We are here to give you front row seats and backstage passes to one of the most hard rockin’ lists on the web: The Best Guitar Hero games of all time!
Guitar Hero is a genre defining music and rhythm based game franchise. Not the first rhythm game, but certainly the one that brought the concept to the masses and made it cool.
And it brought us a totally new way to controller rage by smashing your television with a guitar controller after a failed game challenge.
Of course, we don’t encourage this kind of behavior. But we know it happens. And if yer gonna smash a controller, it is a little cooler if you can look like Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain while doing it.
Hopefully our choices won’t make you rage, but it wasn’t exactly picking our favorites. But it’s our job, so we endured.
So here it is, y’all… the best Guitar Hero games of all time! *audience roars*
Table of Contents
Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock was the sixth entry in the popular rhythm music series.
Like Guitar Hero World Tour and Guitar Hero 5 (both of which will appear later on this list), Warriors of Rock focuses on a four person band experience.
This game introduces a brand new story-based Quest Mode narrated by Gene Simmons of Kiss fame.
And, of course, the game features a ton of great music to jam along to. So whether you ‘wanna take on the adventure of the Quest Mode or just hop into the Quickplay mode, this game has something for everybody.
93 songs, all original tracks, means there are a ton of gigs to play.
Drowning Pool “Bodies”, Pantera “I’m Broken”, Kiss, “Love Gun”, Neil Young “Rockin’ in the Free World”, Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and a song by The Dillinger Escape Plan?! YES PLEASE.
There’s a lot to love in Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. It’s obviously a pretty awesome game. But, there are just so many awesome games in the series that we have five more to recognize!
The first Guitar Hero video game was launched in 2005 on the PlayStation 2.
It was developed by Harmonix, who had previously brought us games like Frequency, Amplitude, and Karaoke Revolution… all music and rhythm based video game experiences.
As the first game in the series, there was not a reputation to have original music tracks quite yet.
But with cover versions of 30 popular rock tracks including “Ace of Spades” by Motörhead, “Cowboys from Hell” by Pantera, “Thunder Kiss ’65” by White Zombie, “I Wanna Be Sedated” by Ramones, and “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath.
Come on, that’s still pretty awesome.
Guitar Hero was praised by players and critics at the time of its release. Everybody loved the formula, the new guitar peripheral, and the selection of music in the game.
The game launched one of the most successful game franchises of all time and is credited to influencing many to learn how to play a real guitar.
And it was only uphill from there for Guitar Hero…
Guitar Hero: World Tour is the fourth game in the main Guitar Hero franchise. though, they opted to drop the “IV” from the title.
Perhaps in an effort to compete with Rock Band, Guitar Hero: World Tour introduced drum and microphone controllers, completing the band and focusing on a four player experience.
The new Music Studio mode allows players to record original music in the game and upload their tracks to the Guitar Hero music service GHTunes.
GHWT also includes a Create-a-Rocker mode, allowing players to create unique band members with tons of customization.
The game features a number of licensed playable characters, including Sting (the musician, not the WWE wrestler), Travis Barker, Jimi Hendrix, and Ozzy Osbourne.
There are 86 total songs in the game, all of which are original recordings (no covers!), a first in the franchise. And all of them are bangers.
Korn “Freak on a Leash”, Foo Fighters “Everlong”, Michael Jackson “Beat It”, Blink-182 “Dammit”, Bon Jovi “Livin’ on a Prayer”…. BANGERS.
Guitar Hero IV… I mean Guitar Hero World Tour is a heck of a good time. It takes the familiar formula of Guitar Hero and expands into the full band experience. It was a step in the right direction.
But one game got the full band formula even better.
Guitar Hero 5 is where the franchise really got the full band experience rockin’. It was also the official nail in the coffin for roman numerals on Guitar Hero titles.
The series had found its footing after the launch of Rock Band by former developer Harmonix, and the Guitar Hero franchise went full throttle on the multi-instrument path.
Guitar Hero was back on top as one of the best party games of the time, offering something for everybody. It was perfect for casual gamers, newcomers, and familiar players who want some series challenge.
Custom character creation and music recording is still present, and with 85 songs, you got plenty of content to work with.
And with playable characters modeled after Johnny Cash and Kurt Cobain… BONUS POINTS for Guitar Hero 5.
Supposedly, people were upset at the commercialization of Kurt Cobain’s image, and your ability to use his avatar to play music that he probably wouldn’t be into.
But as a Nirvana fan, I think that’s kinda dumb. Times change, people either grow or they don’t.
I would like to think of the inclusion of his image as nothing more than a celebration of his mark on music history and a great way to experience the game as one of your favorite musicians.
World Tour was considered one step back (or at least the franchise going through some growing pains) after what are universally considered the two best Guitar Hero games of all time:
Guitar Hero III is widely considered one of the absolute best Guitar Hero games of all time.
The game introduced online multiplayer, a new Co-Op Career mode, and new challenges where the player can battle against in game musicians.
This was the first game in the franchise to be developed by Neversoft after Activision acquired RedOctane and MTV acquired the original Guitar Hero developer Harmonix (who later went on to develop the Rock Band franchise).
Guitar Hero 3 launched with 73 awesome tracks, including songs from Tenacious D, The Rolling Stones, The Smashing Pumpkins, Sex Pistols and many more.
The launch of Guitar Hero III was a massive hit, selling millions of copies in the first month. The demand was so high that Activision could barely make enough to keep them on the shelves.
The special edition “Gibson Les Paul” controller, which was an official Gibson license, is widely considered the absolute best controller created for the franchise, both for its looks and its performance.
It was also the first wireless guitar controller created for the Guitar Hero franchise.
Guitar Hero III has ports available on PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360, Windows and Mac OS, so there plenty of ways to get your rock on.
Guitar Hero III makes an appearance on our list of the Best PS2 Games of all time.
Many people debate which Guitar Hero game is numero uno. Guitar Hero III is usually a part of that conversation, but the game that often gets the win is…
The absolute best Guitar Hero game of all time is Guitar Hero II.
This absolute classic title was developed by Harmonix and published by RedOctane, the original team to bring us the Guitar Hero franchise.
As the followup to the original Guitar Hero game, Number 2 had a lot to live up to.
And they definitely delivered.
Harmonix upped the ante in pretty much every area of the game; better graphics, better game play mechanics, more game modes, and more music!
Of the 64 tracks in the game, 40 of them are official licenses, including songs from Guns N’ Roses, Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Primus.
Guitar Hero II also included licensed guitars, amps, and other accessories. These include Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer guitars, Roland keyboards, Orange and Mesa Boogie amplifiers, DW drums, Ernie Ball strings, and Boss effects.
To non-musicians, that might not be exciting information. But if you know, you know. Those licenses are huge and give Guitar Hero II a ton of street cred.
It’s no surprise that Guitar Hero II is still the highest scoring game in the franchise on Metacritic and often hits the number one spot on most lists of the best Guitar Hero games.
We happen to agree with the masses, and we are giving Guitar Hero II the number one spot for best Guitar Hero games of all time.
This article may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to purchase an item we may earn a commission.
Anthony has been a video game lover ever since he can remember. He became a fulltime nomad in 2018, living throughout most of Asia. He focused his passion in retro gaming and began creating a game for the Game Boy Color while living in Nara, Japan during the 2020 pandemic. He is now in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he spends most of his time gaming, going on long walks and meeting as many stray dogs as possible.