time to bring back SSX 3
I’ve been nostalgic for SSX 3 lately. While fans of EA Sports’ arcade-style snowboarding series debate whether SSX 3 or its predecessor, SSX Tricky, are the best of the series, it’s impossible to deny that SSX 3 was a beast of a game for 2003. Its main selling point was an open world—three interconnected peaks with seamlessly flowing tracks that you could freeride down in just under 25 minutes, if your stats were maxed out. EA used a number of cutting-edge techniques to make it all work, and while newer titles have since exceeded the technical prowess, the combination of SSX’s core arcade-y gameplay with a dash of open-world exploration still feels fresh today.
The tracks themselves were varied and felt inventive and fun. Various routes—both official and “out of bounds”—kept both races and freestyle events feeling fresh as you competed through multiple heats to get the gold. A mountain radio station soundtracked events, with songs adapting to the action on the course to underscore massive jumps and even bigger crashes. Your journey to become the undisputed best snowboarder on the mountain was documented by DJ Atomica, who popped in to remind everyone of the stakes of certain rival races and just crack jokes.
Speaking of rivals—as you completed events, you’d get short text messages (emails? BlackBerry messages?) from your rivals questioning your abilities and egging you on to meet them at the peak for a full-mountain race. You had to beat these rivals in order to unlock the next peak and the next set of challenges, but they were always upping their game and beating your time, keeping you on your toes even as you kept rising to the top.
In short: it was a very sick game.
I played the game religiously on my PlayStation 2 back in the day, re-running courses and events for faster times, higher scores, and to find hidden Easter eggs. When my older cousin would visit for Thanksgiving, we’d compete against each other thanks to the magic of local multiplayer and split-screen. He’d get a stock character and I would get my custom, maxed-stats boarder, and he would still beat me most of the time.
Unfortunately, the series died out over the years; the last entry, a more realistic reboot simply titled SSX, was released in 2012. There have been other big-budget snowboarding and skiing games in the meantime—the most well-known, 2016’s Steep, captured the magic of a massive open mountain to explore but wasn’t actually much fun. For me, nothing has quite hit the same notes as SSX, which tossed realism to the side in favor of larger-than-life tricks and courses. I don’t want a realistic snowboarding game. I want to attempt tricks that would absolutely tear my body to shreds if I failed them in real life.
I hope that EA Sports revisits the franchise and injects a bit of arcade-y fun back into this frigid landscape. “Fuck it, we’re doing five peaks,” they could say, making a monstrous mountain that would take hours to freeride down.
But I have to be honest with you: my headline construction here1 is a little disingenuous, as you can actually still buy and play SSX 3 on a modern console. Thanks to Microsoft’s commitment to backward compatibility, you can not only purchase a digital copy of SSX 3 for a mere $9.99, you can play it on the latest Xbox console with enhanced graphics for your 4K TV.2 Of course, if you, like me, do not own an Xbox Series X or S console, you’re a bit shit out of luck.
Or are you?
If you feel like diving into some legal gray areas, it’s pretty easy to emulate the game on just about any PC. I got the GameCube version running on my Steam Deck, a handheld Linux computer that looks like it ate a Nintendo Switch. It lags, and the cutscenes are a bit wonky, but besides that, it’s the same SSX 3 that I knew and loved as a kid.
See y’all out on the mountain.
The screenshots above are actually from people playing on the new Xbox since they look prettier.