every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Activision

Before the first Guitar Hero game was released back in 2005, rhythm games had never managed to gain a foothold in North America. Sure, you’d see the occasional Dance Dance Revolution setup in an arcade, but it was a genre that was seen as to niche to properly expand in the West. Guitar Hero quickly changed that, letting players live out their rock star fantasies without all that pesky “practice” and “talent” nonsense getting in the way. The series went on to be highly successful, spawning multiple games over the next decade. Here is every Guitar Hero title ever made, in release order.

Every Guitar Hero game ever released

There have been several attempts to recreate the magic of Guitar Hero, including the DJ Hero spinoffs. Though it follows a similar format, Rock Band is a totally unconnected series. The series continued up through 2015’s Guitar Hero Live, expanding to multiple consoles and even onto mobile phones. Future games remain a possibility, following the news that Activision was being purchased by Xbox.

Guitar Hero (2005)

every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Activision

The first game in the Guitar Hero series was released in 2005 and offered a simple concept; feel like a rock star. While the library of music was smaller than subsequent entries, it was enough to get plenty of people hooked. Shortly after it was released, a sequel was already announced and the rhythm game genre soon exploded in the West.

Guitar Hero II (2006)

every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Activision

The sequel to Guitar Hero, this game became the fifth best-selling game of the year. It improved on almost every aspect of the original, with more than 60 songs to play and improved multiplayer and note-detection technology. This would become the standard against which later games would be measured against.

Guitar Hero Encore: Rock the 80’s (2007)

every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Spotify

This game is largely considered a spinoff rather than a full sequel. There are no gameplay or control changes from Guitar Hero II. Instead, the only noticeable difference here is, as the title implies, the focus on rock from the 1980s, particularly the hair-metal genre. The game is still fun and featured all the Poison, Whitesnake, and Motley Crue you could ask for.

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (2007)

every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Activision Blizzard

This title represents a split in the Guitar Hero series, as it is the first game to be developed by Neversoft following Activision’s purchase of the franchise for around $100 million. Guitar Hero III also makes the jump to the PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles, giving players better graphics and sound to enjoy while playing their favorite songs.

Guitar Hero Mobile (2007)

every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Activision

For those who don’t remember mobile phones in 2007, let us stress that they were not designed with gaming in mind, so it isn’t a surprise that this ill-conceived attempt to port the Guitar Hero experience onto phones. It simply lacks the physical sensation of holding a guitar and becomes a button-tapping exercise instead.

Guitar Hero: Aerosmith (2008)

every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Activision

This title marked the first time that Guitar Hero chose to focus entirely on one band. Aerosmith has one of the most varied and exciting catalogs in rock history, so it was a popular choice. Think you can keep up with Steve Perry during some of his toughest solos? Dream on.

Guitar Hero: World Tour (2008)

every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Activision

Keen readers will notice that this is the seventh entry in the Guitar Hero series and we’re only three years out from its initial release. These games come out fast and furious at this point, with Activision pushing them out rapid fire. This was the first game in the series to feature the drums and microphone peripherals, letting you get the band back together for one final gig.

Guitar Hero: Metallica (2009)

every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Activision

Ever heard of that metal band from Stranger Things? They got the Guitar Hero treatment back in 2009 as well, letting you play all their hits. Enter Sandman, Fuel, and, of course, Master of Puppets all get a turn to shine.

Guitar Hero III Backstage Pass (2009)

every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Activision

The second attempt to bring the Guitar Hero experience to phones, this one did a bit better but still lacked the best features of the series. The set lists are smaller and the controls aren’t nearly as responsive as strumming the guitar controller. However, it introduced roleplay elements around managing your band that would become standard for the games going forward.

Guitar Hero 5 (2009)

every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Activision

This game built on the four-person play experience of Guitar Hero: World Tour. In fact, it quickly became apparent that this was the intended way to play the game. Though it was expensive, especially back in 2009, having the drum kit, microphone, and two guitars going at the same time made this one of the best party games of all time.

Band Hero (2009)

every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Nintendo

By 2009, the focus was entirely on the full band experience. They tried to shift the brand more toward that but had limited success. The soundtrack to this entry was more geared toward pop-rock than the metal and classic rock that earlier titles featured. It was also the first game in the Guitar Hero series to be released on the Nintendo DS console.

Guitar Hero: Van Halen (2009)

every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Activision

This Guitar Hero entry gave us another focused exploration of one of rock’s biggest all-time bands. All of Van Halen’s hits were here, plus some other tracks only dedicated fans would recognize, from across the Roth and Hagar eras. Spandex and hairspray were, unfortunately, not included.

Guitar Hero World Tour Mobile (2010)

every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Activision

This remarkably short-lived mobile add-on to Guitar Hero World Tour only featured 15 songs total, with more available for purchase later on. It didn’t do well for obvious reasons and was quickly shelved by Activision as a result.

Guitar Hero (2010)

every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Activision

This was yet another short-lived and largely forgotten mobile version of Guitar Hero that was exclusive to Apple devices. You could play on the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. While it was more successful in porting the game to mobile devices than earlier games, it was still one of the weaker entries in the series because it didn’t deliver the physical experience of playing the guitar in the same way.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (2010)

every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Activison

By 2010, Guitar Hero was not the only rock simulation game on the market. Increased competition and a heavily saturated market meant that this was the last game developed for the series for five years. The fact that there was little gameplay innovation between titles ultimately spelled doom for Guitar Hero, though it would have one more attempt to recapture its previous magic.

Guitar Hero Live (2015)

every guitar hero game, in release order

Image via Nintendo

In 2015, a new developer attempted to rekindle the world’s passion for Guitar Hero. Unfortunately, they were hampered by the fact that they didn’t have backward compatibility with previous controllers, forcing players to purchase brand new kit. It also had a severely limited song list in the main game. It only had 40 songs to choose from bundled with the game, with the expectation that players would purchase more online. Turns out, they didn’t and this would be the final nail in the Guitar Hero coffin.

Keyword: Every Guitar Hero game, in release order

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