Soapbox: The Era Of Rock Band, Guitar Hero And Plastic Instruments Was Silly But Special

The Beatles Rock Band
Image: Harmonix

Over the past few weeks it’s been a lot of fun to share a huge range of music-themed features as part of the Nintendo Life VGM Festival. Much of our focus, quite rightly, has been on highlighting the amazing talents behind the soundtracks and audio design that we enjoy in games. For a little change, though, I wanted to reflect on a long-gone era when plastic instruments and wish fulfilment were all the rage – the time of Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

Like The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones, or Blur vs Oasis, these two brands duked it out in during the 2000s, and in a dizzying few years we had a whole lot of rhythm games and assorted accessories flood the market. I had no allegiance either way, skipping between the IPs depending on which game took my fancy, and the legacy is a pile of colourful plastic instruments up in the loft, dusty and in one annoying case barely functional. Yet as recently as last Christmas I had them out, dutifully dusted down, for a bit of co-op music.

While some families play Mario Party and Mario Kart, when it comes to multiplayer games in the Holidays — as well as actual board games, of course — it’s a little different in my parents’ household. Sure, my parents are retired and my brother and I are hurtling towards middle-age [aren’t you already middle-aged? – Ed], but we still gather at the end of the year and do much the same stuff as we used to 20 years ago. Our routines are well established, and I don’t think we’ll ever willingly change them.

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