The Beats to Beat: A History of Guitar Hero

| | November 21, 2023

In the 19 games of the series, the Guitar Hero Franchise was very successful even though it only lasted six years. Guitar Hero is a video game where one plays an instrument shaped controller along to pre-made track lists as if part of a rock band. From its startup in the United States in 2005, it has been loved by all.

The major reason Guitar Hero was unable to continue was because they had trouble keeping developers. They got a new developer almost every game. After Harmonix, their first developer, was bought by MTV to help make theRock Band series, it was difficult to keep the same developers (“The History”).

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Before the start of the Guitar Hero Franchise, there was a video game called Guitar Freaks. It was a Japanese arcade game that was made in 1998. One plays by strumming the guitar shaped controller and pushing the corresponding colored buttons, on the fret of guitar, on the screen. This inspired the development of Guitar Hero, for many wanted to play it on a home console (“Guitar Freaks”).

READ MORE: Who Invented the Guitar? The Origin and Evolution of the Guitar

Guitar Hero was born in 2005 with the release of their first game simply called: Guitar Hero. It became an instant hit. In fact, it made one billion dollars within a week of its premier. The game was only available on PlayStation 2. The game was developed by Harmonix, which is known for games such as Amplitude and Frequency, and published by RedOctane (Gies).

The next year they released the next game,Guitar Hero 2. It became even more successful with it reaching the fifth best-selling game of 2006 (“The History”). This game featured better graphics than its prior one and a different track list. Also, this game was co-published byRedOctane and Activision. They improved the controller and also made it available on Xbox 360 (Gies).

In 2007, they released Guitar Hero: Encore: Rock the 80s. This game was different from the previous because its track list consisted only of top rock songs from the 1980s.

The next game was called Guitar Hero: Legends of Rock, and was released in 2008. Different from previous games, this game was developed by the company Neversoft; they are known for theTony Hawk game series (“Guitar Hero”). This game improved accessibility, for it was not only available on PlayStation 2, but also on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, as well as a PC.

Later that same year, the next game, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, was released. With its track list of only Aerosmith’s music, this game allows one to play as though a member of Aerosmith.

Also released in 2008, Guitar Hero: On Tour was their first portable game. This game is only available on Nintendo DS. This has the same concept as their other games, but without the guitar shaped controller.

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The next game involved many changes in game play than the previous ones. Guitar Hero: World Tour was released in 2008. This game introduced a drum-set controller and a microphone to allow players to play as an entire band. This was the company’s response to Rock Band, which was created by their ex-developer,Harmonix (“The History”). Also, they improved the pre-existing guitar controllers. They installed “Neck sliders” on them, which was a touch screen panel on the neck of the guitar which allowed one to change the pitch of sustained notes.

In 2009, they released the sequel to their portable game called Guitar Hero: On Tour: Decades. Also on that year they released Guitar Hero: Metallica. This game had the same idea asGuitar Hero: Aerosmith. One plays as if a member of the rock band Metallica (Gies).

Their next game was made by another new developer. The game was called Guitar Hero: On Tour: Modern Hits. This was another portable game available for the Nintendo DS. It was developed by Vicarious Visions. This game was also released in 2009.

Also in 2009, they released Guitar Hero: Smash Hits. This game’s track list consists of the top guitar hero songs of all the previous games. This was available on PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii. This was also made by a new developer: Beenox. That same year, Guitar Hero 5 was released, developed by Neversoft.

The next game was called Band Hero. Neversofttried a new idea with this game. They tried to make it appeal to all audiences instead of just rockers (Gies). Therefore, the track list for this game consisted of mainly top 40s songs that can be played on Guitar, Bass, Drum set, or sang in a microphone. They did not focus on songs that would be good to play on guitar. This game was also released in 2009.

Another new idea came out for guitar hero in 2009. They released a game called DJ Hero. This game’s controller was only an electronic turntable. This allowed one to mash two songs together and remix them.

In late 2009, prior to the release of Guitar Hero: Van Halen, Guitar Hero’s co-producer,RedOctane, shut down (Gies). Guitar Hero: Van Halen was developed by Underground Development and produced by Activision alone.

In 2010, Guitar Hero released a game available on the iPhone. That year was also the premier of the games Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, developed by Neversoft, and DJ Hero 2,developed by Freestyle Games (Gies).

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With its lack of stable developers and producers, the Guitar Hero Franchise shut down in 2011. They made an official online announcement on their social media pages announcing the end of an era. “Rock Band is rumored to be making a comeback, and if it does, Guitar Hero might not be far behind” (Vincent).

Carly Venard

Works Cited

“Guitar Freaks – Videogame by Konami.” The Internation Arcade Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2014

“Guitar Hero II Trailer.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.

“Guitar Hero.” (Franchise). N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

“The History Leading Up to Guitar Hero.” PCMAG. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2014

Gies, Arthur, Brian Altano, and Charles Onyett. “The Life and Death of Guitar Hero – IGN.” IGN. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

Vincent, Brittany. “A Rock Band Return Tour: What We Need to See.” Shacknews. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.

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