Going back a few console generations, gaming experienced a surge of rhythm-based games. From shredding out in Guitar Hero to hitting the floor in Dance Central, game started crossing the line between general, real world practices and digital entertainment. Like most other genres, rhythm games became saturated and dipped off in popularity.
One of the largest and most successful franchise to come out of this genre is Guitar Hero. The first Guitar Hero game came to PlayStation 2 back in November 2005. I’m sure you can remember that white on black controller styled after the famous Gibson SG. From then we had five main games and about ten other expansions leading to the long, five-year hiatus starting in 2010.
Luckily, with a surge of interest and popularity in rhythm gaming, 2015 was blessed with Guitar Hero Live. Santa brought a new game for us to kick out the jams with and a completely revamped play style. Some of the main mechanics have been changed, as well as the aesthetics, but the heart is still there. Looking back over the ever growing track list from the franchise, this entry in the article series will look at eleven of the most difficult songs from the Guitar Hero franchise.
KICK OUT THE JAMS
John 5- Black Widow of La Porte
This speed metal classic came to us from John 5, featuring Jim Root of Slipknot fame, from his 2007 solo album The Devil Knows My Name. This track can only be played by beating the final encore act of “Sudden Death” by Megadeth. Clocking is at an intense seven minute and twenty-five seconds, this track will keep your fingers grinding for almost the entire time. The first twenty or so seconds are not too bad, given that they are just the intro. But from there, it is a multi-color storm of cross notes and steady chugging. At least for the first two sections: web spinning and spider crawl.
Lynyrd Skynyrd- Free Bird
This southern rock hit was released in 1973. It’s legend in the Guitar Hero universe was even established with a mention in the original game. One of the loading screens from Guitar Hero says, “They don’t really want you to play Free Bird, they’re just heckling you!” Finally reaching the franchise in Guitar Hero II as the final encore act, “Free Bird” was the bane of players’ rhythm existence. At over nine minutes long, this is the second longest track in the franchise. The intro is a little tedious, and can be confusing with a series of extended hammer-ons. The real pain comes about three minutes in when the rather complicated solos spark.
The fourth track from the thrash metal group’s album …And Justice For All retells the story from the anti-war novel and movie Johnny Got His Gun. Appearing for the first time in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, this track is known for it’s complexity. The song follows patterns of ascending triplets during the fast solo A that reach speeds of 22.5 notes per second. “One” is on the easier side for the first few minutes, but once the stage has been set, requires patience, accuracy, and speed.
Alter Bridge- Cry of Achilles
From the band’s fourth studio album, Fortress, this heavy, progressive metal track came to Guitar Hero Live with a heavy dose of hype. Shortly before the game’s release, the development team was interviewed and named “Cry of Achilles” as one of three “hardest” songs in the game. The whole of the song is difficult, but the second solo is where the mighty fall and masters tend to choke.
PICK UP THE PACE
Slayer- Raining Blood
This 1986 thrash masterpiece came to us from Slayer’s third album Reign in Blood. This Slayer track slayed many players with its release on Guitar Hero III. There are two real reasons that “Raining Blood” has developed a following as one of the more difficult tracks. Part of the way into the track you will find long sections of descending scales that are quick and tricky on the fingers. Second is the final section of the track referred to as Flood. This is thirty seconds of pure chaos and grinding metal leading a five chord note, not representative of a real note, but instead imitating the lighting crash.
Dragonforce- Fury of the Storm
This track was first released on the Drgonforce album Sonic Firestorm in 2004. Coming to the franchise in Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, “Fury of the Storm” was reminiscent of “Through the Fire and Flames.” The track is available after completing the quest mode. It is littered with relatively easy sections before reaching knuckle-grinding solos. Sections require you to hold one note while tapping out others simultaneously. Even with a ten difficulty rating, how could you not love a song with a solo named “OMGWTFBBQ.”
Megadeth- Hangar 18
From the 1990 album Rust in Peace, this metal classic tells of the Roswell location of the same name, rumored to hold the alien finding of Area 51. “Hangar 18” first came to the franchise in the eighth tier of Guitar Hero II. Being regarded as one the hardest Guitar Hero II it was no surprise when “Hangar 18” was rumored to be one of the hardest tracks on Guitar Hero Live before its release. What was surprising was that the latter used the shortened video version for a quicker song and ther new button configuration that succeeded in making the track even more difficult.
The version of “Jordan” found on Guitar Hero II is the only studio version of the song. Having performed the song live numerous times, always with a different touch of flare or alternating solos, “Jordan” developed a following in its own right. Buckethead has been quoted saying that the Guitar Hero II implementation may be the best thing he has ever recorded. Solos B and C are known for excessive difficulty, being nicknamed “The Sea of Skittles” due to the random, sporadic, and colorful series of dots rolling across the screen. But, if you can grind through to “The Blue Note of Freedom” at the end of solo C, you are almost guaranteed to complete the song.
TO BE A GOD OF METAL
The Charley Daniels Band- The Devil Went Down to Georgia
This country classic was first released in 1979. A metal cover of the song by Steve Ouimette, renamed “Guitar Battle vs. Lou” appears in Guitar Hero II as a boss battle. This track contains about five minutes of some of the most intense solo sin the franchise. When playing through this track, you play both the call and the response of the hero and the devil. Just be weary of the common “Verse 4” choke point.
Lamb of God- Ghost Walking
The first single from the 2012 album Resolution hit fans across the face and continued through release on Guitar Hero Live. Another one of the three tracks the development team rumored to be the hardest, “Ghost Walking” lived up to its reputation. Starting with a grooving, acoustic intro that is still complex enough to give you second thoughts about tackling this beast of expert. The track as whole is over flowing with powerful sweeps, daunting solos, quickened shredding, and even clear holds. This modern thrash masterpiece lives up to its reputation.
Dragonforce- Through the Fire and the Flames
This number one spot should be no surprise to anyone. “Through the Fire and Flames” has held an unrelenting reputation for difficulty since its release in Guitar Hero III. Dragonforce’s second track on this list came from their 2006 album Inhume Rampage. The song is so difficult that it was not even included as part of the main game, but instead a bonus track after completing it. The intro may be the most difficult section of the song, causing many player to fall off before the 5 percent mark. The song is just filled with hammer-ons and –offs, spiraling scale ascensions, and the infamous “Red Snake” section that averages around 26.6 notes per second. Many try and claim that “Through the Fire and Flames” is overrated, but over time it has defended and maintained its title as the most difficult track in the franchise.
Even after a brief hiatus, the genre of rhythm gaming seems to be making a steady recovery. The concept of following relatively simple indicators to twist out rather complex patterns is a feat of hand/ eye coordination that keeps players enthralled for hours on end. Like any aspect of gaming, the competition of being the best and taking on the most difficult pieces is not lost in rhythm games; if anything it is even more relevant. So, work on those hammer-ons, grit through the spinning solos, and grind out the thrash chugs, and even you can be a hero on the guitar.