Ten years ago yesterday, a little ol' developer called Harmonix decided to take its work on the Guitar Hero series and turn the dial up to 11. No longer would aspiring musicians be forced to jam on plastic Gibson Explorer-themed guitars in the privacy of their homes, apartments, and dorm rooms. Now, gamers would be free to explore their musical potential across a full band's worth of instruments: guitar, bass, drums, and vocals.
Rock Band was born.
And what memories we had together: closing our eyes and perfectly playing that Weezer song Rock Band newbies always wanted to try; beating the the Endless Setless for the first time with a full band of friends; finding new and creative ways to make our worn-out guitars respond to our finger-presses; strums; and sharp, vertical movements.
Rock Band might be in the double-digits, but it has plenty of life left in it. From new spins on the franchise to dedicated players finding new and creative ways to jam, this is one aging rocker that's still worth the full ticket price.
Unboxing the band
Oh, how far we've come. Back when Rock Band debuted, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were the big consoles of the day—though the game also found a home on the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii. A total of 58 songs were included on the original Rock Band disc, which you could buy standalone or as part of an instrument bundle that cost $150–160 for a plastic guitar, drum kit, and USB microphone.
How far we've come: you're in the band and the venue
What is rocked may never die. The Rock Band franchise might be showing its age—along with the entire plastic-instrument rhythm genre—but that doesn't mean that it doesn't still have a few encores left to go. If you can track down another plastic guitar, and happen to have an Oculus Rift headset, you can now join your band on the virtual stage for an entirely new Rock Band experience.
You can play the game in classic mode, single-note strumming and all, but Rock Band VR also has a mode where you're creating virtual representations of chords. And when it comes time to bust out a solo, you'll get points for originality; don't just jam the same power chord until the bonus time is up. What are you, a '90s alt-rock band?
I can't see, but I can rock
Harmonix, on a quest to make your living room even that much more of an altar to (digital) rock, released the Stage Kit for Rock Band in October of 2008. The fog machine and LED strobe light were designed to sync up with the game's musical tracks to make the entire experience feel even more immersive. In practice, the fog machine—if stuck in a room that wasn't very well ventilated—made it a bit tough to see your notes.
That said, if you were the kind of person who was willing to plunk down $100 for a fog machine and lighting for your rhythm game, you don't need notes. You're already a superstar.
When music isn't challenging enough
After a gamer's 285th version of Enter Sandman, they were likely ready for a new challenge. Luckily, Rock Band's guitar and drums could be used as controllers for their other favorite, non-rhythm games. In doing so, a number of gamers ascended to YouTube fame for their legendary control of their instruments—and patience.
You who are about to drum your way through first-person shooters, we salute you.
We're not sure that's DLC...
Some enterprising Rock Band players hacked their experience in the opposite direction. Instead of using plastic instruments to play new games, they found ways to import (and beautifully track) their favorite songs into Rock Band. Radiohead and Nirvana are fun to play, but they don't quite have the same ring as the Pokemon theme song, Trololo, or anything Eric Cartman ever performs.