Crate Digging is a recurring feature in which we take a deep dive into a genre and turn up several albums or bands that all music fans should know about. As classic gaming series Guitar Hero turns 15 this week, we look at 10 bands a generation of fans likely learned about through gaming rather than crate digging.
In the mid-to-late 2000s, the Guitar Hero series was the party game to own. Initially a partnership between publisher/hardware manufacturer RedOctane and developer Harmonix, the brand built upon the latter’s prior music-based projects — such as Frequency, Karaoke Revolution, and Amplitude — and other genre titans like Dance Dance Revolution, GuitarFreaks, Gitaroo Man, and PaRappa the Rapper. Essentially, players had to match button combinations and rhythmic cues to the arrangements of dozens of popular songs (all of which were presented via colorfully cartoonish depictions of virtual bands playing the tunes). Although the quick succession of mainline titles, spin-offs, and rival offshoots — namely, Rock Band — led to commercial disappointments, critical disinterest, and a general oversaturation of the market over the last decade, there’s no denying how much Guitar Hero dominated the zeitgeist during its prime.
In fact, you could argue that Guitar Hero picked up right where the Tony Hawk games — which peaked between 1999 and 2004 or so — left off, not only because of how synonymous they were with multi-hour competitive play sessions among friends, but also because of how they encouraged their fanbases to actually try the activities they embodied. Just as innumerable Tony Hawk devotees were motivated to try skateboarding, so too were Guitar Hero enthusiasts encouraged to start playing music for real. Hence, the series undoubtedly sparked a newfound interest in the artform for practically all of its players.
Of course, both titles were also revered for their soundtracks, with the Guitar Hero line emphasizing its mix of covers and master recordings above all else. Really, the releases encompassed pretty much every subsection of rock, metal, and punk as they shuffled between several decades of material both instantly recognizable and incredibly under the radar. That vast assortment of music, coupled with stand-alone entries and DLC packs dedicated to individual bands like Van Halen, Metallica, and Aerosmith, spawned an entirely new method of musical discovery for an entirely new generation of music aficionados.
It’s with those feats in mind that we submit the following list of 10 bands that a generation likely discovered through Guitar Hero. Be they chart-topping heavyweights or relatively underknown greats, these groups (and their highlighted songs) were some of the chief standouts of their respective titles; as such, they may’ve been introduced to you as you played alongside them with plastic peripherals.
(Note: we’re only counting the console releases here. Also, we’re not saying that these artists weren’t already popular, but rather that they were likely first found by kids and teens at the time through Guitar Hero.)