There was once a time where guitarists and gamers all over the world would unite to play a series of mighty shows, forged from plastic guitars and rubber-rimmed drum kits. Fastened with a setlist of monstrous tracks and brutal six-string (or button) solos, bands would form to capture the world in the name of rock and roll. Of course, rhythm-based video games aren’t at the centre stage quite so much these days, what with the likes of Rock Band and Guitar Hero failing to bring a revival tour to the spotlight. However, in good spirits, we do have to give credit to both for providing such mighty experiences throughout the noughties. Without them, we never would’ve felt like Hendrix, or Morello, or…God.
While you could argue that most Guitar Hero songs are simple one-track recipes with little room for complex riffs and high-powered solos, you could also argue that buried beneath the standard setlist lies a spool of hardcore records. And when I say hardcore, I’m talking ridiculously unforgiving tracks that dangle that 100% completion in front of you, knowing you’ll probably never grab it. And let me tell you — these five are hands down the most relentless of the bunch.
5. “Jordan” — Buckethead
Up until Buckethead strolled along, Guitar Hero didn’t exactly have many unforgiving tracks to overcome. That is until Guitar Hero 2 introduced itself, setting the new bar and ramping up the difficulty to unimaginable heights, with Buckethead effectively fortifying the franchise and its future line of brutal tracks. That’s when players knew Harmonix were no longer playing it safe, and that, moving forward, levels would no longer be littered with weak chord progressions and mediocre solos.
Although featured as a bonus track, fans were quick to notice the major difficulty spike compared to the bulk of the setlist, eventually branding it as the hardest in the series to date. And for good reason too. Buckethead delivered on all fronts when composing “Jordan”, and it served as one heck of an exclusive finisher for Guitar Hero fans who thought they’d done it all. But with that near-impossible 100% achievement hanging over completionists, it was fair to say that the tale was far from being over.
4. “One” — Metallica
We always knew right from the get-go that Metallica’s “One” wouldn’t be an easy track to conquer. Any rock or metal fan would’ve told you that before stepping into the ring and knocking the difficulty up to the highest degree. And for those who didn’t know of the band or their legendary anthology of rigorous riffs and face-melting solos, well — let’s just say a few surprises were induced on those first playthroughs — especially after the five-minute mark.
If powering through the seven-minute fret-fest with the hopes of acquiring 100% is your goal, then you might as well prepare for disappointment. The fact is, “One” doesn’t like to hold your hand as you cross over to the crescendo, barely letting your fingers catch a break as you sweat over every passing fret. But then, that hunger for the climax is all part of the fun — you know, providing your fingers haven’t bled along the way.
3. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” — Steve Ouimette
From our backyard to the prison walls, the bustling streets of Tokyo to the darkest depths of hell, Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock had us traversing the globe as an up and coming band, hungry for the spotlight and everlasting glory. Only, to tipple over the edge and claim the title, a final obstacle stood in our way, desperate to stop us from ascending the stairway to heaven. And its name, surprisingly, was Steve.
Steve Ouimette’s rendition of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” was an absolute staple on the Guitar Hero series, and the climax every fan craved after powering through a boatload of relatively slow tracks. Of course, we did have the likes of Slayer and Metallica posing as some pretty big stepping stones along the way, though nothing quite compared to the devil’s showdown with Ouimette at the helm.
2. “Through the Fire and Flames” — Dragonforce
There’s a reason why Dragonforce and their unforgiving spindle of tracks are renowned in the Guitar Hero universe — and it isn’t strictly down to the complexity of the lengthy ensembles either. It’s simply because, whether we like to admit it or not — it’s a trend. Or it was, at least.
“Through the Fire and Flames” was, of course, a YouTube sensation for years, with millions of Guitar Hero fanatics all stepping up to the plate in a desperate attempt to tap their way to 100% on the highest difficulty. However, with the track not only being riddled with mind-bending solos — but also an endless line of frets that fail to stop for six minutes straight, acquiring such a percentage didn’t exactly pose as the easiest challenge in the books. But boy — people sure did like to try. And fail.
1. “Sudden Death” — Megadeath
We always knew that Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock would end on a high note — and it’s fair to say that “Sudden Death” didn’t exactly upset the applecart. Of course, having Megadeath carrying the torch for the grand finale was always going to gel well with fans. But physically playing through the six-minute beast was another story, and a journey many will likely show you the acquired blisters and bruises from trying to complete.
While you could argue that “Through the Fire and Flames” is hands down the toughest track on the setlist, we do have to give credit to Megadeath for their mind-boggling, blister-inducing rollercoaster of energy. Of course, Guitar Hero has had plenty of belters over its long and healthy timeline, though when it comes to absurdly high difficulty spikes and ruthless finishers, Megadeath just about nudges the gold in their favour, with “Sudden Death” sitting proudly as the stubbornest track in the series.