The Ultimate Showdown: Guitar Hero vs. Rock Band

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When it comes to electronic music games, nothing is as big as Guitar Hero and Rock Band. These two games emerged in the mid and late 2000s and dominated the gaming scene for years before the wave died off in the mid-2010s. 

On the surface, both games look similar when players press down on guitar shape controllers as prompted by the screen. However, they also differ in many ways. What are the differences between Guitar Hero and Rock Band?

Guitar Hero and Rock Band differ in many areas, such as producers, gameplay, platforms, controllers, characters, song library, and support. These differences made both games interesting, fun, and challenging in their own way. It has also helped make billions for the creators of the games.

This article discusses the differences between Guitar Hero and Rock Band. We also explore common questions about both games, such as if one is easier than the other and how interchangeable their controllers are.

We also explore alternative electronic music games similar to Guitar Hero and Rock Band. 

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The Ultimate Showdown: Guitar Hero vs. Rock Band


What Is Guitar Hero?

The Guitar Hero series is an electronic music video game from Harmonix. In the game, players use a guitar-shaped controller to match prompts on the screen. These prompts usually come in 5 buttons in different colors. There are also custom controllers, such as the wah pedal. It is playable on many platforms and consoles.

Guitar Hero is a series of electronic music video games released between 2005 and 2015. You may see it as the game Rock Band, but with more focus on the guitar. Though many other companies have since taken over the development work, Guitar Hero was originally developed by Harmonix. 

Players use a controller that looks like a guitar to match on-screen prompts and notes in the game. There are 5 different colored buttons for these prompts. Then, the players press the buttons when told to. The crowd will get more excited as the game progresses and the players do better.

There are also prompts in the game that requires the player to execute hammer-ons, pull-offs, and even whammy bars. These usually generate more points as well.

Scores are calculated by seeing how well you follow the prompts on the screen. You will get points for playing notes, chords, and notes that last a long time. If you can press a series of notes in a row, your score may go up. 

A rock meter keeps track of how well you play based on how well you hit notes. If the meter goes down too far, the song will end too soon, and the player will fail.

Guitar Hero, at one point, was doing incredibly well. In 2009, the Guitar Hero franchise was listed as the third-largest video game franchise, only behind Super Mario Series and Madden NFL. It also became a popular culture and television show such as South Park.

Guitar Hero is currently discontinued, with no new development plans announced for the game. The last edition of Guitar Hero was Guitar Hero Live, released in 2015 to poor reception and sales. It currently survives as arcade games and in older gaming consoles.

What Is Rock Band?

The Rock Band series is an electronic music game developed by Harmonix Music Systems. Rock Band is playable on Playstation, Xbox, and Nintendo consoles. Players form a band and play different instruments based on the instructions on the screen. The players then combine their scores together for a total score. 

Rock Band was developed by Harmonix Music Systems, while Electronic Arts published and sold the game. PlayStations, Xboxes, and Nintendo Wiis can be used to play the game. Rock Band can also be enjoyed on a PC and Mac.

Rock Band is an electronic music game comparable to Guitar Hero. However, rather than focusing solely on the guitar, the developers of Rock Band focus on the social aspect, encouraging players to play as a band. You may find a microphone, bass, and drums in addition to the guitar.

It enables as many as four people to perform simultaneously, utilizing a microphone for singing and three additional devices to imitate the sound of a lead guitar, a bass guitar, and drums. 

The game’s musical instrument controllers allow players to simulate playing popular songs by attempting to match the button and action inputs they provide with those displayed on the screen. These buttons come in five colors and may have additional custom controllers, such as a wah pedal.

The level of accuracy demonstrated by each player is tallied and added to the total score. More than 50 essential songs are included in the game, and many more are available online. The game also has an extensive musical library that allows players to download and listen to various songs at their leisure.

Rock Band has won praise from critics while also gaining a large fan base. Since then, the franchise has grown to include Rock Band 2 in 2008, Rock Band 3 in 2010, and Rock Band 4 in 2014. Many expansion packs are also based on iconic genres such as classic rock, country, and metal. 

Rock Band 5 is developing and is a joint effort by Harmonix, Spotify, and Rockstar Games. However, no release date was made known nor changed in the game announced.

Guitar Hero Live with Guitar Controller (Xbox One)
PDP Rock Band Rivals Band Kit for Xbox One
Guitar Hero Live with Guitar Controller (Xbox One)
PDP Rock Band Rivals Band Kit for Xbox One
Guitar Hero Live with Guitar Controller (Xbox One)
Guitar Hero Live with Guitar Controller (Xbox One)
PDP Rock Band Rivals Band Kit for Xbox One
PDP Rock Band Rivals Band Kit for Xbox One

How Different Are Guitar Hero And Rock Band?

Despite being electronic music games, Guitar Hero and Rock Band differ in many ways. These differences ultimately cause the games to be slightly different from each other. However, both games are still a lot of fun.

AspectsGuitar HeroRock Band
DeveloperDeveloped by up to 7 studiosHarmonix
online multiplayer games based on duels
Local community based, with up to eight players at a time. 
Online multiplayer games are based on playing together. 
PlatformsXbox, Playstation, Nintendo, Computer, Mobile, ArcadeXbox, Playstation, Nintendo, Mobile
ControllersLimited controllersLarger range of controllers
CharactersFocused on a character’s journeyFocused on character’s look and feel
Song LibrarySmallerLarger
SupportNo longer supportedStill supported via updates.


Guitar Hero was originally developed by Harmonix, an American video game developer based in Boston, Massachusetts. The company was led by Alex Rigopulos and Eran Egozy. However, throughout the existence of Guitar Hero, the development work was done by a slew of studios, such as:

  • Harmonix (2005 – 2007)
  • Neversoft (2007 – 2010)
  • Budcat Creations (2007 – 2009)
  • Vicarious Visions (2007 – 2010)
  • Underground Development (2009)
  • FreeStyle Games (2015-2017)

Rock Band is luckier in the sense that its development was not pushed and moved around into so many studios. Rock Band is developed by Harmonix and has remained in Harmonix’s hands ever since. 

If you notice, Harnomix developed Guitar Hero, lost the game, and developed Rock Band. There are many speculations about why such a thing happened. Some proposed that Harmonix lost the game due to mergers and acquisitions when Harmonix and RedOctane were bought off by Activision and Viacom, respectively.

RedOctane is the game’s publisher, helping to sell the game and providing input for the developer.  


The Ultimate Showdown: Guitar Hero vs. Rock Band

Rock Band and Guitar Hero are similar in that they involve playing a simplified version of musical instruments. Instead of playing the actual instruments, players play a simplified controller based on the prompts on the screen.

However, the gameplay can also be different in many ways:

Individual vs. Team: In general, Guitar Hero places more focus on the individual player. Players play on the guitar, as shown on the screen. As a result, Guitar Hero comes with one instrument, which is the guitar itself. 

When it comes to local multiplayer games, you are basically looking at doing a guitar duel, where both players try to play the same game together and see who does better at the end of it. 

However, with Rock Band, the focus is to make it a more social game. This means players are encouraged to play together as a band, although single-player mode is also available. Players play together, taking control of multiple instruments such as a lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, and drums. 

There are also options to bring in three vocalists, meaning up to eight players can play Rock Band at once. Scores from all players are then added up to form a total score. 

Scoring: Guitar Hero is more focused on the individual guitarist, while Rock Band is more focused on the social and communal aspects of the game. 

When you extend the focus to the game’s scoring, It may be harder to score well on Rock Band. This is because the score is totaled up from all the players. If a player plays very well, the player may help the total team score, and vice versa. 

With Guitar Hero, you are essentially managing your own score, which means whether you do well will depend on your own performance. 

Online Multiplayer: Guitar Hero is more friendly towards online multiplayer mode. In this case, usually, players go online and look for other players to duel with. Both players try to play the same game and try to compete to see who can score higher. 

Later versions of Rock Band allow multiplayer mode, where players can join with a particular instrument and then join a band to play together. This extends the social nature of the game online. 


PlatformGuitar HeroRock Band
XboxXbox360, Xbox OneXbox360, Xbox One
PlaystationPlaystation 2, 3, 4Playstation 2, 3, 4, 5, PSP
NintendoWii, DSWii, DS
ComputerWindows PC, MacNot Supported
Mobile DevicesiOSiOS
ArcadeArcade game stationsNot Supported

You can play Guitar Hero on many consoles, such as many versions of Xboxes, Playstations, and also Nintendo Wii and DS. You can also play some versions of Guitar Hero on PC, Mac, and iOS and as an arcade game. 

However, since Guitar Hero is no longer updated, updates are not current, and newer consoles, such as Playstation 5, no longer support the game.

As for Rock Band, it is not as available on many platforms compared to Guitar Hero. It can be played on major gaming consoles such as Playstation, Nintendo, and Xboxes. However, it is not playable on a PC or Mac, and no arcade version is available.

Rock Band is still updated, which means you can still play the game on newer consoles, such as the Xbox One and Playstation 5. However, newer editions of Rock Band have not been released since 2015. 


The Ultimate Showdown: Guitar Hero vs. Rock Band

As we know, Guitar Hero is more focused on the individual guitarist. At the same time, Rock Band is more focused on the social and communal aspects of the game. This approach also extends to the controllers available to play the game.

With Guitar Hero, its individual focus of the game resulted in it only having a single instrument to play with, the guitar. 

Later versions of the game added drums and microphones to encourage cooperative gameplay, perhaps after seeing Rock Band’s success. However, the additions feel half-hearted and do not contribute much to the game’s overall feel of being individually focused.

As for Rock Band, the game’s focus has resulted in a wide array of instruments made available for players to play with. Players can choose from lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, drums, and keyboards.

On top of that, up to three vocal tracks are available, meaning three vocalists can sing the song together but on different vocal tracks. This means up to eight players can play Rock Band at one time. 


In both Rock Band and Guitar Hero, the games include characters that you can play within the game. However, both games take a different approach to the characters. 

Guitar Hero had more notable characters. These characters tend to have a name and look that suit the genre they play. 

For example, Axel Steel plays heavy rock music and is always seen in jeans, jackets with studs, long hair, and Dr. Martens-like boots. Other notable characters include Eddie Knox. This character may have a Johnny Cash vibe, with nicely coiffed hair, a sleeveless jacket, jeans, and leather boots. 

In fact, Guitar Hero also has guest appearances in its games, such as Sting, Ozzy Osbourne, and Johnny Cash. 

Rock Band takes a different approach to the character, allowing you to customize the look and apparel your character is wearing. You can select from many of the iconic looks that rock musicians have sported and put them together in one character. 

For example, you can have a character that sports the mop hairstyle of Johnny Ramone, the schoolboy jacket of Angus Young, and the high-riding boots rockers love to wear. 

Band Song Library

On the surface, Rock Band seem to have more songs in their library. This makes sense as Rock Band tries their best to release new songs into their library during their regular updates. Rock Band also allows players to import songs from their previous versions of Rock Band. 

Guitar Hero, however, takes a different approach. It may not have as deep a song library as Guitar Hero, but it does its best to secure song rights. 

Due to this, you might realize that some songs on the Guitar Hero’s list are unavailable in Rock Band. The notable ones include songs from Bruce Springsteen.

Guitar HeroRock Band
“Bark at the Moon” by Ozzy Osbourne (Guitar Hero III)“Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi – Rock Band 3
“Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas (Guitar Hero II)“Suffragette City” by David Bowie – Rock Band 4
“Cowboys From Hell” by Pantera (Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock)“Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult – Rock Band
“Even Flow” by Pearl Jam (Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock)“Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas – Rock Band 3
“When You Were Young” by The Killers (Guitar Hero III)“Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones – Rock Band 2
“Paint It, Black” by The Rolling Stones (Guitar Hero II)“Can’t Stop” by Red Hot Chili Peppers – Rock Band
“Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N Roses (Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock)“Toxicity” by System of a Down – Rock Band 3
“Through The Fire and The Flames” by DragonForce (Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock)“Maps” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Rock Band 3
“Rock and Roll All Nite” by Kiss (Guitar Hero II)“The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World – Rock Band 3


Guitar Hero’s last release was in 2015, as the Guitar Hero Live. Since then, the game has only been updated on and off. Instead, online servers are being shut down one by one as Guitar Hero’s developers focus on turning the game into an arcade game. 

Online servers for Playstation 3 shut down in January 2020, with many other platforms following suit. The shutdown on these servers eventually caused Guitar Hero to not be playable online on these platforms. Currently, only Guitar Hero on the Xbox 360 console is playable online. 

Rock Band seems to have a different fortune. Its last major release, the Rock Band VR, was released in 2017, also to less encouraging sales. However, Harmonix has kept up to its commitments to keep the game going. 

Although there has been no major release since 2017, Rock Band is still actively issuing updates via gaming consoles. This keeps the game playable, even on the newest consoles released after 2017, such as Playstation 5 or Xbox One. 

On top of that, Harmonix, Rockstar Games, and Spotify have announced that they are working together to develop a new version of Rock Band. However, no release date has been mentioned.

Can You Use Guitar Hero Guitar For Rock Band?

In general, some Guitar Hero controllers may work with Rock Band. However, most Rock Band controllers may not work with Guitar Hero. This may be because of the gameplay. Guitar Hero has limited input for instruments compared to Guitar Hero.

Many players may sometimes wonder if the controllers for both Guitar Hero and Rock Band can be used with one another. This is because, on the surface, they really look the same. 

Common sense may dictate that the game developers may try to not make the controllers compatible with one another. This is to force players to buy custom controllers for their games. 

However, surprisingly, many Guitar Hero controllers can work with Rock Band. You can use the Guitar Hero controller to play lead and bass guitar on Rock Band. 

The same cannot be said about Rock Band’s controllers. Generally, almost none of Rock Band’s controllers can be used with Guitar Hero. Newer Guitar Hero games may work with Rock Band guitars, which means you may want to test it out to confirm it yourself.

Are There Other Games Similar To Guitar Hero or Rock Band?

Many alternative versions of Guitar Hero and Rock Band are available, some as free, open-source games. Some focus more on learning guitar using actual instruments instead. These platforms include Clone Hero, Frets On Fire, Rocksmith, and Yousician.

Guitar Hero and Rock Band are popular games. However, they are not cheap to purchase and play with, so many alternatives have been developed to allow cheaper access to the games. 

Some developers also took the concept of the two games, turning it into an educational-focused app. You play with a real guitar on these apps. However, the prompts on the screen are similar to what you see in these games. 

Clone Hero: Clone Hero is basically a clone of the Guitar Hero, with similar gameplay. It was created by Ryan Foster in 2017 to keep the genre alive after Guitar Hero’s demise. 

One of the best strengths of Clone Hero is that players can play community-made songs, expanding from the small song list from the Guitar Hero series. As a result, the genre seems to have enjoyed a resurgence. 

Frets On Fire: Frets On Fire has a similar origin as Clone Hero. It is an open-sourced, free video game created by Unreal Voodoo. The developing company is based in Finland. Frets On Fire won the Assembly 2006 game development competition. 

One thing unique about Frets On Fire is that the game is played on a keyboard instead of a custom controller. In fact, the game’s mascot features a bespectacled man in a guitar-playing pose, but instead of a guitar, he has a keyboard slung on his shoulder instead.

Rocksmith: Rocksmith may be imagined as Guitar Hero, but with a much higher realism. This is because Rocksmith is played with a real guitar connected to your gaming console or computer. 

Rocksmith also focuses more on the educational aspect of learning to play the guitar rather than turning it into a gamified experience, such as in Rock Band or Guitar Hero.

Yousician: Yousician basically took the concept of gamifying and educating guitar playing to a new level. It is an educational music service that is available as a software/app subscription. 

Rather than playing it like a game, you use Yousician to learn how to play guitar. You can also use Yousician to learn how to play guitar, piano (keyboard), ukulele, bass, and vocal. As you progress, you go through lessons, challenges, and games to improve your skills

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