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Video Game / Guitar Hero

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Gonna be a guitar hero
We finally got our way!
Gonna be a guitar hero
Gotta get on stage today!
—"Guitar Hero", the song, by Harmonix's in-house band Monkey Steals the Peach.

Originally developed by Harmonix, who are also the creators of Frequency, Amplitude and the Karaoke Revolution series, and went on to make Rock Band, Guitar Hero has become an extremely popular example of the Rhythm Game genre that plays like Guitar Freaks, but with five buttons instead of three and licensed songs.

From Guitar Hero III to Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, it was developed by Neversoft and published by Activision. Neversoft built their own Guitar Hero engine from scratch when Harmonix handed over the reins to work on Rock Band.

After Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (Released in late 2010), development of all games in the series (including spinoffs DJ Hero and Band Hero) were cancelled, the Hero franchise was discontinued by Activision in February 2011, and Neversoft's Guitar Hero division was liquidated. However, in April 2011, Activision changed their tune, claiming the series was now on "hiatus" and they claimed that a new game would be released in 2012, developed by Vicarious Visions and focusing solely on the guitar gameplay with a new redesigned guitar controller; however, numerous problems plagued the project and was subsequently cancelled. On March 31, 2014, all downloadable content for the entire series was removed from the Xbox Live Marketplace, PlayStation Store, and Wii Shop Channel.

In October 2015, Activision released a reboot of the franchise, Guitar Hero Live, which dueled with Rock Band 4 when it launched in the same month. Developed by DJ Hero studio FreeStyleGames, the game utilized a new six-button guitar (not six in a row, however; six in two rows of three.), and replaced the classic 3D rendered stages with a first-person perspective of the guitarist using Pre-Rendered Graphics. Following the disappointing sales of GH Live, the online servers shut down in 2018 and the franchise is again dormant. However, as of 2022 with Microsoft announcing their acquisition of Activision Blizzard, they have been teasing fans with the possibility of another revival of the series, but only time will tell.

In the meantime, however, the fan community has taken the franchise into their own hands with fan works ranging from fan games made from the ground up (e.g., Frets on Fire, Clone Hero, Phase Shift) to game mods (e.g., Guitar Hero II Deluxe, Guitar Hero World Tour: Definitive Edition), all of which allow for extensive modding with fan-made charts and even custom characters and venues, resulting in the franchise having a resurgence in popularity as a Cult Classic.

Games in this series include:

  • Guitar Hero (2005)
  • Guitar Hero II (2006)
    • Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80's (2007)
  • Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (2007)
  • Guitar Hero: On Tour (2008)
    • Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades (2008)
    • Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits (2009)
  • Guitar Hero World Tour (2008)
    • Guitar Hero: Metallica (2009)
    • Guitar Hero: Smash Hits (2009)
  • Guitar Hero 5 (2009)
    • Guitar Hero: Van Halen (2009)
    • Band Hero (2009)
  • Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (2010)
  • DJ Hero (2009)
  • Guitar Hero Live (2015)

This series provides examples of:

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  • Achievement Mockery: There are achievements for failing a song multiple times in a row, and failing at the 95% mark in a song.
  • All Drummers Are Animals: World Tour describes Matty Cannz, the game's designated drummer (though you can play other instruments with him), like this.
  • All or Nothing: Unlike many other rhythm games, you either hit the note or miss it. As a side effect, this means that a "full combo" means you've played the song "perfectly", Star Power bonuses notwithstanding.
  • All Your Powers Combined: In Warriors of Rock's quest mode.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Guitar Hero 5's career mode (using the Xbox 360 for reference) has the following items as unlocks: Clothing for custom rockers, alternate costumes for the premade rockers, more clothing for custom rockers, one quickplay venue, more clothing for custom rockers, instrument parts, extra options like Performance Mode, more clothing for custom rockers, Celebrity rockers, Cheats that are perfectly legitimate for unlocking stuff in career mode more clothing for custom rockers, A golden idol as a playable rocker, AT LEAST ONE avatar award (which may not be tied to career mode itself), and STILL MORE CLOTHING FOR CUSTOM ROCKERS.
  • Animesque: The CG models have a slight influence, and, thanks to being animated by Titmouse, is further played around with in the cutscenes from GH III and beyond note .
  • Anime Hair: Pandora's G-clef hair in Guitar Hero 5.
  • Artifact Title:
    • World Tour onwards adds drums and vocals, meaning that guitar is just one of several instruments you can play.
    • Encore: Rock the 80s lives up to its name pretty well... until you realize that Because, It's Midnite was produced in 2003, and made it's one and only album appearance in 2007. This is because it was intended to be the game's bonus track, but got bumped up to the main setlist when they failed to secure the rights to I Want Candy.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Lou in Guitar Hero III, but only when you hit him with an attack. He'll then miss notes that even a competent human player would hit while under attack. Outside of this, Lou is Perfect Play A.I..
  • Audience Participation: The audience always claps along to the beat of the song when Star Power is activated. For some songs, they even sing along.
  • Blatant Lies: One of Guitar Hero 3's loading messages: "I swear officer, the dressing room TV just unbolted itself from the wall and threw itself out the window!"
  • Bohemian Parody: Neversoft spared no time doing the Bohemian Rhapsody performance in Warriors of Rock, complete with over-the-top gestures in the operatic section. When the motion capture data from that song got backported to World Tour by the World Tour Definitive Edition team, it did not take long for people to come up with some rather interesting band lineups.
  • Boss in Mook's Clothing: "Calling" is one of the hardest songs in Warriors of Rock on guitar note  but based on where it's located in Quest Mode, you'd expect it to be relatively easy. At least Quickplay doesn't attempt to hide the song's brutal difficulty.
  • Bowdlerise: One line in "Rock You Like a Hurricane" originally goes "The bitch is hungry" but was changed to simply "She is hungry" to keep the 12+ PEGI rating on Guitar Hero III.
    • In fact, this was more frequent throughout the series than one may thinks, as Activision can go a bit crazy with censorship. The lyrics of "Police Truck" in Rocks the 80s are pretty much turned on their head to tone down the implications of police brutality (such as "We're going downtown, gonna beat up punks" rather than "beat up drunks"), while "2 Minutes to Midnight" in 5 omits every reference to child abuse, with the side-effect of cheapening somewhat the song's War Is Hell message.
  • The Cameo: One of the unlockable characters in Warriors of Rock is Arthas Menethil from Warcraft III, as he appears after he becomes one of the undead (i.e. as a Death Knight). And better yet, he comes with his signature weapon, Frostmourne, which becomes his guitar!
  • Challenge Run: Some cheat codes activate certain modifiers, some of which make the game harder. These include Performance Mode (hides the fretboard, meaning you can't see the notes at all) and Precision Mode (which makes the lax timing window for hitting notes much tighter).
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Of the recurring characters, Clive Winston, Eddie Knox, and Pandora were absent from III and Aerosmith, though all three returned in time for World Tour. Xavier Stone, on the other hand, was playable up to Aerosmith, but was absent from World Tour (presumably because Jimi Hendrix was in this one and, since Xavier had become an Expy of him, he was dropped) and hasn't been seen since. The singers, drummer, and bassist from the first five games were dropped from World Tour onwards, but their jobs had been taken by the player.
  • Console Cameo: A Nintendo DS is an unlockable guitar in the On Tour series.
  • Copy Protection: You can install and play the PC versions of III, Aerosmith, and World Tour without issue, but you need their respective license keys if you want to play online. This is par for the course with games at the time, where pirated copies would still run using an illicitly generated CD key, but an additional check is done in the games' online mode to keep pirates out.
  • Couch Gag: The Loading Screen always has a different message on it. In early installments, these were linked to the songs themselves.
  • Cover Version: Used extensively early in the series, before the series had the pull and budget to license master recordings from artists; every main setlist song in the first game, as well as the vast majority in IInote  and Rocks the 80snote , are cover versions. Any song that says "As made famous by" at the beginning is a cover; masters are prefaced by either "As performed by" or simply "By". However, all bonus songs, with the exception of "She Bangs The Drums" in III, are master recordings.
    • Some of these covers are even covers of covers, such as Guitar Hero II's cover of Van Halen's cover of The Kinks' "You Really Got Me".
    • III: Legends of Rock and Aerosmith would make greater use of master recordings, with a bit less than half of the former's main setlist tracks being covers and the latter only containing four covers, and World Tour onward used exclusively masters for on-disc songs (although there were still a handful of in-house covers as DLC, such as the ZZ Top pack). The only covers now are ones that were professionally performed by other artists (for example, Van Halen's cover of "Oh, Pretty Woman").
  • Curse Cut Short: Expected from a series rated T at best, but the cover version of "Killing in the Name" in GH2 shows a great example, by using "Now you're under control" to cover up the repetitions of "Fuck you" in the original song.
    • But in the Smash Hits version of "Killing in the Name" The repeated line "Now you're under control" and the big "UNDER CONTROL!" (which replaces the "MOTHERFUCKER!!!" of the original) are removed. 'Course, they couldn't dub replacement lines over the masters, so yeah.
    • Subverted in Guitar Hero Live, where the word "Shit" finally gets a pass.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: In order to hit a note here, you need to hold the appropriate fret and strum, rather than just pressing the corresponding button at the right time. Players of other rhythm games are probably gonna have a hard time here.
  • Demoted to Extra: Izzy Sparks, Eddie Knox and Clive Winston appear in Warriors of Rock, but only as extra characters unlockable by leveling up in Quickplay +.
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: In a cutscene in Guitar Hero: Metallica, when confronted by Lou the Devil about not using the opening band they had a contract with, James Hetfield reveals that he had his fingers crossed while he was signing the contract.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Tapping on guitar. Basically, you take your strumming hand off of the strumbar and use it to help with fretting. It's extremely difficult, especially with plain hammer-on\pull-off notes (in which one miss means you need to strum again before the game will accept anything), but it it makes full-combing some of the hardest songs more doable, such as Through The Fire and the Flames and Surfing With the Alien. Tapping is also a real-life technique, though like everything, it's simpler here.
    • Actually, it's much easier to tap on real guitar, considering the fact you don't have to strum again if you miss a note.
    • From World Tour onward, there are semi-transparent notes, which don't need any strumming at all. This encourages tapping by the technique much easier, especially considering how some sections in some of the harder songs are made entirely of this type of note.
  • Difficulty by Region: The European version of On Tour: Decades places "Satch Boogie", which is by far the hardest song in the game, in the 80s stage of the campaign. Meanwhile, the American version rightly has it as an optional song.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The Fembot from Metallica is one to Metalhead from GH3.
  • Double Entendre: From Warriors of Rock:
    Demigod of Rock: Before this is over, I'm going to ride you like a pony.
  • Downer Ending: In GHWT, there are 5 bad endings (which are the true endings) for each finished mode. In Guitar mode: The magazine says that the Band sucks. In Bass mode, the bass character quits the band and goes solo. In Drums mode, the drums character gets shipped in a box, in a fallout nuclear bomb test and dies. In Vocals mode, The vocals character also dies from a statue-related disaster. And finally, at the end of the ending cutscene in Band mode, the evil guy (Who was only in one ending, featuring him, in full exposure) laughs evilly as if the game was mocking you!
    • Matty doesn't die in the Drums ending. After the bomb goes off, he's sitting there, all burned, and doing a horns-up with a smile in his face that seems to say "hell yeah!!!"
    • Also, the vocalist doesn't die when the statue falls. He's shown alive and well, shrugs, and sneaks away.
    • There are other interpretations of the endings. For instance, the bassist (who happened to be Shirley Crowley in GHWT) was frustrated at being overshadowed by the other band members as seen at the bassist career's intro video, so her going solo and releasing a successful album could count as a good ending for her. But then again, the evil guy (Lou) seems to have had a hand in it, so it could also be a case of making a Deal with the Devil.
  • Downloadable Content: Quite a bit of it, though nowhere near its main rival, for each main game of the series starting with the Xbox 360 port of Guitar Hero II (meaning not band-specific titles). For the most part, DLC is exclusive to the game for which it was purchased, but the Metallica album "Death Magnetic" for GH3 could be played in World Tour, and GH5, Band Hero, and Warriors of Rock support nearly all of WT's DLC with application of a patch.
    • Which, annoyingly, breaks the DLC index for World Tour, but... not really a problem, except for that obnoxious message GHWT gives in quickplay about it.
  • Dumb and Drummer: Several of the Loading Screen quotes throughout the series.
    "I'm the drummer, I don't get paid to understand any of this!" (GH3)
    "Don't let the drummer handle the money." (the first game)
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
    • Both "Juke Box Hero" and "Feels Like the First Time" by Foreigner appeared in the game (with the former as DLC, and the latter as a on-disc track on "Warriors of Rock") as re-recordings, prior to the release of the album "Feels Like the First Time".
    • In terms of characters, however, then Lou and The God of Rock first shows up in the tutorial for III, before you fight the former in Career mode and unlock them both in the shop.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first game. With nigh-on impossible Hammer-ons/Pull-offs, only one multiplayer mode, and every cover version of a song in the main setlist, it's most likely that the dev team brought in the toughest for first.
    • That, or they did not anticipate it being such a hit, hence why it looks amateurish compared to later installments.
  • Easier Than Easy: The Beginner difficulty introduced with World Tour. It allows you to essentially play through the entire game by just strumming the guitar without needing to press any fret, or play the drums by hitting any pad in time. On the other hand...
    • Harder Than Hard: The Expert+ (drums only) introduced in Metallica to support double kick pedals to support double kick bass drums like the ones Lars Ulrich usually has.
      • In Warriors Of Rock however, it includes Ghost Notes in select songs.
  • Easter Egg: You know the Beenox logo that plays whenever you boot up Smash Hits? Yeah, you can play it.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: Until the third game, you can't unlock anything by playing Easy Mode, and are repeatedly (condescendingly) told you should play harder difficulties. Also to boot, the final tier in II is unavailable if you play Career Mode on Easy. Oh, and you can't play any of the encores either.
    • Challenges on Guitar Hero 5 cannot be attempted on Beginner, and some are only possible at Expert (and Expert+ for drums) however there are some exceptions.
  • Epic Rocking:
    • Guitar Hero: Metallica is loaded with songs that are over six minutes long. The longest is "Mercyful Fate", which is over 11 minutes long (understandable, though, when you remember it's a medley of five songs from said band).
    • Also, "Do You Feel Like We Do" in Guitar Hero 5, clocking in at over 13 minutes.
    • Warriors of Rock has Rush's 20 and a half minute long epic "2112." however the individual tracks are pretty short in length.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: In Metallica, the titular band members have zombie alternate skins with their eyes and mouths sewn shut, voodoo-style.
  • Excuse Plot: The plot's mostly there for the sake of backstory and/or lore-building; one recurring element is that of Lou (i.e. the devil) who serves as a regular antagonist and an obvious foil to the God of Rock in some games. In fact, this was mostly a design from Neversoft; the Harmonix games only had your band touring through bigger and better venues and that's it.
  • Fake Band: Guitar Hero 2 contains songs by Spinal Tap and Dethklok... and Strong Bad. Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80's has one by Limozeen.
    • Dethklok has returned a couple of times since, being DLC for GH5 and represented in Warriors of Rock's track list.
  • Fake Difficulty: plenty of it. Boss fights in particular combine the horrible concept of Mario Kart style battles with rhythm games. In Guitar Hero III, this can lead to an insane scenario where even if you're really good, the final boss on Hard and Expert difficulty is pretty much impossible to beat consistently without just the right combination of attacks thrown at you. That is, if you can survive and counter his first assault.
    • Guitar Hero 3 and World Tour are very bad at this, due to the spectacular overcharting of many songs, which still manage to miss a great many notes that the original guitarists play. This led to many players abandoning the series for spiritual successor Rock Band (easier in some regards, but also far more accurate), and many a flame war was brought against players for the only apparent reason to want more out of gameplay than "challenge".
    • Guitar Hero 5 has this with 3 of the NINE stars possible in each gig on Career mode (five for doing well enough in a song, plus one for maintaining a full combo, plus one for each of the three challenge tiers accomplished), as they usually have you doing things like alt-strumming a song that's not suitable for it, abusing the whammy bar (which might as well land you with a score below what you wanted — you know, it ain't easy strumming while you keep your hand in the strum bar), and tapping all the slider/tap notes. And that's just for guitar. Oh, and if you're not on Expert (or Expert+ on select drum challenges), you may find star #9 is impossible due to not having enough notes.
    • Guitar Hero: Metallica does this by only including one guitar track, even though the band uses two guitarists. The lead track alternates between James and Kirk, depending who is playing something interesting (read: difficult) during that part of the song. So you don't get any of the rest that they would.
      • Subverted in a few spots, even though it might initally seem otherwise, in Van Halen. Rock Band 2 vets will have to strum a lot more notes outside of the solos in Painkiller, but that's accurate given how it's actually played -- the notes are on different strings. Glaringly obvious later on at the end of the first solo when the chart follows the OTHER guitarist, who has sustain notes for all but two measures, before giving out the probably undercharted HOPO run at the end of the solo.
      • The James/Kirk alternation is subverted with the downloadable Suicide & Redemption, where rather than consolidating the guitar parts they released two versions, one with all James' parts, the other with all Kirk's. This does lean towards one song for the price of two though.
  • Fanservice:
    • Casey Lynch is a firm believer in equal-opportunity shirtless shredding.
    • Not to mention Johnny's sudden gaining of six-pack abs in Warriors of Rock.
  • Faux-To Guide: Throughout the games up until World Tour and its engine spin-offs (i.e. Smash Hits and Metallica), the game's loading screens may give tips on what to do and not to do when you're in a band:
    If anyone insists on wearing a white belt, kick them out of the band. (I)
    Don't let the drummer have an "extended solo" unless you really have to go to the bathroom. (I)
    If your neighbors keep complaining about the noise, turn up the volume until they move away. (II)
  • Final Boss: Every game ends with one, presented as the last encore for the final gig and is generally one of the better-known and most difficult song in the game.
    • 1: "Bark at the Moon"
    • II: "Free Bird"
    • Rocks the '80s: "Play With Me"
    • III: The single player ends with a boss battle against Lou to a metal cover of "The Devil Went Down to Gerogia", before playing "Through the Fire and Flames" during the credits. The co-op career mode ends with "Monsters" by Matchbook Romance.
    • Aerosmith: "Train Kept-A-Rollin'", before playing "Kings and Queens" during the credits.
    • World Tour has different final songs for each career mode. Guitar and drums end with "Hot for Teacher", bass and co-op end with "B.Y.O.B.", and vocals ends with "Beat It", before playing "Pull Me Under" during the credits.
    • Metallica: "The Thing That Should Not Be"
    • Smash Hits: "Through the Fire and Flames"
    • 5: A live version of "The Spirit of Radio", before playing "21st Century Schizoid Man" during the credits.
    • Band Hero: "The Impression That I Get". "American Pie" plays during the credits.
    • Warriors of Rock: "Sudden Death", a song by Megadeth created specifically for the game. After this, a bonus setlist is unlocked, featuring "Black Widow of La Porte" by John 5 and Jim Root as the final encore of that.
    • Live: Live mode's final song is "Tie Your Mother Down"
  • Final Boss Preview: In Guitar Hero III, after beating Campaign Mode, the credits are played over "Through the Fire and Flames". It's the game's hardest song by a long shot and the player has to play through the note chart. However, "No Fail" mode is turned on, and the song is unlocked after the credits roll. It's to show the player that there's one more ultimate challenge to overcome without letting them fail it.
  • Full Motion Video:
    • Due to platform limitations, the PS2 conversions of later games (developed by Budcat Creations) use polygonal models of characters laid on top of pre-rendered backgrounds taken from the main console releases.
    • Pretty much played straight with Guitar Hero Live as it eschews the highly stylised hard rock/heavy metal/punk art style in favour of filmed concert footage or in the case of DLC content, music videos for their respective songs.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • Hardware edition again: Remember the early Rock Band drums, specifically the drum pedal? That was easily fixable without voiding any warranty. The red pad on the World Tour drums, on the other hand, stems from a loose wire inside the drum, and fixing it yourself violates the warranty on it.
    • In Guitar Hero 5, the Expert/Plus glitch that crops up on Expert wherever doublebass is charted on Expert+. In these sections, every other bass kick is treated as a "null note", which means pressing the foot pedal down where the null note is counts as a miss, making fast bass patterns damn-near-impossible on Expert. This results in some people clearing Expert+ before clearing Expert. Band Hero (and Warriors of Rock too), despite its subject matter, actually fixes this bug. Yet, Neversoft refused to patch it on 5.
    • "The Catalyst" is impossible to full-combo on Medium Guitar because a tap chord is charted, and is unhittable with any methods, even though the next chord is the same, and is charted as a HO/PO chord, as shown here. Strangely, this tap chord only appears in the 360 and PS3 versions, as the Wii version has said note appear as a HO/PO chord instead.
    • Another example is in "All Nightmare Long" on Hard in GH3. (A ghost note here). This is fixed when imported into World Tour and beyond.
  • Game Mod: In spite of all of the port's faults, the PC version of III was generally popular to mod in extra charts and songs. Some even became official charters because of it.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: The eight main characters in Warriors of Rock are equally divided by gender, so at the end, you can even split them into an all-male band (Johnny, Austin, Lars and Axel) and a Girl Group (Echo, Judy, Pandora and Casey) if you want. You even find two of each in each of the two parts of your journey to find the warriors.
  • Genki Girl: Midori just can't keep still. And her Girlish Pigtails that swing around as a result make her even more eye catching.
    • Midori is especially genki when assigned as a drummer, as seen in Guitar Hero: Van Halen, particularly in fast paced or drum heavy songs. See an example of her doing so here.
      • And despite the drastic makeover that rendered her beyond recognition, she's a lot genkier in Band Hero.
  • Genre Motif: Each character has one to a different style of rock. Some are consistent throughout the series (Axel Steel representing Heavy Metal, Johnny Napalm representing Punk Rock, Clive Winston representing Classic Rock), while others may change from game to game (Xavier Stone and Pandora went, respectively, from Modern Rock to Classic Rock and Alternative Metal to straight-up Goth/New Wave).
  • Goth: Pandora, described consistently throughout the series as "the Dark Princess of Rock".
  • Grand Finale: Warriors of Rock was thought to be the finale... until Live was released nearly 5 years later. As of 2021, it seems that Live will be the finale.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Well, Greatest Hits Game actually, but Smash Hits qualifies. It's even called "Greatest Hits" in Europe.
  • The Grim Reaper: Featured as an unlockable character until World Tour.
  • I Don't Know Mortal Kombat: In short, you are not guaranteed victory in this game just because you know how to play a real guitar. It helps to have a limber pinky, but that's pretty much it.
    • VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs proved this spectacularly with the "Celebrity Rock Band Challenge" segments, which featured real professional musicians sucking hardcore at Rock Band (which technically works just the same as GH). The most likely reason for this? Musicians usually aren't gamers, and rhythm games require strong hand-eye coordination—of the type you can only develop by being obsessed with video games.
    • Many have testified that having actual guitar experience will make you worse at the game than a complete novice. Unsurprising, since the controls work like a completely different instrument... namely a keyboard.
    • Even though the skills required for the game and the actual instrument are direct analogues of each other, there are still some benefits in having experience playing an instrument beforehand. Being trained in an instrument means you have a better ear for music, which makes it easier to keep rhythm while playing a song, as well as having the hand coordination and finger strength necessary to make the jump to Hard and Expert difficulty, when you have to learn how to transition between the orange button and back.
  • Instrumental Weapon:
    • In GH3/Aerosmith, Metalhead can sometimes be seen pointing his guitar around like a gun.
    • In addition, one of his signature guitars is made to resemble a laser gun.
  • Instrumentals: "Spanish Castle Magic" became one in the original Guitar Hero, because Hendrix's estate didn't want someone impersonating him.
  • Intercourse with You:
    • In Guitar Hero III, there's "Talk Dirty to Me" (Poison), "Rock You Like a Hurricane" (Scorpions), "Suck My Kiss" (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and "Welcome to The Jungle" (Guns'N Roses).
    • Warriors of Rock has "Pour Some Sugar on Me" (Def Leppard) and "Sex and Candy" (Marcy Playground), to name a few.
  • Irony: In Guitar Hero Metallica, the very first time you play some of the Metallica songs, sometimes James Hetfield will make various quotes, such as "Alright, who's singing along tonight?" If you're playing Orion...
  • Jiggle Physics: Judy Nails in Guitar Hero III is very bouncy.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: The person hired to brainwash the crowd in the Band intro (Wich doubles as the game intro) is Kenny G in all but name.
  • Lead Bassist:
    • In World Tour, Shirley Crowley due to her solo career.
    • In the On Tour series, the lead singer also plays bass guitar.
  • The Legend of X: Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
  • Licensed Game: All of the games use licensed tracks, or at least covers of them, but of note are the ones with a band on the title.
  • Lighter and Softer: Band Hero, which, unlike the rock-heavy, T-rated Guitar Hero games, is rated E10+ and is filled with pop music, being intended as a more "family-friendly" version of the game.
  • Lizard Folk: Casey Lynch's warrior of rock transformation.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: GH: World Tour, GH5 and Band Hero for the PS2 are fraught with long loading times, up to about 3 minutes in the case of GH5. On the plus side, on GH5, if you play a setlist on Quickplay, only the first song has the abnormally long load time, and loading the rest of the songs will be more reasonable.
  • Marathon Boss: "Do You Feel Like We Do (Live)" on Guitar Hero 5 and "2112" on Warriors of Rock (though only if all seven songs are played one after the other, such as in the campaign).
    • Warriors of Rock has another in the form of the final battle, but rather than a single track broken up into several parts, it's a trinity of Megadeth tracks (three Megadeth Tracks). Doesn't make it any less epic, though.
    • Likewise "2112" is broken down into its seven parts, so it's not as much of a marathon as DYFLWD (or "Free Bird" back in GH2). Granted since these seven individual tracks are pretty short in length.
  • Metal Head: The character of Axel Steel is a stereotypical metalhead. Casey Lynch also appears to be an example of a female metalhead (though she leans more towards 70's hard rock). Then there's the character called "Metalhead" (A robot) if you want to be literal.
  • Mini-Game Credits:
    • "American Pie" by Don McLean plays during the end credits of Band Hero. Appropriate, because the song is well known for its length.
    • "Through the Fire and Flames" plays during the credits of Guitar Hero III. It is also impossible to fail, thank goodness.
    • "21st Century Schizoid Man" by King Crimson accompanies the credits of Guitar Hero 5.
    • In keeping with the game's theme, you play "Kings and Queens" during the credits of Aerosmith.
    • "Pull Me Under" by Dream Theater is this in World Tour.
  • Mission-Pack Sequel: Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80's. Guitar Hero Aerosmith, Metallica, and Van Halen are a little more involved, but not much.
    • The DS Guitar Hero On Tour series, which is entirely comprised of Mission Pack Sequels, with the first "On Tour" game being a random collection of just under 30 songs from a variety of eras and styles, "Decades" being the same, but with the songs separated by era (and "00's" and "Modern" being two separate tiers for no apparent reason other than there were too many 2000's songs to fit in one tier), and "Modern Hits" being a collection of just under 30 songs, all of which are from the 2000's.
  • Multi-Platform: (since Guitar Hero 2, except for Rocks the 80s)
    • Averted with the On Tour subseries, exclusive to the Nintendo DS.
  • Music Genre Dissonance: Since the games decided to add the song's genre to their general info and sorting options in 5, the creative team has done it on a hit-and-miss bases. For example: 3 Doors Down's "Kryptonite" is categorized as Southern Rock (which it's not by a longshot; it's alternative/pop-rock), Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" is placed under the Blues Rock header (it's actually folk), and Gorillaz's "Feel Good Inc." is said to be Hip Hop (it's indie/electronica).
    • Some of these were fixed in Warriors Of Rock. However, Fall Out Boy's "Sugar, We're Going Down" (originally Pop Punk) is now listed as Prog Rock, of all genres.

  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: You can have this as a band in Guitar Hero 5. There's a Pirate costume, a Ninja outfit (the latter for men only), Kurt Cobain or Johnny Cash can be your undead revenant, and Shirley Manson is a Terminator. Sweeeeeet.
    • Taken to near extremes with Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, where the first four recruited characters get transformed into all sorts of abominations: Echo Tesla becomes Robot, Johnny Napalm becomes Nightcrawler, Judy Nails becomes a she-devil (complete with hooves replacing her feet), and Austin Tejas becomes the Headless Horseman, then they get lumped together as a band in the 2112 mission.
      • Then there's the next stage of the Quest Mode: upon transformation Lars Umlaut becomes a Pig Man, Pandora becomes a Drow, Casey Lynch becomes a Gorgon, and Axel Steel becomes a Mummy! After all that, all eight of them combine their powers to battle a Humongous Mecha.
      • And if you feel like it, you can have a band with a robot (Echo transformed), a minotaur, and Arthas Menethil in it!
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: Played for Laughs in GH2 and 3 with loading messages such as "You need a mini-fridge in your practice space. It's more important than a bassist" and "You seem to have a problem with your bass amp. I can hear it!". Deconstructed in World Tour where, sick of being overshadowed by her bandmates, bassist Shirley Crowley signs a Deal with the Devil and ends up with more success than the others. Averted from Metallica onwards.
    • Subtle example in World Tour. Achievements exist for performing as a guitarist, drummer, and vocalist, playing as the celebrity cameos for each one, and completing challenges on certain songs that are tailored to these instruments. No such achievements apply to the bass. This changed beginning with Metallica, but even there the achievement for performing as a bassist is called "Invisible Kid" (as a reference to the Metallica song of the same name).
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Not always obvious, but many characters (or costumes, like Axel Steel's alt in III which was a homage to Dimebag Darrell) are based on real rock stars. Xavier Stone is an interesting case: as he was based on Jimi Hendrix, he was absent in World Tour, which featured Hendrix himself, among other licensed real-life stars.
  • Noodle Incident: Judy Nails earned her nickname when she was seven, in what her bio describes as "a nail gun incident."
  • Oddly Named Sequel: If a numbered sequel can even be considered an oddly named one as well, then Guitar Hero 5 fits the bill for being sandwiched between World Tour and Warriors of Rock, which stopped numbering sequels.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The version of Quiet Riot's "Metal Health" which appears in Rocks the 80s doesn't have the guitar solo in the middle - instead, you just play rhythm corresponding to the bass parts in said solo (because Quiet Riot didn't have a rhythm guitarist). Before the game was released, the song was supposed to have the solo, but it was removed for difficulty reasons, since it was the first song in the first tier.
  • Old Save Bonus: Guitar Hero 5 and Band Hero can be augmented with songs (not all, just a few) from World Tour, Smash Hits, and Metallica, supposing the player uses a one-time code from said games' manuals and pays a fee (heavy, considering the small percentage of songs exported) for the cost of relicensing the songs. Neversoft has stated more songs will become added this way as they work out the licensing.
    • GH5 and Band Hero are also cross-compatible; a player can export a majority of songs from one game into the other.
    • Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock can import all the exportable songs from all of the above, and thus can end up with a HUGE library of songs (as many as 500).
  • Our Minotaurs Are Different: One of the unlockable characters in Warriors of Rock is a Minotaur who jams music with you.
  • Perfect Play A.I.: Lou in Guitar Hero 3, for the most part. He will never miss a note (unless you throw him an attack, then he devolves into Artificial Stupidity.)
  • The Power of Rock: More or less the game's entire premise, but particularly Star Power. It is exaggerated with Warriors of Rock.
    • Many custom note chart authors from the Guitar Hero fan community were also picked up by Neversoft to write charts for their game. Of course, these were the sort of players who were already very, very good at the game and wanted to write harder charts to challenge themselves, which carried over directly to Guitar Hero 3...
  • Product Placement: In the first three games, which were endorsed by Gibson, you could have Les Pauls, SGs, Explorers, Flying Vs, and so on and on (even an EDS-1275, that double-necked one Jimmy Page played sometimes). Starting with World Tour, when Activision lost Gibson license, you could construct your instrument out of parts from others (5 had brand names like Ibanez and Paul Reed Smith to choose from).
  • Put on a Bus: Xavier Stone never appeared again in the games after 3/Aerosmith.
  • Rank Inflation:
    • Staring from the first four games, your score is represented on a five-star scale, though the lowest you can get is 3 as performance any worse would result in being booed offstage. From the 5th game and onwards, netting you the 6th star if you maintain a full combo. Reaching the goals for the bonus challenges in said game nets you up to 3 more stars for each song. And in the 6th game, with abilities like increasing your multiplier or saving your streak, you can obtain up to 40 stars in a single song.
    • Said 40 stars (or rather, learning how to earn 40 stars in every on-disc song in quest mode (Except the 7 2112 songs)) are necessary for the 100% Completion.
    • Even for the earlier games, the Score Hero website, having worked out the math used to determine star ratings in the game, extends this logic to create 6, 7, 8 and 9 star ratings. No song is 9-starrable, but 8 stars are possible on quite a few.
      • Double bass can swell the scores because there's simply so many more notes under the star power; the exported version of Overkill has an Expert+ FC which, if Score Hero ever updates to track the extended ratings post-GHA, will be good for 9.4 stars.
      • Bloodlines looks to be worth about 10.8 stars.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Echo Tesla and Austin Tejas from Warriors of Rock seem to have had this treatment, being completely new characters counted among the legendary warriors, although the narration does specifically state that Austin has hidden himself away from the world until now.
  • Ret-Gone: The band-centric games always do this to past members of the title band, even as they are going through the band's career.
    • Aerosmith glosses over the period Joe Perry and Brad Whitford left the band (despite the intro showing Steven reconciling with Joe backstage), especially since the formation change lasted only one album (that, and Ray Tabano being their Pete Best).
    • Metallica, more glaringly, completely ignores Cliff Burton and Jason Newsted, having Rob Trujillo as their bassist throughout. He even has his own classic model, patterned after his tenure with Suicidal Tendencies, which sort of clashes with the rest of the band.
    • Van Halen tries to justify it with the band (Dave, Eddie, Wolf and Alex; no Sammy Hagar or Michael Anthony to be seen) going back to their past gigs and their appearances changing accordingly.
  • Rhythm Game: If we have to explain this one...
  • "Risky Business" Dance:
    • The ad campaign for World Tour. Parodied with the ads for Metallica and Band Hero.
    • "Old Time Rock'N'Roll" eventually became available as DLC for World Tour. The vocalist does the dance.
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: Lou provides the trope picture. You fight him as the last boss of Guitar Hero III, and you can unlock him after beating the game.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: The random bandmates generated by World Tour have some terrible style clashes between pieces of clothing and hairstyles (devilock and a white frilly shirt?). You can preview some of these in the Rock Star Creator when picking a style.
  • Schizophrenic Difficulty: World Tour was the first game in the series to introduce the four-instrument setup, and had a separate career mode for each instrument where all of the songs were re-assorted in each tier for each instrument to ensure a proper difficulty curve no matter which instrument you're playing. While Metallica, Van Halen, and Smash Hits continued on this, 5 did away with this entirely, having only one career mode for all instruments, leading to things like "Under Pressure" (which is rated as a 10 on Vocals and by far the hardest song in the game for vocalists) appearing in Tier 3 even if you're only playing Vocals, or "Sympathy For the Devil" (a 7 on Bass) appearing as the encore of Tier 1.
    • Even discounting that fact, 5's difficulty curve is rather messy, with "Sultans of Swing" (a 6 on Guitar, 4 on Bass, and 7 on everything else) appearing as the encore for Tier 5, well before "Ring of Fire" (which doesn't have a single instrument rated above a 4) appears in Tier 9.
  • Serial Escalation: Many examples, from the addition of extra instruments to the increased difficulty of the songs, but the best example is this: In Warriors of Rock, the cap for the amount of stars you can get in a song has increased from five to FORTY. (Only in Quest mode though, and only after clearing it once.)
  • She Is All Grown Up:
    • Pretty much everyone got all grown up after the Art Shift when the franchise was passed from Harmonix to Neversoft. Axel Steel and Johnny Napalm, for example, looked like teenagers in the first two games.
  • Shout-Out: See here.
  • Socialization Bonus: In Guitar Hero II, 1/5th of the game's achievements were based on local co-op.
    • Guitar Hero III had the same co-op of Guitar Hero II (second player plays bass/rhythm guitar). That, alone, isn't bad at all. What makes it bad is that it introduces co-op career mode that must be played with two players, and said mode includes six songs that aren't unlocked in the course of single-player mode or the unlock shop (though, mercifully, a cheat code is available that unlocks everything).
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The uplifting "Cliffs of Dover" sticks out like a sore thumb in the "Battle for your Soul" setlist.
  • Soviet Superscience: Metalhead, according to his bio, was originally created by the Soviet Union until he was reprogrammed towards the end of the Cold War to be a guitarist.
  • Spontaneous Human Combustion: Happens to your band's drummer at the end of "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" in Guitar Hero II, See Also: Shout-Out.
  • Suspicious Video-Game Generosity: Does a song have two strings of Star notes suspiciously close to each other? Chances are the game's letting you fill up on Star Power before a finger-melting solo.
  • The Stinger:
    • Guitar Hero 3 lets you play the bonus song Through the Fire and Flames during the end credits, but there's no energy meter and thus no risk of failure. This is because even those good enough to beat the whole game on Expert have no guarantee of even getting through the opening of that song without significant practice.
    • Aerosmith has Kings and Queens, and World Tour has Dream Theater's Pull Me Under. Neither is as hard as Through The Fire and the Flames (though the solo to Pull Me Under is pretty ridiculous), but they are played over the credits in the same un-failable conditions.
    • In Metallica, this extra song (The Thing That Should Not Be) is playable in a "final" venue of sorts, and doesn't appear automatically when just beating the final standard setlist song. GH5 goes back to the previous style with an unfailable 21st Century Schizoid Man. Not present whatsoever in Guitar Hero Van Halen, though.
      • And again, in Band Hero, with Don McLean's American Pie.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: “Through the Fire and Flames” on Expert has a unique loading screen tip that simply says “Good luck”.
  • Title Drop:
    • One of the 17 bonus tracks in the first game is "Guitar Hero" by "Monkey Steals the Peach".
    • There are achievements in the second and third games named after the game as wellnote .
  • TV Head Robot: One of Metalhead's unlockable outfits in GH3 gives him a TV for a head.
    • In a lesser example, later games allow you to give your customizable character a TV head.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: "Trogdor" in Guitar Hero II is the only song that can't be FCed due to the end of the solo requiring the player to strum a total of 30 frets in quick succession, well exceeding the game's 15 note per second strum limit. This was fixed in the PAL version, due to the strum limit impacting the game less severely thanks to the 50 Hz refresh rate. Of course, this means exploiting technical knowhow in order to get that version running on an NTSC system, something not a lot of players have experience with out the gate.
  • Updated Re-release: Guitar Hero II had an updated version for the Xbox 360 released a bit after the original PlayStation 2 version. It added a few new songs (not counting DLC, among which were a dozen of the main songs from the first game), rearranged the difficulty tiers, and had a new, fancy X-Plorer controller.
  • Very Definitely Final Dungeon: Black Widow of La Porte, which is the final bonus song after the main game in Warriors of Rock is completed. A fast-paced lead guitar song which is essentially an entire guitar solo, runs for almost 7 and a half minutes, has tricky sections that mimic It's All Upstairs From Here by escalating notes rapidly, and is often on the top of lists of hardest songs in the entire series.
  • Virtual Paper Doll: World Tour allows you to customize your characters' clothing, not to mention their face, in excruciating detail. And their body type, in much less detail. Smash Hits and Band Hero allowed for this too (even giving you Midori's Twin Tails hair as an option for custom females) as well as GH 5 and Van Halen. All four games also allowed for customizing the clothing of built-in and unlockable characters, though with more flexibility in Smash Hits and Van Halen (not possible however for the licensed characters like the Van Halen band members in Van Halen [the only options available for them are two different looks from different eras], and Taylor Swift, Adam Levine, and the members of No Doubt in Band Hero, who could not be customized at all).
  • Version-Exclusive Content: Depending on which edition of III you get, you could be getting different content
    • The HD versions lets you play as The God of Rock and The Grim Reaper, while the SD versions has Metalhead and Elroy Budvis. The SD versions also has a few extra guitars to boot, including one modeled after the logo for BudCat Creations (the company in charge of porting the games to PS2 and Wii, with Vicarious Visions helping them out for the latter).
    • The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of III each had an exclusive DLC song released on their platforms. PlayStation owners had The End Begins (To Rock) while Xbox owners had the MJOLNIR Mix of the iconic Halo Theme
  • Yoko Oh No: One of the loading screen messages in World Tour:
    When in doubt, blame the singer's girlfriend.
  • Yuppie Couple: Freezepop has managed to become a musical example. One Freezepop song showed up in almost every Guitar Hero game developed by Harmonix since one; this particular trope followed over to Rock Band when Harmonix switched to that series. (And then back again for the DS version... although the fact that the song was called I Am Not Your Game Boy means that it at least made sense for it to be there.) This owes largely to the fact that one of the members of Freezepop is a Harmonix employee.

Alternative Title(s): Guitar Hero III Legends Of Rock